Hello from Vladivostok

Life in the Far East capitol, Vlad, ain’t like living in Moscow!

Last week, a good friend of mine moved to Moscow from
Vladivostok. Nicole lived in Vlad for two years as a Peace Corps
Volunteer in the Russia Far East and is now trying to land on her feet
after her service. She is in that position I was in around
November. With visas running out (or not legal to begin with),
employment rejections (or no answer at all), and little (or no) money,
she is a bit stressed out. To get her mind of her predicament, we
had a fun time chatting about anything but her current situation over
tasty Tex-Mex and Margaritas at a local restaurant.

Actually, she is still in a bit of a culture shock from her
experience. That night, as we strolled through Moscow, she was
amazed at the simple things, like electric signs, the street cleaning
water trucks, and the flowers in the parks. Nicole kept comparing
the relative comforts of Moscow, with the stark life she was accustomed
to. I guess Russell Working is not exaggerating in his articles
about Vlad life.

The Moscow Times, July 16, 1998

Reality in Far East Beats ‘Santa Barbara’ Any Day

By Russell Working

Both cities have beaches contaminated by parasites: in Vladivostok’s
case, microscopic intestinal worms caused by sewage spills; in Santa
Barbara’s, oily surfer dads who tell their 3-year-olds, ‘Zach, if
you gotta’ pee, just go up the beach there where nobody’s looking.’

Perhaps in an ideal world, neither Russia nor America would have to
deal with such public health menaces. But life’s not like that. And
thus, 1 have to say 1 am looking forward to heading back to. Vladivostok
after visiting my parents in Santa Barbara. True, there are
certain advantages to life in a Mediterranean climate where the sea
doesn’t freeze and the town is filled with palm trees. 1 am relatively
confident that no one will ever call a soap opera
‘Vladivostok.’ But Vladivostok has perks of its own:

  • Naked bungee-jumping sailors. Last month, a handful of Royal
    Canadian sailors took a bungee operator at his word when he offered
    a free leap to anyone willing to bare all sailors reported. Alas,
    police received this with less jubilation than the onlookers. The,
    bungee operator is said to have had to pay to keep the sailors from
    being arrested.

  • A clairvoyant mayor. On July 4, Santa Barbara Mayor Harriet Miller
    rode down the street in an open car, and she had a very nice wave.
    But there was no indication she commands supernatural powers over
    forces of light and darkness like Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov.
    Last year a reporter found Cherepkov under his desk talking to a
    ‘cosmic benefactor,’ and in 1994 he used psychic powers,
    he said, to stun a would-be kidnapper and escape.

  • Cow inseminating contests. Americans, though laudably interested
    in presidential insemination habits, fail to reward those tireless
    workers who ensure there will always be an Arch Deluxe awaiting
    every hungry McDonald’s customer. In Vladivostok, Governor Yevgeny
    ‘The Bull’ Nazdratenko confers a prize each summer upon
    the top ‘insemination technician.’ I’m not sure how he
    establishes the winner.

  • A vigorous media. Vladimir Shkrabov, publisher of Krasnoye Znarnya,
    reportedly bashed down the door of a rival paper and chopped all the
    computer cables with an axe in a property dispute fast fall. This
    year, he cut a hole in the wall of his former building, sneaked in
    and began publishing after a court awarded the site to a rival.
    There was no indication that the Santa Barbara News-Press’ publisher
    has wielded an ax against alternative newsweeklies.

In short, while Santa Barbara has much in its favor (24-hour
electricity, girls named Dawn and Amber), no Canadians bungee-jumped
naked or cows got pregnant, to my knowledge, during my stay. It makes
you want to flag down the mayor and say, ‘And you call this a
city?’

Russell Working is editor of the Vladivostok News.