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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Kostia ventured to Land’s End.

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Easter self-portrait.

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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:

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Me, Elena, and Andreas in our groovy orange jackets.

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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.

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Me and Kostia with an owl, the symbol of Falun. I aspire to be an owl at next year’s Ski Games.

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Oh right, and there was some skiing too.

And a photo from today’s half-Vasaloppet, a decidedly more democratic event:

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Just some random skiers, not Dima – my photos of him came out blurry. Note the very Swedish cabins in the background.

 

I’m not a pagan, but if I were to believe in any religion, paganism would make the most sense. More or less based on observable phenomena and all.

Mostly I’m happy about the solstice because it means the days won’t be getting any shorter; in fact, they’ll be getting longer. I’ll be thoroughly appreciating the extra few minutes of daylight every day.

Last night while half-asleep I was fantasizing about the White Nights. Summer and winter at this latitude are so radically different that it’s hard to imagine one when you’re in the middle of the other. It’s like you’re living in different universes at these two extremes, even if you’re living in the exact same apartment. If I could live in the White Nights universe year-round, I would. Only 5 months to wait!

Yesterday was an I-love-Sweden day. Well, pretty much every day is, but some days there are minor irritations, and other days are just lovely.

It was -22C yesterday morning. These kinds of temperatures don’t scare me anymore. I had hoped that I would find winter at this latitude a little more enjoyable in a small Swedish town than in St. Petersburg, and I haven’t been disappointed. Of course, the fact that it has generally been a mild winter helps. But also, a small Swedish town is a lot cleaner than a big Russian city, and so winter is bright and cheerful instead of grim. Also, there’s the fashion angle. In a big city, big, bulky clothes just aren’t socially acceptable, so you have to choose between feeling cold and feeling frumpy. Here in Falun, among students, I don’t care that much about looking frumpy. Not that the locals dress badly, quite the contrary. But somehow dressing for the weather doesn’t make me feel conspicuous the same way that it did in SPb. Furthermore, my winter wardrobe evolved while I was there, so I have some reasonably un-frumpy winter clothes.

Anyway. After getting up this morning earlier than I like to (read: anytime before 8:30 a.m.), I was at least able to be grateful that the sun is making its way back to this part of the world. Since I’ve already started bitching about winter in St. Petersburg, let me just say that the fact that it’s in the extreme western end of its time zone doesn’t help matters. I hate getting up in the dark, and even though Falun and SPb are at pretty much the same latitude and therefore get approximately the same amount of daylight each day, the sun rises and sets significantly later in SPb, which means a large part of the year getting up in the dark EVEN IF you don’t have to get up terribly early. Of course, it also means that the sun was setting at 2:30 p.m. here in December, but I can live with that.

Right. So I left the house around 8:45, hurrying to get to a 9:00 photographer’s appointment. My passport needs renewing, and so I needed to get a photo taken. After taking special care with my hair and makeup, because after all, this is a photo I’m going to have to look at for the next ten years, I managed to arrive at the photographer’s all sweaty, even in these temperatures, because I was so warmly dressed and because I speed-walked there in record time. I was sort of fussing over myself, and the photographer was like, “It’s just a passport photograph!” Yes, but TEN YEARS I’m going to have to look at this picture! I don’t want to be fixated on my smudged mascara or messy hair for ten years. Ultimately my visage wasn’t flawless in the photo, but I can live with it. For ten years.

Don’t let the photographer’s statement lead you to believe that he wasn’t nice or sympathetic though. Because he was quite nice, and his studio was nice, and it was in a really nice building that is in this cool part of town called Regimente that used to belong to the military, and has been remodelled into really nice, airy office buildings. So I was really impressed with the office building, and while he was printing my pictures I got to sit in a very nice lounge and drink coffee.

Tips! If you’re in Falun and need a visa or passport or any other sort of photo taken, go to this guy, Åke Lindholm, and not to the place the US Embassy website suggests, which charges 300 SEK ($45) for a goddamn passport photo. Åke is much less expensive, and also, he’s nice.

While we’re on the subject of tips, if you’re in Falun and have people coming to visit, or if you’re coming to visit Falun and are looking for accommodations in the city center a little more plush than the prison hostel, check out Hotel Falun rather than the other two. That’s where I went next on today’s journey. I had been visiting the different hotels to see which one Aunt Kelly and my sister would like best when they come to visit in May. Hotel Falun is definitely tops. It’s cozy, cheerful, has a pleasant breakfast room and TV room, very friendly staff (not that the staff at the other hotels weren’t), and, of course, nice rooms, some of which have kitchenettes.

After Hotel Falun I went to my favorite Swedish shop, Systembolaget, and got their cheapest three-liter box of wine. It’s a new one, a Spanish tempranillo. Maybe it will suck (update: it didn’t suck too much), but it’s wine at only 46 SEK a litre, which is the best deal available in this country. Then I went to the bank and got a cashier’s check for my passport renewal, and went to the supermarket/post office to mail it off. I also got a 5 kilo sack of potatoes. Then I went to the fabulous secondhand shop, and another supermarket which was having some absurd discounts on some very yummy things. Then I lugged all this, the three liters of wine, the sack of potatoes, and everything else I bought, 2 kilometers uphill.

I know this probably doesn’t sound exciting to you, or even pleasant, but somehow, it was just such a satisfying morning, getting all this shit done, and everyone I dealt with being efficient and friendly, and the sun shining and sparkling on the snow.

Oooh, real winter!

We had a nice snowstorm the other night and it was minus 20 according to our kitchen thermometer this morning (though that thermometer has a tendency to exaggerate). In Fahrenheit that’s… you know, I’m not going to do the conversions anymore. The rest of the world uses Celsius, and we Americans better learn it too. Anyway, minus 20 is cold enough to make your nose feel crinkly when you inhale.

It’s sunny today and flakes of snow are lazily floating around and sparkling in the sunlight. The trees look frosty and everything is just unbearably picturesque.

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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