Goodbye Sakhalin

Apologies for the lack of postings over the past couple of months, and the general decline of postings in general over the past year or so.  There are good reasons for it, mainly the nature of the job I held between May 2009 and my getting sacked a month ago, but also a general weariness with Sakhalin (which I alluded to here) which manifested itself in an inability to write anything.

On 1st March I demobilised from Sakhalin Island having lived there on a residential basis since 12th September 2006, a period of 3 years, 5 months, and 19 days.  I’d known people who had been there 8 years and more so I’d not broken any records, but given we only intended to be there for a year before the experience gained would enable me to easily get a super job somewhere more civilised (ha ha ha ha ha!), we did pretty well especially considering we only had a handful of proper holidays in that time, one of which was utterly ruined by machinations at work.  Certainly, upon leaving Sakhalin, I don’t think I could have used my time there any more fully.  It was a magnificent experience, the best part of which was the wonderful people I met, befriended, and will likely always know who number in the dozens, both Russians and expatriates.  I worked for three companies on Sakhalin, had five or six bosses who ranged from the best yet to the utterly incompetent, and the work itself was unmatched in terms of exposure, responsibility, and experience but enough to make even the sanest contemplate volunteering for internment in the local loony-bin.

I will miss Sakhalin like hell, even if I no longer find superheated steam coming out of my cold taps with mildy scolding water from the hot, the electricity supply remains constant without 330V coming through your apartment one day and destroying everything with a transformer or motor, and the lifts do not need to be inexplicably switched off across the whole region come ten o’clock.  I will miss it like hell because it was the place I enjoyed being more than any other, where I met friends and forged relationships I never want to lose, and – I should admit – made a shedload of money which allowed me to purchase outright the Phuket apartment in which I am now sitting.

I doubt I will ever return to Sakhalin, not for the foreseeable future at least.  There is a 20% chance of some work there next year, on site up in the north, but by that time I expect I will have moved on, as will almost everybody I know there, who themselves represent a dwindling fraction of those who I knew from the beginning.  Of the ones I left behind, all but two or three – and this includes the Russians – have concrete plans to leave within 1-2 years, most much sooner.  Should I go back, I might be disheartened by the fact that it has become a different place from the one I left, as surely as the place I left was unrecognisable from the one I arrived at in 2006.  I owe Sakhalin a lot.  I expect I will owe Sakhalin my career, hopefully future wealth, and a lifetime of friends.  There has been a downside, several of them even.  Life on Sakhalin takes its toll on people, but I’ll write a separate post on that later.

There will be many posts later.  I now have time, I am unemployed and sitting in an apartment with a wooden balcony which overlooks a fancy pool and the sun shines every day.  If there is a time and place to write blog posts in large numbers, this is it.  There are many stories to tell of Sakhalin, the work, the companies, the people I encountered, and stories involving all three at once.  I will tell the whole lot here, in all their gory details, soon enough.

This winter saw a lot of snow fall on Sakhalin, much more than I’d seen in the previous three winters (cue the old-timers popping up in the comments to take a deep breath on their pipes, lean closer into the fire, adopt a grandad voice, and begin the tale of the winter of 2003.  Or was it 2004?).  On my last full day in Sakhalin, I pulled a Russian’s car out of the snow with my much-admired Toyota 4wd.  I’d done this several times this winter, the unwritten rule being if you have a 4wd and somebody is stuck, you pull them out.  I don’t know why, but on this last occasion I felt quite good about myself.  Pulling some fellow out of the snow to shouts of spasibo seemed like a good note to go out on.

I’ll miss it like hell.


7 thoughts on “Goodbye Sakhalin

  1. You are the man, Tim.

    Isn’t it a nice feeling, 1st month of unemployment – having no serious financial worries, a loving wife, your own apartment in a sunny place with a pool? And knowing you did the right choice with your profession: you’ll not remain unemployed for long?

  2. That sucks. Sorry to hear. I guess this also means goodbye to Russia, no?

    Any idea where you might end up next?

  3. Good luck Tim. I have enjoyed your posts immensely. As an ex-Sakhalin expat resident I can relate to a lot of them.

    All the best for the future.


  4. Really glad you are back to writing. Best wishes for your new adventures.. Of course, in your absence “we’ve” created our own scenarios of your world. Hope they were all wrong. Van

  5. Greetings Tim!

    You are a top reconteur, a Jack London of frontier Sakhalin.

    Enough already, you passed the dinner table test. I relate the most interesting things I read to my Russian wife at the table, but I got hung up on Phuket… Could you move to Pa Khlok to make things more gentile?

    It’s great news that you will be writing more!

    All the best,


  6. Thanks for your comment over at my place, Tim, which I thought I would respond to over here. You had become somewhat sporadic recently and I might well have missed your latest news without that reminder.

    Like all of your regular readers I shall miss Sakhalin, or to be precise, your reporting of it but at least we can all look forward to new episodes of ‘Tales from an Oil Rig’. Good luck!

Comments are closed.