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Kostia’s not planning to go to the Russian embassy in Stockholm to vote this weekend. Nor is anyone else I know planning to vote. Not because they’re all apathetic, not even because the outcome of the election is already decided. Since the choices are a racist, a communist, Son of Putin and a fake-opposition puppet of Putin, “none of the above” is no longer an option, and write-ins were never an option, there is simply no way for a thinking person to express him/herself in this election.

(All you Nader-haters, take note. Never forget that democracy is first and foremost about having choices.)

Between 1995 and 2002 I injured my ankles approximately twelve thousand times, mostly jogging and playing ultimate frisbee. But it’s been six years since my last sprain or stress fracture, and I sort of forgot that my ankles are a big problem. So when Lenka and Dima invited me to their orienteering club’s circuit training on Wednesday, I didn’t think about wearing an ankle brace or not jumping over hurdles, I just thought it would be good for me to do something sporty, since I’ve been supremely lazy of late.

I made a great impression on the orienteering folks by landing on my foot sideways and spectacularly spraining my ankle within the first 20 minutes. Now that I think about it, although I like running and I like maps, orienteering isn’t the sport for me, what with all that running in the forest. Uneven terrain is designed for spraining ankles.

At least I wasn’t far from home and there were people around to give me a ride, unlike the time I was on a business trip and twisted my ankle jogging in an unfamiliar neighborhood. I had to take a taxi to the hospital then.
I didn’t go to the hospital this time; I remember the old routine: ice, compression bandage, ibuprofen, rest. I can get away without crutches since it’s school vacation (known as Winter Sports Break, oh, the irony) in Sweden this week, and I don’t have to go anywhere until Monday.

I’m getting a lot of reading done now.

Because I worked on the Nader 2000 campaign, I’ve received some e-mails from friends and family asking me what I think about Ralph Nader’s recent announcement that he’s running for president again.

I have nothing but respect for Ralph. I don’t regret the 2000 campaign, even with 20/20 hindsight. We had a chance to propel the Green Party to major party status by getting 5% of the vote. We didn’t make it, but we tried.

Ralph is right on all the issues. He’s the only candidate I’ve ever voted for with a completely clear conscience.

I disagree with anyone who says he shouldn’t run. I wholeheartedly agree with Ralph that in a democracy it is anybody’s right to run for president and everybody’s right to vote for the candidate who best supports their views. I agree with Ralph that someone needs to put on the table the issues that the Democrats are avoiding.

I just don’t think anything is going to come of this campaign. He got 3% of the vote in 2000, even less in 2004. As in 2004, he’s running as an independent, which means he’s not helping to build an alternative party. I think this is his biggest mistake. We know he’s not going to win, but there would be some purpose to his campaign if he were working with a progressive party.

So, I can’t say I have a stance. I’m still supporting Obama. But I still believe in Ralph.

I watched “An Unreasonable Man” again the other day. At the end I got weepy. I wish we lived in a world where Ralph Nader could be elected president of the US.

After watching four cross-country ski races this weekend at the Swedish Ski Games, today I went to keep Lenka company and cheer Dima on as he skied the half Vasaloppet. If we’re still in Sweden next winter I’ll get myself some skis. I used to have some, but had to get rid of them during one of my many moves.

I’m happy to report that the weather has become wintry again after looking dangerously spring-like for several days, so I can put off tidying up the patio area in front of our apartment for awhile longer.

Some pictures from the Ski Games:

Me, Elena, and Andreas in our groovy orange jackets.

As the only American among the volunteers, I got to carry the American flag at opening ceremonies. This is one of those Patriotic Things I Wouldn’t Do At Home, like the time I was forced to sing The Star-Spangled Banner in its entirety at a party in Russia.

Me and Kostia with an owl, the symbol of Falun. I aspire to be an owl at next year’s Ski Games.

Oh right, and there was some skiing too.

And a photo from today’s half-Vasaloppet, a decidedly more democratic event:

Just some random skiers, not Dima – my photos of him came out blurry. Note the very Swedish cabins in the background.

The Swedish Ski Games are coming up this weekend and I’ve volunteered as an “attaché”, a go-between for the organizing office and a national team. They try to assign people to their home countries if possible, so I’ve got the US team. But since everyone in Sweden speaks English and the team is pretty self-sufficient, they don’t really need me to do anything, so it seems that my role is to wear this groovy orange jacket and attend the games for free.

Anyway, on Monday, when I introduced myself to the US team leader, he asked me if I was from the British Isles. I know that the way I speak English has changed a bit since I started teaching English as a foreign language – sometimes I try to pronounce “t”s like “t”s and not like “d”s (butter not budder) so my students understand me better, and I’ve tried to make my Upstate NY/Midwestern Standard vowels a little less nasal, ’cause that just sounds bad – but I didn’t think I sounded FOREIGN.

The really amusing thing is that earlier the same day I was introduced to a guy from Ukraine, and he thought I was Russian at first. I still make plenty of grammar mistakes in Russian, but I can fool people with my pronunciation if the conversation is short and we stick to the pleasantries. So now I’ve got an accent in English but not in Russian. :-)

There’s a very funny comment under this blog post. The post itself is worth reading, as it addresses the claim that Barack Obama is all style and no substance. For those not following the US election very closely, you should know that Obama’s campaign slogan is “Yes We Can” and that a lot of Democrats are having a hard time deciding whether to support Obama or Hillary Clinton. The comment suggests that the following doesn’t fit very well on a bumper sticker:

Might As Well Try And See If We Can, and If Not, Hillary Will Do All Right Too

And, well, that’s kind how I feel about it as well.

My left wrist, left hip, and all the under-used muscles of my body are sore today. Yesterday I tried Nordic skating for the first time. Falun is built among lakes, and there’s one particularly large one on which they clear paths for skating. One path goes all the way to Borlänge, a town about 20 kilometers away. You can see a map of it here. My friend Lenka and I just did the little loop, the red one, but we did it two and a third times, so that was about 14 kilometers of skating. It’s not as hard as running 14 kilometers, but it was still hard. It’s harder than skating in a circle on figure skates. I fell pretty spectacularly three times, and I can usually manage not to fall when I go to a skating rink. The skates are different – they’re kind of like little cross-country skis with blades, and you use exactly the same kind of boots you use for cross-country skiing. And the bumps and cracks in the natural ice can be pretty treacherous. Still, it was pretty fun and good exercise, and I’d like to try it again once I’ve recovered.


me, stumbling along


Lenka, more graceful than I am


Check out the ice sailboat!

It turns out there are a lot of YouTube videos of Nordic skating. Check it out!

On my walk home today, it occurred to me that we had all the necessary elements of a proper IKEA meal: meatballs, little potatoes, lingonberry jam, plus the IKEA tableware, table, and even gravy mix we got from Claudia and Luke. When I got home I realized that in addition to all of that, we had napkins with elks on them, glögg (kind of like mulled wine, without the wine in this case), and, of course, candles. And once I put the plates on the table, Kostia reminded me about the little Swedish flags on toothpicks, another thing we inherited from Claudia and Luke. So we had a meal to make Ingvar Kamprad proud.



And here’s a lovely little song about IKEA, which I first heard about from… Claudia. She’s the biggest IKEA-phile I’ve ever met.

I’ve been trying to decide how I want to be involved and who I want to support in the US presidential election. I’m a registered Green Party member, but after the 2000 election I decided that the best way to build the party was from the ground up, meaning campaigning for local and state offices rather than the presidency, unless there happened to be a superstar candidate who actually stood a chance of winning. However, I’ve been a little hesitant to publicly support a Democrat, since the Democratic party has been a big disappointment for a long time, and although it’s on the left side of the American political spectrum, it’s still too far to the right for me on many issues.

Nevertheless, I’ve made a decision. I’m going to support Barack Obama. I actually feel that he represents something to vote for, instead of just being the lesser evil, which is all the Democrats have offered us recently. I like the fact that he opposed the Iraq war from the beginning, his stances on most of the other issues are more or less tolerable, and I feel that maybe there’s some hope for my homeland if we could actually put an African-American in the White House.

I’m going to contribute money to the Obama campaign, but to soothe my conscience I’ll send an equal amount to the campaign of a Green candidate who’s running for state office and has a chance of winning. I’m still researching who that might be, but I’ll keep you posted.


Things are working out really well. It seems I’ve got a bit of work in a high school, and I guess I won’t say too much more about that since the students are bound to discover my blog. :-) I’ve signed up for a few courses at the university and have regained the benefits that a student card has to offer.

I mentioned that the weather has been lovely and snowy since we arrived. This for instance, is the view we woke up to on our second day back in Sweden:



Best of all, I really like our apartment. It’s on the ground floor, which was a mild disappointment to me and a grave one to Kostia, but actually this has a lot of benefits. It feels a bit more homey since we have our own direct entrance rather than a stairway and corridor. We have a little patio area with a hedge around it, which will be nice in the spring and summer. Here’s Kostia next to our door:


Here’s our building – ours is the door on the lower right.


We were told our apartment had 1.5 rooms but really didn’t know what that meant until we saw it. What it means is that it is a two-room apartment, or, in American parlance, a one-bedroom, but the bedroom is only considered a half room since it is quite small. Still, it’s big enough for a bed and a table and a chair, and has a huge walk-in closet, and it’s certainly bigger than the miniscule basement bedroom I had on Euclid Street in Washington in 2001-2002. The living room is very good-sized, and while the kitchen isn’t an eat-in kitchen, it’s well-designed for cooking.

We got a mattress over the weekend, and I visited the second hand shops and a moving sale, so now we only lack a sofa and an armchair.

We don’t, however, have internet at home yet, so I’m writing this from the university. But it’s getting to be dinnertime and I’d like to go back to our cozy little home, so I’m going to sign off here.

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 2008