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I’m in Upstate New York, USA. It is warm and humid. Humidity is such a novelty! I will write more soon, but I’m a bit sleepy at the moment. It’s 9pm here – I think it’s late enough that I can sort of start getting ready to go to sleep without being too much of a loser, especially since I want to go jogging in the morning and have coffee with my grandpa, who gets up at 6am.

They had a carnival in our ghetto and the parade went past our door.

I baked some gourmet pizzas. The one has caramelized onion, spinach, and mushrooms, the other has this beet pasta sauce. I love the stuff but am bored of pasta, so that’s why I started investigating pizza dough.

We went to Uppsala for midsommar, the Scandinavian solstice festival. There was folk music and dancing around maypoles at Old Uppsala

I liked this fountain in Uppsala proper

The Linneaus botanical garden

On the night of the solstice I made Kostia and Dima go for a walk at 1:00 a.m. If you know me, you know that it took a supreme effort to stay awake and leave the house at that hour, but it was worth it. Here you can see the transition from dusk to dawn at 1:30 a.m.

That’s Dima

Finally, today was an historic day because Kostia cooked something from a recipe. We have several cookbooks in German that we inherited from Claudia when she moved away. Kostia wanted to keep the cookbooks, but since I don’t know German I told him he had to use them or else we had to give them away. So, he finally got around to it and made a very tasty zucchini frittata.

(Soccer, for those of you in North America.)

Russia has made it to the semifinal of the Euro Cup, which is a super big deal. Just making it to the quarterfinal was a really big deal. Russia hadn’t even made it that far in post-Soviet history. (The Soviet Union made it to the final in 1988.)

Kostia and I were on a train for most of the duration of the game. I listened to it on the radio when reception allowed, and Lenka SMSed me the score when it didn’t. It was very exciting. I don’t even know why I care, except that I can imagine exactly what it is like on the streets of St. Petersburg at this moment – full of drunk, happy people, on the whitest of the White Nights. (edit: Oh, and also because it’s fun to root for the underdog.) I kinda wish I was there.

My life has been so much better since I uninstalled Internet Explorer from my laptop. So I’m happy to promote Firefox Download Day, an attempt to set a Guinness world record for downloading, with the newest version of Firefox. More info here:

I’ve been lazy about writing about Budapest because I didn’t have it in me to sort through the 150 photos we took there and choose the best ones. Kostia did, however, and you can take a look at his blog, where he mostly writes about this lovely little cafe where we spent an evening drinking white wine and eating fresh bread. They had live jazz and shelves with homemade pottery, jam, wine, and other delicacies for sale.

Here are some photos that didn’t make it onto Kostia’s blog.

This photo is dedicated to Veronika, who has a thing for parking

Ronald Reagan, blya

The parliament building was impressive, but I’m not sure it was worth waiting in line for so long in the hot sun to go inside. You only get to see four rooms.

Movie poster for “Szex es New York” in the metro. I should have taken a picture of the metro cars, they are the same ones as in St. Petersburg and Moscow – and perhaps in the entire rest of the former Eastern Bloc?

We climbed to the highest point in Budapest…

…after which we were happy to have a refreshing swim in the indoor swimming pool at the Gellert Baths. We didn’t take advantage of any of the other options, like hot tubs, saunas, outdoor pools, and massages.

On Kostia’s blog you can see another place we went, Memento Park, an outdoor museum of the communist era, which was a bit anticlimactic – I was expecting something much bigger. And we had quite an adventure getting there, as we took bus #7A to its end somewhere in the middle of what Russians would call “the sleeping districts” instead of the #7 which goes to the intercity bus station from which the bus to Memento Park departs.

In general, it was a great trip. Hungary is the first former Eastern Bloc country that I’ve visited outside of Russia. There were a lot of things there that reminded me of St. Petersburg in a nice way – the architecture, the products in the supermarkets, the little 24-hour shops with cheap alcohol, the public transportation, the oversized pillows – but it is a much cleaner and friendlier place than SPb. And unlike SPb, very affordable for tourists. They don’t seem to operate under the principle of “charge them as much as humanly possible”. Certainly, lunch in a touristy restaurant costs at least twice as much as at a restaurant for locals, but at 6 euros it’s still pretty reasonable. Highly recommended.

Maybe everybody’s cooler than me and has seen this already, but I just ran across it on and it made my day. For those who have a mean streak and find traditional greeting cards cheesy, I bring you

I’m back in Falun after four days in Budapest! I’ll write about it soon.

Yesterday was my last day at the upper secondary school where I was working this term. They say they don’t need an assistant English teacher next year, which is just as well, I suppose. It was a mixed bag of an experience. I don’t think their lack of a need for an assistant English teacher has to do with my job performance. Quite honestly, I really think I went above and beyond. I put in a lot of extra hours for which I knew I wouldn’t be compensated. It just wasn’t a situation where going above and beyond was ever going to merit more than a “thanks” from the teachers I was assisting. I had very little contact with the school’s director, who makes the decisions about these things.

I would write more about the whole experience, but I think I need to have a policy of not blogging about work, even after the fact, so prospective employers doing Google searches don’t think I’m a bad risk. So, hello, prospective employers! I’m not going to say bad things about you, ever!

Which brings me to the point. I need a part-time job this fall, so I’ve been peddling (and pedaling, literally) my CV to all the other upper secondary schools in town. In Sweden the recommended means of job hunting is cold-calling, believe it or not. More than one person has told me that prospective employers want to see your face to make sure you’re white to see what kind of a person you are before any formal hiring process begins.

Cold-calling isn’t something I relish doing under any circumstances, even less so in a language in which I’m not fluent. Fortunately, Swedes are very decent and polite people, so my stomachache went away after the first few visits. One school director was even kind enough to compliment me on my Swedish, though she also said that they didn’t have any open positions for next year.

Sigh. I do miss the St. Petersburg English teaching job market, as well as the highly motivated and/or adorable and fun students I had there.

I’ve changed my summer plans several times now, but here’s how it looks at the moment:

Next Sunday-Thursday: Kostia and I are going to Budapest! Whoo! One great thing about living in Europe rather than the US is that when you find a last-minute package deal, it’s to a place like Budapest and not Cleveland.

June 25-July 26: The homeland. I decided while I had the time and the money, I should spend some time with my grandpa, who’s turning 89 this summer! That’s in Upstate New York. Also hope to go to Boston and DC. Just me, Kostia’s staying put until his Swedish residence permit gets renewed.

Early August: Someplace else? Would like to go to the Way Out West music festival in Gothenburg. Would like to go to Russia. Would like to rent a car and drive north and catch a bit more midnight sun since I’m wasting half my white nights in the US, which has only dark nights. Also, job hunting. Am doing a bit of that now, will start doing it in earnest when I get back from the US.

August 25: Starting third master’s degree program. Linguistics this time. Yes, I like studying. Also this degree may prove more useful than my other ones as I actually like teaching English and want to keep doing it.

Actually, most of these events are certain (barring catastrophes) except for the early August bit.

During our last stint in St. Petersburg, I realized that reading the St. Petersburg Times and its sister publication, The Moscow Times, made me depressed. They really give you the impression that 100% of everything in Russia sucks and, if you’re in Russia, a strong urge to run for the border. So I don’t recommend reading it on a regular basis. But nevertheless, there are frequently excellent articles, like this one on why Russia should lift its tourist visa requirements:

Mr. Medvedev, Tear Down This Wall!

“Russia’s position on the visa issue is not useful. At its root, the reciprocity argument is based on pride. But as Bilan and Russian athletes proved this month, Russia has a lot more to be proud of than its ability to create paperwork hassles for Western tourists.”

Update: Kostia disagrees. He thinks that Russia needs to keep its one bargaining chip in the negotiations for visa-free travel for Russians in Europe. I still think it’s a weak bargaining chip at best and Russia is only hurting itself by discouraging tourism and the money it brings.

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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June 2008