Monday, February 14, 2011



Whenever I need to be driven anywhere in Moscow I always make sure I have snacks, water, and a good book, or a computer with me.  Even better I like to take a friend or two along to help  pass the hours that are sometimes spent in the car commuting.  A 25 mile commute can take as long as 4 hours, especially if it’s rush hour and it's snowing.  A simple trip to the store often turns into an all day event with hours of commute and hours of shopping, in just one store. 

We often share our drivers.  Since I share our car and driver with Brian I often go with my friend Shelly.  She has a van at her disposal all day because her husband has his own car and driver.  The van is also nice because then we have room enough for our groceries when we go grocery shopping.  Sometimes as many as four of us will go together, it makes the experience much more bearable.

Sometimes we loan our driver out to someone else if we’re not using him.  The drivers usually work full time for us so if we are not in need of a driver on certain day we will offer his service to someone else who needs him. Shelly is always very generous with her car and driver. We use him a lot for our YM and YW activities. Not everyone has drivers. Those who work for the church drive their own cars and some are not comfortable driving in Moscow.  Elke is comfortable driving their van and will often drive for us when we need to do something more local to Rosinka but she doesn’t care to drive in  Moscow if she can avoid it.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Most Russian drivers are very aggressive and need very little space between them and the next car (we/re talking a couple of inches).  I’m amazed at how fast they will drive within inches of other cars.  The same applies when parking cars.  They will find the smallest openings, make the car fit and it can face any direction.  The drivers are not courteous when it comes to letting you in and seem to have the ‘every man for himself’ mentality.

Parking in Russian can be very difficult and frustrating which is another reason why having a driver is so helpful.  During the Soviet Era very few people were allowed to buy cars.  When businesses and apartments were built they did not take into a account the need for parking because most everyone used public transportation.  There are hundreds of apartment buildings in Moscow with very little parking.  There are also no parking regulations in Moscow so people will park anywhere they can find space.

There are, on average, 1200 accidents a day in Moscow.  They are not usually serious; the traffic rarely gets going fast enough with the congested traffic.  But all these little accident add to the traffic problems.  When you are in an accident in Moscow you must not move your car AT ALL until the police arrive and investigate.  It doesn’t matter how many lanes of traffic you are affecting you cannot move.  I asked Alex how many accidents he had been involved in and he said 100 or more.  He does drive for a living but that’s still an extensive a number.  

 The police in Russia are notorious for their corruption and will pull you over for anything or for nothing at all.  They stand by the side of the road and wave their baton to pull you over.  In my first two months here I was in three different cars that were pulled over. The drivers had done nothing wrong and got out of the car to talk to the policeman.  They then ‘discretely’ give the officer 1000 rubles ($32) so they can go and not have to go to the police station.

I was talking to some Russian friends about driving here because we were considering getting a car to use for our local needs.  I mentioned that I would like to drive but that I didn’t like the idea of getting pulled over.  They told me that when a policeman has me come to his car it’s a good sign because it means he’s up for a bribe.  If the policeman doesn’t speak English I can call our driver and he can negotiate the amount for me over the phone.  They won’t do any negotiating if stay in my car because they’re afraid of being recorded.  They said that in Moscow everything and everyone has a price, you just have to decide if you’re willing to pay it.

Saturday, January 29, 2011



Alex, our driver, is from Moscow and drives our Hyundai.  He is very likable and knows enough English to communicate which is very helpful.  The only drawback about Alex is that, like most Russians, he smokes.  He doesn’t smoke in the car but you can still smell it, inspite of the fact that he keeps the car very clean.  Alex takes pride in his work, a rarity in Moscow.  He is a VERY aggressive driver and made me nervous at first but it wasn’t long before I came to trust his skills and appreciated the fact that he could get me where we needed to go as quickly as possible.  

Drivers are very common for Ex-pats in Russia.  That way they are protected from corrupt policemen and are able to work during their long cummutes.  DriverS often do more for their employer than drive.  Because they are to be at your service full time they are often used for other necessities such as running errands, hanging pictures, bagging and carrying groceries, moving heavy furniture or making special deliveries.  Drivers can also be a great source for communication and will make phone calls for you to those who do not speak English. Not all drivers speak English but Alex does and we have found him to be a reliable resource in a city where very few people can be trusted.

Not all drivers are helpful or give ‘service with a smile’.  I have a friend who has a couple of drivers that are lazy obstinate.  One time her husband had been working very late and asked the driver to stop at McDonalds for something to eat.  The driver wouldn’t stop.  No matter that his employer had asked him to.  He didn't want to stop so he didn't. 

My friend loaned me her driver for a majo shopping trip to Metro (Russia's Costco).  I had to buy groceries for the Branch Christmas party and had A LOT of stuff to load and unload.  I worked circles around the driver loading and unloading while he lazily unloaded and loaded a few bags.  Alex doesn’t even like me to carry my bags but I make him let me.

Unfortunately, because Alex is so good he was promoted in December and is no longer our driver.  He now drives a big American SUV and works for a bigger company. On his  last day with us we gave him a Book of Mormon, in Russian, with a picture of us and our testimony inside the cover.  Hopefully he will actually read it some day.  We were so sad to see him go and have come to appreciate him even more since he has been gone.  Our new driver is kind, helpful and doesn’t smoke but he drives much slower  and doesn’t speak any English.  Perhaps someone is trying to tell us to learn to speak Russian. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Megan’s 8th grade class had Discovery Week in Altai.  Altai is in southern Russia and is a four hour flight from here.  Megan left on Saturday, September 11th at 6:00 pm and then returned Friday, September 17th. It was a little hard for me to let her leave with people I hardly knew and go to a place I’d never been but I knew it would be a good experience for her and that it would give her the opportunity to get to know her classmates.  The fact that Megan didn’t have any concerns and was looking forward to the trip made it easier for me to let her go.

Mountain Top View

Megan's Cabin
The kids stayed in huts and some of the parents were concerned about the fact that the kids would have to go to the bathroom in a different place than where they would be sleeping.  Obviously many of these people have not done much camping.  We had to borrow all the ‘warm stuff’ for Megan because our air shipment had not yet arrived.  The Stokers were very generous and helped us to finish up Megan’s packing list.  We borrowed most of Rob’s clothes but Megan didn’t seem to mind.

Megan - Rock Climbing

Megan called from Altai on Monday.  I didn’t think I would hear from her all week so I was surprised and glad she called.  She was having a wonderful time!  They had spent the day river rafting and then on Tuesday they were going to go rock climbing.  She texted me on Tuesday to say that she thinks she has gotten over her fear of heights.  She was also having fun getting to know all the kids and making new friends.

Meg's Hiking Group
It was obvious that Megan had an awesome experience at her Discovery Week in Altai.  I asked her if she ever got homesick and she said the first night was really hard and that she cried herself to sleep but the rest of the time was just lots of fun.  They river rafted, rock climbed, hiked, went to museums and did a rope course with a zip line in the trees.  Her favorite activity was the rope course.  The scenery was beautiful and the mountains reminded her of home.  It was also fairly cold, especially at night because their cabins were not insulated and the walls were very thin.

Megan was also bombarded with questions about what Mormons believe.  Mostly concerning our standards.  The kids had a hard time understanding why she couldn’t date until 16 and why we didn't believe in having sex before marriage. When she told them that Mormons don’t drink alcohol they wondered what it was her parents drank.  They were also surprised by the fact that she wouldn’t wear bikinis.  Megan told them that it sends the wrong message to guys and they wanted to know if she thought they were bad because they did.  These were not easy questions for Megan but I think she responded quite well from what she told me.