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Monday
Jul162012

Around The Rings Carries Sochi Newsletter 

Around The Rings, the news site and information service that concentrates on the Olympic Games and the Olympic movement, has begun to carry the newsleter that I write about Sochi.   I am glad for the association and look forward to working with Around The Rings on other projects as the Olympics approach.  

Sunday
Jun242012

New Video of Sochi Expats Club party

We have been hosting parties at Gossip Cafe in central Sochi, owned by Martial and Bastien Simonneau.  The parties are attracting an ever larger and more international crowd.  This last Saturday, we had guests from Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, the netherlands, Serbia, Russia, Turkey, the United Kingdom (Scottish guest) and the United States.  More than 100 people have joined the group from the nations above, as well as Canada, Lativa, Finland, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.  

Find the Sochi Expats Club on Facebook and feel free to join our parites when you are in Sochi.  I expect to host a reggae-themed pool party for the Club in the near future.

Pavel Lesnevesky filmed and edited the video shown below for SochiChannel.com. Please have a look:

 

Saturday
Jun232012

Andrei Ponamarenko 

I recently wrote an article about Larisa Alexnodrova that was published by the Ski Channel.  The article has been picked up by several other websites in the United States, including one devoted to surfing.

Yesterday, I noticed that Sochi.com is carrying the article with a Russian translation. However, for unknown reasons the poster had removed my name as the author. This is unusual.  Andrei Ponamanreko, the owner of an English language school, had posted the link to Sochi.com on Facebook.  So, I wrote to Andrei, politely telling him that it was fine to use my article, but to please ask the administrator of the site to credit me as the author.  He agreed.

This morning, I looked at the site again to see if I had been credited as the author. I saw this had not happened.  I also saw that the article had been altered.  The final line of my article had been changed.  The original version:

 

"If you want to catch up to Larisa, she can often be found at the Sochi Expats Club parties, telling us about her latest travels."

The new version:

"If you are interested in meeting with Larissa and talk in English about her recent travels, come to the English Club (www. inyaz-sochi.ru, st. Park 19, ie 239-44-49)."


Only when I read this did I realize that Andrei Ponamarenko had posted the article himself as advertising for his school.

I wrote to Mr Ponamarenko and explained to him that the article was the intellectual property of the Ski Channel and Bruce Talley and that he did not have permission to alter the article and use if for his commerical purposes.  I explained that the law is clear on this subject and that what he had done was intellectual piracy.  I asked him to change the aritcle to its original form or remove it.

A short time later, I was forwarded a link to a video about Mr. Ponamarenko's school.  A few weeks ago, i went to his school, which I have done occasionally over the last 7 months, to speak English and to talk about American culture.  When I got there, Mr. Ponamarenko said that they would lke to interview me for an advertisement.  I had little time to think about it or ask what the content would be. They interviewed me for a few minutes. Today, I saw the video clip.  The viewer is told that I am at the school constantly teaching students.  This is false. I have been there twice in the last 3 1/2 months.  I have never been paid and I am there not as a teacher (I am not a teacher, nor have I ever been).  

So, Mr. Ponamarenko is purpusefully using my image to mislead people.  I believe in truth in adversiing. Also, I have carefully built my image over a number of years.  I have appeared at the World Russia Forum in Washington D.C.  I have been interviewed by the Atlantic Monthly, the Washington Post, Delovaya Gazeta Yug and Real Business.  I have developed an English language tourist application for Sochi. I have a video channel on Sochi in English.  I write this blog and a private newsletter about Sochi that is read by many Olympic organization officials, media company executives and journalists the world over.  My information is positive, accurate and helpful for the many foreigners coming to Sochi.  For many westerners, I am Mr. Sochi.  

I hope readers will entreat Mr. Ponamarenko to desist.

 

Sunday
Jun102012

Mandarin Cafe and Nanuli Bigvava

 

 

 

Recently, I was invited by Nanuli Bigvava, the owner of the Mandarin Cafe in Sochi for a visit.  Her place is in on busy, central Vinogradnaya Street.  Despite its very good local reputation, I had never eaten there.   Nanuli, who is originally from Sukhum, Abkhazia, sets the gold standard for charming hostesses in Sochi.  Her warm and inviting presence alone makes Mandarin Cafe worth a visit.  

 

 

Nanuli invited me and several friends to sample the menu on her dime. That is pretty unusual here, anyway. Then we tried the food and I was surprised by the diversity and sophistication.  We had several salads, including one of fresh greens, avocado, tomato, shrimp and strawberry and, also, a seafood salad that really stood out.  I also tried the rib eye, which exceeded my expectations, with a surprisingly dry Russian red wine, Grand Vostok, from Krasnodar Region's wine producing district.  My companion had a simple, but very good warm spinach soup and enjoyed trying several of Nanuli's kitchen's deserts.  Given her heritage, I expected Nanuli's menu to be dominated by food of the Caucasus.  When I asked her about this, she quickly pointed out that in addition to her regular menu, her kitchen was ready to prepare the distinctive fare of Abkhazia.   

 

 

Nanuli has always been interested in food; she loved preparing dishes for her family growing up in her native Abkhazia. So there was no question in  her mind about the direction her life should take after she finished high school.  She came to Sochi to study at a culinary school.  (At that time, Abkhazia and Russia were both parts of the Soviet Union, so there was no border.  Now, the border between the two sits just past the Olympic Park.) Nanuli got married, had a son and opened a cafe in Sochi.  However, with conflict in Abkhazia in 1992, she sold her holdings to help out family displaced there.  

Eventually in 2010, Nanuli reopened in Sochi, this time the fashionable Mandarin Cafe.  Her menu is eclectic for Sochi, but she clearly is imaginative and likes to challenge herself and her staff to show something to diners that they don't regularly see in Sochi.  Nanuli eventually divorced, but wanted her son,  Slava,  to have an American education, so at the age of 19, he went to the United States and studied, later receiving his university degree there. He now works as an auditor for an oil company in Houston, Texas.  Slava, who is her biggest cheerleader and advisor, helps her with ideas that he sees in restaurants in the United States.  Indeed, it was Slava who reached out to me across 9 time zones and suggested that I meet with his mother.  

Nanuli is already thinking about the thousands of international diners who will come to Sochi.  There are plans for new international dishes on the menu and she openly solicited ideas from me about what American and western travelers might like to experience in the Mandarin Cafe.  This is not a one-size-fits-all, take-it-or-leave-it restaurant owner.  She has also begun the planning to get involved in catering for the Olympic period.  

 

Saturday
Jun092012

Sochi's Surfer Chick

Sochi, on the placid eastern shores of the Black Sea, is not a place one would expect to find a devoted surfer. But it is even more unexpected that this surfer would be a strikingly attractive Russian girl born in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and raised in cold and remote Siberia.

Larisa Aleksandrova, the middle of three children, was born during the dying years of the Soviet Union in the Central Asian city of Bishkek.  She moved with her family to a small city in Siberia's Altai Region, then to Penza (southeast of Moscow) and on to Novokuznetsk in southwest Siberia, where she completed her university education in psychology.  When I asked Larisa what was the genesis of her passion for surfing, she surprised me with her answer.  At 15, she was given a disc of the American film "Point Break".   It changed the direction of her life.  She loved the reverence for the ocean's power and the shared sense of community in the surfing world.  She laughs about it now, considering the film middling, but the lifestyle depicted in the film attracted her to the ocean. She spent the rest of her teen years dreaming about traveling to exotic locales to surf, but held out little hope that this would be her reality.  Also, she watched everything about surfing that she could find in Siberia.  I asked which surf film is her favorite now and she immediately replied "Endless Summer", widely considered to be a classic of the genre.

Surfing was "only a dream" for her for a long time.  Then in 2008, Larisa moved to Sochi because she wanted to live near the water.  She took a job with Yota, the Russian internet provider, and realized that she could travel and try surfing.  In 2010, she went to France and hired an instructor.  She was hooked.  The next year she journeyed to Bilbao, Spain and again learned with an instructor.  Larisa says that Bilbao is her favorite city.  She loves the delicious Spanish food, Bilbao's night life and the frequent surf opportunities.  

Late last year, Larisa and a friend from Sochi, Anna Alexeeva, went to Morocco and 3 months later she flew to Portugal, both to surf.  When in Morocco, she was exposed to an international group of surfers and met new friends from all over the world.  Flashing a ready smile and with a hearty laugh and a thick mane of curly hair, Larisa makes friends quickly.  She said that the surfing community is kind and friendly and that, regardless to nationality, surfers share the  "language of the ocean".  Larisa said that when she is surfing there is only her and the wave- she forgets all else.

Larisa bought a board in Portugal.  Although there is rarely surf in Sochi, in her spare time she is often in the sea practicing her paddling, balance and board skills.  When not in the water, she said the waves are constantly on her mind.  She told me she is already planning her surfing future, so I asked where she would like to go.  Larisa mentioned Australia, South Africa, Peru and Chile as well as California, Tahiti and Hawaii.  She said she hoped to go to Hawaii within 2 years and I told her that with her easy-going manner and love of the ocean, she would be a natural fit there.  

Larisa is very satisfied with her work as an HR manager for Yota.  She spoke in almost the same tones about it as she does surfing. Larisa said that "Yota is one of the best companies in Russia" and that she "could not imagine working for another."  What language did Larisa tell me about herself in? English.  In between her travels in search of surf and for her work (she soon will fly to Khabarovsk and Vladivostok- about 4,500 miles east of Sochi!), Sochi's surfer chick takes English lessons... and occasionally rests.

If you want to catch up to Larisa, she can often be found at the Sochi Expats Club parties, telling us about her latest travels.

 

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