:: i love you ::

Friday, September 30, 2005

Yard Sale

... shameless advertising is ok, right?

My familia (and extended family, and church friends, and neighbors) are having a yard sale on Saturday morning... from like 6am on...

If you have any junk that you want to get rid of, please... by all means, give me a call, or my house.

If you require any junk, please... come buy and give us your money. :)

I will be at work that morning, so... yeah... I won't be helping little old ladies carry all of the junk that was "such a great deal!" to thier cars... heh...

And in other, serious, news my support level currently stands above 23%. There will be a real mail update soon... Anyone who wants to receive one, please email me at chrismwarren@gmail.com and I'll get you out one. There are some of you who I have already spoken to who did not recieve the first letter, I will include everyone this time.

I love you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I'm not going to Sibera... but...

Omsk Tests the Limits of a Russophile's Love

By Josefina Lundblad

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With the mission of exploring Omsk, the Siberian city that I have chosen as my home town, I set out one recent Sunday afternoon with a notebook and camera in hand. Wondering how I might manage to get a good view of this large city, I walk down Ulitsa Lenina asking myself over and over again: How? And where?

To anyone unfamiliar with Omsk, these questions may sound strange. But in fact this is a far more important point than it might seem at first sight. Why? Because Omsk is absolutely, totally flat. Not even the tiniest hill can be found -- it is just like a blin, a pancake. In some cities there is a point where one can stand and survey the whole city in its entirety, where one feels as though one were holding in the palm of the hand. But Omsk is not one of them.

Standing anywhere in this vast town of more than 1 million in the center of the southern Siberian steppe, one can never make out anything farther than the eye can normally see.

The smooth terrain of Omsk, in combination with the bright sunshine there, plays tricks on the eyes. It gives the light a very unusual quality, making the Siberian sky seem higher, brighter than it is in Europe, and it makes the air, however polluted it may smell, seem more transparent, lighter than anywhere else in the world.

My mission is clear in my mind. I am searching for a place where I can get a view over my town -- the best view possible view without actually getting up in the air in a plane.

As I stand on the middle of the Leningradsky Bridge, I feel I have found the place. The bridge stretches over the Irtysh River, a rather narrow waterway with a yellowish, unhealthy tone, which flows north out of Kazakhstan and connects the city's two halves.

Not far away from me is the port, and the beginning of another river, from which Omsk takes its name, the Om. The town was founded at the meeting of these two rivers nearly 300 years ago. Originally constructed as a fortress, the remains of which can be found in the central parts of the city, where the oldest buildings are more or less well preserved and almost as old as the city itself, Omsk has been a military town for most of its history. Closed to foreigners during the Soviet years, it is now open to anyone -- if you can find the way here, that is.

And that's where I come in. Leaning on the neglected bridge railing, carelessly painted black, and gazing over the panorama in front of me, I notice two colors dominating the view -- green and gray.

The gray is from concrete and the green is from leaves. Coldly gleaming machines from a multitude of construction sites scattered all the way through the city rise high over the voluminous, abundantly green trees. This vegetation, particularly near the riverbank with its unkempt beaches, keeps you from feeling that you are in the middle of a large city.

In the foreground, there are various bigger buildings, either in dire need of repair or freshly painted in some playfully vivid color. These are either apartment buildings or office complexes, though none is more than six stories high. The glow from a few golden cupolas splashed here and there in the gray urban landscape makes the Orthodox churches they belong to easy to find.

The far ground, where the city seems to extend out into infinity because of the flat terrain, is crowded by factory chimneys, and smoke ceaselessly rises out of them, trailing across an otherwise clear blue sky.

Although this city is full of activity and has a busy population, the only visible sign of this is the heavy traffic -- cars, trucks and buses are rushing to and fro across the bridge behind my back.

Looking out over this expansive mixture of new and old, poor and rich, what I see more resembles the Soviet Union with a hint of Russia, rather than Russia with traces of the Soviet Union.

This is Omsk as it looks to my eyes. But what do I know? My view is that of an outsider, green and 20 years old, a Swedish writer named Josefina. I moved out to Russia motivated by a deep affection for the country a year ago, and after some time in St. Petersburg, I decided to put my love to the test.

I packed my bags again and took the almost three-day train trip to Siberia. My first impressions of Omsk were of course of a quite different kind from the picture in front of me on this hot September day.

I arrived in February, seven months ago. My view, then that of an idealistic dreamer, was met with an astonishing spectacle that I will never forget: The temperature was minus 30 degrees Celsius; everything was covered by the accumulated layers of heavy snowfalls; the town glittered in the Siberian sunshine; the Irtysh River was frozen; and people dressed from top to bottom in fur were skiing, skating and walking all over it, all smiling in spite of the fierce cold.

I know that my reasons for leaving a safe, predictable and nice life in Sweden sound to most people like romantic nonsense -- I love Russia; she inspires me, completes me, fulfills me. I want to live here, no matter how bad it gets or how much it hurts, because only in Russia can I breathe this free.

How did I choose Omsk? I found out about Omsk just the same way I, roughly three years ago, learned that there is such a country as Russia -- through the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Omsk was where Dostoevky was exiled after being sentenced to four years' hard labor for taking part in the activities of the banned revolutionary Petrashevsky Circle.

Initially, it was only Dostoevsky's books that captured me, but then his person and his life began to pour into my mind and my life, and suddenly I found myself living a five-minute walk from where he once was imprisoned. Yes, in Siberia, in Omsk. To sensible people living in the real world, this sounds absurd.

But for me -- and the world I live in is every bit as much as real as that of the people who cannot understand why I want to live here -- this is a dream come true, even if my eager attempts at adapting to Russian life are sometimes disastrous. Omsk, Russia, Dostoevsky -- to me there is a common factor behind all these things. And it's called love.

On second thought, delete that last word. Perhaps I am overstating the case. I still haven't made up my mind about my feelings for this city, for this country. But in any case, can you even explain feelings like this rationally?

A journalist might not be able to explain why people choose to come and live in Russia. But a poet can. And that's what I am.

Josefina Lundblad is a poet and writer, originally from Gothenburg, Sweden, and a student at the Omsk State Pedagogical University. She contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.