Monday, 31 January 2011

The amazing exploits of a very drunk man

On Saturday night I was standing by the window having a cigarette, and I could see a very drunk man outside. He was trying to climb over a wire fence, but kept slipping on the pile of snow next to it. He started to climb up the fence but then fell straight into the snow. Every time he tried to get up he just slipped again and ended up on the floor.
Eventually he managed to balance on the snow, but was struggling to climb up the fence. When he eventually did get to the top he did some kind of backflip over it - at one point he was holding onto it with his legs straight up in the air! He flipped over and immediately fell down onto the other side of the fence. Then he started stumbling towards one of the buildings, walked straight past the steps to the doorway, and fell over again. He was crawling around on the floor, and just lying on the ground for a little while.
After a while a woman came out of the building and shouted at him. She waited for a bit then went back inside. A little while later the guy crawled back round to the steps and went up them and inside. And the whole time he was only wearing a t-shirt...

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Wäinö Aaltosen Museo

Today I've been to the Wäinö Aaltosen Museo, to see the exhibition "Death and it's Many Faces," which I've been interested in seeing for a while now. It was interesting, and I've written down a lot of artist's names to look at a bit more. I thought it was good that the exhibition mainly seemed to include Finnish artists. As I've said before, I consider this a really good opportunity to look at some foreign artists who I would never hear about in England.
The piece above, "Tahrainen Suomi" (Stained Finland), is by Harro Koskinen, and it was very bold and interesting. I'm quite keen to get a flag and make a piece following this. I'm not sure what this work referred to, because I always thought the Finns were a peaceful, cheerful bunch, but it seemed to refer to guilt and blame, and obviously, death.
The work I saw covered many media and formats, with a common theme. Another good thing was that each room focussed on a different aspect of death, such as the death of animals, grief, and the depiction of Death as a character. The animal room included a giant smile constructed from cow jawbones on a steel frame, which was a bit unnerving. The show is on until March, and even though some pieces were fairly morbid I quite enjoyed myself. It's a decent sized space too. I guess it showed that some things, such as the depiction and consideration of death, are universal.
I guess this must be art week because I want to go back to Turun Taidemuseo tomorrow. I planned to go today until I found that the new exhibitions open tomorrow, so going today would have been a pointless trip. I think the work there is generally more experimental than at Wäinö Aalto, which seemed more focussed on quite traditional painting and sculpture. There weren't many contemporary works either; most were 20th century. The Taidemuseo's primary exhibition this time is of particularly outstanding works from their collection, so that should be another chance to see a lot of Finnish and Swedish work.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Reasons to love R-Kioski

I have been here for 3 months now, and it wasn't until today that I recalled that tattoo magazines are more widely available here, as they seem to be in many countries in mainland Europe. On one trip to Amsterdam I think my friend Emma and I bought about 6 between us. In England I only seem to find them in WHSmith, although there is one corner shop in Cockfosters Road with a surprisingly large selection.
The first time I went to Helsinki we went into a shop in Market Square to buy cigarettes, and found loads of tattoo magazines. On my second trip I made it very clear to Jussi that I absolutely had to go to this particular shop to get a magazine. How he did laugh when said shop turned out to be an R-Kioski, a nationwide convenience store chain.
Anyway, I suddenly remembered this today when I was a bit bored, and decided to go get a magazine. There was a decent selection available, one of which was entirely in English, but it seems I had also forgotten the price - all around €10, and I wasn't really keen to spend that much on a single magazine.
Then it got better. What, of all things, did I spy next to the tattoo magazines? BRITISH GLAMOUR! They had InStyle too, but I don't read that so often, whereas Glamour is fairly standard reading for me. It was all in English, and even though it was the international edition, the price wasn't any different to the regular English price. There were separate prices for USA and Canada, but for the rest of the world it's only £2.20, which according to is a very reasonable €2.55! Unfortunately the current issue is the same one I bought at Heathrow when I was returning from holiday, but I guess in a couple of weeks I'll have to get myself to R-Kioski for the new issue. This really is very pleasing for me - when I went on holiday I was quite surprised to see British Glamour being sold in one shop in Helsinki-Vantaa, so to find it in the shops is really great. Thank you R-Kioski!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The Finnish language

The language classes are going well enough, I feel a bit more comfortable in that scenario now. I am very annoyed that I was obliged to buy this textbook, which is the standard kind of thing anyone learns languages in school with ie. 3:1 ratio of pictures to words, about 100 pages long...for 35 fucking euros! What the bloody hell. Once I recovered from the minor heart attack I had in the bookshop I was ready to pay for it. How they can justify that is beyond me, especially when the course itself cost about 60 euros. Thankfully, Suski very kindly paid for that as a christmas present, so this was my only expense, but I think it's about 20 euros overpriced.
I think I'm keeping up quite well in the class, especially considering that a fair few people in the class have lived in Finland for years and/or already taken a Finnish language course before now. Last week I was chatting to a Hungarian lady from the class whilst I walked home; she asked when I had come to this country, and when I said October she kept saying what a short time it was, and how she remembered what it was like when she first arrived! Two years ago...
Some people mentioned that they had done whole degrees in Finnish universities, and are now taking this class. That was probably a case of "do something educational or get the hell out of Finland." I just wonder why on earth they have lived here for years but not attempted to learn the language of this country until now - I actually consider it to be quite disrespectful. With this is mind, I guess it shouldn't be much of a surprise that other people sometimes seem to know random bits of vocabulary that I've never even heard of.
Our teacher has a strategy of cheekily sneaking in bits of grammar, and that's my downfall. Even when I learnt languages in school I always really enjoyed learning new words but the grammar is quite boring for me, so it doesn't always sink in. Furthermore, Finnish grammar is ridiculously complicated, and I really don't know how I'm going to remember the rules. I don't even remember the names of the rules! One of them sounds a bit like party-tv, so everytime that gets mentioned I start thinking about parties, and that's probably not supposed to happen.
The teacher still seems to think I'm only pretending to be English...she's still asking where my name comes from, and earlier started suddenly asking lots of questions about British culture, possibly in an attempt to prove that I'm an illegal immigrant. She failed. Ha. After that a very nice Italian man asked me if Cornwall was in Wales...Bless.
We're still on quite a basic level. Today we looked at some examples of dialogues when out shopping. When I looked at the page I managed to work out what most of the conversation said, using words that I already knew, and some common sense, so I can't be doing that badly. I probably just need some practice and confidence, and to remember how to structure sentences. Then, once my vocabulary has improved I should be able to attempt conversations. I could definitely do the "what is your name, where are you from..." kinda thing, but we'll have to wait before I can tackle anything more advanced. I think I've set myself quite a challenge, and I hope I'm up to it.

Also...what in God's name is going on on the cover of that book? What are they up to? Anyone?

Sunday, 23 January 2011

A strange thing I learned yesterday

Finnish people find the word "pardon" hilarious! I'm quite sure that's a very normal thing to say if you mishear someone, but when I said it Suski giggled hysterically and refused to accept that real people actually said it. Sometimes Finland really makes no sense to me.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Turku 2011

I finally watched the opening thingy for Turku becoming the culture capital. Suski cleverly recorded it off the tv, which was a good thing because we took too long getting ready and missed the whole thing.
After seeing it I'm actually quite glad we didn't have to stand in the cold watching that, because it was quite boring. At one point they were playing the theme tune of BBC News for some reason...and there was a lot of random music and a really bad song about Turku.
For song reason the show was based around a British group of acrobats! In the end credits the names of the people who wrote and performed the show were very clearly not Finnish names. They sounded suspiciously English to me. I think that's a shame, and such a wasted opportunity to show what's good about Finland and what Finnish people can do, and surely that's part of the point of being the capital of culture? As the show wasn't great maybe some Finnish people would have done a better job.
It was all a bit disappointing. The fireworks were quite nice, and Tarja Halonen had a very nice red hat on, but apart from that it wasn't very good. I hope that for the rest of the year there'll be a bit more emphasis on Finnish-ness. Silly Finland.

Monday, 17 January 2011

First language class

Today, on the second attempt I managed to get to my language class successfully. I was extremely nervous but everything went fine. The teacher is great, and spent a long time trying to guess which country I came from because my strange name was confusing her. She was very surprised that I'm English. I'd guess that most people in the class are older than me, but everyone seems very encouraging towards each other, helping each other to get the answers, and the class has a nice atmosphere.
Luckily I was able to keep up with everyone else quite well, despite missing all of the classes last week. I wasn't the only person who joined today, and that made me feel better. I was a bit scared when the teaching method turned out to be asking different people questions in front of everyone, and I was included just the same as everyone else. I managed to answer everything, and understood things most of the time, so I'm glad I'm not very far behind the rest of the group. Today was mainly about numbers, most of which I already knew anyway, so I coped well.
I was really anxious about going there today, but there was no need because the class was quite relaxed. I'm hopeful that this will help me out and make me more confident. I'm glad I'm doing it.
Currently I'm drinking Lämmin Kuppi Strawberry and Vanilla soup. Is it soup, juice or tea? I was very sceptical about sweet soup, but I'm rather enjoying it now. It's nice to have something warm and comforting after coming inside from cold, sludgy weather.
Finally, as of Saturday, Turku is the European capital of culture for 2011. Very exciting. Suski and I meant to go to the opening show, but we spent too long getting ready and then missed the whole thing. It's quite cool though, because there will hopefully be some special art events going on throughout the year, which would be really interesting for me to see, and really make this year even better for me.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Where was I at midnight?

Drinking Kulta Lonkero and sledding in the park!
I spent a couple of hours in the park, going down a hill with a sled/black bin bag. At first I was quite scared because it looked very fast, bumpy and scary, but ultimately I manned up. It was so much fun! The hill had a few bumps which were quite fun to go over, and we went down quite fast. The snow manages to get everywhere and freeze everything, such as sleeves and hair. I also got a lot of snow in my eyes.
I enjoyed it, and I probably would never have done it if I hadn't been here, and that makes me very glad that I am. I guess I was also having a very Finnish experience, seeing as this is something normal to do for both Finnish children and adults, but I had never done it before. In Plymouth you'd never really get the chance, but it's never come up in other places either. It really was a good night though, and a change from just going to a bar all the time. The downside was how frozen we ended up; it was extremely uncomfortable. Getting back inside and getting some warm clothes was such a relief. I'd definitely like to go sledding again though.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

I suck at going to language classes

I've enrolled on a language course. I should have started tonight. The place where I thought the class was really wasn't it. After wandering around feeling very confused and useless for a while, and being directed to the information desk, which very helpfully shut at 3pm, 5 hours before everything else, I found a sign with the correct information for my class. Seeing as the address meant nothing to me I guess tonight is a write-off. It's quite stupid that of the three classes for this course, only one is in that place, which I believe to be their main building, but they didn't think it was worth mentioning where the other classes were.
The classes are every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; they started this week and now I'm really scared that when I do get there everyone else will be jibjabbing away in amazing Finnish, whilst I sit there saying "Minä olen Englantilainen" over and over again and banging my head against the wall. There's apparently a textbook I need too - maybe if I buy it at the weekend and read the whole thing before Monday I'll stand a fighting chance.
So right now the työväenopisto is not my favourite thing. Not only for completely failing to mention at any time where this class is but for the fact all their correspondence to me and their website is in Finnish. If I understood all of that I wouldn't have signed up for "Finnish for Foreigners" would I? Wankers.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Snowy walk

I've been for a nice snowy walk in the park to clear my head up a bit. Again, it was the park with the amazing views of Turku. It snowed earlier today so a lot of the sludge has been replaced by real snow, which is obviously much prettier. It doesn't really feel that cold anymore, but I'm not sure exactly what the temperature is.
For some reason going to the park makes me feel a lot calmer. I think I need that at the moment though. It's so quiet there, you can just hear the hum of traffic but it's very gentle. You can see absolutely everything in Turku from there, as I pointed out here. Looking at the photos from that day it looks so different - green and lively. I wouldn't describe it as bleak now, but it's a lot plainer and seems emptier without the grass and leaves. Also I noticed in the park there's a random Russian flag. Why?
It really helped to go there and think about some things in peace - I feel like my life has become far too manic recently. I want that to change now. I really am glad that I'm here, even though sometimes I've wished I'd never come here. I know why I felt that way, and hopefully that can change now. More and more I'm thinking that after I've finished my degree I'll come back to live in Turku. By then I should be in a much better position to come here. This time I really didn't think it through, and I wasn't very prepared. I'm much better off now though, and I can't believe I've been here for almost 3 months, with only one week spent in England. If all goes well I have another 8 months to enjoy here. Sometimes I've wanted to run like hell away from here, but I think I'll be happy now.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

In Finland

The trip to the motherland was fairly successful. As a special treat you can see a picture of my cat, who I attempted to teach Finnish to. I thought she managed "moi", but my parents were more convinced it was just a normal cat noise. Hmm. Mainly I ate a ridiculous amount of food and drank about 2 bottles of Lucozade per day. I even had a few bottles left for my suitcase.
As ever, my trip back was very...interesting. It lasted around 23 hours. Great. Due to times and prices of flights not being on my side I got back with SAS and a stopover in Copenhagen. I thoroughly enjoyed Denmark...for the hour I spent there. There are some damn good looking men in that country. Well done Denmark. It's kinda funny to think that I spent yesterday in 3 different countries.
In order to get to Heathrow in time for the flight I had to take 3 trains, the first one leaving at 11.50pm on Friday. When I arrived at 5.30am on Saturday I just wanted to collapse and die. I completely slept through both of my flights, even through the offers of complimentary coffee, which might have helped me.
Eventually, after 2 taxis, 4 trains and 2 flights (that sounds mammoth!) I got safely to Turku and went to bed. It seems that in the past week the snow has been melting, freezing and melting again, because the streets are covered in a lovely looking sludge. Last night in both Turku and Helsinki the snow seemed very thick so maybe it's only just happened. The snow in Helsinki was an absolute joke, even the inside of the train station was exactly the same as in the street. The square outside the station hadn't been cleared at all, and it's a bit silly considering how many people are wandering around there with suitcases, which are almost impossible to carry through snow that thick. It cheered me up that someone there was playing 22 Pistepirkko songs. That's what I expect when I come to Finland!
I'm glad to be back, even though I enjoyed my trip and have certainly learned to appreciate my own nation more after being in another one. The climate was much more pleasant. I did notice, however, how filthy English streets are in comparison to Finnish ones. Seriously, English people - find a bloody bin! I also found that some stuff is much cheaper in Finland, for example cigarettes and public transport. Also, all this talk of vat going up and taxes rising etc made me feel very relieved to be in another country for the time being. Also slightly concerned about going back there in the autumn, but maybe the situation will have calmed down by then. Yeah right...

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

In England

I'm in Plymouth, after a very delayed flight last night which was filled with screaming kids. Easyjet is always filled with very loud Finnish families. My dad drove all night from Gatwick and got here at 5am. So that worked out to about 15 hours of travel for me. Great... Strangely I enjoyed the bus trip from Turku to Helsinki-Vantaa, it was quite nice to see lots of countryside, it was just the flight and the long wait in the airport that was annoying.
It's strange to be back, in some ways I'd rather be in Turku but there are some nicer things here, such as being able to understand everything and not falling over every time I walk down the street. Now it feels really warm to me, even though other people are complaining of how cold the weather is. I've already purchased a lot of trashy magazines and food; my parents seem to want to fatten me up because today they took me to two different supermarkets to buy vegetarian food.
I won't have much to say this week seeing as I'm in England, but I'll be back next week. It'll probably do me good to have a little rest and hang out with my cat.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Finnish New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve was fun. First there was a strange tradition of melting small horsehoes and putting the liquid into cold water to set, then looking at the shadows of the shapes to work out what will happen in the coming year. They all looked like dinosaurs...
After that we set off fireworks by the church, and lots of people were doing the same thing. That shit really wouldn't fly in England. It was nice though. At midnight there was a really huge public display, and lots of people were watching by the river. At one point I rolled down the snow piles on the bank, mainly because Tommi did it first. It was fine until I realised my arse was completely frozen.
Today I've been extremely hungover, just as I am most years on the 1st of January. I feel horrible. When will I learn not to mix my drinks? I really hope I'll feel better tomorrow because I'm flying to England to visit my parents and friends. Things have been really hard here lately and I need a break for a week.