Posts Tagged With: culture

The Illusion of Modesty (TMI alert)

TMI alert – Seriously, you have officially been warned.  This post deals with going to the gynecologist.  Stop reading now if you can’t handle it.

A visit to the gynecologist in Finland (and France from what I hear, and possibly the rest of Europe) is a different experience than a visit in the US.

In the US, when a woman goes to the gynecologist, she is put in a room and left alone.  There is usually a curtain she can hide behind to undress, and then she goes and sits on the exam table with a paper “shirt” that opens in the front and a paper rectangle that she drapes across her lap.  Then the doctor comes in and the exam starts – during which he/she will push the paper shirt apart and examine the breasts and push the drape up to perform a pelvic exam.

Embed from Getty Images

I’ve always been amused by this sham of modesty. Why do you have this paper draped across your lap when the doctor is just going to be all up in your business?  I’ve always assumed that it’s a disassociative thing, separating the woman (face) from the bits.  Whether it’s for the doctor’s benefit or the woman’s, I don’t know.

Here in Finland, though, there is no modesty to be had.  In my first gynecological visit here, I was surprised when the doctor said, “take off your clothes and lay down,” and then sat there all but watching me.  I stripped down in a corner, stacked my clothes, and asked if there was a drape or anything I should have.  She looked confused and gestured to the table.

Then came the funny part.  I’m laying there, naked from the waist down, legs in stirrups, and I realize the window in front of me is open.  The window with the perfect view into the office building next door.  Where anyone inside could basically see…everything, should they choose to look.  I stifled a giggle.  Things are certainly different here!

Fast forward a bit, and I’m pregnant.  I’ve been seeing the same public health nurse my entire pregnancy, and I feel quite comfortable with her.  However, due to the size of our town, they don’t offer childbirth classes in English.  My nurse said she would do an abbreviated class with me, but I decided to also contact a doula based in Helsinki who offered online childbirth classes in English.  It wasn’t that I didn’t trust my nurse, but the doula (a Finn) had lived in the US for several years, and had given birth both in Finland and the US, so she was able to understand my (US based) knowledge of the delivery process (hospital stay, etc) and describe the Finnish process to someone who wasn’t familiar with it.

Between the two women, I feel like I have a fairly good handle on things, but there have been some funny-strange moments, again related to false modesty.  In the US, everything is so very clinical – technical terms are used to describe things.  Here, whether it’s because of a language barrier or simply because of fewer puritanical hangups, the technical terms are not always used.  I’ve heard “pee hole” instead of “urethra.”  I was told when I pushed that it was like when I “poo.”  Although I get a good giggle out of these instances, I feel both more comfortable and uncomfortable at the plain speaking.

All of this is to say, I think the US system provides nothing more than an illusion of modesty.  Your doctor is going to see your parts, what purpose does the drape serve?  The doctor knows the plain words, why bother with the technical terms?  Is it for his/her comfort, or the patient’s?

Baby J update – 12 Days to go! I’m blogging every day until I give birth, so you’ll know when the baby is born!

Categories: Random | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Barcelona – The Food! (Where to eat in Barcelona)

Churro being dipped in Chocolate

As usual, I was excited about the food options available to us while in Spain.  Tapas!  Paella!  Wine!

And once again, with the exception of the wine, my expectations exceeded the reality.  Not to say the food wasn’t good – it was!  We just had few outstanding meals.  I don’t know if my taste buds just haven’t been receptive, or if I’ve become a serious food snob, but I’ve been really hard to please lately.

The worst meal we had, by far was at Montserrat.  We ate at one of the cafeterias there, and it was…really not very good.  If you go to Montserrat, either bring a picnic, or pick up some food from the vendors that line the road leading to the monestary.  We really should have taken our guides advice on that!  Once you get there, you’ll pass 7-10 stalls that stock cheeses, jams, and some other food items.  We ended up buying a Manchego cheese and a Rosemary goat cheese, both of which were wonderful.  You can get samples, and decide what you like best.  And like I said, definitely consider buying some things here and having them for lunch.

We had a lot of mediocre meals, mostly at restaurants along Passeig de Gracia.  Our fault for simply sitting when we were hungry, rather than look for better options off the main drag – don’t make our mistake!

We did have some good meals, though:

La Pepita – this is a little (emphasis on little) tapas place just on the edge of the Gracia district.  It got wonderful reviews on TripAdvisor, and we kept trying to go, but every time we went it was jam packed with people and there was a long wait.  I’m not sure if they take reservations – worth a try, though.  If they don’t, try going at an off-time.  We finally managed to get in on one of our last days in town, and the tapas, wine, and service was wonderful.

Famen – Oh, my.  This counts (still, five months later) as the last meal I ate that blew me away.  We arrived at the restaurant early, Spain time – about 8:15pm.  We were the only ones in the restaurant for most of the meal.  I had narrowed my menu choices down to two, and asked our lovely waitress which would be better.  She recommended the ox with calvados apples.  When it came out, it was stacked – the ox, topped with the apples, topped with…something, I wasn’t sure what.  I took a small bite of the unknown substance to figure out what it was – and went to heaven.  It sounds disgusting, I know, but it was pure, crisped fat.  I’m talking eyes rolling back in my head, moaning, good.  A bit of the fat, a bit of the apples, and a bit of the ox, eaten in one bite…ooooohhhhhhhh.

9 Reinas – Stephen is a steak guy, but Finnish beef is nothing to write home about.  So when I saw there was an Argentian Beef restaurant in Barcelona, I made reservations (you need them) as a special treat for my husband.  Let’s be clear, this is not the place to go for local flavor – this is a white tablecloth steak restaurant, with prices to match.  We ordered two different cuts, and Stephen’s was far superior (and more expensive) than mine.  It was not Ruth’s Chris, but it was a nice steak for my poor steak-starved husband.

Toyo – If Stephen is a “loves steak can’t get good steak in Finland” kind of guy, I’m a “loves sushi can’t get good sushi in Finland” kind of girl.  While I can get it in Finland, I have to drive an hour or more to get it, so it doesn’t happen very often.  When we travel, though, I hunt down sushi places.  On one of our last days in Barcelona, I was looking for a sushi restaurant – but the first two we went to were closed (I think it was a Sunday).  Toyo, however, was open, so we chanced it.  Turns out, this place has a sushi buffet type set up, one with the little boats or a train going around in a circle.  We grabbed a couple of empty seats and started grabbing dishes as they came around.  It was a good chance to get a lot of variety for a very low price, and the sushi was great.  Aaaaannnddd…this was the last time I had sushi, as I soon found out I was pregnant…  (I think they have a full Japanese – aka cooked – menu, but you might want to check.)

Thai Gracia – yet another night of wandering around, looking for something open without too much of a wait, and just saying “Screw it, let’s go here.”  Thai food in Barcelona – why not?  While I can’t remember what I had, I can tell you it was wonderful thai food, if you’re in the mood for it.  And since it’s another thing we can’t get around these parts, it was good. One memorable part of the evening – Stephen shoving a carrot into his mouth, then discovering it wasn’t a carrot but a thai pepper.  He was hurting!

La Gran Cantonada – I mentioned this place in my “Day Trip” write up – this restaurant is in Casteldefels, about a 15 minute train ride from Barcelona.  We had a pitcher of sangria and split an order of Fideueada before heading to the beach.  Good food, good wine, lovely service.

Pitcher of Sangria

If you can, I highly recommend stopping at a few of the small shops and grabbing dinner like the locals.  Some cheese, cured meat, bread, and wine  – best dinner ever.

See more of our Barcelona trip:

Categories: Travels | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

What’s so great about Finland?

Thanks to facebook, I stumbled across this BuzzFeed article:  12 Surprising Things In Which Finland Is The Best In The World.  I felt the need to share, and comment on parts of the list:

  1. Least corrupt government in the world.  We just got back from a trip to Prague, where we asked one of our tour guides about the Czech Republic getting on the Euro.  Our tour guide told us that Czech Republic is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, with top-down corruption, and until they get it somewhat under control, they won’t be allowed to use the Euro.  I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I find it interesting that Finland is the least corrupt government in the world.  Not surprising, though (see #10 below).
  2. Most heavy metal bands per capita.  Not being a heavy metal fan myself, I could never have name a band (or singer) from Finland.  My husband, however, has been an Apocalyptica fan for years, and we have friends that used to live here who knew (and went to see) a lot more bands.
  3. The best education system in the world.  I think this is well know by now, with so many articles about it lately.  It’s interesting, because the kids seem to have a lot more freedom and spend less time in the classroom.  I’m always seeing 12-year-olds out and about during what I think of as “school hours,” and the high school kids seem to be let go early or allowed to come in late all the time.  But I think part of it is the integrity and honesty that Finns exemplify.  (Again, see #10.)
  4. The country with the heaviest coffee consumption in the world.  Which is kind of funny, considering every non-Finn I talk to says the coffee here sucks.
  5. (skipping – no comment)
  6. Most saunas per capita.  3.3 million saunas for 5.3 million people.  Most apartments, and probably all houses, have a sauna.  Those apartment buildings without private saunas (like mine) have a sauna in the building.  Then there are the saunas at office buildings, hotels, and gyms, plus the public saunas.  Oh, and let’s not forget the saunas at the summer cottages that everyone has!  Stephen went to a coworker’s house one night, and there were two saunas there.  So, yeah, lots of saunas.
  7. Best country in the world to be a mother.  Well, obviously I’m quite glad to hear this one, even though I won’t reap some of the benefits that come along with being a Finnish mother.  Low risk for maternal death, low infant mortality rate, and let’s not forget the lengthy maternity leave (and paternity leave) available.  Kela, the Finnish healthcare, pays a maternity allowance for 105 working days, starting at least 30 days before the delivery date.  Paternity leave is good for up to 54 working days.  Plus, some towns will pay you to have children.
  8. The country drinking the most milk per capita.  Finns often drink a glass of milk with their lunch or dinner.  In fact, the prenatal vitamins here don’t have nearly the amount of calcium in them as vitamins from the US, I think specifically because Finns drink so much more milk.  (The Finnish vitamins I picked up have 300mg Calcium per dose.  I get mine at the healthfood store, and they’re from either the US or the UK, and they have 650mg per dose.)
  9. (Skipping – no comment)
  10. Helsinki is the most honest city in the world.  I can’t comment on Helsinki in particular, but I can comment on Finland, in general.  My friends and I often comment on, when we go to a cafe to eat, how safe we feel about leaving our purse at the table while we go to the register to order.  I try not to let myself get into that mindset and be so lax, but it’s simply safe enough to do so.  One day a few months ago, there were two purses on top of the table about 5 feet from the door, while the owners were about 20 feet away in the other direction, not even looking at them.  It would be so easy for someone to come along, grab the bags, and be long gone before anyone noticed.  But it doesn’t happen here.  The locks on our bikes are ridiculous, but they don’t get stolen.  People leave cars unlocked, strollers outside (heck, they leave babies outside), bags unattended.  I love it here.
  11. (skipping – no comment)
  12. (skipping – no comment)

The article goes on to note other lists in which Finland is high up, but not number 1.  One of the happiest countries in the world.  In top 10 of Candy consumption (ohmygosh, if you could see the candy stalls here – it’s insane!!).  Second best workers in the world (again, I will point you to #10).  Second best in gender equality.

Overall, Finland really is a wonderful country to live in.  I’m so glad we got the opportunity to experience it firsthand!

(Note:  I did not link to or cite any references above, because they’re all referenced in the original BuzzFeed article.  Please go check the article out for yourself to learn more!)

Categories: Finland | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Barcelona – Part 1!

View of Barcelona from Sagrada Familia

Oh, my gosh, Barcelona.  I had heard wonderful things about it, but I hadn’t expected to love it as much as I did!

We arrived on a Friday night, and left on a Monday morning, giving us nine very full days there.  Not that we truly filled those days – we definitely took it easy!  We rented an apartment while there, so we took our time in the mornings and enjoyed an afternoon siesta each day.  It was super relaxing, and a “vacation to recover from the vacation” wasn’t needed.

We didn’t plan out much for the vacation – we just knew we wanted to see the main Gaudi sites, plus the architecture of the different parts of the city, and take a couple of day trips outside of the city.  So the first day, we headed out to the Holy Grail in Barcelona – La Sagrada Familia.  The line for tickets went around the building (and that’s a big building!), so we decided to buy tickets online and come back another day.  In fact, that’s a pretty good rule of thumb for almost anything you want to do in Barcelona!

We had planned our vacation before we checked the events calendar, and it just happened to coincide with the end of La Merce Festival.  I read a little about it, and then checked out some videos online.  And then, I couldn’t wait to check it all out!!  Human towers, Catalonian dancing, fireworks, parades…Oh boy!  We decided to forego the correfoc (fire run) for fear of getting burned, although I admit I would have loved to have gone!

Barcelona Spain

Gigantes Parade, La Merce Festival

Barcelona Spain

Gigantes Parade

Barcelona Spain

Gigantes Parade, La Merce Festival

Barcelona Spain

Catalonian Dancing

La Merce Festival, Barcelona Spain

Building a pyramid (we saw some towers, but as you can see by the heads in the way, taking photos was difficult!)

La Merce Festival, Barcelona Spain

Topping out the pyramid – a kid (but at least he’s wearing a helmet!)

We strolled through the City Park (Parc de la Ciutadella)…

Barcelona Spain

Fountain at the City Park

wandered down by the beach…

Barcelona Beach

Barcelona Beach

took the funicular, then the cable car, up to Montjuic Castle (really a fortress, with old cannons and amazing views of the sea and the city)…

Barcelona Spain

Montjuic Castle

View of sea from Montjuic

View from Montjuic

walked over by the National Palace (which looked much cooler from far away than it did up close)…

Palau Nacional Barcelona Spain

View of National Palace from Montjuic

Barcelona Spain

National Palace – fun fact:  The Palau Nacional was built as a temporary building over 3 years for the 1929 International Exhibition in Barcelona.  They were going to tear it down after the exhibition!

checked out the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion (the polar opposite of Gaudi)…

Barcelona Spain

Mies van de Rohe Pavilion

Barcelona Spain

Mies van der Rohe Pavilion

On our last night, we finally made it out to the Magic Fountain, which was the fitting end to our vacation.

Montjuic, Barcelona Spain

Magic Fountain – Thursday-Sunday, starting at 9pm.

Magic Fountain, Barcelona Spain

Magic Fountain, Barcelona Spain

Magic Fountain, Barcelona Spain


I have five or six more posts on Barcelona in the works, including a whole post on Gaudi and a whole post on the food, which, let’s face it, is the most important part of vacation!  Oh, and a post about our day trips to Montserrat, Casteldefels, and a Cava winery.  Stay tuned for more.  🙂

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Sicily – A Sneak Peek

We just got back from a 10 day trip around Sicily, where we saw a huge volcano, tons of Greek ruins, and went kayaking in the Aeolian Islands.  I’m working on getting through the photos and doing a write up of our trip, but in the meantime, how about a little teaser?

In Catania, Sicily

In Catania, Sicily

Catania, Sicily

Catania, Sicily

Love these little guys!

Love these little guys!

Greek ruins in Agrigento

Greek ruins in Agrigento

Greek ruins overlooking the Mediterranean

Greek ruins overlooking the Mediterranean

Medieval castle in Erice, Sicily

Medieval castle in Erice, Sicily

On the island of Vulcano

On the island of Vulcano, in the Aeolian Islands

Kayaking in Sicily, photo by Eugenio at

Kayaking the Aeolian Islands, photo by Eugenio at





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Foods I miss as an ex-pat

There are certain things we can’t get here in Finland.  What, you’re surprised by that?  I’ve found substitutes and DIY recipes and made do with things that don’t taste quite right, but here are some things I miss dearly:

Goat Cheese.  The goat cheese here is…not right.  It doesn’t have that creamy texture, it’s more like a brie texture.  One of my favorite treats is spreading goat cheese on dried figs and wrapping some prosciutto around it.  There is no “spreading goat cheese” around here.

Spaghetti Squash.  God, I miss spaghetti squash.  I think when we get back to the States, Stephen may get sick of spaghetti squash, because it seems all I can do lately is think about it.  They have honeydew melons in the grocery store, which look exactly like spaghetti squash, which just makes it worse.  It’s like they’re teasing me…

*Not* spaghetti squash...

*Not* spaghetti squash…

Yellow Squash.  I know a lot of people don’t like yellow squash, but I do.  I can take a yellow squash and a zucchini and make a meal of it.  I can get zucchini here, at least, but I do miss yellow squash.

Monterrey Jack cheese.  Mexican food just isn’t the same without it.

Portobello mushrooms.  You can get 500 different varieties of mushrooms, especially in the fall when everyone goes foraging in the forest, but I have yet to see portobellos…

Velveeta.  I’ve got a serious hankering for White Trash Dip (aka Rotel Dip).

Sushi.  God, I miss sushi.  I can get it when I go to the “Big Town” an hour away, but here in town?  Forget about it.

Every single ex-pat, without fail, regardless of country of origin or where they currently live, misses something from home.  Tex-Mex appears frequently, which I can relate to.  The other thing I see a lot of is a craving for Kraft Mac & Cheese.  I have the solution!!!  And it doesn’t involve a huge, heavy box, or a half-assed DIY mix that’s good but not-quite-right.  Are you ready?

Go to Costco, Sam’s Club, what have you, and buy a Massive Pack of Kraft Mac and Cheese.  (My friend bought two 15-packs for us before we left the States.)  Open all boxes.  Remove cheese packets.  Put packets in large ziplock bag.  Tear instructions from one box.  Put in ziplock bag with the cheese packets.  Throw everything else away.  Yes, including the pasta.  Pack in suitcase.  See how little room that takes up?  Now, when you get a hankering, buy some pasta (I think the Blue Box has about 6.5-7 oz of pasta in them), butter, and milk (I use wine instead of milk, which I highly recommend), and make yo’self some Mac and Cheese!  Now, I can’t take credit for this, this was totally my friend’s idea, but it works perfectly.  I brought 30 packets of cheese over in my suitcase, and it barely took up any room.  (We included a tear out of the box just in case there were any security questions about this weird orange powder…)  Now, keep in mind, this will work just as well with your Shells and Cheese, if you prefer that.

You don’t have to be an ex-pat to miss (and not be able to get) certain foods.  New Englanders living in Colorado probably miss good fresh clam chowder or lobster.  Southerners living in Ohio probably miss sweet tea.  Food is so intrinsic to who we are, our personal history, our sense of self, that we experience true nostalgia when we can’t get certain things.

So, what foods do you miss that you can’t get?

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

24\7? Forget it!


One of the things I’ve had to get used to living in Finland is that grocery stores actually CLOSE.  6pm on Saturdays. Closed on holidays.  I can always tell when there’s a holiday the next day because there are 20 times as many people at the grocery store, and they’re buying…milk and bread.  God, I wish I was kidding about that.  But there you go – it happens in Finland, too.  One time, I was behind a guy with nothing in his basket except 12 cartons of milk and 6 loaves of bread.  Hand to God.

The store closing for a day shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but I’ve learned not to trust the meat here in Finland more than a day.  I don’t buy meat until the day I’m going to use it, because if I buy it the day before, it tends to be…yucky.  So I have to do extra planning when there’s a holiday, maybe make a casserole the night before so we can have leftovers, or plan on frozen pizza.

Last weekend was Easter Weekend, and here in Finland, both Good Friday and Easter Monday are holidays.  Oh, and Easter Sunday, too, of course.  So three days of grocery store closures over the course of a 4 day weekend.  Luckily, we went out of town, so I didn’t have to do the Mass Pre-Holiday Grocery Trip.  However, I ran into a bit of an issue.  Stephen’s work sent out an email with the store hours, what would be closed, what would be open, and when.  According to this email, the stores would be open from 12-6 on Monday.  So, I figured we’d get home from our trip on Sunday evening, grab some take out, and I’d go grocery shopping on Monday.  No biggie.

Except (you knew that was coming, right?).  Except I drive to the grocery store and find it closed up tighter than…well, something closed up tightly.

There are a few gas stations that have a small grocery store inside, so I drove over to one of those (the one that was a little bit further away, because I knew it was bigger than the one closer to where I was).  I walk in, and find…the grocery part closed.  Oh, but there’s this other tiny little grocery on the other side of the gas station that’s open.  It’s probably about 20 feet long by 10 feet wide.  And there are about 25 people inside.  What options do I have?  None.  So I go in and see if I can figure out something for dinner.  Chicken.  Tortillas.  A quick mental inventory and I knew we still had some shredded cheese at home. Tacos it is.

So now I’ve got another issue, and that is, I won’t have the car again to go shopping until the weekend.  There’s only so much I can carry home with me while walking, and that does not include milk, soda, big cereal boxes, or (the most important item, as we were running out) toilet paper.  So this week ended up being one of those weeks where I visit the grocery store every day to get the stuff I would have otherwise gotten in one trip, and making Stephen stop on his way home to buy the bulky/heavy stuff.

Oh, I know, I need to quit my bitchin’.  The truth is, I like that stores close here.  I like that holidays are exactly that – holidays when no one has to work (except those in gas stations and kebab restaurants).  I like that there’s not “May Day Mania” and “Epiphany Extravaganza” sales.  It goes with the whole slower pace of life.

As long as I can plan for it… (whoever sent that erroneous information at Stephen’s work – I’ve got my evil eye on you.)

New in my zazzle store:  Took this great picture last week with my new zoom lens, on a morning when the trees were all frosty from the cold.  At the top of the picture is the Church of the Holy Cross in Old Town Rauma; colorful Finnish homes in the foreground.

Categories: Finland | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Shrove Sunday Fun

Shrove Tuesday here in Finland is the same thing as Mardi Gras is in the States…at least, in the religious aspect, in that it’s the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.  Here in Finland, according to wikipedia, the day is “generally celebrated by eating green pea soup and a pastry called laskiaispulla (sweet bread filled with whipped cream and jam or almond paste).”  So, yeah, not quite the same party that Mardi Gras is!

This past Sunday, the Sunday preceding Shrove Tuesday, was, fittingly enough, Shrove Sunday.  It’s apparently the day to go out and enjoy winter sports, sledding in particular.  I hadn’t realized it was Shrove Sunday until a friend made a comment on Facebook about it…then I immediately panicked, wondering if the grocery store would be open.

I had already planned on going for a walk to the nearby sports complex, because there was a snow judo competition that I felt I simply had to check out.  So I ventured out into the falling snow (while Stephen worked) and walked to the sports complex.  There was more going on than snow judo, though – skiing and skating and sledding, oh my!  They even had a horse and buggy ride for kids.

Ice skating

Ice skating



Sledding hill behind the skating rink

Sledding hill behind the skating rink

Snow Judo

Snow Judo

Snow Judo...or, just rolling around in the snow!

Snow Judo…or, just rolling around in the snow!

Horse and carriage ride

Horse and carriage ride

I stopped at the store on the way home (open, thank goodness) and decided to pick up some laskiaispulla, but they were completely sold out.  So, yeah, it’s kind of a big deal.  😉  I did go to the store today and pick some up, though, and Stephen and I enjoyed our little Shrove Tuesday treat.



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Christmas wasn’t quite right


Once, 9 or 10 years ago, I spent Christmas alone.  I was alone in a new town, 1500 miles away from my family and friends, and couldn’t get time off from my new job.   I figured it would be no big deal, it was just another day.   Boy, was I wrong.  I swore I would never spend Christmas alone again.  Of course, I wasn’t planning on moving to a foreign country…

Luckily, we went home earlier this month, and we had an early Christmas with our families.   It was nice to see everyone and open gifts, and see genuine joy when someone opened a gift I had picked out just for them.  But at that time, I hadn’t really gotten into the “Christmas spirit,” so it wasn’t quite right.

We didn’t do any decorating for Christmas in the apartment – we didn’t bring any decorations, and I didn’t want to buy anything just for our time here.  It seemed kind of a waste.  The town put up a couple of big trees, and the streets were lit with lights, but not many homes had visible decorations – no driving around and looking at Christmas lights this year!

Christmas decoration in Old Town Rauma

Christmas decoration in Old Town Rauma

Most of our friends were traveling for the holidays, but there were three of us American couples still here.  We decided to have a big Christmas Eve dinner.  There’s a tradition in Finland to light candles in the cemetery and put them by the headstones, so before dinner we took a walk to the local cemetery to check it out.  It was very beautiful and peaceful, all the candles lit and illuminating those who are gone.

Lit candles by a headstone

Lit candles by a headstone


Cemetery illuminated by candlelight

Cemetery illuminated by candlelight

Christmas morning, Stephen had some gifts to unwrap, but I had gotten my gifts when we were with family earlier this month, so I didn’t have anything.  That didn’t bother me though – what truly bothered me was not seeing loved one’s faces light up on Christmas morning as they opened a gift that made me think specifically of them.  Sure, I had seen that earlier this month, but it didn’t coincide with Christmas Day.  It’s silly that that little thing makes a difference, but it does.

I think I’ll go ahead and do some shopping now for Christmas next year, so I can decorate.  Maybe that will make it feel more festive.  And next year, we need to skype while our families open gifts, so I can see the joy on their faces.

Categories: Finland | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

4 Finland Links (and 1 Italian Link)

There have been several news articles, blog posts, and mentions of Finland online lately, and I’ve wanted to share them. Why not share them all at once?!

The Independent, a British newspaper, recently published an article: AAA to Y* of Finland. The subtitle is “Finland is now the last eurozone country to hold a triple-A credit rating. So, why are things so rosy in the Scandinavian state?” The alphabetical list includes C for Coffee (although, I’ve heard the coffee here is pretty atrocious – I don’t drink coffee, so I can’t give you my opinion); G is for Games (Did you know Angry Birds came from Finland?); L is for Lakes (187,888 lakes, to be exact); and W is for Wife Carrying World Championships (I seriously want Stephen to agree to hoist me over his shoulder and carry me in a race). And yes, the article is only to Y, because the letter Z does not exist in the Finnish alphabet.

Life in Finland reviewed the book  A Year in South Karelia, a book written by and about a Canadian in Finland. I haven’t been here nearly as long as either Michael Child or the Life in Finland blogger, but I, too, can already relate to some of the things mentioned – the “parking puck,” the “Finnish ‘Non-smile,’” and I absolutely must know more about the bathroom incident… Dying to read the book, if anyone is looking for a future gift for me…

This isn’t about Finland, but it ties in. According to Amusing Planet, the Village of Viganella in Italy is so deep in a valley, the mountains block the sun completely from November 11-February 2 each year. That’s no direct sunlight – in other words, we get more direct sunlight here in Western Finland in December than this village in Italy! Of course, some engineers have designed this gigantic mirror that reflects the sunlight into the town square for 6 hours a day – not really possible in Finland…

Found this blog post from steverp, who reposted it from Trapped in Finland: How to be Happy in Finland. Number 1 – Don’t learn Finnish. I keep meaning to write a blog post about that… I think the most important one, though, is Number 5 – Don’t surrender to negativity. “Finland is not tough for foreigners, it’s tough for everybody. Perhaps the effect of these problems is amplified for foreigners because they are away from home, their comfort zone, but I really don’t think these challenges are due to racism or xenophobia.” Sure, he’s talking more about public institutions and systems, which I don’t really take much part of, but it’s still a good point to remember. Things are tough sometimes, but they seem tougher because we’re out of our element, our comfort zone. One of the things I always remind myself to do when I’m not happy with something, is to take it out of context. If something is odd to me, I ask myself, “Yes, it’s odd, but removing any expectation, is it okay?” Because it’s the expectation that’s the killer.

And finally, this is a rather old post, but I dig it. Float trips are awesome. I really need to find out when this is and attend next year. I give you: Keljakellunta, Beer Floating in Helsinki. Video below is probably NSFW:

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