Summer adventures

I’m back from my summer trips and gradually getting back into the flow of work again. I spent three weeks at my parent’s house for no reason except that I haven’t seen them for a long time. Just as I predicted, it was a little surreal at first to be back in the UK after nearly a year away but I soon got used to it again, just as I’m not used to being back in Finland, although I think I’ve forgotten what little Finnish I learnt.

Even though I had several jobs come in during what was supposed to be my vacation time, it was still nice to relax a little, see my family, and have some proper meals cooked for me. (I’m back to eating nothing but macaroni.) Best of all was spending some time with this girl:

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My parent’s husky, Snow (or Lumi in Finnish or Sneg in her native Russian) was so excited to see me that she jumped up at me and almost pushed me out of the door again. But once she was over that, she went back to being grouchy that she wasn’t allowed any tidbits or that my parents and sister had to leave the house for their jobs. She doesn’t understand the basic ideas of capitalism and feels resentful when people’s lives don’t revolve around her.  Hence I managed to get a lot of good ‘grumpy Snow’ pictures:

 

She has an entire shady garden to lie in but chooses to lie underneath this table.

She has an entire shady garden to lie in but chooses to lie underneath this table.

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It’s still surprisingly hot here in Turku but since it’s near the end of summer the leaves are starting to change colour so it’s a strange mix of summer and autumn right now. I’m  hoping to get back into the swing of working now that I have more job offers coming in. It’s been almost a year since I moved here and I may be broke but I’m hanging in there, so that’s something at least.

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Finnish summer

Once again, it’s been a while since my last post. I had a short break over Midsummer and went to my fiancee’s parent’s house again. I’ve been back in Turku for a week now but have had an unexpected amount of work come in so I haven’t been able to share my photos yet. Not that I’m complaining because it means my finances are slowly getting better so the rest of this year might not suck as much as the first half did.

We’re in the middle of our Midnight Sun period right now and only when it is incredibly overcast is there proper darkness during the night. No matter how many summers I spend in Finland, I still don’t get used to seeing skies like these in the middle of the night:

Taken at 10:15 PM

Taken at 10:15 PM

Taken at 2:45 AM

Taken at 2:45 AM

And that’s in the south where the Midnight Sun is the least intense. Further north where I spent Midsummer it was even brighter.

Finland is one of the only countries left where Midsummer is still celebrated as a national holiday. Some other Nordic nations also celebrate it and I think Germany does as well, but those are the only ones I can think of that do so. Back home in the UK only Neopagens celebrate Midsummer at sites such as Stonehenge, although some people just want an excuse to get drunk at an ancient monument.

Midsummer is like Christmas part two in Finland, only without the commercialisation which many argue has ruined what is supposed to be a religious holiday.  It’s a time for family get togethers but you won’t be dragged to visit all of your great aunts and uncles or sit through a long church service. There are elements of Finland’s ancient shamanistic culture like lighting bonfires, but today Midsummer is mostly used as a break from work.

I’ve spent one Midsummer in Finland before but since it’s my first Midsummer living in Finland, of course the weather was awful all week. When I tell people here that the British summer is even worse than the Finnish one they have a hard time believing me. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get to visit the summer cottage and do all the things we were planning like swimming or fishing. I also didn’t get much of a chance to take some pictures to compare with the winter pictures I took at Christmas.

These are the ones I did manage to get:

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Next month I’ll be spending three weeks visiting my parent’s house in the UK. It will be strange to be back after spending nearly a year abroad. Has it really been a year? I feel like I haven’t done that much or learnt any Finnish. Maybe that was because I had a lot of other issues to deal with this year. But I’m not planning to leave Finland any time soon so I still have lots of time to have many more Finland adventures.

Spring update and photos

It’s been a while since my last post. In that time, spring has very slowly come to Turku and although it’s still not very warm and the trees aren’t in full bloom yet, it’s a nice change from the winter weather. I’m hoping that it will get warmer over the next month and that I’ll be able to go away somewhere and relax for Midsummer, which is an important holiday in Finland.

I’ve had a few good things happen to me this spring. I edited two full length manuscripts in the same month and had my first magazine publication for a Finnish language learners magazine. I’ve also gotten a part time book reviewer job contract and one of my articles on my writing blog was selected as a teaching resource.

Even so, the last two months haven’t been that great for me. Some of the things I was hoping to avoid when I moved abroad ended up happening. I didn’t handle them particularly well and I went through a bad period of anxiety and depression. Things are starting to improve now and something that does make me feel better is going out and taking photos.

Practicing photography was one of my new year’s resolutions and it came at a great time as I was asked to submit some pictures with my magazine article, so I guess I could say I’m a published photographer as well as a writer. Here are some spring pictures from the area near my apartment block. I foolishly forgot to take any of the same area during winter. Although it was a pain to get around during that time, it was at least very pretty. I’ll have to wait until next year to get those. Until then, enjoy some pictures taken on a much sunnier day than this one:

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A fishing wharf near my flat. I like to go there when I want some alone time to think, read, or pray.

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Random coloured things because why not. Clearly I still need to practice my photography because I spent ages getting the right angle and still forgot about the electricity pylons.

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Tiny daisies growing on the ruins of what I assume was once a church or temple. There are still religious services held there sometimes.

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Runeberg and cake

Last time, after ranting about the weather, I said I was going to write about the Finnish poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg and the cakes named after him. As it turns out, it’s frustratingly difficult to find his poems in English (I’m sure they’ve been translated at some point but I can’t find them anywhere) so the only information about him I could find at the local library, in English, was from a series of essays about Finnish identity. I’ll write my response to that in a later post, as I don’t want this one to get too serious.

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For now, I’ll explain a little more about Runeberg. He is the national poet of Finland, although, as was common for the time, he wrote in Swedish. His most well-known work is The Tales of Ensign Stål (Now I really want to see a redshirt on Star Trek named Ensign Stål!) part of which was used (in a translated form) as the lyrics for the Finnish national anthem. This gave me the only English translation of Runeberg’s poems that I could find:

Oh our land, Finland, land of our birth,

rings out the golden word!

No valley, no hill,

no water, shore more dear

than this northern homeland,

precious land of our fathers.

Your splendour from its shell

one day will bloom;

From our love shall rise

your hope, glorious joy,

and once your song, fatherland

higher still will echo.

 

Aleksis Kivi may be more revered within Finland, as he was the first author to write in the Finnish language, and in modern times Tove Jansson’s Moomin series is famous worldwide, but Runeberg is probably the only poet in the world to have both his own day and a dessert named after him. This is a Runeberg cake:

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Whoops, that one was squished on the journey back from the supermarket. This is what they’re supposed to look like:

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They were named after Runeberg as he supposedly ate them for breakfast every day. His wife might have even invented them. Similar to how Cadbury’s Cream Eggs are only sold before Easter, these little cakes appear in Finnish supermarkets and cafes just before Runeberg day on February 5th and disappear for the rest of the year. But unlike Cream Eggs, they are delicious. I’m not going to attempt to bake them myself, I’d probably just drink all the rum, but if you want to try then here’s a recipe:

http://www.dessertsforbreakfast.com/2010/02/finnish-february-runeberg-cake-aka.html

Christmas in Finland

I’ve been lucky to spend this Christmas season in Finland for the first time. In the past I’ve spent New Year’s and Midsummer in Finland a few times but Christmas was a first. My fiancee and I went to stay with his parents in Joensuu, which is much farther North than Turku and has a lot more snow.

I was a lot more excited about it than he was.

I was a lot more excited about it than he was.

It wasn’t that much different than Christmas in Britain, except that we had dinner and presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. I found this a little strange as there was nothing special to do on Christmas Day than laze around. I decided to go out for a walk, like people always talk about doing. It was minus 15 Celsius but I got some great pictures.

You can see the full set of them here, but these are some choice ones:

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I call these snow hedgehogs.

I call these snow hedgehogs.

Yes, I played on the swing even though it was covered in snow.

Yes, I played on the swing even though it was covered in snow.

A few days after Christmas we went to see my in-laws new summer cottage. Well, I say summer cottage…

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It’s being renovated right now but by summer time we should be able to visit and enjoy some fishing, swimming and barbecue.

The house is located on an island which literally translates to ‘moose island’ which is part of a remote archipelago accessed by a ferry.

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It was the first time I’ve stepped on an ice covered lake and I wasn’t as scared as I thought I would be. I was worried I’d suffer the same fate as Lester Nygaard in Fargo. But I don’t think I’ll be going ice fishing any time soon.

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It’s been nice to have a break but I also want to get back home and start writing again so I can earn some money for a trip to visit the UK. 2014 has been a huge year for me with getting engaged, becoming a published writer and moving abroad so I hope to do even more in 2015. There’s a lot more I want to do with this blog, including making video posts, so I’ll be back soon.

8 Ways to Enjoy Autumn in Finland

I don’t think I need to tell you that autumn is here. Even if you live in the southern hemisphere or  your country is going through an Indian summer, the obsession over pumpkins and skeletons on social media has probably told you. I think autumn is a great time of year to visit Finland, but many attractions such as guided tours and theme parks close up shop on August 31st, which make it seem like there’s very little to do. But I’m here to challenge that. Whether you live in Finland or are just visiting, here are some activities unique to the season:

  1. Go exploring.

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I’ve only just arrived so there’s still a lot of Turku for me to discover. I haven’t even been to the castle or the landmark archipelago yet. Autumn walks are great to warm you up and you can see some lovely autumn colours at the same time. Ponds and puddles are already starting to ice over here and when winter comes, it’ll be both too cold and too icy/snowy to take a walk or use your bike so it’s best to do it during autumn while you still have the chance.

  1. Practice your art.

This season seems to awaken something in artists of all disciplines and inspire us to create something new, ironically enough at a time when nature is dying. It’s a great feeling to wrap up in a blanket (I suggest a blanket fort) with a hot drink (most likely a pumpkin spice latte) and do something creative.

I’ve been using the internet’s obsession with autumn photos to practice my photography, with mixed results. You could even practice your painting if you still have any feeling left in your fingers.

  1. Stock up on winter clothes.

Even in autumn, you’re going to need a good supply of warm clothes in Finland – long johns, leggings, thermal shirts and a good coat. And a hat of course.

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On the bus, I like to play ‘who has the best hat’. I always win.

You don’t want to be left without them when the weather takes a turn for the worse so it’s best to be prepared for when autumn arrives. If you’re visiting from abroad, you can stock up on some thermals which are much cheaper than they are in most countries.

  1. Wear a miniskirt and cute tights.

Even so, the change of season is no excuse for not wearing the cute clothes you want. As long as you make sure you’re warm enough and have enough layers on underneath, you can pull off almost anything. I gladly and proudly wear a cute mini and patterned leggings while everyone else is wearing their boring thermals. If it works for Japanese school girls in anime, it can work for you too!

  1. Eat an ice cream outside.

As the largest consumer of ice cream in Europe, the chill of autumn doesn’t stop Finns from enjoying an ice cream. You’ll often see someone walking down the street happily enjoying one. Soup, stew and coffee is all well and good, but don’t think that you have to survive off of them or that you have to deny yourself an ice cream just because of the season.

  1. Go for a walk on the coast.
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This is actually a river but you get the idea.

I grew up on the coast and I can tell you there’s nothing like a walk on the beach or cliffs with bracing wind in your face. As long as you wrap up warm it feels great. Just because its autumn doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the beach in some way. And coming in from the cold and enjoying a hot chocolate is an equally satisfying feeling.

  1. Air out your sheets.

Freshly aired out sheets help you sleep better and most apartments have these wire frames outside to beat the dust off of your sheets and blankets. I’m often woken up by the sound of someone beating a blanket 15 yards away from my bedroom window. Once again, you won’t be able to do this in winter so it’s best to do it now before your sheets turn stiff from ice.

  1. Have a bonfire.

In the UK we have guy fawke’s night where we have a bonfire and light up fireworks for slightly creepy reasons we’ve long since forgotten. Finland doesn’t have this tradition but you don’t need an excuse to have a bonfire, cook marshmallows, drink soup and have a sing song. (Damn, that last one sounded very 1950’s!)

 

Don’t let the cold and darkness of the season depress you or stop you from visiting our lovely country, enjoy autumn any way you want to!

More autumn photos and big news

In my last post I mentioned how nervous I was about my right of residency being rejected. Well, it was accepted!! You have no idea how relieved I was to receive that piece of paper. I actually thought I would be fretting for weeks before they posted it to me, but the officer just handed it to me.

It was a good thing I applied based on family ties, as my fiancee and I have been living together for three years now. They seemed a bit iffy about my freelance income, even though I made a record profit from my business last month.

But still, now that’s done I only have a few things to worry about, like applying for an ID card and health insurance and my tax card. Ok, that’s actually quite a few things to worry about. At least one big worry is gone.

On the trip to the police station to get my certificate, I saw more wondrous autumn sites that I wanted to go back and get pictures of, so here they are. Starting with-

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Wait…What is that?!

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That’s the Piduck, a pig/duck statue just around the corner from my flat that greets visitors arriving in the city from the Helsinki road. It’s even been featured on Cracked.com! The locals are just as confused by it as the tourists. Anyway, back to autumn photos:

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Turku cathedral surrounded by autumn leaves. I arrived a few hours too late to get a perfect shot of this, as it looks much better in better sunlight.

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I love how this memorial stone is propping up all those leaves:

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Food restaurant, as opposed to a normal restaurant that only serves dust and rusty nails. Also, what happened to Bruno one?

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Looks like a mermaid tail. Or maybe it’s a fish tail?

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Restaurants and cafes have blankets outside for customers to use. Frankly I’d rather just sit inside!

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