Monday, November 30, 2009

Expat survey: Hard Life, Many Friends

The Moscow Times
Expats Have a Hard Life, Many Friends

Expats Have a Hard Life, Many Friends

A recent survey reveals that Russia ranks 24th in terms of quality of life for foreigners among the 26 countries surveyed, but it places fourth in terms of making new friends, especially among locals.

Expats Have a Hard Life, Many Friends
26 November 2009
By Alex Anishyuk

Maintaining a comfortable lifestyle while working in Russia is difficult for many foreigners, but the ease of making new friends among the locals could sweeten the pill for many.

According to HSBC’s expat experience report, Russia ranks two points from the bottom in terms of quality of life among the 26 countries surveyed, but it places fourth in terms of making new friends, especially among locals.

The survey rated 26 countries on 25 day-to-day factors, such as accommodation, food, social life, the ease of organizing finances and accommodation.

Russia ranked 24th in terms of overall quality of life, placing dead last in terms of ease of setting up financing and enrolling children in school, and was also ranked poorly for its quality of healthcare (25) and commute (23).

Canada, Australia and Thailand placed among the top three globally, while India and Qatar trailed the rest, ranking 25th and 26th, respectively.

Russia’s weak points also include a difficulty in setting up utilities (25) and finding an apartment to live in (23), but the country ranks stronger in terms of entertainment (9) and social life (7).

Russia’s people, however, may be its most valuable asset, as many expats found it comparatively easier to make friends while living here.

“While making friends is easy for most expats, there is a preference for making friends within the expat community rather than the local community,” the report said. “An exception to this is Brazil, which ranks highest for local community integration (94 percent of expats making local friends easily). This was closely followed by Canada and South Africa (both 91 percent), India and Russia (both 90 percent).”

While foreigners living here may be having a hard time of it, Russians working abroad are among those most likely to stay away for a long time.

“The countries that produce the ‘expat-lifers’ include those originally from Thailand, Bahrain (81 percent), South Africa (73 percent), Russia and the United States (both 70 percent),” the report said.

HSBC issued the first survey in its series in June reporting on the economic experiences of expats. According to that report, one-third of all expats living in Russia — the highest proportion in the world — make more than $250,000 per year, with almost half reporting an income of $200,000 per year or more.

Almost 60 percent said they had $4,000 or more every month in disposable income, the second-highest proportion in the world, while 70 percent earn enough to be able to employ at least one person as domestic staff, significantly higher than the global average of 48 percent.

The surveys was commissioned by HSBC Bank International and conducted by research company FreshMinds. More than 3,100 expats were questioned between February and April 2009.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Boot Season!

It is that time of year again... when all of the boots come out of the closet and into the streets. These gold heels caught my eye and I am thankful for the camera on my cellphone!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Celebrating American holidays when you live abroad can be tricky. This year the price of turkey is unreal. It would have been cheaper to buy duck. And I remember when I thought duck was a delicacy.

I ended up buying 4 turkey breasts to go with my homemade stuffing. (no Stove Top here)I wish you could have seen the smile on my face when I discovered the celery that I needed for the stuffing at the supermarket! Spencer and I even splurged on two cans of Dr. Pepper (6$)

I found sweet potatoes in the supermarket this summer so I baked and froze them so that we could have them for sweet potato pie today.

Our menu today is simple... turkey with stuffing, peas, corn and butterhorn rolls. For dessert we have a cherry pie and a sweet potato pie.

Our challenges this year have been many, but, our blessings have outweighed them all. We are truly grateful for our life here and the work that we are able to do. We are thankful that we had the opportunity to celebrate last night with our teammates (Russian and American) and happy today is a quiet family time before Tom leaves for Yakutia tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

thought for today

Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude. ~E.P. Powell

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

more English graffitti

I saw this tag the other day and it struck me as being humorous. I mean, people my age talk about something being Old School... but I have yet to see anyone my age tagging a garage.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Last week was a tough one. It was filled with difficult meetings and
consultations. We are grateful to have made it through and are looking
forward to having a peaceful week before Tom leaves for Yakutsk.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

We have a new bakery!

Right next door to our local supermarket is a brand new bakery. This is exciting for us because we are lovers of fresh bread. We have tried a few different things there already. Whole grain bread, sandwich rolls, and my personal favorite croissants! Croissants are not new here in Krasnodar but to find them freshly made and not filled with chocolate or some type of cream is a rare treat.

Tom went in the other day and the person behind the counter had never seen an American. He asked Tom his nationality and wanted to take his picture. It is funny to us that after four years there are still people around us that have never an American in person. Spencer and I have gotten used to having our picture taken but this was a first for Tom!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

thought for today

A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours.
Milton Berle

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

which path would you choose?

There are several superstitions here in Russia. One of them involves a setting like the one in the photo. On the right side of the photo there is a narrow path between the tree and the column or you could choose the wider path between the two columns. Superstition says that walking under that angled beam means walking through the devil's gate.

It is fascinating to me to watch a group of people walking this direction so that I can take note of which path they choose. Not being superstitious I always choose the wider path.

Which path would you choose?!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I finally learned how to post from my cellphone!

Friday, November 13, 2009

um... thanks?!

I am still taking Russian lessons. I speak well enough to translate for Tom when he has counseling appointments. However, there is always room for improvement as far as grammar and Russian expressions are concerned. Especially, when constructing sentences... I have a tendency slip into using English structure when speaking Russian quickly without thinking it through.

Today my teacher began working with me on improving my translating skills. She chose a short story and would read a sentence or two and I had to translate them as quickly as possible. I did fairly well. We both knew my what my weaknesses would be. There are a few constructions I tend to avoid using when I speak just because of how tricky they can be for me.

The positive feedback though was this... she was proud, pleased and shocked at how well I did and how long a passage of text I can remember. She was sincerely giving me a compliment when she compared my capacity to remember with hers. She even mentioned our age difference and how most people my age struggle with memory. I am 14 years her senior.

When I got home Tom asked me how my lesson went. My reply? I simply said "She thinks I have a good memory for an old lady."

Or at least that is how I chose to translate it!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Olga and Arustam invited us to come to their church to celebrate the announcement of their engagement. It was an honor for us to be included in this event. This couple has been coming to Tom's Saturday teaching sessions and it has been great to watch them both as they grow and develope as individuals and now as a couple!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

thought for today

I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much.
Mother Teresa

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Kalishnikov Turns 90!

Gun inventor, 'happy man' Kalashnikov turns 90
By Alexander Osipovich (AFP)

MOSCOW — Mikhail Kalashnikov, the Russian inventor of the globally popular AK-47 assault rifle, on Tuesday declared himself a "happy man" as he celebrated his 90th birthday with a burst of poetry.

Lavished with honours for designing the iconic rifle, Kalashnikov said he had never intended for it to become the preferred weapon in conflicts around the world.

"I created a weapon to defend the fatherland's borders. It's not my fault that it was sometimes used where it shouldn't have been. This is the fault of politicians," he said during an award ceremony at the Kremlin.

Kalashnikov was handed the prestigious Hero of Russia prize by President Dmitry Medvedev, who hailed the AK-47 as "a brilliant example of Russian weaponry" and "a national brand which evokes pride in each citizen."

The white-haired Kalashnikov -- who is an amateur poet and the author of six books, as well as a weapons designer -- also read aloud a brief patriotic poem that he penned himself.

"I wrote poetry in my youth, and people thought I would become a poet. But I didn't become one. There are many bad poets out there without me. I went along a different path," he told reporters at the Kremlin.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin praised Kalashnikov as a "truly legendary" figure while state television was filled with tributes to the 90-year-old inventor.

In one tribute, two Russian cosmonauts congratulated Kalashnikov by video link from the International Space Station (ISS).

"Your name, like that of the first cosmonaut, Yury Gagarin, became a symbol of our country in the 20th century," ISS crew member Maxim Surayev said in the video message.

Kalashnikov is considered a national hero in Russia for designing the AK-47, a rifle whose name stands for "Kalashnikov's Automatic" and the year it was designed, 1947.

Also called the "Kalashnikov", the rifle and its variants are the weapons of choice for dozens of armies and guerrilla groups around the world.

More than 100 million Kalashnikov rifles have been sold worldwide and they are wielded by fighters in such far-flung conflict zones as Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.

But their inventor, a World War II veteran, has barely profited financially from them and lives modestly in Izhevsk, an industrial town 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) east of Moscow.

Part of the problem, according to Izhmash, is that "counterfeit" AK-47s are produced in Bulgaria, China, Poland and the United States, costing the company 360 million dollars (261 million euros) annually.

Kalashnikov himself has dismissed the importance of money, insisting that he has always been more motivated by service to his country.

"In my 90 years I feel myself to be a happy man," he said in a interview in the Russian government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

"Of course, like anyone else, there are things to regret.... But I can say one thing: I would not have chosen to lead my life any other way if I had had the opportunity."

Born in a Siberian village on November 10, 1919, Kalashnikov had a tragic childhood during which his father was deported under Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in 1930.

Wounded during combat in 1941, Kalashnikov started working on his rifle in 1947, driven to design by Soviet defeats in the early years of World War II at the hands of far better armed German soldiers.

The rifle quickly became prized for its sturdy reliability in difficult field conditions.

Kalashnikov remains surprisingly healthy for his age, speaking regularly at conferences devoted to Russian weapons. He told Rossiiskaya Gazeta that he had slowed down recently, but still goes moose hunting once a year.

Monday, November 09, 2009

shopping at the Galleria

Spencer and I went shopping Saturday at Galleria Krasnodar. We didn't make any purchases... he is still adjusting to being back in Russia after his year abroad and wanted to see what had changed while he was away.

One of the stores that he enjoyed was Cropp Town. It is sort of like Hot Topic or Urban Outfitters in the sense that it is the kind of place the teens love to go for trendy clothes, sarcastic t-shirts or a great pair of jeans.

If you would like to check out their selection just click here: Cropp Town

Friday, November 06, 2009

press one for....

Our cellphone service provider is MTC. We have been pleased with their service for 4 1/2 years now. Today I had to call to get my cell phone working again. As I made the call I was confronted with one of my fears and one of my pet peeves while trying to solve my problem.

One of my pet peeves is automated phone directory service. You know the kind where you dial the company and rather than get a live person you get a machine giving you a list of choices and telling you which number to press that corresponds with your choice. One of my fears is speaking Russian on the phone... well, not the speaking part just the understanding what is being said to me when the other party is speaking really fast part.

The combination of the automated service with the menu of choices being presented to me in Russian was a mini nightmare! Thank goodness I remembered a trick that works with most of these types of services in America. Just press '0' for the operator. Once there was a live person on the phone to speak with the rest of the call went smoothly. Within 15 minutes of hanging up my cell phone was back in operation!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

some things are the same...

Here is a photo from McDonalds in Ternopil, Ukraine. We stopped there on our way to the airport the day we were flying back to Russia. McDonalds is pretty much the same all over the world... the most noticeable difference is the language on the menu!

One thing that was different and immediately stood out for us was seeing people wearing masks. I realize they face the public all day long but it was a little unnerving to see McDonalds staff in masks!
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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Thought for today

Once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back in the same box.

Italian Proverb

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Spencer is home!

We are so happy to have Spencer back with us!

He spent the past year in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia (the country) and Armenia. We are not sure how long he will be with us. But his return to Krasnodar is a joy for us right now. If Nathan were here this little family reunion of ours would be complete!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Ternopil 2009

Final day of class... DTS staff and students under quarantine in Ternopil! Fortunately, Tom and I were able to make it out of Ternopil to fly back to Russia. We are safe and healthy back in Krasnodar and are excited to have Spencer back with us again!!