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


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.


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.


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.
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...