From The Desk Of
Natasha Spivack

Founder and President


From Your First Mouse Click
To The Last 'I Do,' Encounters International
Is Holding Your Hand Along The Way!

One question that I am frequently asked by prospective clients is, "How does your program work?" Usually, the follow up question is, "What services do you provide as part of my membership?" Of course, these are logical questions from men who are serious in their quest for the woman of their dreams! In this section of the Handbook, I will take a lot of time to explain how our system works and the services you receive as an Encounters International member. This is a very long section; but worth your time to review.

I started Encounters International in 1993. At that time, we were the only personalized marriage agency in business. I have to admit that it's a very different story today. There are about 300-400 agencies of one type or another touting Russian women via the Internet. You can enter a search query of 'Russian women' on any search engine or directory and you will definitely see what I mean. It is a very confusing situation indeed!

However, even within this stormy sea of agencies, there are really only about 2 or 3 other agencies that offer some degree of personalized service. My successful, former clients and their wives have launched four Internet-based agencies at various times. Of the four, 50% are now out of business! I think that percentage is normal across the entire industry. In Russia we say, "They spring up like Russian mushrooms after the rain and last just about as long". In America it's, "Let the buyer beware!"

Can You Say, Personalized Agency?
Now that you have seen the comparison between the different generic agency types, I will begin this Encounters International Handbook section by explaining what it takes to be a personalized marriage or matchmaking agency. A personalized agency must have a physical presence overseas. Very few agencies actually operate one office overseas. You may read or hear something like; "we associate with agency X in a city Y." Or, "our local agency cooperates with agency Z in America." In other words, money changes hands in this relationship. Thus, blame passing, disagreements, and abrupt separations are always possible. That is not the kind of bad news or lack of support you want when you are overseas.

Two Locations To Serve You Better
In contrast, Encounters International owns and operates, not one, but two full service overseas agency offices. Full service means that my offices and trusted staff are there for the women you contact and for you when you visit them!

The two agency offices are open regular business hours during the week. Also, we make things easier for the women with full-time jobs, because the offices are open every Saturday and Sunday! Our offices are located in the capital cities of Russia and Ukraine. I personally selected these cities because of their size and importance. There are international airports at Moscow, Russia and Kiev, Ukraine. This makes travel much easier than going to smaller remote towns.

The Village People
Have you heard of Tver or Ivanovo? These are small textiles manufacturing towns in Russia. You will likely find that an agency office, located in a small town, tries very hard to give the impression of a cozy, little place filled with simple, country girls. But, there are several problems with that portrait.

Russian women from medium to large cities, usually joke that these women there are from 'a village.' This means that the women are considered to be less educated, less cultured, less sophisticated, and usually more desperate to get out. I guess that is equivalent to being called a 'redneck' here in America. In either country, it is not a very flattering label.

There is a very real down side or disadvantage to being located in a small town, away from the population centers. Consider this aspect. When an agency (of any type) is located in a small town or 'village,' the number of acceptable and available Russian women is significantly lower. Obviously, the 'village' agency has fewer choices and therefore, the client has fewer choices as well.

Here's something else to consider. When a small town agency runs out of acceptable women for membership in their service, there is only one recourse: reduce the membership requirements. Thus, women who may not meet the original membership requirements, over time, will be allowed to join the agency.

In other words, when the most attractive women in the 'village' are taken, women who are not as attractive as the original women are permitted to become members. Women of known questionable character are allowed to join. In many cases, women who are not available are added to the agency photo albums just to generate continued interest from the men. That is why there is often no response from the most attractive women--they are long gone.

The new, lax requirements exist simply to keep the 'numbers' right. That's the ratio of women to men. It's equal to 'cooking the books' in accounting. Your risk and exposure is much greater when using a 'village' agency because a) unavailable women are usually included in the mix, b) less restrictive membership requirements, and c) less screening of women.

Encounters International does not accept every Russian woman who walks into the overseas agency offices and seeks membership. I seriously doubt I will ever need to relax my restrictive membership criteria, in Moscow or Kiev. There are a very large number of attractive, acceptable, available, marriage-minded women there! When the pool of women dries up in Moscow and Kiev, it is time to close up shop and do something else for a living.

If our membership criteria were sacrificed simply to achieve a full database quota (whatever that number may be); your risk would increase substantially. I would rather concentrate on quality rather than quantity. I think you would agree that reduced risk is a better way to go for my male clients. Having said that, the Encounters International database is comprised only of screened, high quality, attractive, marriage-minded, available women. In my opinion, a database bulging with high risk, unavailable women is not worth sacrificing my reputation for protecting my clients' interest!

Going Postal
Let me mention something about logistics and planning which may be foreign to you. No pun intended. When you purchase an address from an address seller, the last thing you are concerned about is where the woman lives. After all, the postal agencies help ensure you make initial contact. And, looking in an atlas does not even begin to explain the travel considerations to you.

At some point, you are going to travel several thousand miles to look your future partner squarely in the eye. It's an INS requirement that you two meet before you can petition for her fiancée visa. Everyone has a certain degree of insecurity already. Quite honestly, I don't believe that anyone can reduce that insecure feeling until you actually meet and ensure chemistry.

Without a backup plan or second choice woman, you have painted yourself into the proverbial corner. It is an all-or-nothing trip. You confirm either the first choice woman is 'the one' or it will be a long trip home. As a precaution, let's say that you have told 1 or 2 other women that you will be visiting Moscow. If the second and third choice women are from another area of Russia, either you will have to travel to meet them or they will have to travel to Moscow to meet you. In either case, someone is going to have to make a trip!

It's no secret that travel within Russia is very dangerous. When it comes to safety, the state of Russian aviation is dismal at best. Other forms of internal transportation are somewhat safer from a catastrophic point of view. However, your personal safety and the safety of your personal property are much more at risk. This is not a scare tactic. So I won't even discuss the 'disorganized' Mafia operating outside the big cities (where the organized Mafia operates). I am simply pointing out that internal travel is very risky.

It is always easier for her to travel inside the country to meet you. However, her internal trips need to be pre-arranged well in advance of the travel. Prepayment for these trips is usually required. The woman you selected will often offer to take care of her arrangements after you send her the funds. Since you don't know her, she may 'take care' of your money rather than the transportation. If you really want to meet her, what choice do you have? However, this is a risk inherently associated with buying addresses.

Sending money to women is never a good idea. In fact, if a woman from Encounters International asks a male client for money, she has violated our standards of conduct and is subject to immediate dismissal.

Assume that things go well with the first choice woman. However, the second choice is already on the way. Why? Because of the nature of the advanced planning and state of the telecommunications infrastructure. You don't simply call her up (assuming she has a telephone) and say, "Don't come tomorrow." You have made a commitment to a trip and to her. She has a ticket and will come if for no other reason than for the travel opportunity itself!

Juggling multiple 'blind dates' in a foreign country is not a concept that most American men had been faced with before. You have no coordinator to keep things straightened out.

Perhaps things don't go as planned with the first choice. Having a second choice on the way is not so bad. But, the third choice is out there somewhere as well. You really have feast or famine when you attempt this yourself.

Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!
Some of my clients have been this route prior to joining Encounters International. I get to hear all the war stories from the vets themselves. You can't imagine the multitude of problems men have run into when they meet their first choice woman and fall in love. Then the second choice woman shows up in town to see him also. It is a very embarrassing and uncomfortable situation for everyone. Somebody, possible everybody, is going to be unhappy with the result. Often the scene created is as big as anything that's on the "Jerry Springer Show."

Here is where Encounters International can provide you many things you may not have considered you needed before this point in time. Think for just a moment about the area of foreign logistics and travel. As you know, the women who are accepted into the Encounters International program typically come into our offices to pick up your e-mail messages and send their replies. Due to this strict residency requirement, you do not have the worry of trying to arrange to visit women in their towns or arrange for them to travel to see you.

All the women accepted by Encounters International are really local. This affords my clients the maximum possible flexibility. How so? Depending on the results with your first choice, you can change your mind about meeting your second choice with very little impact and no travel cost. Also, it eliminates the fear of being all-alone in a strange place, striking out, and having no other possibilities. If things do not go well at first, it is a minor inconvenience and not a major trauma!

The Security Blanket
You are secure in knowing that if something does not go well with your first or second choice women, a screened backup choice is nearby. Nearby means that she is in town and we have all her contact information. The overseas office managers will coordinate all aspects of the logistics and meetings should it be necessary to formulate or execute a backup plan. You are free from the stress of all this coordination planning in a foreign country, with foreign currency, and a foreign language.

I believe that involvement and support relieves a lot of stress and pressure from your trip, not to mention risk and expense. You are better able to concentrate on the reason why you came in the first place. You are not stressed out or forced to compromise because you have only one woman in the area to meet. Likewise, the problem of a pre-planned trip for a second choice woman, traveling from some distant location is gone.

Actually, I have several clients who have traveled to Moscow or Kiev to meet their first choice woman and things did not work out for them. In a brief period, it became very obvious the chemistry of the two did not match. The male clients met their second choices and are very happily married today! As it turned out, the second choice was a better choice. There are certain aspects of compatibility that can only be confirmed when you two meet face-to-face. It's much better, in many aspects, to have backup available in the same town where you are. This made the difference between their coming home enthusiastically engaged or 'empty handed,' so to speak.

Houston, We Have A Problem
One of the most important issues with meeting a woman who is a backup is discussing the subject diplomatically. This woman is already aware that she is not your first choice. Your male ego can be bruised because you believe you have made a bad initial choice. That's only a natural reaction in this situation. These are real feelings of real people in a real difficult time.

This is yet another key role of our overseas office managers. My manager will step in on your behalf and explain what happened. There is no need for the man to address the subject directly with another woman, unless it is his desire. With this assistance, it is very likely that the second choice woman will gladly and enthusiastically agree to meet you! We explain and emphasize to her that it is not about being number one, or number two, or even number three; but more about the matchmaking process and ultimate success.

Of course, when you are overseas, you can literally meet any woman in the database. If your first and second choices do not work out, you may need to meet someone who you did not correspond with yet. This is really a worst case scenario that does not happen that often.

Nevertheless, the office managers already know who has expressed an interest in you. Your photos and biographical profile data are already in the agency offices. The manager has had conversations with the women and knows who would like to meet you. She will steer you into the right direction.

At this point, you will meet women who are interested and receptive to meeting you. You don't waste any time with dead-end blind dates! There is absolutely no need for 'cold calling' women upon your arrival and hoping they show up for a real blind date (in the most classic sense of the word). Unfortunately, some agencies tend to stress that you should simply get an a flight overseas and allow them to arrange all the blind dates for you. This is not the practice at Encounters International. As you know, I recommend correspondence and getting to know each other prior to any trip overseas.

Because, the decision on an engagement is very important. Perhaps, it's the most important decision in your life. You know, a bad decision is not better than no decision. You must approach this decision from the standpoint that you are going to spend the rest of your natural life with this woman. That is why we ensure that our clients can be provided with an environment to make a wise, informed decision; as opposed to a bad decision or no decision.

I believe that since my male clients are confident that they have multiple, local women available and willing to meet you, they tend to be more decisive and secure in the decision made. They don't have to be preoccupied with, or rush into, anything due to the travel issues. My clients are able to relax and have the mind set required to better concentrate on getting to know the woman he went overseas to meet. Again, I have found that having a screened backup choice available makes a big difference as to whether my clients return home engaged and happy or depressed, disappointed, and looking at a complete restart from square one.

Here Or There, You're Not 'The Lone Ranger'
From the time you send your first e-mail letter until you are both back here engaged, Encounters International acts as your agent, advocate, advisor, and friend: both in the USA and in our overseas locations. There are not many things better than having a trusted friend, who speaks the language and understands the culture, 'on the ground' in Moscow and Kiev to help you. If you have questions about something, you simply ask it. My overseas managers or I will get the answer.

When you send an e-mail letter to a woman that is a member of Encounters International, you will get a response. Getting women to respond to all letters they receive is something that I have been very strict about since the very beginning. This feature of guaranteed responses is something that makes us a very unique personalized agency.

My overseas office managers know that when an e-mail letter, from a male client, arrives for a woman, she is to respond to him within the next seven days. It is the manager's responsibility to automatically investigate any delay in getting a male client his reply. Likewise, male clients may request the office managers check the reason for a delay if they have not received the reply.

In either case, the office manager will contact the woman. If she does not have a telephone, one of her personal references (usually a family member or close friend) will be contacted instead. If necessary, the manager will simply drive to her apartment to see what is going on. Tatiana (Moscow) and Ludmila (Kiev) take this responsibility quite seriously. In fact, they may be more persistent than a bill collector or a long distance company! Nevertheless, you will receive a reply or the reason for the delay.

Really, about 80% of my office managers' time is spent ensuring that you get a reply to your e-mail letters. They expend a lot of effort in this critical area; because it is so critical. It's a big and tedious job. Since the women we allow to join Encounters International, and participate in the program, are not desperate, in some cases they cannot decide on how to respond in the allotted time. It is important to note that some of the issues and questions brought up during correspondence are new things for her to consider: not to mention the different spin when involving different cultures and countries.

As a result of the Encounters International overseas office manager's efforts, you'll receive the facts and the cultural interpretations of the facts. If either one of these key areas is missing; you don't really have the entire story. We can find out if a woman is ill, out of town, or working a new schedule. Perhaps, something you wrote confused her. We can find out and then explain the issue or confusion to you. After talking with you, we can explain the situation to her on your behalf. I have seen minor cultural differences or misunderstandings over a simple thing cause a major delay in a reply.

I recommend that my newest clients put themselves in her shoes. Here is a woman corresponding with a man about serious life changing issues. She is probably going to be somewhat indecisive and very careful when responding. Women need time to think about their reply and express it accordingly. I think you would agree that at times it is better to allow her a little more time to reply if needed.

In general, my new clients know they should have a response in seven days. On day seven, I will get a telephone call or an e-mail message asking about a reply. I have found that, in the beginning, my male clients will count the days. I guess I don't blame them for being skeptical at first. After all, there is a good chance that another agency has taken advantage of the trust placed in them.

My seasoned clients understand that while it is possible to demand a seven-day response from a woman, it may not be the desired response. They know that it is best to give time for a thoughtful reply, even of that extends a few days beyond seven days. Again, this process involves human interaction. During Encounters International orientation, the women know their membership status depends on prompt replies. It is my opinion that a possible relationship may be ruined by forcing her to reply to meet a minor technicality.

In a few cases, a very long delay may be a sign of bad news. A woman may not be interested and is unable to express her feelings in this area. Someone else may have visited her and she is now engaged. Russian and Ukrainian women are very sensitive in this area and do not want to offend you. In this case, the office manager will relay the information to you on behalf of the woman.

The Russian Bear Syndrome
In some rare cases, a woman will find her soul mate within her country. She may decide to marry a Russian man and really does not know how to explain this to you. These are not necessarily bad women. It is important to remember that we are dealing with human feelings and emotions on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Again, we will find out the details and advise you of all the news, not just what you want to hear.

Encounters International will get to the root of the issue and explain what happened. You can then decide how to proceed. Your decision will be based on all the information available from all our resources. There is no need for you to 'guess' what happened based on a lack of important information!

Service With A Smile, A Retro Concept
The overseas agency managers are always available to assist you. This is a key difference in using a personalized service agency--you are not alone in a foreign land. Having a physical presence in Moscow and Kiev also means that I have caring people nearby should you need them: before, during, or after your visit. It is usually difficult to try to explain how important this can be for my clients and prospective clients. However, when you need them, it will become crystal clear how much disappointment, hassle and frustration the managers will save you.

You are not overseas all by yourself staying in a strange apartment or hotel room. If you desire, the manager will meet you at the airport upon arrival. In addition, she will arrange for your first choice woman to be there as well. These services, and many more, are available when you travel as an Encounters International client. I will talk more about that in a subsequent Encounters International Handbook section.

Most of my male clients want to have their first choice woman meet them at the airport. It's a very big deal for a Russian woman to be invited to meet you upon arrival. It confirms to her, beyond any doubt, that she is your first choice. It's very important to your success, as well as her security, to be there to greet you.

The office manager will pick her up at her apartment and get her to the airport. She will be able to dress up to put forth her best image for the all-important first impression. Fortunately, with our help, she does not have to worry about how she will look after hours of riding overcrowded public transportation (Metro subway or long distance bus). Likewise, she does not have to spend a small fortune to get to the airport in a Mafia-controlled taxi. Either experience cane be frustrating and leave her feeling upset before you arrive. That's why I believe it is very important for my manager to pick her up and handle the transportation details for you both!

The office manager will talk with her and keep her nerves in check as they talk about you. If your flight is late or canceled, she will be transported back to her apartment. In other words, my staff will take care of her the way you would if you were already there. All the details about your arrival and first meeting are thoroughly thought through.

Personalized service continues when we transport you both to one of our apartments in Moscow or Kiev. Savvy clients understand the benefits of maintaining a low profile and staying in an apartment versus a high visibility, high cost, tourist hotel. Encounters International maintains several apartments exclusively for use by our clients.

Just so you will know, the cost for an Encounters International apartment is about $40.00 US per night. In our apartments, you will observe that a Russian or Ukrainian woman is much more comfortable. It's a very familiar environment since she will usually also reside in an apartment. In contrast, some women have never been to hotels and thus, would be extremely uncomfortable there. Especially when you continue reading and see what they must endure just to visit you.

The Spivack Ritz
Let me emphasize that low cost is not the only reason why you don't want to stay in a hotel. Likewise, I am not 'knocking' hotels just to rent apartments! Hotels in Moscow and Kiev operate very differently than here in the USA. These differences may appear to you as a minor inconvenience. But, a Russian woman reads them quite differently. This may be difficult to believe at first, but where you stay may have a big impact on the success of your trip!

In the following paragraphs, I'll explain the undesirable hotel operations and circumstances followed by the Encounters International alternative.

First, you will encounter difficulty each time a woman comes to visit you at the hotel. She must present her internal passport to the hotel staff. She will be logged into and out of the hotel. Of course, you can provide the staff with 'a little something for the effort' to speed this process up. The staff will allow her into the hotel, but not without strange looks and possibly some rude comments. There is also a mandatory curfew requires all visitors (male or female) to be out of the hotel by a specific time each evening. This is an extremely humiliating experience for a woman. Why?

Going My Way Sailor?
Because this is the same procedure that a prostitute must endure when she visits one of her clients. This is not the best experience to put a woman through in the beginning of your relationship! Especially when she knows that other Encounters International women visit men, hassle free, at the apartments. Can you imagine the impact this treatment and situation may have on a woman's self-esteem, not to mention your relationship (at such a critical stage)?

In contrast, when you stay in an Encounters International apartment, you both are free to come and go as you please. There's nobody controlling access or keeping a record of your visitors. You have the apartment key at all times: unlike hotels where you must surrender the key before leaving the floor. Your business stays your business. Your guest will not be treated like a prostitute. Without all the negative aspects and distractions, an apartment provides a much more conducive environment for romance and getting to know your potential soul mate. Isn't that actually the reason for the trip in the first place?

No Room For Mr. Smith & Mrs. Jones
Second, another different aspect of hotels is the same name rule. What's that mean? The hotels will not allow a man and a woman, with different last names, to occupy the same room. Yes, you must be married and have the same last name to share a room. It's a little hard to bluff your way past this rule when both of you have presented passports to the hotel staff across the desk. The only way to absolutely guarantee she will be permitted to stay overnight in the hotel is to pay for a second room at their normal rate; assuming there is another room available. Rest assured that you'll get the 'stupid American tourist' discount rate at this point.

The price you pay for a hotel room determines the enforcement policy of this rule. For example, the very expensive American chains, do not enforce these rules quite as strictly. These hotels cost slightly more than the finest hotels in Manhattan. As the price of the room decreases, the enforcement increases. The moderate and budget rate properties are quite strict. The overseas socials will reserve a room in the moderate priced hotels where you are sure to meet strict enforcement.

As, I mentioned previously, with an apartment, you both may come and go as you please. An important consideration is that the Encounters International apartments are two-bedroom models. There is no extra cost incurred when a woman stays in the apartment. Two bedrooms provide the opportunity to be together without any pressure to worry about sleeping arrangements. This presents many options without expectations or disappointments on the part of either party!

Russian Fast Food
The only thing fast about food in Russia is the way money leaves your wallet when dining out. If you decide to stay in a hotel, you are going to have to rely on the local restaurants or the hotel's restaurants. Local restaurants are extremely expensive. For example, a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut is about $13.00 US! If you can image this, the hotel's restaurants will be even worse! Sure, there are many western style restaurants and familiar franchises (like Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonalds, Baskin-Robbins to name a few) there. But, they are very cost prohibitive for most people. When you know how much these meals cost back home, it makes the Moscow or Kiev prices 'difficult to swallow.'

Unlike Americans, Russians can't afford dining out. Really, there probably aren't many Americans that could afford to dine out often in Russia either. Russians go to restaurants to dance and have a few drinks. Food is usually an option that is beyond the typical Russian's budget.

A final thought about the disadvantages of the restaurant and meal disadvantages of a hotel center around 'jet lag.' What will you do when you wake in the middle of the night and want something to eat? Is it safe to venture out on the city streets? And just where will you venture to for a late night snack (until your body adjusts to the new time zone)? In most hotels, 24-hour room service is an unheard of feature.

Obviously without a kitchen, you can't cook in high-rise, hotel room. So what can you do when a woman who enjoys cooking wants to impress you by preparing a 'tasty meals' and have a nice dinner for two? She can certainly demonstrate those skills in the apartment's kitchen.

In addition, a Russian woman's keen shopping skills amaze most of my clients when they go to a local market together. You can place a Russian woman in an area where she has never been and somehow she will find a food market and everything you need to stock the pantry and refrigerator. After your first shopping experience together, I am sure that you will be pleasantly surprised to know that she bought your groceries for much less that you would have paid had you done this alone. Hotels do not have refrigerators not a pantry stocked with an initial setup of fruit and light snacks. My apartment caretaker ensures that you do not arrive to an empty kitchen.

Your Best Table For Two, Please
A nice way to impress a Russian woman is to set the table for a traditional, American candlelight dinner while she is in the kitchen. It is a mix of traditional Russian and traditional American. She will prepare a wonderful meal while you handle the details of a candlelight table setting! This is not a typical table setting in Russia! However, in any country, it is a very romantic gesture that will set the tone or mood for the rest of the evening.

The result of a little effort on your part is a perfect evening for two. Encounters International even provides the candles! The less desirable alternative is, saying good night outside a hotel entrance, after a very expensive meal, and sending her home in a taxi. Isn't that a nice scene to consider!

Oh, by the way, remember the romantic dinner candles? You will be asked (made) to leave a hotel if you attempt to use candles in your room. Why? Because most Russians believe they would burn down the building with the fire from candles!

I have several apartments in both Moscow and Kiev. When need be, I can arrange for additional apartments that are equivalent to our own units. However, I'm not interested in renting apartments to non-clients. I mentioned earlier that my priority is not making money from apartment rentals. Therefore, my clients have exclusive use of the Encounters International apartments.

Russian Chat Rooms
Russian women enjoy long conversations at the kitchen table. Since there is no kitchen table in the hotel room, then what is the alternative location for such conversation; the bed? To a traditional Russian, the kitchen is perhaps the most important room in the home. It's more than what we use it for here in America, a room for preparing quick meals in the microwave oven.

Instead, the Russian family and friends will gather around the small kitchen table for hot tea, chocolates, and conversation. My male clients usually feel more relaxed on the living room sofa. However, she'll be comfortable at the kitchen table when conversing. So, some compromise may be in order for both people.

What Message Are You Sending?
You should consider what message you are sending to a woman by staying in a hotel. You will send the wrong message to the right woman and the right message to the wrong woman. Say what? Actually, the message is exactly the same--you are a wealthy American who man can afford expensive hotel rooms.

The right women for you will interpret this message to mean that her expectations about life in America, with you, should be adjusted upward. Life while in Russia is a dreamland; therefore, life in America should be equally as dreamy and filled with riches. No longer will she view you as an average American (like you described yourself). Because you're an American who can afford to stay in an expensive Russian hotel. In their eyes, that is a very dig difference! Unless you have the means to support her in this 'perceived' manner daily, she is in for a big disappointment and you are in for a miserable time.

What about the wrong woman? Well, she sees the same message and applies it a little differently. Her expectations about life in America are already elevated. Perhaps it is a result of a good lifestyle in Russia or Ukraine. Again, you are not seen as an average American. The lifestyle you portray by staying in a hotel may not accurately reflect your situation back home. You will find that a woman with higher expectations will be more willing to accompany you to America because, in her mind, there is no sacrifice in lifestyle. Once again, unless you have the means to support her in this 'perceived' manner daily, she is in for a big disappointment and you are in for a miserable time.

The above conditions are not exclusive just to women in the Encounters International program. Any woman you visit will very likely apply these views to you, whether you are my client or not. It's a universal problem of expectations! I have had clients who have had to deal with hotel induced problems when the woman came to America. It is not a pleasant discovery when you learn she is expecting so much more than you can offer. What message do you want to send?

Apartments, The Cost Effective Alternative
In addition to the unquantifiable comfort benefits discussed above, the local apartments provide a very cost-effective alternative to hotels. You will not need to budget a small fortune just to have a nice place to stay in Moscow or Kiev. It's not going to become a go-for-broke, one-shot opportunity. You'll know that you will be financially, and thus emotionally, better prepared for an additional trip overseas, if necessary or desired.

Before you faint at the thought of multiple trips, let me state that the vast majority of my clients only make one overseas trip. They only need one trip because the Encounters International program as I have described it here, and the extensive support elements in place, come together homogeneously to ensure your success. Before you ever leave home, you have a sound foundation that the new relationship is based on.

It's not a case of having to wish for good luck. Nor will you have to keep your fingers crossed with the hope of success. Because you are well prepared for the trip, there is no reason for anything to go wrong. The Encounters International staff is all working to ensure your success on the first trip overseas. If you follow my advice and work hard, you will 'know before you go.'

On the other hand, I have some clients visit practically every other weekend! That's a pretty diverse group of clients. If you need or want to make an additional trip overseas, you'll find it easier to accommodate the cost. In addition, you will likely be more comfortable revisiting an Encounters International apartment. If all goes well on the first trip, the money saved will help pay for a wedding. You probably won't need a second overseas trip. But, you will need a wedding!

The Russian Yenta, Natasha Spivack
I have discussed, in extreme detail, the business side of the personalized matchmaking agency. Now, I want to approach the subject of the traditional matchmaker; that's me, Natasha Spivack. My Jewish friends call me a Yenta; that's Hebrew for matchmaker.

In 1993, I made the conscience decision to become a professional matchmaker. It was a very drastic (sometimes traumatic) career change at first. However, I quickly found that the results of my work as a professional matchmaker are much more rewarding and faster to observe than the results of my former position as a university professor.

Previously, I was a professor at Johns Hopkins University. I always enjoyed handing out my Johns Hopkins business card and watching people's face. My business card is very different today. I still get the strangest looks when I hand out my business card. I guess they don't really expect to meet someone who makes a living as a matchmaker. Today, I am more comfortable with the concept of being a professional matchmaker. I have had 7 years to reach this level of comfort and expertise.

As a sidebar, something I have found very interesting is that many people believe that there is no special skill set needed to be a matchmaker. I guess they are right if they refer to a matchmaker. However, I would disagree if they mean successful matchmaker instead. To be successful, there is a whole lot more involved than drawing a name from the male client hat and another from the Russian women hat and calling that a match. Likewise, I don't use an eight ball and ask, "Is this a good match?" You probably remember some of the possible answers are 'definitely,' 'possible,' or 'ask again later.'

The job of professional matchmaker does not usually show up on a list of possible career paths when you select a career. You won't find any high school guidance counselors recommending this career choice for future graduates. Likewise, professional matchmaker will not show up on any standardized interest test given in the school system. As a profession, matchmaker is not highly esteemed or respected. The association is often that a matchmaker does not know how to (or simply cannot) do anything else! I don't let the public perception of my profession take away from the importance of the work. It's much greater than the work I did as a teacher.

I find it very interesting that such important work does not even have an official organization or association of representation. It is unfortunate that matchmakers don't have a professional organization, offering newsletters and seminars, to help distinguish us as a profession.

How can I say that with certainty? I learned as a Psychologist that society is positively effective by happy people. By providing a means for two people to meet and be happy together, my impact on society is greater than most other professions. Well away from the public view of the profession's status is a very large meaning and impact on the lives of those people involved!

If It Breathes, I Can Match It!
There is a lot of responsibility in the role of matchmaker. I take this responsibility very seriously because I understand I am dealing with human feelings and emotions. Actually, it is much more than simply a business for me, it is my life and passion. I know that I will have a definite impact on the future of my clients. I provide my clients with encouragement, advice, guidance, and if needed, discipline.

It's a serious matter involving real people, real emotions, and real futures. As such, my sincere desire is to make sure that I have a positive impact on both. I want you to always remember me, but for the right reason--introducing you to the women of your dreams!

When I think about successful matchmaking at Encounters International, many challenging and interesting cases come to my mind. I have had male clients with severe birth defects or debilitating accidental injuries. I have matched them with wonderful women who were perfect for them, including a nurse. I have young clients, old clients, multi-millionaire clients, active duty military clients, foreign national clients, but mostly just 'average guy' clients.

Heck, I even had a Russian man, living in America, for a client. The image portrayed of Russian men is anything but positive! The common perception that a Russian man in America is worse than a Russian man in Russia. Nevertheless, I was able to find a great match for him.

No matter what the circumstances of the individual person or case, they each represent real people with feelings. Each person above lived in a different world, so to speak, and represented unique challenges. I was able to match each with a woman who wanted exactly the 'world.' I have prepared some examples of the successes on a subsequent Handbook section.

One core responsibility is to ensure that the perceived 'power' or 'authority' of a matchmaker is not misused or abused. This is not so much a concern in America as it is overseas. As you know, Russian society was subjected to living under the control of an oppressive, 'Soviet' system for many years. The system was, and to some degree still is, filled with abuse, misuse, corruption, and bribery.

Again, I have taken this consideration very seriously. Thus, I have structured Encounters International to reduce or eliminate the myriad of Soviet mind-set induced problems. I will explain a little about some of the overseas office structure.

Trust Me, I Know What I'm Doing!
That was the catch phrase from an ABC, short-lived, 1986 comedy program called, "Sledge Hammer." Usually, that statement was quickly followed by complete incompetence and a total disaster. Actually, that is not unlike the results provided by inexperienced matchmakers!

The main apprehension about using the services of a professional matchmaker is trust. It's just not natural for someone to release full or even partial control of this very important part of life to a stranger. Second thoughts about entrusting your life to someone else are really common. It is a very abstract concept. You are being asked to pay for hope, delivered through trust, at some time in the future.

Further, this is not concrete, like ordering a new home computer on-line, for example. After the computer is ordered, a few days later, a brown truck shows up with your merchandise. The delivery time is very close to the order date. It's almost instant order fulfillment these days. There is no hesitation about ordering a computer from almost any computer company with a working toll-free number. I guess if you placed an order and had to wait several months for delivery, there would be a long time to think, worry, and become concerned.

Why is it so difficult to place any reasonable amount of trust in someone in this field? I believe there are two main reasons for this. First, almost all my clients have had a bad experience elsewhere. They have already trusted and been burned--both financially and emotionally! If they do not have direct experience with misplaced trust, they surely know someone who has been victimized. Often, this may be nothing more than media coverage of someone's bad experience. In any case, they placed trust, paid for hope, and were left with nothing to show.

The other reason is that men are very vulnerable at this point. Releasing control is like admitting you cannot find your mate by yourself. A bruised ego has to ask for help with something that should be a natural process. There is nothing wrong with turning over control and trust to a professional matchmaker. In fact, some cultures do this automatically with arranged marriages and the like.

However, our society mandates that men must be strong, confident, independent and fully in control. Anything less is a sign of weakness. I see this over and over and over. A man sits across from me frozen in the chair, running a million thoughts through his mind. It's as if he were to allow a matchmaker to help, he may as well tattoo "Loser" on his forehead.

Since the male ego seeks protection from failure, it is difficult to trust. Because more trust, means more openness, which ultimately means more vulnerability. If you are able to overcome this natural instinct and place your trust in Encounters International, I know that the payback will be the woman of your dreams sooner than you believed possible!

Some male clients place unconditional trust, in my ability to assist them in this area, from the very beginning. That requires a very high integrity on my part. I have found that they are usually the most successful clients. My other male clients become more relaxed after some time passes and some results are seen. It is at that point that they begin to trust.

Part of the trust process is that my clients know that I put their interests ahead of pure business considerations. It takes integrity and intelligence to help my clients beyond what is easy or convenient for me. With all the success since 1993, it is easier to show a 'record of success' based on trust.

I believe that I am able to relate to my clients on many levels. Why? Because I am not only a professional matchmaker, but I am also a human being with human emotions; just like my clients. No matter what a man or a woman may experience, I know that I can relate to it.

I can comfortably set myself in their shoes because I have been through these experiences myself. I don't give my clients just my opinion. I provide real life examples from my own life or those of my clients. Between my clients and me, there is a good chance we have been through it all before.

My real life experiences include immigrating to America during the Soviet Union era; assimilating into American life as a refugee family; death of my husband in an automobile crash; raising two young boys as a single parent in a foreign country; juggling a career and home life; facing the problems and uncertainly of the American dating scene; marriage to an American man with all the immediate cultural adjustments; and the list goes on and on.

Most of these issues are those that my male clients and certainly the women go through. Like an artist, personal tragedy enriches life and personal expression. Because of my own life experiences, I am more attuned to the deep, often hidden, needs and concerns of my clients. In other words, I know what they need before they can express it in words.

It is not unusual at all for me to be interviewing a prospective client in my office, and have him stop mid-story and say, "you understand what I mean" or "you know what I am talking about." There's no need to continue explaining because we are on the same emotional wavelength. Since I truly understand his problems, I am much better equipped to solve them. This is the nature of mutual trust.

The Last Of The Mohicans
Encounters International does not charge women in Russia or Ukraine to become members. I started this agency with that concept. I think that we are now "the last of the Mohicans" in this area. America is a great place to discover and use those clichés.

Most of the agencies extract some funds from a woman for some reason or another. This places the burden of payment directly on the shoulders of the person least able to pay. However, for those agencies, it is the only way to fund the overseas operation. In the early days, this may not have been necessary. Thanks to the Internet, there has been a steady increase of the number of address sellers, for example, while the number of addresses for sale has not increased. The competition on that front has made charging women absolutely necessary in order to stay in business.

Dialing For Dollars
Some overseas, local agencies charge the women to send letters to and receive letters from the men. Inside these purely administrative, Soviet-style agencies, you can imagine there is a tendency to charge for the service of letter delivery and to ask for "a little something for the effort." Yes, bribes are often necessary to get the letters past these administrative agencies' front-line personnel. It is only natural for this system to require extra payment to office personnel.

The Encounters International system is set up so the women represent no possibility of monetary gain to the office managers. My office managers have no reason to hide, delay, lose, or discard your e-mail letters. In fact, quite the opposite is the case for my overseas agency managers. They will only penalize themselves if this happens because male clients pay for response letters only.

Sign Here, Next; Sign Here, Next...
It's the job of the old Babushka to distribute letters and place check marks inside a box on a sheet and go on to the next woman. Making a little extra money only comes natural. Also, they are indifferent to the women and the male clients, assuming any actually visit. This 'system' appears common practice at other agencies that are not structured like Encounters International.

That's one reason why some Russian and Ukrainian women have such bad feelings about agencies in general. Still other overseas agencies treat women so badly that they actually dread any interaction with the agency. The women are met with the attitude that 'good girls don't go to an agency for love.' The women represented by Encounters International will not be treated like a commodity! They are treated with dignity and respect.

You Gotta Dues What You Gotta Dues
By not charging women in Moscow or Kiev, we retain the right to remove or dismiss anyone for good cause at any time. This is a very different concept from the American dating services. As you know, when you join a dating service, you are a member until your membership period expires. Both parties typically pay a $2,000 to $4,000 membership fee. Therefore, the expectations of both parties are very high. There is an intense desire to get your money's worth.

A man selects a woman and is rejected. A woman selects a man and is rejected. This 'chain of rejection' is perpetuated because both parties pay a very large fee and are neither ready nor willing to compromise.

Since Encounters International does not charge both parties a membership fee, then there are no competing expectations. The women in Russia and Ukraine do not pay any fees and thus their expectations are not artificially elevated. Nor, is their willingness to compromise lacking. If we detect that either aspect is missing, we will consider her dismissal. There was not fee charged, so there is no obligation to allow her to stay.

Our policies, practices, rules, and regulations are explained to the women we accept. Their compliance is necessary for success: hers, yours, and ours!

Friends In All The Right Places
As you interact with the overseas office managers, they will become your trusted friends. This friend is a regular Encounters International employee and not some contract person who works a few hours when needed. When you are overseas, all my clients are given the home telephone number of the manager. She works directly foe me and not some third-party local agency. She is always on call during your visit. It's not a nine-to-five job attitude!

Delivering your letters and getting timely responses back are very important to them. There is a lot of other activity going on as well, such as, screening and orienting potential members, video taping new women, organizing gifts the women send to the USA, and distributing gifts from my male clients.

Nevertheless, when I have a male client in Moscow or Kiev, his needs are the number one priority for the overseas agency managers. The managers are very sensitive and will do whatever is necessary to assist you during your stay. It is like holding your hand during your entire visit overseas.

In addition, my clients quickly learn that my overseas office managers are well liked by the women. The managers and the women typically have a mother-daughter relationship. Every engagement is a success story. The overseas agency managers often feel like they are giving away another daughter. The Russians have many words to describe the various levels of friendship. The word for this special type of friendship, "padruga."

If a woman does not appear friendly with my staff, I want to know why. Is she just a little shy? Or initially a little embarrassed? Or is there something she is trying to hide something from all of us? I want the answer because it may well have an impact on male clients.

When I am in Moscow or Kiev, it is very common for women to telephone me and come by my apartment for a visit. It is a very good opportunity for me to meet the new Encounters International members and renew some old friendships. It's often friendly chat and questions about my male clients. However, it is also a continuation of the screening process in a very relaxed environment.

In addition, it is not unusual for me to receive e-mail and telephone calls from Encounters International women when I am in Bethesda, MD. When she has a concern or a question, she can contact me directly or via the agency office. Likewise, if I have a question or concern, I will telephone her; in Moscow or Kiev directly. If I am unable to reach her, I will call her parents or personal references. I have called to confirm that the correct number of roses was received. I'll call when there is difficulty in getting her to come into the agency office to pick up a letter.

Location, Location, Location
The Moscow and Kiev office managers know that everyone has a choice. The women have a choice of men. Also, they choose whether to say yes or no. Likewise, the men have a choice of women from either, or both, offices. The managers want to impress you with their service almost as much as the women with their English.

Competition in business is still a relatively new concept for post-Soviet Russia and Ukraine. Competition for getting on the Metro or getting the last loaf of bread is not something new. Nevertheless, my agency managers want to make sure you know which office is 'best.'

If you ask Tatiana in Moscow, she will definitely tell you, "the best girls are in Moscow!" Of course, Ludmila in Kiev will echo the same sentiment. It's a tough call, but it is your decision. When you decide to visit a woman in either Moscow or Kiev, the manager knows you had a choice and appreciates your decision. She will be there to celebrate your engagement just as any close friend back home.

Business Model or Model Business
My point within this discussion is to show how Encounters International pioneered this positive business model. Some other agencies have attempted to copy our business model to some degree or another. Obviously, they were very impressed by our success and decided to attempt to imitate our program. In fact, you will probably see "Handbook" clones pop up very soon.

Ask the copycat or, as I call them, 'cut-and-paste' competitors where he or she met his or her mate? If the answer you get is something like, "Oh, the agency I used is out of business;" it's probably because they don't want you to know about their success as an Encounters International client!

HTML Means Hope That Match Lasts!
The romance business really involves a little of both--romance and business. Encounters International is my career, not a part-time hobby or something to keep me from being bored! It takes more than being able to create an HTML file to be a successful matchmaker. It doesn't take long for most people to understand the Russian-American dynamics are quite complex and often difficult. As a psychologist and teacher, I understand these dynamics and other patterns better than anyone who sells addresses, schedules overseas socials, or claims to be a personalized service agency!

Crunching Numbers
During the past seven years, I have had over 200 marriages and engagements. Of that number, 10 couples have divorced. Therefore, the divorce rate for couples that I have matched is about 5%. Three of the 10 men have returned to Encounters International as clients because they strongly believe in our program.

No matter how you massage the statistics, the Encounters International divorce rate is much smaller than the national count in either America or Russia. According to the United States National Center on Health Statistics, the divorce rate in 1996, 1997, and 1998 was 48.9%, 48.3%, and 50.6% respectively. Clearly, there is something right about our program and my matchmaking guidance.

It is very important to note that the statistical information I have provided above applies only to Encounters International. I don't want anyone to interpret this to represent the industry, or any other agency. In fact, we are the only marriage agency (excluding the cut-and-paste sites) you will find that makes the number of marriages and divorces public!

Unfortunately, you cannot take my numbers and apply them to any other personalized service agency, address seller, or social scheduler. Therefore, it is difficult to make a comparison when everyone else is quiet about marriages and especially divorces. It is only natural to assume that their numbers must be much worse. Otherwise, why would they remain secret on all fronts? All you are provided with are marriage photos and some testimonials. Where is the hard data?

Even the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) only maintains a count of the quantity of visas issued. They don't track marriages between Americans and Russians (or any foreign nationals). Nor is any divorce statistical data available from the Government on inter-cultural marriages.

Just as you can't transfer Encounters International's information to other agencies, you cannot assume you will be guaranteed to fall into the success category by going elsewhere. In other words, I believe that our numbers are good because our program is good. Furthermore, I believe that you are successful because we are successful! Other marriage agencies don't have this level of success because their involvement with the client is less, if existent at all. That may seem a bit presumptuous at first; however, it is just a statement that is obvious to me.

For my part, I know every client by name; whether engaged, married, or divorced. I have a name, and person associated with each data point, example, and situation I use. Therefore, I'm not offering up mysterious testimonials (containing only first names) or nameless wedding photos for your consideration.

Many of our couples would be glad to discuss their situations with prospective clients. You don't have to ask for references. They are included with a "Get To Know Us Membership" package and sent to prospective clients. You will receive an up to date reference list complete with names, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses. My references include married couples, engaged men, and even divorced clients. Encounters International has nothing to hide. Contact our references and you will see what I mean!

Sight Is Only One Of Five Senses
Finding the right person is not a one or two-dimensional fit. A one-dimensional match would be selecting someone purely based on her physical appearance. The overseas socials are an example of this single-dimension matching. This is where you see several hundred women in a large room and attempt to find your perfect mate by (literally) looking over the choices. It is a very humiliating 'meat market' environment, pure and simple.

There is nowhere enough information available to make an intelligent, informed decision about your future. As you traverse a sea of women, accompanied by a personal translator, you are quite alone. This scene is not matchmaking at all; it's like a weekend junket to Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Of course, you know who makes money in gambling towns, the casinos.

Parallel Processing
At Encounters International, we work side-by-side with every client to find the best all round fit possible; considering many areas of possible match. Yes, the physical appearance criteria are very important. However, the importance of physical appearance is an individual consideration or priority. Quite honestly, neither party wants to make excessive compromises in this area. You don't have to compromise at all, if you choose not to. Women tend to compromise in this area when the man has a nice heart and soul! Some of my clients' success stories are featured on a subsequent Handbook section.

Further, I am also concerned that there is a personality match, positive chemistry, and aligned expectations. I believe that if one or more of these areas is missing, lacking in degree, or way out of phase, the result will not be to anyone's satisfaction. I mean, just because you have found a beautiful woman does not mean you can agree on important issues, like children, for instance.

In Craps, Seven Out, Means You Lose!
As I mentioned in a previous Encounters International Handbook section, the odds are stacked against you. Behind every photograph on the Internet or inside the pages of a slick catalog is a human story. Behind the scenes, Encounters International, is busy working to learn about that story and, more importantly, the effect it may have on you. My staff and I will find out the motives, desires, and intentions of the women you contact.

Our male clients receive all the information available to make an informed decision on how to proceed. I cannot tell you what to do because I am not in your exact situation. I will give you the details, both the good and the bad, so you have the information to make the necessary choices.

High Maintenance Is In The Wallet Of The Beholder
Quite honestly, we do have some 'high maintenance' women in our database. The fact is some of our male clients are well situated to provide the level of 'maintenance' required by these women. They are a good match and have a great life and marriage together. It is important to remember that 'high maintenance' to one client is not a big deal to another client.

By that, I simply mean that some women have a very good lifestyle in Russia. They expect to maintain that same quality of life when they leave their country. I advise my clients if they seem to have selected a woman whose expectations differ drastically from his abilities. Simply, giving you the 'green light' to proceed does none of us any good in the long term.

"Green Acres" Is The Place To Be...
One area of compatibility that is often overlooked is a match of your communities and lifestyle. By that, I mean where you live and how you live. Where you live is your community. How you live is your lifestyle.

Some of our women are only happy in a big city environment. Other women prefer small towns or rural communities. Some women are flexible and eager to adjust. Other women have rigid expectations and may be unwilling to change their expectations. Where you live and how you live is an important consideration to compare with what she expects and needs. This is a make-or-break issue which must be carefully researched and considered.

Perhaps one of the best ways to explain this situation is to remind you of the old, American television show, "Green Acres." You will recall this was a situation comedy about a big city woman transplanted to a mid-western farm environment. The misadventures of Lisa and Oliver Douglas, down on the farm, was entertaining television 'schtick.' However in real life, the mismatch of woman to lifestyle and community expectations to reality is anything but funny.

Also, you must effectively communicate about lifestyle. You may be happy at home with a book while a younger woman wants to go dancing for fun. In contrast, she may enjoy home cooking and in-home entertaining while you enjoy attending formal, black tie social events. Perhaps, you have grown children and she has a young child or a teenager. You have to be compatible in this area of lifestyle or you will be miserable, disappointed, divorced or all three!

My overseas staff has the ability to obtain these expectations from the women at any stage of the correspondence. When I work with you, I learn about your community (where you live) and lifestyle (how you live). I will tell you if you have selected a woman who does seem to fit into your community or lifestyle. As I said, this is a key, make-or-break factor that many people overlook or simply take too lightly. Sending a few picture postcards to a woman does not get the job done properly.

Is There A Doctor In The House?
I started by mentioning that physical appearance, while important, cannot be the only criteria used to find the right woman. Believe me, my job would be a lot easier if all I had to do was help men and women pick each other from a photo album! If that were all I did, then Encounters International would be no different from an address seller or a social scheduler.

Along with beauty goes brains. As we all know, sometimes these two areas are mutually exclusive. I think many men believe that it may not be possible to obtain both features. You don't have to choose between these as long as you are careful. I'll give some background and then explain.

The short description of a woman's profession has an awful lot of impact on your long-term future together. In other words, her education level must closely match yours. There needs to be a consideration of intelligence, awareness, curiosity, and of course education as part of the successful matching process.

Many women are fresh out of college and have an intense desire to continue learning. If matched with a man who has seen the world and is ready to relax, she will complain that he 'has no interests.' Likewise, if a well-educated woman is matched with someone less educated, he will have a difficult time keeping up or catching up with her desire to learn new things. Just the desire to read a book (or not to read) can be considered a lack of culture.

In Russia, the career field of doctor, for example, is considered to be for women. About 9 in 10 doctors are women. Encounters International has a lot of doctors and medical professionals in the database. A woman who is a doctor has completed a large amount of education and continues to desire new knowledge. She continues to grow internally. Whether she is working as a doctor in this country or not, she will still have this desire to learn and grow. The man she is matched to has to possess this desire and passion as well.

Putting The Fear of God In Her
The headings are supposed to be light hearted. This section is not. This area is so important, you will find a subsequent Handbook section devoted to it. I will briefly cover a few high-level points here.

Although, it is not typical, there is a change of religious incompatibility. It is important for you to express your religious preferences early on. As strange as this may sound, I have had an example of a woman looking down on a man for his expressed belief in God. It was her opinion that only a weak man, incapable of solving his own problems, needed help from Him.

Clearly, this is not the usual expression toward a man's beliefs. By knowing your preferences in this area, I can ensure that a woman of compatible strength and conviction is matched to you.

Feeling All Warm And Fuzzy Yet?
Encounters International looks at the big picture, so to speak. My main concern is your happiness and compatibility! The goal of all the behind the scenes work is to ensure you will be happy and compatible through checking, confirming, and testing. I want to make certain, that both of you have similar expectations about the future and your future together. If these differ substantially, I will tell you. There is no sense in either party feeling like they were used.

If you don't do your homework in these key areas, the results can be disastrous. In addition, giving in to pressure of a feeling of leaving empty handed, can result in a poor choice. You may feel like you were used simply as a ticket out of Russia.

In contrast, Encounters International clients know these important considerations before even planning a trip overseas. I guess it is fair to say that better preparation provides better results. I know if something does not match properly, the relationship will eventually fall apart; some sooner and some later. That's precisely why my staff and I work so hard to make sure the match is right for both of you.

Better Luck Next Time
I get stories directly from Russian women who came to America and cannot stand the lifestyle they are subjected to. These are not bad women at all. Unfortunately, great incompatibility was never considered by any of the parties or the agency involved.

The stories I hear are from women who are here on fiancée visas and have little time left to think about what to do. The two most common issues that I hear about are; 1) non-intellectual or violent television programs have replaced books and reading, and 2) that they feel like prisoners, isolated from the rest of the world.

As I said, these are not necessarily gold diggers or visa chasers. Nor, are the men simply lazy American couch potatoes! Instead, I believe that in most cases I have discussed, it is simply a matter that the woman is incompatible with the man. When she explains why the relationship did not work, it is obvious to me why they are not a good match.

It's a little difficult for me to say 'I told you so' when I was not involved in putting them together in the first place. Unfortunately, the result of discovering this when she is already here is actually worse than if they had not hit it off in Russia in the first place! It's a little too late to 'discover' true, deep incompatibility. They may be a perfect match; just not for each other!

One Man's Coal Is Another Man's Diamond
I often receive telephone calls from unhappy women represented by other agencies or address sellers who are already in the US. I'm amazed at how they find us since we don't advertise inside the USA. Nevertheless, these women hear by word of mouth about Encounters International. One of their first comments concerns the high quality of male clients in our agency. They quickly discover the difference in the agencies, albeit a little too late. They don't call to complain or cry on my shoulder.

Instead they call and plead to be accepted into Encounters International and matched with a male client while they are in this country. Quite often this is because they live outside the Moscow or Kiev areas and would not be accepted as members otherwise.

After screening her and applying the same criteria and considerations I mentioned above I may choose to accept her into our database under the category, "Living in the USA." Of course, that means that another woman in that category must be removed. Therefore, it is not a decision that I can take lightly. There is more detail about the database composition in another Encounters International Handbook section.

Considering the limited amount of time she may have to remain in the USA, she will not have time to correspond with my male clients. She has to rely on my judgment in this case, because the traditional selection process is not available due to time constraints.

Nevertheless, I don't just throw the telephone numbers of my male clients blindly at her. That would be no different from the environment she just left! More importantly, this would not be an appropriate procedure to ensure protection for my male clients in this country.

Since I know the issues from the past relationship with an American man, I can also use that information to help narrow in on a match. Since I don't just invite her into my office and line up 'mug shots' of men and say pick your favorite; there is no chance of a one-dimensional match based on appearance.

After listening to their stories, in more cases than not, my male clients whom I recommended to the her found this was such a great match to the right woman that they married while she is here! This comes as a very pleasant surprise to both parties. They are glad that they found who they were looking for and did not even need to make a trip to Russia or Ukraine. Through the years, I have found that these marriages are very happy and have 'stood the test of time.'

In some cases, the two parties meet and spend some time together. After that, she will return home and they continue corresponding, until she can get another fiancée visa and come back here for another 90-days.

What Do You Expect For $10, A Wife?
Sure, you can purchase an address for $10, less in larger quantities. This is the most inexpensive way to indulge yourself into the fantasy of finding a Russian pr Ukrainian wife. However, that is all you get--an expensive Avery label plus a bunch of legal disclaimers designed to protect the address seller. You literally get what you pay for: an address, and not much else.

When you become a member of Encounters International, you pay a lot more than $10 for the membership fee! Of course, you expect a lot more from us, which we deliver daily. Again, you get what you pay for!

Very often, a prospective client will ask me, "What do I get for my membership fee?" Without hesitation, my enthusiastic answer is, "You get a wife!" That is a strange answer, but technically, it is the truth. When you join Encounters International, your efforts and our help will result in your marriage!

Of course, it is not that simple or black and white. But, in all fairness, that is the bottom line. I work directly with every client. You don't get handed off to the evening shift workers (or the 'B-Team') to resolve your issues or walk you through this most important process. I answer my own telephone, e-mail, and faxes. Yes, I have a staff to assist me. But, the matchmaking is my job. Talking with clients is my job.

You are aware that we don't charge the women in Moscow or Kiev to Encounters International become members. Also, by now, you know how that fact works in your favor. You may be surprised to learn that the membership fee paid by the male clients is not kept secret from the women we represent.

The prospective of the women is that when a man is willing to invest his future in Encounters International, he must be serious and committed. I have dedicated an entire Encounters International Handbook section to questions Russian and Ukrainian women ask us. However, I believe this a good place to discuss one area that reinforces my point about fees and commitments.

Commitment Is Not Just For The Mentally Deranged
Women have come directly to me and asked why men who first buy their addresses, from catalogs or web sites, then start writing, then usually stop writing and seldom visit them? If you have written to a few women using purchased or free addresses, you will recall reading the question, "When will you come to Moscow to visit me?" That's her way of submitting you to a commitment test. Most men fail this test!

I have to tell them honestly that it is commitment that makes the difference. I do not believe that it is possible to join Encounters International unless a man is totally committed. Why would anyone want to join and not be serious about finding a future filled with happiness? On the other hand, buying an address does not imply any level of investment or commitment. The attitude I have most often run across is, "What the hell, it is only ten bucks." "If it works out then great; if not, it was only ten dollars." There should be little wonder why women are often jaded about writing letters to these men.

Several women brought shoeboxes filled with letters to me with very good intentions. They want to help me get new clients and help the men find a wife. Unfortunately, it's not possible to help the $10-take-a-chance guys. They are inside that shoebox for a good reason; lack of commitment. In my opinion, that is exactly where they need to stay with that attitude. I don't get clients from shoebox leads.

By joining Encounters International, prospective clients send an unmistakable message about the level of commitment to the process. As I mentioned above, the difference is clear to the women you contact. My male clients are generally more educated than most agencies can offer. I don't mean that a person has to be wealthy or a member of Mensa to be a successful Encounters International client. Male clients are those who are able to do research and realize there is a difference in agencies.

Which Came First, The Chicken Or The Egg?
I cannot figure out which came first--my committed male clients or above average women. I know that this is counter to the statement that opposites attract and likes repel. At Encounters International these laws of physics do not work. Clearly good attracts good!

Today it does not make any difference where the cycle of truly wonderful clients started. What is very important is that I maintain the quality on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Finally, you are paying Encounters International to tell you the truth in all situations; not simply what you want to hear or need to hear just to be happy. My promise to you, as a client, is that you will know what we know, when we know, and where you stand. Period. The information and assistance we will provide is extremely valuable when you are making this life changing decision. None of this truthful insight or seven years of matchmaking experience can be gained by simply looking at a few still photos in a catalog, or on the web, or by attending an overseas social.

Natasha Spivack, Professional Matchmaker

Do you understand a work I am saying?

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