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 ❤

Six pieces of fruit&veg and a picture or a post a day.

Blogroll, Creations, Finland, Lifestyle, Pampas, Traveling

In order to become more consequent in my work and other deeds I worked out that sharing my with the virtual crowd AND the handful of my faithful readers might actually help me crack the habit and prevent those rather unpleasant moments of not-accomplishing-anything in my life. So here we go. Sometimes – especially on those grey, hazy days when nothing seems to have happened – I admit I might cheat and use a picture from the day before or something, but at least we are still talking about a new photo every day.

Now, what have I been doing – oh yeah, I went to Österbotten. And – as per usual – I was stunned by the beautiful nature, kind people, fragrant forest and simply another life pace. Or different conception of life…

 

I spent some time in Kokkola, and visited Neristan – the old town. It was not unlike Rauma or Porvoo: a collection of colourful wooden houses, window displays, thick window glass, thrift stores and minigalleries, and as the destiny wanted it not tourists at all.

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Around the Österbotten countryside I found some lovely abandoned shops/banks/social gathering places (and smelly mink farms!). The nostalgia hit me, I can imagine life in those villages to have been much different while these institutions were still active.

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Oh and the pictures of the d.. week. Countryside and colours. 

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Kirkkonummi and Villa Mehu

Blogroll, Finland, Helsinki, nature, Sunsets, Traveling

Yesterday prior to picking up boys’ wreck boat and taking it to the repair place (conveniently located next to a waste dump) we visited quite an exciting spot, Villa Mehu. If you like deserted spaces and/or Finnish nature and/or colourful pictures and you liked the statue park post from a few weeks ago, click on the above link!

On the way to Villa Mehu we passed another obviously deserted construction. It was huge; I wonder what it served as? Factory? Farm estate? Storage? All off above?

 

Villa Mehu (Villa Juice) was awesome as expected, and were surprised we were the only visitor that sunny autumn afternoon. The light of the late o’clock was wonderful, warm and golden and just added to the atmosphere of last berries of the year and the smell of wet foliage.

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Before it turned completely dark yesterday – a sight which I’ve become unused to thanks to long Finnish summer days and white nights – the long day and long moving of the “boat” was closed off with the sight of this. No. Our boat is not in the picture.

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Autumn happened.

Blogroll, Finland, Lifestyle, Traveling

I’ve been doing some PhD related work recently and further exploring Swedish Finland – this time in Ekenäs. Or was it Raseborg? Either way, it was again really enriching, really different to the rest of Finland.

I was there on a Friday just before the first Pride Parade in Ekenäs. Rainbows, colourful socks and cups, hairdresser putting up rainbow flags – everybody was positive about it, chipping in with their share of atmosphere. Because Pride is a celebration of minorities, and acceptance of minorities and minority cultures in the majority society rather than merely “tolerating them”, it is a big thing in Swedish Finland. Sexual/cultural and national minorities encounter and share their experience.

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Oh and autumn happened. While walking around Vallisaari yesterday I noticed the crunching leaves, autumny sappy mushroomy smell and the low sun. The time of new beginnings is here once again. And once again I was so emotional about being so old experienced. I remember the smell of autumn London 11 years ago when I just had enrolled at the university and took a (teary) walk in Regent’s Park, wondering how I’m going to manage? On my own, without any social networks? Homesick, mildly depressed and with this stupid paralysing panic fear thing?

11 years later, and I’m still here. Doing pretty well and better every day, although looking back in anxiety how on earth could I not see certain things, contemplating my life choices, regretting not having done things – but at the same time somehow balanced and content. Is this what adulthood feels like?

Va(a)sa and Ostrobothnia.

Architecture, Blogroll, Finland, Lifestyle, Pampas, Traveling

A large part of my fieldwork takes place in Ostrobothnia – around the towns of Va(a)sa, Jakobstad, Karleby and similar. And the region quickly became one of my favourite places in the world; I’m not going to beat around the bush, to a large extent I would attribute this to the large percentage of Swedish speakers and their culture present…

… or it just could be due to the fact that I actually met with and got to talk to really friendly people;) but hey, the landscape (especially the rural areas and Kvarken archipelago) and urbanscape is worth a visit!

First a few shots from the town of Vasa… the very city centre is dominated by concrete. But there is a lot of wood and history just outside the centre.

As the destiny wanted I found myself at Stundars open air museum one night. It was closed for public and beautifully lit by the setting sun.

 

And of course I was criss-crossing the urban areas, mostly around Malax municipality:

(I totally love the following shot:)

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One lovely day I had some spare time to kill, so I decided to take a short trip to Strömsö – to get the glimpse of perfection. For those outside of Finland, Strömsö is the name of this Finnish-Swedish show for people loving their homes. You will find all kinds of interesting recipes, instructions and home-improvement tips. The show takes place in  the- yes, Strömsö masion – just off Vasa, and the whole point of the show is that… that nothing ever goes wrong on the show. You will get 30 minutes of perfect living in a beautiful old wooden house (and a modern sauna and a modern shed with all kinds of tools and equipment where all the project shootings take place – #CHEATING!). And witness the making a lot of unnecessary decoration items… Home bliss!

And of course I had to share the beauty of pampas (Österbotten) with V. – and we decided to spend a calm evening in a Fisherman’s house (for real) in Molpe, Malax. The largest part of the trip went to visiting the Bergö archipelago and picking lingonberry. Amazing. Peaceful. Smelling and feeling great.

On the way back to Helsinki we passed – accidentally almost – village of Harrström. And it was a pleasant visit, despite the rain! We visited the windmill – the largest functioning wooden windmill in Finland, and it was so AWESOME. I mean I never got to see the windmill from inside. The experience felt so genuine – last visitors before us visited the mill in late July, there was dust and mouse droppings and middlings and other objects typical for… uhm… milling wheat, duh. Sounds gross, but it was awesome. So was the bridge built in 1898 (and still in use) and the whole vibe of a sea-near village. Definitely worth a visit should you be driving along the coast.

It was a lot of fun – and so has this week been as well. I enrolled in a weaving course and I think I found a new hobby. Want to see the result of my week efforts? Check out my instragram! (@milleristine)

And most importantly, take good care of yourselves. Life is way too brittle.

Savonia.

Art, Blogroll, Finland, Lifestyle, Traveling

I realised that I would probably burn out of life if I skipped all the travelling, walking, exploring, sitting in the car and observing the landscape. I know it is one of the thickets clichés out there, but travelling inspires me and calms me down so much. We went to Savonlinna this time to see La Bohéme by Teatre Regio Torino and it was awesome; the theatre group was unforgettable, the venue (Savonlinna castle) magical and the company great. Oh and we did take a little walk around the centre; it is not beautiful, but it is somehow genuine. Little businesses, market square where you could actually buy local produced goods – oh and the town is totally empty on Saturday nights!

The cultural life (opera) after that was neatly confronted with the wilderness of the archipelago and the summer cabin life. Small municipalities, a lot of water in all its elements. Green, lively and giving.

And in the end we had to stop in Parikkala and check out the local statue park. I guess everything has been said about the park and its father, local artist Veijo Rönkkönen – all left to say is that… try imagining walking onto one of those concrete statues in winter (note the teeth, eyes, etc.!).

A rather refreshing trip with an unexpected ending.

Hello August.

Blogroll, Finland, Helsinki, Traveling

We said goodbye to July – and to Finnish holiday season – in Rauma and Sammallahti, a UNESCO-protected Bronze Age burial site. The weather was perfect, the number of fellow tourists was close to zero and the atmosphere was so fitting to the otherwise stressful life(style).

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Oh and we did pop to Forum Marinum in Turku! You will be able to read more about it on my other blog; let’s say that it is a large naval museum centre. And it is awesome. This rediscovered love for the sea and freedom shows.

And! As literally everyone based in Finland have noticed, we got those public transport bikes in Helsinki a few months back, jippee, finally we made it to the civilised European capitals!

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I haven’t tried them myself, but they seem to be quite straightforward to use. All seems wonderful – let’s explore Helsinki on bike, it is fast and convenient and fun… and pretty cheap. But being an active urban cyclist myself, I cannot stop wondering about certain issues:

Let’s start with a little applied anthropology: who would be a typical person using these bikes? Those who are really interested in cycling and have a good mental map of cycling routes in Helsinki probably have and use a (lighter and faster) bike of their own. The typical person would probably borrow the bike on extempore basis. Hardly they would be carrying their own helmet, and it is reasonable to assume that they won’t have much clue about cycling rules, customs and routes in Helsinki. Quite often these people would be seeking a cheap and fun way home from some kind of social gathering. Read: the cyclist may be as well a bit drunk.

I was wondering whether the Helsinki City Transport has thought of this, have they noticed increase in cycling incidents in the past few months? The bikes have been around for several months now, it may be time to do go through some numbers?

And you guys, please keep cycling safely;)