Final Blog

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May 24th 2009
Published: May 24th 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

Mark and VinceMark and VinceMark and Vince

At the southern most point in the US (Key West, Florida).
I guess it is finally time to enter this last blog. I purposely delayed writing this last entry because my time in Russia was a significant and historical part of my life. Each of you taught me so much about the Russian people and culture, but just as importantly, you taught me to know myself and the US people and our culture. It is hard to explain in words; but at times, I felt more at home than I do in my own country while at the same time so alone and far from home. These were the times I reached inside and grew the most and also the times that you made a life long positive impact on me and a time that I never want to forget.

I made some awesome and lasting friends while in Russia. I also “met” many others, some in person (Marc and Bjorn) and some only in cyber (Angie), but all through my blog. I appreciate all of your greetings, suggestions, and comments. Thank you Margaret, who some of you know, for the encouragement and wonderful suggestion to keep the blog while living in Russia. I also want to thank Malin for his
Rental "Car"Rental "Car"Rental "Car"

I got tired of walking so I rented a "car"...yes it was electric and would not go much over 15 mph but it was better than walking!
support and especially my family for their love. My sister Jetta and her family who were already overseas, which gave me a little security for a place to go if I needed that was “close” and my parents who never once showed their concern and reservations; but only their love and support as they have always done through my life. It might have been trying at times, but it was an awesome and unforgettable experience that I loved and would do all over again if given the opportunity - because of you, the friends and family I met and have all around the world.

I am so glad I did not just visit; but actually lived, interacted, and worked with you. I consider myself so fortunate to learn so much about you and your country, language, culture, and traditions. Even more importantly, I learned a lot about myself, other US citizens, and my country through your eyes. As I have always shared with many of you, I may not be proud of everything my country does or what other US citizens say, including our leaders, but I am proud to be an United States citizen. Likewise, feel honored and blessed to be Russian. You are a great country and people with deep history and traditions, who have sacrificed more than most people know or realize.

I appreciate you for accepting me for being me and not for some stereotype of an US citizen. I am also grateful for taking the time and energy to share your culture & traditions and making me a part of them and for making me part of your extended family - because of that, you made the time I was in Russia feel like home. Always know you are welcome here in my home - an extension of my family. When you come to visit, I will do my best to share my country and our foods, culture & traditions with you.

Although I may not write or call regularly, I think of most of you often, especially Dasha, Leo and Freddie. For my first time readers, you will see many stories and pictures about these three wonderful people who took me in and really befriended me and made me part of their family. There are many other people as well, but those three are near and dear to me. It amazes me what things here in the States trigger a memory about some of you and/or my time there in Russia. For example, one morning, one of my managers stepped in my office to say “good morning” and still my first reaction is to reach out with a hand shake, which is not common here in the States if you know the person; but that caused me to go into the entire discussion or Russian traditions of hand shaking on the first meeting of the day with that person.

Guess what food I miss the most, particularly for lunch, yes, soup! When it is cold and winter like outside, it is not that uncommon here in the US to have soup; but in the South where it is normally warm, people look at me funny for ordering soup. While in Russia, I grew accustom to having soup everyday and still crave it for lunch and dinner. Speaking of cold, I thought I was back in Russia about two months ago while visiting one of my plants in Minnesota. It was high of -20oC and low of -30oC. I thought to myself, “I am back in Russia.”

Later that same week, I was driving across the State of Minnesota in the middle of a snow storm. Guess who I thought about then…yes, Misha! All I could think to myself, “I wish Misha was here driving so I could just lay back and take a nap.” Now do not get me wrong, I do love the convenience of having my car and being able to get in it any time and going when/where I want; but I sure did miss Misha that trip! Even though Misha and I may not speak the same verbal language, we had our own form of communication that worked just fine. We knew and understood each other and I miss his morning smile and hand shake to my poorly pronounced “Dobra yotroa” {Доброе утро or good morning}. He took great care (and safety) of me and I appreciate it and him. If any of you see him, please let him know I said asked about him and said “Thank you and hello.”

But the most recent story that stands out in my mind was several weeks ago on my way back to my old home in Georgia when I stopped at a Korean spa that also advertised as having a Russian sauna. The “Russian sauna” reminded me of my times with the Obninsk Volleyball Club when we had “sauna” on Mondays after volleyball. Although we could really only communicate the language of “volleyball”, I wanted to be part of this family as well so I would join them. We would all laugh at me because I had to sit near the door on the lowest step due to the heat so that step soon became known as the “Американец {American’s} step.” The same was true when I joined Vladimir Rogov and his friends on Thursday. Nonetheless, I decided to stop at the spa (

After checking out the place, I decide to get something to drink at their café. As I was standing there, I see a hand written sign for “Пелмини” and the words “Russian Noodles” under it. This was the start to a very emotional evening as I started thinking about the many memories from Russia starting with Natalie’s English class, who laughed at me because I told them I liked my pelmeni fried as opposed to boiling them. My mind went a mile a minute to stories such as making шоколадный картофель {chocolate potatoes (This is actually a desert for those of my readers that might think that sounds strange and they do not have any potatoes in them.)}, which I fell in love with after Luca and I had one at the Domodedovo (DME) airport. Then there is all of the stories (maybe not so pleasant…lol) at the Sheremetyevo (SVO-2) airport, including Leo’s first trip to China when he had all kinds of problem with “wonderful” Aeroflot Airlines.

Yes, my thoughts jump all around to also include the many meetings at the Cake Café, who also had great chocolate potatoes, and where Freddie made fun of my “morosnya” with the nice ladies at the Café that I am sure would laugh after I left. Speaking of cafés, I could never forget the NUMEROUS stories at the Horseshoe Café (Кафе Подковы). To name just a few:
• Samir, Tima, and the fun wait staff that took great care of me.
• The big party we had when my American friends came to visit.
• Finding out Dasha and Michael are engaged (actually across the street at the other café, but we still ended up back at the Horseshoe Café.)
• The time Tima helped Lloyd and I “escape” from the stranger
• Dima getting a beer thrown on him
• Many bike trips, starting and ending here
• Conversations between Tima and I in Russian and English.
• Our “tour guide” Dasha taking Jetta and the kids here for lunch.
Then how we can forget Michael and I taking Alan there, he ordering popcorn that they did not have but because it was me, running down the street to buy a box at the market and coming back with that is service!

So many wonderful stories to tell and remember! Now, back to the Russian sauna, I decided to do the Russian sauna one last time before heading home. As I was sitting there, with my Russian sauna hat on, of course, I overheard some Russian gentleman speaking so I asked, “gadar thee?{Откуда Вы? or where are you from?} They were not trying to be dumb, but they answered “Россия” {Russia}, in which I replied, “Daaa (trying to be funny since it is sort of English slang for ‘yes, I know that’ and Russian word for ‘Yes’ without the extra aaa’s), but where in Russia?” Well that is all it took and we off we went into traditional Russian sauna discussions. As we were “resting” (aka cooling down) on the second or third time, we some how got on the discussion of creation and evolution, which reminded me of the long discussions Oleg and several of us had on the level of two bodies of water at sea level as well as how fast different weighted objects would fall when dropped. About half way through the discussion on evolution, I said, “You know what would make this discussion even better” and looked at them, “pecet decet grams vodka” {пятьдесят граммов водки or fifty grams of vodka}. They laughed, corrected my horrible Russian pronunciation, and said, “You are from Russia.”

After they left, I sat their cooling down with tears in my eyes thinking of the many great times I had with each of you while in Russia! It was sad, but it also made me feel so good and proud inside to know what great friends I have. (I have to admit, I am crying again as I type and proof this blog entry and even called Dasha this morning to talk.) We may be 5,500 physical miles (8.800 km) apart; but all of you are right next to me emotionally. I am excited about my visit in mid to late November and I just hope Cirque du Soleil ( is still playing. And again, always remember/know, you are welcomed here in my home any time. My home is your home.

I know I have said it many times in this blog, but thank you again to each of you for everything you did and have done for me while I lived there in Russia! Please stay in touch. I think most of you have my email address, but it is or . I know it is not cheap, but if you want to call, my phone number is +1-423-802-1242 and I just installed Skype. Although I do not use it often, my Skype address is vkramer515 and ICQ is 441-264-631.

I will keep this website active for awhile because it is fun and interesting to meet people that find some of my postings and write; but this will probably be my last posting. I promise this will not be the last time you hear from me. Of course, one of the many tradition I would not forget, a toast. I could not conclude our meeting/my blog without one and encourage you to post your own closing toast, so here we go:

Until we meet again, please join with me and raise your glass. I know many of you have heard a toast similar to this, but I want to share it again. Whether you be near or far, thank you to my newer friends and family as well as my older friends and family for your love, support, kindness, encouragement, and friendship; for reaching out to me, getting to know me, accepting me, and sharing so many wonderful experiences and things from your culture, history, and country with me; but also for teaching me so many new things about my self. Remember, no matter the miles/kilometers (distance), you are very near and dear to me; you are very special and important to me. You are always welcome in my home; not as guests, but as friends/family. So in closing, taking from Leo’s toast that he has taught me and shared with us on many occasions, ‘Here are to friends, friends with no borders.’ The friends I love, thank you, and miss you!

Your American friends (Ваш друг),
Vince (Винс)


25th May 2009

Proof Reading
I apologize for the errors. I revised this several times over the past month and finally decided to just post it while enjoying the wonderful weather here in Key West.
26th May 2009

One last comment
One last word of advice - - print out the whole blog and put it in a folder. Cyberspace can crash and you could lose everything. These memories need to be preserved for your lifetime. Thanks!

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