Russia 2002

Russia 2002

Russia 2002

Because Novosibirsk is four hours behind Vladivostok, where I started today, I am feeling quite tired, even though the clock says it is only 8:00pm or so (i.e. my body mistakenly thinks it is midnight).  We set off from the hotel at 8:15am for the 10:40am flight to Novosibirsk - this JUST allowed enough time for the one-hour drive to the airport and the lengthy check-in procedure.  Vladivostok Airport has recently been renovated – on the outside – but the inside looks like something out of 1948.  Needless to say, we were bussed out to the plane as there are no airbridges.

The five and a half hour flight was smooth and pleasant apart from the chronic lack of leg room.  The plane was a Vladivostok Avia Tupolev-154M (13 years old, registration RA-85803), and everything about the flight apart from the cramped seating was excellent – good food, smooth flying and friendly service, but my legs couldn’t even fit in while sitting, so stretching was out of the question.

I had a window seat, and so had a good view of Novosibirsk on the approach.  From the air, it looked like a dull, grey, dirty, feature-less, character-less industrial city that is shrouded in smoky air pollution.  On the ground it looks even worse.  This is not a town you would come to for the scenery.  To be fair, it probably looks worse because the sky is grey and overcast, the temperature is only just above freezing point and a strong wind is blowing.  There was a light flurry of snow as we were disembarking and walking (briskly) to the bus, but fortunately the snow hasn’t continued this afternoon.

The flight arrived at 12:15pm local time, and we had collected our luggage by about 1:00pm.  However, a crowded itinerary (and very different approach from Vladivostok) soon became evident as we were told we had to check in to the hotel VERY quickly because a television crew was coming to the hotel at 2:30pm sharp to film an item for the evening news.  After driving from the airport to our hotel (the Hotel Sibir Novosibirsk at 21 Lenin Street), we had just 20 minutes to find our rooms, unpack, change and head downstairs.  The cameraman was clearly impressed with PAC’s brochure in Russian as several close-up shots were taken and broadcast - excellent publicity for us!  This was then broadcast as part of the evening news, followed by a prime-time evening re-run.

We were still filming at 3pm in the hotel foyer, which was a problem because we were due to visit a school starting at 3pm.  Fortunately the school was only about 5 minutes drive away from the hotel, and we arrived at about 3:20 or so.  The school, Gymnasia No.4, has a very good academic reputation, especially for language teaching, but physically it is very run down.  We were greeted by the English Language Students’ Group, a group of highly motivated students with excellent English.  Sadly for PAC’s recruiting aspirations, 90% of them were girls, but the boys who were there and I got on very well, and I left some brochures with them and have promised to e-mail a digital image to one of them.  Perhaps they will come to the main public exhibition tomorrow.  They served us traditional Russian pancakes and black tea (Lipton’s!), and even serenaded us with a beautiful rendition of the Beatles’ “Yesterday” which were invited to join in (of course!).

The school visit finished at about 4:45pm, so that gave me some time (at last) to try and phone Tim (my son) for his birthday (unsucessfully), and then go for a walk downtown to see the sights.  Fortunately there is precious little to see in this scenically deprived city, so I didn’t have to endure the Siberian winds and the grey-ness for too long.  I walked from about 5pm to 6pm to get some air (and other more questionable gases) into my lungs, and then returned to phone Tim, successfully this time on the 10th or 12th attempt.  Soon I will get some sleep to prepare for a very busy schedule again tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s program sounds pretty horrendous, but hopefully will be effective.  Two of us (I am one of the two) will meet at 7:15am, and go to the TV studio to do individual interviews for live transmission on the breakfast show to publicise the exhibition that day.  We will return by 8am, which is when they start to serve breakfast here.  Then at 9:15 we will leave for the Hall of Military Men to set up the public exhibition, which opens to the public at 10am.  Some of us will leave for a while from 11am to midday to visit another school, and then return to the exhibition, which continues until 6pm.  We have been told there will be no time for lunch tomorrow, but they hope to take us to a restaurant with a Russian band for dinner instead (we pay, as we do for all meals apart from breakfast).  We must stay awake into the night, because our flight from Novosibirsk to Khabarovsk is scheduled to leave at 25 past midnight - arrival is at 9:10am tomorrow, which with the time difference means a flight of about 5 hours I think.  I am not expecting a great sleep as the leg room is expected to be the same as today’s flight (i.e. totally absent).  “Fortunately”, our program in Khabarovsk won’t start for about 3 hours after our arrival.

The approach being taken here in Novosibirsk is very different from Vladivostok, and there is much more reliance here in TV publicity and school visits.  Given that the attendance figures in Vladivostok were so disappointing, it will be interesting to see the difference.


Day 8


Wednesday 9 October 2002