Tag Archives: russia tourism

A Postcard from the Real Russia

The South African Dispatch Online reports:

AN East London woman has written a book detailing her adventures and frustrations of living and working in the Russian capital for three years. The book, titled 23 Months of Extreme, is a diary account of Lisa Hirschbeck and her husband Robert McIntyre’s life in Moscow from 2004 to 2007. Hirschbeck, a born and bred East Londoner who matriculated from Hudson Park High School in 1991, studied accounting after leaving school. She and McIntyre were married in 1999 and, after a number of years living in East London, decided to pursue work opportunities abroad. “A lot of our friends had gone overseas to work so we decided to do the same,” she said. We had a choice of going to the US or Moscow and decided on the latter because we believed it would be more interesting.”

They initially spent a week in Moscow before moving to the city permanently. But three weeks into their new life, the couple were stopped by four militsia, or police.Even though their papers were in order, they were forced to pay a bribe to avoid being detained.Hirschbeck said the experience had been shocking, but it also gave her a new-found understanding of what foreigners in South Africa were subjected to.“The police there are very corrupt and it has definitely given me a better understanding of what foreigners here go through, especially if they don’t have the correct papers,” she said.

The couple faced numerous challenges in adapting to life in Moscow, like overcoming language and cultural barriers. “They don’t have the same retail system that we do here,” she said. “Most of the bigger shopping malls are on the outskirts of Moscow and were far from where we lived.  There are a lot of corner cafés where you can buy groceries, but things are not packaged the same as in South Africa and it’s in a different language.“We spent about two weeks looking for salt before we found it.”

Hirschbeck said they had also battled to adapt to the five-month long Russian winter. “It was quite hectic, we’re not used to that kind of weather. The snow would sometimes be piled 12 centimetres thick on the sidewalks.”  Hirschbeck said it had taken her six months to write the book and another six months to find a publisher. She now lectures in accounting and taxation to second-year students at the University of Fort Hare in East London. “It was an incredible experience, one I’m glad I did but one I would not do again,” she said.