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Lowell L. Klessig

Moscow, Russian Federation

September 17, 2007

For David and myself, September 17th was supposed to be the longest day of our lives.  From 12:01 a.m. on the Seventeenth Day of Baikal in Irkutsk, Russia until 11:59 p.m. in Madison, WI it would have been 38 hours of September 17.

It would have been a day of exhaustion of five flights in cramped seats and restless airport lounges.  The strongest emotions would have been late night reunions with wives.  Judy and Chris would have been in Madison with sweet smiles and tender hugs.

The afternoon of the day in Moscow was to have been emotional too.  It was; though not in the same way.  On the Seventeenth Day of Baikal we said goodbye to the man who will always epitomize Baikal.  He understands Russia.  He understands the US and us.  He understands how to teach us about Russia today, Russia yesterday and Russia tomorrow.  He feels the pulse of the stoic farmers in the Barguzin Valley, the omul fisherman of Lake Baikal, and the paper mill workers of Selerginski.

He has vodka etched on his hospitality etiquette though he still socializes with Peevo drinkers.  He knows the Shamans spirits and the Buddhist traditions and the orthodoxy of the Orthodox and the two-fingered cross of the Old Believers. He knows the needs and the limitations of natural resource protection.  He helps the rangers moonlight and they grant him unparalleled access.  He has friends everywhere and many participated in our experience.

More importantly he treated us as friends—not just as clients.

In short, this man of two nations and two cultures provided us with a unique learning experience.  Only a friend could care enough to do it so well.  Faewell Andrei. We look forward to seeing you in your second country in 2008.