SNOVEM GORDEM

Another year has zoomed past. It’s SNOVEM GORDEM time – Happy New Year/Merry Christmas, Russian-style.

  

We are deep into life here in Yekaterinburg. Winter is real. Yesterday it was a minus 30 C or minus 22 F plus wind. The car of course would not start so getting around was problematic.

 

Denver, yes we have absolutely agonized over going back. It all boils down to choices and straining (breaking?) the family with yet another seperation. We just felt that staying put was the best option for now. Sophie has a pretty interesting job with International Finance Corporation, the open market arm of the World Bank. She has found her groove I think, after having two frustrating jobs in consulting. Consulting would have broken our family for sure – just too much separation and travel. She is back focusing on her first love – banking products – in this case working in getting banks and client firms matched up for energy loans. Yes, Russia has the second largest oil reserves but it is also the least efficient in energy usage of any of the European nations. Lots of modernizing to be done.

 

Nadia is excelling in ballet. We want to keep her focused on that. She is just a wonderful, if head strong child. She loves to talk, sing and talk again! She has her own cell phone now and is SMSing incessantly. I think she is a natural to have her own talk-radio show sometime.

 

I have been teaching at the college level the past three months and have found it very interesting. As you all know I have only a very old BS in Business (Cal Poly Class of ‘74 but I have 30+ years experience and a good gift of gab (running my mouth has always been pretty easy). I have really liked the interaction with students. We invariably get off track and talk about life in the USA or Russian-American politics, etc. I’m working with English speakers in the Economics Department at one school and the athletic department at the other – not sure why they put the PR curriculum in with the jocks, but they did. Money is stinky for the amount of time put in, but the mental stimulation is awesome. I have some very talented students and they keep me on my toes. I’m also working with a group of economics professors in preparing them to be better English speakers and in making effective presentatons.

 

Politics here are still a barrel of monkies. Putin was named Man of the Year by Time but has taken regular hits from The Wall Street Journal on his human rights record and the UK-Guardian paper over his alleged $40 billion he has stashed in Swiss and Lichtenstein bank accounts. My father-in-law, God love him, defends this collection of money by a few as “State Capitalism”; probably as good a description as any. Things have not really changed at the top. You have a few  clans – maybe 6 – where the wealth is congregated and held closely. A lot of the old Commie crowd (KGB-FSB-types) are in on this haul, so Putin may be dirty who really knows. Everyone hates it, but no one does anything about it.

 

On the other hand there is huge “trickle down” – Reagan would understand this! Lots of consumer spending, mortgages, credit card use, etc. AND savings! Russian save money but they have gotten to love the creature comforts that this modified brand of capitalism brings. The clans control the big businesses – banking, oil/gas, etc. and the consumer side is left pretty much alone. A mall is a mall, is a mall, is a mall in Yekaterinburg or Miami or Denver (I miss Flatiron’s Mall in Superior, Colorado, my favorite mall of all time).

 

Got to run. Merry Christmas to all. Thanks for stating in touch over the past year. I appreciate all the correspondence.

 Mike

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