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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Our Russian Adventure

Our reasons for choosing to pursue work in the Former Soviet Union are covered in our book.  And once the opportunity became available, we never looked back.  So much was new—language, culture, procedures, subsistence, plus all facets of work—but did not overwhelm or discourage us.  Each component was a challenge but also an adventure.

Those above me in the U.S. marveled at our willingness to go wherever potential work existed, which in turn surprised us.  You want to succeed and there is thus little value in placing numerous restrictions on your ability to contribute.  And there is no question that our being a team was fundamental to all we did and accomplished.

And truth be told, certain aspects of life—such as airline or train travel and societal controls—have a basic commonality everywhere.  Plus still reeling from a Soviet mindset, everything was highly structured.  Even if one didn’t know how to proceed, those in charge insured compliance.

We'd enjoy hearing from others who have undertaken similar adventures as well as from those who would like additional information about Russia, especially traveling and living there.


  1. How is it now in Russia? Is it more open and less structured, perhaps more dangerous? Are there still opportunities for Americans to work there?

  2. Russia has seen little progress in becoming more open, but I forsee improvement after Putin re-assumes the presidency given all the recent protests and his focus on making Russia "more presentable" for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Opportunities for Americans to work there remain quite limited, especially if one has no foreign language and international experience. Nevertheless, at least some basic proficiency in Russian could be developed while one looks for opportunities. A better chance could be in the Ukraine and Belorus, and for those who want to be fully immersed in that region of the world, I recommend starting one's search there.

  3. I wonder if people there regret switching from communism. Especially given the upheaval it caused and now the collapse (sort of) of capitalism – post 2008/Lehman.

  4. I live in Syktyvkar and worked with Ron Caffo. Not many Americans came to our remote region of Russia, mostly Europeans (Finns, Swedes, Austrians, Germans). It was quite interesting to observe them behaving differently in Russia versus at home. Some people made only negative comments about my country: too cold, too gloomy, too bad food, too much bureaucracy. Such people wanted to finish their work and leave as quickly as possible. Yet there were other foreigners who found many positives, including seeing so many beautiful ladies always perfectly dressed as well as low prices for food, transportation and medical treatment. Several foreign men even came here on vacation!

  5. Some years ago it was something extraordinary to see a foreigner, working here in Syktyvkar. Now it's normal practice. And it's good! We have a chance to practice foreign languages, to see people with different mentality, to broaden our knowledge and mind, to learn new approaches to familiar things. And, of course, it's a very good and useful idea of the foreigner to describe his family's experience in Russia!!!