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I arrived back in Sweden on Sunday morning. Had a small problem at passport control for the first time in my life. They of course noticed that I had a residence permit which expired last month and asked me if I was still residing in Sweden. When you’ve applied for an extension of your residence permit you are allowed to stay in Sweden but you aren’t really supposed to leave and come back while your status is unclear. I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal since Americans can enter Sweden as tourists for up to three months, but fortunately I had brought a printout of the e-mail confirming that Kostia and I had applied for extensions. They disappeared with that and my passport for about 20 minutes while I entertained thoughts of being deported. When the officer returned she gave me a very gentle scolding in Swedish: “You’ll get to go in now, but you aren’t supposed to do it this way and if your extension isn’t approved you have to leave Sweden.” I didn’t say that she didn’t need to worry, if our extension wasn’t approved Kostia would be out of a job and we’d have to go somewhere else anyway. I just said thanks and went to collect my luggage.
Poor Kostia’s been stuck in Sweden all summer for the same reason – unlike Americans, Russians need a visa to enter Sweden, so there was no way he could leave and come back. Of course, Sweden is not the worst place to be stuck for the summer, but he does want to visit his friends and family and dacha. He’s been calling the migration board regularly, but the person in charge of our case has been on vacation for all of July. That sounds like an idiotic way to organize things, rather than just having the people not on vacation process applications on a first-come, first-serve basis, but I’ve reached the conclusion that migration boards the world round are able to operate in completely idiotic ways because the people who have to deal with them are usually not citizens of the respective countries and therefore there is no political incentive to listen to their concerns and complaints. Not happy with being in limbo for months and months? Stay home, sucker.
In any case, the person in charge of our case returned yesterday and Kostia phoned her. Apparently she was not very friendly and said that she couldn’t promise to speed up the process for anyone, but when Kostia checked his e-mail later in the day, he had received notification that our extensions had been approved! So tomorrow we’re off to the city of Västerås to get our stamps, and next week Kostia will squeeze in a trip to Russia before the semester starts.
In the meantime, I returned to beautiful weather in Sweden. Kostia and Dima met me at the train station on Sunday with Dima and Lenka’s car. While I was gone, Dima had passed his Swedish driving test – no small feat! We drove straight to the ICA Maxi supermarket to get picnic food, and after stopping at home we went to a secluded spot on a nearby lake where the water was crystal clear and the perfect temperature for swimming. Kostia and I biked to another spot on a different lake yesterday, though it wasn’t as idyllic, since it’s a popular destination, with camping and boat rentals and a cafe. As long as the weather is this nice and the lakes this warm, we want to go swimming every day, so I think we’ll return to the secluded place today. It’s quite a life of leisure we’re living. Ah, Sweden.
One of the main reasons for this trip to the US was to hang out with my grandpa. He’s turning 89 in August and I thought since I had enough money for a plane ticket and no particular summer plans or responsibilities, I ought to spend a bunch of quality time with him, because who knows when I’ll have the chance again. I had this idea that I’d write lots and lots about Grandpa and post tons of pictures, but as you can see that hasn’t happened. Part of it is laziness, part of it is not wanting to spend all my time on the computer rather than with Grandpa, part of it is that I’m not using my own laptop to access the internet so there’s an awful lot of dragging and dropping that has to take place if I’m going to do anything terribly interesting. But I have been taking pictures and making some recordings and hopefully when I get back to Sweden (on Sunday!) I can put together some kind of cool multimedia thing about my grandpa.
…that I turned 32 today and it was a nice birthday. Attended a congressional briefing on transportation and development alternatives at which my former housemate/landlady was speaking. (She rocks.) Grew a little despondent over the American way of life as it relates to transportation. Had dinner and drinks at a Marvin Gaye-themed restaurant called “Marvin” that I had heard about on NPR. Received a toy monkey.
Had a great time in Boston with Aunt Kelly. We had an afternoon in Portsmouth, NH, with fellow blogger W. Shedd of The Accidental Russophile (and maybe someday he’ll update it again) and his wife Katja. We went to The Improv Asylum and the Edward Gorey House on Cape Cod, which was super cool. We saw Ani DiFranco in concert, which gave me flashbacks to my emotionally tumultuous late teens and early 20s. Kimya Dawson, whose music was featured in “Juno”, opened for her. We ate lots of good food and went to the Apple Store and played with iPhones.
Now I’m in DC. My old housemate Barbara invited me to stay with her and so here I am, back in the house I lived in from 2002 to 2004, one of the best living situations I ever had. Barbara still has the two cats we acquired while I was living here, Bodhi and Leo, who are the coolest cats in the world. The neighborhood has changed a lot. Gentrification was just getting started when I lived here. Now there’s a Target, a Starbucks, and a Ruby Tuesday’s, among other things. I feel a mixture of appreciation and disgust. I’m staying in my old room, which gives me flashbacks to my emotionally tumultuous mid-20s. But really, it’s a great room and a great house and a great neighborhood and it’s great to be back for a few days.
I’m off to Boston tonight and then to DC on Tuesday. If you’re in one of those places, get in touch!
Yesterday was my first 4th of July in the US in four years. We started the day with blueberry pancakes at a nice little café with a slightly overbearing proprietor who, upon hearing that I had worked as an English teacher in Russia and Sweden, tried to persuade me that it would benefit the world much more if I worked at a for-profit American school in Gaza that he helped found. While I have sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians, I also have sympathy for the plight of the Israelis (not to mention the fact that Kostia’s brother lives in Israel), so I can’t say that Palestine is going to be my next big cause. I also can’t see how working in a for-profit school would contribute to the greater good. Oh well. It’s a nice café anyway.
We went to the Independence Day parade in Canandaigua, my dad’s hometown and the place where I’m spending most of this month. Here are some pictures.
In the spirit of American democracy and bad fashion, I wore my new ill-fitting Obama t-shirt to the parade, hoping to irritate some Republicans. I think I achieved my goal.
Marching band. This was about the only one, surprisingly, though there were bagpipers…
There was all kinds of culture, including the South Bristol Cultural Center, which, according to their banner, celebrates culture. That sounds pretty vague to me…
Good old Uncle Sam on a Vespa
… which is not as cute on older people:
There were classic cars to make a Dalarna County redneck drool
And classic fire engines too.
After the parade we wound up on an impromptu wine tour, if two wineries can be called a tour. Those of you not from Upstate New York might be surprised to know that western New York state is a wine-producing region. Too bad for my grandpa, who has lived here for all of his 89 years, yet is a teetotaller. I wonder how many wine tours he’s been dragged on in his life.
It was decided we needed to pose in front of this barrel
And a vineyard
And a winery that I really liked – both the atmosphere and the wine
In the evening we went to the fireworks on Canandaigua Lake. It was a great fireworks show, but I’m not sure that arriving an hour and a half early to find parking and then taking an hour and a half to get out of the post-fireworks traffic jam was worth the 20 minutes of visual entertainment. Oh, the things we do in the name of tradition.
1. The New York Times. Print edition. Especially Sunday.
2. English muffins.
3. Making small talk with strangers without having to think about what I’m going to say and whether it’s grammatically correct. And oh, do Americans love their small talk.
4. Heat and humidity. Yes really.
5. NPR (but then again, I listen to NPR on the internet anyway).
6. Not having to convert prices in my head to dollars to fully understand if something is overpriced or not (though now I find myself converting from dollars to Swedish crowns – “Would I think this was expensive if I was in Sweden?”).