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Interview with Gary a Liddle

12 September 2012

— Gary, how long have you been on Saipan?

I’ve been living on Saipan for about 2-1/2 years.

— What do you do here?

Currently, I tutor in English, Chemistry, and mathematics. I’m involved in a full-service real-estate company which includes offering vacation homes for island guests as an alternative to residing at a hotel. And, with two others, we’re establishing a business development corporation to enable foreigners from Russia, Korea, Japan, and China to partner, invest, and work in the CNMI within the business they’ve invested in while receiving managerial guidance from the staff.

— What originally brought you here?

I was recruited by the CNMI government to open and direct the U.S. Small Business Development Center under the umbrella of the CNMI Department of Commerce instead of a university or college as is normally the case. We consider businesses with less than 700 employees to be “small”.

— What were you doing before you came here?

I was “elected” by my other two brothers to move to southern Indiana and help our 83-year-old mother with her day-to-day needs. It was a most refreshing break from all that I had been doing previously.

— I understand that before Indiana, you worked in Russia — what took you to Russia, how long did you work there, and what were you doing?

I was looking for a business challenge. I started my first business in America when I was six years old. As I developed businesses in various industries and helped train leadership in several international corporations, I felt a need for something new. In 1978, while continuing to work, I attended the Monterey Institute of International Studies and received my first taste of the Russian language, culture, and history (and learned how to hunt for wild, edible mushrooms!).

I spent time at my office in Chicago preparing for an assignment based in England where I was responsible for maintaining accounts in Western Europe and developing business in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. I moved my family to southern England and took an apartment in Moscow, not far from Metro Station “1905”. After several years, I started my own company and assisted in developing a bell foundry, garment manufacturing business using superior Russian linen and bone buttons, and a collectible manufacturing business. My assistant, Oksana, and friend, Luba, made most of this possible.

I later took a position working under contract for the University of Alaska helping to establish a “small business development center” network in the Russian Far East which continues to this day. I was the lead teacher, trainer, and consultant for ten years focusing on Entrepreneurship, Business Development, and Business Management.

— What are some of your most memorable experiences in Russia?

Friends — being allowed to befriend a Russian man or woman has been the highlight of my life. I valued and continue to value the personal honesty of each. Then there was eating Russian (the old type) ice cream at the Moscow Station in Leningrad in winter at 12 midnight. I loved talking with the artists at Izmailovski Park when it first started showing and selling art. I remember sitting in my apartment kitchen with friends drinking tea when we heard that the price of bread had gone from 4 kopeeks to 4 roubles in 24 hours…and I love Russian bread — gray, black, and white. There was watching the rebellion at the “White House” with my young son. In Leningrad, there was the “water taxi” tours along the canals. I remember hearing my first Russian joke in public and meeting a disabled person for the first time. There was giving lectures to 45 people by candlelight during the brown-outs.

But I especially remember great conversations and food at banya, and being the source of humor for those men beating me with venikkii! Great friends, Igor and Olga, introduced me to the lighthouses of Sakhalin Island along with so much more. There were the many serious discussions and talking to my second disabled person in the streets of Timovsk (you see, I have a seriously disabled daughter and I was paralyzed from Polio when I was six).

Thank you Russia and Russians for all you’ve given me!

P.S.
Gary A Liddle worked in Russian for 30 years…in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Briansk and, through the University of Alaska, Magadan, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii, Esso, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Kholmsk, Khorsakov, Paranaisk, Timovsk, Nogliki, Khabarovsk, and Blagoveschensk. If you know Gary and would like to get back in touch with him, he would love to hear from you. Remind him of who you are, then tell him about your life since last being together, about your family, what you’re doing now — your business/profession, and life in your corner of Russia. liddlega@gmail.com