The Blue Sky– Galsan Tschinag
For my literary trip to Mongolia, I read The Blue Sky by Galsan Tschinag. This book follows Tschinag’s childhood of being a shepherd boy in a nomadic tribe in Mongolia’s Altai Mountains. It describes the challenges of growing up. Tschinag is confronted with different types of loss and struggles to balance reality with fantasy and hope. The book is the first in a series of books about the author’s childhood, which makes sense when you come to the abrupt ending.
Although I couldn’t really relate with the book, there was one scene that was really powerful for me. It’s when Tschinag talks about his older sister and brother leaving for school. Watching his siblings leave and having his way of life change is hard on him. It’s also hard to balance the excitement and subsequent sadness of when they come and go for breaks. This scene really hit home for me because it made me think of my youngest brother, Cody. I wonder if this scene described how he felt when my other brother John, and I would come and go during college.
The Blue Sky challenged me to think about a couple things in depth, and I’d like to share more about them here.
Family: One of the main character’s in the book is “Grandma.” She’s an elderly women who is a not blood relative that becomes part of the family. The concept of having a non blood “relative” is something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. (Mostly because I had a person in my family pass away who was not related.) This reinforces the idea that “family” doesn’t mean blood, and that everyone’s family is different. Sometimes, I wish there was a word for these people who are your family but aren’t related. It occurred to me while reading this book, that there might be a word for this in a different culture! Does anyone know of one? If you do, please share! I’d love to hear about it and use it in my everyday life.
Nature: The Tuvan culture that is described is heavily centered on nature. Their daily routine and religion is completely based on weather, animals, and other parts of nature. This is utterly fascinating to me because it makes so much sense. These people are praying and respecting our earth in hopes of good outcomes. I think we all need a little more of this in our daily lives. If we respected our earth a little more, I think there would be a ton more positive outcomes for us and our planet.
Cultural Traditions: Okay, so I try and not say that other people or traditions are weird because if you’re brought up that way it’s normal. I try not to judge anyone or anything. And, although I think some traditions might be super strange (i.e. Cannibals in Paraguay) I do understand their historical and cultural foundation. However, I have to share one of the strangest traditions/beliefs I read about in this book. As the grandmother was aging, and her eyes were inevitably worsening, she would have Tschinag pee into her hands so she could wash her eyes out with it. WHAT?! I had to reread this passage three times. I have never heard of this and was so confused. (Especially because later on she wouldn’t allow the boy to pee in the river because it would be disrespectful.)
Would I recommend this book? Yeah for sure. It’s a super easy read. I finished it in just a few days. Does this make me want to go to Mongolia. I’m kind of neutral on this. It didn’t really impact my desire to travel here. (I kind of want a yurt though. They seem neat and something my brother and I would have liked when we were younger.) However, it really does make me want to learn more about Mongolia. I’m sure this one specific nomadic tribe is only a tiny portion of what Mongolia has to offer, and I’d like to learn more.