|Issue 15||March 1997||Volume 2 - Number 4|
Welcome to the CANDOER News. Suggestions as to what you would like to see in the CANDOER are welcome. Letters to the editor, articles consisting of general information, feature articles, G-rated jokes, or poems, written/submitted by retirees or OC/IM employees, past or present, will be published, unedited. Material may be submitted on a 3.5" floppy disk (disk will be returned) using WordPerfect Version 6.1 or earlier (if it contains graphics), on a plain sheet of paper (if it has no graphics) or via e-mail. The deadline for submitting material is no later than the 25th of each month. Material received after that date will be published in the next issue of the CANDOER, space allowing. Please, restrict articles/submissions to two single spaced, typed pages. No hand written submissions, please.
The snail-mail address for submissions or letters to the editor is:
Robert J. Catlin, Sr.
Publisher/Editor CANDOER News
2670 Dakota Street
Bryans Road, MD 20616-3062
This issue starts a two-part feature on obesity.
At the January luncheon several CANDOERs suggested that I include articles about health and aging in future issues of the News. With my limited budget for paying writers, zero dollars, it fell upon me to write any article(s) I wish to publish.
Now the big question arises, am I an "expert" on health care and thereby qualified to write such articles? Let's take a look at the word EXPERT. Funk and Wagnalls Standard Desk Dictionary defines an EXPERT as; One who has special skill or knowledge. I do not fit that definition for health or aging expertise. But, if you break the word down into two syllables, EX~PERT, the meaning comes out a little different. EX - Not having, lacking. PERT - Impertinent. Add those two together and you get, EXPERT; a has been, who is impertinent. Now, if you don't agree that I fit that definition of an EXPERT, lets take the word and break it down phonetically, EX~SPURT. Using Funk and Wagnalls Standard Desk Dictionary again, it defines EX as, Not having, lacking. It defines SPURT as, A gush of water or other liquid. So now lets add that up, EX~SPURT; a drippy has been. Using either of the last two definitions, I am pretty sure you will agree, I am qualified to write health care and aging articles.
After all, as both publisher and editor of the News, I get to pick the qualification criteria for all authors.
With the passage last spring of the Senior Citizens' Right to Work Act, changes were made that affects Social Security beneficiaries age 65 through 69 and those 62 through 65 who are still working.
In 1996 beneficiaries aged 65 through 69 were able to earn up to $12,500 without having their Social Security benefits reduced. In 1997, the amount increases to $13,500. By the year 2002 this amount will increase to $30,000. For every $3 earned over the limit, $1 is withheld from benefits.
The amount for those age 62 through 64 years/364 days was increased to $8,280 for 1996 and $8,640 for 1997. For every $2 earned, $1 is withheld from benefits.
Earnings test information is not calculated on individual tax returns, but beneficiaries are required to report it to the SSA.
Starting this year (1997), SSA will collect the wage data from employers instead of asking beneficiaries to provide it.
Originality is the art of concealing your source.
The following 19 regulars attended the February 11 luncheon at TGIFridays: Bob Berger, Bob Campopiano, Bob Catlin, Ralph Crain, Paul Del Giudice, Charlie Ditmeyer, Charlie Hoffman, Boyd Koffman, Don Lachman, Bob Liebau, Mel Maples, Paul Nugnes, Nate Reynolds, Robby Robinson, Bob Scheller, Doc Sloan, Don Stewart, Val Taylor, and Norris Watts.
In addition, we had three new attendees: Lou Correri, Dennis Starr, and George Younts. A big CANDOER WELCOME to all three of you. We hope this becomes a regular monthly event for you all. Bio data entries can be found in the Pen and Ink section of this issue for both Dennis and George. Lou's can be found in the 1997 CANDOER Directory of Members.
I have had inquiries for the E-Mail address of the following retiree: Bob Bamberger.
I had lunch at the Roma on Wednesday, January 29, with Will, Paul and Al G. Will said that he had talked to Ed and Alouise that morning and found out that Ed had started taking chemo-therapy treatments.
Jim Carter was released from the hospital on Wednesday, January 29, and is now convalescing at home.
Will and Doris left on January 30 for North Fort Myer, FL, where they will be staying for approximately 75 days. Will is going to miss the February, March, and probably April luncheons. On their way to North Fort Myer they stopped over in Lakeland and had lunch with Bill and Pat Callihan and Joe and Clytuce Lea. During Will's stay in Florida he does not have availability to his E-mail. Any E-mail sent to him during that period will go unanswered and may not be available when he returns.
On February 1, 1997, in a post card received from Babe, he said he has had a good winter, so far, and expected to be back here in the Washington area around the 15th of February.
On the 19th Babe called, he had arrived back home on the evening of the 15th.
On February 1, 1997, in a long E-mail message from Jim Steeves, he reported that he is living in Albuquerque, N.M. and working with Bob Caffrey at JAYCOR. His E-mail address is included in the Pen and Ink section of this issue.
On February 3, 1997, I received a letter and a generous donation from Chuck Rambo. In his letter, Chuck stated, "the meeting dates seem to conflict with my other activities, so you will just have to change to meet my schedule. Seriously, I will make an effort to attend."
On February 5, 1997, in a letter received from Jim Griffin, he furnished a Bio Form and a generous donation. Jim says it is hectic trying to get settled in and also getting used to living in the U.S. His Bio information is included in the Pen and Ink section of this issue.
On February 6, 1997, in an E-mail note received from Bob Ribera, he reported he and Nivea were doing well and enjoying retirement in Miami. Bob's furnished an E-mail address. This information may be found in the Pen and Ink section of this issue.
On February 7, in a long E-mail message received from Clytuce, Joe Lea's wife, she reported that Joe has developed a very painful case of Shingles, on the right side of his face, near and around his eye. I sent him a get well card, in the name of the CANDOERs.
On the 16th, Joe reported in an E-mail message that he was well on his way to recovery and was going to play golf with Bill Callihan on the 19th.
Editor's Note: Shingles is a virus infection of a sensory nerve, accompanied by small, painful blisters that appear on the skin along the path of the nerve. The medical name for the disorder, which is caused by the chicken pox virus, is herpes zoster, Latin for "girdle of blisters." When a cranial nerve is involved, the blisters appear on the face near the eye. The blisters may take from two to four weeks to disappear. There is no known cure. End note
On February 9, in an E-mail message received from Jim Prosser, he furnished an E-mail address for Oliver Shaw. This information may be found in the Pen and Ink section of this issue.
On February 10, in an E-mail message, Jim Prosser furnishing the E-mail address of Billy Joe Jennings. Bill is living in Bradenton, Florida.
That same day in an E-mail message to Bill, he was informed of the activities of the CANDOERs. Later that day, Bill answered and reported he is now assigned as the IMO at the Florida Regional Center. In his E-mail note, Bill mentioned that he was thinking about having T-shirts made with the DTS emblem and the words "OC LIVES AGAIN!" If anyone is interested in purchasing one, please let me or Bill know. Bill's Bio is included in the Pen and Ink section of this issue.
On February 11, Bob Scheller furnished an address for another new CANDOER, Herb Horacek. I sent a letter to Herb about our luncheon group and the Newsletter and invited him to join. His address is furnished in the Pen and Ink section of this issue.
On February 12, I received a note and a generous contribution to the CANDOER activities from George Sura.
In a telephone conversation with Paul Del Giudice that same afternoon, Paul reported that he had just talked to Ed and Alouise Fenstermacher. Paul said that Ed indicated that he was very weak and had lost all his appetite.
Later that evening in a conversation with Margaret, Ray Watson's wife, she said that Ray is making good progress toward his recovery from the strokes he suffered last year.
I also talked with Ned Paes. Ned no longer has an E-mail address. He is in the process of looking for a new Internet provider. He was not happy with AOL and dropped the service.
I also talked with Nate Reynolds. On the 12th of February, Nate's daughter, Joyce, had several inches of her small intestine removed due to complications from Crohns disease. Nate reported that the doctor said the operation went well and that she should experience a full but lengthy recovery. She was in the hospital seven days and is now convalescing at home.
Editor's Note: Crohns disease (also known as regional enteritis or ileitis) is characterized by an inflammation of a section or sections of any part of the digestive tract -- most often of the ileum (the last one third of the small intestine). End note
Tom Warren also called me that evening and furnish a new E-mail address. In addition, later than evening, in an E-mail message, he furnished the following information that he felt would be of interest to CANDOERs.
It might be interesting for our colleagues to know that we have a national TV celebrity among our ranks of retired OC/IM folks. If anyone was watching Dan Rather on CBS evening news at 7 p.m. (EST) Wednesday, Feb 12, re the Gulf War report on chemical weapons destruction following the ground offensive in Iraq, there was one shot of the rear of an "Investigative Analyst," who said "Did you ever go to a place called Khamisiyah?" Well, that was our own Joe Sparks, retired, who, with me, is on the Gulf War Illnesses Task Force, under the Department of Defense. It is a job Joe and I moved into when CSC lost the re-compete for the DTSPO contract, and we opted to stay on with CSC. It is interesting work which supports a new Defense Department effort to contact Gulf Shield/Gulf Storm veterans and try to gather as much information as possible from those who were on the spot there. The most interesting, and exciting thing is to realize that there is recognition that our own talents, Foreign Service experience and backgrounds do not limit us to being just communicators (not to belittle that). Indeed it was, in the beginning, a challenge to exercise another part of the brain, and to expand into other endeavors. Likewise, personally it is very rewarding to contact some of the war veterans, especially the sick and financially desperate ones, and to be able to offer advice and assistance to help them find what they are entitled to through serving our national interests. It is not all that difficult, really, to "reach out and touch someone."
On February 13, in a lengthy E-mail from Jim Steeves, he included an E-mail address for Jay Johnson. I sent Jay an E-mail message informing him of the CANDOER Luncheon Group and invited him to join.
On February 14, my oldest son went into the hospital to have radical surgery on his left knee to secure his knee cap which was floating after a serious automobile accident. He stayed in the hospital overnight and was released the next day. He is convalescing at home and will return to work on or about March 24, if all goes well.
On February 15, I received an E-mail message from Bill Weatherford. Bill has retired and is living in Albuquerque. His personal data is in the Pen and Ink section of this issue.
On February 20, I received an E-mail message from Jim Prosser furnishing a name and address for Sam Spector. This information may be found in the Pen and Ink section of this issue. I then wrote a letter to Sam and invited him to join the CANDOER Luncheon Group.
On February 20, I made reservations for a 10 day stay in Florida. Nancy and I will be attending a Catlin family reunion with my sister, who will fly in from Albuquerque, my oldest brother, who will drive down from Erie, Penna., and my older brother who lives in Holiday, Florida.> I will be visiting Florida from March 7 through the 16th. During our stay Nancy and I plan to visit Bill and Pat Callihan, Joe and Clytuce Lea, Sam and Sara Spector, Will and Doris Naeher, and hope to have time to look up Jim and Say Houy Griffin.
On February 20, Jim Prosser informed me that Louis Vraniak would like to start receiving the CANDOER News. On February 21, I mailed the Directory of Members and the January and February issues to Lou and invited him to join.
On February 21, in a letter received from Alouise Fenstermacher, she asked that I use the CANDOER News to "please express our gratitude to Ed's many friends who have kept in touch."
Later that evening in a telephone conversation with both Alouise and Ed, Alouise said that Ed will not be taking any more chemo-therapy treatments and that his appetite still has not returned. They have contacted Hospice who will be assisting Alouise with Ed's care.
In an E-mail message received on February 24, John Kennedy notified me that he was dropping his E-mail access as of March 1.
The information contained in this article is for general purposes only, and should not be construed as definitive or binding medical advise. Because each person is different, you should see your personal physician for specific information and/or treatment.
Webster's New Practical Dictionary defines obesity as; an excess of body fat that results in an impairment of ones health.
Obesity results when the size or number of fat cells in your body increases. A normal-sized person has between 29 and 34 billion fat cells in their body. If you gain weight, the fat cells increase in size, until they reach their maximum size, and then they increase in number.
When you lose weight, the cells decrease in size. No matter how much weight you lose, the number of fat cells will stay the same. Once you increase the number of fat cells, they are with you for life.
Every fat cell weighs 0.4 to 0.6 micrograms. However, the weight of billions and billions of fat cells adds up.
Forty million adult Americans weight more than 20 per cent above their desirable weight. The number of overweight people is increasing in all major race/sex groups, including younger adults ages 25 to 44. There are an additional fifteen million Americans who are 40 per cent above their desirable weight.
The most common method to determine your desirable weight, by height, has been developed by life insurance companies. A rule of thumb is as follows:
Females - A woman 5 foot tall should weigh 100 pounds. Add 5 pounds for each additional inch of height. Therefore, a woman who is 5 foot 6 inches tall should weigh approximately 130 pounds.
Males - A man 5 foot tall should weight 106 pounds. Add 6 pounds for each additional inch of height. Therefore, a man who is 5 foot 6 inches tall should weight approximately 142 pounds.
These are the mid-ranges of ideal body weight. A person who exceeds them is not necessarily obese.
Medically, if a person exceeds these so called "normal weights" by 50 pounds, they are considered obese. It has been medically proven that a person with 50 pounds of excess weight, has a 90 per cent chance of developing medical problems associated with obesity, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, gall stones, heart attacks, and strokes.
A newer, more clinically useful measure of overweight is being used today. It is called the Body Mass Index (BMI). You can figure your BMI by dividing the weight in kilograms by height measured in meters, squared (W/(H x H)). The lowest mortality rate occurs in persons (of both sexes) with a BMI of 22-25. Studies show that mortality rates begin to increase if your BMI is above 27. Individuals with a BMI above 30 have a very marked increased mortality rate.
Example: Your are 5 foot 10 inches (1.78 meters) tall. You weigh 285 pounds (129 kilograms). Your BMI would be 41 (129/(1.78 x 1.78) ' 40.69) (FYI: 1 pound ' .454 kilograms -- 1 inch ' .025 meters).
Another example: I am 5 foot 7 inches tall (67 multiplied by .025 ' 1.7 meters). I weigh 178 pounds (178 multiplied by .454 ' 81 kilograms). My present BMI is 28 (1.7 x 1.7 ' 2.89. 81 divided by 2.89 ' 28). In order to reach the ideal BMI of 22-25, I would have to lose down to between 140 and 160 pounds, and additional weight loss of from 15 to 35 pounds.
Both of these measures of overweight do not take into account body fat content. A heavily muscled person may be considered overweight with these methods of determining obesity. Therefore, to accurately determine whether a person is obese or simply overweight because of increased muscle mass one needs to use techniques for determining body fat.
Assessment of Body Fat
Skinfold measurements can be used to measure body fat. They are easy to do, inexpensive and portable. Approximately half the fat in you body is deposited in the skin. The percent of internal fat increases with increasing weight. The problem with skinfold measurements is that they are not very accurate.
A precise and more sophisticated method of determining body fat is underwater weighing, which requires you to be total submerged in water and an accurate estimate of lung and abdominal gas. This measurement can be expensive, difficult to do, and time consuming. This is the method usually used by many professional athletes.
Another method, that is growing in popularity, is bioelectrical impedance analysis. Body impedance is measured when a small amount of current, applied through electrodes, flows through the body. Resistance is inversely proportional to total body water through which the current travels.
Causes of Obesity
Obesity generally results when there is an imbalance between energy intake and energy expenditure. If you consume more calories than you expend in normal daily activities, you are going to gain weight. Weight gained during certain critical periods in your life more commonly leads to an increased number of fat cells and makes obesity more difficult to treat. These periods are:
- Between 12 and 18 months of age
- Between 12 and 16 years of age
- Adulthood, when a person gains in excess of 60 percent of their ideal body weight
- For women, during pregnancy
During these periods, weight gain causes an increased number of fat cells. Once you increase the number of fat cells, you cannot get rid of them, no matter how much you diet, you can only shrink their size.
Does that mean you cannot lose the weight? No, it just means you will have to work harder to lose it and keep it off.
As a general rule, as you grow older, your metabolic rate slows down and you do not require as many calories to maintain you weight. It is a proven fact, metabolism does slow down with advancing age. Therefore, what you eat at age 30 without gaining weight, will cause you to gain weight at age 40 or 50.
Males have a higher resting metabolic rate than females, so males require more calories to maintain their body weight.
Active people require more calories than less active ones.
Heavier people require more calories to maintain their body weight than lighter people. A person who weights 250 pounds, requires approximately 2700 calories to maintain their body weight. If that person goes on a 2000 calorie per day diet, they will lose weight. However, when this person gets down to 185 pounds, they require only 2000 calories per day to maintain this weight and will therefore cease to lose weight. This is normal for all people. As you lose weight, your metabolic rate gradually declines and you have to decrease your calories per day to continue to lose weight.
A middle-aged woman who weighs 180 pounds requires approximately 2000 calories per day to maintain her body weight.
Heredity is associated not only with obesity but also with thinness. It is closely correlated with the biological mother's weight. If your mother was heavy as an adult, there is a 75 percent chance that you will also be heavy. If your mother is thin, there is a 75 per cent chance that you will be thin. This in independent of thyroid activity, which, is a very rare cause of obesity.
Because you inherited a tendency toward obesity does not mean you cannot lose weight - it only means you have to work harder to lose it and maintain the loss.
COMPLICATIONS OF OBESITY
Obesity is a very serious illness. It can lead to many medical complications. The treatment for obesity itself is a difficult long-term process if it is to be treated effectively. It is something that is relatively inexpensive to treat when you compare it to the enormous cost of treating the complications that may arise from obesity.
Approximately 30 percent of individuals who are 30 pounds or more overweight have mildly elevated blood pressure. This can be treated with dietary methods. The majority of people who bring their weight down to a good BMI, can avoid having to be put on blood pressure medications.
Obesity is a leading cause of diabetes. Of the 15 million diabetics in the U.S., approximately 10 percent are juvenile onset diabetics. This form of diabetes is NOT related to obesity. The other 90 percent of the diabetics are adult onset diabetics. They generally develop the disease in their middle age. This type is almost always caused by obesity. In a majority of these cases, losing weight can eliminate the need for oral medications or insulin injections.
Obesity has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Females have a threefold increase in the incidence of breast, cervical, ovarian, and uterine cancer if they are obese. The risk of endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus) is seven times higher for obese women. For men, there is a proven increase in the risk of developing colon and prostate cancer.
Obesity is frequently complicated by degenerative arthritis, the "wear-and-tear" form of arthritis or osteoarthritis. Increased weight causes more wear and tear on the joints. Arthritic destruction that has occurred over the years does not disappear but, a person who weighs less has less joint pain.
Elevated cholesterol is commonly associated with obesity. Cholesterol levels are determined by approximately 2/3rds genetics and 1/3rd diet. Most people can control their cholesterol level by reducing their fat intake and weight.
Obesity is also frequently complicated by gallstones. Approximately 25 percent of obese people have gallstones, frequently resulting in surgery.
Heart attacks and strokes
There is a proven increase in the incidence of strokes and heart attacks in obese people. This increase is in addition to the increased incidence associated with elevated blood pressure, diabetes, and high levels of cholesterol. As a general rule, for every pound you are over your ideal body weight, you are taking one month off of your life expectancy. Strokes are the number three killer of people in the U.S. and the leading cause of people becoming disabled.
Obesity is frequently complicated by many medical problems. Overweight people tend to feel tired all the time and in many cases have problems sleeping. For people with a severe condition called Pickwickian Syndrome, or sleep apnea, it becomes progressively more difficult to breathe at night as their weight increases. These people snore severely and have episodes when they stop breathing completely for up to one minute at a time. During these periods of not breathing, their heart rate becomes irregular, which can lead to fatal heart attacks. These incidents occur dozens of times each night, causing them to feel tired the next day and even fall asleep while sitting in meetings and/or while driving. Sleep apnea is a very serious complication of obesity and requires professional medical attention.
Plumbing, or the lack thereof. The indoor bathroom existed only in the cities of Nebraska back in the 1930's. As noted previously, outhouses were the usual, and a large galvanized wash tub was commonly used for bathing. I took many a bath in one of these.
The typical kitchen range had a water reservoir in the right side which held several gallons of water. The water kept moderately hot when there was a good fire in the range. Thus in winter we had a source of hot water and it happened to be in the only room in the house that was reasonably warm. Guess where we bathed.
In summer it was basically a cold water bath, as cooking was done, at least in our house, on a kerosene stove. We surely didn't need the heat of the kitchen range during the summer. As noted before, my usual summertime bathtub was the river.
The water came from a well and pump out in the yard; it was pumped by hand into buckets and carrier to the point of use.
On the porch which one entered on the way into the kitchen was the washstand. It held a bucket of water, a dipper, and a wash basin. The dipper was used as a common drinking vessel and as a ladle to transfer water from the bucket into the wash basin. Sanitary??? Hardly, by today's standards--but we lived with it.
To appreciate the true essence of this report it is necessary in advance to provide the reader a bit of background information on a couple of items.
Back in the 1950's and 1960's, when quarters of beef were shipped by air for great distances, they were chilled, if not frozen, and always wrapped tightly in burlap or canvas so fluid would not soil other air cargo.
Also, one of the more widely used diplomatic pouches at the time for letter mail, both official and personal, was the "B" pouch. There may still be a few in use today for all I know. It was made of grey canvas, and had a rubberized bottom colored maroon and blue.
The scene is Leopoldville, Belgian Congo (now Zaire) 1962, and Vic Maffei handled all the pouches for the Embassy.
One day, from the numbered invoices, Vic noticed we were missing nine air pouches. We notified the Department and they promptly initiated tracer action on the shipment. They purportedly went on TWA via JFK to Rome for transshipment on Alitalia to Leopoldville. All efforts by airlines personnel at originating and intervening places to locate the nine missing pouches proved fruitless.
Vic even instituted his own searching action in Leopoldville. Still nothing. We were all beginning to feel the "heat" not only from senders of official correspondence in Washington about non response, but also from the Embassy community about the missing personal mail, always an extremely vital tie to home.
Vic had checked all his airport and airline contacts in town without any luck. At this point about two weeks had passed and I had just about given up hope of ever locating them in Leopoldville.
But before throwing in the towel, I went to Ndjili Airport to make a personal search myself, accompanied by a representative of the local air cargo forwarding company. Determined that if the Embassy had to send back a "not here" message, I was going to be absolutely sure of that fact.
I went through all the airport bonded warehouses with a Congolese customs agent and physically moved many pieces of stored cargo to be sure the missing nine were not piled behind larger items. Mind you, the temperature was in excess of 100F and it was very humid. Still no pouches, and I was ready to give up hope finding them.
Walking back out, I noticed off on the side there was a large door. I asked the customs agent what was in that room. He replied, "Oh, that's the cooler for imported meats and vegetables." I said, "Let's look in there." He said, "No, they wouldn't be in there!" I insisted, and he opened the door, turned on the light, and Voila! There amongst all the quarters of hanging burlapped beef, were nine "B" pouches of mail also hanging on hooks from the ceiling.
Apparently through carelessness in the off loading process by airlines employees, the canvas pouches and beef were confused and all processed together and sent to the cooler.
The mail may still have had a slight chill on it when delivered as Vic wasted no time getting it distributed.
- Saturday, July 13 -
There had been a light rain during the night and morning. The weather had cooled off considerably.
Regardless of the hot, steamy room, I slept very soundly. My jet-lag was finished. Having drunk liters of fluids the previous day and evening, I thought I would be up several times during the night, but that was not the case. I was really dried out!
This was the big day! The one for which I had been waiting for for many years.
The Trans-Siberian "Rossiya" departed at 1415 this afternoon from the Yaroslavl' station.
After breakfast I purchased about a four day supply of mineral water to take on the train in case the type they sold is carbonated or strong tasting. The kiosks outside the hotel sold Evian and Spa for 6,000 rubles each. I bought four bottles.
I had a 1200 lunch at the Patio Pizza and at 1300 was off to the Yaroslavl' station. Intourist provided a large bus to the Yaroslavl' station. At the front of the station, a very congenial Russian man met me with his porter's wagon to carry the bags out on to the platform to the car which in fact was a considerable distance from the street. Good thing I found him (or he me). I arrived on the platform about 15 minutes before the train was pushed in. My soft class car was No. 8 and near the center of this 21-car train. The dining car was two cars forward. The porter assisted in loading the baggage, let me take his picture and I got settled.
I had 30 minutes before departure. I took the time to walk the length of it taking pictures and making last minute purchases of fresh fruit, cheese and morozhnoye from the numerous platform vendors and kiosks.
A single electric locomotive headed the train. It was strong enough to pull us along at continual speeds of about 100 kph over basically flat terrain. The lone driver (engineer) advised me that he would take the train as far as Yaroslavl', a distance of 282 kms where he would turn controls over to another who would take it on to Perm.
The train was quite warm inside, so I found a way to open the corridor window to let some of the cool fresh air in. At this point I met Victor, the assistant car provodnik (male attendant) who came and ordered it closed because the car was AIR CONDITIONED! This was a major and unexpected pleasant surprise! It turned out that while the train is stationary, the system doesn't run, but will as soon as the train moves. I was delighted to see inside the compartment door there was a simple, but effective locking mechanism which prevented the door from being opened from the outside by anyone, including train staff.
There was an incomplete Trans-Siberian "Rossiya" schedule posted on the wall in the sleeping car. It listed only the stops and times of arrival/departure in Moscow time. I suggested to Victor it would be a wonderful souvenir to have. He strongly advised against taking it but would see what he could do to get me one. This subsequently turned out to be unsuccessful.
Later I met the car's head attendant, Larissa. She is a provodnitsa (female attendant) and has the initial appearance of being one tough person with which I must deal. From her demeanor, there was no doubt she was in charge of this car. She was assisted by Victor. At precisely 1415 on this sunny afternoon, I began my adventure to cross all of Russia and Siberia as the train slowly rolled out of the station. Moscow being a very large city of more than 8,800,000 (or 13,500,000 in the metropolitan area) it took the train about 45 minutes at moderate speed to reach the distant suburbs before we hit the open countryside.
The air conditioning functioned perfectly and I was truly amazed. I was comfortably settled in my compartment but there was a lot of activity in the corridors with people getting acquainted with each other. There were a few young, very well mannered Russian children with which I made friends rather quickly. I was further surprised by finding a small television set erected in each compartment. It played video programs controlled by the provodnitsa or received TV stations when the train was near major cities. The TV set could be unplugged and the outlet used for recharging batteries of the video camera I brought.
About 1600, Larissa arrived with a pot of chai (tea) and some very tasty biscuits for which I thanked her.
I was also surprised to see there were female vendors of poor quality merchandise on the train who were selling things like sport shirts, commemorative and jewelry pins, scarfs, T-shirts, ladies dresses, tourist trinkets and other things. The vendors reminded me of the gypsies we used to encounter in Italy. They were very pushy and relentless in attempting sales. When Larissa detected their presence was no longer desired, she ousted them from the car and said they would be off the train at the next stop, Yaroslavl'. I expressed my pleasure at her action and got a big smile.
Since leaving Moscow, the tracks which were four abreast had now become dual, but I had seen only passenger trains heading in the opposite direction so far.
The rails were not continuously welded, but were in 25-meter long sections laid on a firm bed with concrete ties (sleepers) which provided a rather smooth ride. The traffic density was amazing, for we passed an oncoming train about every eight minutes.
We were passing through one town after another at a speed of about 100 kph. The countryside looked as I remember it from 24 years ago. Everyone was outside working in their own garden plots, fishing in streams, or just out for a long walk on this lovely Saturday afternoon.
At kilometer post 70, the train slowly passed through Zagorsk, providing me with a splendid photographic opportunity to take pictures of all the lovely and colorful churches and monasteries on this sunny afternoon. Zagorsk in importance to the Russian Orthodox faith would be similar to the Vatican City for Roman Catholics.
After Zagorsk, we encountered many freight trains oncoming, about one every five minutes. There is one tremendous amount of traffic on this line!
Since leaving Moscow, along the railway right-of-way we saw long stretches of yellow and purple flowered weeds. They were very pretty against the green foliage everywhere. Where weeds weren't growing track side, local people had planted irregular sized private patches of potatoes. Typically, they were usually 3-10 meters wide, but 100-200 meters long. They looked quite healthy and were in bloom ready for hilling when I saw them.
The scenery from the train windows looked as if we were passing through central Wisconsin. There were plenty of farms and forests of birch. Everything was lush green, for there had been plenty of rain throughout Russia during the month of June.
After I had been on the train for over three hours, I sauntered forward to the dining car to check out the pivo (beer). They had a choice of Russian, German, Dutch and Danish beers. Some were even is chilled! My word! Things have improved!
About 1830 the train approached Yaroslavl'. Before we reached the city we crossed the Volga River at an elevation of about 35 meters above the water. This is one of the world's most remarkable railway bridges. Here the river is about a kilometer wide and loaded with large and small boat traffic. An immense luxury passenger vessel was about to pass under the bridge as we crossed. It had about five decks and was of the type the Russians use for tourist traffic between St. Petersburg and the Black Sea via the Volga-Baltic Sea waterway.
The historic Russian city of Yaroslavl', pop. 638,100, is situated on the upper Volga River, at its junction with the Kotorosl River, about 280 km northeast of Moscow. It is the capital of the Yaroslavl' Oblast. In the 19th century the city was one of Russia's principal cotton textile centers. Yaroslavl gained new industries during the Soviet period, including petroleum refining and petrochemicals, synthetic rubber and auto tires, furniture, and machinery. A number of 16th and 17th century churches are preserved.
Yaroslavl' is one of Russia's oldest cities, said to have been founded in 1010 by the early Russian prince Yaroslav the Wise; historical chronicles first mention it as of 1071. The separate Russian principality of Yaroslavl was absorbed by the expanding Muscovite state in 1463. Until the 1937 completion of the Moscow-Volga Canal, Yaroslavl' served as the capital city's Volga River port.
The train stopped in Yaroslavl' for five minutes. I did not disembark for I was now seated in the diner about to obtain my first meal. I was joined later by a couple from Finland (Eino and Marya) on holiday. Where were the other passengers wishing to eat? Was I too early for eating? Or too late? No, Valentina, the sole waitress, seated me, brought some beer and was ready to take my order. However, before getting to the meal, a description of the dining car is warranted.
The picture in the tourist brochures of the dining car interior no longer is representative of what this one is like. The picture shows 12 tables with four per table seating. In fact there are 12 tables, but only six were available for customers. The balance were stuffed with cartons beneath the seats, tables and stacked on top of them as well. Sheets or tarpaulins were pulled over so one could not easily discern what was below. Hmm. I'll have to investigate this later. The dining car had more of an appearance of a freight car (goods wagon) than an eating establishment.
Nevertheless, this was the place to eat, drink and publicly socialize for the balance of this trip segment to Irkutsk, four days away. Valentina did not look terribly happy and had a face which seemingly had not smiled in decades. I took it my personal challenge not only to get Valentina to smile, but laugh. This was not going to be easy, but in four days, who knows?
The cook was a young man who we really never saw very much of during the trip. There was another jolly looking man always hanging around the dining car whose name I quickly learned was Sasha. Through sign language, I became quite friendly with him. He said he was the on board train mechanic to fix any problem.
Valentina took great pains to show us the clock on the wall which was on Moscow time. She was emphatic the dining car was open 12 hours each day from 0900 until 2100 - always on Moscow time! I could see this was going to be a potential problem for breakfast as we started crossing time zones heading east.
We would have seven time zones to cross by the time we reached Vladivostok.
I asked for a menu and was really surprised when Valentina produced one that was in Russian, German and English! Not only that, there was a limited, but interesting and varied selection of items to choose from.
After pointing to several dishes and getting either a shrug of the shoulders or negative response, I asked that she just bring us some soup and food. She put the menu away and never had to use it again for me. I just ordered whatever the cook had decided to make for that meal and was never disappointed, dissatisfied, or left hungry. This and subsequent meals were always tasty, never fancy, and always inexpensive. Usually 15,000 to 25,000 rubles.
After taking my order, Valentina disappeared for a considerable period. I wondered if she had to go back and cook the food as well? If so, perhaps that might explain her unsmiling attitude.
Just as 24 years ago, Russia still has an over abundance of cucumbers. They are served sliced raw as garnishment to every plate brought to the table, regardless of the meal.
About an hour and a half after leaving Yaroslavl', the train stopped at Danilov for 20 minutes, a major railroad junction. Here the Trans-Siberian line turned east after the straight northeast run out of Moscow. The other line heads north to Arkhangel'sk on the White Sea or Khal'mer Yu further away on the Kara Sea of the Arctic Ocean.
Shortly after leaving Danilov and heading east, the train passed through the town of Sot. At this point I was astonished to see the train was on a single track for an extended period of time, maybe two hours! What brought this to my attention was that we were no longer meeting oncoming trains every 5-7 minutes.
It had always been my impression the Trans-Siberian railroad was dual track and electrified the entire route to Vladivostok! Such is not the case.
When I boarded the train back in Moscow, I turned my tickets over to Larissa. I had not paid attention to the little white pieces of paper stapled to them which were vouchers showing I paid for the rental of my bedding. Larissa brought sheets, pillow cases, and blankets and bid me "good night". The thought suddenly returned to me, in Russia on the train you make your own bed. That was just fine with me for I could then use the compartment as long as I wanted to before converting the couch into a bed.
By 2230, I brushed my teeth with Evian mineral water (never drink the tap water on the train) and went to bed. The sun had just set. I slept very soundly with the gentle rolling of the train.