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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Winter’s F***ed Up

This song really sums up how I feel about the Finnish winter right now. At first it was pretty and I got to take a lot of nice photos. But now that it’s constantly snowing and thawing and snowing again here in Turku, the ice is becoming a real problem. Fresh snow is fairly easy to walk on and makes a funny squeaky sound when you step on it, but the ice and slush that comes afterwards is making my life very hard.

All I wanted to do today was go to the supermarket and get some sweets for my fiancee’s birthday. I tried going by bike like I usually do but almost fell over three times in under a minute so I abandoned that idea. But that’s ok, I thought, a long walk will give me a chance to do some story plotting in my head. Barely 100 meters from my apartment door I almost slipped over on an incredibly mild slope.

This went on all the way to the store and back. I ended up going to a smaller store that was closer and stocking up on as many snacks as I could carry with the hopes of hibernating in my apartment until the ice thaws again. But we’re running low on food and I can’t survive off of sour cream and onion coated peanuts for three days so we have to go to the store again tomorrow. Plus Saturday is my fiancee’s birthday and he wants to go out to eat, which we rarely get to do on our own (and I have to satisfy my curry cravings somehow).

I suppose I’m lucky because I work from home but as anti-social as I am, I am still required to leave the house once in a while. Even though I’m assured that it’s very common, I feel like a giant idiot falling over in front of people who seem to be staying up right just fine.

I really hope the ice melts before tomorrow because we don’t have a car to get the groceries home and I’m honestly quite scared of cycling in this weather. I can’t even walk over an ice covered slope without having a panic attack. I’ll keep you all updated on how I manage.

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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Autumn in Finland

This would look much more impressive if there had been any wind.

This would look much more impressive if there had been any wind.

It’s been over a month since my last blog post, as I’ve been busy settling in, getting all the paperwork for my right of residency appointment and working on a ghostwriting job. In that time, while my home country is going through an Indian summer and trying to destroy human rights, there’s been a dramatic change of seasons here.

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As demonstrated by this artsy shot of some leaves.

Last time I took some photos of my flat and some of the places I found in town so today I wanted to take some pictures on a walk I took near my flat. But really it’s just an excuse to take artsy autumn photos.

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That tree in the foreground is the sad little tree I can see from my bedroom/office window. It’s lost almost all its leaves in about two weeks. And all the other trees around here are the same.

Some trees hanging on tight to the rock.

Some trees hanging on tight to the rock.

The birds are also very loud as they gather together to migrate. There are a large number of magpies near my flat and I think I saw a pheasant cross my path on my walk.

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The river bordering the student village where I live.

I crossed the railway bridge and explored across the river a little. It was mostly apartments and an old factory that had a sign saying ‘Reebok’ on the side. It was very quiet and lonely, even the building site only had about three guys on it. But I remembered it was 3pm on a weekday so everyone was probably at work.

I love this little house nestled in the trees.

I love this little house nestled in the trees.

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My right of residency meeting is on Tuesday and I’m starting to worry a little. Even though I’ve gotten a writing job recently and have a few more coming up, I’m still worried that they’ll say I don’t meet the requirements. I want to take a language course but I’m afraid to book anything in case I’m forced to leave the country.

But I know I shouldn’t panic too much. I just have to wait and see what happens. At least I’ve been learning to cook some Finnish foods, such as egg butter. It’s literally just hard boiled eggs mashed together with butter but it’s delicious!

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I should really focus on exploring some more and trying new things, instead of worrying so much.

Crossed the Finnish Line

So, I’ve finally made it! I can now cross ‘live in a foreign country’ off my bucket list. And I must say, so far all the fears I had were for nothing. Everyone has been very friendly and welcoming. The only real trouble was buying spices with Finnish labels. But it was worth it because the spiced eggs were delicious!

The only worry I have now is my right of residency, as I still worry that they’ll think I’m not making enough money to meet the financial requirements. But my appointment at the police station to register isn’t for over a month so maybe I shouldn’t worry about it until then and just focus on my writing.

I’m more or less settled into my new place and am just waiting for my boxes from home to be shipped over. I’m sharing a flat in a student dorm building with my fiancé, who is studying a master’s degree in pop culture and North American studies. It sounds very interesting. I might apply for it next year.

But anyway, our flat. For the last two years we’ve been living in a shared house  which was practically falling apart. I’ve had a lot of different roommates but the people I shared that house with were just awful. Every roommate you ever have will either be compulsively neat and bitch at you for leaving a single teaspoon by the sink or will be almost proudly messy and leave their own dishes to rot. There is no in between and we had both kinds living in our house. They would leave greasy pans in random places and one fell on my fiancé (he was my boyfriend back then) and permanently stained his shirt. They sneered at me whenever I said hello, or even smiled at them. They would never close the windows, even in the middle of winter. They had sex very loudly. (Seriously, no one wants to hear that!) They smoked in the bathroom and left their cigarette butts floating in the toilet bowl. They even complained that my boyfriend laughed too loudly. He’s had depression in the past so if he wants to laugh until his lungs ache, he damn well gets to! I did get my revenge, though. Once I heard them calling my boyfriend a freak so I stole all their mail. Nothing official looking like bank statements or anything with a government logo on it, but otherwise you don’t call my boyfriend a freak and get away with it.

My first apartment was about this size.

My first apartment was about this size.

Wow, that got a bit ranty. This wasn’t meant to be a ‘bitching about my awful rommates’ post. So, our flat. I did love living in Bath but the rents were so expensive, which was why I had to live in a shared house. A place this size in Bath would cost at least twice as much. I’m glad that we’re finally living alone and that my money will go a lot further.

The main room.

The main room.

The bedroom, complete with the giant bookcase I've always wanted!

The bedroom, complete with the giant bookcase I’ve always wanted!

We even have a patio!

We even have a patio!

Turku is a beautiful city full of old buildings that are even older than the state of Finland itself. Back when Finland was still a part of Sweden, Turku was the capitol city, as it’s only a boat ride away from Sweden, and the Swedish influence is still felt here. Most signs are in both Finnish and Swedish, much like the signs in Wales are in both English and Welsh.

As a university town with students from all over the world, in fact my fiancé is the only Finnish student in his class, Turku is probably one of the most multicultural cities in Finland. This suits me just fine as I can eat all of my favourite types of food – Thai, Chinese, Indian, Italian, etc. There’s even a shop called Little Britain (Ha ha!) selling British goods like PG Tips and Heinz baked beans. And most importantly for me, the bookshops have English language sections. I’m just disappointed that there don’t seem to be any writing magazines published in English here.

Some places in town even feel more like Paris or Vienna than Finland. There are even classy little cafes with tiny tables outside, complete with pretentious hipsters sipping their overpriced cappuccinos and judging you.

Turku cathedral, which makes a useful landmark to point me to the direction of my flat.

Turku cathedral, which makes a useful landmark to point me to the direction of my flat.

The central library. I plan to spend a lot of time here.

The central library. I plan to spend a lot of time here.

There are a lot of interesting sculptures and outdoor art pieces.

There are a lot of interesting sculptures and outdoor art pieces.

Even so, there is an amazing sense of freedom that comes from living in a foreign city. It’s like I’ve finally reached the stage in my life where I’m mature and financially independent enough to have the lifestyle I really want. I’m working for myself and not for an employer. I’m no longer financially dependent on my parents or the government. I think that sometimes we do need a change in our lives to get away from things that brought us down in the past and start afresh.

So now that’ I’m settled in and the headache of moving is gone, I can finally get back to working and writing, and hopefully find some time to explore the city and the country more.