Welcome to the USSR

Voice Card  -  Volume 13  -  Robert Card Number 4  -  Thu, Apr 12, 1990 2:40 PM

On arrival in Moscow, we first had to overcome some small hurdles the government had set up for us. Going through imigration, which made several in the party almost get back on the plane and forget the entire thing, then came the saga of retrieving one's luggage and going through customs.

Once we collected our luggage, we had to rent a luggage cart. This sounds rather simple, but they manage to make it rather difficult. One must first understand that it is illegal to export Rubels and there isn't a bank outside of Russia that will exchange any for you. It is also illegal for Russian nationals to have hard currency. Now that the ground rules are set, lets try to rent a cart.

Tourist RJ: {sign language is used} I would like four carts please.

Cart Manager: {in broken english/sign language} Four Rubles.

Tourist RJ: No Rubles! Where can I exchange US Dollars?

Cart Manager: {Points to the other side of Customs}

Tourist RJ: Pack of Malboros for 4 carts.

Cart Manager: one cart.

Tourist RJ: Two carts one pack of Malboros.

Cart Manager: OK.

That done. I have now bribed my first Russian official.

For the next entree in USSR hospitality, for which I might add we were invited to come to this exposition: The Customs official keeps us in the customs area for 4 hours, until we can find a official high enouph up the ladder that he will make a decision. After swearing that we will take out the same number of machines that we bring in we are free to proceed.