When I first got my posting as Krasnoyarsk, I didn’t know much about it except that it wasn’t in India, from the name. Offer letter in hand, wondering how the hell to pronounce it, I stood there trying to digest the information.
In the daze that followed, an excited junior of mine looked up Krasnoyarsk on Google.
“Amrutha, you are going to Siberia!”
My happy daze was replaced by horror. Horror of the very panicky sort that strikes a person who has never been outside India when she is informed that she will have to go to the cold Siberian desert to drill oil as an employee of Schlumberger.
But this was only April, and I didn’t know yet when I would join. Months passed. I graduated, I waited for my joining date, I worked in an NGO, I did an internship at IIM Bangalore. And then one fine morning, I got the news – the joining date was 12th December!
A lot of running around followed. But finally, VISA in hand, I left to board the flight to my new home. Heavy of heart, fiddling with my coat and bags, I boarded the Emirates flight. The flight was huge and half empty. (Apparently, not many people travel to cold, desolate places.)
After a stop-over at Dubai (suffice to say it involved a lot of window shopping), I was on my flight to my Final Destination. With mounting excitement and a little apprehension, I spent my time looking out of the window. Then the moment I had been waiting for since 6 months arrived: I entered the Russian Federation. I had reached Moscow.
First observation: Russians are friendly people. They helped me out with food and my luggage, and even advised me on where to exchange money. They even waited until my pick-up arrived. Not so bad after all, I thought. But I was missing home already.
Second observation : Russian men are tall, fat and strong. The driver who came to pick me up looked more like a local gangster in India than a driver! After a sleepy ride that lasted an hour and a half, I reached the hotel. The hotel was big and took a while getting used to. Once in my room, I found a comfortable spot by the window to calm my mind down and gather my thoughts.
Now, I knew that there was one more Brazilian girl named Jilly Souza coming to the same hotel and we were to collect our work permits the next day. I had never met any Brazilian before and was eagerly looking forward to it. I met her next day, and over the course of one day, we became fast friends. We collected our work visas and then roamed around in the nearby mall for about 3 hours. After the shopping, to my utter delight, we found KFC! It wasn’t like a regular Indian KFC, but I managed to enjoy the food nonetheless.
That night, I caught a flight to Tyumen for my OFS (orientation) training. The journey wasn’t spectacular, so I spent it sleeping. The drive to the Siberian Training Center was pleasant, with the driver being kind enough to get my luggage right up to the cottage where I’d be staying. I found my room – nice and cozy, with good lighting. I had arrived 2 days before my classes were due to start. In the meantime, I met 2 guys from the ENG-1 (technical training) class and they showed me around. The best part – they had free phones. So, I could call home every day for as long as I wanted. The training went on smoothly for a long 17 days. Our group comprised 8 Russians, an Indian (me) and a Brazilian (Jilly), and we shared some fun times together.
But so far I hadn’t seen the city that had occupied my thoughts for so long – Krasnoyarsk. On the 30th of December, I would arrive at this much-anticipated destination.
I admit: my parents can pronounce neither the name of the city nor the name of the company I work in. It’s funny each time they try. Thanks to my “Always Be Sure” attitude, I had contacted Julia to know about the facilities, how I could reach the office, etc. My head began to spin when I learned that I would have to take care of my living expenses (at least until the first paycheck arrived) and cook for myself.
So, with a lot of apprehension, a bit of excitement and a pinch of nervousness, at 06:00 hours on 30th of Dec, 2011, I landed in Krasnoyarsk. Transport was arranged for me and I reached the staff house without any trouble. It was a small apartment complex, and it was with some shock that I registered that I was going to be living in a hall – with no cupboards, no attached bathrooms, and just a pull-over bed for sleeping on! In my mind, staff quarters had always been synonymous with huge bungalows, so this was an eye-opener for me.
I left for the office almost immediately after arriving at my quarters. My mind buzzed with thoughts on the way – this was my first job, my first office, my first real exposure to the outside world, a final good-bye to my carefree college days.
The office was on the 18th floor of a fancy, modern building. Upon arrival, I was confused to see neither a Schlumberger sign nor any glass doors (the only entries were two iron doors). I have to admit, it felt more like a top secret government facility than an oil services company.
The office was pretty much deserted due to the Russian New Year break. Julia showed me around and introduced me to my FTC (manager) and the only other Indian, Mario, in the office. For the next 10 days or so, the office was filled with just the IMs (International recruits) and a very few Russians. I spent my office hours reading and taking tests (of which there were many).
There are some things about Schlumberger culture that I really like. First, you never know who you may meet in the office. Second, you might end up going for a friendly lunch or dinner with them almost the same day as you first introduced yourself. New friendships flourished in the cold Siberian desert. Nonetheless, I couldn’t get over my home-sickness. Frequent phone conversations with friends back home helped, but when I finally found my solace was the day I cooked potato fry.
Amidst the general chaos of a new work environment, to my delight, Mario invited all of us at the office to have lunch at his place. At lunch, I taught my colleagues how to eat a naan. The food was delicious, and I had a full stomach and a smile on my face at the end of the meal.
Finally, the day did come, on the 11th of January, when all of them had to leave to the rig except me. And after exactly 7 days, on 17th of Jan, I left for the rig along with Cody (an IM from US).
Every new turn in the journey made me appreciate the experience more. My family and friends immensely helped me adjust to all the changes, and I cannot thank them enough for that.
I recall Robert Frost’s words from a poem –
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”