It’s that time of year again…

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…Winter depression!!

I included a picture of the Groke from The Moomins as she is supposed to be a physical embodiment of winter depression, spreading ice and fear wherever she goes. And fittingly she is the most terrifying god damned thing ever seen in a kid’s show. See the way she just sits there and stares in that picture? That’s pretty much all she ever does.

Many people born and raised in Finland don’t seem to get winter depression but since I’m still new here, I’ve had it for two years in a row now. When I first visited my fiancee, back when he was my boyfriend, in the winter, I would get it even worse. Only an hour after getting up I would want to go back to sleep again.

The trouble is that there are so few hours of daylight that it makes me feel lethargic and it is difficult to become motivated to work or concentrate. But because I’m feeling so tired and because it’s so dark and gloomy, it’s harder to get out of bed in the morning so I end up sleeping in through what little daylight there is.

I have been doing a few things to try and combat it and they seem to be working for now. I switch on a lamp for a while after it gets dark to give the illusion of sunlight. I try to get up earlier to make the most of the sunlight and go out for walks if I can’t.

There is also a process that the Dutch call ‘hygee’. It’s difficult to describe because it doesn’t have a direct English translation. The closest we can get is ‘cosiness’, creating a warm atmosphere and doing things to make yourself feel better. Blankets, candles, books. All the things that Tumblr obsesses over and claims are best for self care.

It seems strange because you think ‘don’t we try to feel good all the time anyway?’ If so, how come Denmark is the happiest nation on Earth and the British are a bunch of miserable bastards? Many British people associate winter with bad things – the built up stress of Christmas, debt in January, and snow days causing travel chaos. Perhaps it is because Britian has a ‘binge then purge’ attitude. It’s normal for us to stuff ourselves over Christmas then desperately try to lose weight in the New Year. Hygee says ‘just keep eating that chocolate if it makes you feel good’. We’re obviously not doing things right.

I’m going to continue spending the winter living like I’m in a greetings card and see if it really works. If it does, I’ll have enough energy to continue working throughout the winter.

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Good news, everyone…

…I’m still technically alive!

Yesterday I reported on how much of a pain the ice is here in Turku and said I’d write about how I got along going out on my bike to go grocery shopping. Well, I’m alive, that’s one thing. A lot of the ice has melted since yesterday but there’s still a considerable amount still on the ground and no nice soft snow to walk on.

The journey to the supermarket was awful and I ended up either walking my bike or riding through puddles half the way. I thought that the puddles would be safer since the ice had already melted. Even though, like most people, I’m slightly broke at this time of year, I bought more food than usual so I don’t have to go out again for a long while.

The ride back was surprisingly not too bad, since:

  1. The weight of the groceries on the back of my bike gave me more balance.
  2. We did what we probably should have done before and stuck to the main roads which were mostly gritted, even the steep and very long hill.
  3. Those two factors gave me more confidence.

It was only once I got closer to my apartment building that I started having to walk my bike very slowly and carefully and it was then that I realised why I had such a hard time yesterday – Nobody has bothered to grit any of the pavements near my apartment. There were plenty of people around there having just as much of a hard time staying upright as I was.

Still at least it’s the weekend now and my fiancee’s making a cake right now so I can spend the whole weekend watching Star Trek in my pajamas. Next time I’ll write a post about the poet Runeburg and why he has a cake named after him.

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.

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.