1. I’m not sure if I’m losing weight or the jeans I’ve been in for 4 days are stretching. Hoping for the former, probably the latter.

2. Good God. When you’re in the bathroom, lock the door.

3. Be kind to the provodnitsa. She’s a good person to have on your side.

4. When a woman comes around selling hot cakes, buy them. Buy them all. You will regret having to eat mushroom and sour cream chips later.

5. Bring hand sanitizer.

6. If you have food, offer it. If a man with gold teeth tells you to buy a siberian onion, buy it. It’s delicious with salt, black bread, and kielbasa.

7. You’ll come across many older Russian women. Some are kind from the start and others you have to work to win over. Find something to bond over, like laughing or shaking your head at a drunk guy who threw up down the hall before he could make it to the bathroom.

8. When playing tic tac toe with a Russian 9 year old, let her win once in a while. Turns out all 4 graders are the same across the world. Invasive and annoying as fuck. Expect her to start wearing your shoes, laying in your bed, and waking you up the next morning begging you to play cards.

Side note: I ended up liking Dasha. When it was time to say goodbye, I patted her on the head and said “you’re alright, kid”. Or I wish I did.

9. Get out on the platform when you get a chance, preferably with a cold beer. Your nose doesn’t know it, but you’re actually sitting in a box with the same air quality that can be found in a stable.

10. Be sure to keep some battery in your music source. It will be your lifeline, your IV, your injection of heroine, your splash of gatorade, your sugar rush, your first love, your therapist, and your savior. For more reasons than I care to explain. Just close your eyes and its as close to home you’ll ever get.

11. In the bathroom, breathe through your mouth and wear non-slip shoes. Got flip flops? You might as well go barefoot. Good luck.

12. People who snore over 35 decibels MUST be quarantined.

13. If someone asks if you’re looking for a husband, don’t say yes. You’ll just feel stupid. I  immediately responded with a “God no” and then we laughed and drank and I felt awesome.

14. Bring deodorant.

15. When I rule the world, babies will be banned from sleeper trains. Cars should be used to contain their misery.

16. During introductions immediately after we say ‘Michael’, Russians, Uzbeks, and Tajiks love to reference the King of Pop.

17. Dollars make great souvenirs for people. You might even get some different money in return.

18. When you want to step on Blake’s backpack straps with your dirty bathroom shoes, make sure it’s not your own backpack first. Lesson learned.

19. If a guy from Tashkent randomly hands you 2 chestnuts, just take them. Even if said chestnuts will lead to hours of conversations devoted to their infatuation with everything American, an offering of salted milk curds, and a marriage proposal.

20. Always bring some trinket from your home that you can give away. You’ll feel like an ass when people gift you stuff and you can’t reciprocate.

21. Americans. There’s a fine line between good and bad attention.

22. Prepare to cough. I’m sure this extends to all classes on the train. There’s little you can do about blanket fuzzies, dust, pollen, bugs, sweat, BO, but mostly airborne blanket fuzzies.

23. Meet my new best friend, Roma.

24. TSR is not a party. It’s a good time. It’s local people getting to where they need to go. Enjoy the ride.

25. Prepare to become well acquainted with still life photography.

26. Never be antisocial on this train. You’ll miss out on great times, great people, and the occasional stabbing.