Monday, July 17, 2006

Day 2: Driving in Moscow is fun!

Next day in Moscow - Friday, July 14. Things get off to a relatively good start, we meet up with my cousin and go to get the car registered and insured in our names, and pick up various parts and tools. Apparently, Russia won't issue international insurance for non-Russian citizens, but this seems like a very minor inconvenience - I was afraid it would take us a week just to get the car registered, so exceeding expectations so far!

5PM - Grigoriy is off to a party of some sorts with his wife, so we are off on our own in Moscow. We're starving and it's pouring rain outside, naturally, we decide to take our chances driving through Moscow to try and find dinner. On the way to a car, we run into a couple, who are hanging out outside the aprtment building where we're staying, drinking vodka to pass the time while it's raining (this is less weird in Russia than you would think); they identify us as Americans, are brifely fascinated (before we even go into why we are there) and insist that we have a drink with them. 'No thanks' is not an acceptable options, so we all have some Russian vodka, off to a good start.

Now driving in the pouring rain in Moscow, it takes us about 10 minutes to get lost. This almost directly leads us to being pulled over by a Russian cop (btw, Russia employs more cops than you could even begin to imagine, they are everywhere...). Theo, who is now driving, gets explained to him (via my translation) that his American driver's license is not valid in Russia, apparently it's not even valid outside the state of Washington in the U.S. (who knew?), because the U.S. has not signed some convention. Additionally, the fact that our transit plates are sitting in our glove compartment, instead of on the windows, is also a violation. In summary, he declares that he can confiscate Theo's license and we wouldn't be able to get it back until Saturday afternoon (we need to leave Moscow at 7AM on Saturday), at this point he takes all the car documents and dissappears in his squad car, which just happens to be an un-marked (read: personal) Lexus RX300. After 20 miuntes of sitting in the car wondering whether or not he's coming back, and a brief phone call to my cousin, I head over to them to see if we can "negotiate" a compromise. The scene upon arrival: there are two cops in the car, one in the passenger seat, the other in the back, somebody's girlfriend is behind the wheel - they seem like they've been awaiting for me as I'm immediately invited into the back seat. There, I get another lecture about all the many laws we've broken and thousands of rubles in fines that we can be made to pay, but strangely enough, they seem quite open to negotiating a compromise. Seeing how I have precious little experience in bribing cops, I offered $100 to settle our differences. Apparently, I should've started lower, as the answer to that was "In that case I won't have any questions." And so, our first encounter with the Russian militsia is resolved. Lessons learned: attach your transit tags so as to not attract any extra attention. If you have attracted attention, start the bribing at $20!

Dinner afterwards was downright anti-climactic!

Over the past year Alex has grown his skills in many areas, including international communication and incarciration avoidance. He effectively used his interpersonal skills to negotiate efficient compromises that achieved clear results.

His ability to leverage the power of the Western dollar has increased satisfaction amongst his peer group. Moving forward, Alex should continue to refine these skills to produce larger-scale synergy with a minimum of resource consumption.

Overall Alex has Exceeded expectations relative to his current level and position.
... in Soviet Russia!
Better you gave them the hundred. Lexus payments are expensive.
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