Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Three random facts of life in Moscow

Visa hell. And although my bosses say ‘steer clear of all admin, refer it all to HQ’, I am sucked into it…

Not mine. New hires and the other expats. My Chief of Staff is complaining at the document load – and the cost – for six expats. The problem is magnified because we are changing from one legal entity to another – in the West this would be a quick paper-trail exercise: in Russia of course it means cancelling existing permits and visas and starting all over again. To compensate I have vetoed a Russian hire I would otherwise have done this side of summer. I am nothing if not budget-management boy…

We estimate it’ll cost about Euros 3,000+ in legal fees each for work permit renewal / initial grant; and about 3 person-days of admin for each one. The most painful, interestingly, is for a Lithuanian (but one well worth the hassle); and for a US hire who already has a work permit, but I have poached from a local competitor. So, again, the process starts from scratch. Oh, if only Russia had Green Cards

In the light of HM’s Ambassador’s latest ‘up yours’ to Russia, one colleague – a dual-nat – I have told to switch her work permit / visa application from her UK to her Irish passport. And resolve not to hire more Brits. Apropos of which I curse myself for rejecting the chance I myself had to be a dual-nat: then to avoid the other country's national service. Ironically, I now think I would have been a much better person to have been in the services and wish I had done so. Strange huh?

Russo-UK relations are only going to get worse not better, so prudent risk management means reducing exposure to UK nationality staff where we can. Once again, I ponder that I could do my job just as well based in lovely Kyiv: it is time to give that move much more serious thought…

In passing, I no longer understand what the UK government is playing at with its approach to Russia – apparently ‘diplomacy’ is no longer a New Labour requisite for the FCO.

Having been fair summoned to my mother’s sixtieth birthday* party at the beginning of February, I have been searching for a cheap way home (ideally in and out the UK in three days). Nah…

[* I was an…er…unexpected present at university]

Searching for even economy fares to fly to the airport in the North – where our English house is – airlines want absurd amounts to do a Moscow-[via]-[Northern England]-[via]-Moscow flight (Air France wanted $3,000 – in economy????). And then the scheduling proved impossible. OK, I thought, fly to London and take the train for the weekend trip… um…no. UK rail does ‘engineering’ on Sundays so the usual 2 ½ trip would take…five hours. If only RZhD ran Britain’s railways…

It would have been a third of the total cost – and much better weather – if the party had been held at our French place. North Yorkshire? In February? Go figure.

So locking into a ludicrous schedule – into London Thursday night from Moscow; train ‘oop North’ Friday morning (in time for the sacred party, at which all my mother’s Slow friends will attend, but let’s not use the word gruesome); train to London Sunday, fly home Monday. Three days’ leave.

It will be interesting, though, to see which of my half-Step siblings turn up…

Tonight I was surfing the schedules of the Moscow opera and ballet companies I like. Q1 looks like the most tedious schedule I have ever witnessed. I trawl just four things to go to between now and the end of March. Four? In 2 ½ months?

It is not helped by the fact that I have now, it seems, seen everything – I mean *everything* - currently in repertoire at the Bolshoi. So I go for ‘favs’ amongst current productions: Tosca; Nabucco; In the Upper Room and Chaika. I am embarrassed to count how many times I have now seen the last two in Moscow. But – lame as this may sound – if I don’t see opera or ballet fairly regularly I honestly feel my soul starting to wither…

1 comment:

LONDON said...

Wonderfully random.