Ice Fishing In The Spring (VIDEO)

One of my favorite things about Russia is that what would seem extreme in America, simply gets no attention here.  A simple example of this is that when the ice is melting in the spring, despite the many warnings in the newspapers and on the radio, the Russian ice fishermen remain loyal to their task.

I run a Russian language blog, called the American.  Writing is what I enjoy, but my readers on the Russian language blog informed me that they prefer video.  So, I started running a Russian language vlog.

My videos are usually shaky and low quality (something I intend to improve), but my Russian friends and “readers” seem to enjoy them.  At the same time, some of my non-Russian speaking friends have complained that there are no English subtitles.  So, I decided to fix that in this video where I talk about ice fishing in Russia in the spring.

For English subtitles, click on the “CC” button on the bottom of the screen.  One of the most famous phrases here is “Russians don’t give up”, and I think this video is some proof of that.  Enjoy. 🙂

Advertisements

How To Properly Enter Or Exit A Grocery Store, In Russia

How To Properly Enter Or Exit A Grocery Store, In Russia

Not so fast! The OXPAHA is ever vigilant.

This elite grocery store security force, code named OXPAHA, is comprised of a countless mass of men and women, held together by their fierce commitment to unblinkingly  observe potatoes, grechka, kvass, and kefir being rung up at the cash register, sometimes 24 hours at a time.

It is the OXPAHA who holds the final authority on proper grocery store entrance or exit.  And if you are new to Russia, you might find yourself in quite an unpleasant tangle with this foreboding authority figure.  He or she is not paid for critical thinking.  His or her gainful employment is based on following rules.

The OXPAHA is firm, yet fair.

Thus, as you read this, please bear in mind, that you are not to think.  Instead, you are just to follow the rules.  When entering or exiting a grocery store in Russia, don’t think.  Just do.

Here’s the good news.  Most Russian grocery stores have different rules.

However, if you are unfortunate enough to break any of the rules, the OXPAHA will helpfully scold you, in Russian.  This educational process of public shaming is unpleasant, yet highly effective.  So, no worries, you will probably never break any rule more than once.

Let’s get started:

  1. Obtaining a shopping cart or basket:  As soon as you exit your car, or otherwise approach the grocery store in question, casually scan the exterior.  Are there folks already finding their shopping carts?  If so, join them.  This is a “get your grocery cart outside” kind of Russian grocery store outfit.  If you’re planning to buy a bunch of groceries, that’s good news, because it also means you can bring your grocery cart (or “trolley”, depending on where you’re from) back outside to your car.  Alternatively, beware of grocery stores in shopping centers that have a set “trolley freedom zone”- you don’t want your trolley to be halted by the OXPAHA a few hundred meters from your car.  Wondering how to free your grocery cart that is chained to all of the others?  A 10-ruble coin will do the trick:shopping-trolley

 

Yes, if you just slide a ten ruble coin into that little slot, you will have freed your grocery trolley and be on your way.  On the other hand, I have a lot of folks writing in and asking, “Andy, but what if I don’t have a ten-ruble coin?”.  That’s  a great question, and I’m glad you asked.  You see, “I know a guy” who has tried American nickels and quarters, 5 ruble coins, and perhaps a few other metally type objects, to no avail.  It appears that the trolley will not bow to any counterfeit measures, although I once did see a guy approach the trolley rack with something other than a ten-ruble coin and walk away with a trolley and an expression much like when the cat has swallowed the canary.

Fortunately, the authorities have foreseen a situation wherein a prospective customer would NOT have a ten ruble coin in their pocket.  That is why they installed these:

 

 

pa3meh
THE PA THREE MEH MACHINE

You can insert your 100 ruble or 500 ruble bill and get a big old pocketful of ten ruble coins that will certainly make the cashier blush with pleasure at checkout.

Please also bear in mind that if you are in a grocery store and see a trolley that appears abandoned, it is not.  Don’t take it.  The owner of the trolley did not get it so easily and will not be happy if you swipe it.

2. Entering The Store:  No, not so fast!  You successfully have your grocery trolley in hand, but what should you do if you happened to bring some luggage?  Well, the easiest thing would probably be to take it back home, or put it in the “boot” of your car.  But what should you do if you are carrying a bag, a backpack, or a suitcase, but do not have a car or home?  Well, naturally, this would indicate that you have come to the grocery store with your sticky little fingers to “borrow” the goods on the shelves while covertly placing them in your Samsonite.

Happily, the authorities were not to be foiled by this rascally behavior, and they also understood that not all prospective customers would have a car or home.  So, they installed lockers.  Once you have arrived in the store, scan the entrance for lockers.  Do you see some?  Great!  Put your items in the locker, lock it, grab the giant key that is attached to the hubcap and get on with your shopping.  Don’t see a locker?  Perhaps you see this?

The Melty Machine.JPG
The Plastic Bag Melty Machine Will Foil Even the Most Crafty of Shoplifters

Take your various items, place them in a plastic bag.  Now seal the bag with the hot iron.  This is a do-it-yourself service.  Don’t burn off your fingers.

But what should you do if you have a bag, but don’t see lockers or a plastic bag melty machine, and you don’t have a car or home?  That’s a great question.  The answer is simple, just walk into the store acting totally normal.  You should be totally fine.  Nothing to worry about here.  However, be warned that the OXPAHA now have the right to search your bag, but only if you don’t act normal.  So, be sure to just dissolve into the masses and act normal.  Everything, really, should be just fine.  Don’t worry about it.  Just act normal.

3.  Leaving The Store:  There are two very different scenarios here, based on your situation:

  • You Found What You Were Looking For And Would Like To Checkout:  Good Job!  Do that then!  Now, the cashier will have a few quick questions for you.  She or he will want to know if you have the store’s loyalty card.  After you’ve been in Russia awhile, you will need to carry around a backpack for all of the stores’ loyalty cards.  You can avoid this question by simply stepping up to the checkout and handing them the card.  Next, at most grocery stores, they will want you to do a quick trigonometry estimation.  The question is this:  “How many bags do you need?”  The best part about this situation is you won’t usually see any bags, and when you answer, the cashier will then ask if you want those to be big or small bags.  I usually just go with “four big”.  If you have underestimated, you are allowed to purchase as many bags as you want, even at the end of this maths exercise.  If you have overestimated, breathe easy, they are cheap, and now you have plenty of trash bags for the week.
  • You Didn’t Find What You Were Looking For And Would Just Like To Leave Now: STOP!  No one is getting out of here just like that.  What does this place look like to you?  A center of free trade and commerce? No!  You may exit the grocery store in Russia in any way you wish, as long as it is in the exact spot that is not prohibited.  In all cases do NOT walk out through the cash registers, unless you fancy an encounter with the OXPAHA.  In most cases, do NOT walk out the way you came in.  Instead, look for a small sign, conveniently located at the far end of the store that says simply Выход без покупок”.  Approach this narrow gate.  Now, walk through it, without making any eye contact with the OXPAHA, breathing normally, and acting completely normal.  You should be just fine.  If you see no sign that says “Выход без покупок” then approach the entrance that you came in, making sure the OXPAHA sees you, then ever so calmly walk through.  Some stores allow this kind of riotous exit behavior.  However, some don’t.  So, if the OXPAHA tries to stop you, drop everything and run!  Just kidding.  Please don’t do that.  Instead, speak your foreign native language calmly and with a smile.  I congratulate you, you are about to receive an OXPAHA education.

Great, now you’re out of the grocery store in Russia and can get on with your day!  But what to do with your shopping trolley?  Well, there are two schools of thought here.

  • Benjamin Franklin’s School of Thought:  We all know that “a ten-ruble coin saved, is a shopping trolley away”, so take that trolley back to its station and get your coin back.
  • The Leviticus School of Thought:  The children of Israel were thus commanded:  “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you.”  From this we learn that it is also okay to leave the shopping trolley at the edge of the supermarket parking lot as it will provide some gainful employment for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you.

Choose which of the above you prefer. And then we will know what kind of person you are.

Good job!  You have now successfully entered and exited a grocery store in Russia.  In no time, it will seem normal to you.  Later on, it will seem right.  Then you can be like my wife. A few years ago when she entered a Wal-Mart in America, she stopped and asked the greeter (whom she apparently mistook for an OXPAHA) where she should put her purse.  After a lengthy pause, he smiled and said, “You can just walk in!”.

If you would prefer some friendly and helpful local orientation over an OXPAHA education, check out Expat Flat Moscow.  They not only provide Moscow’s premier expat real estate service, but also provide local orientation, to make your move to Moscow as comfortable as possible.

 

 

A Swedish Home In Moscow

A Swedish Home In Moscow
Will I feel at home in Moscow?  Regardless of how appealing a job offer is for an expat, this is naturally one of the first questions they will mull over when considering whether to accept or not.  And particularly for those adults who have lived the expat lifestyle before, Moscow is a treasure chest of culture, entertainment, and an easy place to make new friends.
But the question of being at home in Moscow for those who move as a family with children can be a bit more challenging.  Children live through this expat experience much differently than adults, and their parents understand this and deeply desire for this international experience to be a positive memory and building block in their children’s lives.
Corporations that are recruiting expat talent spend significant amounts of money to attract personnel, often for executive positions.  With these large investments in foreign staff, it is very much in the company’s interest to make their expat executive a success.  And as many company’s are discovering, it is foolish to dichotomize the executive’s success and his family’s ability to not only survive, but thrive in the expat environment.
It’s simple really.  In a classic and perhaps banal situation, if the children aren’t happy, the wife is not happy, and if she is not happy, then dad is, at best, distracted at work.  This is clearly not in the family’s nor their employer’s best interest.
As I write this, I was remembering four years ago when I was working through what would be the best lifestyle for our family in Moscow.  My oldest son, who was 8 at the time, came to me and gave me his opinion on our lifestyle and then ended his points with, “This is my childhood!”.  I thought that was remarkable insight, and I have never regretted following his advice in the matters we were facing.
But the core issue here is that there is never any good reason to sacrifice the children’s childhood for the parents’ career choices.  And it is because we believe that it is possible for a family to not only survive, but thrive in Moscow, Expat Flat is thrilled to provide not only our core real estate service, but also expat lifestyle support and consulting to make the relocation process to Moscow as smooth as possible for both individuals and families.
And with that, I was thrilled to find what was admittedly for us, a hidden gem in Moscow.  I recently became acquainted with the Swedish School in Moscow and found this introduction to become quite remarkable.
Why was a visit to this school, hidden in a quiet part of the Metro Universitet neighborhood, so impressive?  Because, as I spoke with the Director and toured the school, it was clear that not only was this high quality education, but the school profoundly understood the needs of expat families.  And with that I saw that the Swedish School had become a home for Scandinavians in Moscow.
 
4 Noteworthy Expat Points For The Swedish School In Moscow:
1) The school follows the Swedish curriculum and is staffed by qualified Swedish teachers, yet is run by a Parents’ Committee.  
It is perhaps because of the flexibility and unique solutions that are required for expat families that many Americans in Moscow have turned to home schooling.  However, I wonder if more of these American expats would reconsider this option if they could have more influence in a school’s program.
 
2) There is a weekly assembly attended by parents where the pupils present their work.
Many children of expats will adopt the expat lifestyle themselves.  I think there is a good chance that at least a couple of my four children will, and for anyone who chooses an international path, communication is perhaps the crucial component for success, almost regardless of the specific chosen career.  This weekly assembly at the Swedish school hones the children’s communication skills while building a strong sense of community.
 
3)  There is a coffee break room, not for the teachers, but for the parents.
I’m guessing there is a break room for the teachers as well, but the school is clearly proud of a comfortable room that is reserved specifically for parents to be able to enjoy a few minutes together after dropping off their children for school.  Again, this resounds of community and home and mutual support among expats that is a fundamental point for them to flourish while living in Moscow.
4) It just feels like a home.  The students and teachers seemed focused on their tasks, yet relaxed.  I had just arrived from a busy day in the usual hustle and bustle of Europe’s largest city as I toured this oasis of serenity, and perhaps felt a slight disappointment that neither I nor my children are Scandinavian.
I take off my hat to the Swedish School of Moscow as they continue to endeavor to not only provide high level education, but play their crucial part in making both the children, their parents, and their parents’ employers prosper.  As goes the children’s expat experience, so goes their parents’ success.  

Travel Internationally, Sightsee in Moscow, Save Money

Travel Internationally, Sightsee in Moscow, Save Money

If you are traveling between the East and the West, why not stop in the capital of the land where the East and West collide?  It’s true, perhaps you have dreamed of a visit to the Kremlin, followed by the obligatory selfie in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral.  And maybe you have even learned about Gorky Park’s metamorphosis into an urban oasis and would like to rent a bicycle for a leisurely ride along the Moscow River.

But it all sounds so complicated, am I right?  There are the questions of where to stay, a reliable guide, the bureaucratic headache of a visa, and, of course, how big of a hit your wallet will take in the process.
However, if you’re willing to think just a bit outside the box, you will soon find yourself enjoying a meal at an Arbat street cafe, before heading on to the Cosmonaut Museum.
In recent years, Russia’s Aeroflot Airlines has seen its service really take off, and in this humble blogger’s opinion, now exceeds the international service of any US airline, while maintaining surprisingly low prices.
If your travels are taking you between the West and the East, take a few minutes to compare the prices if you buy your tickets like you always do, or if you buy separate round-trip tickets in and out of Moscow with a few day layover before continuing to your destination on Aeroflot.  Particularly between major cities (New York and Delhi, for instance), you will find that buying tickets via Moscow on Aeroflot might save you a few bucks, and also open up for you the fascinating world that Winston Churchill described as “…a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.  You can spend a few days being surprised at the world-class hospitality service in Moscow, that now comes at a much cheaper cost due to the weaker ruble.
45717144_l.jpg
Do you really have a good reason to not stop for a moment in Moscow when flying between the East and West?
At Expat Flat Moscow, we recently teamed up with LikeHome, an agency that specializes in serviced apartments in downtown Moscow.  The main purpose of this partnership is to provide our clients at Expat Flat an alternative to the cost and claustrophobia of staying in a hotel room during their relocation and transition into their long term stay in Moscow.
However, this partnership also opens the door to many who would like to spend a few days getting to know a land that was once shrouded behind an Iron Curtain and is now a robust megalopolis, and a major center of influence between the East and West.
If this sounds like a grand proposition, but you are more concerned about the weight of your wallet than an unforgettable life experience, allow me to put your fears to rest.  The cost of a serviced apartment for two people in downtown Moscow, depending on size and exact location, would run you as little as $73/night.  You can also order a driver to pick you up at the airport with a sign for about $35, you will be met at the flat by a representative who will make sure you are comfortable, the apartment is cleaned daily, there is 24/7 telephone support, and you can order an excursion with a qualified guide for a reasonable price to help get you started in exploring Europe’s largest city.
So, if you’re traveling internationally, compare prices with a few day layover in Moscow.  Check out what we consider the best option for your lodging.  And who knows, maybe after a few days, you will decide that the next time you travel internationally, you won’t make Moscow your layover, but your final destination.

Russia Handcrafted Guitars

Russia Handcrafted Guitars

A few months ago I wrote a post about my friend Avgust who lives in Perm, Russia.  At that time, Avgust had just begun his work of handcrafting guitars.  And now that he is really getting into the swing of things, I thought it is high time for an update.

I was able to get one of Avgust’s guitars and show it to a few friends in Moscow.  They were blown away by the full sound, but I really liked how one of them summed it up:  “This is a player’s guitar!”.  Everyone seemed to agree that the sound beat any brand name guitar, and that it was easy to play.

And since in my previous post, I showed a pretty low quality video, made on my phone, I am happy to now be able to share a couple new high-quality videos.

Here’s Avgust playing.  Try to not pay attention to his serious face, cool hat, glasses, and beard.  Just enjoy the sound:

And for you guitar/music/sound nerds, here is a video showcasing a bit more of the sound:

You are welcome.  Get in touch with Avgust and order your guitar today.

The Kefir Kure

The Kefir Kure

I was walking down the street here in Moscow a few months ago, when BAM!, out of nowhere, I was hit with a hankering I get every six months or so.  As usual, it started off with the faint recollection of the wonderful feeling of my thirst being quenched with the unmistakable flavor of chunky sour milk.  And only a moment later I knew I was having yet another kefir withdrawal episode.  As I know these cravings to be simply irresistible,  I glanced both ways down the street and then quickly stepped into the nearest grocer and bought a bottle.  Outside, my stroll continued and I slowly sipped, allowing my tongue to not only sense the sour, but also enjoy the texture  of the lumpy goodness of this fermented milk product.

I then looked at the side of the bottle and was reminded that kefir has probiotics.  It’s all very embarrassing to discuss in the very public arena of a blog, but I must admit that I understood that probiotics would be something that perhaps the abdominal regions of my body would appreciate, so I finished off the bottle and decided to start drinking kefir every day to see what would happen.

I am no doctor, but it the very next morning I woke up and noticed a few changes:

  • I had more money than before I had drunk the kefir.
  • My wife was more beautiful than the morning before.
  • My children had become better behaved overnight.
  • The sun was shining behind the clouds and although it was snowing, I could hear birds chirping in the distance.
  • And my gut was not grumbling and heaving as it had every morning for many years.

Kefir is one of those things from Russia that foreigners usually roll their eyes at when they come.  The flavor is foreign and the promised results seem exaggerated.  And I can remember years ago being asked how to say “kefir” in English.  I wasn’t sure, so I said that I thought it was buttermilk.  My answer may have been ever so slightly inaccurate.  But the truth is, I had never heard of kefir in America, but as often happens in these situations, what was once “eye-rolling” has now become popular and trendy.  I am also happy to report that I now know how to say kefir in English.

I found that out this morning when I chanced upon this helpful article in a friend’s Facebook feed, touting the wondrous results of kefir konsumption.  SPOILER ALERT:  Kefir is mostly laktose free.  Also, the Russians were right… again (not that the article makes that point).

Kefir is not trendy in Russia.  It is just there, and as it is originally from the Caucusus, it is a part of the history of the nation.  It is in every single supermarket.  It costs about $1 (USD) per liter, and usually just comes in its own very special sour flavor.  I spent two minutes doing a google search on kefir in America and saw that it is now available in various places, such as Trader Joe’s ($2.99 for 32 ounces), but is usually offered in a typical American masking of the original blueberry flavor.

So, if you are looking for significant and real changes in your life: if you would like a more beautiful wife, better behaved children, and more money, AND you’re not afraid to admit that the Russians were right (yet again!) on the positive effects of some quirky homey product, be sure to pick up a liter of kefir at Trader Joe’s.  Try to find a bottle of this life improving elixir with no extra flavor added. Then be sure to send us at Planet Russia a thank you note, if you begin to hear the birds chirping, as the sour lumpy (former) lactose begins to course down your throat.  For in this moment, when your taste buds send an all new flavor signal flare to your brain, you will know that your life enhancement has only just begun.  One small sip of kefir, one tidal wave of lifestyle breakthrough.

“Russia Needs A New Brand Manager”

“Russia Needs A New Brand Manager”
“You think this bad neighborhood?”
There is a part of Russia that loves being the tough guy, and there is a part of each of us that also loves the machismo of the Siberian.  There is an aura of romanticism that surrounds bears, bread lines, the taiga, and the ever present Hollywood mafia villain.
This sense of danger and bravado has a mysterious magnetic effect for some more adventurous folk, who eventually find their way to Moscow for work or pleasure.  Well, I should say, not all of these folks are intrepid daredevils, many of them are just living the expat career lifestyle which led them to Russia’s capital city.
I would suggest that the latter will find themselves less disappointed with their time in Russia.  I find these newcomers often ask me questions like “will I be safe in this neighborhood?”.  And, because it’s fun, and because it’s what everyone seems to love about Russia, I’m often tempted to answer something like this:
“You think this bad neighborhood?”  is everything we expect and somehow love about Russia.  And so I somehow feel embarrassed to admit that Moscow is safe, and assuming you aren’t being ignorant and drunk in the early morning hours, walking around with dollar bills hanging out of your pockets, you should be more than fine.
I began thinking about this subject more seriously when I recently had coffee with a former client of Expat Flat, whom I will call Marcell.  He is from Europe and has been living in Moscow for a few months now.  And as I like to ask in such situations, I inquired as to what has surprised him the most about life in Moscow so far.  His answer was both surprising and thoughtful.  Marcell replied, “Russia needs a new brand manager!”.
He then began to list the reasons:
-Safety:  He said he felt as safe here as in any city he’s lived in anywhere in the world.  Of course, no one is saying that nothing bad can happen.  Bad things can happen in Moscow, just like anywhere else.  But one thing that is interesting about Moscow, and Russian cities in general, is that there are no bad neighborhoods.  At least, I have never seen blocks and blocks of urban decay, coupled with a sense of danger, like what can be found in many American cities.  Certainly there are some that are better than others, but this is generally surrounding the idea of one neighborhood being a bit more prestigious than others.  But in an apartment building, you can often have a millionaire, an elderly couple that is struggling financially, and a flat full of students, all living in close proximity.  And all of these folks have one thing in common:  they want to live in peace and safety.  And if there is a “bad apple” or two in the building, usually the residents, regardless of their economic class, will make a little effort to take care of it.
-Internet speed:  “The internet speed here in Moscow is faster than what I had when I lived in Singapore!”, Marcell exclaimed.  He then went on to share that it was a bit of a pain waiting some hours for the internet to be installed, but the result was fantastic.  And it’s true, getting internet speed of up to 100 mbps will cost you about 750 rubles per month.  Now, at times, I have been very aware that the key words in the previous phrase are “up to”, but in any case, that’s just a little over $10 (USD) for some blazing speed.
-Cleanliness:  I agreed with Marcell that Moscow is one of the cleanest cities that we have seen in the world.  I am not saying that this level of cleanliness is uniform across Russia, or even outside of the center of any major city, but I will say that, after living in Moscow for some years, one of the main things I am shocked by when visiting Europe or America is how dirty it can be.
-Christmas decorations:  This might seem trivial, but I think we all agree that these sort of details make life more enjoyable.  These decorations, New Year’s decorations to be more exact, by Marcell’s estimation are the most beautiful of any that he has seen anywhere in the world.  I would probably agree.  There is something powerful about an urban area in common celebration, and Moscow knows how to celebrate with lights, ice skating, blini stands, and performances.
-Hipster Capital?:  Marcell then went on to say that Moscow should be one of the world’s hipster capitals.  He said, “it combines the artsiness, the great food and coffee in many places with the raw unpretentiousness of a post-soviet city, which is something I believe hipsters would dig”.  Indeed, Moscow could be one of the world’s cities where hipsters are bicycling to meet and drink coffee and exchange ideas.  With wide sidewalks and broad avenues, Gorky Park, endless museums, riverboat cruises, “anti-cafes”, and an astonishing amount of green mixed in with the concrete, I think my friend Marcell has a point.  He did go on to mention that the hipsters might be disappointed on how difficult it is to run a small independent business.  I mostly disagree with that point, so I expect that Marcell and I can debate on the ease of running a small business in Russia over coffee sometime soon.
-Retail Service (!):  Yes, this is an area where much of Russia is ahead of much of the West.  If the last time you visited Russia was in the 90’s, you might kindly suggest that I be tested for use of a controlled substance.  But the truth is, I have become so used to the service in recent years that I no longer noticed it until Marcell brought it up.  There are the obvious points:  after shopping in Moscow, 90% of malls in America will seem small and plain.  But the working hours are quite impressive and make it possible for a busy professional to also take care of their personal business with ease.  I can remember being in a medium-sized German town some years ago.  Hoping to go out for coffee with friends in the evening, I was surprised to learn that they roll up the sidewalks at 5 p.m.  Also, in most major cities in Russia, a surprising amount of retail products can be ordered online and delivered promptly, and many repair services will make house visits, providing a high level service at a very reasonable cost.
There are certainly more items that could be added to this list.  But what hit me the most was the phrase that “Russia needs a new brand manager”.
I threw out this idea to some Russian friends.  They seemed concerned that I was proposing that there be one person who becomes Russia’s brand manager- perhaps I explained a subject poorly as I am still learning about it.  Indeed, Marcell did open up a whole new world to me:  nation branding.  And as I learned from Marcell, you can learn much about nation branding from a man by the name of Simon Anholt as he tackles big questions such as “Which country does the most good for the world?”.
But after these conversations, I understood this idea a bit differently from my Russian friends:  The truth is, we are all Russia’s brand manager.  And I know that we all would like to say that our time in Russia was something like this:
So, as disappointing as it might seem to share with friends back home after your trip to Moscow, unless your name is Tom Cruise,  be sure to mention that you felt safe, drank some great coffee, visited the Cosmonaut Museum, perhaps made some money, went for a river boat cruise, and had some fascinating conversation with some locals that influenced the way you view the world.
Yes, I could sit with you and any babushka on a park bench and discuss the struggles and negative aspects of Russia… or America.  And although there are many less than positive areas we could discuss, since you will be expecting them when you arrive, you might not notice or mind them so much.  But with Russia today, I see a future with potential that is perhaps unmatched by any other nation in the world.  We just need the world to find out about this new brand.  And perhaps we need the Russians to discover it as well.
What positive things have surprised you in your time in Russia?  Comment below!