Ironically enough…

… today we officially commenced summer time and as many pointed out so gleefully earlier this week: it’s spring! Forgive me if I don’t share your enthusiasm at this point.

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Helsinki Spring 2012

The above was the view at 0930 this morning. The lovely thing about spring snow is that it covers the emerging piles of dog-doo and other debris that has been buried for three months or more. The not-so-lovely part of spring snow here in the south of Finland is that it is often short-lived and melts to dirty slush in a matter of hours.

So, of course here we go with Alanis Morissette and Ironic. I’d totally forgotten how this clip looked. Now, is that ironic or what?!

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Saturday night in 30 words or less

Saturday night is brought to you buy Barbara Mandrell Sleeping single in a double bed.

There is something quite luxurious about having the big bed all to yourself.

Obscure facts # 01

ZZ Top and Legs! I have to admit to wasting a fair amount time today tracking this down. Sometimes you just have to go with the original. For added flavour and at no extra cost there are subtitles!

Obscure (as an adjective): not discovered or known about; uncertain. I don’t know about the uncertainty of these facts. I’m quite sure about them 🙂 I’ve decided it’s sharing time. I was going to title this series Random facts. However Mr. 12 had taken to calling everything either random or epic, and subsequently I’m a little tired of suff being ‘EPPPIIIIC’ or ‘RA-ndom mum’.

I  love both this time of the year and autumn because I’m able to freely indulge in my love of coloured and patterned tights (or you might know them also as pantyhose, stockings, or sukkahousut). In the past week I’ve worn silvery tights; grey tights with flower self-pattern; a red that was almost orange and made my legs look like exposed flesh; as well as regular burgundy and the ever useful sheer black. Today I opened a new pair of grey houndstooth. Love that pattern.

Now I know that tights are very seasonal, and so last years’ colours just don’t cut it this year. However my style isn’t necessarily this year (or even last year sometimes). Why to spend a small fortune on something that quite possibly is destroyed before you even walk out the front door? I regularly scour the shelves of clothes shops snapping up last years colours and patterns marked down to ridiculous prices.

Image courtesy Nanso Group

I think this legs business stems from many years trapped in basic tan or black. When you work in the public eye, in some sort of service role and wear a uniform to boot, well you are expected to look the part. Well, no more of that for me.

Image courtesy Nanso Group

Ugly presumptions

The other side of my life 🙂

Helsinki Buy Design

My circles have expanded somewhat in recent months. I’ve made more of an effort to get out there and meet people and do stuff and be involved generally.

When you meet new people quite often the initial conversation will go along the lines of ‘what do you do?’  or ‘where do you work?’ Subsequently I’ve been saying well I’m working for this company until the end of the month and then I’m going off to DO MY OWN THING!  The key word here of course being OWN.

So why do people insist on throwing business ideas at me? Three times in as many weeks I’ve had new acquaintances mention that they have a really great idea for my business. Despite my earlier explanations of tourism, visitors to Helsinki and similar clues. So thanks but no thanks. I am not interested in being a distributor of all-natural products from a scheme that seems to…

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My integration experience.

Gary Jules & Michael Andrews cover Mad World. The original by Tears for Fears is here. Gary Lambert also sounds very good. You pick the version you want to hear! Or listen to them all and tell me which is your favourite! ***

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: If you are planning on moving to Finland in a permanent capacity DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT attempt to do it this way. It’s wrong and you’ll just cause yourself a whole heap of stress and grief.

One of the Finnish blogs I read on fairly regular basis is Migrant Tales – I don’t always agree with what he says and sometimes the conversation threads that follow the postings get very heated. There’s also a heap of swearing, and while I’m no prude and the eff word (or the vee word in Finnish) has slipped through my lips on the odd occasion, I really don’t see the point of swearing at fellow commenters. I’d be hard pressed to do it in person, unless they were really really really good friends. Even then I doubt that I’d get into it so much. My mum did a good job!

Back to Migrant Tales. Two posts have grabbed my attention lately. The first was about integration, the second was an earlier post about jokes.  Now I wasn’t going to write about politics on this blog, then I put up my two bits about the Finnish Presidential Election. The Beader also reminded me a while back that this blog is about me and my life in Finland. So,  I think that means politics are on the menu. (You’ll have to wait a while for me to post about sex and religion, I have a total lack of one in my life and the other is none of your business!)

Right now immigration is a very hot potato in Finland. There has been a rise in popularity for the right-wing, nationalist party. Australians will remember the rise and rise of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. Well, we have The Finns, better known as the True Finns. They’re not huge fans of immigration, even less keen on being a part of the EU. They object to Finland’s role in the Euro-zone bailout of Greece. The list goes on. Large pockets of support come from rural areas that are suffering from high youth unemployment figures, or reeling from lay-offs in manufacturing. Or they live in urban areas with large immigrant populations.

I overheard this in the pub the other night: young girl, early twenties was very excited about her upcoming trip to Italy. She was obviously going there to work and for a long time, based on her questions about tax etc. … blah blah … I’m so excited, next week I’ll be in Venice! Will you visit me there? … blah blah, the conversation continues and then turns quite sharply… oh it’s so terrible what the EU makes Finland do. No wonder everybody goes to Estonia and Germany to buy their cars. I think it’s time Finland left the EU. Obviously, she did not get the irony of her statement. The EU has removed many border restrictions when it comes to labour. Had Finland not been in the EU, perhaps her stint in Italy would have non-existent… 

The crux of the integration article is that perhaps the integration should come from both sides, rather than just those moving to Finland. Now, before you say, ‘the immigrant is the one that has to integrate!’ please read on. This is my story. Every immigrant that comes to Finland has their own story and no two will ever be the same.

Finland has an official integration program. Please, just don’t ask me how it works. Even though I’ve never been integrated, I’m a tax-paying, mortgage holding citizen. I suspect I am not alone in this way. First, however let’s go back to the beginning.

September 2001. For those of you aware of (very) recent history, there was a major event that turned everybody’s world up-side-down. Timing is everything as they say. Mr 2.25 and I were staying with MIL, enjoying warm autumn and looking forward to flying to Florida where The Engineer was living at the time. We were scheduled to leave within a matter of days. That plan was off the table. A New Plan was required. I was in the country on a visitors visa, valid for 3 months at a time. Our three months were running out and it’s never a good idea to over-stay your visa. They might get upset and not let you back.

Off to the local police station we went. * We were ummed and ahhed over, then finally a heap of papers passed through the hatch with the instruction to complete and return with fee, passports and passport photos. Okay, no problem, we can do that. Some of the questions were a little odd. Surprisingly (at the time), we’d been given residency application forms. Okay, so you can visit Finland for three months or apply to live here due to having Finnish spouse. At this stage The Engineer and I had been doing the long distance thing and quite frankly, neither of us really know which country we would end up living in…

Forms deposited, passports submitted, fee paid. Little did I know that it be NINE months later before we would see our passports again. It was great opportunity to get to know Finland. Despite my persona non grata status (okay that’s a little harsh – I was a status-less person for those nine months though), I enrolled in the local adult education course Finnish For Foreigners. I helped out the Old Rauma Society, I enrolled Mr. 2.5 into a Finnish kindergarten / play park, where I was befriended by the truly generous A, pretty simply I started living like a normal (passportless) person. I started learning to make Finnish dishes. Sauna quickly became a regular and anticipated part of the week, and remains so today. I experienced my first ever White Christmas. Decent snow cover is the key!

As a paperless foreigner, there were a few things we couldn’t do: open bank accounts, take a Finnish mobile, utilise the neuvola **. Luckily we were in good health and Mr. 2.5 was up-to-date with his vaccinations.

Eventually our passports were returned, complete with residency permits. Mr. 2.5 received 2 years, while I received 1 year. Reason, it would not have been fair to the child not to have granted my residency. Fair enough, although a little odd. We travel to Florida and stay three months, returning at the end of summer to start our new life together. That particular set of hows and whys I’ll save for another day. It’s not relevant to the integration.

Now I’m officially a resident of FInland. We receive our personal identity number and life can begin! I think a couple of politicians sent me a letter welcoming me to the city. I opened bank accounts for myself and Mr. 3. I got my first library card, my first bus pass (I say first because I have lost at least two of each of these – foolish as it costs every time you take a replacement). I’m not on any unemployment register. I cook, clean, drive to and from the airport more times than I care to remember. Mr. 4 and I have a routine, play in the morning, park in the afternoon, other stuff in between.

Eventually I get motivated enough and sign myself up for anther Finnish for Foreigners course. Teacher is nice, although I’m a bit frustrated by the lack of speaking practice. I pass and sign up for the 2nd level. Then stuff gets in the way. I get a job. We go back to Australia. I sign up again, and again stuff gets in the way.

Life goes on. I pay my taxes, have my 5 (yes you read that correctly) five weeks of holiday per year (not counting ‘public’ or pyhä- sacred holidays). Actually, true to form,  I work hard and don’t always get to have the full-time. I can work short days sometimes or disappear during the day to do some stuff at school. Still no integration program or plan for me.

Despite not formalising my language training, I scrape through on the official language test. I apply for citizenship. In the meantime, we’ve bought an apartment. All the time I’m here just living. Nothing special. Not being particularly outwardly Australian. Not being particularly Finnish either. Citizenship is approved. The very first thing I do is cancel my resident permit and apply for my Finnish passport.

So 10 years on, here I am. My integration was driven by me. If I had to go through this all again there is NOT one thing I would do differently. Not even register myself as unemployed and get free Finnish lessons. THe major debate on the migrant tales post seems to focus on how long an immigrant is a drain on society. In my case, I think I was neutral until I started working, at which time I became a contributor back to society.

Now Finland has value added tax, yet people don’t seem to see this as tax or a contribution to society. In all honestly, I’m not sure what people think it is. Yet the more you consume, the more tax you pay! Some things are VAT free (health care for one). Yet, food is taxed (13% or 23%), alcohol is taxed at purchase (23%), and there’s a heap of duty inflicted before it even hit’s the shelves. Any sort of public transport includes 9%. So I was contributing back even before I rejoined the workforce.

Yes, there is probably small percentage of the native population who need integrating back. These are the same people who wildly throw ALL immigrants into the one basket. We’re not all the same, and I for one refuse to accept the label that all immigrants are drain on Finnish society. (Rant over!) One important fact to remember is that immigration into Finland is a relatively recent phenomenon, and society as a whole is only just catching up. We have a very long way to go still.

Personally, I think that the integration is a two-way street. The immigrant should be willing to take on the new country and important aspects that are unique, without losing the essence of their own culture; the citizens should be willing to acknowledge that there are other cultures, and that those two should be able to sit side by side in a person. Asking an immigrant to forsake a major part of themselves and their self-image and then expect them to behave like a Finn is a situation that will never end well. I’m a Tasmanian Finn and proud of it. 

This is the abridged version obviously. It’s super late and I really felt the need to get this published today. So if there are any really bad errors (grammar, spelling etc), please be kind enough to point them out.

* Immigration issues in the first instance are handled by one department of the police force.

** Finnish child care / mothercraft nurses. Look after mother and baby from pregnancy to school age.

*** If I want to dance it has to be Tears for Fears, just for the beauty of the voice I’ll put on Gary Jules and I’d much rather hear Adam Lambert singing If I Had You.

Fridays…are special

Naturally I have to share The Cure and Friday I’m In Love. This was really easy to pick although now I’m wondering how many happy Friday songs there are out there? Read on to find out why…

Friday evening is a sacred time for our family. Even if there is swimming at 0800 on Saturday morning, or The Engineer is travelling from some exotic (or not so exotic location). It’s movie night. It’s good food night. If you have a good imagination, it could even pass muster as date night. There could be a glass of wine for the grown ups. There may be some cola product for Mr. 12.

The probability of dessert is quite high. Usually ice cream. Alternatives could be an individual tiramisu or cheese platter. Main course is generally something a little bit special. Good steak with a simple sauce. Asparagus with home-made hollandaise. Time consuming, yet oh so good. Oven roasted vegetables with some balsamic based sauce. Salmon steaks gently pan-fried with caper-lemon sauce. My mouth is watering just thinking about all this food.

We don’t make arrangements to go anywhere on Friday nights. We’ll do anything or go anywhere on any other night of the week. Just not on Friday. I try to leave work early. Lately it’s been quite late as Mr. 12 has training Friday afternoons. 

From work we hit the supermarket and from the supermarket we head to the  video store to browse for a nice movie to watch. Due to the large amounts of testosterone in our house chic-flicks are ‘once-in-a-blue-moon-I’m-on-my-own for-a-change’ event. From memory Bridesmaids was the last girlie movie I saw. Last week we saw Contagion (highly recommended) and as The Engineer is in another time zone I’m presuming that there’ll be action or comedy on the menu tonight.

As it’s now officially Friday night, I’m out of here! I hope you have a special Friday night too. See you on the other side…

Decisions, Decísions Part II

Today is brought you to by The Rolling Stones and You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Just before Christmas last year I wrote about our big decision. Today at midday, it all came together. Each school applied to, and tested for; posted the list of accepted applicants on their front door. Physically, in list format, on white paper! Shortly afterwards the same list appeared on their respective home page. Mr. 12 and his class had scheduled a short field trip to visit the local upper school (and first choice of many) to check out the list in person. I decided to take a short bus trip to visit the other school applied to (with the art focus). It was possible that he would have to still make the decision if both schools offered him a spot.

Then came his call. Poor boy was in tears. Unfortunately his first choice was a no-go. We talked a little about it not being the end of the world, he’d done his best, etc. It wasn’t the best conversation, partly for his distress and partly I was on the bus and would have felt more comfortable comforting him in person.

By the time I got to school # 2 I was starting to feel nervous! I stood a little way from the front door, taking deep breaths before stepping forward and looking for our surname. Luckily I found it quite quickly. So far so good. Then I realised there were many different lists. Each class type had its own list. Aargh! Was Mr. 12 in the right group? Art group? YES!!! 

As today was such a special day, his class teacher allowed phones to be open. Luckily I could call Mr. 12 and passed on the good news. It was received calmly, with not much fuss. As expected really. Mr. 12 had his heart set on the bi-lingual class. Of course: all his friends are going there. Art class was not high on his wish list due to the total lack of friends going there. The Engineer got yet another text message: there would have been quite many on his phone by the time he woke.

School was over eventually and one very tired and emotional young man appeared in my office. We hugged and spoke for a while. Then I opened up the pages for the schools and we looked at the lists again. One name popped up that we hadn’t heard for many years: Mr. 12’s best friend from kindergarten was accepted to the class Mr. 12 missed out on. The irony of it…

Swimming practice called and Mr. 12 headed off. Not exactly his usual keen self, although not exactly depressed either. The Engineer called him and they chatted about whatever it is men chat about at times like this. Mr. 12 arrived home after swimming much more relaxed and happier than he’d been when he left. How much of that can be attributed to the swimming and how much to time and chatting with dad: well my theory is that it’s a combination of all of these things.

So now we are faced with a new school, new friends, new everything next autumn. The next emotional day will most likely be the last day of school and that’s less than three months away. The Engineer and I firmly believe that this is the best outcome. Art and particularly drawing (and lets throw in some small model creating while we’re at it) is Mr. 12’s thing. You can see the passion in his face. The new class will allow him to fully explore all aspects of art and maybe find some new areas of expertise. 

I think we have passed the worst now. Well perhaps first day of grade 7 will be a little rough. That’s months away, and we have all summer to mentally prepare ourselves for the new school. Mr. 12 was quite happy when I said goodnight. We’ve already decided that he can join Facebook on his 13th birthday (maybe even a few days earlier) and friend up with his class mates. If the friendships are meant to last, it will take more than a change of school to break them up.

Now it’s my bedtime! Depending where you are, hope your Thursday finishes off just fine or Friday starts funky! 

A new start? or Relaunch!

It’s been a while. One whole month give or take a day. Since my last contribution I’ve hopped, skipped and jumped from Helsinki to Hamburg to Bremerhaven to Ponta Delgado to find myself in New York with just enough time for lunch and then off to the airport, arriving in Helsinki in time to go straight to work.

I’m talking a leaf out of El Guapo’s book and adding a music link for each day. Hence the relaunch title. Today I have two songs in mind (lucky you!!!) – the first pertains to my long absence, silence and subsequent return to blogging and is none other than eminem’s Without Me with the extremely catchy ‘guess who’s back’ chorus line. The other musical contribution has been a favourite for longer than I’m able to remember: Goddess on a hiway by  Mercury Rev. This song springs to mind EVERY time I have to drive for any length of time… Today’s drive was close on 400 k’s round trip for a handover meeting. Long day, although the end result was well worth it. The music will hopefully shed some light on how my day (week) has been going…

By the way, I have approximately 10 pages of text to edit and upload from our trip. Not to mention a heap of un-catalogued pictures. THEN I have twenty pages of business plan to edit and upload into the Business Plan … and a couple of related blog entries for my other blog. There’ll be plenty of reading to come in the next few days..

While I contemplate my new countdown and being the boss, I’m also going to point you in the direction of my Pinterest page. Wow, that site is just wonderful. I’ve managed to add and rename a heap of boards and add lots of pins. So much fun! So addictive.

See you soon!

Observations (ramblings) about life

This first part follows from my post about volunteering, I need also to say no to so many other things. My inbox is full to overflowing. The magazine rack is groaning under the weight of all that paper. My new-business project folders are bursting at the seams. The laundry basket never empties. Wait long enough and eventually your horoscope will be 100% accurate. Not everyone agrees with your political or religious choice. Every day should be Valentines Day, Mothers Day and Fathers Day.

I’m trying to do something different with WordPress every time I log on. Today I’m using the publish later function. Which means that I actually wrote this yesterday. Confused? Don’t be! Although if I continue too much in this vein I’ll get myself very tangled up.

So, this is set to publish while our flight is in the air. It’s going to be a fun day. Early morning departure, flight to Hamburg, then a train to Bremerhaven and then onboard. I don’t know if it works or not, maybe the countdown goes into negative? Or does it just disappear? I know what the next countdown will be … stay tuned!

Some special comments for my regulars: Judith – I totally agree with your comments on 16-year-old girls and women with long hair; JenBeads – absolutely C must do a guest post; ElGuapola & Hook – your VD postings were touching and funny (I suspect just like the subjects); Hyper – hang in there, I think you’re doing great!

See you on the other side of the Atlantic! We have half a day in NYC, three people = three different wish lists. Which one wins?! Possibly, if everything works out …. we can do all three 🙂

I apologise in advance if you leave a comment and I don’t answer it immediately. I do see them, I do appreciate them. Sometimes I get stuck for words. Sometime, like the next two weeks, I have not internet. Lousy excuse I know, it’s the best I can do in the circumstances.

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