American On Lockdown In Russia

This is a guest-post. There is plenty of information out there about the self-isolation situation in Russia, and particularly in Moscow.  So, I thought it would be interesting to catch the point of view of an American who is far away from the capital city, in the city of Ekaterinburg.

Stefan is a retired Respiratory Therapist who started coming to Russia in 2005. While he lived in Perm full time for several years, he now splits his time between Bangkok, Penang, and Ekaterinburg. As a hobby, he tours around the Ural region as a Blues singer with a band of local musicians.


Stefan continues to smile from his flat in Ekat.

Stefan Goes To The Moon – And Stays There, Thanks To The ‘Rona
So when I first started coming to Russia in 2005 (on the advice of a Russian colleague), my friends were understandably amazed – they had no concept of traveling that far, or to that place. I used to joke with them, ‘hey, it’s not like I’m going to the moon’, though it seemed they thought I was.
After I’d been to Perm a few times, and established contacts and an ‘alternate life’ there, I became known as ‘The American In Town’ (Perm was a closed city during Soviet times, and they didn’t have a big experience with foreigners). Several times the local media would want to interview me, to get an American’s perspective on life in Russia. I told one reporter the story about how my US friends thought I was going to the moon when I came to Perm, which she thought was quite funny. When the story came out in the local paper (this was pre easy access to the internet in Russia) I saw that the title of the article was ‘Stefan Goes To The Moon’. I and all my Russian friends got a big kick out of that, surely.
Fast forward 15 years, and I find myself back in the Urals, ostensibly to do a 10 week Spring Blues Tour with my guys. I’d originally planned to come on 19 March, but when some shows in Kirov got booked, I saw that I needed to come a week earlier. This turned out to be highly fortunate, since Russia got locked down 18 March, and If I’d followed the original plan, I would not have been able to come at all, and I’d be stuck in Thailand.

Stefan displays his blues skills on a local Russia morning TV show in 2018:

So here I am in Ekaterinburg, 6 weeks in, with no shows, in a locked-down city, in a locked-down country. No meetings with friends, no going out to eat in a nice restaurant, etc. As with everyone else in the world, I’m having to adjust to being Sheltered In Place.

Downtown Ekaterinburg

My agent here in Russia hooked me up with a studio flat in Eburg’s city center. Close to shopping and our rehearsal studio. It has a shop onsite the has all the food essential. It’s a new building, and very clean. The staff is excellent, and they even have hand sanitizer in the lobby. Two-minute walk to McDs, Blues, and the all-important ‘Red & White’ shop.

A shot of Stefan’s lockdown quarters.

It’s not unlike getting on a train in St. Petersburg, on a trip to Vladivostok. Oh, and when you get there, you sleep through the layover, and the train heads back west with you on it. Or you can say it’s like going on a trip to the moon.
Listen to Stefan tell the story of his “trip to the moon” and then enjoy his “flying to Russia song”. His mellow vibes serve as a beacon to fellow expats around Russia, learning to live a new life with coronavirus.

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