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A few posts back I mentioned that Kostia was supposed to be going to Sweden for November and December to teach some courses at our university there. Well, it turns out that the Swedish consulate/migration board can’t turn around a work visa application in 4 days (more like 4 weeks) so he’s here, and now he’s teaching even more internet distance courses for Högskolan Dalarna. But they still want him to come teach in person, so supposedly another work invitation is on its way for next semester. If that happens as planned, we’ll both head back to Falun in January for at least a semester. This would be much nicer for us than him going there for six weeks and leaving me in St. Petersburg all alone. We’ll see how things actually turn out. I’m not holding my breath yet.


Next week I go back to Sweden to “defend” my master’s thesis and criticize the theses of other people in my program. Then I’ll be finished for real and I’ll be a Master of European Political Sociology. 

I got my first master’s degree in 1997, then had 10 years of happily not being a student. Kostia and I went to Sweden to study more as an excuse to go to Sweden than to study, but we did take our programmes seriously. At times I thought that maybe I should do a PhD after all, since I like that reading and writing and thinking thing. But now, after finishing another master’s thesis, I’m really relieved not to have that student feeling of having an assignment hanging over my head. I don’t think I could live with a dissertation hanging over my head for years. And then, of course, what does the world need another PhD in the social sciences for? It doesn’t. And what would I do if I actually finished the thing? I have several friends in academia and I am not at all interested in participating in that particular rat race (or any rat race, for that matter). No, I think I ought to just do another master’s degree in another 10 years.

My eyes are going to pop out from computer usage, so I will just report that the thesis has been turned in. I’m not happy with it, but that goes without saying. The important thing is that it’s done for now.

When my sister and I were teenagers we were really big Queen fans. Of course, this was already after Freddie Mercury had died, but still, we had every album on CD, watched concert videos and VH1 specials, and when we went to England on a family vacation in 1992 we bought all manner of Queen crap and memorabilia.

Brian May was always our favorite band member. He was like, the sensitive, intelligent, soulful one. So I was very pleased to find out that last month he turned in his dissertation in astrophysics after a 36-year break.

Imagine being a rock star and a PhD in astrophysics. There’s a person who’s done something with his life.

1. Well, of course the first thing I’m going to do is have a nap, and then get drunk. Then we’ve got a fun weekend planned: hosting a housewarming/thesis-turning-in party on Saturday, and the Vyborg film festival on Sunday. 

2. Have a proper summer. Early August is pretty much the end of summer in St. Petersburg. But I’ll be in the U.S. in early September, so I can extend summer a few more weeks.

3. Blog more regularly and more interestingly, both here and on my Russian blog.

4. Start a project based on my thesis: a website for expats in St. Petersburg who are disturbed about the ecological situation, with links to local environmental organizations, information about recyling points in the city, etc.

5. Make time for jogging and yoga again.

6. Translate another of Kostia’s stories into English, which will give him enough material so he can publish the bilingual edition of his book that we first thought of doing two years ago.

And probably some more things too. But first, I’d better go finish the damn thing.

Unrelated: I saw this postcard on PostSecret and it struck a chord…


Oi, I still need to write about last Saturday’s adventure. But not today. Today I need to work on my thesis for a bit. It’s due in two weeks and I’m way behind on the writing. Things I have been doing this week instead of writing:

1. Conducting interviews. This is for the thesis, which is good, but these interviews are in Russian and they are wordy and Kostia has to transcribe them for me and that’s going to take forever, and from all that work only a little bit will actually make it into the thesis.

2. Teaching English. I’ve got plenty of work, and every day it seems someone else calls or asks if I can teach them. I don’t want to turn anyone away, as earning money is also a priority right now, but I’ve got to finish this thesis!

3. Harry Potter. I finished the last book, and we went to see the movie yesterday. The book was good, the movie was great – even dubbed into Russian. By the way, about that spoiler I “almost” heard last week, well, I guess I heard enough of it for it to be a real spoiler. But it’s OK, it didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the book.

OK, at least I can post the picture of the Cheburashka necklace now…


It looks like this, but mine is silver instead of gold, on a silver chain.

I’m happy to say that yesterday I got 15 pages of thesis into a state decent enough for me to be willing to show them to my advisor. I need to get as much done as possible before we go back to Russia, though, since I won’t have access to books and free internets there. They don’t really have public libraries as we know them in St. Petersburg. Simply to enter the big National Library on Moskovsky Prospect in St. Petersburg you have to have a library card, and to obtain a library card requires showing your diploma from an instituion of higher education. Can you believe you can’t go to the library unless you have a college degree?!? I suppose it’s one way of keeping the homeless from sleeping there. In any case, I’m going to try to get myself a library card this summer, but undoubtedly there are some extra administrative hurdles for foreigners, so I have modest hopes. So I’d better go home and get back to the reading and writing.

 Edit: Kostia says that there are, in fact, local libraries in neighborhoods in St. Petersburg which you have to have a library card to enter, but do not require a university degree to get a library card.

Turned in my paper on The Swedish Education System yesterday. Now I only have to study Swedish and write a thesis. A friend who’s in the same boat said, “But that’s still a lot!” After the last few weeks it doesn’t seem like a lot, though. I’ve been trying to work on my thesis for awhile already, but there was always more pressing stuff to do.

Here are some random links; amusing and disturbing in differing proportions:

Pearls Before Breakfast (via Rooted Cosmopolitans)

On Becoming a Woman (via Thistles)

Even though it’s only halfway through the spring term, it feels more like finals time right now, because here you’re supposed to take one five-week course at a time, so a set of courses is ending now. Because of the weirdness of the university schedule and my desire to get as much out of my Swedish experience as possible, I’m finishing up three courses at the moment. One is for my actual M.A. program, and two are “extra”: Swedish for Foreigners III and The Swedish Education System. They’re 10-week, half-time courses, so it’s only a double course load, not a triple one. For the second half of the semester I’ll have only Swedish for Foreigners IV. Well, and I’m supposed to be writing a master’s thesis too.

So if I don’t write anything terribly interesting for the next couple of weeks, it’s because I’m busy writing papers and things.

I’ve been meaning to write about what a high-quality afternoon we had last Saturday. After visiting the library, we went downtown, finding 6 kronor worth of returnable bottles (that’s like, almost a dollar!) along the way. We visited a antique shop that we’d passed by many times and got a bit of a Swedish art history and art investment lesson from the proprietor. In the central square, under a tent which proclaimed “cooperation for a more pleasant town”, they were giving away free waffles and lemonade, for no apparent reason other than to make a more pleasant town. The sun was shining and it was warm and people were out and about, which is not always the case in sleepy Falun. There were street musicians – not only the not-terribly-talented drummer who’s often around, but a young woman playing guitar. We didn’t see the not-terribly-talented accordionist who’s often around (Kostia: He should learn a new chord. Me: What’s wrong with that one?). It was a lovely Saturday afternoon in this small Swedish town.

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.

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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