We came out of the wilderness after camping for 4 days and I received the news of Moscow on fire. Hard to believe a city so vastly populated with people and gothic buildings could be covered in smoke. But the peat bogs to the south east burn out of control. The unprecedented temperatures have dried their tunnels and they burn unthreatened by water or flooding. The air quality has become so bad that the Embassy has called an authorized departure to all none essential personnel. But I must return and return I did.
Dina and the kids stay behind awaiting approval to return. My brother Mike drove me to the airport. As always, he cheers me up. He knows what's on my mind and he reassures me that things will be fine back home until I return some time I know not when.
I bought a cranberry muffin and a sandwich so as not to have to buy and eat that God awful food on the airplane. "United breaks guitars" is the theme song on my mind; "I've heard all your excuses and chased your wild gooses..." In mid flight, the woman next to me buys a fruit and yogurt parfait and eats it with a diet coke. I appreciate my turkey sandwich very much. A smooth flight gets me to Dulles a half hour early.
As we boarded the transatlantic flight, I was surrounded by giggly Russian teenage girls wearing Bosco athletic wear. It's the Russian olympic synchronized swimming team. My seat was on the isle next to the window. A Russian girl looked very disappointed when I sat down next to her. She was hoping my spot would remain empty so that a friend could sit with her. It turned out, the two seats in front of us were empty and she moved to that space. After about an hour in flight, she turned back to me and asked if she had left her black blind fold in her seat pocket. I looked around and at first I didn't see anything. But then I saw something black and shiny on the floor. I nodded to her that I saw it and reached down only to pull up her black bra! I could see instant embarrassment on her face. I passed it to her between the seats to make it less visible and she quickly tucked it under her blanket and turned away. Poor thing.
When we landed in Moscow, the visibility was only about a quarter of a mile. You could smell smoke as soon as you walked out of the threshold of the airplane. The temperature was mild in the low 70's. As we drove home, I could barely make out some of the landmark buildings. It seemed like a different place.
The health unit is relatively quiet. Many people left but we are anticipating a mass influx when everybody returns. We cancelled all appointments and are only taking walk-ins. The smoke still permeates your clothes and eyes get teary and mildly irritated. Air quality levels are measured daily and are 1.3 times above normal and hazard levels are drifting down. We expect that it will continue to get better and authorized departure will be lifted in about 2-3 weeks. But the fires keep on smoldering in spite of all efforts to put them out.