I suggested to Natalya that some high ranking government official send me a FAX on their official letterhead, explaining to Russian Customs that I will be bringing in a Gold Star Medal and award booklet. The thought about having them confiscated by an overzealous or corrupt customs inspector weighed heavily on my mind. When the FAX did not materialize soon enough, I began to get extremely nervous, and began to put Plan 2 into action.
Prior to our trip, I began contemplating how I could smuggle the Gold Star Medal and award booklet back into the country. After all, it left the country illegally. If a customs inspector discovered it upon my entry, how could I possibly explain what I was doing with it? At the very least, I would be detained, separated from my group, and cause a lot of problems for my friends.
Perhaps I have watched too many spy movies, but I came up with an idea to disguise it as a woman's gold star necklace! I took the medal to Cal's Jewelers in Temple City, CA and we brainstormed. We came up with the idea of removing the suspension ribbon and attaching the star to an 18kt gold necklace! Then I would have one of our female wedding party members wear it through customs! I would then simply toss the ribbon into my backpack and no one would ever suspect anything!
Luckily, the official FAX came through in time, so I did not have to alter the medal. Whew!
There were eight of us who gathered at San Francisco International Airport on August 1, 2003. The groom, Craig Fotheringham, was there to greet us. We flew to Seattle to pick up his sister Jill, then flew from there to Moscow.
The eight of us stood in a very long line to pass through immigration and customs.



Siberian Wedding Part 2
by Henry Sakaida

I was beginning to worry about the medal and booklet…should I declare it or not? Craig said, "Simply walk through the 'nothing to declare' line, follow me!" Lugging a bulging backpack and a heavy sports bag, I simply walked through and no one ever paid any attention to me! I couldn't believe that I had succeeded! We were met by the bride and her friends and relatives.
We stayed at the Hotel Rossiya across from the Kremlin.

Due to the threat of terrorism, Red Square was closed off although we were able to see the sites of the Kremlin.
On the morning of August 5th, we arrived in Ulan Ude Airport after leaving Moscow the night before. I was greeted at the airport by Lyudmila Khantaeva, Natalya Poupysheva, Vladimir and Olga Socktoyev (parents of the bride Darima Socktoyeva), and Lt/Col Vasily Yemelyanov. Many family members,

St. Basil's Cathedral
Above: The famous "Onion Dome" of St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square, taken from our hotel room at the Hotel Rossiya. Below: The Buryat Folklore Group performed at the wedding. The woman in the fur hat sang and participated in the wedding ritual. Her husband, standing on the right told me that they have plans to tour the U.S. in 2004.
The Buryat Folklore Group

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