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From Jane’s blog, where she’s been posting some amusing photos from EFL textbooks. And while we’re at it,

From this site.

Because something was messed up with the formatting, it looked like there was nothing on this page for a few days. Actually it was all there at the bottom. I re-posted the last few posts and it seems to be OK now.

I’m pretty sick of Blogger, so I’ve got a mirror of this blog over at Vox. I’m still toying with it to see if I like it, but if I do, I may switch. Anybody out there have any other suggestions for blog hosts that don’t suck and will let me import all my old posts?

When I turned on my laptop at home yesterday, a new, open wireless network popped up. It was very exciting. We don’t have internet access at home, because we live so close to the university that it seems stupid to spend money on broadband. The other good thing about not having it at home is that we can actually get work done — I’m terribly undisciplined and I can’t really work on academic papers if I know with just a click of the button I can be watching flash animation, reading salacious blogs, or googling whatever stupid thing pops into my head.

Suddenly having internet access at home, I did all of the above, neglecting the paper I was supposed to be writing. Want to know what I googled? OK, so in Swedish there are two words for preschool, “förskola” and “dagis”. They also call the places where yuppies take their dogs for the day “dagis” — well, actually “hunddagis”. So I was thinking, if I were opening my own hunddagis, I would call it DOGis, get it? Hahaha, I’m such a linguistic genius. And then it immediately occurred to me that, witty and multicultural as I am, I was certainly not the first person to think of this. So I googled it, and indeed, there are several doggy daycare centers called Dogis and Doggis in Sweden, one right in our neighboring town of Borlänge. In case you were wondering.

Anyway, a couple hours later, whoever set up the wireless network must have gotten fed up with me using all their bandwidth to catch up on Weebl and Bob episodes, and the network became security protected. And I was able to finish my paper. Phew.

Today was my first of 10 (non-consecutive) days of classroom observation for this class I’m taking on the Swedish education system, and it was quite something. After the brief, horrible experience I had last year of teaching English to 8-year-olds in a ill-conceived private school in St. Petersburg, I thought I could stand to see a proper teacher of this age group in action, in case I (god forbid) ever got thrown in front of a classroom of 8-year-olds again. It was good thinking on my part. I can see how culture and classroom atmosphere have an effect on children’s behavior. It was really refreshing. I’ll write more about it later — I’ll have to write something up for class anyway.

As promised, a brief, unoriginal paper on the Swedish education system for the uninitiated. I wound up not writing the paper in blog entry style, so sorry if it’s boring.

Edit: the formatting of the paper screwed up the blog format. I just took it off; it wasn’t so interesting anyway. If you’re curious, I can e-mail it to you.

Props to Cute Overload for posting a link to this article.

edit: Oh, and here’s a hedgehog blog. I’d forgotten about it, because it was on the Favorites on my laptop and I haven’t been using my laptop to visit the internets but rather the university computers, but today’s a rare day when I’ve brought my laptop to school and recently the university did something to its wireless network that makes it so people can actually use it (crazy!), so here we are, Numo: Hedgehog Blog

Wow, a week since my last post, and I’m not even taking an intentional break. I did try to post earlier in the week but Blogger was having problems. Or as we say in the Case-Andreev household, “Praaaaablems”.

I wanted to show you what Swedes eat on Fat Tuesday:

And a little background info:

We are exceedingly frugal, trying to live in Sweden for a year mostly unemployed, so we generally avoid overpriced cafe temptations, but I managed to persuade Kostia that we should try semla as part of our Swedish cultural education. It was certainly tasty, but nothing to go crazy over. It’s got almond paste inside. The bun isn’t pastry so much as a bread roll with cardamom. The cream is, of course, delicious.

I spent most of the past week agonizing over the final paper for a course on EU enlargement. Kostia can testify to the fact that I spent several days whining about how horrible the process of writing this paper was and how horrible it was going to turn out to be. I just came from the final seminar, and well, it was pretty painless. I really get overly worked up about some things. But I just hate turning in papers that I don’t think are good. It’s embarassing.

Having finished that paper, now I have to do a bunch of reading for a completely unnecessary elective course I’m taking about the Swedish education system. I have a paper due tomorrow that I’ve decided to write as a blog entry — the assignment is just to write a just a two-page “reflection on the literature”. So you can look forward to reading something about the Swedish education system today or tomorrow.

I’ve been feeling rather despondent lately over the state of things in my native land. Well, “lately” could mean most of my life, I suppose, but the past few days I’ve been feeling angrier than usual about Bush, the Christian Wrong, and all of that.

But there’s not much I can say that would surprise you. So I’ll just say that I think Barack Obama seems like a decent human being. Except for this “reconciling faith and politics” stuff. I know that in the US you have to pay lip service to Christianity to get elected, but I really wish that wasn’t the case.

All right, everyone knows I’m a leftist. I’ve been called a communist many times, even though I’m not, not exactly.*

But I’ve been reading Carl Bildt’s blog, and I’m impressed, not with his ideology, but with his style. Can you imagine an American politician writing a humble, down-to-earth Blogspot blog? (FYI: Bildt is a former Prime Minister and the current Foreign Minister.)

Maybe I’m wrong, and lots of politicians have such blogs. Or maybe Carl Bildt’s blog is written by a clever spin doctor to make him look humble and down-to-earth. But it’s an interesting read, anyway.

So, forgive me for linking to a right-wing blog, but anyway, the Swedish right is still to the left of the U.S. Democrats.

* Yesterday Kostia was reading a book (Fundamentalist World: The New Dark Age of Dogma) in which the author referred to himself as a post-Marxist, and I decided I liked the term, even though it’s not quite clear what it means (“If by ‘post-Marxist’ you mean someone who likes eating chocolate, then yes I am a post-Marxist!”). Actually I’m not as radical as I used to be, and I think that Sweden pretty much has it all figured out. So I’ll just call myself a Swedist. That’s still a communist by American standards.

…and one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Although you won’t really appreciate it unless you know some Swedish, I think its sheer silliness will amuse everyone a little:

Swenska tjej – It’s the grej!

Edit: Here are some more Swenglish comedy sketches by the same guy. SÅ ROLIGT!

Full like a kastrull

The vind is vänding

Swenska kläder

Yesterday was an I-love-Sweden day. Well, pretty much every day is, but some days there are minor irritations, and other days are just lovely.

It was -22C yesterday morning. These kinds of temperatures don’t scare me anymore. I had hoped that I would find winter at this latitude a little more enjoyable in a small Swedish town than in St. Petersburg, and I haven’t been disappointed. Of course, the fact that it has generally been a mild winter helps. But also, a small Swedish town is a lot cleaner than a big Russian city, and so winter is bright and cheerful instead of grim. Also, there’s the fashion angle. In a big city, big, bulky clothes just aren’t socially acceptable, so you have to choose between feeling cold and feeling frumpy. Here in Falun, among students, I don’t care that much about looking frumpy. Not that the locals dress badly, quite the contrary. But somehow dressing for the weather doesn’t make me feel conspicuous the same way that it did in SPb. Furthermore, my winter wardrobe evolved while I was there, so I have some reasonably un-frumpy winter clothes.

Anyway. After getting up this morning earlier than I like to (read: anytime before 8:30 a.m.), I was at least able to be grateful that the sun is making its way back to this part of the world. Since I’ve already started bitching about winter in St. Petersburg, let me just say that the fact that it’s in the extreme western end of its time zone doesn’t help matters. I hate getting up in the dark, and even though Falun and SPb are at pretty much the same latitude and therefore get approximately the same amount of daylight each day, the sun rises and sets significantly later in SPb, which means a large part of the year getting up in the dark EVEN IF you don’t have to get up terribly early. Of course, it also means that the sun was setting at 2:30 p.m. here in December, but I can live with that.

Right. So I left the house around 8:45, hurrying to get to a 9:00 photographer’s appointment. My passport needs renewing, and so I needed to get a photo taken. After taking special care with my hair and makeup, because after all, this is a photo I’m going to have to look at for the next ten years, I managed to arrive at the photographer’s all sweaty, even in these temperatures, because I was so warmly dressed and because I speed-walked there in record time. I was sort of fussing over myself, and the photographer was like, “It’s just a passport photograph!” Yes, but TEN YEARS I’m going to have to look at this picture! I don’t want to be fixated on my smudged mascara or messy hair for ten years. Ultimately my visage wasn’t flawless in the photo, but I can live with it. For ten years.

Don’t let the photographer’s statement lead you to believe that he wasn’t nice or sympathetic though. Because he was quite nice, and his studio was nice, and it was in a really nice building that is in this cool part of town called Regimente that used to belong to the military, and has been remodelled into really nice, airy office buildings. So I was really impressed with the office building, and while he was printing my pictures I got to sit in a very nice lounge and drink coffee.

Tips! If you’re in Falun and need a visa or passport or any other sort of photo taken, go to this guy, Åke Lindholm, and not to the place the US Embassy website suggests, which charges 300 SEK ($45) for a goddamn passport photo. Åke is much less expensive, and also, he’s nice.

While we’re on the subject of tips, if you’re in Falun and have people coming to visit, or if you’re coming to visit Falun and are looking for accommodations in the city center a little more plush than the prison hostel, check out Hotel Falun rather than the other two. That’s where I went next on today’s journey. I had been visiting the different hotels to see which one Aunt Kelly and my sister would like best when they come to visit in May. Hotel Falun is definitely tops. It’s cozy, cheerful, has a pleasant breakfast room and TV room, very friendly staff (not that the staff at the other hotels weren’t), and, of course, nice rooms, some of which have kitchenettes.

After Hotel Falun I went to my favorite Swedish shop, Systembolaget, and got their cheapest three-liter box of wine. It’s a new one, a Spanish tempranillo. Maybe it will suck (update: it didn’t suck too much), but it’s wine at only 46 SEK a litre, which is the best deal available in this country. Then I went to the bank and got a cashier’s check for my passport renewal, and went to the supermarket/post office to mail it off. I also got a 5 kilo sack of potatoes. Then I went to the fabulous secondhand shop, and another supermarket which was having some absurd discounts on some very yummy things. Then I lugged all this, the three liters of wine, the sack of potatoes, and everything else I bought, 2 kilometers uphill.

I know this probably doesn’t sound exciting to you, or even pleasant, but somehow, it was just such a satisfying morning, getting all this shit done, and everyone I dealt with being efficient and friendly, and the sun shining and sparkling on the snow.

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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February 2007