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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

LETTER FROM VLADIVOSTOK: Crazy E-Mails Wash Up In Electronic Backwater




The e-mail that arrived last month was crisp and succinct, and came with an urgent subject line that made me read it at once: "Exigence buy pine nut."


The message continued in the cheery English commonplace on T-shirts imported from south of the border: "We are yadong company of china, we will buy a plenty of pine nuts. Would you help me? Best Regards!!!"


How to respond? Ignore it? Reply, "I have a large jar of cedar nuts on top of my refrigerator and would be willing to part with it?" Or forward it to our business reporter with the note, "Mike, FYI?" (I chose the latter.)


When you publish a tiny paper in a remote city, you might think you would be ignored by the great wash of communications that floods the electronic beaches of the globe. But perhaps because the Vladivostok News is the last windswept outpost of the English-speaking world, we seem to draw more than our share of curious e-mail.


Sometimes the questions are offbeat: A gay man wanted to know about the nightlife in Vladivostok. And a Seattle man confessed that his mail-order bride, Katya N., had fled to Vladivostok and was refusing to respond to his letters. He wrote, "I would like your help in serving devorce [sic] papers so I can get on with my life."


Often I spike the e-mail, but occasionally I can't resist dashing off a helpful word. When a South Korean firm asked what competition it would face should it locate a clothing factory here, I sent a reply from Roy G. Biv, business research associate: "As there is no functioning industry whatsoever in Primorye, our market research shows that you would face little competition." I forgot all about that note until months later, when a Korean firm announced it was opening a clothing factory in Partizansk.


Recently, Sharon, an American in South Korea, wrote that she hadn't heard from her Russian fiance since he was expelled from that country. She wanted to place an ad: "Victor Soju Talkovich Ivanovich, contact me through the Vlad News. I miss you! Sharonochka." I greedily reviewed our foreign ad rates to see what we could stick her for, but a pang of conscience stopped me. Our print edition was dying anyway. I printed her ad free of charge. No one called.


On Saturday I got another e-mail from Sharon. She wrote: "I am very happy to relate that my fianc? has been found in his hometown by a mutual friend. As I had thought, the letters which I had written in my limited Russian never reached him. And he could not find a translator for the one letter sent in English."


I bit my tongue and didn't offer premarital counseling. Instead I wished her well.


Now if only I could talk some sense into Katya N.