Monthly Archives: July 2012

Visiting old friends in Turku – yes, we’re getting somewhere!

Last weekend I continued my small road trip through Finland and visited my “old” university friends in Turku. It’s always a big pleasure, as we used to be very close while studying and nowadays we meet too rarely. However, the positive thing is that we’ve remained so close that the conversation continues from where it was left the last time. That’s a sign of a good friendship.

As to City of Turku, everything looks the same. There are some improvements, though, as the city seems a bit more lively now. Friday night there was an event in the old Brinkkala quarters were local psychedelic bands were playing – not exactly my kind of music, but the idea is great!

We also visited Naantali, a little town near Turku – where they say the sun is always shining. And it was also this time! To me, Naantali is one of the prettiest towns in Finland, it has a special maritime atmosphere in the summer. No wonder that the summer house of our president is situated there. And Moomin World, Muumimaailma, a big amusement park built around these sympathetic fictional characters.

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Aura River – the heart of Turku, the old capital of Finland. Now with some huge ducks (plastic ones).

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Turku public transport offers you many choices!

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“Luckily everything is fine.” A writing in the bathroom of one of our favorite bars, Kuka.

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Visiting the old quarters of Naantali is like going back in time. This street is called “Cat’s Tail”.

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The Church of Naantali. Especially I liked the sandglasses – maybe for controlling that the priest didn’t talk for too long? 😉

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And old time picnic in the park of Naantali. So pretty!

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While men take photos of themselves with expensive cars, I wanted to be photographed with Moomin train in Naantali.

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Lunch in Naantali in one of the restaurants by the sea.

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In the night, we visited a wonderful birthday party in an old school building converted into flat. The photo could be named “Mosquito”. (And not the only one…)

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Dancing the summer night away…

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The first blueberries of the summer found at my friend’s backyard. Superfood for free!

However, the most interesting thing in Turku is to follow where all my friends are heading in their lives. During the student years nobody really knew what we wanted to do with our lives, where to work, whether to have children or not and all the typical choices. So we spent many many long evenings in cafes and bars thinking and talking… like we still do!

This weekend, while sitting in Cosmic Comic Cafe, where we always end up, we started to think whether we’ll ever feel like adults and mature persons? And if that’s a good thing anyway… Someone suggested that maybe it’ll happen when (and if) we ever have kids. I doubt it.

On the contrary, I think that we have already matured a lot, we just don’t notice it. In the end we have come far from the university days, we have chosen to follow some paths and closed some doors on the way, too.

Some friends have got married – and even divorced – some have got children, some are still single but have got a permanent job and an own flat. Some are still doing their thesis or working on whatever they find. One friend is going to Nepal to do voluntary work.

Old friends serve as a mirror to my own life. They know me from many years ago and in many cases they have great suggestions about what I should and shouldn’t do. The best thing was that, while sitting in a bar having a beer and talking of this and that, one friend suddenly said to me that, even if I’m not very happy with my job etc., I look very good and seem a lot more happier now than during our student days. That was a nice thing to hear – and I guess it’s true.

So it’s completely OK to become older and wiser – as long as your friends are getting older with you. 😉

PS: Sorry for the varying quality of the photos: I had iPhone and my boyfriend a real camera…

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A summer house where living is easy…

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Yesterday we visited the summer house of my godparents. It’s a pretty old wooden house, where all their four children with their kids, husbands and wives fit well. In the old days, the sister of my grandfather used to live alone in this big house – till’ she got 100 years old and died. An amazing, strong lady!

So we are very happy that the house stays in the family, as everyone has good memories of the place. It’s about one hour trip away from Tampere, so it’s easy to take the car and spend a day or two there.

This time I went with my mom. The moment I stepped in I remember how much I love old wooden houses, their smell and sounds. It’s always been my dream to live in one. The atmosphere is special, especially in this house were I remember most of the objects from my childhood and I know that elder generations have been living years in these same rooms, painting the walls, having sauna and planting all the flowers and trees.

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However, at the same time I start to feel very nostalgic about how fast time passes and dear old people die. Just two days ago I heard that the husband of the sister of my grandfather died at the age of 97. They had been married more than 60 years, so it’s a big shock to her – she’s also 95 years old. The couple has always been living a very healthy life, but even if their life has been happy and full, it breaks my heart to hear that it’s now over.

But that’s life, and everyone shall die someday – maybe tomorrow, maybe in 50 years. You never know, so the only option is to live your life as full as possible and spend a lot of moments with your loved ones.

Anyway, not to get too melancholic, back to the summer house! The best thing was to hear about my relatives daily routine there. They are now retired, so they spend most part of the summers in this house or with their children in Helsinki or in their other house in Northern Finland – they are free as birds to change address whenever they feel like!

While in the summer house, they wake up early and start working in the house or in the garden – in an old house there are always so many things to do. And they love this kind of simple physical work and look so healthy and happy. They work all day, then in the evenings they eat something simple and nice, home-made food made from local ingredients bought from a market place or a small eat factory nearby. Then they go to sauna (every evening), chat and read a bit and go to sleep. No TV and a mimimun of Internet. No running water. Total peace and simple life.

Oh, how I envy them these days as my daily routine consists of office work: filling reports, sitting in the office and attending more or less boring meetings and processes that don’t have an end. I talked about my discontent also with my godparents. They agreed and truly supported me in looking for other alternatives… I’m so happy I have such a supportive family!

Well, for now I’m on holiday and have more time to think about my future and what I really want from life. Don’t know if leaving the city life behind and going to live in the countryside would be an option for me, but everyday I understand better people who make this choice, too.

All photos: Helsinkimylove

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Mänttä – a little Finnish town full of contemporary art (and naked men)

Yesterday we visited Mänttä, a little town 1,5 hours from Tampere (by car). It was a nice excursion, which we repeat almost every summer with my parents. “The dying industrial town” Mänttä has been able to do something admirable – it has converted into a lively centre of contemporary art! And now Mänttä is a bit stronger, as it was merged with the municipality of nearby Vilppula in 2009.

Mänttä Art Festival (Mäntän kuvataideviikot) is an event of contemporary art that represents mostly new Finnish visual work. There are some established names in the exhibitions, but the festival is also known as a show of experimental and daring art. The artists are invited every year by a different curator. The main venue is Pekilo, a converted factory now filled with art.

And then the verdict. For me, this year’s exhibition was OK, however I didn’t enjoy the it as much as last year – probably because of this year’s curator… for me, the exhibition could have been a lot more daring and focusing on one, interesting theme.

Anyway, there’s a lot more to see in Mänttä, as interesting exhibitions are held also in The Honkahovi Art Centre and in the two Serlachius museums: Gösta Joenniemi’s villa and Gustaf Serlachius Museum, which mostly tells about the centre of Mänttä life in old times – the Serlachius factory.

Here it all began – Serlachius paper factory in Mänttä.

The town has an important industrial past – it’s the former residence of industry magnate R. Erik Serlachius, who practically governed the town with his huge paper factory. The famous Finnish toilet paper Serla was born here. These big guys were luckily interested in arts and culture, too. The factory owner G.A. Serlachius and industry magnates Gösta, R. Erik and Gustaf Serlachius have all contributed to Mänttä becoming a flourishing art town. Now their great collection of famous artworks can be enjoyed by everyone in their museums.

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Pekilo – factory building converted into art museum. Quite ugly outside, full of contemporary art inside.

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Images from this year’s Mänttä Contemporary Art Festival main exhibition at Pekilo.

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This piece was composed by miscellaneous stuff found near the venue.

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At Honkahovi we enjoyed lunch (champignon soup) while admiring the peaceful lake scenery. The villa has also what was once the biggest one-piece window glass in the Nordic countries.

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Sculptures in the garden of Honkahovi by the lake.

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Joenniemi villa. Inside you can find some wonderful artwork from the Serlachius family collection.

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A typical old Finnish wooden house next to Joenniemi villa – inside there is a nice cafe-restaurant.

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We also passed by the centre of Mänttä – and saw some naked guys on the street. I would say this was the most daring performance I saw at the Contemporary Art Festival this year!

Credit of all these photos: Helsinkimylove

Finland – a nation in love with milk

Yesterday I arrived to my parents’ place in Tampere, ready to spend some days without doing anything. Well, anything I don’t feel like doing.

Anyway, being at the parents’ place means that the fridge is always full of good stuff. When I open the door, which I do here a lot, it’s a very different experience than at home as to the variety and quality – my mom is an excellent cook and when the daughter is home so they make sure there’s everything I could ever desire. And I sure enjoy it!

Last evening I accompanied them to do the shopping for the weekend in a huge supermarket called Citymarket. Normally me and my boyfriend do our shopping in a small Alepa or K-supermarket next to our home, so it’s an eye-opening experience to go to these huge places and realize the choice they have – of everything. And in Finland the variety is still quite limited compared to many other countries. Especially in US I always get overwhelmed by the selection of all the products from cheese to sweets. It makes me immediately think do we really need all this stuff? Of course we don’t.

Anyway, this time I focused on the  variety of milk products – Finns love milk and consume a lot of yogurt, “piimä” (kind of sour milk) and “rahka” (kind of quark). Milk is a typical drink for anything: breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, salty, sweet… The speciality of Tampere is a creative combination of “mustamakkara” (blood sausage) with lingonberry jam and a glass of milk. Quite a surprise to my Spanish boyfriend! All in all, I would say milk is our national drink, though younger generations are not so much into it.

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Mustamakkara, the typical dish in Tampere, with lingonberry jam and milk. Here’s also the dessert – a doughnut.

Another thing is that there are as many tastes as there are kinds of milk. Today my parents’ fridge contains 5 different milk packs – all three of us have our milk + some extras. And this is nothing if you think of all the milks you can find in a normal Finnish supermarket.

Moreover, there’s a huge number of Finns who can’t intake milk lactose – for example myself. There’s even a joke that you know when you’ve lived too long in Finland when you become lactose-intolerant. So now they have all the milk products also with little (“hyla” or no lactose (“laktoositon”) And so the variety grows.

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My mom likes her milk semi-skimmed and “hyla” – with only little lactose, as she is a bit lactose-intolerant.

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My boyfriend wants his milk semi-skimmed and normal – as he’s Spanish, no lactose-intolerance involved.

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Today I like soy milk the best even if I drink skimmed low-lactose milk too. Depends of the moment…

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My father drinks normal skimmed milk – he’s not lactose-intolerant but on a diet.

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My brother wants to have his coffee with normal full-fat milk.

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Extras: sour milk – another speciality that is very good and healthy containing a lot of good bacteria.

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My favourite yoghurt – I like it simple, without any artificial taste.

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… and this is the yoghurt of my boyfriend. Danone Strawberry with lots of sugar and stuff.

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Quark – another milk product. I love the sour taste and the fact that it contains so much protein.

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My mom’s favourite. “Viili” is a type of yogurt (a mesophilic fermented milk) that originated in the Nordic countries”, Wikipedia tells.

Actually last year the milk consumption of the Finns went a bit down, as every Finn drank about 129 litres of milk in a year. Still it seems a lot, as not everyone drinks milk at all. Also ice cream was eaten a bit less last year – and Finland is the nation which most ice cream enjoyes in the world! Even if you wouldn’t believe it, as we have are surrounded by ice and snow most of the time  and eating something cold on top of that might not seem wise.

Yoghurt consumption is on the rise, too. Last year every Finn ate 24 kilos of yoghurt. Personally I love natural yoghurt and eat it every morning for breakfast with fruit and seeds.

Anyway, as there’s a very strong low-carb fashion in Finland right now, we consume more and more fat milk and butter (instead of margarine). Also cheese and quark are getting more popular. So I guess we’ll continue heavy consumers of all the white material coming out of a cow – and it’s derivations full of calcium and protein. Not that bad a habit, I guess, even if my vegan friends think it’s crazy to eat “cow’s food”. But even they love soy milk, rice milk, oat milk or coconut milk…

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Don’t get too busy this summer!

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Yesterday was my last day at the office before summer vacation, and because I had either done all the things written on my vague To Do list; happily forgotten what I should have done before the holiday – or too lazy too start anything new, I spent the day having light chats with my colleagues, a long lunch break in the park and surfing the Internet.

Luckily there was some interesting content offered by my dear friends – mostly on all the great things you can do in the summer. One friend got more serious moment and linked Tim Kreider important article The “Busy” Trap on Facebook. I couldn’t agree more with him!

Tim writes about being busy – and says life is too short for it. In America – like in Finland and in most industrialised countries – people tell you all the time how busy they are. It’s the most common answer to the question “How are you?” among my friends too.

What’s worse, more or less subconsciously we encourage people for being busy: “Well, at least you have a job, you’re always so energetic and active etc.”

What Tim is claiming is that our busyness is self-imposed and chosen, not an inevitable condition. People fill their calendars – and unfortunately of their children, too, with activities, hobbies, meetings – whatever to keep them busy.

Tim says we’re addicted to busyness and dread what we’d might have to face in its absence.

“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”

Most of my friends are busy, even when they’re on holiday. They feel anxious when they aren’t doing something “meaningful” and taking advantage of their time, whatever that means.

Even children are (too) busy. Like Tim, when I was small my most common complaint was “I’m so bored, what can I do?!” My parents then offered some ideas but in the end we kids created something to do – and mostly had lots of fun! We learnt not to be afraid of the empty moments but understood them as a good starting point for creativity, games or learning something new – like to fly from the kitchen table to the floor (I was convinced this was possible! 🙂 We didn’t even have a TV at home – and nobody talked about kids’ ADHD those days…

“Those free hours became the model for how I wanted to live the rest of my life”, Tim writes. So they did for me. My dream is to be free, spend a lot of time with my loved ones – and get bored once in a while!

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One important reason for our business is the modern working life:

“More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.”

So true again! For this it’s so hard to tell the elder relatives what I do for work (communications). They are used to jobs where you do something concrete and achieve tangible goals. Nowadays most jobs contain too many complicated processes, abstract planning and innovating. It’s hard to answer the simple question “What did I really achieve at work today?”

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Tim claims that he’s not busy – not anymore, but also he has had busy moments: “every morning my in-box was full of e-mails asking me to do things I did not want to do or presenting me with problems that I now had to solve.”

The solution: Tim moved to a undisclosed location from which he’s writing about busyness. Why?

“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done… Great ideas only come when you have time for nothing – and enough of that!”

Thank you Tim, I’ll try to follow your advice this summer – luckily I’ve learned something of life, as for once I haven’t booked my vacation full of activities. In one hour I’ll catch a bus to my parents’ place in Tampere, I’ll not answer the phone if I don’t feel like it and I don’t have any planned activities for the next xx days. Welcome, wonderful idle days!

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Working from home – or park, bar, beach or…

The last days at work before summer vacation tend to be a bit frustrating. At least at my office – just like in all the offices where I’ve worked before. As Björk sings,  it’s oh sooo quiet. After juhannus, the Finnish Midsummer I talked about in my earlier post, Helsinki becomes a desert city. The little email you receive consists of out of office notifications – or emails from abroad. No wonder, as 38% of Finns take their holidays in July.

I’m an exception as this year I’ll start my holiday later. So also next week I’ll sit almost alone in the office while the sun (so rare in Finland) is nicely shining outside and my Facebook newsfeed is filled with status updates describing all the wonderful things you can do on your vacation.

Anyway, I’m not bitter as my holiday will start soon enough. But as these days I’ve practically nothing to do and too much time to think, I’ve been wondering how much work capacity is being lost during these lazy and unproductive weeks before holidays? Either the employees’ mind is somewhere far away or they just don’t have nothing to do – except of trying to make the time go fast.

Of course many people like it that way, as you can do things you wouldn’t have time to do otherwise; archiving, reading work-related articles, thinking etc. For me this doesn’t really work. First, I should have drafted a To Do list earlier – now I’ve forgotten all that stuff I said I would do “when I’d have time”.

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” — Dorothy Parker. Credit: Brightlivelihoods.com.

Yesterday I met some friends who are in a very similar situation: still at work but not really doing anything. Those who can, decide not to spend the last days before holidays at the office but “working” from home, cafe, bar, park, beach… It sounds like fun but I guess it’s just about making the time a bit more tolerable. If I have to sit 8 hours in the office surfing the Internet, staring at the wall or reading random reports one can’t avoid thinking why, if I’m able to complete all the tasks in 2-3 hours?

The thing is that me and my friends really want to do something – if in any case we have to work. Most of my friends are talented and ambitious young people who have the capacity and urge to achieve things and stay active – otherwise you just get frustrated. At least I notice a clear correlation between my work motivation and things to do – less things to do = less motivation and efficiency.

Work can – and should – be fun and done in a nice environment. What bad can that possibly do to your performance?!

Luckily we found a kind of a solution with my friends. Instead of spending the days alone and frustrated it’s better to join forces and create synergies!  So we agreed to meet up in a cafe or a park, depending on the weather, and work together. This way we can enjoy the summer, help each other with our tasks (as we mostly work in similar fields), share experiences – and have fun while working! I’m convinced it’ll be as efficient a day as any – even more so.

All in all, my opinion is that in any creative workplace the employees should be given the freedom to work wherever they want to and feel comfortable in -when it’s possible. Why? I totally agree with Jason Fried on TedTalks asking “Why work Doesn’t Happen at Work?” These ideas should be considered in every office…

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