Russia 2002

Russia 2002

Russia 2002

In summary, this has been a long day and by the time I got to bed it was 1:15am Moscow time, and 3:15am according to the clock in Yekaterinburg where I woke up.

The program in Yekaterinburg was certainly flexible – a less charitable person might say it was a little out of control.  Late last night (Monday), it was announced that the student expo would open a little later today (Tuesday), at 11am.  It was also announced that we would be split into two groups, and one group would undertake a school visit at 9:30, while the other group would simply arrive at 11am at the expo venue.  I was in the second group, which didn’t worry me because I think the school visits are largely a flag waving exercise for AusTrade rather than a genuine recruitment exercise.

So I used the opportunity to go for a walk around the city centre; I find it is useful when talking to prospective students to be able to say something meaningful about their own city to show interest.  Unfortunately the morning was grey and overcast once again, unlike the clear sunny conditions the day before while we were inside all day.  On the other hand, the heavy grey overcast clouds kept the temperature a little warmer, almost a balmy -3°C while I was out walking.  The walk was still very slippery on the polished ice-covered footpaths, but at least I didn’t go for a fall like I did the day before yesterday while it was snowing.  The bruises where I fell are starting to worry me a little more in bed at night now, but I am confident there is no serious damage.  Because of the icy conditions, the walk was therefore slow and deliberate, past the Romanov death site to the city centre, marked by a weir and large pond, with the huge Stalinist City Hall nearby and Lenin statue across the road, and a large red modern sculpture marking the city’s Order of Lenin for its efforts during the second world war.

I am told that on last year’s AusTrade expo, Vladivostok and Yekaterinburg were the busiest cities.  The opposite has been the case this time, and the organisers are at a loss to understand why, because they claim to have done everything the same way with advertising etc.  Perhaps it is coincidental but the expos in both cities with small numbers have been held on Mondays, which are notorious in Russia for absenteeism.  However, this cannot be the whole story, because today was the second day of the expo in Yekaterinburg - a Tuesday - and I didn’t get one single enquiry.  There was only a handful of people coming in, and these were almost exclusively for postgraduate courses.  There are two main agents in Yekaterinburg, and the better one (Education Abroad) did the promotion last year, but the other agent (“Move”, run by an Australian living in Russia) did the advertising this year.  I did get a copy of the advertising that was being handed out in the streets, and as it failed to mention the expo dates or the venue (!!!), I am beginning to understand the weakness in their marketing strategy.

The agent blames the cost cutting by AusTrade that reduced the advertising budget and necessitated a change of venue.  Last year, it was held in a 5-star hotel, which was a well-known place that was familiar to and liked by the clientele that would think of sending students to Australia.  This year, a smaller and cheaper venue was used (a local library that would not be an enticing venue for students), and this may also have been a factor.  Whatever the reason, there has been universal disappointment in the numbers turning up to the expo in Yekaterinburg, and I am a bit cranky that so much potential for recruiting students seems to have been mishandled in this way – the huge interest in Novosibirsk and (especially) Khabarovsk shows that the students ARE there!

The AusTrade flag waving exercise of school visits continued yesterday, and I was part of a visit to a specialist languages school, Spets Shkola No.13.  The standard of the students’ English was excellent, and I gave a lesson on Australia’s geography and Australian schools using PAC as the (atypical, superior) example, which the students seemed to love and to which they responded very well, but as expected it didn’t result in any extra students coming to the expo (expected because the school visits were undertaken towards the end of the second day of the expo - hardly ideal timing to promote the expo!).

It was bit of a rush to close the expo at 5pm, return to the hotel to pack and check out by 6pm, go to the airport and endure the long check-in process for the flight to Moscow.  This was an Aeroflot flight in a vintage 23 year old Tupolev Tu-134A-3 (registration RA-65148).  It was a good flight, smooth and comfortable and quite roomy, with 2+2 across seating.  The windows were huge and circular for a great view (of a black night sky), but also the spectacular view of Moscow on the approach, showing the concentric circular ring-road and radial axis structure brilliantly).  The interior was ‘retro’ grey with orange-brown seats, and the toilet even had a large circular window/skylight in the roof, which would be lovely touch during the day.  After a two and a half hour flight, waiting for the luggage for an hour and a half seemed a bit excessive, but having collected our things, three consular vehicles transported us to the hotel in Moscow, the Marriott Tverskaya Hotel at 34 1st Tverskaya-Yamskaya Street.

The drive into Moscow showed just how much the city has changed since my earlier trips here.  Moscow is now much more brightly illuminated, and the volume of commercial advertising and neon lights is breathtaking.  Moscow is longer the dimly lit dreary socialist city that I knew on my previous visits.


Day 14

Yekaterinburg to Moscow

Tuesday 15 October 2002

Екатеринбург в Москва