By Bonnie Pandya
Yesterday was another fun day. After Suni finished her Russian class we took a walk to the Banya where we signed up for tomorrow night. The Banya is a steam room, very hot, about 120 degrees. You can only stay in there about 5 min. at the most. Then you go out of the steam room and jump in the 45 degree pool. It is like a locker room with showers, and the pool with the stem room at the end of the hall. We then walked around the campus and saw the new church that was built a couple years ago. Typically Russian with the gold leaf round tops. It was interesting because it was built like a log cabin. This is how they build a church in the country side. It is very pretty, sitting in the middle of nowhere.
Vadim, the driver took a group of us to the local market just outside the military base where we are staying. Two of the Canadian Astronauts, Chris and Tom went along with Tom’s daughter, Gail. The men went to buy roasted chicken wrapped in a thin bread and Suni and I went to buy fruit and vegetables for dinner tonight.
It was very interesting how everyone decides what they want to eat and then they all go shopping and share the expense. There were quite a few things at the market including pots and pans, dried fruits, spices, cheese, shackleek grills, dishes, cups, plates and so many other items. After an hour of shopping around we met up the Vadim and went back to the cottages.
Suni went for a jog and I started cooking the Slovenian sausages I brought with me from Azman Meats. They smelled delicious. I also brought some somosas which we baked in the oven. Suni warmed up her delicious chicken soup with chick peas and spinach, and then she made a fantastic salad with red, green and yellow peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, black olives, feta cheese dill and balsamic vinaigrette. We brought the food over to cottage #4 where everyone congregated. The roasted chicken was there on the table, another salad, macaroni and cheese, tunafish salad, bread and couple other dishes and our sausages and salad and chicken soup. Needless to say everyone was impress and ate all the sausages and Suni’s salad. Someone made crème brulet and a chocolate cake and a ice cream cake. We took what we wanted from the table and went outside to eat. It was fun just sitting around, eating and talking. Chris brought out his guitar so we had nice music to listen to. Swanie was there, he was one of the crew on Atlantis that brought Suni home from her last mission. It was cool to see how they all get together and have fun. Some of them are leaving tomorrow to go back to Houston. The back-up crew’s family will be coming in this weekend so we will have more people here. Everyone loved the Azman sausages and I assured them I had more for the next party.
After about three hours of listening to music, drinking beer, eating and reminiscing about old times, everyone pitched in to clean up and then went to our own cottages to go to sleep. Even though Suni, Aki and Yuri were finished with their classes, the rest of the astronauts have 2 ½ more years to prepare for their flights.
I woke up about 4 a.m. and notices the sun was rising. Weird! Today is going to be another sunny day with temperatures around 70. Suni went for a jog and then got ready in her dark blue uniform. She and Mark, the Army guy, were the only ones with uniforms on and the rest of the astronauts were in suits. They all went to a press conference. I will be picked up in the van at 11 when we will all go to Moscow. However, Chris Guiletti called me to ask if I would like to come for the signing of the official paperwork at the desk of the first Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. So I was picked up and taken with Ann, Tom’s wife and her daughter Gail to the museum building where we waited for the astronauts to arrive. We were ushered into the area where Gagarin had his office for the official signing of the book.
This is one of the official ceremonies that the Russians have. The press was there taking pictures. Ann, Gail and I went into Gagarin’s office and watched as the prime crew signed and then the back-up crew signed. We took a tour of the cosmonaut museum, in the same building.
From there we all got into a bus and went to Moscow. While we were on the bus, I ask Aki about the Chinese space station. He said they have been building it for about 8 yrs. And that it is very small. No one hears much about it until about a week before they launch. I asked him if it was on the same latitude as the ISS and he was not sure. The Chinese astronauts are up there now. Aki said they already sent up supplies and practiced docking and everything worked so then they sent up the astronauts. They will only be there for a couple of days before returning to earth. I hope the two space stations do not collide but Aki said the have means to track where they are so it wouldn’t be a problem. So far we have not heard any more about the Chinese, if they returned to earth or are still up there.