我到樓下買杯咖啡，年輕熟識的小姑娘 Wan Ho 說我穿著太單薄。
此番莫斯科之行，兩天三夜，與23年前首次出行莫斯科，果然有點不同。23年前，在莫斯科大學（Moscow State University）出席可靠度應用機率大會，出席會議的都是理論大家；而這一次的兩天行程中訪問了俄羅斯總統國家經濟與公共管理學院，討論了師生交流及聯合博士學位課程合作事項，交談者都是國際事務的務實學者。
23年前，夜晚的莫斯科，街道漆黑，行人疏疏落落，食物種類稀少珍貴。參加各種晚宴，總是離不開俄羅斯的傳統餐飲：魚子醬、伏特加酒、羅宋湯、冷肉。這次行程中，餐飲種類繁多，魚子醬、伏特加酒、羅宋湯、冷肉反而少見，取而代之的是世界各國的食物。入住飯店的早餐豐盛，媲美台北各大飯店的早餐；除了坐車時眼前閃過、可望不可及的連鎖快餐店之外，餐餐不同，點過墨西哥薄餅（Quesadilla）、Lake Baikal 的蒸魚、美式蘋果派、義大利海鮮天使細麫，不一而足。
My second visit to Moscow
I went downstairs from my campus office at CityU to buy some coffee when I ran into a colleague, a woman I know well. She commented that I was not sufficiently dressed for the cold weather.
"It's not so cold. I just got off a plane from a chilly, snowing Moscow," I replied with a smile. "Cold and warmth are relative."
My four-day trip to Russia was quite a revelation. Moscow is very different to the city I visited 23 years ago. In the early 90s I attended a reliability and probability conference at Moscow State University (MSU). All the attendees were big names in reliability theory. On my latest trip in mid-January this year I had exclusive talks with academics in international affairs at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. We chatted about opportunities for student and faculty exchange and joint PhD programmes.
Twenty-three years ago the streets of Moscow were largely unlit at night. You didn't see too many people walking about at that time of day, either, and food in general tended to be scarce and expensive. At the dinners we were invited to, we were served traditional cuisine such as caviar, vodka, borscht and cold cuts. But on our recent visit, we ate food from all over the world. Our hotel breakfast could compete with the best fare in any Taiwanese hotels, and we could order a different dish at every meal, such as quesadilla, steamed fish from Lake Baikal in Siberia, US-style apple pie and Italian-style angel hair pasta.
Also, on my first trip, the universities had focused on narrowly defined academic studies, with a special emphasis on theory rather than practice as well as a slant towards military issues rather than light industry in the civilian world. The trend now seems to be towards emulating the higher education system found in the US: academic disciplines had been modified; US-style universities had been set up; US scholars had been hired; and ties with industry were being forged.
Not only that, English could be heard all over the MSU campus and there were more international exchange opportunities for students. I felt that people's well-being was being given more attention than before and that innovation was becoming an important part of the MSU mission.
As I wondered down the capital's streets, I could tell that Moscow is more or less like any cosmopolitan city in the US: the same kinds of highways and the same hotel chains and restaurants. The city is highly energetic and encounters the same kind of global warming problems that Hong Kong faces.
As I looked around the streets, everyone had a mobile phone. Just like in Hong Kong, people walk the streets, chatting and texting.
1 February, 2016