© 2017 by Dale Zurawski

Published Stories

Denmark and Marriage on Bikes

Americans are fat, eat hamburgers, and don’t know geography, said our Russian guide, Lada, summing up an unflattering stereotype. Parroting the official propaganda, she also mentioned the American invasion of Ukraine. My husband, Geoff, and I had climbed aboard the Tsar’s Gold train in Beijing. For 12 days we would be rolling along on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, or TSR, the world’s longest, headed towards Moscow. The journey was the first leg of a three-month, around-the-world trip to celebrate our early retirement. But as our train pulled out of Beijing, my excitement was mostly drowned out by thoughts of how our marriage would survive nearly two weeks in a cabin the size of our closet.

Inside the Montecito Mudslides

The night before the mudslide, the Sheriff warned of a disaster heading towards Montecito. Rain, wind, flooding were certain; they just didn’t know how bad or where. As I walked down the driveway the next morning, the air was chilly and fresh.  Instead of the morning paper, I saw a pickup truck drive by. The kids sitting up in the bed asked if I needed rescuing. It seemed like a strange question. I slipped on my hiking boots and headed out for a look at the creek. I was thrilled to go exploring. I didn’t know then about the the missing and the dead.

Denmark and Marriage on Bikes

Americans are fat, eat hamburgers, and don’t know geography, said our Russian guide, Lada, summing up an unflattering stereotype. Parroting the official propaganda, she also mentioned the American invasion of Ukraine. My husband, Geoff, and I had climbed aboard the Tsar’s Gold train in Beijing. For 12 days we would be rolling along on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, or TSR, the world’s longest, headed towards Moscow. The journey was the first leg of a three-month, around-the-world trip to celebrate our early retirement. But as our train pulled out of Beijing, my excitement was mostly drowned out by thoughts of how our marriage would survive nearly two weeks in a cabin the size of our closet.

First Impressions Visiting China

I didn’t want to go to China. Honestly, my assumptions about the place scared me. Our reason for going to China in July, the hottest month of the year, was functional. Recently retired, with the health, wealth, and time to travel, my husband and I were taking a three-month, around-the-world trip beginning with the Trans-Siberian Railroad. The train started in Beijing and ended in Moscow. Being in Beijing and not at least peeking at this Communist super-power seemed like a waste. 

Exuberance in Turkey

Istanbul’s Sultan Hamam Turkish bath may look like a mosque from the outside, but inside awaited a simple pleasure that all babies love and most adults have forgotten. My husband, Geoff, and I were separated into areas for men and women. We were then bathed by a personal assistant in loose traditional clothing. After being washed and rinsed with a stream of water, we laid on a slab of warm marble under a beautiful white-marble dome while our assistants scrubbed us with fragrant, oily bubbles and rinsed us with cool water. It was invigorating yet relaxing.

Moscow and St. Petersburg, Fascinating and Enlightening

Biking through Moscow on a nearly six-hour tour, our Russian guide, Ivan, relayed to my husband and me this theory for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening of McDonald’s. On the day McDonald’s opened its first restaurant, 30,000 meals were served. Muscovites braved the January cold to stand in a line that wrapped around Pushkin Square three times. In 1990 the Russians sank their teeth into an American hamburgers, and in 1991 they dropped communism for capitalism. Although the collapse was more complicated than a bite of a hamburger, enthusiasm for Western culture did play a part. The Russians we met were as appreciative of Americans as they were of our hamburgers.

Americans Visit Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railroad

Americans are fat, eat hamburgers, and don’t know geography, said our Russian guide, Lada, summing up an unflattering stereotype. Parroting the official propaganda, she also mentioned the American invasion of Ukraine. My husband, Geoff, and I had climbed aboard the Tsar’s Gold train in Beijing. For 12 days we would be rolling along on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, or TSR, the world’s longest, headed towards Moscow. The journey was the first leg of a three-month, around-the-world trip to celebrate our early retirement. But as our train pulled out of Beijing, my excitement was mostly drowned out by thoughts of how our marriage would survive nearly two weeks in a cabin the size of our closet. I also wanted to see how Russians function after downing vodka like wine.

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