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I seem to have run up against a limitation of WordPress: the inability to use iframes. I didn’t even know what this meant until I tried to embed a map of my latest run from MapMyRun and it wouldn’t work. I thought it would be fun and motivating to post my maps. I can post links to the maps but who wants to click on links to look at other people’s runs? That’s boring.

About the running: I’ve gone through phases of utter laziness and super sportiness in my life, and in mid-June I decided to sign up for a 10K to motivate me out of a phase of utter laziness. The training is going pretty well. I ran 8K today and it didn’t even feel difficult. The 10K, Tjejmilen, is in Stockholm at the end of the month. “Tjej” is Swedish for, well, not “girl” or “woman” exactly — I suppose I would translate it as “gal” but that sounds stupid. It’s like “devushka” in Russian except I think a female can be a “tjej” at any age, while “devushka” is kind of limited to females aged 15-30. “Mil” is the same root as “mile”, but it’s not a mile, it’s 10K. “En” at the end of the word is the definite article. So “Tjejmilen” is “TheGal10K”.

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.

People keep telling us that the neighborhood we live in is a ghetto. It’s called Bojsenburg, but its nicknames are Bajsenburg (“bajs” being poop) and Bosniaburg (self-explanatory). Supposedly it’s dangerous and full of scary foreigners (like me and Kostia), but the biggest dangers I’ve experienced are little kids not looking where they’re going when they’re riding their bikes.

Tell me, does this look like a ghetto to you? Click to enlarge.

Ye olde ghetto library

Courtyard with storage space and covered bicycle parking

Our apartment. We have a garden and everything. And we leave our bikes outside and nobody messes with them.

Here’s a map of the ghetto. It can be a little confusing to the uninitiated since the buildings look quite similar.

Personally, I think it kind of looks like an artists’ colony or something. The apartments are bright and spacious. The buildings are well-maintained by the municipal housing organization and the caretakers come instantly when you call, even if it’s to change a lightbulb. It’s all car-free (the parking lots are at the perimeter, though you can use a special key to open the gates if you need to pull a car up to your entrance to deliver something), which means kids and cats can run around without worry. The landscaping is lovely, and residents seem to be free to decorate their balconies and patios however they want. There are several preschools on the premises. It’s a five-minute walk to the forest, two lakes and three supermarkets. It’s a 20-minute walk to downtown Falun.

A ghetto? I think it’s utopia.

Listen to Cartman sing “In the Ghetto”

I’ve come to conceive of the seasons in this part of the world as two: Cold and NotSoCold. May-September is supposed to be NotSoCold. A week and a half ago it was not so cold. I took out the summer dresses and sandals and put away the winter clothes – though I’ve learned not to categorize sweatshirts, tights, light hats, scarves and gloves as winter clothes. Which is a damn good thing, because today it is snowing. A wet snow that doesn’t stick to the ground, but snow nonetheless. This is the first time in my life I have seen snow fall in May.

I had modest plans for the day – go to the library and return some books, return something to the electronics store, and visit a neighborhood-wide yard sale in another part of town. Grumbling, I put on tights, jeans, galoshes, scarf, earband, fleece jacket and rain jacket, wrapped all my items to return in multiple plastic bags, and hopped on my bike. I rode about 50 meters and realized that my errands could be run on Monday, there was no way I was going to the yard sale and by the time I reached the library I was going to be cold, wet, and hating life.

So now I’m sitting inside, watching the snow fall. I really do like most everything about Sweden except this ridiculous climate.

Update: It snowed steadily all day and some of it did stick. This morning there is snow on the ground and the rooftops (but luckily it seems to have fallen off the poor trees). Ugh.

This is what I woke up to this morning:

Damn. It’s pretty and all, and I suppose it looks nicer than the brown-gray of early spring, but hello? It is April the freaking 10th. OK, OK, I know I’m living in central Sweden by choice, and as the guy bagging his groceries next to me in the Hemköp this afternoon said to the cashier, “It’s normal April weather.” Even so, I got up the guts to talk to strangers in Swedish in order to say “Not for me it’s not”. Though, to be completely honest, there can be freak April snowstorms in most of the places I’ve lived (Upstate NY, Massachusetts, Chicago, Michigan) and I have spent several winter/springs in St. Petersburg… so what’s my point here? I just want it to be spring already.

Spring must be officially here. Yesterday they started sucking up all the little rocks they put all over the roads and sidewalks for traction on the ice here in Falun. While less damaging than salt and more aesthetically pleasing than sand, some people find these little rocks annoying. They’re pretty hard on the soles of your shoes and they’re not much fun to walk or bike on. So it’s a doubly happy event when they get cleaned up – more pleasant walking, and a sure sign of spring!

It’s been a pretty mild winter, and I’ve already thought it was over a few times, but we got a cold snap for Easter and the first official days of spring. It was cold enough to re-freeze some of the lakes that had already thawed.

We went for a walk this afternoon and saw all these footprints in the snow on Lake Varpan leading to a very appealing little island.


We decided it was our big chance to walk across the lake and explore the island, so we ignored our initial fears and stepped onto the ice.


We reached the island without incident. We saw an ice fishing hole and even some bicycle tracks in the snow. The island was very nice, except for the unexpected campsite that was littered with trash.


Kostia ventured to Land’s End.


Easter self-portrait.


The Young Left is having a protest against the U.S. war in Iraq today in a square in downtown Falun. This will be about as effective as protesting in front of the post office in Ann Arbor (something I did on a regular basis about a decade ago) which is to say, not at all. Still, I’d like to show my support for these well-intentioned youths and take some pictures for y’all, but I’ve already biked downtown and back once today, so I think I’m just too lazy. Sigh.

Those of you who know me from Chicago, Ann Arbor, or Washington will be shocked to know that I’ve been bicycle-less for the past three and a half years. In St. Petersburg it’s too dangerous to ride in traffic because the drivers are insane, and the weather is bad a lot of the time. When we were here in Falun last year we just never got around to getting bikes. But the truth is, I hate walking. It’s so slow and boring! So, my quality of life just got about 20 times better. I just bought a really nice used bike at a really fair price that has everything I want and need for urban transport and nothing I don’t: chunky tires, fenders, 7 gears, a rack on the back, and a bell.

The guy who sold it to me was rather taciturn. From the ad itself to our transaction, he used as few words as possible. He seemed rather unexcited about selling it. Maybe it belonged to his daughter and she died or something. One could write a short story based on this idea.

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.

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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September 2020