Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Life in Star City, Russia

I've been asked to share some inside information about life in Star City and also about my Astro buddy Reid Wiseman. So, tonight we had a group dinner and I thought this would be the perfect time to share some personal stuff. See, when you come from a different culture and you get to a new place,  with different alphabet, a different language and a different culture, it really just feels nice and homey getting together with your friends and having a relaxed group dinner.

Tonight we all sat down together; Flight Surgeon Blake Camberlain, Astronaut Chris Cassidy and Astronaut Reid Wiseman (and me, of course) and enjoyed a delicious group dinner. They do them 1-2 times a week with whoever happens to be around.

Last night, after Reid turned off the lights and we were just resting in our beds, I asked Reid how he felt to be here again.

Reid explained to me that this is his third of 12 trips to Star City for training. Most trips are four weeks long.

Now since he has two little kids at home these trips are somewhat tough when he has to say goodbye every other month. They don’t understand why Dad is leaving so they are usually more than willing to tell him how sad it makes them when he leaves.

Aside from that, life in Star City is very comfortable. Reid really enjoys seeing and learning the cultural differences here. Almost everyone lives in very small two bedroom apartments which results in a much more active outdoor social life.

Despite freezing cold and deep snow the playgrounds and parks are always packed with children playing and parents talking.

The funny thing, we both also expected the grocery stores to be fairly sparse compared to the US but we have found quite the opposite. Even the smallest corner store is loaded with fresh bread, fruits, vegetables…everything you need for a healthy lifestyle.

All of the US Astronauts live in townhouses right on the edge of the training facility. It is an easy walk to class. (may I add for Reid - not for me!). The visitors here we now have many great conveniences like VOIP phones and Skype to keep in touch with our families.

Just down the road we have Reid's favorite destination, a Russian sauna. For a small fee, you and your friends can rent a private sauna for two hours and enjoy superb relaxation. They keep the sauna around 210-220 degrees F (no kidding) so you alternate between 10 minutes in the sauna, a quick run outside to roll in the snow, followed by 15 minutes relaxing on a bench. Sounds crazy, but Reid says it is the most relaxing experience he has ever had. And the Russians take it extremely seriously.

Does anyone know at what temperature rubber melts?

Well, at dinner tonight I managed to gross out the entire table. Reid asked me to say a few words before we ate. Having been very hungry, a little tired and totally hyper, I offended everyone with my story about Clayton C. Anderson and that space toilet he got me stuck in. I just couldn't stop talking about it so Reid had to lecture me about manners..

Good night now!