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I can’t seem to make the embedding work, but if you didn’t see The Daily Show’s bit on Scary Swedish Socialism, click:

Even though it still looks like winter out, albeit definitely late winter with its crusty dirty snowbanks, I’m changing the header to a spring one in an attempt to will spring to come soon.

I have been both busy and lazy lately. I plan to write a post with awesome photos of our new year’s visit with Kostia’s Aunt Tamara, but haven’t felt like it between doing a full-time master’s program, working what amounts to a 30% post at the university doing administrative stuff, teaching my Business English students, substituting at the high school, taking high school Swedish for Foreigners, and doing the odd editing and translation jobs. I still seem to have plenty of time to waste on Facebook, but not so much energy for blogging.

Below are some pictures from our little overnight in Stockholm last weekend, and from Frosty Frosty Falun. Regarding Stockholm, we thought it would be romantic to stay in Gamla Stan, the old city, but we heartily do not recommend the Best Hostel Gamla Stan, which managed to lose our reservation, forcing us to stay in their windowless “last resort” room (it wouldn’t have been easy to find last-minute accommodation in Stockholm otherwise), and which seemed to cater to the drunken youth crowd (which not all hostels do, believe it or not).


The Young Left protest the privitization of public services


Soup of the day with sandwich, and a helpful translation into Russian with, what else, a bear.


Window at Akademibokhandeln’s big store in downtown Stockholm


The Odyssey, “retold by Erik Eriksson”. This is a “light Swedish” edition aimed at those for whom Swedish is a second language. If Swedish wasn’t your first language, why the hell would you want to read The Odyssey in Swedish rather than your native language? If you’re looking to practice your Swedish, are there not enough books written by Swedes?


Falun was very frosty yesterday


The “blue hour”, as they call it – this is Borlänge, not Falun


A desktop wallpaper for ya.

We got a TV a couple months ago. At first we watched a bit of the four channels that we get. Then we went back to our old habits and only used the TV as a computer screen and to watch movies. Then the TV cable that we had got yanked out of the wall too many times because the cord was too short and the TV is on a movable cart, and didn’t work any more. Then the TV taxman visited us (again) a few weeks ago and we admitted we had a TV, so a bill for 2000 kronor (about $250) is on its way. So, I bought a new cable and we’re gonna watch the damn thing. Recently we’ve watched: news programs in sign language, Sami, and Finnish (with Swedish subtitles), four hours of the Nobel Prize banquet, a Richard Dawkins’ “The Genius of Charles Darwin”, and the Santa Lucia broadcast which we got ourselves out of bed at 7:00 this (Saturday) morning to watch.

Radiotjänst, the Swedish public television and radio service, is well aware that people aren’t fond of paying their TV fees, so they have a series of ads, exhibiting characteristic Swedish dry humor, thanking people for paying. There are several in which they visit people at work or at home and break out into song. Kostia and I like them a lot.

Went to Stockholm for the day last Monday to drop off my Russian visa application. Kostia and I are going for Christmas and New Year. It only took about 30 minutes at the embassy in what had to be the most friendly and efficient office of the Russian Federation I have ever been in (must be the Swedish influence) and I had a day to enjoy Stockholm. Decided to get a haircut as they seem to be on average 200 crowns (25 bucks) cheaper than in Falun. Thus far I’ve managed not to get a haircut in a salon in Sweden (perhaps because it’s so expensive?), so I was stressing out a bit about my Swedish salon vocabulary or lack thereof. I needn’t have worried. I walked into a random salon, where the stylist said it would take 20 minutes to finish with her current customer, sat down, and heard that the stylist, the customer, and the other woman hanging around were speaking Russian. Saved! By now my Russian salon vocabulary is totally functional.

Despite it being the darkest, grimmest time of year and it being an especially gray and drizzly day, Stockholm looked fantastic, especially after dark with all the holiday decorations. I amused myself by visiting secondhand shops and had the opportunity to meet with the owners of a language school I’m doing some teaching through these days, who were lovely people. The day culminated with a visit to the Christmas market in Old Town. I didn’t bring my camera, thinking, what else can I possibly photograph in Stockholm after having been there countless times?

I have to go back to Stockholm on Tuesday to pick up my visa, and am really looking forward to it. This time I will bring my camera.

Tell me, is this normal in Swedish workplace culture?

Someone at Workplace A contacts a professor of mine asking if he could recommend anyone to take on a part-time position in somewhat of an urgent situation. He recommends me. I send an e-mail and CV to the person. The person writes back saying thanks and she will pass on my info to her boss. I don’t hear anything more. Not a big deal really, I’ve actually got plenty going on at the moment.

Weeks later I am at a former workplace of mine, discussing the possibility of filling in for someone for a few weeks. The person I’ll be filling in for says to me “I heard you applied for a job at Workplace A”. It turns out that the wife of someone at Workplace B works at Workplace A.

Why does everyone know that I applied for that job? I find this very weird and kind of unethical. For me, it is mildly embarassing that everyone knows that I applied for a job that I didn’t get, particularly since I wasn’t even really looking for that job in the first place, I applied because I was asked to. Worse, though, I can imagine situations where this kind of gossip could be really destructive. What if a person is looking for a new job but his/her employer doesn’t know and the employee intends to stay at the current job if they don’t get a new one? Are Swedes so advanced that a boss would never develop a negative attitude toward an employee after finding out that that employee wanted to leave?

So Swedes and experienced residents of Sweden, is this kind of thing normal here or have some kind of workplace ethics or laws been breached?

The comments on this post got mixed up with the ones above (about Swedish workplace culture) so I’m taking out the text and pictures from this post and leaving it as a discussion thread.

I spent Election Night celebrating with three other incredible American women who live here in Falun. We had a sleepover party and it was lots of fun. Part of me wishes I could have been part of a big crowd in the US at the moment Obama’s victory was announced, though, so below is a collage of You Tube videos so I can feel the excitement vicariously:

Times Square:

East Village, Manhattan (love the girls squealing “Oh my god!” and “Holy fucking shit!”)

Grant Park, Chicago (view from the crowd rather than the network feed)

Richmond, VA

DC, the city I pretty much consider my home in the US as I lived the largest chunk of my adult life there (and which voted 92% for Obama). I lived there through two election cycles which resulted in Bush’s election and re-election and I really wish I could have been there this time.

There was a march down 16th Street in DC to the White House

Four networks simultaneously

And here’s a picture from Falun, Sweden:


I wasn’t really sure whether kids trick-or-treated here, and wound up not buying any candy, and when nobody came by on Friday evening, I figured we were off the hook. So when some kids knocked on our door yesterday, I was sent rushing around the house for something to give them. You know what those poor kids got? Grapefruits. We had apples, but in the moment I had to think about it, I thought of the whole razor-blades-in-the-apples urban legend and thought, well, at least you can sorta tell whether a grapefruit has been tampered with, and even if kids don’t like grapefruits, their parents can eat them. Later I went out and Kostia said we had a few more trick-or-treaters, who got the off-brand chocolate bars that I had forgotten we had in the cupboard. God, I never thought I’d be one of those disappointing households on Halloween! But at least I’m not as intentionally evil as this lady:

Things have been busy. Kostia and I went to Rome for a mini-vacation last week. Eventually I’ll get around to posting some pictures. It was a fun trip but even though we planned it during the only four-day window that both of us could manage to get away before the holidays, it was still a mistake for both of us to take off in the middle of the term. Just too much to do.

When I’m procrastinating, I’m obsessing over the election. Next Tuesday will be like Christmas. Hopefully there won’t be any coal in my stocking, i.e., McCain winning. Speaking of Christmas stockings, I’ll also have to post a picture of this amazing thing I found in the 1 Euro Shop in Rome.

Oh, and it’s snowing here. A lot. Instant winter, though I’m sure it will melt (and snow and melt again) before winter sets in for good. This morning Kostia said, “Ooh! We haven’t seen snow in so long!” And I said, “The last snow was in MAY. Five and a half months ago. That is NOT a long snowless season.” But I’m getting better at accepting that winter lasts six months or more here. When we went to Rome, I just couldn’t conceive that it would actually be warm somewhere in late October, and didn’t bring any shoes other than the knee-high boots I was wearing (with accompanying knee socks). It kind of sucked to be uncomfortably warm when all I wanted to do was enjoy the nice weather.

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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