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Lately my enjoyment of the lovely St. Petersburg summer has given way to a sense of mild frustration. I suppose it’s partly because it’s becoming evident that summer is winding down – it’s chilly and the nights are getting longer and darker. And I suppose I’m getting anxious about the move to Sweden, though I shouldn’t too much, since all the arrangements are working out nicely – we found a fabulously cheap flight to Stockholm, and Kostia’s best friend is taking over our apartment so we can leave a lot of our stuff on long-term loan to him and not have to move it all to Kostia’s hometown.
The annoying things include the fact that the folks in the international students’ office and the housing office at our future university rarely answer their phones or e-mail, and when they do, the information they give is less informative than one might hope for. Though perhaps it’s good that my impression of Sweden as a completely efficient society where everyone speaks perfect English is being trimmed down to more realistic proportions BEFORE going there.
Also, packing, once again, fills me with huge amounts of self-loathing. Why do I have so much stuff that seems so indispensable in this tiny flat alone, not to mention the furniture and boxes of crap spread out amongst friends and relatives in the US? It makes me feel like a horrible, materialistic person. OK. From now on, I’m never going to buy anything again. (Or accept any non-cash gifts. :-) )
Right. So as to end this post on a positive note, I should write about the superfun birthday party I had a week and a half ago. I have an acquaintance who owns a boat and does boat tours, and I rented his boat for three hours, so I and about 10 other people cruised the waterways of St. Petersburg on a lovely Saturday evening. Here are a few pictures.
Right. So that G-8 summit thingy is in town. Or, more accurately, outside town, but there are still plenty of extra police in town, authorized to check documents and extract fines from anyone not registered to live in St. Petersburg. Democracy, anyone? There were some antiglobalist protests yesterday, but I wasn’t well-informed enough to take part. There are some officially-permitted protests… confined to a stadium. The overall effect on St. Petersburg has been calm, since most people took the cue to get the hell out of town and spend a long weekend at the dacha or whatever.
After hitting 35+ degrees (90 or so Fahrenheit) last week, which Petersburgers find absolutely unbearable, the temperature was 12 degrees (low 50s F) today and rainy. The clouds darkened the sky last night and made it seem as though summer was coming to an early end. White nights are more or less over now, but the sun still sets quite late. I don’t want summer to end. Summer in St. Petersburg is fucking great and this one has been especially enjoyable.
And… today’s my 30th birthday. Whoa. 30. But I can’t complain. I did a lot of interesting things in my 20s, and I still get mistaken for a college student, so I don’t have to lament getting “old” and not having accomplished anything. My main concern about turning 30 is, am I required to become, like, all serious and grown-up about stuff now? ‘Cause I’m not really prepared to do that.
Yesterday I took Kostia’s and my passports to the Swedish consulate, left them there for 6 hours, and when I returned they each had a very beautiful page-size sticker stuck in them that says UPPEHALLSTILLSTAND (except the A’s have little circles over them). Our residence permits! From August 1 until June 30 of next year, we will be legal residents of Sweden.
Soooo exciting. So, by August 23, this will no longer be the blog of an American Russophile in St. Petersburg, but an American Russophile and Swedophile in Falun, Sweden. Don’t worry though, there will still be plenty of Russian content, as I’ll still be living with a Russian. And there will be new and interesting stories about Swedish small town life.
I haven’t added to my list of Things I Like About Russia in awhile, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any more.
On Saturday Kostia and I bought two cans of beer and some suhariki (croutons intended to be eaten as a beer snack) and went to the 300 Years To St. Petersburg park on the north side of the gulf of Finland. We sat atop a concrete wall, looked at the sea, and drank our beers. It was about 8 p.m., the sun was shining brightly, and the temperature was just right. All around us people were strolling, flying kites, walking dogs, and riding bikes. We could hear the England-Portugal World Cup match being watched in a nearby beer tent.
In most places in the U.S. you can’t drink a beer in a public park, and in many places you can’t buy just one beer (and for the equivalent of 70 cents at that). Though I understand why, and think that public drunkenness and alcoholism in Russia are BIG problems, sometimes it’s really nice to have a stroll, sip a beer and look at the sea on a summer evening.
St. Petersburgers really like going for walks, especially during this precious short time of the year when the weather is nice. Not a power walk for exercise, just a calm stroll, talking to your companions, enjoying the sun. It’s a form of personal entertainment as legitimate as any other. Of course, Americans go for walks too, but here it’s really an institution.
(Check out the film Progulka (The Stroll) for more insight into walking in St. Petersburg.)
With the G-8 summit approaching, Russia is trying to crack down on one of the problems that’s keeping it out of the World Trade Organization: pirated electronic media. So the shelves in some of our DVD shops are looking as bare as the wine aisle at the supermarket.
And in principle, I think this is the right thing to do, but I have been spoiled by having a wide selection of 100-ruble ($4.50) DVDs. Considering that Kostia’s and my favorite way to spend an evening is to get a bottle of wine and a DVD, our lifestyle has been seriously cramped by Russia’s recent attempts to stamp out counterfeit products.
… is a Soviet-era word which means, as its English equivalent (deficit) implies, a shortage of something. Russia is currently suffering a wine deficit.
Kostia and I are red wine drinkers and we probably drink a bottle every three days on average. When we are students in heavily-taxed Sweden, alcohol will be all but unaffordable for us, so we were looking forward to our last few months of indulgence.
When wine started disappearing from the shelves last week, we were unconcerned. Kostia’s theory was that it was all bought up by high school graduates preparing for the all-night graduation party last weekend. Although this didn’t sound likely to me, anything’s possible in Russia.
But now all of the shelves are bare, waiting for the new import tax stickers to be printed, and we’re forced to drink beer. Which is OK in moderation, but…
(Masha Gessen also has a nice piece about this terrible problem.)