Monday, 27 December 2010

Late Christmas presents

I got Becky's lovely box of stuff from the post office today, and it was very exciting! Crisps, trashy magazines, sweets, some very exotic tea and a pretty card she made because she's a genius. I've already eaten all the crisps, which is very greedy of me, but they're so tasty. The magazines are so wonderful, I don't think Finland sells such trashy, horrible magazines but I'm addicted to Take a Break, Pick Me Up etc etc. I've got plenty to read now. The tea is Jasmine and Chrysanthemum, I think it's supposed to cleanse me out or something. I probably need it. It smells bad, tastes good.
I was in Tinatuoppi when I opened the parcel, which is a bar very similar to The Dev in Camden. For some reason lots of people seemed very excited by my box of English crap - an old man was reading Take a Break over my shoulder, even though he seemed to not understand English very well.
So I'm very grateful to lovely Becky for all this nice stuff. This evening I feel very rundown and ill, it might just be stress or a bug, or it might be that I ate the crisps too quickly.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

A Finnish Christmas



I've had such a lovely day with my Finnish family. We went in the morning to see the declaration of peace, which is some guy reading some stuff in Finnish and Swedish, and then the national anthem playing. I didn't understand it, but lots of people were there, and it was quite nice to be in a crowd, it made me feel more christmassy. I even saw a dog wearing socks! I wasn't feeling too festive when I woke up this morning but that got me more into the mood because there seemed to be so much happiness and goodwill.
After that we just hung out and Tommi dressed up as Santa to visit Emma's neices, who apparently were a bit scared and shy, although I thought he was very convincing. I remember I was always scared of Santa when I was very young, and these children are only aged three and five. I'm sure they were pleased to get their presents though.
Once they were back home we started getting our Christmas meal ready. Emma's friend Katri was also with us, and she'd done most of the cooking. I'm going to have to describe the meal very well, it's so different to the Christmas food I'm used to having in my own country, but I enjoyed it very much.
First we had a salad course (the bottom picture.) Emma and Katri had apparently planned to keep it small and simple, but things got out of hand somewhere along the line. There was a great deal of food:
Mixed salad
Mushroom salad
Cod roe (not for me)
Salmon (again, not for me)
Herring (Again...)
Pickled onions
Finnish cheese
Boiled potatoes
Beetroot
Eggs
Olives
Bread
Onions
Cream (For some reasons, the Finns put whipped cream with beetroot. It wasn't that bad though.)

I think we overate seeing as it was all so tasty and there was so much to eat. We could barely manage the main course, which was:
Karelian pies and egg butter
Meatballs, made by Tommi
Vegetable balls for me
Porkkanalaatikko (Carrot casserole)
Lanttu (Turnip casserole)
Peruna (Potato casserole)

All the vegetable dishes were made by Katri and were really enjoyable. The usual meat is ham, but Emma never ate it as a child and had meatballs instead, which is why that's what was made for our little family. The food was so different to the English roast my mother usually makes, and this is the first Christmas I've spent away from my family, so it was a really new experience. After our meal we just hung out and drank; also we had a very civilised cheese and crackers course in the evening. I spoke to my parents too, which was really nice, and they are apparently having Turducken tomorrow. (Turkey stuffed with a chicken, stuffed with a duck!) I guess they thought that as the family vegetarian was out of the country they should go crazy with meat! the Finns laughed their arses off when I told them this, my dad was very confused about why they found it so funny! I usually have nut roast along with the potatoes and vegetables, but my dad certainly seemed to be looking forward to his lunch. It got a bit emotional with my dad telling me how proud he is that I've been making it here, despite things going a bit wrong for me. Being away from them at this time has made me miss them a lot more.
It's been so nice to see what Christmas is like in another country, although I still can't get my head around it being a day earlier. I've had a really lovely day, full of food and friends, and I don't think I'd have it any other way.
I hope everyone else has/had a lovely day, whoever you're with, wherever you are and whatever you're doing. I'm really grateful for the food and hospitality, and if everyone has as nice a time as I've had they should be very happy. Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Suburbs and Forest

I just went with Emmi whilst she walked her dogs, and got to wander through a Finnish forest. It was beautiful, all covered in snow. There were a few streetlamps nearby so it wasn't too dark, and it looked so clean and glittering. There were even people skiing there. It was a nice experience, and the forests look quite different to the woods in England, so it was something new for me. I'm sure it would be even prettier when it's well-lit during the daytime, but it was impressive as it was. Nothing but snow and trees all around me.
I've also now been able to see the suburbs of Turku, which hasn't happened before because I've always been right in the centre. It was much snowier because there are fewer people walking around, so the snow doesn't get trodden down so much and there's less need for snow ploughs to clear the area. It was so quiet compared to the middle of the city, it was quite strange. On the bus it's only roughly a 15 minute journey to market square, so it's not in the middle of nowhere. It was a lot more peaceful, but as I prefer busy areas I think I'd rather be in the city centre. I guess it's much better if you have pets to think of though.
I also finally got the Christmas parcel my mother sent me! I can't get Becky's yet because I don't know the tracking code, but my mother's got to me. She thoughtfully sent me a lot of thick tights, my grandparents say it's such a surprise that I suddenly live in "Findland", and my aunty sent a set of gloves and a scarf. The gloves are fine but the scarf is way too thin for these temperatures. I suppose they're lower than she could ever imagine, and at least it's a thoughtful gift. Now I'm just looking forward to getting Becky's parcel - I know it's arrived but I need the tracking code for it.

Yoofs

The teenagers here scare me a bit. They're all a bit loud and lairy. I expect many of them just discovered alcohol. They tend to sing and shout and spit and dance. That's not so different to the English kids, maybe it's more intimidating when they're gabbling away in foreign.
When I was in the line at Hesburger tonight there were three boys, who were probably only 13 or 14, and I'm not sure why they were there because they made no attempt to get food, but they were noisy and it was a bit horrible. One of them liked to spit on the ground a lot. Fucking teenagers.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Finnish TV


Due to a Phil Collins hangover on Saturday I spent a lot of quality time in front of the tv. I discovered that Saturday afternoon tv here is mainly cookery shows and shows about dogs. I discovered the joys of Sikke Sumari, the happiest tv chef in the world. She was so happy and peaceful, it was very soothing. Her show needed to be translated for me, and it seems she was very frustrated when her pancakes weren't perfect, and yet she was still smiling and happy. I love her.
In Finland there are a lot of subtitled foreign tv shows, so I can understand a lot of stuff. Sadly I had to miss out on the German soap opera and Danish documentary about high speed trains in Japan. What a letdown.
There was some slight drama after this gentle afternoon when I found I'd lost my purse. We called Olkkone, where we'd been the night before, but they hadn't seen it. I asked my mother to cancel my cards, and went out to meet Emmi. After a while Petteri appeared holding the purse! The man sitting behind us had found it and given it to him, and he was sitting where we'd been at the start of the night before. It pissed me off I'd already cancelled the cards but it's a bit late now. Once my Finnish card is available and my wages have been paid I'll have enough money to manage with.
After that Suski, Emma and Tommi came to meet us from a party with some of their friends, and the rest of the night involved various people trying to teach my to roll my r's, so I can shout perkele in a loud and threatening manner. It didn't work, even after the Finnish army got involved with trying to educate me. Also, in a conversation with three Finnish people this came up:
"Tamsin, what's a curry?"
"What the fuck?"
"I've never had a curry."
"Yeah, me neither. What does it mean?"
"What? Someone get me some planes tickets, we're going to school."
Seriously, what the fuck?
Due to my massive hangover I didn't drink any alcohol until last orders in Olkkone, when I gave into peer pressure. Until then I couldn't have stomached alcohol but being sober in a bar made me realise how loud and annoying drunk people are. Not my friends but various old men who want to shout very loudly and argue and pass out. It was definitely a Phil Collins krapula. I remember leaving the bar on Friday, and then waking up fully clothed at 9am with an untouched Hesburger meal on the floor. I'd passed out before Emma even got back from market square with food.
I'd planned on a nice quiet night and ended up going to bed at 6am...

Friday, 17 December 2010

Today's news

I went to work and my boss gave me a bottle of wine as a christmas present. Sweet. Unfortunately, it tastes horrible. If I mix it with Karpalo Lonkero it's much better, and more alcoholic. Anyway, nice one Tatu!
Then I walked home in the snow and when I got back Tommi asked me if I'd got the text he sent me. I looked at my phone and the estate agents offered me the room I wanted in the flat I viewed! Which is a good thing but I'm also quite sad because that means there's no going back when it comes to Jussi. It's the end of an era, and it's difficult to accept. Maybe I need something definitive like that in order to move on. I'm happy but also sad. It would be nice to move out of limbo, but it cements everything, and that's hard to deal with. At least they didn't care about me being foreign, which was a concern for me.
I'm going to start looking for a second job too. This week I only had to work today, and Tatu doesn't think they need me at all next week, and I can't live on only one day's wages per week. We talked about it and he said he would understand if I left the company, but I do enjoy my job and would be happy doing that and another part time job. I hope I won't have to leave Suomen Filateliapalvelu but, like he said, if someone offers me a full time position I ought to take it.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Free beer and cheese!

Oh god I'm hungover. Olkkone had a Christmas party last night that included vouchers for free beer. Then the barman gave us free beer even without vouchers. I think we were there for around 8 hours. This morning everyone wants to die.
As well as free drinks they had a little buffet, so everyone was eating free cheese, meatballs, olives, pickled onions, chocolates and biscuits, so it was like a real party. There was also free non-alcoholic glögi on tap. For English people, it's like mulled wine but the Finns prefer to add rum or vodka. As this was without alcohol, it was warm, spicy fruit juice. I can now say with certainty that making a cocktail from glögi and Karpalo Lonkero does not produce very pleasant results.
I've never been to a bar in England that made such an effort just to make everyone happy at Christmas. On New Years Eve last year The Dev in Camden gave a free shot of Jäger to the first 100 people through the door, but as you had to pay £5 entry for a bar that's normally free it didn't really make much difference. It just meant you'd bought a very expensive shot, and apart from that nothing happened. I'm told this really isn't unusual in Finland, and that lots of bars do it for Christmas, New Years Eve and the bar's birthday.
It was nice though, it involved some drunken phone calls to England and it was nice to hear some English voices again. I think everyone was very happy.
I ought to go to Maistraati to finish sorting out my social security but today is more a day for sitting down quietly.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Social security part 2 and cool supermarkets

Today we took another stab at getting a social security number. We walked to the police station, and were told we need to go to Maistraati. (A registry office basically.) Not cool, since that's on the corner of market square, two minutes away, rather than 20 minutes away like the police station.
We went back and went to this place, which bizaarely is in a department store, along with a wedding room and the office of the Brazilian consulate. Where's the sense?
However, I filled in my paperwork there, showed them my passport and work contract, and got approved! Woop! But as things can never go 100% right in this country the computer system wasn't working and I have to go back on Thursday so they can process my application and generate a number.
I think the only practical thing I have left to deal with is registering to pay tax. And deal with my boss seemingly forgetting I'm alive - Suski asked him about my work hours yesterday and he'd said he'd call me to ask me to work today and give me the rest of my hours - still haven't heard anything! Not that I mind getting a day off but I'd like to earn some money. I suspect someone brought in some really nice stamps to sell and he got distracted. I'll call him eventually. Just not today, fuck off am I going to work in the cold now.
When Emma and I went to S-Market earlier to get some lunch I noticed the deli counter for the first time. Most English supermarkets have one, but this was an off the scale, food porn deli counter. They have regular stuff like burgers, pastries, salads etc but they have stuff like mashed potato, macaroni cheese, other pasta dishes, pizza, and you just have to heat it all up when you get home. I had a very exciting feta cheese and olive burger and some couscous salad. It's not the cheapest part of the shop, but they had so much stuff. Much nicer than the slightly soggy and greasy samosas and onion bhajis I always bought in Sainsburys in Canterbury.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Finnish films and flats

I just went to view the flat we found. They do things differently here - everyone who's interested turns up at the same time and looks together. It was very nice, and spacious, and the other people were all girls around my age or a bit younger so that would be fine. It's 30 seconds walk from Emma and Tommi's front door, and would make no difference at all for getting to work or the shops. I hope that my foreigness won't be a problem and that they wouldn't purposely choose a Finnish speaking person over me. In all other ways I'm just as suitable as anyone else - I have a job and an income and would be responsible about it all. Right after that I got a Finnish bank account! It was much more straightforward than opening an account in my own country for the first time, so I'm proud of Finland for being simple for once.
Yesterday we were planning to see a Finnish film, Rare Exports, but ended up watching Twin Peaks for seven hours instead. The film is in Finnish and English, and is a slightly strange story about hunters capturing wild Santas in Lapland, and training them to be nice to children. There are two short films which are meant to be seen before the full length one, you can see them here. Youtube says you have to be a grown-up for that.
There's another Finnish film I'd like to see, which I think will be released soon, called Iron Sky. It's about space Nazis. Excellent.
The first Finnish film I ever saw was Paha Maa. For reasons that remain unclear, that film was what made my friend Katie want to go to Finland, which in turn lead to us boarding a flight to Helsinki in August 2009. I only saw the film after we'd been there and Jussi had come to London, and if I'd seen it beforehand it would have convinced me to never, ever go to Finland. It's one of the most miserable, depressing things I have ever seen. Why it had the opposite effect on Katie remains one of life's unsolved mysteries.
Whilst Jussi and I were together he showed me a few Finnish films. I would advise everyone to avoid Mosku at all costs. It's basically five hours of a miserable Finnish bastard hunting reindeer and moaning about Russians. Nothing actually happens. Matti is hilarious, but then Matti Nykänen is quite a hilarious guy. It's funny but tragic the way things turned out for him. I also really like Pahat Pojat, which I understand to also be a true story. Another film I'd like to see is Saatanan Radikaalat, which is about four dead Finnish guys who have such a great time in Hell they get sent back to Earth as a punishment. It's from the 1970s but it would be nice to find a subtitled copy or download.
Of all the films I've seen, only one did not have Jasper Pääkkönen in it. He's quite nice though. Not so much in Matti but in Paha Maa he was quite tasty. Ding dong.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Life sorted

Tommi found an advert for a room in a flat last night that's a minute's walk from their place, still Yliopistonkatu, and the monthly rent was half of what I'm earning in a week! It was living with a few girls, but house sharing is normal to me, I think in Finland people without much money and students usually live alone in studios, but it would be nicer to be with some other people.
Rent seems to be a lot cheaper here; it might be because furnished flats don't really exist. Everyone said they could help me with furniture, I think all I'd really need is a bed and probably a table and chair for drawing. I'm going to possibly view it on Monday, but if that or something similar works out I'd have a home, a job and some friends here. Do I need anything more?
Also, I have a huge hangover and it's not good.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Workiness

Yes, I work at a stamp dealership. Yes, that's hilarious.
I kinda find the people who go into the shop funny because almost every single one is an elderly man with glasses. They also seem a bit shocked when I say "Minä olen Englantilainen", and scuttle off looking scared. However, I have to admit to a nerdy stamp-loving moment today. I remember when I was a kid being taught in school about the Victorian period, and in that time the first British postage stamp was issued, and they showed us pictures of it. Today, when I was making up an order, one of those was part of it! I had a nose at it for quite a long time, and was a little bit excited. I'm officially a nerd.
Work is going well. My boss took me for lunch yesterday, which was a bit of a shock because that's never happened in any job I've had in England. He walked into the room and informed me he was taking me for pizza. Obviously I wasn't arguing with that.
I think Finnish workplaces are a bit more laid-back than English ones, although possibly I just got lucky because I work at a very small company. The only really chilled out job I had in England was working in the Oxfam bookshop in Canterbury. The boss was an aging hippy who was usually stoned, and tended to disappear mid-morning for a fry up. It was a good job.
I need to adapt to getting up early every day. I'm exhausted, my back and legs ache so much, I feel like an old woman.
Finally, I guess I'll be staying in Turku because things have gone sour with Jussi, yet again, and I'm not prepared to tolerate it anymore. I have friends here, I have a job, and I'm sure I can eventually sort out my own place to live. I don't need someone who only wants to drag me down.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Turku/Vantaa

Vantaa


Turku


We might move to Vantaa next month, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. I could, of course, stay in Turku on my own, but that would be pretty difficult. My main concern is to be in this country and continue my experiences here - at first Jussi actually wanted to return to England, but I did not go through all this stress for a 7 week holiday!
I've only been to Vantaa because that's where the airport for Helsinki is. I don't really know what it's like, but Jussi is keen so he can work at the Koff brewery again. It's also commutable to Helsinki, so there would be plenty to do and there would probably be more employment opportunities for someone like me.
All of this would be just fine were it not for the fact that I love Turku, I like my job here, and I'm starting to feel quite settled. I was walking home from work at 9am this morning, the sun was just rising, it was snowy everywhere, and it all just seemed so lovely, I wanted to cry just thinking about leaving. I'm not saying I'd want to live here forever but it's such a nice place, and I don't really know what Vantaa is like, and maybe I wouldn't like it there. I haven't had enough of a chance to live here and explore. I'm not really in a financial position to stay here alone, and Jussi is very set on the fact that he wants to leave. Why he feels like that when he bitched and whined for months in London that he wanted to come back here is a mystery. And obviously, I'd like to be with him too, but I don't think I can have both him and Turku. I'm very worried, and very confused. If I really couldn't stay here then I'd choose Vantaa over England any day. Maybe it would be another good opportunity for me, and it would make my overall experience much bigger to have lived in more than one city in this country. I think I need a Finnish person to tell me the whole dirty truth about each place so I can work it all out/give me a coin to flip.
I'm sorry to have this big old emotional rant - this blog was not intended to be for such things, but I guess it is relevant. It's been a bit of a difficult day, thinking about all of this and feeling so uncertain. Any advice is welcome on this one.
On a lighter note, tomorrow I'm meeting a girl who reads this blog, so hopefully I'll end up with a new Finnish friend. Also, in the photo of Turku at the top, the grey building in the top left hand corner is where I live! Not for long apparently, but never mind. Our flat's on the opposite side though.

Happy Independence Day, and my thoughts on Salibandy

Although I'm a day late, Happy Independence Day to all my lovely Finnish readers! I don't really understand Independence Day, and it doesn't matter much to me, but I hope you all enjoyed it, whatever you were doing.
My weekend, including yesterday, was spent being forced to watch Salibandy on the Yle website. I understand the world championship is being held in Helsinki this week, and Jussi is very keen. I didn't really see much difference between this sport and indoor/field hockey, and as I went to an all girls school, I've played a lot of hockey.
Finland beat Canada 12-2 on Sunday; the best moment was when the Canadian goalkeeper, rather than moving the ball away from the net as he should do, smacked it right into the goal, and let Finland score. Other than that, I most enjoyed it when the commentator was interviewing some guy, and some cheeky kids were standing behind him waving, dancing and sticking their fingers up at the camera. Nice one.
Yesterday I was made to watch Switzerland play Poland. It was funny that when Finland played the arena was absolutely packed, but for this game there were about 10 spectators. I don't think anyone outside of Finland actually cares about Salibandy. I'm told there is a British team, and that they're actually pretty good, but I'd never heard of them until Jussi mentioned them. To be honest I'd rather watch the football or a nice bit of ballroom dancing.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Ooh-er

I've just noticed this lovely little blog has been viewed over a 1000 times now, and in only about 6 weeks.
Thank you all.

Amendment

Yesterday I wrote about Little Britannia, and claimed that the price of two bottles of Lucozade and a packet of crisps was 16 euros, and therefore a complete shocker. I would now like to clarify that the 16 euros on the till was change from 20 euros, making the prices reasonable, and me a moron.
This was clarified to me on Facebook by the genius man who opened the shop, and although the cost is still a little higher than the regular British prices, it's hardly unreasonable considering the import costs and the fact that food prices generally are higher in this country. So if anyone was put off by the prices, it was my mistake and had nothing to do with the actual shop.

Today the snow has gone completely bezerk, and even Jussi was saying he'd never seen anything like it. Overnight it went from nothing except ice and sludge to about 10cm depth, and it continued to snow until about an hour ago...


Friday, 3 December 2010

Little Britannia and the Kauppahalli

I've been to the Kauppahalli, which is a very sweet indoor market type thing. It reminded me of Covent Garden market, but with more food. Most of the kioskis and baby sized shops were selling fresh cheeses, bread, meat etc, and there were also some foreign shops and delis, such as Chinese, Indian, and British!
Kauppahalli is where Little Britannia, the British food shop is. My timing is perfect because it only opened last month. I've actually been in Turku longer than the shop has! Oh my god, it was lovely! I only got Lucozade and Walkers Salt & Vinegar today, but that was enough to put a massive smile on my face. They also had Monster Munch! But no pickled onion flavour today. They had loads of Cadburys products, including Dairy Milk and Whole Nut, shortbread biscuits, and lots of other British sweets. They also had canned haggis, custard and corned beef. Not for me.
I'd like it if they had more things like canned soup, but as they're new they probably don't have a full product range yet. The downside is the price - two bottles of Lucozade and a packet of crisps cost €16, as opposed to about £2 in Britain. Maybe it's not a surprise as everything is directly imported. However, it was so nice to see some familiar products and brand names, and really nice to have some comforting food from home.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

This is the happiest day of my life!

Today has been insane! I was woken up by Emma telling me "I'm sorry, you have to get up now, you have a job." So I thought, what the fuck? Our friend Suski works for a company that buys and sells stamps to stamp collectors, and her boss had asked if she knew anyone who could help out around the office, doing stuff like filing and putting things into envelopes. Thankfully, she thought of me, and language wasn't an issue.
So Emma and I walked over there, and in I went. Obviously, on the first day in any job you have to have an embarrassing moment, and here's mine: I met the boss, whose name is Tatu, and when I was introduced to him he just said "Tatu." At first I thought he was speaking to me in Finnish, then I thought he was talking about tattoos. Eventually he said "That's my name." I apologised, but thankfully Finnish people always think the language barriers are their fault.
We had a chat for a while, and it became apparent that that guy fucking loves stamps! On a slightly insane level. Then it gets better.
He said "I have an idea, and I think you're the only person who can help with that." So my immediate thought was, oh shit... Then he asked me to teach him English! Which is a coincidence, as I'd placed adverts online earlier in the week as an English or art tutor. He asked how much money I would expect for doing that, and I hadn't really considered that. I suggested he could help me with my Finnish in exchange for me helping with his English, and his response was "Yes I'll do that, but I also want to pay you." So I'm not arguing with that. Now, I'm working in the office for €9/hour, and teaching him English most mornings for €10/hour. How ironic that the shittiest job I've ever had is also the most highly paid.
After about an hour of chat I was put to work, and all I had to do was fold invoices in half, put them in an envelope, seal said envelope. And they're paying me a shitload to do a monkey's job. I don't really see how I can fuck up such a simple task. This cannot possibly go wrong! (Famous last words...)
The work might not be that regular, because I'm only there to help out with general, slightly shitty jobs, and he said that if things aren't very busy I might not need to work. That's ok though, because I'd like some time to do my own things rather than having to work constantly. I'm going back tomorrow at 8am to teach him English for an hour, then do the office work for the rest of the morning. On Monday it's Finnish Independence Day, so there's no work for anyone, but next Tuesday I only have to teach for an hour, then on Wednesday to Friday I'm working full days. This is pretty sweet. I'm very proud, even if my work is very modest, at least I'm working and contributing like a normal person, and I'll also be able to have a social security number, which as you all know will solve a lot of problems for me.
After work Suski and her boyfriend took me for a drink to celebrate, so today worked out very nicely for me. I have Suski to thank, because whilst she was arranging work for me I was fast asleep. I haven't worked for this at all.
She also showed me a picture of a pre-prepared salad she's been eating recently - the brand name is...Tamsin! It's available in Siwa. I apparently taste delicious and crunchy. I guarantee that the jokes about eating me are never, ever going to get old.
So I hope tomorrow will be just as good and that the teaching will go well. I'm really really happy.

Rule Britannia

Turns out there's a British grocery in Turku! I'll be there tomorrow! I've looked at their message board on Facebook and various people, both British and Finnish, have requested a lot of products I'd like to buy, such as pot noodles, Paxo stuffing, Quorn, salad cream and Cadburys. I don't really miss England but it would be so nice to have something from home.
I'll spend a fucking fortune in there!
And in the Irish pub tonight I got salt and vinegar crisps! They tasted dead sexy after all my cravings. The guy working there tonight was English, but he seemed like a twat so I didn't want to ask him about working there. I'll email the owner tomorrow when I'm not drunk. I think it's bedtime...

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Damn the doctors

As predicted, the trip to the doctor was an experience. I didn't even get as far as the doctor. Just an elderly assistant with a very limited knowledge of English - thank god Emma was around to translate, if I'd been alone I'd have been screwed. Even when she asked for my date of birth Emma had to translate the month and year for her. Even the names of the medication were a problem, because although the name is the same it's pronounced differently - in Finnish "y" is generally pronounced as "oo".
The EHIC card actually is useless here, but the assistant also claims there's not enough time to treat the Finnish patients, let alone the dirty immigrant skanks. She probably didn't use those exact words but whatever. Again they had to check we were in the correct place, and didn't seem to have a clue, no one seems to know what's going on.
As things were so awkward, her only suggestion was to ask my doctor in England to contact a pharmacy in the area and arrange to send a prescription for me directly to them. When we got home Emma called the chemist to find out if this would be acceptable, and they said no. Because my doctor has no license to practice in Finland his prescription would not be legal here, plus they've probably never even seen a British NHS prescription, so how could they possibly know if it was genuine? Someone could have knocked it up on a computer for all they know. I think it's completely understandable from their perspective, even if it's annoying for me. To be honest I'm feeling ok so maybe it's not that important to get the proper medication after all, and I don't think I really need to be taking the contraceptive pill right now...
But really, communication within the health service here seems to be shocking, and none of the staff seem to know what's going on. I cannot possibly be the only person in this country who's ever needed medical attention and didn't have social security, and I'm quite shocked that the provisions for such people are so pathetic. For now I'm not worrying too much, and I guess if things get too bad I can go to the emergency department and cause a big old scene. At least I don't have a problem like diabetes for example, where going without medication could be a disaster. Have I really found a health service worse than the NHS?
I'm still applying for jobs and advertising myself:http://www.finlandforum.org/viewtopic.php?f=37&t=49813 and http://www.finlandforum.org/viewtopic.php?f=37&t=49812
Bloody Finns don't seem to be taking the bait though. Although there is an Irish pub here and the majority of bar staff are English, so tonight we're going there because it could be a real option for me. I've been there once for a drink and it was quite nice, they even show the Premier League matches! So let's hope for the best, because if I'm working I'll get social security and Finland will treat me like a real person.
Finally, today it's only 0 degrees, and I really was comfortable in that, I must be adapting. On the day I arrived Jussi and I went to get food in market square at 2am, it was the same temperature and I was freaking out. I think when I go back to England and everyone else is in winter coats I'll probably be skipping around in flip flops. I'm very glad the temperature has increased and that I'm more comfortable, last week it was getting extremely painful for me to be outside.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Sad news

Sadly, Jussi and I have split up. I think it's been brewing for a while and we had both reached our limit. Obviously this is very difficult for me, despite everything, and for now I don't really know what the future holds. I would very much like to remain in Turku, so I am applying for jobs and trying to work out what to do now. If anyone knows of any potential work for someone with basic Finnish I would be glad to hear about it. It doesn't have to be glamourous or exciting - I'm realistic about what my options are here, but now my priority is to find a way to stay here. I don't see why I should run back to England just because of this.
No one should worry about me, I am staying with Emma and Tommi, my Finnish äiti ja isä, who are taking very good care of me, and doing far more for me than they have to, and I'm extremely grateful. So I'm safe, comfortable, but maybe not exactly happy.
Today Emma and I have been trying to navigate the healthcare system, which has involved lots of phone calls and lots of confusion. Not having a social security number is a problem, and apparently my EHIC card is not going to help. I understood the purpose of that card to be that I could get healthcare in other countries, but apparently Finland has other ideas... I'm told I can go to my local healthcare centre tomorrow and they'll help me in person, so I'm sure that will be an interesting experience. I'm not blaming Jussi entirely, but it seems he really didn't research this kind of thing before bringing me here, because he made things sound much more straightforward than they actually are. I will manage somehow, and at least I have a genuinely helpful person with me on this.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Drawing

I've just been to Puolalamäen, once again, and did this sketch of the sculpture that is there. I'm not sure what it's meant to represent but it's of several figures holding each other, and I quite like it. It's on a hill in the park and sitting next to it, there are beautiful views going as far as the cathedral. Today it was snowy and sunny and it looked better than ever. I wish I'd taken my phone with me for photos. That park must be one of my favourite places in Turku; whenever I want to do something but have no real ideas it's a default destination. It's quiet and peaceful, and today I had a sense of wellbeing just from sitting there. I think the ink in my pen might have frozen a bit though...
Obviously it's very cold now, and Jussi very thoughtfully stole my gloves this morning! He has his own, so I have no idea why he also wants my girlie purple ones. I have another pair, if I could only find them again. So my hands and cheeks ended up completely numb, but it wasn't as bad as two nights ago when I needed some food and ventured into the blizzard. How Finnish people stand this weather I will never know.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Reasons to love (and hate) Finland

The Good:

1. Karpalo Lonkero (Cranberry mixed drink which I believe contains gin)
2. Lämmin Kuppi (Cup-a-soup, but better)
3. Watching the snow fall from inside my cosy home
4. Cigarettes are dirt cheap
5. Lots of coffee
6. Lots of good music
7. Pretty countryside
8. Moomins



The Bad:

1. Finland doesn't understand decent cheese
2. Finland doesn't understand decent crisps
3. The climate
4. Expensive food and alcohol
5. Pretty shoes with heels aren't practical here, and I had to leave them in England



The Ugly:

An insane blizzard has been going on outside for well over an hour now and it's a bit intimidating for little English people who have never seen such things. Going out is really not an option today.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Friends wanted

I need friends here. Whenever I've gone to a new place I've been in uni, so everyone needed new friends and it was easy. For the first year I lived in London one of my best friends was a girl who started chatting to me at a bus stop. Once you have a few friends it's much easier to make more.
Obviously this time it's different. The one friend I've made is a middle-aged bouncer who's married with two kids, so I'm not likely to go hang out with him. I was hoping more for people below 30. I'm friends with Jussi's friends, but I'd also like my own friends.
So...if you live in Turku, think I sound lovely (which you do, of course), and would like to look after me, please leave a comment, find me on Facebook if we have mutual friends, email me...just make yourself known. Serial killers and psychopaths need not apply. I promise I'm nice, I like being taught new Finnish words, and I'd really like someone to talk to here. My friends are very far away, Jussi is at work all day, and I'm very lonely.
I hope this doesn't sound desperate. And if no one responds I'm going to look like such a tool...

Monday, 22 November 2010

Finland makes me angry

Grr. Finland is being naughty.
I need to see a GP and get some medication, which I've been taking since May, but because the police won't give me a social security number it's gonna cost about 200 euros apparently. Which is just peachy because it means I have to beg my poor mother for money, and she's given me a ridiculous amount lately, and quite rightly told me she can't keep bailing me out. I don't blame her for having that attitude, and she hasn't had to do it this much until now. I really hope she'll make an exception for medical bills - if she doesn't I don't know how I can pay for it, and the medication isn't really something I can go without.
I love this country but sometimes I'd like to find Tarja Halonen, or whoever else is making the rules, and throttle them. I realise I'm not much of an asset to the country but I wish they'd give me a fucking break. Jussi hasn't been paid yet, and I'm sure that once we have a steady income things will work out better, but I'm getting stressed at the moment.
Right now I have a parcel from my lovely Becky to look forward to, which will contain some English things. She just told me it's packed and ready to be taken to the post office. I don't know what she's bought for me, but I asked for salt and vinegar crisps and magazines, which I'll be very pleased with if I get them. Most of all I wanted English energy drinks but she found out she's not allowed to send liquids. I'll manage though, I've taken quite a liking to Battery energy drink. I'm actually very excited to be getting this parcel, I hope the shipping doesn't take ages. Plus I've been chatting to a few different friends about the prospect of them coming to visit in the next few months, once student loans have made it more feasible, and that would also be super exciting.
I hope I calm down and that all the crap gets worked out in the next few days. I suppose some hiccups and unpleasant surprises are unavoidable when you launch yourself into a new country, but it's so annoying when I think about how much more straightforward it would all be in England.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Walking in the snow










Today I've had my first full-on snow experience here. I intended to go to a couple of small commercial galleries I've seen, and decided to walk through Puolalanmäen, the park near our house, just because I wanted to see it covered with snow. It's on a hill and has beautiful views. The park looked amazing, and so different when everything is pure white.
Ultimately I didn't actually go inside either gallery - the first one had some people inside and I felt a bit intimidated and moved on, and by the time I'd walked all the way down Yliopistonkatu to the next one I was very cold, the snow was getting heavier, and I'd much rather have been at home. Maybe some other day when it is quieter would be a better time to go to those places. Even so, it was nice to have a walk in the snow. I definitely feel like I'm in Finland now! I also learned that when the ground is covered in ice and snow I shouldn't be wearing shoes with holes in them. Probably should have worked that one out already...In my defence I wore them because they look really good with my purple legwarmers. Maybe I need to be a bit more practical this winter.
This is so different to anything I'm used to, it's still very exciting and special for me.

Cold Country

All around me is bitter,
Silent and still.
The light fades away
And ice marks the spot.

You brought me here,
Then broke me here
In this cold country
Where I am unloved.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Winter is here

The snow is back, and it's really badass snow. When Jussi got up for work, sometime between 4 and 5am he told me it was really snowy outside, and it was, but it looks now like it hasn't actually stopped since then. I've been sleeping so I have no idea.
It looks the way winter should. We live near a school, and from the window I can even see children torturing each other with snowballs. Lovely. It's the same as that day a couple of years ago when it snowed and London just stopped for a day, no tube, no buses, everything shut early or didn't open at all.
I wanted to go out today. Maybe I'll make Jussi take me for a walk when he finishes work, I have to get used to this and actually go outside.
One good side of this is that I'm regaining my motivation to make art, which has been waning for a while due to personal reasons. As much as I may want to it becomes very hard. At the end of the summer I was working a lot, and since yesterday I have too. Last night started out as experimentation with ink, oil and water, and ended in sketching, and I've just finished a painting. At the moment it's all for The Sketchbook Project, but it's good to be working, and I think it has a positive influence on my mood when I'm busy with some work.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Bad Nokia

I just had an amusing phone call with my Dad...Finnish sim cards and my iPhone don't seem keen on each other, so at the moment I'm using a number of old Nokias. The one I'm currently using likes to cut out during phone calls, leading to much long-distance frustration. He sounds a bit more enthusiatic and interested when he talks to me now, but still doesn't seem too pleased that I'm here. At least he was impressed that I've been to the art gallery and applied for a job.
I've applied to clean the ferries to Stockholm when they are in the harbour in Turku. It's not amazing, but a job's a job. I can't really be picky in this country. I only need to do it for a month or two, once I have it I immediately get a social security number, and when I quit I can get benefits and a language course!
Other than that, the past few days have been hard. Some people already know about it, and it's not something I really want to talk about anymore.

"Bear patiently my heart, for you have suffered heavier things" - Homer

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Turun Taidemuseo

Today I've been to Turun Taidemuseo, the city art gallery of Turku, and I really enjoyed it. It's really good for me to see work by Finnish artists, because that's not something you really hear about in England. There was a good combination of contemporary work and older works from the 20th century. It's also very convenient that it's a minute's walk from the house.
It's a shame that most of the information was in Finnish and Swedish, but a very enthusiastic member of staff showed me around some of the exhibitions and gave me some information about the artists.
I particularly enjoyed this piece, about the wartime deportation of the artist's family from Lithuania to Siberia. The juxtaposition between the film of a family, happily celebrating Christmas together, and the description of the torture and problems faced in Siberia made it very moving. If anyone in Turku is reading this I'd really recommend seeing it, it was quite haunting. Yeah, I just went all art student on your ass.
I also really liked the work by Hanna Haaslahti. I'm not usually that into audience participation based work because I find it a bit awkward and embarrassing, but as I seemed to be the only visitor this afternoon I had some fun with that. One piece periodically took second long films of your motions and replayed them, so that on the screen you could create a moving crowd comprised of yourself. It would probably be better with more than one person involved but it was fun to play with. She also had another piece in which your shadow on the floor was filled with images of clouds and blue sky, whilst the rest of the floor was black.
The main attraction at the moment is a show by Matts Leiderstam from Sweden, which I actually found to be the least interesting, mainly because I'm not that into landscapes. The other exhibition was depicting journeys, both physical and mental, made by Finnish artists. It kinda worked with my current situation, but again, it was less interesting for me due to the high quota of landscapes. The room dedicated to mental journeys was a bit more enjoyable, as there was some surrealist work, and work that required more thought from the viewer.
The gallery is quite small but I liked it, and I'd definitely be up for a return visit. Most of the current exhibitions seem to be closing this month, so I look forward to seeing some new things soon. I've also noticed various small commercial galleries on my travels around Turku, and I'm very keen to visit those. Personally I prefer that sort of space to larger museums, and in London I visited the contemporary galleries in Cork Street and Albemarle Street around once a month. I think these galleries would give me more opportunities to learn about Finnish contemporary art, so that's definitely a plan for another day.
After that I went to the nearby sewing shop for some needles. All the buttons fell off my new Primark coat a few days after I bought it! And as I'm here I can't even go back to Wood Green to complain! The weather's getting to the stage now where I really can't afford to not have a thick winter coat. Why are the old women who work in sewing shops always so scary? I'm not going back in there without back up. They had some really nice fabrics and craft items, which I'll be needing for a project I'm starting on. I can't say much about that yet because it might just be a Christmas present for a certain someone called Jussi...

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Complicated times

I just got home from the employment agency office, and they can't really help me because I still don't have a social security number. But when I went to the police station to apply for such a thing, the douchey woman was rude and unhelpful and basically told me to sit here for 3 months and then I can have one automatically. Without social security the employment people can't enrol me on a language course and can't give me immigration benefits.
The woman I was seeing today did try to help, she suggested cleaning jobs and Nokia, who apparently have an English speaking production line. Shame it's 31 miles away... She gave me a list of language schools too, which ironically, was entirely in Finnish. She said I could get started with something there until social security is dealt with.
The language course they provide is apparently 6 hours a day, Monday to Friday. That would make me feel a bit like a schoolgirl, but I need something to do, and need to study for 20 hours per week in order to claim benefits. It's been a bit boring for me since Jussi started work, with no one to talk to and no one to take me to new places.
I'm sure I'll work something out, it just seems overly complicated in comparison to Jussi's experience in London. I wish I spoke better Finnish. I hope the courses don't cost money, but that seems very unlikely. Jumalautta!
In other news, the snow melted overnight. I was a bit disappointed when I looked out of the window this morning. There are still some icy blocks, plenty of sludge too. It doesn't look so pretty anymore, but at least it's not so cold. Last night the sky was orange, it was neither dark nor light, and it was very strange. At first Jussi thought it might be a Northern Lights phenomenon, because sometimes you can see them from here, but then he concluded it was caused by the snow and the street lights. It's definitely too warm for snow today. I say warm, it's 5 degrees.
Maybe tomorrow I'll visit the Turku art gallery. I should do something nice to take my mind off all this annoying stuff. The past few days have been a complete headfuck.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

More about snow

First of all, I do realise that three entries in a single day about snow is slightly excessive, but I really don't care. I've very rarely seen proper snow; growing up in Plymouth, wedged between the sea and some hills meant I only saw real snow three or four times in 18 years. The past couple of years it's snowed in London, and apart from that I've only seen hardcore snow in Paris and Helsinki. And today.
Outside it now does look like the picture below. It only went on for a couple of hours but it was thick. Everything is white, and the light outside is a strange colour. I hear there might be more overnight, so I wonder how it'll be tomorrow. Especially as I have an appointment with the employment agency in the afternoon.
I just went outside because I needed some things from the shop, and my god it was cold! I was wearing two layers, a cardigan, a coat, a hat, and a scarf, and I was still freezing. I wish Jussi hadn't worn my gloves to work today. The wind was really bitter and market square was almost deserted, even though it was only around 6.30pm and a lot of the shops were still open.
There was a little bit of rainy/sleety/icy stuff whilst I was out, which you know is going to settle on the snow and make it really slippery. I wanted to walk really fast to get inside quickly, but the snow was too thick and slippery to make that possible. Jussi text me from work earlier and said this'll be it until March. I can't wait four months to be able to go outside without getting brainfreeze! It's really beautiful when I look out of the window, but less pleasant to be walking in it. And I was only going down the street!
I remember now how uncomfortable the cold was for me in Helsinki in March. By then most of the snow was over but it was still very cold. The first day I was there was particularly cold in the afternoon, just walking down the street made my back ache and made me shiver, just as it has tonight. This certainly isn't the coldest it's going to be, really this is still autumn, even though it seems like deepest, darkest winter to me. I knew this was coming, it's all part of the experience, but I really hope I can adapt to the climate here.

Snow

As promised, the snow has arrived! It's not too thick yet and is just starting to settle. Pretty soon it'll look like the picture. Right now it's very nice but I'm sure I'll be sick of it soon. I've heard some conflicting ideas about how this is gonna go, I've been told it'll be heavy but I've also read that it'll be light this afternoon and overnight. We'll see how it looks tomorrow.
For now though I'm thinking beer, food, bed, and tv.

Cold

We have the internet again now, which is nice. It's getting colder every day though, which sucks for me because I'm really not used to this kind of temperature. In market square there are two clocks which tell you the temperature, date and time. One reads 4 degrees, the other 0.3. I think 0.3 is more accurate.
On Sunday it did snow, but it was a mixture of hail and sleet, nothing that would settle. Both yesterday and this morning it's been quite icy outside, and yesterday I almost fell flat on my arse in market square. The weather forecast is predicting coming snowfall, and I think it might have already begun in more northern areas. Things are starting to feel more Finnish. The problem is that I'm so cold when I'm outside that I'd rather be indoors all the time.
Also, financially things are going to hell. Turns out I need to pay 45 euros for a residence permit. When Jussi came to England there was no bullshit like this at all, he just turned up and showed them an EU passport. It's frustrating. I can't imagine how difficult it would be here for someone outside of the EU. Also I expect that fairly soon I'll have to face the credit card bill that paid for my flight. I'm screwed.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

10 things I miss from England

1. Greggs
2. Roast dinners (especially roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings)
3. Vegetarian English breakfasts (such as the one in wetherspoons)
4. Wetherspoons generally
5. Lucozade
6. Green relentless
7. Salt and vinegar crisps
8. Primark
9. Cyberdog
10. Decent cheese

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Miserable day

Today's been shit. I feel a rant coming on. It's the first day I've really felt homesick, for my friends and my family. When I got the sim card yesterday I really wanted to call my mum and one particular friend, but it still isn't working now. Jussi gave me his phone to speak to my mum. I haven't lived within 200 miles of her for more than 3 years now, but we usually speak every week or so, so I've missed talking to her. As it's so expensive the phone call was short anyway.
I wish I could meet someone familiar or go somewhere where I know exactly what I'm doing, but everything's alien to me. Jussi's friends have all been very nice to me and made me feel welcome, but they're not MY friends. I completely understand how he felt in England when he wanted to have his own friends, not just rely on mine.
I don't think Jussi realises that going to shops etc still makes me feel quite uncomfortable and I'd appreciate some back up. I don't think he considered how much he would need to help me before we came here. It's hardly as if I want to feel like a child all the time. Of course I want some independence. I do try, but I'm scared and I'm shy. At least when he came to England he could already communicate with everyone; I think he's forgotten what it was like to be in a strange country where everything is new and confusing.
He got a job today, which is great, obviously, but he seems to think I won't be able to cope once he has that taking up so much of his time. Now he's put doubts in my mind, even though I had no concerns beforehand. I'm now trying to make the point to him that I am capable of doing things, even though I'm anxious. I've really been dragged down today; I feel like absolute shit.
I would hate to leave Turku, and I really don't want to quit and be a failure. It seems like no one, including myself, has much faith in my capabilities. I have to go to the police station tomorrow to sort out my social security, and I told Jussi I'd go on my own to prove a point, but I'm absolutely terrified. I'm not even sure what I'm so scared of, apart from the unknown. I don't think that I'm being unreasonable to expect his help in his country. He certainly expected mine in England.
I really hope that things feel different tomorrow, that my sim card works and that I can actually speak to English people. Elisa (the phone network) won't allow you to take out a contract unless you've lived in Finland for at least two years, so Jussi had to do it for me and is lauding the cost of international calls over me a bit. I don't know why it didn't occur to him yesterday that I'd be making international calls - who the hell am I gonna call in Finland? He knows I'll be giving him the money for everything, so surely it's my problem. As I have no money and he's complaining about the phone it's just another thing to wind me up and upset me. I really want tomorrow to be a better day because I'm so miserable and fed up now. This has been the worst day since I got here.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Silly Finland

So the building we live in, which has at least 72 flats in it, has a little laundry room with a single machine, which I am required to book a time to use. I have hardly any clean clothes, and the earliest slot was for tomorrow afternoon. Does anyone else think this is a bit stupid? I assumed the laundry room would be like the one in Gubbay Hall, for those of you who were "lucky" enough to have lived there. But oh no. The laundry room is in a bizarre underground labyrinth, much of which is without lighting. Not happy.
Also, near the laundry room is a very strange place, where any tenants can put old furniture/ornaments etc that they don't want, and other tenants are free to take the items there. There wasn't actually any good stuff, but it's apparently quite common in blocks of flats.
I've also finally got a Finnish sim card. However, the network is having technical difficulties activating new sim cards, so I'm still waiting for that to work. I understand that random people are reading this, so I won't be putting the number on here, but my friends will be able to find it on Facebook when it starts to work and I know what my number is.
Also our internet contract is due to finish any moment now, as we've been using Jussi's friend's contract. Jussi arranged our own today, but it won't be installed until the 17th, so hopefully I can get an iPhone app to continue writing, should my sim card decide to work. But if I briefly disappear, rest assured that I'm still alive and well.

Finnish weekends

I've noticed a pattern when it comes to Saturday nights. Both weekends have started with meeting Emma and Tommi, and finished with Jussi falling asleep on the living room floor whilst I talk to his friends. This weekend was very good, we met a lot of people on Saturday,and at one point we were with literally everyone I know in Turku, which was nice. It's cool to go to some new bars and stuff here. It's good for me to meet more of Jussi's friends too. Everyone seems quite happy to meet me, and obviously they're all glad to have Jussi back here.
Sunday was very bleary and lazy, I don't think either of us were feeling that great. Saturday had turned out to be quite a big night. In the evening we went to Saara's house to play a game that the Finnish people seem slightly obsessed by. It's called Carcassonne, and I really wouldn't know how to explain it that well, but essentially it's an overly complicated board game with complicated scoring. And a dragon. We played it with Emma and Tommi on Friday, and when Saara heard about this she insisted we must play with her too. I'd never heard of it before, I don't know if it ever broke England.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carcassonne
We watched some of Finnish Strictly Come Dancing too, which was lovely, even though Jussi complained the whole time, and the lady who presents it is a bit overenthusiatic about exposing her breasts...

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Project man up



We can safely say that Project man up is completed. Yesterday I went back to the park Jussi had taken me to in order to sketch and just relax. It was really quiet and calm, and again, it looked so pretty because of the leaves and trees everywhere. I did some sketches, photos of which are above this. My only problem was that it was so frigging cold. Sketching in Finland isn't always that easy, I was shaking as I was sitting there. When I had finished and was walking back to Market Square I was shivering the whole time. I really don't understand how people here cope with that.
Then it gets better. I needed to go the supermarket, which I did, alone and in Finnish. Then I went for a drink. Alone. I'd never do that in England but I think it's more acceptable here, I was one of many. Also a group of people were getting their drink on pretty heavily at 2pm. But anyway, that was all done in Finnish too, and I was also speaking Finnish when I went to a kioski on the way home to buy cigarettes. I was fine, and I've definitely worked out my way around some of the area. A week ago I really didn't think I could do all that, so I'm satisfied.
When I got home Jussi and I got pizza. Avoiding it didn't last long, but at least this was a proper pizza. I have to say Finnish pizza is disgusting. There were green olives, not black, far too many herbs, there was no dip, and they didn't even cut the bloody thing! Wtf? This was apparently the best pizza place here. Give me Dominos any day. Plus there was an annoying teenager there, who'd clearly dressed up as Axl Rose for the day, who could not stop turning around and staring every time I spoke (in English) to Jussi. When I said thank you to the guy at the counter in Finnish he had another good stare. Fuck off Axl Rose kid, you're a douche.
In the evening we went to Emma and Tommi's house to play some strange Finnish game that I didn't quite understand. But it was nice, and later we went to a couple of bars.
Unfortunately, in one of them, I was the target of some delightful racism. Some drunk guy in the smoking room started talking shit at me for speaking English to Jussi. I have enough stress and difficulty at the moment without that kind of thing, plus I was a bit drunk, so I shouted "I come to your fucking country and try my best to speak your ridiculous language and be polite here, but that's still not good enough for some people", and stomping back to the bar. On my way, and English man who'd been there with his Finnish partner, patted me on the back and said "Well said love". The English are rising up. I really don't need that kind of shit here. Most people are nice, I chatted to two random people yesterday who were very cheerful meeting me. It's just unecessary shit.
Apart from that, yesterday was a nice day. Today has mainly been spent sleeping, as I think we went to bed around 4.45am. Also, I had quite a hangover, not quite on Phil Collins level, but still not that nice. Apparently we're going to meet Emma and Tommi again in a couple of hours, I hope I can survive this much Finnish drinking.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Go to the park











My friends should know that I bloody love a good park. I like to sketch in them, I like to hang out with people in them, I like to sit and think in them, I like to chain smoke and cry in them...I'm quite keen. And today has been very park-orientated, so it's been a good one...
This afternoon Jussi took me to a different park on the other side of the river, I can't remember it's name but it's built up higher than the streets (Jussi thinks it might be the highest point in Turku), and it is where the astronomy building is. It was really really nice, there were loads of trees and fallen leaves - it was autumnal and beautiful. Because it was so high there were greats view of almost all of Turku. We could see our house too. It was so peaceful, which is important in a park. Also the bins were spray painted to look like monsters and said "Feed Me" on them! I took a lot of photos. I'd love to go back there to draw sometime, it was a really nice area and the view of the city was amazing.
Plus, this evening I went to the nearby park, on my own, to sketch. Jussi told me I need to be more adventurous, and I'm trying to man up anyway. Perhaps sketching on your own in the dark isn't the most intelligent choice, but never mind. It's adventurous. I wanted to draw the trees, and because the background was dark the drawings turned out quite abstract and distorted. It was pretty empty at this time, thankfully it's not too cold today so I didn't freeze whilst trying to draw.
It's really nice to have two beautiful spaces that close to me. One is less than a minute's walk away, the other is about five minutes away. I feel really lucky. I think I remember how to get to the other park, so I am adapting. I'm just nervous.

Turku photos





These are some photos I have taken in Turku. My friends can see larger images on Facebook. The top photo is one of the flags flying on UN Day, the next is of the river here, and the bottom two are the view from my living room.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Man up day

Man up day didn't go exactly to plan. Sketching in the park fell through because I've managed to lose my keys. They're somewhere in this damn flat...
However, in the afternoon Jussi asked me to go to a kioski to get us some cigarettes. And I went, without complaining or begging him to go with me. I asked the lady in Finnish, and my only problem was having to ask her to repeat something in English, which turned out to be her asking me for ID, and the world did not cave down around me. Incidentally, this is the only foreign country I've ever been IDed in.
Even better than that, when we went to the supermarket this evening I got through the whole thing in Finnish, including correctly answering two bonus questions at the till! I guessed when she asked if Jussi and I were sharing a bag, and when she asked something else, which turned out to be asking if I had a loyalty card, I just repeated Jussi's previous answer, which was no. And I was right, I really don't have a loyalty card! Also the fruit machine thing is so extreme that even Jussi has started using one. He won a euro tonight. I also saw some in a department store yesterday, right next to the ladies clothes. What is Finland doing?
I realised, too, that I do know some places here, even if it's not much. There are definitely a few places I could get to on my own if necessary. Maybe yesterday was just a bad day and I was being negative, because today I feel better. And I've proved to myself that I can cope with buying something without needing Jussi to help. I think I need to be a bit more confident and stop panicking, because I managed fine today. I can get to the park, the art gallery, and market square, where the shops are, and I can manage to buy things. If I need to I can use English, it's just that I'd rather try to use Finnish as much as possible. I shouldn't act like speaking English in public is the end of the world.
Tomorrow it's a week since I came here. Maybe it'll finally start to sink in that this is where I live now. It's still so new, it feels like a holiday.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Urgh part 2...and cute animal stories!
















Animal story 1: I saw a dog take a piss on a hospital. But he was wearing a flourescent yellow doggy coat with a paw print on it! Eeek!
Animal story 2: When we were walking in the park this evening I saw a wild hare run across the path.

Still feeling a bit rubbish. I wonder if I'm just not making enough effort, whether I'm being unreasonable to expect Jussi to babysit me all the time. He encourages me to do things for myself, but I'm scared and embarrassed all the time, so I only want to go out if he is with me. Maybe I need to man up a bit. I have to learn somehow.
Tomorrow he has a job interview so I think whilst he is out I'm going to do something/go somewhere on my own. Even if it's just going to the park to sketch, at least then I'm doing something on my own and not being so reliant on him. Maybe a baby step like that will make me feel braver and it won't be such a big deal when I need to go to a shop or do something that involves speaking to another person. I can't stay this clingy and scared, because what will I do when he does get a job? I can't just stay indoors all day until he comes home. Tomorrow is going to be man up day. A nice trip to the park isn't scary. Unless the hare tries to kill me...

Urgh...

This is the Market Square in Turku. It's 30 seconds walk from our house, so this is the only place I'm all that familiar with. It's pretty much the center of Turku, where most of the shops are, including Stockmann, the big department store. We're really lucky to be so central. At the opposite end of our road is a big park and the art gallery of Turku, which apparently has the second most valuable collection in Finland. I can't wait to go there.

After several days of eating pretty much nothing except frozen pizzas, due to our complete lack of cooking utensils, I insisted we buy a frying pan or saucepan. So I've just eaten a huge stir fry, and you have no idea how awesome that is when you're faced with so much pizza. I never want pizza again.
Today we finally got round to trying to set up benefits. Although I really didn't get far because I need to go to the police and another agency to register for a social security number before I'm entitled to benefits. They made me an appointment for 2 weeks time, when I should get my language course arrange and hopefully get some money.
It's been a bit shit today. I feel so confused all the time, I barely know my way around, I don't understand anything. It freaks me out. The cost and effort of getting here is what puts me off leaving. I like our home, and I do like Turku very much - it's like a smaller, quieter Helsinki, but there's still plenty happening. This is an adventure, and I know there's bound to be ups and downs, but today is definitely a down day. I just don't feel good. Maybe I'm just fed up with feeling stupid and scared and confused. It's inevitable that I feel like that, but it's hard when you're used to being able to read street signs and buy things in the shop without being compeltely lost the whole time. I don't feel very confident here. Maybe I should be trying harder, or worrying less, or something.
On some days I feel really great here, and I'm becoming more comfortable here. On days like today I feel like this is impossible to get through. I have no desire to go back to England, but I'm lost a lot of the time. It's a shame my appointment is in 2 weeks; it means I can't get started on the lanaguge course as quickly as I'd like to.
I guess there's a lot to take in here - everything is new, even the language, the food, the way the traffic lights work...it's a lot to get my head around. These feelings are probably normal in my position, but that still doesn't make it very pleasant.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Cultural learnings for make benefit glorious nation of England

I don't know why I'm awake so early. My body clock is still messed up, and last night I slept at 11.30, which is very early for me at the moment. However, Finnish office hours start at 8am, so by the standards here I guess this is reasonable.
Yesterday Emma and Tommi took us to see Turku castle, and to Naantali, where the Moominworld theme park is. I also got to see the older part of Turku, which I liked, and the countryside between here and Naantali. It was really beautiful. Unfortunately yesterday was very wet, dark and cold, so Naantali harbour was deserted and quite depressing. I'm sure it would be much nicer on a pleasant day.
I've now eaten Finnish soup, pizza and orange juice. The soup was really nice but the orange juice tasted like syrup, it was too sweet and disgusting. I also found salt and vinegar crisps, which was exciting. They had a Union Jack on the packet, but unfortunately they tasted foul. I think the Finns are mocking me. In the supermarket I saw some different pastas I could eat, and some tasty looking cheeses. It would help if we owned a saucepan and frying pan so I could cook proper meals. I was a bit worried about the food here - what I'd seen in supermarkets in Helsinki wasn't very appealing, but on closer inspection I've found plenty of edible things, so I think I'll be fine. There's also a Chinese supermarket nearby, and I always shop in those in England for cup noodles, Lo Han Chai and soy sauce.
Finnish supermarkets are a big strange though. They have fruit machines in them! Who goes to the supermarket to gamble? Unless you're very poor and are desperate for food money, in which case Finland may have a point. Jussi said proper gambling is illegal here, and compared to my country Finland has a lot of crazy laws. I already knew you can't buy alcohol between 9pm and 9am (thanks to that law, I went to a club and met Jussi in Helsinki), and it's illegal for bars to sell a double measure of spirits, which is standard in England. Also you can't buy spirirts in a normal food shop, only in one government-controlled off license chain. For such a big drinking country they have some fierce alcohol laws.
They also have machines to recycle bottles and cans, and for each can you use you get paid 15 cents. I think that's a good idea, I'm going to use those. The tills also have strange vending machines for cigarettes; you choose the brand you want and it comes down a conveyor belt and lands amongst the rest of your shopping. I'm finding supermarkets fascinating here.
Yesterday was apparently United Nations day, and all the Finnish flags were flying, which I'm told always happens on holidays and special days. It looked quite impressive - from our living room window I counted 8 flags, and from Emma and Tommi's balcony I could see 7. When we walked to their house every street had several flying.
I'm learning a lot, and today I think we're sorting out jobs and benefits for ourselves. Me faced with Finnish red tape....

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Very good Saturday

I've had a really good day, and I've started to feel a bit more comfortable. I can now buy cigarettes in Finnish (valkoinen Marlboro). I'm learning new things to say every day at the moment. We've also done lots of nice things today. We met Jussi's sister, Saara, and her husband for lunch. I've met them both before and they're really nice. We went to an Italian restaurant near their house, which Jussi says is his favourite. It was quite nice, the pizza I had was huge but really good. After that we picked up some more of Jussi's belongings from their flat, then they came with us so Saara's husband could see our home.
When they left we just hung out here, then at 11pm we met Jussi's friends Emma and Tommi for a few drinks. Apparently we're also having dinner with them tomorrow. It's nice to see more places in the city, and to be getting a social life here. All of this despite having a huge hangover from last night. Oh my god. If you've ever watched Pasila you'll understand a Phil Collins hangover.
Also I'm staying up really late because I'm still 2 hours behind. It's 2.38am now, but I feel like it's 38 minutes past midnight. Last night I only had 4 hours sleep. The plan is to get healthier and happier here, so I really should start eating and sleeping properly. Although tonight Jussi and I shared some Finnish potato wedges that I bought the other day. They were really good, they tasted like the McCains ones. I'm starting to adapt, and I'm trying my best to speak Finnish when I can. My friends in England have all been really supportive and encouraging, I feel like I can manage here.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Yksi olut, kiitos


I've been out tonight and ordered all of my drinks in Finnish! Which is definitely an achievement. I fooled 5 bar staff. By the way, the title of this post is "One beer please..." That's how Finnish I am.
Maybe this is just a drunken bad mood rant but I'm gonna do it anyway...
This sounds retarded, especially as I've wanted to move abroad since I was a teenager, but everything here is so foreign! I know that's obvious, but I'm having such a hard time because I don't understand shop signs, products in the supermarket or the language generally. Even the doors have strange locks on them that confuse me, and the traffic being on the wrong side confuses me too. Also many Finnish people seem to have a lovely habit of continuing to speak to me in Finnish, even when I've made it clear that I don't understand. It's not that they can't speak English, they just don't want to. After all, this is apparently quite a racist country. Jussi told me earlier that even though my spoken Finnish has an obvious foreign accent it's very fortunate that that accent is not Russian. I have no problem with Russians but the Finns certainly do.
I'm just a bit upset. It's early days and everything's brand new, so I probably shouldn't give up all hope just yet Also Jussi isn't being very sensitive to the fact that I'm confused, scared and disorientated. I think he's trying to encourage me to do things for myself, and therefore learn, but I just don't have the confidence yet.
This is a nice city, and I don't want to quit, but right now it feels very tempting. It's not that anyone's rude to me, I just feel freaked out all the time when I'm in public. I almost had an orgasm earlier when I manged to cross the road by myself! I really do want to learn Finnish too. It's always pissed me off when people come to England and make no effort to speak our language, so I really have no right to come here and not make an effort to speak their langauge. My Finnish is very limited so far, and I don't know how to write anything, only speak, but I'm proud that I'm trying, especially as it's a very complicated language.
I hope I'll feel better. I only got here 27 hours ago so I guess it's fair that I'm confused. I just feel so stupid and incompetent all the time. I don't want to give up and go home but I'm certainly tempted.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Day one...

By popular demand, here is a blog about my time as a Johnny Foreigner in Finland! So here I am, sitting on a lovely green rug in my new flat. to be honest, it's so cold outside that I don't want to leave the house. Unfortunately, Jussi (my delightful boyfriend) is very insistent that I should explore. Hmm.
I got here at about 1am this morning. My journey was a complete nightmare. All was going fairly well until I got to Gatwick, where it transpired I'd bought a plane ticket for the day before! There were 3 seats left on the plane so I managed to get one, whilst putting a lovely £260 dent in my credit card. Which I have no idea how I'll repay. Fuck you easyjet. I rushed back to check in with my new ticket, and then discovered that my luggage was 24kg over my baggage allowance! And to take said luggage with me would cost another £230...
Then my credit card got declined. I did very well resisting the urge to cry. Not so well resisting the urge to shout "Fuuuuuck!" However, I called my beautiful, brilliant, perfect mother, who paid the extra money over the phone, got myself checked in and rushed off to security, paranoid that I wouldn't get to the gate in time.
Thankfully, after that the journey went very smoothly. Aside from the fact that the flight was filled almost entirely with Finnish families, complete with their out of control, screaming little darlings. But I survived, found Jussi at Helsinki-Vantaa and we went for a drink by the train station.
Then we were faced with a 2 hour train journey to get to Turku. And for some ridiculous reason, Finnish trains have no luggage racks! Which is very frustrating when you've spent all day carrying around 44kg of crap. I was getting tired and snappy, and hadn't actually eaten all day.
We arrived in Turku after 1am, it was 0 degrees, and it would be an understatement to say that my mood was flagging. We dropped the suitcases off in our new flat and wandered into the night again in search of food. This is where it gets interesting.
We found a kioski (a burger stand) and Jussi bought some crazy chips, deep fried with chunks of sausages! Apparently that's very normal. It was far too meaty for me but I found it fascinating. I just had normal chips, and even those were covered in salad and sauces. I think I'll like Finnish chips...
Eventually I got to bed, and today I had a slightly strange trip to the supermarket. It might become a problem that I don't understand what most of the food is...