Six Word Saturday 29.9.2012

Ajatellen suomi. Luen suomi. Puhun suomi.


Translated it means (I) Think Finnish, (I) Read Finnish, (I) Speak Finnish.

This week I let myself down by not speaking Finnish. It was a small group presentation to the rest of the class. We’d been planning everything in Finnish, so it wasn’t that I didn’t know what we were talking about. I had merely presumed that the two ‘leaders’ or dominant personalities would be doing the speaking. So when the paper was thrust in my direction for the third and final part, I panicked. Promptly shoved it back to the first person. Everybody laughed and the presentation went on.

Immediately I passed the paper back I thought to myself ‘what are you doing?’ My only issue was that I hadn’t had time to practice in my head what or how I would say it. It was also the first time speaking FINNISH to an audience.

Thursday afternoon we had a ‘chat session’, (online messaging other class members and our main lecturer) and I mentioned my ‘moka‘*. The teacher immediately said that it doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect, as long as the meaning of my message gets through. She went on to say many Finns aren’t exactly perfect when they get up to speak 😉

Promise made to self: next time I just run with it. As with public speaking in English, it can only get easier with practice.

* Mistake

My new best friend

Feeling chatty? Here is Stevie Nicks doing Talk to me. Love the hair, love the dress. Hmm, those were the days 🙂

Today was Talkoot* day. The day when all the civic-minded residents of our apartment block work in the yard and do a little spring cleaning. In autumn we get to do it all over again in preparation for winter.

Those that arrive early get the ‘best jobs’. I got to rake the yard and collect weeds, sticks and other assorted rubbish. Right at the beginning one of the ladies from the next stairwell came running up, saying excitedly welcome, welcome! This is most unusual, as most of the house usually speak Finnish with me. Anyway, I tried to set her straight and said no, no we can speak Finnish, it’s much better. To which she replied, oh but I want to practice my English. I’ve been studying at adult education.

So we agreed she would speak English and I would speak Finnish. It worked an absolute charm and we both understood what the other was talking about. So, off we went on our respective jobs. Towards the end of the work our paths crossed again and so I took a very big brave step.

I asked my neighbour if she would be willing to meet once a week for talking and language practice? She didn’t even have to think about it and agreed immediately!

We swapped numbers and have agreed to meet for coffee this Friday. I figure if we do different things each time our respective vocabularies will build. She is very keen and this will be a win win for both of us!

What I’ve learnt so far is that she is retired and will be away from the city for most of summer! Last autumn she and her husband were in Croatia and she has never been to Lapland. She knows that I have one son who is currently in bi-lingual class at school and will be going to local high school in the autumn, I’ve been to Lapland twice and I’m starting my own business. Not bad for 15 minutes, whilst enjoying the traditional post talkoot refreshments of grilled sausage and beer.

* Talkoot – working bee.

My hairdresser (s) and I

Today I present Chisu and Baden Baden. Extremely catching song! I was sitting in Ts chair today, a helpless victim under a black shroud listening to this waft over me and started to think about all the people who have ‘done’ my hair over the years…

Mum is the first, responsible for not just those early cuts, also my first chemical experience in the form of super-stinky eye watering home perms. Wow! I loved those curls. Around the same time I started to get into colour and although it’s been many years since perming lotion was anywhere near my head, (I can’t use tresses as long hair is not my thing and although it is short and a little curly, to use those two words together and hyphenated will give entirely the wrong picture) I can say that colour and I have rarely had a long separation. The ‘blame’ for that rests with the paternal side of my family tree. My first grey hair arrived about the same time as my 21st birthday and they just keep on coming…

Over the next few year I went to a few different ones both in Hobart and then Melbourne. There was Allsorts (as in liquorice) and the one-man show in Nth Melbourne who was really sweet and kept asking me out. At that time I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend, just a good haircut. Then I moved across town and had to start the hunt for a good local hairdresser all over again. Senile moment here: I cannot remember the name of the salon that I patronised for many years.

It was the ultimate in hair and scissor relationships. I left them do what ever they wanted. They wanted to do lots and lots of wonderful things! By this time I was someway away from the public eye so weird and wacky (well weird and wacky for 5 star hotels) hair was acceptable. Super short, asymmetrical and my all time favourite pink all came and went. The highlight of our relationship was the time I was a hair model. My one moment of being uber-cool. Great, yet totally impractical hair atop a bland whited out face.

Somebody must have cut my hair when I was living in Alice Springs, yet I can not even picture what the inside of the salon looked like. Similarly, my time in Cairns was so short that it’s quite likely I skipped right over the business of finding a fitting hair salon. When I was living on board it was merely a matter of checking into the salon and taking advantage of crew discount. Because crew are always signing on and off, it’s often impossible to build the same sort of relationship that you enjoy on land. I’d just found the perfect match, well her scissors and my hair when it was time for me to sign off.

The next few years are best described as being in the badlands. Visits to salons were few and far between. My hair grew long, those bands of grey at the roots grew longer still. A forgettable salon in Hobart, one of my mother’s group mums, another forgettable salon in Coral Springs (FL). By now I was getting a little tired of not having that relationship, so when it was obvious that we were going to be staying in Finland, the salon hunt began in earnest.

Our first permanent place in Helsinki had a salon right across the path. The was another at the end of the street and yet another two blocks down. You are never more than two blocks from a salon. That’s how it seems anyway. In the early days, if I thought there was a chance that I wouldn’t be understood I would take a picture with me and write down the key terms in Finnish. The absolute worst experience was taking Mr. 12 for a cut at the salon across the street. The hairdresser only spoke Estonian and Finnish, and my clumsy Finnish was getting us nowhere. In the end she called her husband who spoke a little English and between us we got a haircut.

Eventually the lady across the way moved to a bigger salon, and we moved our custom with her. That was the beginning of the end. Her salon was bright and airy, nice comfy chairs and great music, it was just a shame that staff turnover was so high. Short hair is high maintenance and it helps a lot if the person cutting knows how you wear it, what your life is like and also what colour was used last time. After I had been 4 times in a row and each time there had been a new hairdresser I decided enough was enough.

I walked into the closest salon to home. That was three years ago and I haven’t looked back! They know me and my hair. They are quite happy to natter on in Finnish with me and don’t appear to mind my mangled responses. It’s been really good for my Finnish (and my hair). I dread the day that T retires. What will my hair do then?

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! 

Decisions, Decisions

Mr. 12 heads to upper primary school next autumn. * Yesterday the guide-book for the Helsinki school district came home, along with a second guide-book for grade 6 students. Now we have to work out from the myriad of options, which school?!

First some language background. Mr. 12 is bi-lingual. We operate the one parent one language model at home. The Engineer speaks Finnish, I speak English. The common language is mostly English, although maybe Finnglish is a good description. Finland also has two official languages: Finnish & Swedish. Depending on your mother tongue, instruction in the 2nd ‘domestic’ language starts anytime between 3rd and 7th grade. Our Mr. 12 started in 4th grade, and although it hasn’t been an easy experience for him, his pronunciation is quite good as is his comprehension.

Anyway, back to the decision! Do we stay with the bi-lingual schooling? Along with the rest of his friends? The upper school actually offers 100% Finnish, bi-lingual and then 100% English. The catch: aptitude and skills test to be admitted. The 2nd catch: there are not enough spots for all the students who want to do the bi-lingual line. The third catch: Mr. 12 doesn’t do tests well. Now I hear you say ‘no one does tests well’! Unfortunately Mr. 12 does them REALLY BADLY. Luckily we’ve had a lot of support from his teachers working with this. Still there is no getting around the test.

The Finnish system is such that in urban areas the local school should be within walking distance. Here in Helsinki, the city covers the trip to & from school on public transport **. We have a really efficient network, so Mr. 12 gets lifts to school very rarely. So, we could of course, just go to the school that is our closest or local school. This school offers extra tuition in art, which is something that Mr. 12 enjoys. The catch: there’s a test 🙂

This one is a really tough decision: stay bi-lingual? Do we go 100% Finnish? Do we go to the local school without taking the art test? With the art test? Right now all we can do is mark a heap of dates in the calendar for the first three weeks of January in order to attend the information sessions for prospective students and families. We mark the last day of submitting paper work. We discuss with Mr. 12 (he’s stated his preference is the upper school), we look at the schools and read up on anything we can get our hand on.

What other criteria should we examine?

* Grades 7, 8 & 9.
** if your school is outside your local area and the door-to-door journey is more than 2 km.

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