Community News – Spring 2017

IWC Interest Groups Sign Up

In February, the fabulous hotel Metropole hosted the IWC’s monthly Meet&Greet. Members were given the opportunity to sign up for wide range of interest groups such as Art & Craft, Mind & Soul, Cooking, Languages, and many others.

The IWC would like to thank all partners for the gifts for the raffle. Over 70,000 roubles for charity projects was raised.

Moscow Dragons RFC’s 20TH ANNIVERSARY! 

Help Moscow’s ‘expatriate’ rugby club (founded by expats; nowadays, a tantalising Russo-Cosmopolitan cocktail blended with a common religion: Rugby) to celebrate this milestone by signing up to play rugby! All shapes, sizes, ages, sexes and hairstyles welcome – help the 1st team go one better than last season’s runner-up spot in the Moscow Championship! Bolster the 2nd XV in its inaugural league season! Swell the ranks of our heroic veterans! Or join our burgeoning women’s section! And come training Tuesdays and Thursdays! Alternatively, you can become a social member — a raft of regular events to enjoy, each one proving the universality of rugby culture. Join us on one of the legendary Dragons’ Tours! And come and watch us — match details on www.facebook.com/mdrfc/. Timur (details as per Ball flier) and Gavin (+7 925 7402471) look forward to hearing from you!

Temple of Sound

(Temple of Sound) Ambient music/digital art @ St Andrew’s Church, April 8th, 7pm.

How does sound affect bodies and space?

Live Sound makers create ambience using instruments, voice,  hi- technology. Workshop by Nikita Stalker from music portal – www.zwook.ru.

Singing bowls, instruments. Pure.Useless.Beauty.

Tickets: Mudramusic.org – Sergei: +7 965 444 6747

TREASURE ISLAND 

Treasure Island returns on Saturday 18 March at the Central House of Writers.

A professional cast led by Jonathan Bex (Royal Shakespeare Company & London’s West End) as Long John Silver.  A one hour romp with pirates, adventure and (of course) treasure!

A Moscow English Theatre/Flying Bananas co-production.

Tickets http://flyingbananas.ru/shows/treasure-island.html

AEB

Upcoming AEB events spring 2017 (details and registration: www.aebrus.ru/en/aeb-events)

HR Conference ‘Effective HR: To A Brighter Future’

14 March, 09:30-15:30, InterContinental Moscow Tverskaya

This year, the conference will be focused on practices applied by leading companies in compensations & benefits, recruitment, assessment, training & development and labour law.

The panel discussion by companies’ CEOs will be a special separate session.

XIII Annual Customs Conference ‘NEW IN CUSTOMS LEGISLATION: FOCUS ON INTEGRATION’

16 March,
10:00-16:00, Marriott Grand Hotel, Moscow

Agenda: current customs legislation and practice topics, new Customs Code of EAEU.

High level representatives of the Federal Customs Service, Eurasian economic commission, Public Council of Federal Customs Service are invited as our distinguished guests.

The Eighth Northern Dimension Forum

6 April, 2017, Sokos Hotel Olympia Garden, St. Petersburg

The Forum will gather more than 250 participants representing Russian and European ministries, agencies, regional authorities, the Northern Dimension area and foreign business circles and civil society. Among the keynote speakers:

Tapio Kuula, Fortum Corporation,  and  Alexey Mordashov, Severstal, – Co-Chairmen of the Northern Dimension Business Council.

US Dental Clinic and Platelet Rich Plasma

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy is a unique treatment that uses plasma that is highly concentrated with platelets. The plasma contains cytokines and growth factors that gives astonishing results in rejuvenation. This cell rejuvenation is natural and based on your own natural blood resources: it promotes collagen production, nourishes and hydrates skin and improves skin lifting. This method has been used in different areas of medicine including surgical dentistry (to increase recover), rehabilitation and many others.

Stay naturally beautiful and young with PRP therapy at US Dental Care.

Interns available!

Russian/English speaking candidates for MA in Global Public Policy and Global Finance seek job experience as interns in Moscow firms. Please contact Natalia Gracheva, RANEPA, for introduction to the students and our English-language Masters programs. ng@ranepa.ru

British Embassy Open Day

“On 20 June 2017, the British Embassy Moscow will hold an Open Day event for British citizens in Russia who would like to learn more about the work of the Embassy and the services it provides for UK businesses and individuals.

 The Breakfast meeting will be hosted by the Deputy Head of Mission, Martin Harris, joined by colleagues from Consular Section, Press and Public Affairs Section, UK Visas and Immigration and the Department for International Trade.

Timing: 08.30 – 09.30

Location: British Embassy Moscow, Smolenskaya Naberezhnaya 10 (entrance from Protochnyy Pereoluk)

 Registration is required; RSVP to ppas.moscow@fco.gov.uk by 14 June, official photo ID or passport is required for entry.”

Have A Nice Day healthy food café

have a nice day healthy food cafe moscow

 

Moscow has never been exactly well known for its health food restaurants. For many foreigners, this is a bit of a let-down as healthy eating has long been part of our culinary landscapes in our home countries. Enter the ‘Have A Nice Day’ healthy food café inside the Tsvetnoi Market, to where members of the Moscow Good Food Club were treated to an extraordinary non-meat meal.

Not knowing what to expect, we were happy to be addressed by Brand Chef Said Fadli who explained something of the concept of the ‘café’ as a whole.  The tone of the evening was set by the ‘welcome dish’– the ‘Bruschettas Trio’ of carrot dough with a guacamole sauce, tomatoes, fig, maple syrup, broccoli and asparagus spread onto crackers. In general, comments were positive about this unusual opener, however there were one or two comments about a slightly overbearing presence of figs and parsley for this time of year. Nobody had anything but positive assessments of the first wine served: a ‘Black Label’ Sauvignon Blanc ‘Babich’ 2015 from New Zealand. Like all of the wines and most of the food served, this was produced organically.

The second course, a salmon, mango and avocado burger was appreciated by all as being a highly original and creative combination. Above all, it was very tasty, and by this time, most (but not all) members had forgotten that we were eating a non-meat meal! There was a range of opinions about the 2015 Chablis Viellis Vignes ‘Saint Claire’ wine. Some said it was a little acidic, young and served cold, however others thought it was well balanced, and adequately set off the sweetness of the avocado and mango tartar.

msocow good fod club ratings have a nice dayA Falafels Trio of sweet potato, beetroot and spinach caused intense discussion amongst members. Interestingly, our Austrian contingent had markedly different feelings about this dish. Some said that the spinach was too dry, and that the potatoes were too spicy, however all said that the sauces were excellent, in fact a universal desire was – more sauces please! One table exclaimed that the Gavi served with this dish – ‘Ottosoldi 2015, Piemonte, Italy’, was the best wine served so far.

The fourth dish, which could have been the main course as it featured a halibut filet with pelati, curry, saffron, curcuma sauce served with quinoa, dried fruits and nuts once again created a varied feedback. Members who were perhaps more familiar with non-meat cuisine found the delicacies available in these dishes exciting, whilst hard and fast carnivores were perhaps a little bored with all the subtle harmonies of tastes available. We were in fact, journeying into another world, and it was difficult to immediately discard all ones’ baggage in a situation of non-meat weightlessness.

The only discernible criticism of the Reisling Curvée served with this dish was that it was a little too cold. The meal was finished off with chocolate banana cake which was served with the best intentions but some members felt was a little too heavy after such a subtle dance of tastes. This was a pity because the chocolate is made specially in the restaurant, using and maple syrup as a substitute for sugar.

This meeting of the Moscow Good Food Club was noticeable for the seriousness and intensity at which members discussed the food and wines that they were so professionally presented with. In general, the impression created by the food, wines and service was most favourable. We wish the ‘Have A Nice Day’ restaurant well!

David Oganesyan, Founder of Voskevaz Winery

david oganesyan voskevaz winery

After an introduction by Maria Ushakova, David Oganesyan, the founder of the present day Voskevaz Winery’ very kindly contributed some wonderful, rich bottles of his Armenian wine to the ‘Moscow expat Life’ 5th Anniversary Party, and to the ELE end of year party. MeL caught up with David to find out some more about Voskevaz wine.

David explained that his winery in Armenia has existed since 1932, and Voskevaz was already a firmly established brand before he took it over in 1997. The main problem he has faced was how to overcome the Soviet stereotype that Armenia can only produce cognac. Wine was from Georgia and cognac from Armenia. “Since 2009 we have been working with a Russian distributer to and try to convince Russians that Armenian wine not only exists, but is actually pretty good. With their help, we are now able to distribute our wines at most large Russian retail chains.” Voskevaz is not the only Armenian wine on sale in Russia, however it is one of the most well-known. Voskevaz’s new red dry wine ‘Areni Noir’ was awarded a gold medal at ‘Mundus Vini 18th Grand International Wine Award’ in 2016. This is the first time in Armenian winemaking history, when a wine, made from an Armenian grape variety, has won this prestigious award.

Voskevaz’s wine, David said, is “one hundred percent created from local Armenian grapevines. We only use Armenian Karases (Armenian clay jars) for fermentation, and local oak for ageing. We know what we are doing; we have been making wine in Armenia for thousands of years; about 6,000. Armenia is very suited geographically and climatically for wine production. The water is just right and so are the amount of sunshine hours. The vines that grow at a relatively high altitude produce a slightly different effect. We are not trying to produce a huge amount of wine, rather we want to produce wine of excellent quality.”

Earlier, semi-sweet wines ‘Portvein’ were popular, because Armenia’s market was Russia. David explained: “Now the wine drinking culture in Russia is beginning to change, and people are beginning to understand that good wine actually is dry. Now, we sell about the same amount of dry and sweet wine, and we know that in the future, we will be selling more dry than even semi-dry wine. We are in the front line of telling the world that Armenian wines exist, we are engaged in marketing quite intensively or rather our distributors are, and all of this is a good thing because we really do have something that is worth trying. I think it is going to take about 5 years to achieve world-wide popularity.” In fact, Armenians are quietly, humbly doing great business. They seem to prefer to be slightly off-radar. In passing, David mentioned that his wines are already being exported to Russia, Belgium, Holland, Italy, China, America, and The Baltic Republics.

 

Brand Chef Said Fadli

Chef Said Fadli Moscow

 

We met Brand Chef Said Fadli at the February 2016 MGFC at ‘Have a Nice Day’ restaurant in the Tsvetnoi Central Market complex. We were so impressed by his food and the concept he is trying to introduce we decided to interview him (editor).

Which country are you from?

I was born in Morocco, but I have lived most of my life in the States, so I am Moroccan/American. I have had quite a life, I grew up in France, then went to live and work in America. Now I am living in Moscow!

You are truly an international person!

Yes, I am multicultural.

How did you learn to cook?

It’s a long story. Like I said, I was born in Morocco. I started to cook for myself and for my family at a really young age, and I realised that I was happy when I was cooking. Cooking came naturally and I have always done this. Even when I was studying law in university I carried on cooking and realised that this was the main thing I was interested in. Later on, I realised that you can make good money from being a chef, and so that is what I do!

As you spent your childhood in France, you do French cooking as well?

Yes, exactly. Later when I went to the States I learnt a lot more, and expanded my skills. Then I started to develop my own style, but at the same time I kept my original way of cooking, and developed on that. I now feel that I have a sort of fusion style.

How did you come to be working here in Moscow?

I was working in a large restaurant called Rasputin in the USA. It was a cabaret restaurant, and a lot of famous businessmen and sportsmen used to go there. Some of the clients were Russians, and I got to know them. A couple of them invited me to come to Russia. That was in 2004. I came here for four days and I found out that Russia is like anywhere else in the world and has all sorts of different kinds of restaurants. I was quite surprised because I had thought that Russians are all poor, and the restaurant business is badly developed. But when I came I saw foie gras, truffles, and the most expensive dishes on sale, I realised that the reality is very different from what we are told about Russia. They invited me and some friends to come here and we opened a couple of restaurants. It was difficult to get the food products in at the time, because you had to import everything from outside, but after a while companies opened here which brought food in for you from Europe, from Israel, from Morocco, from everywhere!

How did you come round to the healthy food concept?

Having tried a lot of different styles of cooking here in Moscow, we settled on the idea that a lot of people like healthy food, but there is nowhere for them to eat such food here. We were thinking in the beginning of opening a vegan restaurant, but we changed our minds. Vegans may come here, but they might bring their friends who are not even vegetarian, so we have to be able to serve something that everybody will like. That’s why we have a fish section; so that we can make everybody happy.

What do you do here?

I am the brand chef for all of the eateries here at the foodmarket. We have three other restaurants here.

How do Muscovites take to vegetarian food?

A lot of people nowadays, especially young people, travel a lot. They see what is going on outside of their own countries. There are a lot of people now in Russia who like alternative lifestyles. They practice yoga, they do meditation, they like sport. We have free yoga lessons here in some of the restaurants in the mornings, and lots of people come.

So are your clients are youngish, like under 30?

Many of them are young, but by no means all.

You mean, when you get older you just give up?

More young people than old people are interested in keeping control of their health, that’s true. But older people do as well; those over 50, they don’t want to get to flabby. Some people have trouble with high cholesterols, so they do watch their food. People want to try more natural food, so we stay away from canned and packaged food, and food that has been cooked and preserved using chemicals.

The Trans-Siberian

The trans siberian

 

Vincent Weightman

Last year the iconic Trans-Siberian Railway celebrated its 100th birthday. To mark this occasion, my girlfriend and I agreed we should ‘have a quiet summer’ and ‘just’ travel the breadth of the largest country in the world by its most famous mode of transport. Somehow within weeks our mums and dads were accompanying us and so without hesitation, I got to work organising the trip of a lifetime for the six of us.

While the trip from Moscow to Vladivostok can take 6 ½ days (if you hide on the train the whole way), we decided to give ourselves 20 days and hoped to indulge in as much of Russia as we could. By the time we had created our own itinerary, booked our train tickets and 9 hour flight back to Moscow, we had spent less than £500 per person.

Here are some of the stops we made along the way.

Vladimir and Suzdal 

I’ve written before about the various reasons everyone should love Vladimir and Suzdal but in the summer there really is nowhere like it. It’s only about 180km from Moscow but get off here, enjoy the relaxing pace of rural Russia in the sunshine and ease your way into this adventure.

Nizhny Novgorod 

400km from Moscow and a mere 6 hour train trip, there is every reason to find yourself in Nizhny. The 5th largest city in Russia was the exiled home of Maxim Gorky (one of Russia’s most famous writers) and Andrei Sakharov (father of the hydrogen bomb as well as Nobel peace prize winner). It is packed with museums, art galleries, an impressive Kremlin and a cable car spanning the breadth of the Volga offering panoramic photo opportunities throughout the relaxing 30 minute return trip. After a busy day cramming in the sights, Bolshaya Pokrovskaya is full of cool bars and fashionable eateries, making it the perfect place to recover and watch the world go by. As the sun sets, aim to be near the Chkalov monument (a tribute to Valery Chkalov who flew 63 hours in 1937 from Moscow to Vancouver via the North Pole) and enjoy the spectacular views of volcanic orange and red skies burning deep into the Volga before disappearing for the evening.

Kazan 

With the most common route via Perm, we took a slightly southern detour to visit Kazan and I’m delighted we did. Kazan is around 800km from Moscow and takes its name from an old Tatar word meaning ‘cooking pot’ as a variety of cultures and religions blend to create this incredibly picturesque city. The undoubted highlight of this stop is the fairy-tale Qolşärif Mosque inside the Kazan Kremlin. Qolşärif was an Imam killed defending Tatar Kazan from a rampaging Ivan the Terrible in 1552 and the magnificent mosque in his name is one of the most visited in the world. Road signs are written in Tatar, Russian and English and while it has long been considered the Istanbul of Russia, walking Bauman Street in the sunshine you could be anywhere. Stretching further than the eye can see from the base of the Kremlin, this main street has been stylishly pedestrianised and is lined with a great variety of bars, restaurants, churches, mosques, people and fashionable designer shops. This was my highlight of the trip and a place I hope to visit again.

Ekaterinburg 

Church upon the Blood (xрам на крови) is 1,778km from Moscow and was completed in 2003 to commemorate the site where Tsar Nicholas II, his family and loyal staff were executed by Bolshevik forces led by Yakov Yurovsky in 1918. As well as being the death spot of Imperial Russia, Ekaterinburg was home to Russia’s first president Boris Yeltsin and has various European and Asian border monuments to straddle for photographs. 40km from Ekaterinburg on the way to Pervouralsk stands an impressive obelisk at the original marker which was erected after Tsar Alexander II famously stopped for a glass of wine on his way to Siberia in 1837. Tradition now suggests you have a glass in Europe before enjoying another in Asia – I suggest going here after lunch.

Novosibirsk 

22 hours from Ekaterinburg and 3,303km from Moscow is Novosibirsk. A fairly unremarkable city, this was a comfort stop featuring showers, hotel beds and as many good meals as we could get in 24 hours. If you do stop here, try to see a performance at the impressive Opera and Ballet Theatre (also known as the Siberian Colosseum) which is the largest and most technically advanced theatre in Russia. Depending on arrival time, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a nice way to spend an hour of an afternoon – it was the first stone built building in Novosibirsk which was dedicated to the memory of Tsar Alexander III and is romantically atmospheric and colourful inside.

Irkutsk 

Irkutsk was originally a gold and fur trading post but is now famous for its wooden architecture and as the stepping stone to Lake Baikal, the oldest (25 million years) and deepest (nearly 2 km) stretches of unfrozen fresh water in the world. All five of North America’s great lakes could be combined and you would still not be close to the vast volume of Baikal. Within the depths of the world’s fifth ocean lies a very special fish. Omul is only found in Baikal and whether you eat it smoked, salted or dried, it’s hard to avoid eating it when visiting the area. Roadside smokers, barbecues and restaurants make this an impressively fresh and incredibly tasty meal or snack.

Having visited Baikal in the bone chilling winter of -27c and slid around the ice in old buses on the clear, thick ice that turned this lake into a highway, it was a real treat to walk Siberia’s Riviera in my shorts, sweating in the hot sun. Diving from a small wooden pier into the refreshing, mind clearing water was a welcome escape from the +25c temperatures of the stony beach.

Ulan Ude

Ulan-Ude is one of the most endearing cities I’ve visited in Russia. The capital of Buryatia is exotic and friendly, comfortable and interesting. Heavily influenced by Mongol Buddhist culture, welcoming Asian faces along with a landscape and climate that feels similar to Vietnam or Thailand makes this a real hidden gem for a holiday within a holiday for anyone on the Trans-Siberian.

The world’s largest Lenin head was unveiled here in 1970 to remind locals who was in charge and since then, even the birds have appreciated his importance and ensured the 42 ton face remains clean. Towering high above the city, a mere 30 rouble marshrutka from Lenin’s head is the Rinpoche Bagsha Datsan. This oasis of tranquillity and calm is a beautiful way to escape the rigours of trains, cities and the general hustle involved in travel. Here the quiet, sprawling gardens are brought to life by colourful butterflies, singing insects, birds, flowers and squirrels. Statues depicting the 12 Animals of the Chinese Zodiac periodically split up a wonderful panoramic walk around the mountain top with outstanding views in every direction for miles.

Vladivostok 

With a 60 hour trip from Ulan-Ude (enforced by visas and train timetables) we treated ourselves to 1st class for the first time and rolled into Vladivostok in style. Choosing to propose to my girlfriend at the ‘9,288km from Moscow’ monument in the centre of the platform, in front of both our sets of parents ensured my excitement at successfully completing the trip was tinged with some nerves and anticipation. Fortunately she said yes and we were all able to enjoy the last few days of our trip together in this special Russian city that is closer to Pyongyang and Beijing than Moscow.

We took a taxi across Russky Bridge (the longest cable stayed bridge in the world) which connects Russky Island to the Russian mainland of Vladivostok. After a swim in the Sea of Japan’s relatively warm and perfectly clear water, we ate seafood plov and enjoyed a beer in a beach hut as we observed the tropical landscape of thick bushy trees covering mountains from tip to water’s edge with a slither of white sand separating the green and blue.

Having spent so much time organising and then living this trip, it was surreal to be finishing it. With various reasons to celebrate, we had an incredible meal at Zuma featuring King Crab and oysters before one last sleep and a quick 9 hour flight back to Moscow.

For more information about the Trans-Siberian, travelling in Russia or my photographs: feel free to email me at vincent@travellingteacher.me or follow up via Instagram by following travellingteacher.me

you can hardly remember

You Can Hardly Remember

 

By Alexa Shearer

https://www.facebook.com/FindingherSerenity

‘I felt a wish never to leave…a wish that dawn might never come, that my present frame of mind might never change.’  Leo Tolstoy

Moscow has always held for me the closest connotation to the word ‘home.’

And I write this almost in a regretful manner …the way one would write a letter to an old lover or deceased relative; someone with whom you have copious amounts of baggage, and unsaid words you’d wished you’d vocalized, and ones you wish you could take back.

It really is like mourning the loss of a loved one, and being forced to write out embarrassingly emotional few words to say at their wake or funeral, knowing your eyes will fill with tears in front of strangers to get each sentence out.

I know at times people – myself included – have a hard time understanding it. ‘But you’re American, so what’s the problem? or ‘Yeah but where were you born? come as oversimplified questions when my face gets flushed and my mind blank after being asked where I’m from or where home is. Often I’m sure it comes across as a dramatized tragedy or a ploy to make myself seem more aloof and interesting. But, in actuality, the only truth I can capture from the eccentricity of it all is that maybe it is simple, and always has been. I have very American blood and a navy-blue passport, but Moscow will always be my home.

Entering some place as a child and leaving an adult 

It’s all as simple as a fragment made up of ten words and no hyperbole. I’m not sure if this constitutes as ‘growing up’ someplace but it feels pretty damn close.

Moving away and starting each day in this new and foreign world feels like the fog of a cold-medicine buzz. Your eyes are red and puffy; your nose stuffed and you can barely breathe, and yet the cold medicine doesn’t take these symptoms away, it simply numbs you into a state of incoherent drowsiness just so you can possibly get away with sleeping through the night.

Here I am: no cold, my sinuses are clear and my vision fresh as a daisy, and yet this cloudy haze dictates my temporarily idle existence… Jetlag may also have something to do with it.

Arrival 

I don’t remember anything about my first impressions of Russia–even when I try to think back to my 11-year-old self, by getting into the mind-set of a confused quasi-Californian who, when told would be moving, could only fathom a snowy cold world that in her imagination might resemble Georgia.

I can’t remember what I thought the day I landed. All I can see are my dirt-stained white shoes dragging across each individual ridge on a rusty metal drain. I liked the echoey pitch my heels would make as they rubbed along each grate. I didn’t take my eyes off the cracks in the concrete. We were being given a tour of the embassy grounds and I was wearing a purple shirt with little gems on the collar and a faded denim skirt that kept riding up during the endless plane ride.

I don’t remember my first Metro ride or first awe-gaze at St. Basil’s Cathedral, besides some brief musings of how it reminded me of a smaller version of a Disneyland Castle – less impressive to an 11-year old. What I can recollect is that we were walking around trying to find a purpose for ourselves… I suppose how we often did/do when we are still strangers to a new place, unattached to the concept of ‘back home,’ and yet not fully into step with a ritual or routine. We had found a small corner shop or marketplace… to be honest I don’t even remember how, when, where, or why, but my sister was carrying a flimsy black plastic bag full of tomatoes. As we strolled, our feet reaching the black cobble stone (that I always assumed would be red… on Red Square), one cunning tomato slipped out of the bag and dropped to the ground, yet remained perfectly intact, without even making that ‘squash’ sound. Without hesitation, my sister kicked it out of her way and kept walking, shortly before receiving that look from my dad… the ‘are you kidding me? Did you seriously just kick a tomato onto Red Square and walk away?’ look.

I lack exceptional, inspiring first sentiments, but rather possess simple memories…you know the ones… revolving around kid stuff; of moments you didn’t realize were important. I guess some nobody from Idaho doesn’t remember what he thought of Idaho when he was in fifth grade. He just lived his life.

I don’t remember the first time I saw perfectly stitched crystal snowflakes – the kind you’ve only experienced as ones hanging from your classroom ceiling that you cut out with dull scissors – or learning how to carefully wrap my head, neck and mouth with a платок, (headscarf) –  to keep the heat trapped to my face in below-zero conditions – I just sort of always knew how. I don’t know why I associate the bright fragrance of a freshly peeled mandarin with Christmastime, I just always think of crystal glasses full of cheap champagne and blinking lights on a tree when I catch the smell of my hands after I eat one.

I don’t remember the day I learned to read the Cyrillic alphabet, it just feels like it’s something I could always do. I don’t remember ever being interested in Russian history, it’s just always sort of been something I knew about. I can’t tell you the first ballet I saw, or the first time I got dressed up to watch a live orchestra perform, or the first time I noticed the crowds clapping in unison in a packed hall after a jaw-dropping performance, faint interjectory ‘bravos’ being called out in the distance.

I don’t remember the first time I learned about the rituals of чай or the дача, or who Снегурочка is. I don’t even remember noticing just how colossal the buildings on Тверская are, or the first time I tasted the bright purple deliciousness that is Борщ.

I don’t remember growing an infatuation with the sound of a single violin or the day I began to really understand how to read music, or the first time I got those pesky little calluses on my left pointer finger.

I can’t recall the first time I handed someone flowers in an odd-numbered bundle – because heaven forbid you buy an even number. I also can’t recall being taught not to seat someone under an air vent; with their back to an open window; in between two doors. I just always understood that a draft can and will kill you…  and I often casually brushed off comments such as “I was in the hospital because cold air blew on my neck and/or back.”

I guess that’s the benefit of being a foreigner’s child in a place like Russia. You just sort of soak up every minuscule cultural nuance they themselves slowly and tediously must learn, and write down to prevent any slip-ups or faux pas. I suppose I was taught to live as an extremely absorbent sponge, absent-mindedly taking in every piece of my surroundings and somehow just understanding and knowing things without explanation.

For my dad it was a great career move. It was a passionate obsession, a cultural phantom caught and conquered after years of hard work, studying, memorizing, understanding, searching; it was an amazing accomplishment, the fulfillment of so many goals and a calmingly, otherworldly overture compiled of snow-walks, tiny coffee shops, hearty black bread, and after-work pensive thoughts under the shadow of Lenin.

For my mother it was an intricate form of immersion, intense analysis and whole-hearted dedication, compassion, and the preface for so much joy, frustration, discovery, irritation, and lifelong friendships.

But for myself and my sister It wasn’t some time-lined project, we didn’t have goals to fulfill; it wasn’t a scheduled ‘tour’ or duty, it was just…life…and sometimes, believe it or not… it was mundane.

Moscow, instead, transformed from being an adolescent normality to an adult imperfect haven. It becomes a place you’re dying to get out of on your worst days, with the sheep-like mentality and impossible conversations that simply annoy you beyond belief.

But, it’s a place that, when you leave it, you can’t bring yourself to go back for a while, because you need time to heal the loss of leaving in the first place.

Russia is a place that stays with you, unfortunately so, for it is this very nation that will be the cause of your soul’s yearning – тоска. Moscow is not in any shape geared towards the future, but rather usually stops in its tracks looking right back over its shoulder into the cycle of the past. Every essence of each holiday, celebration, and average work day amidst fellow commuters is encompassed by collective nostalgia.

Undoubtedly, Moscow forgot to teach you to live in the moment.

So here you find yourself putting the tea kettle away for a little while because you can’t bear the thought of a steaming cup, far too hot – burning a small dot on the tip of your tongue; leaving a constant reminder of a lovely time spent for the next 24 hours – accompanied by crunchy wafer chocolates leaving a pleasantly subtle taste of dirt on your lips. Spoonfuls of варенья, and dry сушки – that leave a pile of crumbs after every bite escort wildly entertaining conversations, not casual in the slightest, but rather bare your whole soul even if you didn’t feel like chatting in the first place.

You put off cleaning out your wallet and instead just throw a few dollar bills into your purse; your ID and plastic cards float around the bottom in a sea of gum wrappers and hair-ties. The inconvenience is better than dealing with reality: disposing of old receipts – the final remaining possessions on your person of a world soon to be long-gone. You fold up each colorful bill and replace them with simple, uniform green ones. You rummage through each ancient crumpled paper like an old and bitter grandma with a harsh exterior but wells up when going through her old letters or albums; uttering an obnoxious ‘back in my dayyyy.’ Dry-cleaning stubs, a clock-out receipt from your last bartending shift; useless coins and emergency phone numbers now unreachable; three Metro cards – who knows how many rides are left on them: rides to work every day, to museums, and cozy restaurants, or simply a means of quiet; yes… loud, noisy, bustling, fast-paced quiet – an escape from the world above if only for a few minutes.

So here you sit… late at night, listening to Tchaikovsky alone in your room, slowly forgetting complex conjugations and grammatical cases – concepts that tortured your mind every second of every day.

You try… but truly don’t remember when you knew you loved that place, or the moment you realized a blanket of peace would always be wrapped around your shoulders in the most hostile of times, or why you’d wished you could freeze time and stay there for as long as you’d pleased.

When all your strength is exhausted into pulling the strings of an old compartment open, the forgotten moments come pouring out; shattering to the floor like pieces of broken china plates, and so it seems… with all of this not remembering… it turns out you can hardly remember life before Russia at all.

To Be a Resilient and Happy Repat… What, When, and How to Cope

resilient repatriation

Having previously written about the importance of resilience for the successful expat, in this article, Lucy Kenyon SCPHN, M.Med.Sci., RGN explores the planning, challenges and pitfalls of moving home.

Repatriation is the process of returning a person – voluntarily – to his or her place of origin or citizenship. For the linguaphiles among us, repatriation stems from the late Latin repatriat- returned to one’s country, from the verb repatriare, from re- back + Latin patria native land.

In my first articles in Moscow expat Life I discussed the key health issues for expats. In the top 4 was Stress – Stress of global assignments. But nothing and nobody can prepare you for the challenge of moving home.

My first experience of repatriation was as a 13 year old coping with a return to what felt like a completely alien country, speaking a language that I had only used with my grandparents and cousins. I also watched my mother struggle even to re-establish herself in the town where she had grown up. Most of those who had remained behind had not visited us in Belgium and had no familiar reference points on which to reconnect.

In a strange way this helped to manage my expectations on our return from Moscow in 2014. I decided to wait and see who wanted to connect back with us. We sent the girls to school out of town in case teenage friendship groups were turbulent – at least they could concentrate on GCSEs and see the friends they had kept in touch with when not at school.

Expat life is a competitive environment within a highly driven and high achieving community. But this community is also very supportive and that network means it can be OK for things to go wrong! Successful expatriates become different people acquiring new skills whilst on assignment. They often start to behave and think like the locals, to greater or lesser degrees, while on international assignment. On return, some of their habits and behaviours may be unfamiliar or even uncomfortable to people back home. Those who have settled well in their new country don’t necessarily want to return home. It’s really easy to mention things that they believe their adoptive country did better. ‘Reverse culture shock’ can happen when returning to a place that looks like home but has not been for several years or even decades. Because it looks like home, it can be more difficult to manage than outbound shock because it is unexpected and unanticipated.

So when repatriating, it’s important to take the same approach as you would to the next assignment. Since repatriating, I have been a member of a group on Facebook run by Naomi Hattaway Founder of the ‘I Am a Triangle’ global movement. There are regular posts from people repatriating either in anticipation or when they are back home and struggling.

Coping strategies

When you are finding life difficult, it is important to have a toolbox of strategies to have available. As I discussed in an earlier article on expat resilience, it is also essential for both the returning parents, children and adolescents to have appropriate ‘social scaffolding.’ The return home can be stressful because of low interest.

Facts and figures:

According to a 2014 BBC report: ‘16% of employees bolted within the first two years after a global assignment ended, up from 11% in 2012. What’s more, 41% of expatriates returned to the same position they had before they went abroad’ despite working within a global context and dealing with global issues.

“The repatriation process clearly remains the Achilles’ heel of many global mobility programmes. While employers focus on finding the best candidate for the international transfer on the front end, they often fail to help expats make a successful transition to a rewarding new position that capitalises on their global experience.

‘In addition to disappointment with the new assignment, returning expats may also be frustrated by colleagues’ lack of appreciation and interest in their adventure abroad; often coming back from being very big fish in a little pond. ’

When planning your return, think carefully about the following aspects:

DREAMS – how will you achieve them?

FEARS – how will you prevent them from materialising and overcome them when they do?

GOALS – set short term and achievable aims to help you on your journey to your dream based around your Interests.

CHALLENGES – be realistic about your expectations. You can even set yourself challenges as mini achievements towards your goals.

INTERESTS – look for social and group activities around your interests, as it’s easier to strike up a conversation about a shared topic or interest than immediately find common ground with a stranger. Try to find activities and groups where expats may be found, I found our local Toastmasters was predominantly a group of expats in the UK and had a sudden regular weekly fun activity and curry nights out.

Treat repatriation in the same way you your next expat move. Find other expats ‘Triangles’ in your home region, who are looking to expand their friend networks. It’s always nice to meet up with people who have also lived crazy expat lives and ‘get it.’

Steps companies can take to ease the repatriation process

Shell and Adidas are currently leading the way with repatriation practices. ‘The expat has a standard development plan reviewed each year by global skill pool managers, including what the next job might be, according to the BBC report.’  Such a plan might include the following points:

• Acknowledge the value of the returning employee both from a cost perspective as well as gained insight and experience while abroad that is harder to measure quantitatively

• Recognise that the employee and their family may need assistance in readjusting to their home culture.

• Provide repatriation cultural training to raise awareness and provide tools for the adaptation process.

• Provide assistance for not only the returning employee but also to any partners and children so their re-entry process is smoother.

• Ensure that the employee feels they can continue to make a valuable contribution to the organisation. Avoid a situation where the employee feels undervalued or marginalised as an outsider.

• Provide coaching or other professional services so the employee can better integrate into their ‘new-old’ environment.

• Listen. Do not underestimate the frustration caused when few people show interest in the repatriated employee’s experiences, knowledge and expertise gained abroad. It may be hard to quantify the value of sharing new experiences and new ways of looking at things, but the benefits gained by the organisation should not be lost. After all, this is part of the reason why the employee was on an expatriate assignment in the first place!

• Re-orientation (the reverse of cultural awareness training) to get up to date with company, social, political and technology developments back home e.g. out of hours expectations, etc.

• Consider home job mentor.

• Bridge the gap with intranet, internal social networks and technologies.

Conclusion

Be open to meeting new people rather than expecting to fit back in with friends who have not moved from the area.

Announce your return on Facebook – this led to an invite to a cocktail night from a previous acquaintance on my first night back! She was very interested in hearing all about Moscow, unlike many people who were not necessarily able to imagine or visualise my experience and didn’t want to spend the evening poring over photos that meant nothing to them! We ended up laughing hysterically over all my run-ins with the authorities! For those of you who remember me ‘я из понедельника.’

Start with a realistic goal: doing one new thing or something on your to-do list every week.

Biography 

Lucy Kenyon SCPHN, M.Med.Sci., RGN is a Specialist Community Public Health Nurse, with a background in occupational and environmental health. She has a keen interest and expertise in the relationship between people and their environment. Prior to moving to Moscow in 2009 she was involved in pandemic planning for Tier 2 emergency services in the UK. She has written specialist articles on health matters for Croner Special Reports since 1997. She is also an expat spouse, who repatriated in 2014 and understands the challenges of day to day issues when living abroad.

Bibliography

Pavone Chris, ‘The Expats’

Hilton Patricia, ‘Mother Without a Mask’

Russell Helen, ‘The Year of Living Danishly’

Bard Elizabeth, ‘Lunch in Paris’

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ‘Americanah’ – a personal favourite

Declan Mulkeen; ‘2Steps companies can take to ease the repatriation process;’ Training Journal; 8 October 2013 https://www.trainingjournal.com/articles/feature/steps-companies-can-take-ease-repatriation-process

Khalaf, H. (2016). ‘Funny how you miss expat life: a comical look at adapting to home after the UAE.’ The National. Thenational.ae. Retrieved 23 January 2017, from http://www.thenational.ae/arts-life/film/funny-how-you-miss-expat-life-a-comical-look-at-adapting-to-home-after-the-uae

Maura McElhone; ‘Back in Ireland, I feel a sense of belonging I missed in the US.’ Coming back has given one returned emigrant a new understanding of what ‘home’ means; http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/generation-emigration/back-in-ireland-i-feel-a-sense-of-belonging-i-missed-in-the-us-1.2845735

References

Change is coming

Change Is Coming

Change is coming

By Chris Weafer

By any measure the past three years have been very difficult for Russia, the people of Russia and, on a relative basis, for the expatriates working in the country. The economy came close to collapse, reporting a recession in each of the last eighth quarters.  Geopolitics and international headlines about Russia could hardly have been worse and, over the past twelve months in particular, Moscow and President Putin have been accused of a multitude of sins; everything from manipulating the US elections, to exacerbating the Mid-East refugee crisis to preparing for war with NATO.

So, as winter 2016 winter gives way to the spring 2017, is there a realistic basis to hope that the change in climatic conditions will be replicated in the economy and geopolitics? Might it be the case that expats travelling home for the May holidays will have to less often explain why they live is such a crazy country and, perhaps, may some of their friends, forced out because of the recession, soon be making plans to return? For once, the signs are hopeful.

Having hit a bottom with a headline recession of almost 4.0 percent in 2015 the economy spent 2016 drifting better. The preliminary estimate for 2016 shows a decline of only 0.2 percent, albeit that is after some base adjustments. Without those adjustments the contraction was still modest at approximately 0.6 percent. The estimate for January is that the economy actually grew by 0.3 percent, year on year, which confirms that the expected drift out of recession and back to growth is continuing. This year our team in Macro-Advisory expects growth to recovery to a relatively healthy 1.5 percent. I use the conditionality of relative because while 1.5 percent is the best growth number Russia has reported since 2012 it is still a long way short of being described as robust.

Part of the reason for that slow recovery is because we now actually have two distinct economies in Russia, each with separate growth characteristics. Companies in the consumer, construction and service sectors, i.e., those sectors which delivered the boom years of 2002-2008, are still in recession and are recovering at a slow and fragile pace. Retail sales dropped 5.9 percent in 2016 and the indicators are that the January decline was just under 2.5 percent. That is considerably better than the 10 percent drop in 2015 but it is still a recession. Output from the construction sector is estimated to have fallen by almost 5 percent in January, a roughly similar decline to that for 12 months of 2016. Still struggling is a good description for both sectors.

Balanced against these declines is the robust growth in sectors which are benefitting from the weak rouble, the Russian counter-sanctions and the general trend towards import-substitution. Agriculture sector output grew by almost 5 percent last year while many manufacturing sectors are also showing year on year growth.

On the geopolitical front the newsflow has also been a little calmer since the inauguration of President Trump and the whirlwind of news and accusations which almost spun into a destructive tornado in early February. Since then there has been a concerted effort, it appears by both sides, to try and calm the situation. In the Middle East the ending of the attack in Aleppo has come has a thankful relief, principally for the people on the ground, but also for foreign investors in Russia. In Eastern Ukraine the escalation of fighting, which almost always happens when there is speculation about sanctions relief for Russia, has eased now that the prospect of any sanctions adjustment has been kicked to touch.

There is of course always a fear that ‘something’ is about to start or re-start, whether in terms of political interference allegations or in the Middle East or Eastern Ukraine. But, at least as spring takes hold (or this article goes to press) it is a case of hope rising with every passing calm day.

As stated, the country is in a relatively better position today than has been the case for most of the past three years. But for an economy such as Russia, calm or modest growth is not enough. Staying in this situation for long enough will start to feel like stagnation. It is sometimes forgotten that Russia, as a modern economy, is only 16 years old – a stroppy and surly teenager. The rapid injection of almost $3.5 trillion of hydrocarbon earnings certainly fast-tracked some areas of development but by no means all. Some things, such as institutions and attitudes, need time rather than money to change.

The oil driver, as it was in the noughties, is now over. Oil revenues are certainly an important source of money for the federal budget but are no longer capable of driving higher growth. The government also does not want to even risk a return to that situation and is now pursuing a policy of trying to get the budget to balance at an average oil price of $40 per barrel. The so-called Fiscal Rule means that any tax revenue earned from the higher oil price, as is the case today, will go to reducing the deficit and, later, to rebuilding financial reserves. It will not be spent. At least that’s the plan.

In general, the message from the government and from the administration in the Kremlin is that fiscal policy will remain very conservative in the years ahead. It means that despite the fact that the Russian state has an almost negligible external debt load, there is no intention to rebuild debt and expand budget spending. This has been a frequent response from many governments in emerging markets over the years, i.e., borrow to spend your way to recovery, but it will not be Putin’s way. You don’t borrow money from strangers is one of his convictions, a conviction which saved Russia from a deeper crisis in 2014-15.

Another legacy from the crisis is the localization strategy. In essence this is the programme to reduce the country’s reliance on imports and to diversify exports by persuading investors to manufacture in Russia. But for that to happen the economy must remain competitive and that means the rouble must stay very close to 60 against the US dollar, or worse, and the taxation mix will shift from the corporate sector to a rising burden for individuals and households. The days of a 13 percent flat tax on all earnings are almost over.

Reform is such a discredited and almost meaningless word. Instead we should focus on the practical and pragmatic changes which are necessary to shift the economy from the stagnation it is now drifting into, and to push it onto the next phase of growth. The evidence emerging is that the government is finally serious about these changes, not least because the consequence of stagnation may, over time, be a disruption in the social-political stability the country has enjoyed since 2000.

By definition, emerging economies are fast changing. Russia is amongst the fastest to change because of oil and politics. Of course, this can be for the better or worse as we have seen since the early 1990s. But for now, as we look forward to brighter, longer and warmer days, there are more reasons to be hopeful than fearful. The caveat, which must be clearly stated, is that there cannot be a return to the old boom days. They are gone for good. The future is a long and slow slog upwards, at best. But at least that is better than the horizon of this time last year…

The Potential Russian Business Markets Britain Should Engage In

business marketsBy Jason White

Despite ongoing sanctions towards Russia and a highly complex business environment and culture, Russia still retains massive potential for companies seeking to gain a foothold and therefore traction inside the country. However, it is also important to note that it is not just the potential of Russia that is of interest, but the emergence after initiation in 2013 of the Euro Asia Economic market place, an economic business community with a total size of 188 million people. Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan are members of this vast market place.

It is also relevant to make note that up until quite recently, Russia was the UK’s fastest growing export market. However due to the recession and the global sanctions imposed on Russia, this momentum stuttered. Be this as it may, whilst the West and Europe looked to evaluate the damage to Russia’s economy, the country quietly got on with realigning its economy and in putting in place a strategic ten-year plan that would dilute the damage that the devaluation of the rouble, falling oil prices, and the effect of sanctions would have on the economy.

There is no doubt that the Russian economy has encountered difficult and challenging times both politically and economically since mid 2014. However, the country has quietly gone about its business in reinventing itself. This has been done by a new focus on four key sectors of the economy, namely Agriculture, Agrofisheries, and the Automative and Pharmaceutical industries. These are key areas where there are still opportunities for investment. Failure to not only understand the opportunities, but to grasp them will leave European countries and the West left behind in Russia’s resurgence.

The Effect of Sanctions

In general terms, the impact on trade due to sanctions within Russia has been limited. This is because they only apply to a small number of goods, services and individuals. Most companies are free to conduct business and have been doing so. It is only Russian businesses which are owned by specific individuals on the ‘sanctions list,’ and western firms selling military, technology, offshore oil consultancy services or specific food products that are affected. For the most part, companies are free to continue to conduct business.

Therefore, the case for doing business with Russia should not be as difficult as it is often imagined to be. Political preoccupations, however, have participated in clouding business decision making in recent years. There is still a strong demand for UK produced goods (and other European branded and blue chip goods) and services to Russia where profits can be significant due to the size of the market place here.

Products and Services

Certain sectors appear to hold particularly high potential for British companies. Hi-tech British-manufactured products for use in the Russian natural resources sector – measuring equipment or pipeline technology, for example, are strongly in demand.

There is a substantial amount of onshore exploration and extraction taking place in Russia, which can compensate for potential losses that may be experienced by British exporters in sanctioned offshore oil production.

Anything to do with Russian railways also provides opportunities for British exporters. Several huge modernization projects are currently under way. 2017 alone will see the renovation of 3,700 miles of track involving all types of repair, according to the official network website.

The 2018 World Cup in Russia also offers potentially rich pickings. Three of the European regional sponsorship slots are still up for grabs, and the event requires massive hotel and transport infrastructure redevelopment in the 12 host cities. Ticketing systems and crowd control models are also areas where British expertise would be welcomed. Britain has a fantastic reputation for organizing large-scale events, as the London Olympics showed. Russians in particular think that the British are great at this. Now is the time to push for British businesses to get involved.

The British luxury goods market remains strong. Brands such as Range Rover and Bentley have a real cachet in Russia, as do the names of British boarding schools and universities.

Accepting sanctions as a minimal constraint, and embracing Brexit as an opportunity for expanded horizons, it is time for British companies to look beyond stereotypes about Russia to the wealth of opportunities that lies beyond.