July 31, 2006

Special comment

I forgot to mention that I got a very special comment on this blog on the 20th of July - check it out under the entry "Postcards from all over". :)

I've been chain-drinking water since I came home because I ate a lot of potato-olive-feta-foccaccia a friend made. I also packed, something I hate doing - but good I had a personal online assistant who advised me on how many items of clothing to to take.

Funny coincidence: Brummana, where my uncle lives, is also the home of the Finnish broadcasting corporation's (YLE) correspondent in Lebanon.

I'm sorry these posts are becoming more and more


And I'm sorry the Hong Count is still whirling away, I should come up with something new. Sanna, Martin and I thought of creating something called the GraZähler (all rights reserved) for counting the days to my plunge into Central Europe!

Check back soon again, as I'll try to post pictures and news from the road!

Hope everyone had a fab July.

July 30, 2006

Things in my head right now at 2 am

My uncle started a blog about life in the town of Brummana, a short drive west of Beirut in Lebanon. Link on the sidebar!

After tomorrow (technically, tomorrow) Mikko and I are flying to Dublin for our ultimate Irish adventures. There will probably be a break from posting unless I get online somewhere.

I just had a nice evening with friends, and all right here in Etu-Töölö, the best place to live in all of Helsinki!

My tidying and cleaning frenzy is not letting up. There's always something to take care of here!

Scandinavian Music Group rocks. But I suppose only a Finnish band can have an upbeat song with the lyrics "I'll think about you when I die" (ajattelen sinua kun kuolen). But we wouldn't have it any other way, would we? :)

I should go to bed now. Good night!



July 27, 2006


I don't very well know what to write today. It's very late and I've spent the last hour or so putting pictures from last year's Middle East trip in the album. I wanted to develop more pictures while the offer lasts still this week, but I don't think that's very wise now, since I already spent quite a lot of money today on stuff for the apartment - more on that later - and two weeks in Ireland on a shoestring budget is probably a paradox. I also looked at all the pictures in my 2003 album.

In my last entry, I forgot to mention that the days in the countryside led me to a decision: if I ever have money to spare, I'm going to get myself a summer cottage somewhere. Owning a mökki is strongly engrained in the Finnish psyche, but even if I end up living in the urban jungles of Tokyo or Belushya Guba on the not-reachable-by-plane island of Novaya Zemliya, I want to have a place in the nature to escape to in the holidays.

After reading a book called "Household management for men" some days ago, I was ready to despair about my home. The book is a sort of guide which takes you through every room in the house (and more than that - if anyone has a "utility room" or a "home office", please report it here) and advises you on what chores should be done daily, weekly and monthly. I think that if I would really do all of these things, I would be left with about one hour and a half every day to live a life. The book almost flew out the window when I read the toilet seat should be cleaned every day. Again, if anyone does this, please raise your hands. However, the book did have some positive effects as well - inspired by it, I went on a shopping spree in Claes Olsson and got myself some stuff.

I was reading "Baghdad Burning" today (link still on the sidebar). Quite shocking stuff. And now with the world's attention drawn to the mess in Lebanon, I really feel for all the people around the world suffering similar atrocities. Some may say Finland is boring, but at least it's safe. And for the record, it's not boring :)

Don't know what picture to post here, so I'm going to select one at random from my library.

Poor people who never see snow. Quiz: Where in Helsinki is this picture taken? Oh, and it's from last November.

July 25, 2006

Suomen suvi on kaunis. Mutta lyhyt.*

I came back home today after three days in the countryside. The first night was spent with Dominante in Huosiaissaari, near Punkaharju. The next day, we had a concert in Punkaharju, from where Sanna and her mother picked me up to go to their mökki in Sulkava. It was a pretty spontaneous and successful detour and I really enjoyed it. I spent two nights there - mostly sleeping- and we also made a short tour on the bicycles and visited the Marimekko shop in Sulkava's centre.

Today, I came by bus from Juva - the drive took four and a half hours, which gave me a great chance to get on with Anna Karenina. I'm very grateful for being able to read in a bus since not everyone can do it. In between reading, I listened to music on my iPod. Recent favourites on my playlists include Finnish popular music like Scandinavian Music Group's "Ota minusta puolet" and "Ylpeä sydän" as well as Egotrippi's "Posteljooni" and "Matkustaja" on the pop side. On the classical front, nothing beats simple but moving Finnish choir songs composed precisely for the summer, with Leevi Madetoja's "Onnelliset", composed to Aleksis Kivi's text (which by now has achieved a downright mythical status) about a blissful summer morning,scoring high right now (how did it take me so long to find this song?)

On the computer, I've been glued to airliners.net, searching for pictures of airplanes I've been on with the help of the registers of the aircraft I have in my files. In exactly two months I'm leaving for Graz, so I should start making some sort of a logistical plan of how to organise the tidying, the recycling and selling, and the packing. Before that, however, Mikko and I are flying to Ireland next Monday, so there's some planning to do in that sector as well.

* "Finland's summer is beautiful. But short." Last sentence of Väinö Linna's Finnish classic "Täällä Pohjantähden alla" ("Under the Nortern Star")

Outside Sulkava. Note plastic duck.

July 19, 2006

Postcards from all over

I was sorting my received postcards today and it was really fun. Here's a "highlights"-section of where friends and family have sent me postcards from. Maybe you can find yourself among them! The dates are the dates the card was written, or if someone was so stupid not to write the date, I've tried to decode the all but invisible postage stamps. Whether a card is from right here in Helsinki or the ends of the earth, it's always valued!

23.6.2006 Flight OS 842 DAM-VIE over Turkey (not much of a challenge)
19.5.2006 Bratislava, Slovakia
19.5.2006 Sopot, Poland
2.1.2006 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
30.8.2005 Pesaro, Italy
26.6.2005 Pretoria, South Africa (sent to Damascus while I was there!!)
25.12.2004 Dunedin, New Zealand

21.8.2004 Sunny Beach, Bulgaria (bonus points for taste)
10.6.2004 Kangasniemi, Finland (from an ever-faithful card writer)
28.8.2002 (11:55 o'clock) bus between Köln and Hannover
9.10.2001 Cuicocha, Ecuador
15.6.1998 Inzai city, Japan
6.8.1996 Airplane to Australia

Two for the price of one

Finnair's AY2114 PMI-HEL (from Mallorca) with Carlos, Hamsa and Dea inside, is dwarfed by AY68 HKG-HEL, with Sanna returning from Hong Kong (and about twenty-six countries before that) inside it. Picture taken last Sunday.

July 18, 2006

Common misconceptions about Finland

To name just a few...

- Finland is a bleak, freezing and remote place somewhere in Northern Europe; few people would volunteer to live there.

- It is always winter in Finland and the country is covered in snow year-round.

- Polar bears roam the streets of the northern towns and occasionally venture into Helsinki. (okay, probably the only people who still think this are Texan farmers - - I hope they retaliate with a list of common misconceptions about Texas).

- Finnish people are so used to being cold that they never complain about it, even shrugging at full-blast air conditioning while people from other countries turn into icicles.

- Finland used to belong to Russia. Hence the extinct car code SF (Soviet Finland).

- Finland is a neighbouring country of the United States (a certain Kurdish driver in Eastern Turkey).

- All Finns dress in those Laplandish costumes you see on tv.

- The Finnish language is very similar to Swedish.

- The Finnish language is very similar to Russian.

- Russian is the official language of Finland.

The list goes on and on. Feel free to add!

July 17, 2006

Exactly a year ago...

I was choosing pictures from last year to send to be developed, and I came across these pictures taken last year in Lebanon. We all hope there will be peace there soon. It's easy to shrug off the crisis as happening in some faraway place, but Lebanon is closer to Helsinki than Portugal. The first two pictures are from Beirut and were taken exactly a year ago.

July 14, 2006

Helsinki happenings

Suitcase syndrome - a rare disease encountered only in one Damascene household. Contageous to humans.

It's now been just over a week since I came back home from Damascus. There hasn't been a dull moment here in Helsinki, which just is the best city in the world to spend the summer - and what a summer it is here, with temperatures reaching thirty degrees celsius and all the bars with their open-air terraces open. I just came home from a rock concert in Kaivari, and it was really nice to walk all the way home through the quiet streets. Today was a day like most of the days of the past week - waking up around 11, lunch at a cafe or snack bar after 14, out in the evening. In between, I have finally started reading Anna Karenina, watched "Six Feet Under" and sorted out almost all my clothes.

Of course this doesn't mean I don't enjoy visiting Damascus - as anyone who has been following this blog for the past month must know already, it's a place I could always go to. And next time I will plan a trip all the way to Istanbul. Another place I should get to sooner or later is Petra in Jordan. There will always be things to see and trips to make from Damascus, but with the Israeli army now also attacking the highway between Damascus and Beirut (which I have travelled through a couple of times), I start thinking about what COULD have happened, if I had made my trip to Syria two weeks later and would have now gone to visit my uncle in Lebanon, like I did almost exactly a year ago. In the worst case, I just would have been trapped in Lebanon for who knows how long.

And it doesn't stop there: I was reading the newspaper the other day and there was this big story about how Eastern Turkey has once again become a very insecure place, with demonstrations and riots by the Kurds taking place in the major cities - the media claims the whole region has been on alert since March. I don't know whether my plans would have been affected if I had known this before I went, but I'm very glad I went anyway, because I didn't experience anything unpleasant.

Okay, well I'll start to get back into the routine of writing posts here. Stay tuned!

July 02, 2006

Finnish influences in Syria

It doesn't take the keen-eyed visitor a long time to realise that Finnish influences are everywhere in Syria, penetrating the society and culture at the deepest level. Just take a look, for example, at this plaque by the Finnish Sauna Society I came upon when visiting a local bath-house in the old town of Damascus today.

Or how about this jaw-dropping sign the seller is holding - in the middle of the bustling Aleppo covered markets!!!

I have no idea how this could be possible! The only explanation is that he heard there were visitors from Finland in the bazaar and quickly took out the sign in the right language. Either that, or this was really a freak coincidence.