Archive for August, 2009


August 23, 2009

Just after we got back from Finland, my computer stopped working.  I took it to be repaired and the conclusion was that the latest Windows update included one file that was casing a conflict with my computer’s settings, a simple enough problem, but it took a long time to fix.  I just got the computer back a couple of days ago and I’m still working at restoring all my data, programs, and settings, which is why I haven’t had anything new to post here in a while.  I’ll have more of an update soon.



August 12, 2009

Last Thursday we flew from Helsinki to Oulu, arriving, after a delay, in the late evening. We stayed with Timo and Paula in their apartment in Alppila and they were very good hosts, as always.

On Friday we paid a visit to Olli and Tiina’s to see our niece Aino. She is about a year and a half old now, up and trundling merrily about on two legs and starting to speak, mostly in single words and still a lot of baby babble. She is an adorable creature, full of energy and sunshine and a little spark of mischief. It sounds that in December she will have a new baby brother to keep her company, as well.

On Saturday, Olli was playing in a game of American football in Oulu, against Helsinki. We went to watch and Oulu won handily, much of it by Olli’s doing.

On Sunday, Ville treated us to massages in his new workplace, set up in the back of a hair salon. Afterwards we went with Timo and Paula to the family mökki, summer cottage, on the lake. In the past few years the lake was drained and dredged and it is much improved for it. The water is clear and good to swim in. Mirja and Eero, E.’s aunt and uncle, were there with their assorted children and we had lots of good food and talk. E. and I had a sauna and a swim, as did most everyone else.

On Monday E. spent the day working on some of her things that were still left in storage in Oulu, sorting out what could be disposed of and what could be taken with us when we head back to the States. In the evening, we had dinner with E.’s cousin Tapio and his family.

On Tuesday we paid a visit to Turkansaari, an open-air museum of old houses, barns, shed, and other buildings from around the Oulu area that have been moved and preserved on an island in the river Oulu a ways upstream from the city. They had some farmhouses from the 1800s, a windmill, many different small barns, sheds, and other farm buildings. There was also a reconstructed tar-burning pit from the days when producing tar was one of the main businesses in Oulu, and examples of the long, flat boats used to float the tar barrels downriver to market. In the evening we went to have dinner with Olli and Tiina and spend more time enjoying Aino. When we saw her last summer she was only a few months old and was very shy of strangers, crying a lot when we were around. This time she was happily toddling around amongst all of us and even spent some time pushing my nose with her little fingers to see what kind of a sound it would make (the answer: “peep!”).

This morning we were up early to fly from Oulu to Helsinki. There we had a layover of several hours before getting our flight back to Boston.

Nuuksio and Naantali

August 6, 2009

On Sunday we had planned to make a trip to the local Ikea, to look for some closet fittings that our store in Massachusetts no longer has in stock, but the bus that was supposed to run between the center and Ikea never showed up. Instead we had lunch and a nice walk in the center.

On Monday, we took a shot train ride a little ways out of town, and then a bus to Nuuksio National Park. It’s a stretch of wilderness with walking trails over some low hills and around a few ponds northwest of Helsinki. The area is beautiful and tranquil. We walked in the woods for a few hours, stopping to pick handfuls of blueberries from beside the trails, and were able to get a bus back to civilization in time for dinner. It’s wonderful both that you can take public transportation to a place like that and that there is a place like that within the area of the greater Helsinki public transit network.

Tuesday we did some shopping in the center and then got a train to Turku to meet some of E.’s friends who live in Naantali, a town just a little ways up the coast from Turku. We spent the night with them there.

On Wednesday we got a bus from Naantali to Turku in the morning. We had tickets for the train in the afternoon, which left us some time to kill. First we browsed in a textile outlet shop. Then we took the local bus to Ruissalo, one of the many islands just off the coast from Turku, to visit the Universtiy of Turku botanical gardens. We enjoyed a stroll around the gardens, then took the bus back to the train station.

At the station, I was checking for my return ticket to Helsinki, and could only find the ticket to Turku. Finally we realized that I must have used the Helsinki ticket by mistake when we came to Turku! Fortunately, we had time to go to the service counter and they were able to replace the ticket for only a small fee.

We met up with Leena back in Helsinki. The three of us went for dinner, then we met up with Lissu and all of us went to see Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

First days in Finland

August 2, 2009

We have been in Finland for a few days now. I’ve pretty well lost track of the time thanks to the crazy sleeping schedule that jet lag has given me. I typically respond to jet lag by sleeping a lot, but this time I’ve hardly slept more than three hours at a stretch. My body and sleep have always had a strained relationship, but it seems they may be on the point of filing for division of assets any day now. Hopefully a little more time in country will get me straightened out—probably just in time to fly home and do it all over again.
We are staying in Helsinki with Lissu for the first week and then heading up north to Oulu. Finland in summer is a special kind of beautiful, even here in the middle of the largest city. Coming to Finland in the summer no longer brings with it the same sense of relief as when we were coming from New York, but it is still a pleasure to be here. E. and I have started talking in a speculative but serious way about buying an apartment in or near Helsinki so we would have a place of our own to stay when we come here to visit, especially now that we both have steady jobs that allow us some good vacation time and we might like to visit Finland a little more often. It is still an idea in the “what if” realm and if anything ever does come of it, it won’t be for at least several years, but it is something we’re thinking about.
On Friday, E. and I had a little jaunt around the center, visiting some shops and paying a visit to the Ateneum National Gallery. There is a special exhibit on now of art depicting or inspired by Kalevala, the Finnish folk epic. It has some wonderful pieces ranging from Classical-inspired works of the Romantic era to modern interpretations. The show contains just about all of the most famous works of Kalevala art, including my very favorite, Sammon puolustus, which shows the hero Väinämöinen fighting off the villain Louhi, who has turned herself into a giant bird to swarm his ship with her warriors.
On Saturday we attended Ropecon, the major role-playing convention in Finland (yes, we know what it looks like to English speakers; it comes from roolipeli, “role-playing game”). Since I’ve never been to a role-playing convention in the States, I can’t properly compare them, but Ropecon it at least very different from the stereotype of gaming cons. One of the wonderful things about gaming as a hobby in Finland is that it seems to have broader appeal than the niche it finds elsewhere. The male/female ration was somewhere around 50/50, by my observation and the age range was from young teens to adults, including a lot of couples, some with their own small children. The atmosphere was buoyant and lively.
Since the guests of honor who are brought in to speak and give presentations at the con often come from abroad, there was a fair amount of programming in English for me to attend, and what I heard in Finnish I was also able to follow pretty well, I’m delighted to say. One of the guests  this year was from Denmark, part of a school that uses role-playing as a key part of its teaching. I was fascinated by his talk and got several good ideas from him. Afterwards I was part of a group that spent some more time talking with him and we exchanged some information about our various teaching methods.
E. spent a good part of the day at dance practice and then dancing at a ball held in the evening. The evening also featured a parade of larp (live action role-playing) costumes and a short musical and dance performance based on stories from Kalevala.