Wrong Way Sign

 What have we changed our mind about?  

I have a friend, Sergey Vertelov. He is a profound professional traveler, owner of the Himalayan club, which is a travel agency and also a community of people, an ‘adventure community’. That community from time to time travel with him to, I would say, the Far Side of the World since late 90s when he founded his business that quickly became his way of life.

From 10 to 16 he lived with his parents In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In early 90s, soon after serving his mandatory 2-year term in the Border Security force on the Soviet-Chinese border and then graduating from the prestigious MGIMO university, he relocated to Geneva, Switzerland, to work as financial controller for Philipp Morris. It was a start of a very promising international career. Still based on the Geneva lake shores, he, nonetheless, has been travelling all over Russia checking up the PM enterprises, meeting people, such as oilers from Alaska, stationed in Siberia on a project. The people, as he described to me once, ‘from another world’, were so much different from his white-collar zoo. 

When Sergey visited Nepal in 1997 – it was his long-time dream to come true – he instantly felt that his office career, though connected with good money and lots of business trips, was over. 

Now it was time for expeditions to, as he put it, ‘rare lands of the Earth’.  The man has been many times to different parts of the Himalayas, making countless treks there, including climbing the Island Peak (6,165 meters above sea level). Up to this moment, he’s done thirteen Kilimanjaro climbs. He’s really been around, from Amazonia’s jungle to Kenya’s savanna. He was even lucky enough to spend a week in a prison in Mogadishu during the midst of civil war there. Ain’t no resort, ya know. 

To make a long story short, the man knows his stuff. 

Sergey Vertelov
Sergey Vertelov (L)

I’m proud to call him a friend. So far we’ve done together three expeditions, two of them to Nepal and the third to climb Kili. Each expedition is a once-in-a-lifetime story for me. We now interact a lot in Moscow, both personally and professionally, promoting the Himalayan club. 

We now get closer to the point. He’s done a great (and I mean it) crowdfunding charity project in Africa to build an artisan well and a ground-based 40,000-litre water tank for the people of the Wajir county in Kenya that neighbours the south Somalian border. Before this project was done, the local kids were dying from lack of water as the wells – so-called ‘giraffe wells’ because they’re deep and narrow – were empty after three years of drought.  In trying to get some water still present on the very bottom, kids were falling down there and dying because of injuries as all the adults were far away out there in the fields.

To my shame, when I first got to know about the project, I thought that he was not just trying to help those people but also seeking his own small profit out of the money invested in the project, right? It was a casual way of doing such things in Russia. And I thought Sergey was no different. 

It is only later, when I was writing my ‘Mission Hope’ article for the Reader’s Digest magazine (Russian edition), I’d checked the project documentation and the budget prepared by the German contractors. I found out that out of the $30,000 needed Sergey invested $25,000 out of his own pocket. I mean, he was the crowd in this crowd-funding enterprise. 

Our Rusuk Blog writer SergeyThis is how I realised that he is different. 

Sure, we’re friends not because I know this fact: any outcome wouldn’t bother me. But I changed my mind about myself: I could be much worse than I thought I am. 



The way I eat – am I start raving bonkers????

I am reluctant almost to write on this subject, because I have previously, in another blog, absolutely slated sugar as one of the greatest threats to modern health. 

But I seriously cannot think about anything else when it comes to how I have changed over my many years – it is simply the way I eat.

For the best part of 60 years, Mrs B and I thought we were eating in the most healthy possible way. Just as our government and health officials were demanding, we made sure our diet was low-fat, with loads of carbohydrates. We happily drank sugary drinks, there were no “diet” or low-sugar drinks available at the time, and I thought beer was God’s gift to society.

We had low-fat everything – full-fat butter was harmful, we were told, so we had the near-plastic which was low-fat margarine; low-fat yoghurt, low-fat milk – you name it, it was low-fat. So ignorant were we both, we didn’t realise how much sugar was being added to these items, to make them at least partially tasty, to compensate for the sparsity of fat. 

Mrs B had (frankly not surprisingly, given her way of eating) type 2 diabietes. She was on foul medication to keep her blood sugar levels at a reasonable level – but they were never particularly stable. In fact, when we retired, she didn’t feel very healthy at all.

Almost as a last resort, she found out, from the diabetes.uk website, about a proven way to regulate blood sugar levels. A by-product of this was losing weight.

Using the excuse that it would be more convenient to follow her way of eating, I also decided to go with a completely different eating lifestyle – wait for it – heresy coming up –high fat and low carbohydrate!! How very dare we go against all official advice? Are we stark-raving-bonkers? What nonsense was this???????? How could we not be hungry after eating copious amounts of fat, cream sauces etc, and instead stopping eating bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, or anything with wheat?

Here are the statistics since we started this way of eating. Mrs Bs blood sugar levels are now not diabetic, they are completely stable; oh, and she has gone from a size 22 to size 12 in a relative very short space of time. A fluke, you might say.

So what about me? I wasn’t diabetic, and I didn’t think I was overweight. But I went with this way of eating, as I have said, for pure convenience. I still do long-distance running, high-distance cycling, play competitive tennis, and go to the gym twice a week. That hasn’t changed. 

But this has. I had been taking, for a long time, a record of my weight every day after discovering a new app – I now show you how my weight graph before changing my mind about what food I eat – and what happened in the next few months…….remember, I didn’t think I was in any way overweight…..

I was wrong. My body, with this way of eating, has naturally shed the excess weight it thought I had, and when it felt it was at the right weight, it simply stabilized, and has remained so ever since.Roger Bara

 So, no fluke. Mrs Bs blood sugars and weight remain completely stable, as does my weight. We both feel bloody healthy. We only wished we had both changed our minds about how we eat a long, long time ago……..



Show me the facts

I’m always a little amused by politicians. If a politician changes his mind on any subject, another politician will call him a “waffler.” I assume from this that it’s wrong to ever grow, accept new facts, and keep an open mind. You would guess that keeping an open mind is a trait that Americans would want in their leaders: you would be wrong. 

When I was a child, I always thought some major corporations were inherently decent, honest organizations that valued their reputations. An institution like a bank or insurance company was a pillar of the community.

What an idiot! Wells Fargo Bank is only one example of a company that will steal from their customers. AT&T? Yeah, these guys were pioneers in hate for their own customers. The US Government set a room up inside an AT&T California facility so they could spy on AT&T customers.

Oh yeah, and let’s not let Google off the hook! Before they went public they were the good guys, with a corporate motto of “Do no evil.” Screw that! You can’t increase dividends for investors by being moral. My attitude has changed towards major corporations. 

Lynching 1889
Southern Trees Bear Strange Fruit

When you were young, did you ever think to yourself: “Man, when all these old people die this world will be so much better”? I did. I thought racism would die with those old people. I was so wrong, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that a candidate for President of The United States would run on a platform of bigotry against Muslims & Hispanics and win. 

I know now that racism doesn’t come from an age, long-ago forgotten. It comes from a lack of contact, education, and economic opportunity. Surprisingly, it also seems to have some association with having a conservative religious outlook. I have no idea why that would be as all the world’s great religions teach love. I also see that racism crosses all ethnic boundaries and most of the afflicted deny having the problem.

Then there’s Vlad. When Putin first came to power, I thought he was the right guy at the right time. Now, I try to keep my mouth shut on that subject out of respect for some Russian friends. I also fail; often. Invading neighbors, killing journalists, jailing opponents; hey what’s not to love. OK, I do give him this: he is superior to Trump. I think he’s smarter and better able to accomplish his goals. Not that I agree with those goals, mind you. Russia deserves so much more.

Looks like I’ve changed my mind about a great deal. But the things I haven’t changed my mind Photograph of Dean Lewisabout outweigh the things I have. I’m not proud of the fact that I was right about that war in Iraq. I thought Dick Chaney was lying and many thousands would die because of this man. I truly wish I had been forced to change my mind by new facts.