I was told by a Tarot card reader on New Year’s Eve of 1990 that he saw a lot of European travel in my future. Looks like he was right!
It began in 1992. I was enjoying a successful career in Houston and one day I became bored. I had an idea for a business of my own and somewhat as a joke presented it to a friend involved with a new venture in Siberia. I had no idea he was presenting the idea to the Board the following week. Suddenly I was in business……in Russia!
I never considered the negatives when I began the project. I merely charged forward having faith in my ability to learn as I go. “If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.” If I sit around and think about everything that can go wrong, it probably will.”
So in December of that same year I was off on my first trip to Siberia!
We left from a small airport in Moscow on a rather old plane operated by Aeroflot. It reminded me of an old Greyhound bus! When I boarded most of the carpet was pulled up, the seat backs were pushed forward, I had only one piece of my seatbelt, part of my luggage was in my lap and for 3 ½ hours I prayed harder than I had ever prayed in my life. Amazingly enough the landing was probably the smoothest I have ever had….on a sheet of ice at least 4 inches thick! I stepped off of the plane into temperatures at -40° Celsius. It was so cold my tears froze to my face. Oh my! I was in Raduzhny!
A gentleman working for the joint venture was there to meet us and take us to our “hotel”.
Here is the kitchen and chef cook Sergio. He served some great Texas style spare ribs and chicken!! Of course he was feeding Texans most of the time. Fresh veggies everyday and a LOT of potatoes. They bought only the best!
Raduzhny was built around the oil industry and gained town status in 1985. The city was not even 10 years old when I was there. Looked to me to be 100!
In the days I was there I traveled through the oil fields going from camp to camp meeting with the Camp Boss. I thought this was something I could sell in the corporate offices in Houston, Dallas and Tulsa. Yet as much as they all loved the idea, nothing ever happened. It was not until I met with the Camp Boss that the orders began to roll in.
We set up an Employee Benefits program for the Russian workers on the camp. It was a formula based on Safety, Performance and Oil Production. Each month employees were issued credits based upon this formula and with these credits they could order cloths for men, women and children, applicanes, electronics and even food from my catalogue. There was nothing except what you now see in Raduzhny.
One meeting took me to Nizhnevartovsk a few hours from Raduzhny.
On the way, I saw the young children of local trappers playing together in the snow. Their parents often stood with a watchful eye as we passed.
Siberia is actually quite beautiful in the snow. Yet the summers can be very warm. When the snow melts, there are problems with transportation and….. the mosquitoes appear! Giant Mosquitoes!
As the projects began full operation, we signed 26 contracts in the only six months. Then problems with duties applied to the export of oil caused a bit of a slow down. This gave us a bit of time to redesign the project.
My joint venture partners were a Portuguese catering company. We decided to open a store and this gave us the time to do it. Now the employees of the Joint Ventures could come to the shop to redeem the credits they had received by the operator of the venture.
The mafia was the first to pay us a visit. “Pay or we burn the place down.” We obviously paid!
I must say, this was an adventure I will never forget!