Internations in Minsk – at long last!

Mixx Pub Club's jukebox and decor is designed to draw in the homesick expatriate, or so it seems. Photo: via Mixx Pub Club website.

Mixx Pub Club’s jukebox and decor is designed to draw in the homesick expatriate, or so it seems. Photo: via Mixx Pub Club website.

Update: the next Internations monthly meeting in Minsk will be held at the Chumatsky Shlyakh restaurant (Ukrainian cuisine) on Friday, Dec. 28, 2012. As this is a difficult period for organizations to reserve spaces, early reservations are appreciated. If you are an Internations member and in town for the holiday, pop onto the site and put your name down. So far, 15 have signed on, and there is a limit of 20-25 for this event.

As part of a brief review of the first ever Internations meeting in Minsk, I have to compliment the ambassadorial team of Jan Alons and Gabriella Furusjo Temel, who organized it for the approximately two-to-three dozen people who showed up at the Mixx Pub Club.

Located across the street from the “Red Square of Minsk” (really just a small unmarked park in front of a non-descript school set in a near-center residential district, check it out on Google Maps), the Mixx Pub was selected as a “relaxing place” for everyone to get to know each other.  It has two levels, with a 1950s-style juke box on the upper floor, on the far side from the coat check. The Internations gathering, though, took up about half of the lower floor.

Jan was one of the first to greet my wife and I when we arrived about a half-hour after the appointed start time of 8 p.m. He was quite friendly to us on our arrival, as he most likely was with the 25 or so who had already found seats around the big table where everyone was placed. There were individuals from Holland and Denmark gathered around the table, along with Belarusians and members of other nationalities (including one Nigerian, who was kept very busy with meeting all sorts of new people). Gabriella, the other member of the Minsk ambassadorial team, found us shortly after we had seated and introduced herself, and seemed quite pleased to meet us.

Naturally, I had to pry into how the arrangements for the occasion went, and found that there had been apparently some difficulties with getting the space. The two had contacted the management of the Mixx Pub, who seemed quite happy to reserve capacity for a big party of expatriates. After telling both Jan and Gabriella that everything was arranged, apparently a break in communication followed; when Jan arrived about a half-hour before the event, he found that the staff had no idea that anyone was coming. He, and later Gabriella, attempted to negotiate for space, and then convey to them the urgency of the need when people started to show. Finally, the staff relented and set up a big table where everyone was finally seated, including my wife and I.

Their lesson learned reminded me of the first time I went to a meeting in Santiago, Chile, when Chris Emmott had arrived much earlier than the gathering, and I had as well, unaware of the Chilean habit of typically arriving later than the appointed time to social events. He had none of the difficulties that Jan and Gabriella had with staff at his events, to his great fortune, but his habitual early arrival made greater sense in the light of what the Minsk team was faced with. That the two saved the event was very much to their credit.

Meanwhile, this first gathering in Minsk seemed to have many of the impressive hallmarks I witnessed at other Internations gatherings – the cool venue that you would find in Buenos Aires, Argentina, thanks to the restaurant networking of Samuel Warde; the seamless ambassadorial teamwork seen in Santiago between the very sociable duo of Emmott, a financial consultant whose work takes him to many parts of South America, and Paola Vega, whose day job was with the New Zealand Embassy in Chile; and the success at creating a highly sociable atmosphere I witnessed last summer at an Internations monthly gathering in Budapest, Hungary. There is every reason to believe that Minsk’s record of success will continue.

So, if ever you, as a short-term foreign visitor or long-term expatriate (or Belarusian national, with a “global mind”), find yourself in Minsk on a night when Internations is meeting, I’d recommend coming on down and joining in the networking fun. Personally, I feel indebted to the former co-worker who had first invited me to the organization shortly after I arrived in search of work in South America back in early 2010. Internations was a good find.

What is Internations: Dan Brewington, publisher of I Love Chile, has continued to post an interview I did with Malte Zeeck, Founder and Managing Director of the Munich-based organization, while I was still hunting for work in Santiago in May 2011. You can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

Some additional tips for Minsk: Be forewarned, after events like this, Minsk typically has a dearth of late-night restaurants designed for hungry partiers, inebriated and famished, or just famished. Most typically close around 11 p.m., and many stop serving well before a half-hour of closing. After 11 p.m., you are pretty much stuck with McDonalds, near Oktyabrskaya (Kastrychnitskaya) Metro Station, which finally closes its doors to new customers at midnight. Indeed, there aren’t even any late night mini-marts, or the post-Soviet style kiosk that sold chewing gum, razors, panty hose, and piroshky (without any logical reason for that specific combination) that used to be so present everywhere that the hammer and sickle used to fly. However, the Metro continues to operate until shortly after 1 a.m., so after you finish your Big Mac, you can get to where you are staying for the night without too much difficulty, whether it is at a friend’s place, a hotel, or in around the train station waiting until your early morning train departs.

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