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After being rainy and horrible for most of Emily (my sister) and Aunt Kelly’s visit, we had a few beautiful days. Then the weather became overcast and it’s been like that for, I don’t know, a week now. It’s the kind of overcast where it really doesn’t rain much and the sky is just sort of uniform white all day. And because it’s White Nights season now (even though they don’t really call it that outside of St. Petersburg), the sky is basically the same shade of white 20 hours a day, then it gets dark for a little while, then it goes back to white again. It’s very disorienting as there’s no way of telling what time of day it is. It looks the same at 4:30 a.m. as at noon as at 10:00 p.m. I hope we get a bit of sunshine soon.
Very soon this blog will begin to be an official Blog About Russia again. Even though I really just write self-centered stuff about my life and things that I find funny and interesting, location seems to count for a lot. So all of you who link to me who weren’t sure how to categorize me for the past 10 months, you can put me back in the Russia category as of June 17.
If you’re in St. Petersburg and you know of any people looking for private English teachers or any apartments coming available in the second half of June, please get in touch!!
Hurrah, I got my Russian visa. I was going to jump off a cliff if it got denied, because an awful lot of money went into getting it. I got my invitation through a travel service this time after learning my lesson not to get a visa through an employer, at least not if your employer is a shady Russian language school. So I had to pay for the invitation, but it’s worth it to know that my legal status will be in my own hands, not those of an incompetent person working under an evil person.
Today I tried out one of these free city bikes programs. This one wasn’t exactly free, but 10 kronor isn’t bad for 10 hours of bike use. You sign up at this website, and you can look there to see where the bikes are parked, or just find them on the street somewhere. When you find the bike, you send an SMS to book it, and they send you back the code for the lock. Then when you’re finished you send another SMS saying where you’re leaving the bike. It’s a great system which was working quite well until I got a flat tire, which ruined my plan for the afternoon of exploring Gothenburg on bike. When it happened I was in the middle of a sort of industrial zone which was far from anything interesting and equidistant from the two main bridges connecting back to central Gothenburg. The best option was to walk the bike back the way I came. A bit of a disappointment, but it was an adventure anyway.
So now I’m back in the lovely public library amusing myself until it’s time to catch my train.
The Gothenburg trip is working out better than planned. At the Russian consulate this morning the man behind the window seemed quite pleased that I spoke Russian, and even smiled and made pleasant small talk, something I never experienced in my many trips to the Russian consular office in Washington. Even better, he said that it would be possible to get my visa tomorrow, rather than having to wait a week. Of course, that was phenomenally expensive, but actually, I don’t know how much it would have been had I waited a week, because on the consulate’s website it listed prices for Swedes only. Prices for Russian visas vary in an incomprehensible way depending on your nationality, the country you’re applying for the visa in, and how fast you want the visa processed. I didn’t want to confuse the issue by doing the price comparison right there in the office, I just wanted to get the visa tomorrow if I could. If I had waited a week I would have had to pay for another trip down here anyway. And worry for a week about whether the visa would be approved or not. Now I only have to worry for a day.
I visited the city library in the hope of finding free wireless internet, and although they had it in theory, I couldn’t find a reliable signal. The library itself was really nice – you would expect no less of Sweden. I found myself surrounded by American students – whether they were in high school or college I couldn’t tell.
I’ve returned to the hostel where I spent last night. Because it’s so nice, I’ll recommend it: Slottsskogens Vandrarhem.
I really like Gothenburg. I like the architecture and the feel of the city, and, as I mentioned, the trams. I think Kostia and I need to look for jobs here.
So I’m in Gothenburg, on a mission to drop off my Russian visa application, spend as little money as possible, and go right back to Falun, which is the opposite of what I would like to do in this lovely city. I’ll have to come back next week to pick up the visa, so maybe I can persuade myself and Kostia that a little tourism is worth it, even if we have just enough money to get back to St. Petersburg and get ourselves set up there. That’s what credit cards are for, right? :-)
I’ve never been here before unless you count a couple hours in the bus station the first time I visited Scandinavia, when I took the bus from Stockholm to Copenhagen. When I stepped out of the train station today I liked it instantly. They have trams, for one thing. Also, you don’t have to walk too far from the train station before feeling like you’re in a place where people actually live. By comparison, downtown Stockholm feels like there isn’t anything but tourists and the tourist industry for miles around.
I was less than happy that the only hostel I could book on short notice was pretty far from both the train station and the Russian consulate, but now I’m happy for the excuse to walk across town. And the hostel itself is quite nice, very inexpensive, and what’s more, has free wireless internet. Hurrah!
It seems our time in Sweden is coming to an end. Tomorrow I have my last Swedish class, and after that I’m headed to Gothenburg to apply for a new Russian visa (don’t ask why I’m not applying in Stockholm, it’s a long story). We’re still not exactly sure when we’re heading to St. Petersburg, but it looks like it will be mid-June. We’ll be back here again sooner or later, though. At the very least, I have to come back in August to hand in my thesis.
On the one hand, it would be nice to stay longer in Sweden. On the other hand, after 10 months in quiet, boring Falun, most of which I have thoroughly enjoyed, I am looking forward to being in a big city again. Earning money again will be nice too. This year has been a good exercise in frugality, but frugality isn’t much fun.
This is my first post to be posted officially on WordPress and not simply imported from Blogger. I’ve been blogging on Blogger for two and a half years, so this feels a little strange. But I think the change will be better for all concerned.
Can someone tell me why Flickr is so popular? I started an account because several people I know have one, and WordPress has this nice feature that posts your most recent Flickr photos, but I find it absolutely user-unfriendly even if it looks cool. Does one have to pay $24.95 in order for it not to suck? Because I’m not paying.
This has been an unusual week. Aunt Kelly and Sister Emily were visiting (remind me to do something with the photos from the stuff we did while they were here – some of them are on Flickr but since figuring out how to organize them is such a pain I don’t really want to promote my Flickr page at the moment), and the same day they left Kostia went to a Fancypants Writers’ Conference in Visby, so after a whirlwind of activity, suddenly everything was quiet. And the university library was closed yesterday for some holiday - one of those obscure religious ones that are observed in secular Sweden for some reason – and again today for the “squeeze day”. And the weather is crap, cold and rainy. And I should work on my thesis, and I did, this morning, a little, but mostly I’ve been wasting time in the computer lab and doing Sudoku puzzles and eating cereal.
All right, I’m off to pull myself together.
Anyone who has some kind of site meter on their blog has the privilege of seeing what kinds of disturbing things people type into search engines, and worse, how some combination of words on your own blog brings these freaks to it. I’ve already mentioned what brings the most people to my blog. Jane must have a really high page rank if Googling for “naked women” brings her so much traffic – I mean, aren’t there several dozen million porn sites featuring pictures of actual naked women?
Anyway, Google referred two particularly amusing Sweden-related searches to my blog today:
1. swedish food bajs
As we learned here earlier this academic year, “bajs” is decidedly not food, even if it was at some earlier stage. Sometimes an actual piece of poo is referred to as “bajskorv”, or “poop sausage”, due to its sausage-like shape, but “korv” is the food word here, not bajs. Someone is confused.
2. swedish snot band flash kindergarten
I’m trying to imagine what the hell this person was looking for, and the only thing I can think of is The Ark, Sweden’s Eurovision entry. Anyone else have any theories?
Oh my, I shouldn’t be wasting brain cells on this, but it is kind of a cultural/political issue. There’s all this whining in the Swedish and British media about the Eurovision result, accusing Eastern Europe of shadowy voting procedures (i.e. multiple voting by SMS) and eastern bloc pacts and stuff. Some people are even proposing a musical iron curtain with an East-Eurovision and a West-Eurovision. I have a few points to make.
1. Voting is done by country, not by total number of votes cast, so an individual voting by SMS more than once skews their country’s result, not the overall result. One could argue that since all countries get to cast the same number of votes then individual votes in countries with small populations count more (Kind of like the Electoral College in the U.S. being skewed toward the Red(neck) states). Since there are lots of little countries in Eastern Europe, perhaps the voting is slightly skewed in that direction (but then, this is the case for Scandinavia too). On the other hand, the UK, Germany, France, and Spain are automatically entered into the final no matter how bad their songs are, I assume because, as the biggest countries in Europe, they provide the bulk of the viewing audience. So, you know, who really has the advantage here?
2. The Swedish entry was mediocre and the British entry was total crap, so they have nothing to whine about. The only entries from Western Europe that I liked were France and Germany. But I never expect the masses to like what I like, so I wasn’t really surprised that they didn’t win.
3. So Eastern Europe did well this year. But hello? This is ONE YEAR. Finland won last year and Greece the year before. Western Europe can’t handle those second-class citizens in the East winning just once? Racist jerks.
4. Eastern Europe voting by bloc? Who did Sweden get almost all of its points from? Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Norway. Everybody votes for their neighbors. It’s lame, but not surprising. So maybe they need to change the rules so that countries can’t vote for their neighbors either. And finally…
5. It’s Eurovision. It’s silly. It’s fun to get drunk and watch it and see what kind of insanity is going on in the pop music world. It doesn’t really matter who wins.