Chapter 7: "It's a small world after all…"
Привет (privyet)…Hi!! Sorry that I haven’t written in a while, but I am back in Star City, Russia, after a bit of a “hiatus” in the United States. From about June 12th through August 21st I was home in Texas spending some wonderful time with my family. That 10-week stretch even included some much needed family vacation time at a central Texas waterpark. But now, it’s back to work!
Image at left: Clayton Anderson is pictured during his visit to St. Petersburg, Russia. Credit: NASA
If you read my biography on the NASA website (www.spaceflight.nasa.gov), you will see that I am a native Nebraskan, who grew up in a small town called Ashland, about 30 miles southwest of Omaha and 25 miles northeast of Lincoln. In addition, you will see that I attended Hastings College (a small, private Presbyterian school) and followed that with a couple of years of graduate school at Iowa State University. Hang on to these trivialities for a moment longer and their significance in this chapter should become apparent.
If you read Chapter One of my journals you know that I am trying to use this adventure as a cultural learning experience as well as a space flight training one. In that regard, during my last trip to Russia I took the opportunity to travel to St. Petersburg, Russia, with fellow astronaut and Penguin classmate (1998), Sunita (“Suni”) Williams. Our adventure began on an overnight train from downtown Moscow and took us to one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Yet the most amazing thing to me about this trip was not the beauty of the city, its buildings and its tradition of Белые Ночи (B-yell-ee no-chee) or “White Nights” (at that time of the summer, with St. Petersburg being so far north, the sun never truly “sets” under the horizon…so it’s a white night!). What I considered the most amazing thing occurred as Suni and I were purchasing tickets to board a tour boat on the River Нева (Nyeva). We ran into a young American couple trying to purchase tickets for the same tour and having a bit of trouble with the Russian language. We were able to step in and help a bit and then were surprised to find that our new friends hailed from places near and dear to our hearts. The lady was from Waverly, Iowa, and a graduate of Wartburg College located there in Waverly. Well now, that is exactly where my graduate school roommate is a psychology professor. His family lives in nearby Shell Rock, Iowa, and his kids attend the Waverly school system. I had recently been to Wartburg to speak shortly after the Columbia tragedy. Further, her friend was from the East…near Boston, which is where Suni spent much of her youth growing up. How cool is that? Well, it gets even better (in my opinion!).
Image at above: St. Petersburg, Russia. Credit: NASA
Two weeks ago on this trip, several of us ventured out to Sergei Pasod, a monastery located an hour north of Moscow. As we waited patiently to purchase our tickets, I saw a tour guide holding a sign (you know, like those you often see at airports when folks are being picked up by drivers). I could only make out Joslyn Art on the top…the rest was covered. “Hmmmm…,” I thought…, “Joslyn Art Museum, in Omaha?” As I listened to the crowd, I heard some folks speaking English and just happened to turn around and say (in a Nebraska/Texas drawl), “Where y’all from?” I just about fainted when I heard the reply…”Omaha, Nebraska!” “Get out!” I said. I am from Ashland. After several excited exchanges of “Why are you here…what do you do,” etc., we went our separate ways to enjoy the monastery, but not before I followed up with a hearty “GO BIG RED…” which brought smiles to many faces (including mine!). So far away from family, friends and familiarity…yet signs abound that the world is not such a big place after all. I felt warm inside. Home is where the heart is.