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...


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'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...