September 28, 2007

Momentous days

Last week's word would probably be self-reflection. As pointed out by fellow wayfarer Melissa, it's in the air. Well, but I won't bore you with more of that. You know what I mean!

Last weekend, Carlos, Dea and I flew to Germany to my cousin Andy's wedding. Finnair cancelled the flight about two hours before we headed to the airport, and we were, as it so wittily said on our new ticket, "involuntarily rerouted" via Frankfurt, that absolute monster of an airport. While us aviation freaks kept gaping at the machinery outside, Dea almost made us miss our connecting flight trying to find the right lip-gloss from the duty free. After a 25-minute hop to Nürnberg, our traditional race against time began as we made a dash to the U-Bahn and arrived at the Hauptbahnhof five minutes before the train to Bamberg left the station with us panting and sweating inside it.

Frankfurt, seen from the plane.
The wedding was a huge family event, and on Saturday there were no less than nine people with the surname Juris scurrying around a lawn outside Lichtenfels, frantically photographing each other and sobbing their hearts out as Imke and Andy got hitched. The "Jesus loves you" -guitar-accompanied communal songs (swaying optional) were accompanied by some Bavarian drinking songs when an Oktoberfest-barge sailed past us on the river. After the essential steps, a dash was made towards the tables, which were heavy with delicious cakes (I think I tried about six of them). Imke M. Be...x, welcome to our family! I haven't managed to update the family tree yet.

Hark to hear this blissful sigh, expressed by my very romantic sister.
I suppose weddings are typically places for single people to make some serious catches, but apart from a constantly giggling nurse with a scary tattoo on her neck, I was pretty much left to myself. Dea, on the other hand, had her hands full escaping from one of her same-aged fellow visitors, who was brave enough to come and ask me whether my sister had a boyfriend.

On our way back on Monday, we managed to do some hit'n'run-shopping in Nürnberg, and a couple of hours later we were back at home. On Tuesday, I secretly celebrated the anniversary of my departure to Graz. This would probably go under our word of the week. And maybe it's a coincidence that about six people from my second hometown have contacted me since Tuesday. Or maybe not? My year there seems a frighteningly perfect cycle (perfect in the sense that it is logical, not that it always felt perfect), that maybe it's no surprise that, exactly a year after starting it, I still feel something like ripples hitting me after my most memorable plunge yet. But I am very lucky, because I am happier than ever in Helsinki.

What else has passed through my mind this week? I need a haircut. I want to learn the names of all my singers by next week. At Wednesday's rehearsal, I could identify 20 people out of 35, and that's only two weeks after taking over the choir. I'm very pleased! I still need some furniture, and I also want to start decorating my walls. Somehow, a packet of chocolate biscuits has been annihilated while writing this entry. I also just threw some sheep at friends in Facebook - somehow my evenings just don't seem right without this dubious activity anymore.

September 20, 2007


It's 7:45 in the morning and I am sitting in my room in this new flat where J and I have now soon lived for three weeks. Although this is a busy part of town, I can't see too big of a rush on Kustaankatu, nor on the small slice of Helsinginkatu visible from here. I just finished my glass of orange juice and am considering a refill. J is still asleep, probably exhausted from his trip to Tallinn with his Japanese guests.

I myself am travelling to Germany tomorrow to attend my cousin's wedding. My last visit to Bamberg was last February, something of a strange time - maybe one could say a sort of calm before the storm or. How incredible to realise it was barely half a year ago. This will probably be a totally different visit. My father and sister are coming, too, and what's best, we'll see my uncle and his wife, who travelled all the way from Quito. My mother is in Damascus, visiting her family which is going through a rough time.

I have quite a long day ahead! At ten, a totally useless course where we don't really need to worry yet if we don't know the theme for our final written presentation but actually it would be good if we could hold a little speech about our subject right now. After that, a chamber music rehearsal, and then our choral conducting group lesson (goodie). This reminds me of a friend's birthday today - I should stop somewhere on my way and get him a card. Afterwards, I'll be rumbling across the bridges of Lauttasaari as bus 103 takes me on my six-times-monthly trip to Otaniemi (it actually only lasts 15 minutes) and end the day by conducting a rehearsal of Murtosointu (Schütz, Brahms, Komulainen, Tormis). In between, I'll hopefully have time to take care of some things which would otherwise crash upon me when I come back.

Suddenly, Duruflé's Requiem starts playing on my computer, and I am instantly transported to Chorforum Gleisdorf's rehearsals in that slightly stuffy but spacious school classroom, with me on the grand piano and Natasha tying up her hair for some serious conduting action. "Where shall we begin?" "How about this wonderful melody here?" "Oh yes, play the melody... Daaa daaa daaa daaa daaaaaaa daaaaa.." A postcard with the Graz opera house on it arrived from Petra the other day (she was visiting), and lately I have also been receiving the rehearsal schedules of cpmg by email. They probably forgot to take me off their mailing list, but I don't mind. As a matter of fact, WHOA! Today is their first rehearsal after the summer!

Speaking of rehearsals, yesterday was my second session with one of my new choirs, and while it did go very well, I have to admit my self-confidence shook just that tiny bit when I realised we were ten singers less than the first time. Well, maybe they just all caught that flu which is going around. An interesting observation, by the way: it really makes a difference if a choir rehearsal ends at 20 or 21. Used to the latter, Wednesday seems a pleasure, because I arrive home at 20:10 and practically have a whole day left before sleep takes over!

We've switched from Duruflé to Vaughan Williams. I probably should kick myself up from this chair, have something to eat, take a shower, and go out the door. Guess what, it started raining again.

September 13, 2007

Life rocks.

Accompanied by the delightful sounds streaming through my window (just now, a very drunk man banging on a door and cursing a woman at the top of his voice), I am reading an advertisement which just came in our door - it looks like someone called Sahsa (you read right) is starting a new restaurant right below us (Ravintola Pelmenit), which opens next Monday at six in the morning. I especially like the post scriptum: "Please bring this invitation, but don't bring any money!". Definitely worth checking out.

Today, J finally got rid of that shower curtain - it'll be nice to be able to shower now without having to constantly peel what feels like soggy newspaper from around my neck. Our next project is to find fitting shelves for our kitchen cupboards - something which has proven to be difficult as the sizes on sale are just that teeny weeny bit too small (we've already returned two sets to the store). Also, I wouldn't mind if our landlady finally gave me a key which actually opens our basement so I can finally use the communal washing machine and do something about this pile of dirty clothes on my floor.

Anyway, perhaps now is a good time to remind everyone that yes, I have now started a new life in Kallio, that squirmy, trendy, filthy, vibrant, hot, whatever-you-want-to-call-it neighbourhood between the metro stations of Hakaniemi and Sörnäinen. Well, officially our building is located in Alppiharju, but since I can see Helsinginkatu, which separates us from Kallio, from my window, I guess this is more Kallio than Alppiharju. As I am sitting now, I have the metro station to my left, tram number eight right ahead of me, and several buses to the right. Welcome!

Actually, it's pretty cool. On average, the smallest apartments in Helsinki are located right on these streets (ours has 44 square metres), so it's filled with young single adults. J and I haven't made a tour of the local bars yet, but since most of them advertise their happy hour (a very misleading concept, don't you think?) at 9 in the morning, I guess they cater for a slightly different customership than hardworking students. Or maybe not. Anyway, we have everything we need here - plenty of grocery stores, sports facilities (I'm trying to sound convincing here), and culture (predominantly Thai).

What can I say about my room? Well, it's not quite ready yet. The shelves have been tightly (fingers crossed) screwed to the wall, and I must say it felt really nice to finally take out all my books and other things out from their boxes after almost a year. In Graz, I was often asked why I didn't have any books ("Don't you read?"). Watch me now, everyone, as I display rows and rows of Dickens, ancient copies of Hesse and a small but significant comic book section! Turn green with envy, o sceptical ones, at my collection of choral and operatic scores! Gaze in awe at my... okay that's enough. You get the idea!

Our doors tend to behave erratically - close one, and another one on the other side of the apartment pops open with a snap. On the other hand, closing the doors to my room is no easy task since they like to open again on their own, so there you have it.

My flatmate has a bigger room, and a piano. Otherwise, our belongings don't differ that much - we even have the same Murakami books on display. Oh, and by the way, I just have to boast about our bathroom's refreshening system - an ingenious spraying device J installed on our wall. Welcome to try it!