Somewhere in Northern Spain, June 27, 2011 – Have you been simmering for the past two weeks about Misha’s demand for 15,000 rubles -- $ 370?
I wrote and reminded him that I have no money, that my friend in America who had said he would lend me $ 2,000 had financial problems, and I didn’t know if I would have the money, and if I did, whether I could send it.
“Why do you need so much money,” I asked.
“You know that I have to find a new room,” he answered on June 15.
“I need to pay the rental agent plus the room for a month plus the utilities, and I can get a loan for only half. When I find a room, things will be easier.
He started using “Petit Michel” – little Michael (see I do know some French) -- when he was bumming around France during his European phase after he left me in Moscow. He still uses it, and I think it’s rather cute.
Okay, so I had forgotten about the rental agent. They demand the equivalent of a month’s rent for finding a room or an apartment. I had to pay the rental agent every time I moved in Moscow.
So at least I know where the money is going. I wrote him the following:
Hello, my dear loving Petit Michel,
I had forgotten that you have to pay the rental agent. I only hope my friend sends me the money. How are you, honey? Where do you work? Doing what?
How’s the weather?
I love you and miss you very much.
‘bye for now, your Dane
He wrote in response:
Hello Dane!!! Things with me are ok. I work as a worker in a warehouse. I unload paper products. The work is okay. Pay is 14,500 rubles ($ 514). Every month I paid 8,000 ($ 284 for rent) plus 2000 ($ 71) for a metro card. That leaves enough to eat. I need to find a room for not more than 8,000 rubles by the end of the month. To move I need 15,000 rubles. I can take a loan for half. There are variants, but I need money for them. In general, life is okay. It’s been worse.
Until we meet again, your Petitmichel.
“I’m very glad to hear from you,” I responded, adding:
I have some good news. My friend in America sent me money, so I can send you 15,000 rubles. I think I can send it on Wednesday. You don’t need to take a loan.
Thanks for telling me about your work. I think it is hard, but still you are earning money. I am proud of you. I kiss you.
And the usual closing.
So he’s going to write me when he finds a new room. I haven’t told him I’m going to spend the summer with Igor in Moldova, and probably won’t.
Now for the good news: I’ve bought my bus tickets to Chisinau -- alias Kishinev po-Ruskiy – in Moldova. I’ll leave my northern Spanish town at 2 a.m. on the first of March, arrive at the Spanish bus station in Madrid at 8:30 a.m., and leave by bus from the same station for Bucharest, Romania at 11 a.m.
I’ll arrive in Bucharest at 3:30 in the afternoon of Monday, July 3. From there everything is up in the air. I plan to take the next available bus to Chisinau/Kishinev, but I don’t know when that will be or –obviously -- when it will arrive.
Igor has promised to meet me “wherever I would like.”
But the bad news is that I haven’t heard anything from him since June 20 – a week ago. Is he in the hospital again? Will he be able to meet me, even though he doesn’t know when I’ll be there?
The last e-mail I received from him said he would meet me “wherever is convenient for you.” I wrote back explaining that the bus station in Chisinau/Kishinev would be the best for me, but I didn’t know when I would be arriving there. I haven’t heard from him since.
Two days earlier, I received an e-mail saying that he was at his mother’s at the moment, where I went with him to visit in 2006.
He had brought his medicine with him, and “I’m still alive.” He continued:
How are things with you? Mama by the way is canning things for the winter…compote, mandjia, cherries, preserves and everything for the winter. If you can, send more money, and there will be that much more
And we can send you (the canned stuff) in Spain for the winter or whenever you want. We need to buy sugar and butter, salt and more food products…I want to build a banya and sweat room -- do you like banyas -- and repair the house…
Mama gives a great massage. Everyone loves them…she has even been written up in the newspaper and advertised on TV also!!! In general Mama gives an absolutely unusual massage!!!! If you come, she will give you one too!
Now we only have to buy the materials to build the bath and the room for the massage…If you can, Dane….
When are you coming? I eagerly await you, I very much want to see you!!! I miss you and love you very much and kiss you.
I await an answer.
I’ve already told him we don’t have much money. A banya? A massage room? That’s going to cost a lot of bucksi.
I wrote back:
My dear, loving Igor, thank god you’re still alive :-) I missed your letters very much. What was your operation on, your throat? You went to the clinic to quit smoking. Have you quit?
How long are you going to be at your mother’s? If I come to you, where will I come? To your mother’s or in Chisinau/Kishinev? Did you rent an apartment in Chisinau?
How much will the building materials cost for a banya, sweat room, and a room for massages? And repairing the house? Remember that I’m living now only on my pension! Does your mother earn money for her massages? I hope so.
I want to come to you soon, but I also want to live with you and sleep with you. Will we be living at your mother’s place? If we do, that’s fine, but where are we going to sleep, you and I? I want us to be together. I remember that the last time we went there, you lived at Sveta’s. But I want to live with you :-)
Give me the details, honey. I’m very glad that you’re at your mother’s and are helping her. But give me the details about where we’re going to live, sleep, etc.
I’m very glad that you’re feeling better :-) Tell your mother and (brother) Denis hello for me.
And the usual ending – love, miss, kiss, etc.
As far as the building materials go, I don’t know exactly – somewhere around $ 300. We don’t need to do that now – whenever you like. As for groceries, if you can, send $ 180 so that I can buy the sugar and butter for canning.
I went to the clinic, they gave me a shot and said that after a week I wouldn’t want to smoke anymore, and then after another week I should come again. The operation was on the coccyx cyst. It was getting worse and worse.
When you come, we can stay either in Kishinev or at Mama’s. There is an additional house in which we can live just the two of us!!! Or we can live in Kishinev and live in a rented apartment. That’s not a problem, Dane.
If you can, send $ 200.
When you come, things will already by canned. Okay, Dane, I miss you very much, love you, and kiss you.
‘Bye. I await your answer.
I wrote immediately:
Tomorrow I will send $ 200. It’s excellent that you have already received the shot. That means when I come, you’ll have quit smoking :-) How happy I will be! I am also very glad that you had an operation on your coccyx cyst. Now you’re feeling normal, right? How happy I am :-)
I think I will leave Madrid on the first of July and arrive in Bucharest the 3rd of July, and then will immediately go by bus to Kishinev. Right now I don’t know exactly when I will arrive in Kishinev – the 3rd of 4th of July – and of course I don’t know what time.
Where should I come? Can you meet the bus in Kishinev? Or should I go to Svetliy? Or should we meet someplace else? It’s better if we know ahead of time where we will meet, because I think it will be difficult for us to communicate there; I don’t know if my mobile phone will work there. But maybe, in an emergency, you can call me.
Right now it doesn’t make any difference to me where we live. What is important is that we are together – either in Svetliy or in Kishinev – or both :-)
I’m very, very happy that we will see each other and will be living together. I love you very much, miss you very much, and kiss you many, many times.
I await your answer.
Then came the e-mail saying that he would meet me wherever would be most convenient and live with me wherever I wanted. “Just come!!!”
That’s the last I’ve heard from him.
And after not hearing from Sasha for 10 days, I finally received the following on June 20:
My dear Dane,
Everything is fine with me, thanks. Excuse me for not writing you for such a long time. I had problems with my computer. Now everything is fine.
I love you very much and very much want to see you. I will come the first of September, or maybe the 2nd or 3rd. I will tell you exactly when I buy my ticket. Be very careful in Moldova, I beg of you. I worry about you. I hope Igor will help you.
I kiss you, miss you, love you,
So I immediately responded. But then another week went by – nothing from Sasha. Is this a conspiracy :-)
Finally, late last night I received an e-mail from him. He’s had computer problems again:
Dane, hello, it’s Sasha!
I lost my old e-mail address; it doesn’t work any more.
For that reason, I haven’t been able to read any of your letters for the past week. And I haven’t been able to write you. This is my new address. Answer if you get this letter.
With love, Sasha
Of course, I immediately answered him:
Hello my dear loving Sasha,
Thank god, everything is okay.
You said you haven’t received my letters. I wrote you that I had bought my ticket to Bucharest, Romania. I am leaving Madrid on the 1st of July and arriving in Bucharest at 3:30 p.m. on the 3rd. I haven’t heard from Igor in a week. If I don’t hear, I don’t know if I will go, but I’m sure I will hear something.
I also told you that Igor’s birthday is the 2nd of September. I would like to be with him on this day. BUT, I also don’t want you to have to spend money on rent for an extra week. So I need to know if you can come to Madrid on the 6th or 7th of September or a little later. If not, then I can come whenever is convenient for you. We will meet each other In Madrid and go to my town on the bus. But I don’t need to know this right away, if you don’t know yet.
I’m very, very happy that you are coming. You and I will have to travel to renew our tourist visas after 90 days. We have to go somewhere outside the European Union – like Morocco or Moldova. But we can talk about that later.
It is now very hot here – 41 degrees C (104 F.) I hope it won’t be that hot in Moldova.
Okay, honey, that’s all now. I’m very glad to hear from you. I miss you, I kiss you, I love you very much.
I will have my laptop in Moldova, so we can continue to stay in touch.
Write soon. I love to hear from you.
So once again, we can only wait and see.
As usual, the U.S. news media aren’t telling us everything about the nuclear disaster at Fukushima – and about the effects many in the U.S. may be suffering, according to posts on the EnergyResources web site. On June 16, the ER site quoted the Arabic Al Jazeera news agency as follows:
“Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind," Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president, told Al Jazeera.
Gundersen, a licensed reactor operator with 39 years of nuclear power engineering experience managing and coordinating projects at 70 nuclear power plants around the US, says the Fukushima nuclear plant likely has more exposed reactor cores than commonly believed.” Al Jazeera reported.
“Fukushima has three nuclear reactors exposed and four fuel cores exposed," he said, "You probably have the equivalent of 20 nuclear reactor cores because of the fuel cores, and they are all in desperate need of being cooled, and there is no means to cool them effectively."
TEPCO has been spraying water on several of the reactors and fuel cores, but this has led to even greater problems, such as radiation being emitted into the air in steam and evaporated sea water - as well as generating hundreds of thousands of tons of highly radioactive sea water that has to be disposed of.
"The problem is how to keep it cool," says Gundersen. "They are pouring in water and the question is what are they going to do with the waste that comes out of that system, because it is going to contain plutonium and uranium. Where do you put the water?"
Even though the plant is now shut down, fission products such as uranium continue to generate heat, and therefore require cooling.
"The fuels are now a molten blob at the bottom of the reactor," Gundersen added. "TEPCO announced they had a melt through. A melt down is when the fuel collapses to the bottom of the reactor, and a melt through means it has melted through some layers. That blob is incredibly radioactive, and now you have water on top of it. The water picks up enormous amounts of radiation, so you add more water and you are generating hundreds of thousands of tons of highly radioactive water."
Independent scientists have been monitoring the locations of radioactive "hot spots" around Japan, and their findings are disconcerting.
"We have 20 nuclear cores exposed, the fuel pools have several cores each, that is 20 times the potential to be released than Chernobyl," said Gundersen. "The data I'm seeing shows that we are finding hot spots further away than we had from Chernobyl, and the amount of radiation in many of them was the amount that caused areas to be declared no-man's-land for Chernobyl. We are seeing square kilometres being found 60 to 70 kilometres away from the reactor. You can't clean all this up. We still have radioactive wild boar in Germany, 30 years after Chernobyl."
Japan's Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters finally admitted earlier this month that reactors 1, 2, and 3 at the Fukushima plant experienced full meltdowns.
TEPCO announced that the accident probably released more radioactive material into the environment than Chernobyl, making it the worst nuclear accident on record.
Meanwhile, a nuclear waste advisor to the Japanese government reported that about 966 square kilometres near the power station - an area roughly 17 times the size of Manhattan - is now likely uninhabitable.
In the US, physician Janette Sherman MD and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano published an essay shedding light on a 35 per cent spike in infant mortality in northwest cities that occurred after the Fukushima meltdown, and may well be the result of fallout from the stricken nuclear plant.
The eight cities included in the report are San Jose, Berkeley, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Portland, Seattle, and Boise, and the time frame of the report included the ten weeks immediately following the disaster.
"There is and should be concern about younger people being exposed, and the Japanese government will be giving out radiation monitors to children," Dr MV Ramana, a physicist with the Programme on Science and Global Security at Princeton University who specialises in issues of nuclear safety, told Al Jazeera.
Dr Ramana explained that he believes the primary radiation threat continues to be mostly for residents living within 50km of the plant, but added: "There are going to be areas outside of the Japanese government's 20km mandatory evacuation zone where radiation is higher. So that could mean evacuation zones in those areas as well."
Gundersen points out that far more radiation has been released than has been reported.
"They recalculated the amount of radiation released, but the (U.S.) news is really not talking about this," he said. "The new calculations show that within the first week of the accident, they released 2.3 times as much radiation as they thought they released in the first 80 days."
According to Gundersen, the exposed reactors and fuel cores are continuing to release microns of cesium, strontium, and plutonium isotopes. These are referred to as "hot particles".
"We are discovering hot particles everywhere in Japan, even in Tokyo," he said. "Scientists are finding these everywhere. Over the last 90 days these hot particles have continued to fall and are being deposited in high concentrations. A lot of people are picking these up in car engine air filters."
Radioactive air filters from cars in Fukushima prefecture and Tokyo are now common, and Gundersen says his sources are finding radioactive air filters in the greater Seattle area of the US as well.
The hot particles on them can eventually lead to cancer.
"These get stuck in your lungs or GI tract, and they are a constant irritant," he explained, "One cigarette doesn't get you, but over time they do. These [hot particles] can cause cancer, but you can't measure them with a Geiger counter. Clearly people in Fukushima prefecture have breathed in a large amount of these particles. Clearly the upper West Coast of the US has people being affected. That area got hit pretty heavy in April."
In reaction to the Fukushima catastrophe, Germany is phasing out all of its nuclear reactors over the next decade. In a referendum vote this Monday, 95 per cent of Italians voted in favour of blocking a nuclear power revival in their country. A recent newspaper poll in Japan shows nearly three-quarters of respondents favour a phase-out of nuclear power in Japan.
Why have alarms not been sounded about radiation exposure in the US?
Nuclear operator Exelon Corporation has been among Barack Obama's biggest campaign donors, and is one of the largest employers in Illinois where Obama was senator. Exelon has donated more than $ 269,000 to his political campaigns, thus far. Obama also appointed Exelon CEO John Rowe to his Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future.
Dr Shoji Sawada is a theoretical particle physicist and Professor Emeritus at Nagoya University in Japan.
He is concerned about the types of nuclear plants in his country, and the fact that most of them are of US design.
"Most of the reactors in Japan were designed by US companies who did not care for the effects of earthquakes," Dr Sawada told Al Jazeera. "I think this problem applies to all nuclear power stations across Japan."
Using nuclear power to produce electricity in Japan is a product of the nuclear policy of the US, something Dr Sawada feels is also a large component of the problem.
"Most of the Japanese scientists at that time, the mid-1950s, considered that the technology of nuclear energy was under development or not established enough, and that it was too early to be put to practical use," he explained. "The Japan Scientists Council recommended the Japanese government not use this technology yet, but the government accepted to use enriched uranium to fuel nuclear power stations, and was thus subjected to US government policy."
As a 13-year-old, Dr Sawada experienced the US nuclear attack against Japan from his home, situated just 1400 metres from the hypocentre of the Hiroshima bomb.
"I think the Fukushima accident has caused the Japanese people to abandon the myth that nuclear power stations are safe," he said. "Now the opinions of the Japanese people have rapidly changed. Well beyond half the population believes Japan should move towards natural electricity."
Dr Ramana expects the plant reactors and fuel cores to be cooled enough for a shutdown within two years.
"But it is going to take a very long time before the fuel can be removed from the reactor," he added. "Dealing with the cracking and compromised structure and dealing with radiation in the area will take several years, there's no question about that."
Dr Sawada is not as clear about how long a cold shutdown could take, and said the problem will be "the effects from cesium-137 that remains in the soil and the polluted water around the power station and underground. It will take a year, or more time, to deal with this".
Gundersen pointed out that the units are still leaking radiation.
"They are still emitting radioactive gases and an enormous amount of radioactive liquid," he said. "It will be at least a year before it stops boiling, and until it stops boiling, it's going to be cranking out radioactive steam and liquids."
Gundersen worries about more earthquake aftershocks, as well as how to cool two of the units.
"Unit four is the most dangerous, it could topple," he said. "After the earthquake in Sumatra there was an 8.6 [aftershock] about 90 days later, so we are not out of the woods yet. And you're at a point where, if that happens, there is no science for this, no one has ever imagined having hot nuclear fuel lying outside the fuel pool. They've not figured out how to cool units three and four."
Gundersen's assessment of solving this crisis is grim.
"Units one through three have nuclear waste on the floor, the melted core, that has plutonium in it, and that has to be removed from the environment for hundreds of thousands of years," he said. "Somehow, robotically, they will have to go in there and manage to put it in a container and store it for infinity, and that technology doesn't exist. Nobody knows how to pick up the molten core from the floor, there is no solution available now for picking that up from the floor."
Dr Sawada says that the creation of nuclear fission generates radioactive materials for which there is simply no knowledge informing us how to dispose of the radioactive waste safely.
"Until we know how to safely dispose of the radioactive materials generated by nuclear plants, we should postpone these activities so as not to cause further harm to future generations," he explained. "To do otherwise is simply an immoral act, and that is my belief, both as a scientist and as a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing."
Gundersen believes it will take experts at least ten years to design and implement the plan.
"So ten to 15 years from now maybe we can say the reactors have been dismantled, and in the meantime you wind up contaminating the water," Gundersen said. "We are already seeing Strontium [at] 250 times the allowable limits in the water table at Fukushima. Contaminated water tables are incredibly difficult to clean. So I think we will have a contaminated aquifer in the area of the Fukushima site for a long, long time to come."
Unfortunately, the history of nuclear disasters appears to back Gundersen's assessment.
"With Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and now with Fukushima, you can pinpoint the exact day and time they started," he said, "But they never end."
Follow Dahr Jamail on Twitter: @DahrJamail
“So should people on the west coast be worried?” Gunderson was asked on CNN.
According to the ER contributor, “Gundersen side-stepped just a bit saying, ‘Well, the average person breathes in about 10 cubic meters a day, and the filters out there for April show that they were breathing in, per day, about five particles. Now these are charged, which is why we call them ‘fuel fleas,’ since they latch onto lung tissue.
“We’re at a point now where you just can’t run from the particles that are still in the air. We call them ‘fuel fleas’ also because they’re incredibly small, smaller than the thickness of your hair.”
“That’s Mr. Gundersen’s way of saying, yes, there are definite risks tied to these ‘hot particles.’
“But that really does not answer the question. I am afraid I will have to be brutally honest and be the bearer of really terrible news. The information coming out about hot particle concentrations near Fukushima, Tokyo, and now Seattle tell us that not only should all those populations be worrying but their governments should have been issuing evacuation orders months ago.
“They did not of course except in a too-tight circle around Fukushima, which is getting 40 times more than in Tokyo or Seattle. Because of the jet stream in April, after the large explosions that destroyed three reactor buildings, it was as dangerous in Seattle and much of the west coast of North America as in Tokyo.
“It only takes one of these particles to trigger a cancer.”
Maybe I’d better not go back to Seattle to live – except that it takes one of these particles years to generate cancer of the tissue. I think I would die of natural causes before the radioactive particles got me – even if I live to be 100!
See also related pages:
Chapt. #318 - My Moldavan Oddysey
Chapt. #316 - Staying in Spain – but summering with Igor in Moldova