Post Christmas. Post New Year. Post long-overdue. Post honest.

Art, Blogroll, Comments, Helsinki

No matter how important Christmas is for me I actually enjoy those days following the Christmas Eve (aka the Big Day where I’m from) much better than the actual December 24th. The pressure has dropped, I’m not sick with anticipation or the sense of obligation, the stress level has gone back to normal (whatever that might mean), there is no need to pose in the pictures. Yet I’m still surrounded by the loved ones, enjoy heaps of leftover delicious food without the stiffness of the dinner board and – can play with the present in front of TV.

And, then there are the ‘tween days after Christmas yet before the New Year, you know, those 28s and 29s, when many grown ups went to work and your babyless self finally made it outside as well. Some of us went shopping while those like me more likely travelled or skied or at least did something cultural.

Then the somehow awkward celebration of the new year followed – and then the emptiness stroke – is this it? The new start and the end of the Holidays?

I do not dare to open social media these days (well I do that so that I can find out about what is going on around us), because last year was the best year ever and THE year of transformation to pretty much anyone and everyone, as illustrated by holiday feet shots and sunsets and happy families.

I’m not writing this because I would think 2018 was a dull one, in fact, it was pretty eventful for my part – kicked-off start in Costa Brava, signed a new job contract, got overwhelmed by all sorts of pain, made great progress with a personal coach, bought a flat, then, ehm, my dearest daughter was born, moved to the new place and topped it off with a really nice and calm white Christmas.

I just wanted to say that this year was good, my baby and I are well too. I’m more and more happy with who I am, but honestly, there were so many dull, hopeless, painful, sad and confused moments so that I just don’t have the heart to fool the internet and pick the cherries.

In fact, I’m thankful for those difficult moments, days, mundane tasks and failed attempts. Makes me feel special – like I’m the one who is actually living, and not just augmenting and filtering life for the purpose of, uhm, impressing people I know (or not).

So my topic for 2019 is honesty and keeping it real.

It’s like this, I love taking pictures and sharing the happiness with the almost nameless crowd, but I’d like and will be posting about me dealing with the obstacles, with the routine of the everyday, about simple pleasures such as being able to wash the hair without being distracted by crying babies, filing nails on the toilet, post-midnight chocolate eating and hiding the phone/screen when the little one is around. If no-one enjoys that, well, at least I will.

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I really wanted to post some artsy pictures that would sum this up, but this year baby pictures heavily dominate the photo stash. Heavily. Looking for beauty in the mundane, questioning societal choices and scrutinising the individual’s relationship to their habitat have way to anything depicting various parts of The Baby and glowing smiles of her parents. Well. Have some snow before it melts. Have a good one.

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Block print rediscovered.

Art, Blogroll, Comments, Creations, Finland, Helsinki, Picture a day

This will be a quick one.

In a desperate attempt to break through as a visual artist I’ve been getting my hands dirty lately – washing printing paint off various surfaces.

These are some of the first results: Helsinki illustrated. There are more to come, these were in my eyes the most obvious things to start with for the moment: one of my favourite streets, Villagatan/Villankatu, and the messenger of spring, the elegant crane. Things get done faster when there are deadlines…

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Planned projects for the near future include coffee packaging, a card game and handprinted postcards. That’s the plan for the moment at least, while I’m still interviewing people and trying to make progress in my research.

Winter frolics. Part 1.

Blogroll, Comments, Creations, Lifestyle, Likes, Winter frolics

I thought I would start a series on winter symbols, signs reminding me of Christmas approaching, wintery ways of obtaining vitamins, happiness and something to look forward to during the cold and slow-paced season…

Well here is the first one:

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Do you wonder what this is? It is quite simple really. If you ever bought a pack of dried dates, chances are that the pack came with a complimentary fork. “Fork”. Plastic, blunt, sticky and unbelievably flimsy, bending in clear arches once it touches the date skin. No living person has ever used it for eating dates (or for anything really?) yet they have been a part of since 1935 (I made that up). I’m sure that the original kind was made out of wood (or similar) and was actually quite nifty, unlike its modern offspring.

I guess this is yet another thing we keep doing “just because”, with no rationing behind…

Day one.

Blogroll, Comments, Finland, Immigrant integration, Likes, Picture a day, Traveling

As a part of my degree I’m participant-observing an integration course in a small town. The course’s length is about 4 weeks and the purpose is, well, to introduce the newcomers to the Finnish society and Finnish and Swedish languages. It is unbelievably rewarding and eye opening – made me realise how hard it is to draw any kinds of conclusions: political decisions, personal opinions,

Two participants caught my eye, and I cannot stop thinking about them, and about how integration policies and other integration efforts on national and local levels leave out these groups of immigrants: the elderly. Typically the parents and grandparents of the ordinary immigrants in productive age, people who have been living all their lives in traditional ways. Now they find themselves in safe environment, for the first time ever maybe, for the first time abroad. Their only living link to the society are the translators who assist them in contact with the authorities and their children and grandchildren.

These two course participants, an Afghani couple in their sixties (?), were not at all opposing the idea of learning a new language and settling down in a new society, quite the opposite, but realistically, how… how can we (yes, we, all of us) do this?

What are their chances of getting “integrated”? If our integration policies are heavily labour market orientated, what does integration of the elderly entail? What can we offer them? How can they feel integrated in our society? And what can they offer to us if not work force?

I’m sure that they would love to continue living as valuable citizens in their new home, give and enjoy life and their families. They are thankful for having found a safe place and people willing to help them, and surely they would like to give back. But how? Has anybody at all thought about these groups who fall between the categories? 

An individual integration plan has been the most efficient solution so far, but of course it had to be adjusted to the ordinary immigrant: a healthy person in productive age, speaking some English, no higher education completed, with prospects to learning Finnish or Swedish to B1 level at most, work prospects typically in transport and housekeeping… every single person who has relocated to Finland knows who am I talking about. They must have been referred to as one of those on numerous occasions – and guess what, the ordinary man may not even exist! But the reality is that the further one is from the definition of the ordinary immigrant, the harder it gets to receive suitable assistance in the process of integration into the host society.

Trust me, I’ve been there.

I hope that we as people lucky enough to have been born into a secure society can make the ‘tweeners fit in in one way or another. Culture bearers and specialists? Reliable and positive people you would enjoy to live next door to and possibly let babysit your children now and again? Sources of  cultural knowledge and an asset for us to learn how to live differently, better, how to assist those who seek security and reasonable life prospects.

*sob*

In order to contemplate a bit more on this topic – and to get over the fact that I received an unjust parking fine!! –  I took a little ride to Kråkö, a lovely little island about 15 km south of Porvoo. Houses, fields, boats, water. A little paradise for those who enjoy living in small, safe communities (still for my liking too far from the city) of Swedish-speaking people;)

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Oh and a little piece of news:

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Ha! Cannot wait to get this beauty serviced and going ❤

Apologetic (t)rain.

Blogroll, Comments, Finland

When I was living in what can without doubts be called the best flat-share ever,  with my flatmates we wrote down some of the brightest ideas we came up with (usually in the kitchen, for some unexplainable reason).

One of the ideas was on an autumny note: the nature of British rain. It does happen frequently, yes, but it is very different compared to say Dutch, German or Finnish rain.

When it rains in the above-mentioned countries, it is usually the all-or-nothing rain (with the exception of the autumn drizzle), pouring down like as if there was no tomorrow, sometimes the drops would become steady streams of freezing liquid flowing parallel to the Earth’s surface, blinding, leaving you and your clothes without a chance.

British rain, however, starts conspicuously, carefully, with its head down. The drops are avoiding coming down in some recognisable pattern. For the entire duration of the shower you feel as if the rain was behaving as a native English passenger on the tube passing from the front doors toward the middle of the car: “excuse me, sorry, thank you, ooops, sorry darling, thank you, pardon, sorry m’love, thank you, cheers, ta”. Sorry for making you wet. 

Now. Last week I went to Turku to attend an academic conference, unfortunately one of the worse ones. As an anthropologist I can never be sure how (in)valuable my findings and how suitable my method is, our professors did teach us a thing or two about academic research. The principle of anthropology research is to avoid stating the obvious, and the essential presenting skill includes knowing the difference between a “presentation” and “reading your paper in front of everyone (accompanied by a set of mediocre powerpoint slides)”. How come people who have been in the field for 15+ years have not heard of these? What’s the point of reading out loud a paper in bad English and boring everyone while presentation can serve as a great tool for acquainting the audience with research findings?

I was sitting there, melting. Thought I’d chuck one of the muffins we got with our coffee at the poor person, and I sincerely hoped I was not the only one in the lecture theatre thinking that a fair half of presentations were dreary.

The Turku train knew in advance I had a bizzare experience ahead of me and decided to be delayed by half an hour. My fellow passengers and I were freezing at the platform, when – just like the British apologetic rain – the train appeared from behind the poles and slowly and in a guilty manner approached the platform.

Avoiding eye contact, just like a guilty dog. 

 

… why is everyone acting so surprised?

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Warning: this article is on immigration, I did succumb, I know.

Hopefully it is just a coping strategy and people are not surprised for real over the recent/ongoing immigration wave to Europe. I know, it is a completely new situation for all of us and getting used to novelty takes time.

But does everyone actually think that the West will keep on living forever from the East, their cheap labour and their restrained political power (how much can one change in a country with no functioning state, with no power)? That people in countries devastated by war, famine, political experiments will just silently continue to suffer, struggle and hope for the best while we are either exploiting their labour, participating in war conflicts in their territories or ignoring them in oblivion?

Looking for solutions outside the we are accepting the unfair order of the world, that people’s destiny is sealed with the moment they are born. That if you happen to be born in Afghanistan you have about 15% chance you will get (provided you are a boy) primary education. That you will probably never be able to leave the country “the legal way” – and that is the moment the people smuggler mafia steps in (I wonder how much has been done in fighting the smugglers prior to 2015? How many people are on the spot, spreading information about living in Europe, etc.?).

It is natural to be afraid, it is also OK to be somehow short-sighted for some time due to a lack of perspective, but I think enough has been said and written and filmed in order for us to overcome the anger and disillusion. The concept of European nation states, social and political security, cultural policy, the concept of European citizenship and refugees, these all are changing, yet the change doesn’t have to be a negative one and this time WE can shape the further scenario, learn from the abroad and the past while looking out into the future, using logic and ethics and bearing in mind principles of humanity.

The solution to the current situation, whatever it is, and yes, we need a solution because no party is happy right now, can have two possible outcomes: it can help us change the world order for once, bridge this discrepancy between the West and the East, North and South, stop us living of the people’s misery which we buy with every top from a high-street brand (or a piece of food we waste). Or the solution we are looking for now – and this solution would include creating Fort Europa and other extreme measures – can deepen this divide even more.

We are celebrating a windy and stormy independence day today, and I cannot stop thinking of those who have less luck than I do. This could be due to my contact with the asylum seekers, or through my travels in Russia, or just due to my own experience with illness and powerlessness, I simply feel that I have become much more aware of the fact that many people (some of the much closer to us than others) are suffering and it is not their fault, not their choice.

One doesn’t really wish for presents on the Independence day, but if I only could wish myself something it would be the wish to make people more aware of others. Give them a chance instead of trap them in poverty and insecurity. You can do much more than you think – buy less, waste less food, try to connect to those fleeing to Europe in a hope of a better life just like I did 10 years ago.

Questions and No answers.

Blogroll, Comments, Helsinki

Could the EU directive on abolishing the conventional light bulbs have somehow influenced the levels of seasonal depression?

Do hipsters actually represent the essence of the Western middle-class lifestyle and choices?

How come I AGAIN missed the moment when the trees dropped ALL the leaves? Did it happen overnight?

Why are 99% of those mama-life-style blogs pretty much the same, ie. feeding various consumer industries, indulging in oil and glitter and polyester, serving as low-cost marketing channels for someone else? It’s pretty hard to find someone followable these days.

How do I cut 6mm brass pipes?

Why did Mikko go completely nuts at the practice yesterday? I can hardly breathe.

Where did all my black socks go?

Where did my Swedish go? I speak like a concussed Moomin.

Speaking of Moomins, why did I not read all those brilliant comic series earlier?

Where will I put all these books we bought last weekend?

How come I’m still madly in love with Helsinki?

taloogo kirkkologo