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Life has been kind of uneventful these past few weeks, hence the lack of blogging. I have been working a lot and shopping for boots in my spare time. The latter takes a lot more time than you would think. Finding tall black boots that don’t have stilletto heels, absurdly long pointed toes, ten million buckles, sequins, chains and god knows what else in St. Petersburg is pretty challenging. I need my footwear to be comfortable and tasteful, but I don’t want granny boots either. Then there are my chubby calves, which further limits the tall boot selection. I did see some promising boots last Friday… I just didn’t have enough money on me at the time.

Right, so you can see how exciting it’s been lately. But I’m not complaining.

At the moment Kostia is waiting most impatiently for a letter from our university in Sweden with his official job offer so he can go to the Swedish Consulate and get his work permit before next Monday, when the classes he’s supposed to teach are starting. He’s already been teaching two distance courses on the internet and they want him to teach several more in person in November and December. Since we don’t know whether there’s a longer-term job there for him in the future, I’m staying in St. Petersburg for now to keep working – I wouldn’t want to quit the language school and dump all my students only to find that we’re back here in January – and I’ll just visit for two weeks or so. Though I’m not looking forward to this six-week separation, I’m also not worrying too much about it yet, since bureaucracy and the Russian postal service may keep it from happening anyway.

So here’s a bit of a cultural-linguistic curiosity for you Russophiles. First, some background: Yevroset is one of several mobile phone retailers in Russia. As I think I’ve mentioned before, here subscription plans for mobile phones are rare; nearly everyone has pre-paid service. You can add money to your phone account at places like Yevroset and they get a commission for it. There are also automated machines where you can do this, which I think are becoming more popular than actually going into one of these outlets.

Anyway, Kostia wanted to buy Zemfira‘s new album, licensed copies of which are being sold only at Yevroset in what I think is some kind of crass marketing conspiracy, so we went to a Yevroset outlet, where I noticed they were offering some very amusing stickers as a gimmick for people adding money to their phones. My phone had plenty of money on it, but when I started fawning over the stickers, the guy behind the counter was kind enough to give them to me for free.


click to enlarge

The stickers say “I’m a hare”, “I’m a hedgehog”, I’m a snake”, etc, but here Yevroset is trying to be hip and cool by intentionally misspelling things in the manner of the internet writing style “Albanian” or “Preved“. Furthermore, the one on the bottom left is borderline vulgar – it says “I’m a fat arctic fox” but this phrase sounds like another common but very vulgar phrase that means something like “a FUBAR situation”. Kostia tells me it isn’t the first time that Yevroset has alluded to mat in its advertising – they once had a slogan which roughly translates to “Our prices will blow your f**king mind” (complete with asterisks – they couldn’t actually write out the equivalent in a public ad campaign). Apparently the company owner is a bit of a character.

A few days ago I got a text message from a friend in Falun asking me where I had gotten my new passport pictures taken last January. See, I had such a positive experience that I told everyone about it and even blogged about it. So I found Åke Lindholm’s business card, and sent my friend the info.

I was very shocked to get a message back from her today saying that Åke died two months ago. He had appeared to be about 50 and quite healthy. I looked for an obituary on the Darlanas Tidningar website, and discovered that he died in a sailing accident. How sad. 

When reading the news about American and Russian politics and corruption starts to get me down, it’s always refreshing to read about a real Swedish scandal…

Policeman fined for savoury tart bribe

A policeman in Lund has been found guilty of trying to get a trombonist to reward him and his fellow officers with a savoury tart if they managed to solve the case of a missing instrument, Sydsvenskan reports.The court fined the officer eighty days’ wages for overstepping the culinary mark. Read the rest of this entry »

Today I was in the computer lab at the language school where I work, chatting with a fellow teacher, and another teacher who I’d never seen before walked in, a young guy with a Scottish accent. He said something about it being cold, and I said it was only going to get worse, and he said “Someone told me to get some fur-lined boots for winter, but that sounds pretty gay to me.” I thought to myself: First of all, dude, how old are you, 13? Second of all, if fur-lined boots sound gay to you, you’re going to have a rough time adapting to Russian culture. For there are many things in Russia which might appear “gay” to the homophobic Brit or American (especially when it comes to footwear), and yet, ironically, Russian culture can be quite heterosexist. In any case, you dumb wanker, you’d better get yourself some warm boots if you don’t think you’re going to run home screaming before winter sets in.

Kostia (in Russian): Khuy, khuy, khuy*. Why is spam always about khuy?

Me: Because people make money by creating insecurities and then selling products to relieve those insecurities. But do they really write “khuy” in Russian spam?

Kostia: No, I’m talking about English spam. Russian spam is all about real estate in Moscow. 

* The worst Russian swear word, meaning “penis”. Information on the rich Russian swearing vocabulary here and a bit more here.

The band “Nol” (Zero) was one of the top-ten perestroika-era bands, according to Kostia. I met their former manager once. He was Aunt Kelly’s colleague!

It seems I only really have the time and inclination to blog on Monday mornings. These days I’ve got a work schedule which is quite nice in some ways – the weekend begins at 10.15 a.m. on Fridays and ends at 5 p.m. on Mondays. But in between I work from early morning to late evening, so there’s no time for blogging. I spend Friday and Saturday recovering, and on Sunday there are better things to do. So below are a week’s worth of blog posts; perhaps regular readers ought to read just one per day, because there won’t be any more til next weekend at least.

Here are some pictures from a square in the north-east sector of St. Petersburg. I haven’t spent much time in this part of town before, but now I’m teaching four lessons a week at a company located there.


The banners are imploring St. Petersburg governor Valentina Matvienko to return the square to the people. I’m guessing that the blue construction barrier you see in the photo is guarding a construction site that used to be a park.


“At the smell of gas, call” (the gas company, presumably). There’s a similar public service announcement in another part of town which I’ve always wanted to take a picture of. It’s on top of a fire station and says “Don’t allow children to play with matches”.

When I was in Sweden in August I got a free academic calendar from the student union. This keeps me abreast of important Swedish holidays, like cinnamon bun day last Thursday. Having already noted the presence of frozen Swedish cinnamon buns at O’kay, I finally had an excuse to buy them. Kostia and I had en riktig fika! (A proper coffee break.)



Awhile ago I promised more pictures from the weird (but really nice) park near our house:





Another thing I did the weekend before last is visit the Moomin exhibtion they were having at Gostiniy Dvor. As an exhibition there wasn’t much to speak of – big posters of the Moomin comic strip in Russian translation and a few display cases of Moomin merchandise, none of which was actually on sale, but the guest book was quite touching, and I photographed many pages of it. Here are two of my favorites: 


“Hi Moomin – Hi Bear”, written in “Albanski” (Wikipedia calls it “Preved“, perhaps to be more politically correct), what Russian internet users call the intentional misspelling of words for comic effect, an interesting phenomenon. “Hello Bear” (Preved medved) was one of the original Albanski catchphrases.


“Thank you to the Jansson family for our happy childhood!”

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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October 2007