Editor’s Pick

John Harrison Editor

John Harrison
Editor

This issue we have a broad selection of reading material for you, all of which has very little to do with current political arguments, but hopefully everything to do with working and living here.

Our main feature article continues the education theme
 and concentrates on pre-school education. Parents and educators try to shed some light on the highly complex issues involved in not only choosing the right school, but the right kind of school, as choice in Moscow is wider than one might think.

As the fall sets in and we drift slowly into longer nights and darker days, Lucy Kenyon and Dr Ksenia Yadykina inform us that getting depressed is nothing unusual, it has got something to do with the way that the lack of daylight alters our perception, and thus our ability to cope. ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ (SAD) is in fact a recognized illness and treatable.

The International Women’s Club has always been a key element of Moscow expat culture. In this issue, current IWC President Izabella Zajączkowska and Sonya Michon Floc’hay, IWC PR Chair talk about the work of their organization, and the challenges involved in heading up an organization that does such amazing work in bringing together and supporting women from all over the world.

In our continuing drive to include expats not just from the Anglo-American communities,
we feature reports of the Wirtschaftsclubrussland, Kasper Ditlevsen, the chairman of the Dutch Business Club, Canadians Mark and Lois Gilbert, and an interview with the His Excellency the Indonesian Ambassador. We also include the ultimate biker Peter Dick from middle-England, whose attitude is totally addictive.

The Moscow Good Food Club started off with a bang at Night Flight in July, and you can read exactly what happened on that eventful evening in this issue. Enjoy.

Social Movers – Sept 2013

Don-Craig

Don Craig

This Summer things have been rather quiet with attendances to many events being far lower than anticipated and
 in many cases less than in 2012. This may well have something to do with the weather or perhaps because many people decided to get out of town for the season. For now we are praying for an Indian Summer, which is better known in Russia as “Бабье Лето” (Women’s Summer).
The usual haunts such as Krisha Mira, Soho Rooms, Strelka and Olive Beach kept people entertained with their summer programs whilst attendance to other venues is a bit of a let down.

Local favourites such as Casa Agave, Hudson, and Papa’s Place have also managed to keep things going with their usual steady performance 
and service, though even they have struggled through the weekdays along with everyone else.

Included to this mix this summer is the new Standard Bar which opened its doors and flourished thanks to Doug Steele being at the helm. At the same time I quietly took over the Big Buffalo Bar & Grill project and started breathing new life into it with some great music and events and this is developing nicely.

The upcoming fall promises not to disappoint with a number of new restaurants and events popping up all over Moscow.

Remember the name ‘Bad Room’ and keep your eye on the bouncing ball as this year is far from over!!!

Chris Helmbrecht

Chris Helmbrecht

Autumn. The leaves are falling and people are coming back from their vacations. Usually in mid-Sept, Moscow’s parties are picking upin terms of energy and the public. We’ll continue with our Thursday events at Time-Out Bar, Mendeleev, Soho Rooms and Jagger. Besides we’ll start occasional Friday night parties with a disco theme. We may also go back to our roots and throw a Labelfucker party now and then, with a great mix of people, NO FACECONTROL and cool mashup hits. A pure party! Besides all that we have an all-German party coming up on Germany’s national holiday, Oct 3rd and later on Nov 9th (Fall of the Wall). Party On. More to come. Check our Facebook groups LBLFCKR and WE! for details and updates.

The 8th annual traditional church fete

church-feteOn Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013,
from 2pm-6pm, St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Moscow and the British Business Club will host the 8th annual traditional church fete in the heart of Moscow on the grounds of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Moscow (8, Voznesensky Per.).

It’s an afternoon of fun, food, music, children’s games, and prizes for young and old and a great day out for all the family!

All proceeds will go to Taganka Children’s Fund and the St Andrew’s Church restoration fund.

Games for the kids–and adults– includes: Splash the teacher; Whack the rat; Balloon pop; Face painting; Henna tattoos; Musical chairs;
Egg and spoon race; Tug-o-war; Traditional Tombola; a Balloon race; and Raffle.

The entrance fee is 200 rubles for adults and 100 rubles for children. Children under 12 in fancy dress will get in free!

St. Andrew’s Church in Moscow (8 Voznesensky Per.).

British Business Club and the IRB Rugby World cup 7’s in Moscow

rugby-ballMoscow continues to attract world class sporting events and June 28th through June 30th at the Luzhniki Stadium, the sixth RWC Sevens took place. The BBC was appointed as the official hospitality provider for the event and together with the IRB and Russian Rugby Union worked on providing a fully catered package for Rugby Sports fans not only resident in Moscow but from all over the world. 24 men’s and 16 women’s teams from as many countries battled the heat and the thunderstorms with New Zealand finally winning both categories.

In the side pitches the Russian Youth Rugby www.rugby- fund.ru was playing its own tournament and we will surely see some of these players coming from this group to represent Russia in the future, especially now that Rugby Sevens has been accepted as an Olympic event.

It was these young players that were the inspiration for the BBC to choose a charity to donate ALL of the proceeds that were made from the hospitality. The BBC raised 800,000 RUR for Russian Youth Rugby and wishes all the budding Rugby players’ success in the future development of Rugby in Russia.

Jonathan Tubb, Director of the BBC

Hej Herfra

AWO: a look inside

awo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Pre-school education in Moscow

pre-school-educationAny expatriate family thinking of moving to Moscow or already here with young children is going to be thinking very seriously about nurseries in Moscow. Finding a place for your child is quite complex, more so than it may seem until parents actually arrive. On the one hand there seem to be an abundance of nurseries available: Russian state ‘Detskiye Sadi’ (kindergartens), private morning-only nurseries and pre-school facilities in the independent schools in Moscow. However there are many factors to be considered which limit parents’ choice: how long they intend to be here, whether they want their children to learn Russian or not, how far they live from the nursery of their choice, whether they value
 a western or are happy with the Russian approach, and of course income levels. Moscow, for the few people who don’t know, is a very long way from being a cheap place. This article is a whistle-stop tour around some of the existing facilities. It is not my intention to write about all providers as that is simply not possible, and the emphasis is on end-users (the parents’) points of views rather than those of the education providers.

pre-school-1Let’s start with the Russian state kindergartens. An expat named
 Jay mentioned that the Russian schools are “very attractive to expats married to Russians. Anybody living here can send their children to them, although the procedure is quite lengthy. You have to go to their website and choose three or four schools in the area you want, and then you have to wait to see 
if your name goes on the list. They aren’t expensive, something like 1,000 roubles a month. But you 
have to give the teachers gifts; a 
bit of money or perfume, buy toys for the school, things like that.
 Despite all of that, these schools are I think pretty professional. The kids can go there all day, they all have a little bed, they can sleep there, they get food. They have psychologists and psychiatrists, they do music, dancing, painting. 
I would be quite happy to send 
my kids to a Russian kindergarten, but they don’t speak English there. Nevertheless, if they can learn Russian, if the expat is going to
 be here for four or five years, it’s
 an advantage for that child in the future. Most of the smaller private kindergartens don’t provide lunches, whereas the Russian schools have canteens. The Russian schools don’t like to accept kids in nappies before the age of two, they like the kids to be clean before you send them, they don’t really like to change nappies.”

The state kindergartens sound great, but actually getting your child enrolled into one is not as straightforward as it may seem. Brit Chloe Ogilvie who has been here for three years has experienced a veritable odyssey trying to do this. In her own words: “Because we knew that we are going to be here for quite a long time, possibly for another seven or eight years, our approach was that we wanted our son to integrate more
; into the Russian system. We think that learning to speak Russian as a Russian does, and not as a foreign language is a real advantage. The world is an international place now. But neither of us speak Russian, and the task of signing up for Russian state education was not easy.”

pre-school-kids1“When we moved to Frenzenskaya area from Tverskaya we took our son out of a lovely nursery called Sad Sam’s where we were originally. We 
put our child’s name on the government nursery waiting list, and then met the local administrator and presented a lot of paperwork, such as birth certificate, a letter from my husband’s work saying that his job is long-term and so on. We were told that there is a separate list for Russians and a separate list for non-Russians. We realised that the administrator holds all the power. Every time we approached her we realised just how much of an outsider one is here. The impression we got was that she was telling us that Russian children are more important. At least there was no attempt to hide it. I was thinking the trouble people would get in if that sort of thing happened at home.”

“As it happens, there was one really amazing government-run nursery kindergarten behind our building, and I knew somebody who sent her child there and had
 a really good experience. I met the headmistress and she said that she’d love to have our child here, that we have lots of places. When we went back to the administrator after meeting the headmistress, she told us that we had no chance of getting into that school because there were too many Russians further up the list, and that we shouldn’t even bother waiting. So we asked her to suggest some other schools in the area. The first one she suggested was quite a long way away. I was pregnant at the time, winter was coming on and walking twenty-
five minutes with a toddler every morning was no fun. The school itself had no outside area, it was very small inside and I thought that this
 is ridiculous, but I had to be careful, I didn’t want to drop down any places on the list. The administrator also suggested a school for the visually impaired, which encouraged us to develop our sense of humour.”

pre-school-kids2“Then we found another state nursery not too far away and our son went there. But he became more morose by the day. We realised he was being isolated because he is a foreigner and didn’t speak Russian, 
it was probably the teacher’s fault as this was her first teaching job, rather than a systemic problem. Teachers don’t get paid an awful lot here and there is a high staff turnover. Then we realised there were real problems because our son was experiencing isolation and wasn’t playing with anybody. After an incident when our son was supposed to have bitten another pupil, the teacher told us that he had to leave the school. Another school across the road was suggested. By this time I was really skeptical, so we decided that the experiment was over. Then I still had to find him another nursery, so we were back to square one.”

Chloe’s son was finally offered a place at the state nursery where she wanted him to go originally, but it mornings-only. She will now from September be taking her son to the Russian nursery in the mornings and Busy Bees nursery in the afternoons, which is a long way away. Lunch will be eaten on the way. Chloe is hoping that her son will be admitted to the afternoon sessions at the Russian school sooner rather than later.

Perhaps the biggest issue here is that if one parent is Russian, the child will be able to handle the atmosphere in Russian nurseries much more easily, and of course that parent will be able to handle the local administrator on an equal playing field. The second point is that Russian teaching methods are different from western equivalents. As Chloe said: “All of my friends who have their children at Russian kindergartens speak Russian. We were like fish out of water and we approached it as if it was the British system, and that was rather stupid of us. Even when you get your child into a Russian nursery, there are so many rules and regulations which are all given out in Russian, which you have to be able to respond to. An American friend of mine has a child who is left handed, and they made that child eat with her right hand. So you have to be careful to get the right school. It is surprising that the choice is so small for a city that is trying to attract so many people.”

When you look at the lists of private nurseries there seem to be many choices, but when it comes 
to finding somewhere near your home and within your price range, the options are limited. Some expats complain that a large number of expensive private Russian nurseries are opening up, which appear to
 be geared to attracting foreign children, but their real aim is to attract high-level Russians.

There are however a few reasonably priced nursery schools where the majority of children 
are foreigners and the teaching is carried out mostly by Russians, but because the majority of children are foreign, the predominant language spoken is English and the teaching
 is western, Busy Bees and Sad Sam’s are two of these places. As Jay mentioned: “These places attract a lot of expats. They are reasonably priced.” But there are drawbacks, they are mostly mornings-only, it just depends what people want. Your child can be educated in both English and French if you wish, for example at Petit Cref, or in other languages at kindergartens attached to some of the embassies, but you have to be prepared to pay for what is in Moscow a luxury.”

A key factor is transport. As Jay mentioned: “Most expatriates that I know like to live either near a metro, near a kindergarten or near a school because with Moscow traffic being so bad, you can waste hours travelling each day. That’s why the small private nurseries are so popular, because they are in the centre.”

For those parents who can afford it, and who do not want their children to integrate into the Russian system because they are not going to be here very long, or for other reasons, there are some superb facilities available in Moscow. The big advantage is that pre-school classes at the school of your choice make it easier for children to get into the junior school or ‘year one’ of that school. Contrary to what many expatriate parents think, getting into the school of your choice here in Moscow is subject to availability of places and is not a free for all. Most schools now assess children at entry. “We have very high expectations, and those children who have been through our nursery find it easier to access year one at a higher level. It is not automatic entry in our school, children are assessed,” commented Clair Doubleday, site leader at the lower school of the International School of Moscow. “We provide a really full educational experience through play at a young age. We
 start teaching reading and writing early at ISM and never underestimate pupil’s abilities.” Curriculums vary from school to school. At ISM, the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum is followed for example.

Those expats who are working for large international companies may have been offered relocation counseling before they arrive, and may have already decided to find
 a flat near the independent school of their choice, in which case many of the problems mentioned in this article will have be solved before they arrive. The number of expats, however, in this fortunate position is not growing as fast as the middle of category of parents who want the very best for their children but are looking at other options.

Resources :-

www.childreninmoscow.ru/en/
www.englishdadinmoscow.com
www.ec.mosedu.ru

The IWC

iwc-headerIzabella, how did you become the President of the IWC?

Izabella. This is a long story! It is connected with my husband’s career. He started his diplomatic career here in Moscow 15 years ago as a councillor. At that time I was a teacher in the Polish school in Moscow. I did not have time for any international work then, my focus was on my family and my job. My husband’s second main work base was Kiev, and later on I became the director of the Polish school in the Polish embassy there. I was given the responsibility of organising a charity bazaar by the Polish embassy, which I did three times, and they were successful. After that I participated in organising a small charity group, and I discovered that this work was very interesting for me, despite the fact that the official language of the charity club was English. At the time I could communicate fluently in Russian or French, but I was a beginner in English; I never studied it at school.

izabella-iwcWhen I joined my husband, who had been appointed ambassador in Bucharest four years ago,
 one of the events I organised was a presentation to 
the wives of other ambassadors of the work of an outstanding Polish woman of the 20th century. I also invited members of the steering committee of the IWC in Bucharest, and this was how my work and adventure with the IWC began. After this, I twice organised a charity bazaar, and continued to work in a charity group.

Two years ago this February when I came here, I
 did not have a full time job and had some spare time,
so I joined a non-formal Polish club, which organised
a breakfast meeting once a month. I also invited the wives of ambassadors and IWC members. After one year I was asked to become the President of the IWC. I knew nothing about how to be a president, and the situation was not easy because our steering committee then had only four people with any experience, and only three other people. There were a lot of empty places. It is different now; all the places are full!

Please outline the IWC’s main activities.

Izabella. The main goal of our club is to promote friendship between women of different countries. It’s very important for us. The second goal is to raise money for charity. This is a challenge, after one year in the job
 I at least know what I want to do. My idea is to unify people, but also to stress identity. The first thing I did when I became president was to re-organise our general meetings. We started to hold meetings in embassies, in galleries, in museums, in hotels. Every general meeting has its theme, but beyond that it is important that we women get together, it is important to have the chance to exchange information and emotions. So, for example I organised a general meeting in the Polish embassy. To underline the identity of Poland, the main concert of 
the evening was a performance of Chopin’s music, but to underline the international nature of the evening, we also had a French composer.

It is wonderful to be able to help new arrivals in Moscow, people who have come to a new country,
 to a new city, to be with new people. We help them get to know Russian culture better. The ‘unify but not standardise’ idea is also very important in our work
 in the steering committee. It’s not easy to work only with women, particularly when they are from different countries, because everyone has her own vision of the club and culture, also of communication, of expressing emotions. I try to bring these women together, but always come back to the same general principal.

sonia-iwcSonia: This is something that Izabella has done extremely well. I have been working with the steering committee for one year. I remember when I arrived, that there although were many new members, nobody knew each other. It was not easy to see what the right role was for every person, but Izabella has done that and more. Her appointment has been a great success for this club.

I’d like to add that the official reason why the club came into existence in 1978, was to facilitate the organisation of activities. It was actually GlavUpDK, a branch of the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs which aided the creation of the club. With Moscow being a major world capital where so many diplomats were posted, it was only right that this sort of club, which acted to support the embassies in the same way that similar organisations did abroad, should be allowed to exist. We started getting involved in charity work much later, because at the time the official line was that there was no need for charity in the Soviet Union, because the government was taking care of all the needs of all the people. It was only in 1991 after the system completely changed, that charities were added to the club. Now we saw a way that we could give something back to Russia.

How do you choose the charities?

Izabella: We have two steering committees. One covers general issues such as what to spend money on; what to organise; what projects we should plan for and so on. The other committee is the charity committee. This has a very stable group of members, specialists 
in the charity field. They are aware of what charities 
are doing what here. If a new charity wants to apply for our help, they have to fill in an extensive form, and are visited by a three-person delegation to verify the application, and if we feel that donating money is appropriate we go ahead and back that charity. Once a year we have an audit. We have a very strict accountant. She knows how to make all of us economise on everything and spend the money very effectively!

How do you find people to be on the steering committees?

Izabella: It works by word of mouth. I am approached by many people at almost every function that I attend – it is really fantastic – who ask if there 
is any way that they can help. I would also like to
add that when I became the president, I didn’t know how much money we raised for charity. Ninety per cent of the money we collect is given to charity, and seventy per cent of this is given to charities which help children, and the rest to charities which help the elderly and disabled people. Ten per cent goes on all the administrative expenses that we have to spend to hold our meetings and get people together, but this is very strictly controlled. We raise money thanks to our two main charity fund-raising activities which are the Charity Bazar and the Embassies of the World Dinner and Ball.

Please tell us more about the Bazaar.

Izabella: The winter bazar is our main charity fund- raising project which generates the most money for our charity events. It has become established and is well known; almost a brand in itself. It is a one-day event, held at the Slavyansky hotel. Last year we had over 4,000 visitors which included some members of the staff of more than 60 embassies. So it very important for me for example to maintain good contacts with the embassies.

Sonia: One of the reasons why the event is such
 a success is because it is supported by so many embassies who contribute food and craft items which you simply cannot buy in Moscow most of the time. Over the years it has become known that you have
 this amazing event just before Christmas where you can buy for very reasonable prices a huge variety of goods. Each national group invites members of their own community to attend. Most of the people who attend are the wives of expats. These are people who are generally established in their own way, and this 
is one reason why it is interesting for sponsors to be present at the event. They are able to advertise directly or indirectly. We have a master of ceremonies to make sure that the event runs smoothly. It runs from 9 or 10am in the morning through until 6pm in the evening and basically it is full all the time, because there is always one or other programme happening. We have music, dancing, a room for children etc.

iwcIs the embassy ball event held every year?

Izabella: Yes, every year. The preparations start in June, in fact we recently sent out the first letters to the ambassadors. In September we send out a letter to sponsors. I think the ball is important, it’s a way of saying thank you to everybody, but it is also a charity fund raising event in it’s own right. We want to invite more Russians, after all, we are in Russia. The ball consists of two parts. It’s a dinner, so this provides an opportunity for people who are not connected with the diplomatic world to meet various ambassadors over a meal. Secondly, it’s a ball.
 I don’t think I will be telling any secrets if I say that we have already decided this year to do something special to mark the club’s 35th anniversary. We want to present different dances from around the world such as the Tango, Polka, Waltz, Samba and many others. To do this, we need the support of the embassies, but I think that everybody in the club feels that this is going to be something special, there is a sparkle in people’s eyes when we talk about the programme.

Let’s dance Ceilidh!

dance-irishHave you ever done the Scottish Ceilidh dancing? If the answer is no, do it immediately! You won’t regret it.

After meeting with Wanda Hyde the main organizer of the Moscow Ceilidh dance club and attending her lively class I can say that you won’t have any doubts that this is something you should do.
 The group operates within the International Women’s Club (IWC).

dance-irish2Wanda Hyde is from England and has been dancing almost all her life. She is not a professional but any dance teacher would be proud of Wanda’s boundless enthusiasm and energy. “I believe that if you really are passionate about something, that you can pass that enthusiasm on; because you can explain just how good it is. That is why I have a lot of women coming to take part,” Wanda says. She does a lot of her recruitment at the British Women’s Club (BWC) coffee mornings, and that’s how I met Wanda. I was extremely happy to be invited and did Ceilidh dancing for the first time in my life.

The classes have been held twice a week on Monday morning
and Wednesday afternoon since October 2012. Sergey Alferow the dance teacher and choreographer of Moscow Scottish dance School got acquainted with Wanda in the summer 2012 at a Russian-British Chamber of Commerce meeting. At that time he was looking for an English-speaking group to teach when Wanda was searching for an English-speaking class to attend. So they decided to organize the Ceilidh dancing group within the IWC. Beside the Ceilidh classes, together with the help of BWC they arrange dance evenings with the men coming over to have fun. The next one is going to be on the 12th of October 2013 at the Marriot Courtyard Hotel.

Please do not mix Scottish country dancing with Scottish Ceilidh dancing. They are totally different. “You don’t need to have prior dancing experience to be able to do Ceilidh dancing. Scottish country dancing is a more formal and sophisticated form of Scottish social dancing. It requires a lot of practice to do really well. Ceilidh dancing is basically just for parties. Scottish people normally dance this at weddings,” says Sergey. Wanda has been to Scotland on many occasions and did Ceilidh dancing there. When she came back from Scotland to South Wales she wanted to continue dancing and joined the Scottish country dancing group. “When I first went to the class and heard ‘Oh, no, do not put your hands like this!’ I was not sure that this was what I wanted.

dance-irish3I’d been used to doing Ceilidh dancing which is more informal. Ceilidh dancing is about socializing and enjoying oneself” Wanda says.

In Moscow, ladies 
from many countries support Wanda’s ideas about Ceilidh dancing. This Monday before the lesson in a sizeable dance studio with large mirrors on Arbatskaay street I got acquainted with Stefanie Geisler from Germany, Beth Akers from America, Janet Chesterman from Australia, Tuija Murphy from Finland and Sue Lawrence from England.

Janet said she has been living in Moscow for 2 months. She is not a strong dancer. But after her first class on Monday, she said she is going to join the classes. “Why not go once a week, enjoy and meet new people?” she said.

It was Wanda who introduced Scottish Ceilidh dancing to Tuija. 
“I go regularly on Wednesday whenever I can. It is a lovely group of people. It is a little bit of exercise, and a lot of fun. It helps you to bind with other expats,” Tuija explained.

Stefanie from Germany also didn’t know what Ceilidh dancing was like, and first found out about it from the IWC calendar. She has been coming to classes since last September. “I really enjoy
it,” she said. “It is challenging for me because I like dancing. I did jazz dancing before, but this is something you really need to get organized in your head. You need to count a lot, to know where your left and the right feet are. You have to listen carefully to do what the teacher wants. You have to focus on special things. I learn more and more and it becomes easier and easier. I have got the feeling for this kind of dance. That is why I am here,” Stefanie confesses.

sergeyI can’t but agree with Stefanie. This kind of dancing is a little 
bit challenging for me too. It is curiously difficult to remember the sequence of movements for the beginner: where to form a group of people, when to join up in a circle, how to circle around to the left for 8 steps and back to the right, where to have the middle person face the person on her right, when to advance toward each other and again to repeat 
the dance with a new group of people. But nobody looked down at me and my mistakes. Sergey tried to explain and corrected me. I felt quite comfortable. I liked the atmosphere. It was a nice journey, and we ended up at lunch in the nearest café accompanied by my new dancer friends. I left the ladies full of inspiration and emotions. And I wish I would always start my day like this!

Make new friends, keep fit, and have a great time enjoying Scottish Ceilidh dancing!

Group meets every Monday at 11.15 and every Wednesday at 14.30
Venue: New Dance
Flight Studio, 3 Arbat, within 5 minutes walk from metro station ‘Arbatskaya’. Group leader – Wanda Hyde
+7 925 134 5405
[email protected]

Interview with His Excellency Djauhari Oratmangun, Ambassador, Republic of Indonesia

indonesia indo-headertextAmbassador, how long have you been working in Russia?

I have been working in Russian for 15 months now. I presented my credentials in February 2012, then I returned to Jakarta for two weeks when I met with our president and members of the cabinet, and I then started work here in March of last year.

Have you been to Russian before?

Only once, for two short days back in 2010, when I represented the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) organisation at a conference in Moscow.

What is your perception of Russia and Russians now that you have been working here for over a year?

My perception is interesting. Let me give you some background. As a country we used to enjoy very good relations with the Soviet Union back in the 1950s and 1960s. Our president visited here a couple of times and we had thousands of students here. Due to the international geo-political situation in the late 1960s early 1970s, relations were not as close as earlier. We re-established links after the break up of the Soviet Union, and in 2003 Indonesia entered a comprehensive partnership with Russia based on political security, economic development and social culture. Based on this partnership we have re-engaged with Russia, and enjoyed a very prosperous relationship with this country.

For me, I hardly knew anything about Russia before I came here. When I got here I was quite surprised to find out just how beautiful Moscow and other Russian cities are. I have been travelling quite a lot, I have been to Vladivostok six times, to Ufa, to Novosibirsk, to Irkutsk and of course to St. Petersburg. I have been to many places. It’s a huge country, a multi-cultured and multi-religious society, right now I am very impressed with Russia.

How many Indonesians are there in Russia?

Not that many, fewer than 500 including students I think. There are about 30 students now. There are some expats, most of them came here back in the 1950s and 1960s as students and stayed.

What kind of businesses are Indonesians involved with?

Indonesia is a part of ASEAN, and we are concentrating now on trade, investment and then social culture. Last year our trade reached $3.5bn, up from $2.5bn the year before. This is a substantial increase, but compared to our strategies within our comprehensive partnership, we have not reached our potential yet.

Selection_003Is that mostly Russian goods going to Indonesia or the other way round?

There is a surplus for Russia. Hopefully soon we will reach a balance. That’s my task here, to promote Indonesian goods in Russia. We have recently bought a lot Sukhoi commercial super jets, and the Russians are interested in Indonesian raw materials, furniture, clothing, palm oil and other goods.

Most Russians I know associate Indonesia with tourism, and not much else. Does Indonesia have an image problem, and how can that be changed?

The image problem works two ways, it’s not just misconceptions that Russians have about Indonesia, we are also talking about misconceptions that Indonesians have about Russia. That’s the reason I am engaged in a lot of promotional activities here. I am attending events organised by private Russian businessmen who want to do business
in Indonesia, as well as encouraging Indonesians to come 
to Russia. But the first thing is to change preconceptions. 
Of course we appreciate the fact that Russians consider Indonesia to be a beautiful country, but at the same time we would like them to come and do business with us. The geographical distance plays a big role, people in Eastern Russian feel that they are a long way away from us, but in fact they are closer than they are to Western Europe. For Indonesians as well, they sometimes feel that to come to Moscow is to come to the end of the world.

But isn’t it rather a long way to fly from Jakarta to Vladivostok for example, you have to go through Moscow?

In fact you can fly via Seoul. This is why I did a promotional event in Vladivostok recently where I told people that to fly from Vladivostok to Indonesia you take a one and a half hour flight from Vladivostok to Seoul and then another short flight to Indonesia. People were surprised.

There are a lot of Russian businessmen coming to Indonesia now. Here we have the Indonesia-Russia Business Council. Only last week, the owner of Russal went to Jakarta, last month a high level delegation from Russian Railways visited, just two months ago a group of Indonesian business men came here, last December 70 Russian businessmen went to Indonesia. This is the sort of thing that we are promoting.

Is ASEAN a purely trade organisation or is it similar to the EU and also have political powers?

To answer your question I have to briefly tell you the history of ASEAN. We established ASEAN in August 1967, the original initiative was put forward by the former foreign minister of Indonesia, he used to be the Ambassador here from 1964-67 and then he became our foreign minister and established ASEAN with 5 member countries: Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore. At that time, some of these countries were in conflict with each other. The original idea was to establish a peaceful and stable region, because we realised that nobody will be interested in our region if we don’t. So at the time, the main goal was to prevent conflict and to maintain peace and security. From then on, a lot of investors came, and we were considered to be a new ‘tiger’.

For 44 years there has been no open conflict in the region. Then we enlarged the membership to cover all of the South East Asian nations; to include Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei and recently Myanmar. So what started out as a group of countries who simply wanted 
to avoid conflict has now adopted a different mission, to unite together by 2015 in three common communities: a political and security community, an common economic community, and a common social cultural community. We have learned many lessons from the European Union. For example, single production whereby production is unified throughout the region for certain goods. Each country specialises in particular services and can compliment each other. The headquarters of ASEAN is in Jakarta. So now, all foreign ambassadors in Jakarta also become ambassadors to ASEAN.

Every year leaders of ASEAN meet, where issues are discussed and resolved. They have become summits amongst friends. Alongside of ASEAN we have another organisation called ASEAN plus three which is the ASEAN countries plus our main trade partners: China, Japan and South Korea. Also in 2005, we established the East Asia summit as a platform where ASIEAN leaders plus three, plus Australia, India and New Zealand can meet together. Russia and the USA have recently joined.

During the 2008-2009 crisis, we were one of only three counties – China, Indonesia and India – which were able to maintain positive economic growth. The economic bounce back in the region was very fast. Within a year after the crisis, Singapore notched up a 15% growth rate, Thailand was soon up to 5%. The Philippines economy is now moving forward
as well. These are the things that I have tried to explain to the Russian community, in particular I point out the unique role of Indonesia as a centre and gateway for the ASEAN countries.

Russian and Indonesia culture seem to be pretty far apart. Is there any one aspect of Russian culture that you, as an Indonesian likes and can identify with?

I love traditional Russian culture, I like many of the traditional folk songs and traditional dance routines, and the upbeat nature of modern Russian pop culture is similar to what is happening in Indonesia. Of course I have been to the Bolshoi three or four times, my wife loves that. But my personal interest is more in the area of traditional culture. Every time that I am away from Moscow, I try to enjoy the traditional culture of that region. I do think that on this deep level of traditional culture, Russia and Indonesia share some common points. The other thing is inter-faith dialogue. I have met a lot of religious leaders here in Russia, and I am aware that there are a lot of things that we can learn from each other.

What does your family think of Moscow?

My wife loves Russia and this city. She is a photographer; every time I go anywhere she follows me, takes a picture and puts it on facebook. My three children; one is working in Jakarta, the second is a postgrad in the Netherlands, the third is in a college in Indonesia, have all been to visit me here. t.