He was making espresso and cappuccino near a Moscow university from the back of a 'coffee car.' These coffee cars started appearing about 1-2 years ago here and are becoming a bit of a trend as people get used to coffee-on-the-go. He said the machines can work in temp as cold as -15c. His company chose this location as 'students like to drink coffee.' The ruble drop has boosted his company's costs by 30%. They haven't yet passed on the costs to coffee drinkers, but his coffee is still cheaper than the Starbucks 100 meters from his car. I asked him about thd big moments in his life in 2014. He said he moved recently to Moscow from Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia to save money to build a home. He also said he was Muslim and began reading for 1st time a prayer book, which has had a very big impact on his life. "Before, I didn't know the purpose of life, where we came from. I am trying to find the answers.
I had just taken a photo of a guy selling coffee from a 'coffee van' when this guy came over, a briefcase in hand. He started asking the coffee guy what I was doing, so I turned around and told him I was working on a Russia photo project. He said he was from Azerbaijan, but moved to Russia some 10 years ago and has Russian citizenship.
I then asked if I could talk to him and photograph him for my project. He said yes and insisted on speaking English with me. He said he has a family clothing business, buying goods from China and selling them here. He said the clothing he was wearing - the jacket, scarf and sweater - was exactly the stuff he sells. He said he only buys his family the clothes that he sells. He said things have been a bit tough with the ruble move, though you would never guess that by the positive mood that he was in. He said he was working on 20 contracts with shopping centers in Russia, but the deals fell through after the ruble dropped. As we were talking next to a university, I asked him to stand in front of it so i could take his picture.
A university guard came up and said we couldn’t photograph. We asked why. ‘’It’s not permitted.’’ What are we doing wrong?' I asked. He repeated that it was not permitted, throwing in the ‘’What can I do, this is Russia’’ excuse as he shrugged his shoulders. The Azeri - perhaps in reaction to the guard's concern - then asked me if I was writing ‘compromat’ - or dirt - on Russia. No, I told him. He was relieved I was not doing compromat and we went to another spot to photograph. He then asked if he could take a photo with me. I said sure. He walked over to the guard and asked him to take our photo, but he refused. So, he walked over to three students - two guys and a girl - and asked them if they could take our photo with his phone. He told them I was American and was doing a photo project, adding it wasn’t compromat. The girl giggled. One of the guys took the phone and photographed us. He then gave me a traditional handshake and departed.
As I planned a trip to Kursk in central Russia, I did a search on Instagram to find interesting spots to photograph and saw a few photos of a hip-looking cafe. It was still in process of being built, due to open today. I popped by and found one of the owners - Dmitry - busy working on the final touches. He said he had wanted to open a cafe for some time and was looking for the right idea. He and his friend came up with making it a coffee + donut shop and trained to learn to make donuts. He is so confident there is demand for such a place in Kursk and surrounding areas - and I agree with that assessment post my visit to the town - that he is working on opening a 2nd one and may franchise it. He is not worried about the ruble - people will trend down he says from spending money in expensive restaurants to more affordable spots like cafes.
This university student was eating some street food with two mates. I asked him if he cared about the ruble volatility. He said the ruble volatility didn't interest him as he doesn't have a source of income. His parents are state workers and he doesn't think it interests them either. He heard that the ruble drop could lead to higher inflation next year, which is a bit worrisome. He said he is majoring in philosophy because he is interested in such questions as what is man and understanding the world around him.
Immigrants who have come to Russia to work are also among those hurting from the ruble drop. Eduardo, a Ghana national, was handing out flyers by a major train station in Moscow. He said he came to Russia with hopes to play soccer, but things haven't worked out. He said he is trying to save up $2,000 before leaving. Assuming he spends half his modest salary on food and rent, it could take him a year to save that much money after the massive ruble decline to 70/$.