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I’ve spent two afternoons shopping for tomorrow’s party. Yesterday I purchased a ridiculous amount of alcohol. Today I got a shopping cart full of party food. There were two pre-teen girls in the line ahead of me, and they were wide-eyed at the sight of my cart. In Russia, like most of the world, the custom is still to buy just enough food for one or two days at a time.

Food shopping in a foreign country can be kind of stressful. You may have in mind what you want, but not know what it’s called or even if it exists. And if it does, it may be in some sketchy-looking packaging and you think, hmm, might this have nuclear waste in it? So you go down each aisle scrutinizing each product, checking the dictionary, wondering if the clerks are wondering “What’s wrong with that girl? She’s been grocery shopping for three hours, and this store isn’t even that big!” And then, if you haven’t brought enough of your own shopping bags, you have to buy some, which is fine, but they ask you how many you want BEFORE you start bagging. Then you overestimate and wind up with too many bags and feel horrible.

Well, hopefully our guests will enjoy the fruits of this back-breaking labor. Aunt Kelly has been constantly admonishing me not to invite too many people, which is amusing since I think about a quarter of the guests will be my invitees. But we’ll see. I hope friends will bring friends and we’ll meet lots of new people — that was the original idea. And I hope my Chinese classmates come, if only because it’ll take them away from studying for a night — stinkin’ overachievers!


The little pig that started it all… Posted by Hello

Paris to Aix-les-Bains

Orange and Pont du Gard

Marseille, Albi & Moissac


St. Emilion, Bordeaux and Chartres

Paris again

Thanks Terry!

I really should get my own digital camera. Maybe Ded Moroz (Russian Santa) will bring me one.

Today Aunt Kelly and I were in a cafe, and there were a couple of late-middle-aged guys sitting at a nearby table, speaking (what I correctly identified as) Finnish. One guy kept looking in our direction in an overly-familiar way, and at one point Aunt Kelly said, “That guy just said something to you,” but I just ignored him.

Finally they got up to leave and the guy came over, put a hand on each of our shoulders, and said something to us. Aunt Kelly said, “Sorry, we don’t speak… Russian,” which is kind of silly because I do speak Russian, but she didn’t really know what else to say because at that point we weren’t sure that they were speaking Finnish.

So the guy says in English, “You don’t speak Russian? Where are you from?” “The U.S.” “America!” he said, and then to his friend, “Aaaa-me-ri-ka! Hallelujah!”* His companion said (in Spanish!), “Norte America?” The first guy said, “I was sure you were Finnish girls and you understood every word we were saying.”

I said, “Well, we take that as a compliment.” And we do. The Finns are classy people, and we certainly don’t want to be seen as obnoxious Americans. (Last week a guy on the street asked us if we were French, but I think that was just an anomaly.) We were both wearing cozy sweaters, and mine was even from Norway, so that certainly helps our Scandinavian image. That’s the third time I’ve been mistaken for a Finn. Now I just need to learn to speak Finnish.

* Which reminds me of the scene from The Barbarian Invasions when the main characters cross the border into Vermont from Quebec. (Hugh will remember this.) If you haven’t seen the film, I recommend it.

Friendster Message

From: Khalid

Subject: i want a wife.

Message: I am from (see my profile),and

search a beautiful wife for My ……. hole life.

I am also search a female friend for chat.

I like females but I have no female friend. Please

send your id r add Me.

My id is

Please add Me and give Me some idea for Me.r

call me on pk..0938311471

And for My search, why female ignore Me?




Because I am a Simple boy?

R You ignore Me?

Ohhhhh Good, You r Gread.

I am waiting of Your response.

Ok, God Bless you.

Why? Why? Maybe it has something to do with your… “hole life.”

For some reason I have been getting more random Friendster messages than usual, always from men (boys), usually from southeast Asia. Should I put something in my profile like “I am interested in making new friends, but if you write to me, at least say something that indicates we have a common interest”? Probably not — it’s clear such people aren’t concerned with the content of the profiles anyway:

hello. my name is mehmet.25 years old and from

turkei in ankara…

I look a holiday friend and see your profile.

my job a military officer and I want contack with

you If u want talk me….

I; from turkei in ankara but summer living a antalya


if u want a holiday with me pls contack with me

I realy and very sure want a friend with


see you later nice girlllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll

Hmm, a holiday in Turkey does sound nice, but I’ll save the 25-year-old military officer for Terry.

It’s been a busy few days. School is good. My classmates, all from China and Taiwan, are really sweet and welcoming and helpful. My concerns about being bored in Phonetics class have dissipated somewhat — they all speak quite well — but we’ll find out for sure tomorrow. On the whole, they seem to have better grammar and vocabularies than I do. The group is hard, but not over my head.

The weather got warm yesterday, and by “warm” I mean “above freezing.” It was raining lightly yesterday and today, which has made things pretty slippery.

The apartment’s in good shape now, so we’ve scheduled our housewarming party. It’ll be next Friday, the 10th. Looking forward to it.

I guess I can say I’ve officially started job hunting, as I e-mailed my resume to a few places this evening. I’m not feeling particularly confident about my Russian in a professional setting, but I guess I just have to get over that and try.

I learned something important yesterday. Being drunk makes a metro ride go much faster, but it makes it harder to walk on the ice. I didn’t fall, but it took every ounce (er, gram) of concentration not to.

Today I learned not to bother looking in lots of different shops for little things (e.g. shower curtain rings), but rather go right to the big department store, Gostiniy Dvor. The little shops don’t have what you want, and GD isn’t that overpriced as long as you’re not looking for designer clothes.

About This Blog

I'm an American who started blogging when I moved to Russia in 2004. Eventually I moved to Sweden, where life is pleasant but uneventful, and stopped blogging for lack of interesting things to say. And then I joined Facebook, which further destroyed any motivation for blogging. Maybe someday I'll start blogging again, but for now, this blog is dormant, an archive of The Russia Years: 2004-2008.

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December 2004
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