AWO: a look inside










When I came to one of your Wednesday meetings to ask for an interview, I was met as if I were the only person you were waiting for. Is it like this for all newcomers?

Janet Sibley: You met Susan Pearcy who is our Hospitality chairperson. Susan tries to make contact with new people just as they are coming in, and lets them know that we are available to answer all their questions. The ladies on our Membership committee also meet new members and can give helpful information. Our Newcomers meetings are the second Wednesday of each month, but all members are welcomed to attend each of our three meetings which are held each month.

awo-textblockDo members have to be U.S. citizens?

Janet Sibley: If you are a citizen of the USA, Mexico or Canada or if you married to a man from these countries, you are automatically able to join AWO. We also have a certain percentage of places for associate members from different places in the world. In addition to North Americans, we also have members from Russia, Australia, Great Britain, South Africa and other countries.

How do you plan AWO activities?

Lisa Bowen: We have interest groups. Each one
has its own leader who gets contact information from interested members and keeps everyone informed on meeting times and locations. We have a committee that coordinates all the interest groups. For example, if you want to join the book club, you can contact the Interest Group committee chairperson or the leader of that interest group, and you’ll receive information about those meetings by email. We communicate mostly by emails.

What are your Interests Groups for this year?

Cindy Rathmann: Understanding Russia is one of our popular interest groups. We have a Russian lady who comes every Monday and lectures on an aspect of Russia culture. This is very helpful in helping people to adapt to life here.

Lisa Bowen: One of the interest groups is called ‘Spread Sunshine’. We visit the Moscow Pediatric Oncology Hospital. Ronald MacDonald built a kitchen there, and we go once a month and bring food to the parents of children receiving treatment at the hospital.

Janet Sibley: For the past 17 years, we have organized an Arts and Crafts Festival to support the hospital. The next Arts and Crafts Festival will be held November 14th. We invite different Russian vendors who sell crafts and other items to participate. The festival is held at the Park Place Hotel.

Janet Sibley: There are many Interest Groups. Every member gets a list of the groups and the contact information for the different group leaders. These groups cover a wide range of interests, and these can change as members come and go.

awo-groupIs it so necessary to speak Russian in Moscow?

Lisa Bowen: No it isn’t. I speak very little Russian and I’ve been here for 7 years. I’ve noticed that the street signs and maps are in English. I wish I’d had more time to learn the language. When I arrived here, I was overwhelmed while trying to find somewhere to live. My daughter and son were here and going to school. Now that they’ve left home, I should have more time to learn.

Cindy Rathmann: It depends on your schedule. We do have a deep desire to communicate with the people of the country that we live in. We like Russians, and we open up our homes to meet them. From what I’ve seen, many Russians, especially the young ones, are very fluent in English. We conduct bible study lessons at our home and most of them speak English.

What do Russians and Americans share?

Janet Sibley: Like in America, family seems to be very important here.

Lisa Bowen: Russians are very patriotic, just like Americans.

Cindy Rathmann: One thing I really appreciate about Russian culture and people is the depth of relationships and friendships. This is so precious. It
 is also true with the friendships we have made with Americans here. If I have a problem, I can count on these ladies or some of my Russian friends.

Lisa Bowen: As a whole, I like Russian people. We may not understand each other but I don’t face big hardships.

Is living in Russia hard?

Janet Sibley: Living here is mainly a positive experience. It makes things more difficult for me because I don’t speak the language very well. It would be more helpful if I did, and I would have more opportunities to interact with Russian people.

Cindy Rathmann: On the one hand, it is difficult.
I have children and grandchildren back home and it is difficult to be away from them. On the other hand, this is our second time here, and we enjoy it. I find the culture is rich, the relationships are deep and true. There are sorrows and joys, just like in America.

Lisa Bowen: There’s a gap we try to fill with the help of AWO. That is why the AWO is so strong. When our expat members arrive, they’re faced with some new challenges with their move to Moscow. We try to make life easier here. That’s where we fit in and support each other. We are a social group with a long history of rich relationships.

A delicious traditional American cake carefully prepared by Janet Sibley with fresh cold tea made a marvelous ending for our interview. I left Janet’s apartment absolutely happy with the thought that you would never be bored and lonely having such friends.