The Iron Horse ala Trans-Siberian Railways

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Vancouver, Canada...April 11, 2009...Awaiting connecting flight to Incheon Airport, Seoul, Korea...Down time: 2 hours plus...What to dos: not much...

Flight Experience 11 hours later: Window seat on an Air Canada 767...Gentleman next to me was about as calm as a Raiders fan sitting in the middle of Seahawk Diehards at Quest Field...for 11 hours...Sleep deprivation non control has set it for sure...Little did I realize how small a Window seat can become with an overactive aisle person...

I was very very impressed with the Audio/Visual tech display screen that this aircraft had...Wow!! I mean it has EVEREETHANG!! Where else can you sit for 11+ hours and be thoroughly entertained before your very eyes...The plane arrived on schedule and safely and that is the keyword on this trip: safely...

Incheon, Seoul...I made a reservation online through Priceline.com, which has proven to be a pretty reliable resource for hotels and travel, I believe...So I am at the baggage claim, and the beginning of sleep deprivation is setting in...How do I know this? Simple: I'm trying to remember what my two bags look like that I packed...After watching the carousel go round and round like a Merry Go-round, it dawns on me that there's only couple of bags left by now and two have to be mine...Good deduction, Miss Patrick, my 5th Grade elementary teacher would have been proud of my logic...Now on to “getting” to my hotel for an overnight recuperation before the flight out on Monday morning to Vladivostok,Russia...

Outside Incheon Airport...after receiving information from a kind young Korean bi-lingual regarding where the Ramada Song Do Hotel is in Incheon, and she letting me know that the “easiest” is to take the public bus, I set off to the curbside and begin my adventure...She wrote down in Korean for me the name of the hotel and location, or so I thought...I get on the bus, smile a whole lot with the driver and give him my piece of hope for R & R...He looks at it, speaks to me in Korean and points out his window like “overthere?”...I and nod in agreement with “overthere”, a word more dangerous in geographical terms than nautical at this point in my mind...

Twenty minutes later, the Driver comes back, awakens me and motions to follow him as I have arrived to my destination...I look out the window and all I see is a Factory that has an SK sign on the entrance, international flags and a whole lot of security guards with holsters and Glocks on their hips...thinking to myself: “...hmmm, the Ramada really takes care of its Guests...”...I point to the Driver and he smiles, nods and points to “overthere” as my point of arrival to the destination...Smiles and pointing should never be considered an affirmative action towards correctness when one or both parties have no clue where they are, what they're doing and what to expect should the location be wrong...which this was...

I roll down the entry towards the Security Guards and one looks at me, stops and calls for backup (yes, I do KNOW how to interpret 'voice inflections' very well)...His partner appears from an office and I say hello to both and the latter says “hello” back...I pull out my Priceline.com confirmation, all in English and think for sure, he 'knows' English because he smiled and said hello back...Wrong...He looks at the paper, gets on his walkie talkie and about 3 minutes later, anoter officer appears out of a tanned Hyundai Security SUV...He obviously is the Boss, Supe, Chief, you name him, that's what he is: in charge...He shakes his head, points out towards the main thoroughfare and says something to the gentleman who was trying to help me that I can only interpret: “overthere...get him overthere...”...And “overthere” I followed, not having a freakin clue if I would end up “underthere” after being “overthere”...I follow the young Lt. back out onto the busy street and he is now going to hail me a Taxi to take me from his “SK Factory” compound to the “SK Ramada Hotel in SongDo District”...overthere, I'm sure...

A Taxi pulls over, conversation between the Security person and Female Taxi Driver begins and five minutes later I am encouraged to get into the back seat and through smiles and finger directions, realize that I am on my way again...I was really encouraged when I noticed on the back window of this Taxi a sticker that read: “Professional Women Drivers Association” member in ENGLISH, which I must confess is the most incredible 'order' of acknowledgement for any American male/tourist in any foreign country...Now I know why my late Father was impressed with the Koreans and how they drive...

30 minutes later the Driver pulls up to the Ramada, almost two and half hours AFTER I arrive in Korea...I am so excited...a room, a shower, a bed, a time to relax after 17 hours of travel...I get to my room and it was perfect...I was hungry yet more tired than famished at this point, so I turn on the TV to see what programs they have in English...They have CNN, ESPN and a host of other international programs as well as their domestic...I lay back and now it is Korean time 7:30pm and I didn't awaken again until 3:15am Monday morning, Easter Sunday in America...I was full of energy once again, and made some complimentary room coffee and surfed through the TV stations to find the Masters LIVE...Wow!! I proceeded to witness Tiger and Phil Mickelson play a round of golf that would make any non-golfer understand how difficult it is to focus and concentrate on taking a long shaft with a abnormal head on the end and swing down and through on a ball either on a prop (tee) or laying on the grass...So, for the next 3 hours I watched the Masters in Korea from my TV...Great moment in sports TV...

Vladivostok, Russia, Monday afternoon arrival...2:30pm...Two hours ahead of Korean time...I am met at the airport by Dima, the Russian Public Affairs person who works in the American Consul General's Office in Vladivostok...Dima is the principle person in charge of coordinating my program/clinics in Siberia on the Russian side, and Bridget Gersten, American Attache' who is Dima's Supervisor, the lead person arranging my itinerary and public appearances in cities, Universities and before the Press for interviews...Between the both of them, they have everything pretty well established, coordinated and arranged for my departure 9 hours later to Blagoveshenk, Russia via Trans Siberian Railways...I am immediately taken to Ms. Gersten's compound/house by Dima, as she will arrive in an hour from work to go over everything with me and make me comfortable before we leave for Blago...Ms. Gersten is on her last duty station obligation here in Vladivostok, as she and her husband will soon be relocated to the Consul General's Office in Bogota, Colombia for the next 4 years on assignment...She is very excited for the change of venue and opportunity to have her husband and herself working together in the same city...I am happy for her opportunities, and more impressed for her and her husband's act of patriotism abroad, representing all that is good about our Democracy and values as a very young country compared to the rest of the world...We owe them and others a tremendous amount of respect for their service...So, the next times you travel abroad, keep in mind the professional dedication and services we have empowered with individuals and couples who have chosen to serve our Nation globally and extend the model of our values and democracy and human rights to the Free World...Our State Department should be commended over and over again for their undying commitment to have emissaries abroad be an extension of all educated and well trained Americans serve on our behalf and make our future travels outside the USA safer and eventful...

Vladivostok Train Station: 11:45pm...”Bear” picks up Dima and myself from Bridget's house and transports us to the Train Station...It is cold, dark and I am thinking to myself: “self, not many people would ever understand NOR even consider what you are undertaking at this time, for the next 36 straight hours on the same train...”, but then again, we already “know” that I am a lil diffrnt...

Sleeper Car # 34-36 on Trans-Siberian Railways...ah, let's see, there is Dima and Victor (my first translator when I was in Vladivostok, Russia the year before) and myself sharing this 4 bunk bed compartment...Size? Imagine a bath a half room with two lower benches and two upper for sitting and sleeping purposes...for the next 36 hours...Imagine also this compartment is a walkin closet the size a small Rancher house's Master Bedroom closet...a 6X6X9' room with a sliding door for privacy...Pictures will follow, hopefully...

The sleep-through-the-night was uneventful at best, a rolling left to right, iron wheels upon iron rails evolving slowly, gaining momentum and I assumed speed, the couplings reminding me that we were continually attached to other cars attached to a locomotive somewhere a quarter of a mile ahead of our compartment...

Tuesday morning, sunrise and the beginning of an uneventful but illustrative panoramic topography of South Far East Russia...Desolate at best, a frozen tundra or perma frost perhaps, not much to describe other than it appears to be a rural, hard life that many people endure, generations upon generation, accepting fate as decree for existence in a predisposed life and culture for existence...No thank you...

Physically my back is as sore as doing a dozen squats with knees bent standing next to a wall for two minute intervals...the only difference is that I feel I have done 100 of these over the last 36 hours...We are approximately 1 hour out of Blagoveshenk right now, and Dima informs me that we will have the local TV station meeting us at the Station upon arrival for an impromptu interview, as I am the first American basketball coach to travel to their city to teach the game to their coaches and speak at the local university on sports and recreation from my experiences...I am little concerned because one, my hair is not combed, I have the breath of many buffaloes, and I need to get my bearings “right” regarding walking and riding once again...Numb and Numbmer, this word by the way is a “newellism” courtesy of Trans-Siberian Railways...and I am for sure “numbmer” than the day before...and I think to myself, Dumber...The latter because I realize I accepted this opportunity and experience to return to Vladivostok and the accompanying two other cities without “thinking” of the reality of travel and hardship of isolation (by train 72 hours roundtrip), but, I have been blessed by my acquaintances of both Dima and Victor, two wonderfully kind humans whom I consider “best” comrades now...Victor, by the way, visited me in Seattle on his way back to Vladivostok, last July, when he was returning from a business meeting in NYC then...I took him to my favorite Irish Bar on Queen Anne, Sully's, where he made immediate new friends in Marquess and Patrick, both co-owners of this fine establishment...There were others that he met there and who graciously accepted him into the fraternity of reputable notables of Sully's...

Okay, not sure when I will be sending this transmission out, but hopefully Jay Arnold, my compadre' and partner with Familysportslifetoday.com program, will cut and paste to our Blog...I will keep you up to date on the goings on and itinerary, which by the way, begins today, in the afternoon, after arriving in Blagoveshenk at 9:30am and commencing at 2pm on the local indoor gymnasium...

Less I forget: how would I describe 36 hours on a train? Hmmmm, it is similar to being a Dryer with a pair of Levis whose brass buttons rap against the wall of the dryer, without the heat on, prone, not fetal in position of rotations/circular motions...or like a riding in an old '56 Plymouth that has no rear springs and the only cushion is the seat you sit upon when hitting a rut in the road...or like a having a small sharp pepple in both shoes and you have to walk a mile before you can remove them...or like a window seat on the back of a dark bus with a driver who hasn't slept in 30 hours...I think now you get the visual...Welcome to Siberia...

The Mysteria of Hysterisa in Siberia for basketball...

Blagoveshenk, Russia...City Population 250,000 plus/minus...We were met at the Train Station by Yuri, one of the most incredible young coaches in basketball I've ever met...He was the Host and organizer of this program here, and did a tremendous job setting it up...I can't begin to express how impressed I was with his professionalism and organizational skills...Exceptional to say the least...The city itself has the largest streets/thoroughfare I've ever seen...Also, keep in mind, less than a quarter of mile across the Amur River is China, yes China...They have undertaken a “new” city construction development, one to rival their cross border neighbors in Blagoveschenk...The number of high rises and construction cranes is phenomenal, according to Yuri, who was born and raised in Blago, and attests to the fact that the “new” China is well on its way to “lure” tourists from the Motherland to their city...Presently, the river is still about 4” thick with an ice cover...Word is “maybe” next month it will melt enough whereby boats will be out on the water again...Hard to imagine or experience being in a city where in April it's still 20degrees outside during the day and colder at night...there is some leftover snowbanks, but melting a little bit more each day....

Hotel Drushav, Blago...What a nice room overlooking the river's bay and seeing China so close...The bed was not as comfortable as the furniture in this large suite, but it didn't matter, it was more comfortable than the sleeper cot on the train, trust me...Hotel breakfast, lunch and dinner was very very good...Simple, tasty (lots of chicken, fresh vegetables, fresh made rolls) and vanilla ice cream with a couple of peaches was a wonderful dessert...

Session One: this began 4 hours after arriving in Blago, approximately at 1:30pm on Wednesday afternoon...We began with a Press Conference at the venue where the coaches program took place, Pedalogical University of Blagoveshenk...Yuri is a teacher of Physical Science there (25 years now) and their team's coach...He has been the most successful coach in history of the school's program...I met him last year in Vladivostok when I made my first clinic there in February of '08...The Press Conference was very surprising to me, one, because there were 6 TV cameras and reporters as well as numerous newspaper journalists as well...Why? Evidently, I am the first Foreign Coach to visit their city and teach youth coaches (boys and girls, middle school and high school) in 30 years...And this includes their own coaches association where they have not had coaches come from Moscow to share their knowledge of the game with youth coaches here...30 years of no visiting coaches, neither domestic or foreign...Now you know why the big hype for my visit...it went very well...Also in attendance were the coaches who were going to attend our program as well as Professors from the University who were curious about this American coach who took a train from Vladivostok to their city to share his knowledge with local youth coaches...Guess you could say I was a “novelty” of sorts...Happy to oblige the curiousity...

Tom and his “funny guy” humor...I introduced to the coaches in attendance my “observations” of how I see a player today when evaluating them in practice and competitions...It's actually very simple: players are either a 30w...60w...90w...or Halogen...When I defined each level of wattage a player is ID'd, the Russian coaches laughed in unison...And I did this in our first 30 minutes together? Now I knew I had their interest and attention to this American coach whom they heard about from Yuri, the organizer, and they too were excited to see what they might learn about teaching players how to play the game the right way...

On court presentation: this followed one hour after the classroom program...How do I describe the court by which I am suppose to work upon? Imagine a very old warehouse, high ceiling, windows on the side walls, rising from a 4' level to 8' in height...no tint or shade by the way...Now to the floor surface...Imagine two inch planks, side by side, no tongue and groove, installed over 70 years ago, NEVER sanded or replacement boards to this day, painted over and over and over with lead based paint, some areas of the court with uneven planks (the better players I'm sure used these locations for wicked crossover moves, no doubt J); now to the sidelines: imagine a sideline that is 6” from the walls and the ENDline at least a foot and a half...Pictures will follow, trust me, I kid you not...and I haven't even LOOKED at the baskets yet...I was extremely careful and sensitive to my hosts, and Victor and Dima about commenting whatsoever on this court we were going to use for the next two and half days, not that I would, but I am sure they were wondering if I could even conduct the drills properly...I just marveled at the whole visual before me and how my late Father, Pete Newell would have had a wonderful chuckle about the court and sidelines...I can hear him telling me in his quiet quick humor: “tommy, that Coach must be a great defensive coach with Traps full court and on the sidelines throughout the game...!!”...He'd be right, because that's immediately what I thought about also...Okay, now raising my head and eyes towards the basket, it was an equally incredible basketball relic too...it was suspended and anchored to the brick walls, evidenced by years of bolts coming out of the wall hundreds of times I'm sure as the college students wanted to demonstrate their dunking skills as they evolved with the game over the years of new players on the school's teams...The plexiglass backboards were extremely clean and almost new, about two inches thick...the rims were breakaways...nets were new also...

Before I commenced on the court, I was told by Yuri that I had a team of 12 players to use as models...They ranged in age from 14-18 years of age...Their coach was also one of the attending coaches, which helped me make sure that if I needed to split up the teams to two half courts I had someone to “watch” them also...I'm introduced by Yuri to the team and coach, and it was as always a “new” experience for me in another foreign city, greeting and meeting new charges, new players who are wondering who this coach is that “wants” them on the floor when he is teaching...For the next two and half hours we had a fabulous time together, both attendees and players alike...And Victor did a magnificent job translating, I am so lucky to have such a patient, willing assistant trying to understand my humor, the keywords in basketballspeak and of course answering the questions that the coaches would invariably ask...Dima was the Camp photographer, and I am sure he has the pictures to illustrate my reflections in Blagoveschenk...

Sauna Visit after Day One...My body is tired, really tired from the 36 hours on the train, and 5 hours on my feet upon arrival...Victor informs me that Coach Yuri (Host) wishes to take us to the local Sauna Club, that it will be very relaxing...Well, I gotta tell you, I hear Sauna and immediately I'm thinking what you're thinking, so I hesitate a little bit, wanting to just get back to my hotel room, change clothes, jump into the shower and get some rest...but...I relented and did not want to offend Yuri and his kindness and accepted with Victor the invitation to “go to the Sauna...”...First off, I have never been to a Sauna, but have had friends who had one in their homes, etc., or used one at one of the NBA teams I use to coach with, but NEVER a Private Club sauna...until now...So, we arrive at this very well designed building, relatively new, and walk downstairs, me following my two comrades and thinking to myself, “newell, you big dummy, what did you agree to get yourself into NOW...?”...We open this door and there is a receptionist, a woman, mid 30's, hadn't missed a meal all winter, giving us each a plastic bag put our shoes in, and giving us each a pair of flip flops in exchange...THEN I am given a bouquet of dried birch leave branches...Not really sure what the heck this is all about until Yuri through Victor informs me “it's part of the Sauna experience in Russia...”...I immediately tell the woman through Victor, “thank you, but in my country when one receives flowers they're usually with blossoms and fresh cut...”...Well, you can only imagine the laughter that ensued from that comment...Now we proceed to the “change room”...By the way, we are given bags with towels, wash cloth and pajama-like shorts and wrap around top...I now ask the question: “ah, Victor, is this an ALL men's private club?”...he asked Yuri, and Yuri said “of course, this is the one place where women cannot bother a man when he wants to relax and go to the Sauna...”...What happens next was the most exhilarating, relaxing experience I would have ever imagined...We put on WOOL beanie (half inch thick!!) and walked into the Finnish Sauna (there are 4 types in this Club) and this has Eucalyptus emitting from the steam, and it was fabulous...there were a couple of other men in this sauna and they immediately wanted to know from Yuri “who is this Amerikansk?” in Blagoveshenk? Yuri explains who I am and where in the US I live and they were surprised that I would have come to their city, and now their sauna...All the while this dialogue is being exchanged I am breathing in fresh Eucalyptus and sweating beyond profusely, I am what is described as a “full on DRIP”...I think I lost 5 lbs. in that first sitting...Then we leave after 15 mins. in there and have a choice to jump into a very polar cold pool...a very hot pool or a semi warm pool that had a Hydroplane “jet” Jacuzzi that turned out to be my “best” friend to my back that night...After 5 mins of pool time, we then went into the “next” sauna, which was a Swedish HOT steambath, and it was here that I understood “why” the birch leaved bouquet was given to me...Yuri had soaked these leaves in an oak bucket of extremely hot water and let it simmer while we were in the first sauna, me not knowing what was about to ensue in the immediate future of my saunize experience...As we were getting ready to go into the Swedish sauna there was another sauna next to this one and a guy in there was standing on the bench and beating himself with the branches like he was a bad bad boy...I stopped and couldn't believe what I was witnessing...Victor then tells me that Yuri told him to tell me that we too will use the branches in the Swedish sauna also...This much I know: I ain't about to beat myself with branch leaves for no reason...but then again, I'm in Russia...So, we go into the Swedish room, and it is very very HOT, searing almost (now I know how Tuna must feel when seared...), and I sit up on the second row and it is really really hot, too hot, so Yuri tells me to move down to the first row, lay on my stomach and put my feet together and relax...Hah!! He then takes the leaves and proceeds for the next 10 mins. to beat the everlivin evil that may or must have been in my life for the last 10 years!! I mean it was unbelievable...the ball of my feet got smacked, up to my shoulder blades and I gotta tell you: it was an incredible feeling, the oil from the branch leaves came out, mixed with the perspiration and all, I could feel oils and other chemicals that shouldn't be in my system leaving at that point...Then we jumped into the polar pool for 20 seconds and then into the very very hot pool for 10 seconds and on into the semi warm pool...Trust me, it was the most exhilarating experience I could have ever imagined...Then one last sauna out of 4 (I told Yuri I had enough already), a conventional radiant sauna with heater elements on the side...that was probably the driest of them all and really didn't do much for me...Anyway, that was the Sauna experience in Blagoveshenk and one I won't soon forget...

Overview of Clinic Days 2-3: what a fabulous experience...We learned so much about teaching first and coaching second, it was really fun to see the enthusiasm of the coaches...We had coaches, men and women, who coach kids ages middle school and high school, all volunteers, educated in physical science, but not so much in the process of coaching a team, especially basketball...I sensed thatt our exchange would not soon be forgotten...They were excited to learn how to introduce the Triangle Offense and simple options that could evolve from this offense, as well as how to defend one on one on the perimeter and Post Play Defense, basketball methods that defined player development issues that they did not know how to address per se, until now...We went over warmup drills for skills, shooting drills, Disruptive Pressure Defense stations that teach disciplines as well as principles that can help a team be more successful in their matchups...

The Players as models: one player in particular stood out above them all, literally, and that was Timothy...he must be at least 6'9”, long armed and hands twice the size of mine (and I can palm a ball) and a GREAT eagerness and passion for the game...Timothy is only a young 18 year old, brought to Blagoveschenk from some outside Siberian small village by Yuri, given an opportunity to gain an education (high school and college) through his basketball experiences...He has only played hoops for two years, and let me tell you, NOW I truly understand when I remember reading about Olajuwon taking up basketball when he was only 16 years old in Nigeria...Timothy is the most natural “big” I've come across in my international travels in a long long time...He's a natural leader by his effort and example and his teammates look up to him as well, and NOT because he towers over them...I used him as model for our Post Defensive moves, � deny, Full Front, � push up baseline and he picked up on it so well and quickly, it was exciting for me to see how well he adapted...Next we learned the basic Post Play moves, beginning with the Jump Hook after stepping off and the counters that follow that sequence of read read attack plays...Afterwards, I sat down with him and Victor and asked him if he liked basketball and if ever thought about becoming a “great” player...His eyes opened wide and he said “of course, I want to play in the NBA someday...”, and he said that with a straight, serious countenance...I was NOT caught off guard whatsoever by his “vision” as he has dream to believe and realize someday and wants to develop beyond what anyone from his village, including his mother would have ever thought when she agreed to let him come to the big city for education and sport...I told him that he would have to work very very hard and that it would not be easy at all, and he nodded...I told him that he would have to make serious social choices in his life, off the court with the friendships he develops, leaving drugs and alcohol aside and focusing on one thing: self discipline...He looked me in the eye, and said “I know, I am doing that now...”...Clearly, I am sitting with a young man that may be in the NBA someday because he “sees” himself doing that...Wow...I asked him if he had any questions and he said, “I would like to have a drill that will help me with my left hand (he's right handed) and be just as good as my right hand around the basket...”...We went out onto the court and I proceeded to introduce him to the Mikan Right/Left hand step hook shot, which he picked up on right away for never having been taught this before...What a kid...what a GREAT potential...Wow!! I said goodbye, asked him one last question: “what kind of student are you...?”...To which he honestly replied and said “not as good as I should be, Coach...”...I told him that education is the balance to his dreams, that without applying himself towards school he could never realize his full potential as you can't always play basketball, and the lessons you learn in a classroom and reading a book will be more valuable than any game you score many points and get many rebounds...He then says, “I know I must do better in school and I will...”...I told him that he must study English next and that if he does well in school and English I will bring him to America for college...He was very excited and said he hopes that he can do that someday...Stay tuned...I am blessed beyond words to have this experience, Folks, and the blessings of my family's love and support for my endeavors...

Post Clinic Ceremony: on campus, in one of their classrooms...by the way, I didn't mention how “old” and dilapidated this university was did I? Let's put it this way: the EPA, FEMA, OHSHA, Fire Department and HEW department would collectively “shut” it down in a heartbeat...Trust me, it's that bad!! Yet, they don't complain, nor do they worry about whether or not they have an elevator to take them up 4 flights or lighting in the hallways to see where they're going, no they manage, more interested in receiving their education than complaining about something they have no control over anyway...I also by the way, met the President of this fine institution, right before our first session on the second day...He was very gracious and kind, and was very appreciative of my coming to teach coaches in his city...I also spoke to a class of his PE students and a teachers about our students and their PE classes and post graduate opportunities...It was all in all a great experience for each of us...

Friday night: back on the train again...aaaaaaaaaaaaarggggggggggghhhh!! I was NOT looking forward to this return trip, believe me...We left at 9:37pm, not 9:36 0r :38, 9:37, and this time I was having reservations about the return trip, only because my lower back was sore from standing and teaching the last two and half days...Yuri was so kind to take us to the railway station, what a great person...I met his son earlier in the day, a student at the university, and on his father's team...his name is Sergei...very shy, smiles a lot and speaks quiet English, and speaks it well...His Dad wouldn't let Victor translate, so Sergei and I got along great...Yuri also has a 12 year old boy that he says will be a multi sport athlete someday because he loves all sports...Somehow, I get the feeling he will indeed...

The Iron Horse going “backwards”...I fell asleep uncomfortably, and for the next several hours tossed and turned like a fish out of water tangled up in a fisherman's line...nothing worked, and my back ached...I guess it was around 9 when Victor, Dima and myself finally awakened to the rolling swayback of this Iron Horse and it was here that I realized I may be in for a long long ride, both mentally and physically...Fortunately, Victor and Dima were able to ask the Dining Car Hostess if I could sit in the car and operate my computer...she said no problem and I have been here for the last 9 hours, occasionally getting up to let the circulation begin again in my derriere...I know that you are wondering if the train this time is any better than the first ride...The compartment is the same size, although a little quieter...the car itself is completely full, as this is Easter Weekend (their Orthodox Easter Sunday is tomorrow) and I think many folks are going to visit relatives for the weekend...Anyway, the claustrophobic feeling of NO fresh air in the compartment was bothering me beyond description, and I was beginning to understand what Aleyxandr Solzhitzyn (sp) described about his Siberian “Gulag Archilepago” experience when he was a young dissident in this country...When you hear about Siberia and the hardships of life here: it's ALL TRUE...very true indeed...these rural life citizens have been living in a seasonal hell I'm sure for centuries, and yet they have their peace and quiet...yes, the winters are seriously cold and dreary, but very seldom do you hear them complain, at least I haven't...We, as a Nation are so blessed by our Democracy and system of Constitutional Rights...so blessed...

Get this: my laptop does NOT play DVDs!! I have this laptop I picked up in China last year and for the first time, I decided to take it with me and watch DVDs on the train...turns out I don't have the proper “downloads” to read the DVDs and therefore can't access them UNTIL I do such...72 hours on a freakin train, 6 DVDs and I can't watch ONE!! AAaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrggggh!!

Sunday Morning, Vladivostok Hotel: Glory!! Arrived by train to Vladivostok, 36 hrs. later, 7:30am...This is the same hotel (for those who remember my blog from Vladivostok last year), and I was hoping that perhaps their bathrooms had “fresh” water and the decline of malordorous particles emitting from it...It DID and DOES and HAS!! In fact the room actually has a new rug, new tiles and smells purrtier that Freshener used in cat litters...I think I will get some much needed rest now...I am suppose to have dinner with the Consul General, Tom Armbruster and his wife this evening at their residence...Tom is a GREAT Patriot and representative of our country in this city and region...He is so actively involved in the community as a whole it's really a pleasure to meet such a wonderful example of our Diplomatic Corps...After submitting this blog, I think I'll try to get some shut eye for a minute or two...Tom and I will be traveling together to Yakustk, Russia for a 4 day clinic, leaving on Wednesday early afternoon...This will be his first time also visiting this territory and I'm sure he'll be a great model to follow in our clinics...This particular city is well known for its natural resources: gold, silver, diamonds and other non edibles I understand...Another “first” experience for the coaches there, having a foreign coach visit and teach their volunteer youth coaches about the game of basketball...I am looking forward to this clinic for sure...Tomorrow, Monday, I am conducting a two day clinic here in Vladivostok again...The coaches are excited to see me again, or so I'm told, we'll see how excited that translation is...I will have my high school model team to use again, and from what I understand, they had a tremendous season this year and they all are really looking forward to seeing me again and learning new skills from drills...Stay tuned...

Postscript on the Train Ride: I cannot begin to tell you how difficult a return train ride can be when your body aches (lower back)...I had no idea how my body would respond to such a transition from court to compartment...just an FYI for those who desire to travel the Motherland of Russia someday by train...Okay, let's see if I can load this puppy up and over to the blog...

Hi to the Families and players who have been wondering “where in Russia is Coach tom today...”...All the best to everyone...Sincerely, Coach tom

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