Monthly Archives: April 2012

Relaxed weekend vs success

This weekend I’ve been visiting my parents in my dear old hometown Tampere. More about this excellent city shall follow later on in the blog.

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Hämeensilta, the main bridge of Tampere. The statues have got decorated for "vappu, the 1st of May party.

All week I’ve been feeling tired and a bit stressed at work, so my plan for the weekend was only to relax. This is why I came to come to Tampere to my parents’ place. Enjoying their good company, great food supply, sauna and sofa cures anything. I told only one friend that I was coming to avoid any “obligations” to meet. Yesterday we did some successful shopping and enjoyed cava in a cozy restaurant H2 + K.

However, things normally don’t go as planned. Lately I’ve been writing quite actively as freelance journalist to some magazines and, because of my slight crisis at work and big need to develop myself as writer, I’ve been saying YES to all the enquiries to write something. So on Friday I promised to write an article about Pixelache festival and Helsinki African Film Festival, both to be held in Helsinki in May. As I’m “specialized” in writing about arts & culture…

The negative things is that deadline for both these articles is tomorrow. Thus, a big part of my “relaxed” weekend has been contacting interviewees, looking for background information, writing, editing and watching African films.

The paradox is: I love writing and I’m ambitious, but at the same time I feel a constant voice saying in my head “it’s weekend so please please relax – as you promised – and have some fun!” Of course, it’s not the first time when this happens. I really want to become a better writer and establish freelancer contacts with new publications, but this means working in the evenings and weekends. And I’m jealous about my freetime. I love, need and deserve it!

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Would I rather spend a Saturday evening with my friend and cava here or home alone working? 2h + K restaurant in Tampere.

This morning I read a column about success in Aamulehti, the daily newspaper of Tampere. The journalist asked himself, why he hadn’t become a professional photographer, which used to be his dream. In the end he said that he loved too much his “freedom to do whatever – or nothing at all”. And to succeed you need to concentrate on ONE thing and forget about everything else. It might not sound that hard, but it is. For me, this weekend it meant forgetting about the following:

  • Spending a whole evening on the sofa reading a good book – without a work-related thought on my mind.
  • Cooking and having a nice long dinner with my parents and enjoying some good red wine.
  • Visiting the new home of my friends, even if they live nearby.
  • Having a long, relaxed walk around the neighbourhood observing the spring around me.
  • Hanging around the centre of Tampere and having a coffee – without time limits – with my old friends. Concentrating on their stories – without thinking about my own work!
  • And, most importantly, having time just for doing nothing. This is very important for me, and anybody, to get totally relaxed and letting your thought flow freely and get some creative ideas…

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Sure, this is just one weekend, so I’t ok, but I definitely wouldn’t be ready to give up of all the spontaneity and fun in life just to become an excellent writer. Or excellent whatever. And they say, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” I prefer to be happy and free than excellent at something – and I still don’t accept that these two things are incompatible! So for now I’ll shut down the laptop and go with my Dad to visit a fish market in Tampere.

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Training at work – take it or take it

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Today we had a one-day training on Conscious Email writing at my office. For some reason, only women participated. Yes we have a female majority, but still.

I was kind of looking forward to the training, as I work in communications and thought it might offer useful and concrete methods for writing effective emails. Well, it didn’t. Even if the trainer was a nice young lady with lot of experience in Finnish language and ideas about consciousness and mindfulness to make you more happy with yourself, other people and the universe.

Maybe I just have wrong attitude or am too critical, but I knew this wasn’t for me when we started to drag feelings written on pieces of paper from “a sack of feelings” and then act according to “happy”, “sad”, “frustrated” etc. Then others had to guess which feeling we represented. I felt like a 15-years old on a school camp…

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“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” – Zen Master Shunryo Suzuki. Credit: Dialectic&Therapy

During the day we did lots of writing exercises: writing an happy vs angry email, walking around the block (in a pouring rain) and writing about our good and bad observations. We even ate a raisin – mindfully. This Raisin Exercise is actually quite famous – and sure, it was quite fun. Looking carefully at the raisin, putting it in our mouth and slowly biting and swallowing it… OK, I felt a bit funny but maybe it was my unconscious side fighting against development?

Still, I wasn’t alone with my feelings as two of my communications colleagues also participated the training and shared my “agony”. And two guys who decided not to take part said they were sorry for us girls and laughed that “it’s better not to go to any training” to avoid all that Neo Hippie stuff. “Three years without any training and I’m very happy”, stated the other guy. Anyway, I warned them that starting from now they would receive emails from me filled with love for the universe and positive energy… “Please don’t”, there answer was.

All this said, I think mindfulness, meditation and in general concentrating on the present moment are great things to practise. But you should keep them in a bigger context and not impose the ideas on people in an artificial way… Where does the thin line go? Maybe in how you feel? Today me and my colleagues felt awkward.

OK, I’ve also been to various excellent trainings in my life. Actually just 2 days ago I attended a very interesting seminar on fundraising. What’s do interesting trainings have in common? They challenge you, make you think and offer something completely new – but at the same time useful in your every day work. Today, I felt I’d heard all this stuff many times before and I really couldn’t see myself implementing them in my daily work: I wouldn’t ponder my inner feelings every time I sent an email. Or I wouldn’t analyze people sending me email: their life, dreams, character… At least not in a conscious way.

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What is mindfulness? Credit: The Cognitive Therapy Behaviour Partnership.

Ah, luckily it’s weekend! I’m visiting my parents tonight, having a sauna and my mom prepared some fresh asparagus (it’s the period) and an excellent gin tonic for me. I shall fall in bed very soon – unconsciously… Good night!

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Crazy Days in Helsinki

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The entrance of Stockmann in Helsinki. Thousands of people coming and going. Credit: Suomen Kuvalehti.

Today it started – “Hullut päivät”, The Crazy Days in Helsinki. The streets are filled with people carrying yellow plastic bags with ghost images and people ask you whether you have already been “there”. Some announce that they hate it and would never go there (even if most of them have been there many times and will keep on doing it).

All this started as a marketing trick of a big traditional Helsinki department store, Stockmann. The first Crazy Days was organised in 1986, and nowadays it’s held twice a year for 5 days.

The event works so well, because there’s a clever psychological catch. Normally, Stockmann is considered quite expensive and posh, so during these 5 days “anyone” has the chance to feel a bit special and buy products that would normally be too expensive.

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Typical Hullut päivät bags, Helsinki. Credit: Yle.

Today I worked from my dear home office day and stayed in pyjama till early afternoon. Despite this, I really was working quite hard… In the afternoon I had to get dressed and go to my boxing lesson. And after jumping around and kicking the sack for an hour, my boyfriend called – from Hullut Päivät. So there I went. I have some strange, perversive love with this event. I hate the rush and people pushing you around but there’s something mysterious that draws me to Crazy Days…

Balloons and stuff. Buying is so much fun...

Maybe it’s the tradition. I remember Hullut päivät from my childhood, all the typical sweets and products that they still sell – only during these five days. It’s a carnaval! People queuing at 7am for getting cheap flight to Peking, London, Mexico City… whatever happens to be in the offer. They really sell everything from food, electronics, books and clothes to cars, boats, jacuzzis and trips to China. New items are revealed every day, so you never know what you might be able to buy. Well, even if you read it all in the catalogue.

In the end we spent a couple of hours wandering and looking at things. My boyfriend bought three CDs and I tried to find some cosmetics. But I’m becoming more selective – or stronger perhaps, as in the end I noticed that I really didn’t need anything. Well, till we found a tomato plant that we definitely wanted for our home! Probably we’ll have to back to Crazy Days before Sunday, as in the end we got too tired and confused and forgot to buy the thing…

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Helsinki: design, design and sponsored beer!

Last Thursday my dear friend, who owns a growing illustrations agency here in Helsinki, published a book! The book is called “Keltainen Kaupunki“, The Yellow City, and it features seventeen Helsinki themed stories by prolific Finnish authors. These stories are illustrated by some wonderful illustrators from my friend’s agency.

This year Helsinki is the World Design Capital, and the book project is part of the year’s events. Honestly, I don’t know how many people know about this year outside Finland (and Helsinki) but at least inside the design quarters of Punavuori, Helsinki, it certainly is a big thing. A couple of my friends are working in the Design Capital office, so I’ve stayed more or less tuned on what’s going on. And the good thing is that many young, prominent artists get new opportunities thanks to this special year. I only hope the good things shall continue in the years to come…

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A new, still unfinished gallery in Jätkäsaari, Helsinki. Looks good!

Anyway, it’s always a pleasure to attend an opening or a publication party of any big project: observing the relieved faces of the people, happy of the luckily finished cooperation and, for us visitors, sharing their joy and catching up with old friends. The party was organised in an old factory compound in Jätkäsaari, the newest neighbourhood to-be here in Helsinki, at the moment still under construction. But there’s already some vivid cultural activity going on there.

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Carlsberg, good bread and cheese - all you need for a good party. Well, maybe some wine too...

My friend was even lucky enough to get the Danish beer Carlsberg as sponsor. To accompany the beer, we enjoyed some big fresh bread with cheese and grapes. Basic but so good – both for your eyes and palatals. Here’s another blog entry about the event – and the beer – by one of the illustrators of the The Yellow City.

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There was also a DJ playing some smooth music and on the second floor we could visit a photo exhibition about Finland – the big images looked great in the empty, unfinished loft space and some of them were quite impressive…

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Yes, in Finland people like to be naked. Sauna and all. A work from the photo exhibition in Jätkäsaari.

All in all, it’s great that interesting cultural things are going on in Helsinki. And what’s even better is that my friends are taking so active part in them! These moments I feel so proud of my city.

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Sausages, beer, pretzels and castles – you’ll find all this in…


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The typical Bayerian dish - white sausage, beer and pretzel. Served only in the mornings.

This time it’s not about my dear Helsinki but of Munich and Riga!

What’s the (only?) negative thing about spring? It doesn’t offer us workers any considerable holiday breaks. So I try to take advantage of any long weekend and travel around with my boyfriend. For Easter, we went to Munich and spent a night in Riga on the way.

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Riga panorama from a bar in a clock tower. The bar is a bit styless but the view compensates it.

My first ever visit to Riga was nice but brief. We wandered around, visited typical markets and slept in a hostel owned by Australians. Must go back in the summer, as Air Baltic offers very cheap direct flights from Helsinki.

Then Munich. Well, it never was a dream destination for me, but why not (the only cheap flights we could get for those dates with a coupon we had to spend).

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The best of Bayer: Neuschwanstein Castle. We were "lucky" enough to visit it in a middle of a snow storm - in April!

The Bayerian traditions sure are interesting. Like the rypical “breakfast”, white sausages and 1 litre of beer (with prezel, of course). Or the traditional costume dirndl sold everywhere – and people who so happily wear them on the street or in the traditional beer gardens.

Ah, the beer! Normally I’m not a fan of (Finnish) beer, but the Munich versions were excellent! Especially beer with lemon. I could easily drink a litre or two of that.

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The famous Hofbräuhaus Beer Garden in Munich. Here Hitler organized the first publicity and propaganda events in 1920.

Munich is the richest and the most expensive city in Germany, which you really notice. People look wealthy as do their cars. Munich is the home of BMW, and I really got a lesson on car history as we spent some hours in the BMW headquarters and museum – a deal we made with my boyfriend so we would later see some modern art  – well, in the end we skipped it for the lack of time. But instead I got some nice beer with lemon in the park.

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Our hotel remembered us with a bottle of wine. Nice. As my boyfriend doesn't like wine, well, a woman has to do what a woman has to do...

Still, after four days of Munich – and of snowstorms and rain – it was great to come back to the sunny Helsinki. The routine is not that bad when you get away once in a while. Yesterday we took out the bicycles from the winter shelter and tonight we had a great hot sauna. Now it’s just perfect to lay down on the home sofa with a glass of red wine, jamón serrano and picos. Not very Finnish but hey – mixing cultures is the thing of today. 😉

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Jamón ibérico de bellota (the best kind) and picos (Spanish bread snacks) for dinner. Home sweet home - Helsinki.

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Easter the Finnish way – eggs, lamb and mämmi

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Easter decorations. Credit: Kotiliesi

This evening I’m off to Munich for Easter holidays, so I probably won’t get to experience all the Finnish Easter stuff. At least I can write about our Easter traditions – some of them are quite interesting.

Our Easter celebrations started last Sunday. On Palmsunday (Palmusunnuntai) children go from door to door dressed like Easter witches and doing “virpominen” by waving decorated tree-branches and wishing a good year with a rhyme. The kids give the branch away – if they receive sweets or coins in return. A bit like Halloween’s “trick-or-treat”.

I used to love this when I was small. We dressed up with my friends, went around the neighborhood and finally shared our “catch”. Good candies were worth a lot more than “boring” coins. Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs  we liked the most. And I still do, even if now the selection of chocolate eggs is a lot wider.

Unfortunately we didn’t receive any witches at our door last Sunday – well, we didn’t have any candies either – as in the city the entrance doors are locked and the kids can’t get in. 😦

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Little witches doing "virpominen". Credit: Yle

Tomorrow it’ll be Easter Friday. While I’ll be walking around Munich, I know many Finns stay silent at home. When I was a kid, my mom didn’t let me do almost anything this sad, gloomy day – even if my family wasn’t religious. In Finnish the day is called “Long Friday” (Pitkäperjantai) and it really felt so! According to tradition you weren’t even allowed to smile with your teeth this day.

At Easter you decorate your home with twigs and branches and grass you cultivated in jars or tins. You also hide cholocate eggs around the house and then children look for them. Well, my mom still does it for me and a colleague just told me that she hides eggs for his boyfriend. So the tradition goes on.

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Lamb is a typical thing to eat for Easter. Credit: MTV3

Special dishes include eggs in different forms, of course, and lamb – to celebrate the end of what used to be fasting for Easter. And it still is, for some.

A truly special Easter delicacy is “mämmi”. Foreigners normally hate this stuff that reminds closely… poo! If you are brave enough to taste mämmi, you’ll notice that it’s not that bad – with sugar and cream. At least I like it! Once a year, that is.

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Mämmi. You love it - or hate it. But you've got to taste it! Credit: Wikipedia

Another typical dessert comes from Russia, Pasha. This is heavy stuff, so taste it – but not too much. Compared to mämmi, this is a more “normal” thing to eat, I guess. 😉

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Pasha, the Russian contribution to Finnish Easter. Credit: Wikipedia

So, “Hyvää pääsiäistä”, Happy Easter! Have a rest and eat enough chocolate eggs.

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The perfect job that never was

The sun is shining and it’s almost Easter, so I left the office early and called up a friend for a glass (it ended up to be 3) of rose in my new favourite bar next to home – Birds Cavabar that featured on the blog also yesterday… I don’t drink cava EVERY day though.

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Lapinlahdenkatu, the street of Birds Cavabar. Today it looked just like this - a pleasure to wait for my friend out in the sun.

Anyway, it’s great to see my dear friend, who works as producer for a talented Finnish photographer and who is going to open an art gallery soon. What happens nowadays is that we mostly talk about work – I guess something has changed, as before men (and various other subjects) used to come before the career.

My friend hadn’t heard what happened to me with my job interview a couple of weeks ago. In a nutshell, I’ve been feeling a bit frustrated at my current job, and been looking for “new challenges”. So I sent an application for a communications job at the Ministy of Internal Affairs. It sounded perfect.

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Ha! And I thought I was clever choosing well paid & interesting. But something essential was left out...

To my big surprise they called me for an interview! They had received 172 applications and interviewed only 5, so I felt fortunate. I spent days preparing: studying their webpages, reading their comms strategy, composing a clever answer for any possible question.

On the day of the interview I felt confident. People were nice and everything seemed to go ok… just that it didn’t. I had this strange feeling that something was wrong, and when I got out I texted my boyfriend that I don’t get this job.

And I didn’t. A week later I received an email telling that they chose someone else – the person who is currently doing the job (with a temporary contract). So, in the end it was a kind of a fake job offer – normally they always choose the person who they already have working – if he/she isn’t a complete disaster. That’s a normal procedure and perfectly just. What is not so just is that you have almost 200 people who honestly think they’ve got a fair chance: nobody told be what the situation was – and of course I didn’t realize to ask about it. Next time I will.

But it’s interesting that talking about my experience I heard many similar stories from my friends. Is this a common procedure? I couldn’t find any info with some Googling, but it sure would be interesting to know.

Well, there’ll be more jobs and mine is not that bad – at all. Still, looking for something new once in a while is good for you! It makes you evaluate your abilities and helps you to demand more at your current job – they shouldn’t take you for granted.

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The art of being sick – not again?!

It’s been a while since I blogged – the reason is that I’ve been lying half dead in bed for some days. Well, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but at least I’m positive that my THIRD flu this year has been the worst one so far.

I noticed I wasn’t feeling too well last Thursday when I was having lunch at the university cantine near my job. It was this: pea soup and pancake (hernekeitto and pannukakku in Finnish), the typical Thursday dish here in Finland, no idea why. Wikipedia tells that in the old times eating pea soup (which contains pork) is said to be preparation for fasting on Friday. Anyway, the tradition still goes strong – and I love it!

My lunch last Thursday - the traditional pea soup with pancake and strawberry jam - notice the heart shape... And some salad to make it healthy.

Anyway, while I was eating I started to feel strange: totally exhausted with sore throat and runny nose – and without any appetite. Actually my appetite is still a bit gone. It feels strange not to get hungry when “you are supposed to”. So I’ve been eating light – except of the vanilla ice cream, as a doctor told me it’s good for your throat. Well, that was when I was 10 years old, but of course I still believe him.

The worst thing this time was getting sick just before the weekend! As they say, like the good workers do… You really should get compensated for losing your weekend. So unjust.

Today is the first day I feel normal, more or less – and it feels wonderful! Just sitting on the sofa with the afternoon sunshine, eating an apple that tastes of something again – and watching my boyfriend passing the vacuum cleaner around the house (hrm, I’m still a bit too weak to do some things… 😉

The sun makes me especially happy, as it gives faith that spring actually is on its way. It was already around the corner but then, suddenly, it started snowing a couple of days ago and the people of Helsinki got hysterical: what is this?!? Snow in April??!! Well, in the end it’s not that strange here in the North, but I understand them. After suffering a long winter you really grave for spring. So please: go away snow!

There are nicer things too, of course. Last week I discovered a great new bar just around the corner: Birds Cavabar. They have excellent  Can Paixano cava from a Barcelona producer – whose rosé is especially delicious. The next best thing is the price: 2,50 euros for a glass and 10 euros for a bottle (+ they give you free pistachios, not so common here in Helsinki…) They also serve fajitas (my friend tried and liked it) and salads for lunch. Highly recommended. And the place reminds me of the 6 months I lived in Barcelona… oh those times.

Birds Cavabar in Kamppi, Helsinki

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