Darkness.

Blogroll, Helsinki, Immigrant integration, Picture a day, Sunsets

Is here, it’s in our bodies, minds, it is slowing us down and make us appreciate light in all forms – fire, candles, stars, precious rays of sunshine, smiles, sparks in eyes, hugs. And occasional walks on the freezing cold sea promenade.

miu_3936miu_3883miu_3868I guess we indeed are..?miu_3863

And otherwise I’ve been learning more about what it is like to be a refugee, a newcomer to a society, and what kind of treatment one would wish to experience in this situation. Was invited to one’s home, I feel very honoured. I will inform you once it has materialised. Oh and I gave my first lecture, 90 minutes of stress + IBS + sleepless nights beforehand, but I think it went quite well and made my mum proud. Apparently that was just the start, but maybe there will be others who see some sense in what I’m doing.

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Sorry, these pics has been inserted kind of randomly, but don’t you love the sun reflection in the windows? And the evil looks?

I’ve been also thinking about the concept of home, about family and other essential questions, but posting these thoughts would have been unnecessarily messy and uninteresting for this blog. Or would you really be interested in my recent favourites when it comes to housing or taking care of children? 😉

So instead I follow the fashion of like 95% of female bloggers and recommend making yourself a nice cuppa, light up a scented candle and snuggle in the bed watching Netflix or reading books from Helsinki Book Fair (well THAT would be my October haul! 3x Tove Jansson – for adults mostly – and a free mug, oh and numerous magazines and magazine samples, some literature reviews, catalogues aka wishlists, some inspirational talks heard a random old book on something Finnish army related… not bad!).

Speaking of Netflix, I subscribed. I feel so mainstream again, I guess it’s what I needed right now. That and some clothes shopping and I feel much more self-confident to be, look, think and behave in alternative ways. How bizarre. 

Besides I’ve been trying to take on drawing more seriously, some attempts can be found on my instagram (feel free to follow). And drinking tea.

Bearers and keepers.

Blogroll, Helsinki, Immigrant integration, Lifestyle, Picture a day, Sunsets

I spotted them today on numerous occasions. They appeared inconspicuously. Overnight. Unremarked by (social) media. Yet we are talking about the unequivocal sign of winter. Bearers of darkness and sub-zero temperatures: I’m looking at you, all those thousands of aurauskepit (“ploughing sticks”) sown all around Finland. These plastic sticks of varying length are placed along curbs and those no-man areas along the roads, those random patches of grass, narrow concrete passes, etc.

Their obvious purpose is to mark road raises and descents, such as curbs, pavements, road shoulders, ditches etc. once these get covered in snow. What else is there to add?

The weather was surprisingly mild today, but the temperatures get very close to 0°C at night, and I suspect that they might make it below zero this week. We shall see.

Today we went through yet another flat viewing. Or house viewing. It went surprisingly well for a village quite far away from Helsinki. The surroundings were pretty autumny. Dusky. With few colours left.

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miu_3795(I particularly like the one above. Sums it up all. Graveyard. Autumn. Time.)

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Also, I managed to slip to the nearby cemetery and found the grave of Charlotta Lönnqvist, the benefactor of Aleksis Kivi, one of most famous Finnish authors of all times. Charlotta is still cherished and loved by many people, particularly for her kindness, love for Aleksis and art and down-to-earth attitude…

… and then we arrived home and a sunset happened:

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Now, I’ve been somehow busy with all kinds of home improvement and decoration lately. I blame the daily dumpster diving sessions – so far I’ve found 2 brand new (!) ikea Ribba pictures shelves, a collection of white flower pots (the largest of these is now serving as a storage bin for posters, wrapping paper, etc.), a retro kitchen jar trending on Finnish auction sites and this awesome Fazer biscuit tin (probably rather aged). These have been appropriately cleaned and have been stored for future use 😉

The dumpster diving procedure goes as follows: 1. Check out the situation in the inner yard. I’m not too confident going through rubbish in front of others. Yet. 2. Look into the bin and identify any interesting items. Empty boxes and bags which might contain more items. 3. Quickly grab the haul and walk quickly towards the door. 4. Walk into the janitor and about 57931 other people in the elevator hall, despite this being otherwise empty. Greet your neighbour and have a small talk with them. Blush. Be sure that one of the people you’ve just met was the one who threw out the item into the bin. 5. At home, think again about what you just brought with you. On the next occasion bring half of the items back into the bin. 6. Clean the sh*t out of the hauled items. 7. Bring most of them upstairs in the attics, cause you don’t want to use them just yet. 8. Tell your better half. Be pleased with yourself.

So why am I doing this?!

I’m a sucker for old, quality things – and of course I can appreciate a bargain. Most items I find in the recycling centre/thrift store/bin are items of timeless design, are quality (!), have been almost always made in Europe (if not in Finland) and have some direct connection to this country. Or to the time and place they were manufactured.

Besides, I would like my children to be able to inherit some items with a (hi)story. Either I get the item from the above-mentioned places, or I buy hand-crafted or designer items, or I make and reuse a plenty – typically I would make or order-to-be-made cushion covers, as I think cushion covers are great for saving random bits of fabric which would otherwise not be used or shown. Chances are that some of these items might not be appreciated by the kids, or my better half – but that’s fine. That is their choice. But if I just followed lifestyle trends, what would I end up with at the end otherwise? A batch of poor quality IKEA glasses and dressers of mass character or Pepco/Lidl/KiK ceramic stars or “Home” signs made in East Asia..? Meh.

What else has been going on – hmm, I have been thinking about “my” immigrant families, I have been trying to – rationally and emotionally – understand their situation, especially that of those who will be most probably excluded from the Finnish labour market for some time (or forever) and  I have some thoughts. I’ve made myself present in the course, kinda tried to establish contact with the students and gain their trust. Once I’ve collected enough of material I will share the conclusions with you, but not quite yet. But, inshallah, soon!

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 ❤

… why is everyone acting so surprised?

Blogroll, Comments

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.