To Hel and Back :: Edit your Template To Hel and Back: March 2005

Friday, March 25, 2005


I lose myself in books.

Their words take me to other lands where pain doesn't exist.

I read them too fast,no-thoughts-can-interrupt-the-words,no-spaces-in-between.I am breathless.

I read again,
going fully into each word,
then each sentence
so I am wherever my characters are,
wherever the words are set.

But, the book finished, the reading stopped.

I looked for words and found none.

I get down from the bed and the movement,
without words to guide me,
sent tears
wailing, at the walls in the carpet
no sound could muffle
no tissues to stop the salt running into my mouth,
nothing to stop the aching solitude,
the pain of lessons learnt.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

A week survived

An email home in the days before blog:

A WEEK survived. Actually it's ten days later from my arrival and about 8 days since I last wrote, and I already have broadband in the house. Formidable Finnish organisation. And it means some of you will actually get personal replies. Eventually.

First of all an apology to Finns receiving these emails who were offended at me laughing at their country's quirky traits. Hit the unsubscribe button now. No seriously there are plenty of good things about Finland and lots of serious things too but that just won't make for entertaining reading. However, by way of conciliation I would like to offer the following positives for my new home: it has shopping malls with food courts, the public transport is very effecient even when it snows, they actually do have bin liners, tea towels and carton soup in speciality stores (but keep the Turkish Delight chocolates coming) and people like me who speak only English are referred to cleaning firms in our search for employment...

Anyway one week in and my house feels very homely, I haven't lost the special device for assembling my Ikea furniture, I've managed to sort my rubbish at least once and now have 6 different bins in the house and I managed a trip to the laundry, though I did do one virtual load before I realised that the electricity and water is turned off after each use and my washing was sitting there first doing nothing and then doing something but dry...

Easter is coming up. I was terribly excited about visits from the Easter Pupu (Finnish for Bunny). Only he doesn't come. When baby sitting with friends, they told me that at Easter, the children dress as witches, knock on your door and put spells on you if you don't give them chocolate. Then they go dance round bonfires in the woods. Now I have been known to exaggerate and embellish a story as only an ex journo is known to do so I will quote from the official tourist mag "This week in Helsinki" which clarifies: "Small children, dressed as witches, circle around their neighbourhood area with willow twigs. They knock on doors, and given permission, gently whip the backs of every person in the family. This is said to bring luck". I really think this speaks volumes for this country. I'm terrified and not the least looking forward to Halloween.

Last weekend I went on a kick sledge on a frozen lake in a town called Laukkaa. (To demonstrate, Laukka means gallopping when you pronounce it with only one "A" and everyone thought I was going horse riding at first that's how hard this language is) A kick sledge is like a sled, with a back bit for you to ride on and kick yourself forward. It's like a sled-ute if the Aussies can imagine, and you can even stick a dog, your bogan cousin or groceries on it. Walking on frozen water really is exciting. I jumped up and down on the sea today to demonstrate it's strength. This wasn't too appreciated by the old men fishing from a hole in the ice neaby but they still let me poke around their nifty drilling device, tiny fishing poles (about 15 cms long!) and peek at their fish, which were ironically stored in an ice box...
I also went to a snow rally last weekend. There was something like 150 entries. Very impressive. We watched about 20 cars through the first corner, as some foreigner kept complaining about frostbite. Now I know why humans have 20 toes - so we can afford to lose eight on a visit to Finland.

Tonight I celebrated my arrival Finnish style, alone and in a tractor restaurant eating moose stew and pea soup. The soup and the tractors were okay but I could leave the rest... Another reason to avoid hitting a moose on the road, they don't taste that good. At least compared to reindeer.

I'm going away for a few days so the next installment of tales from Moominland will follow much later.
Love Rowena

You have received this email because you inadvertently expressed an interest in my life. If you have received this email in error, or no longer give a damn, please reply with "unsubscribe" in the subject line. If you are demanding a personal email, please send Turkish Delight. Unless you're Finnish, then just forgive me.

Friday, March 11, 2005

A whole new world

In the days before blog, an email:

Dear all
Forgive the nature of a group email, but as I am using GPRS this is my easiest way to let you know I am alive and amuse / bore you with the trivial details of life in a foreign country.

My little place is very sweet in an Ikea storage dream kind of way and needs just the right amount of DIY so that I feel I have personally contributed to it, but not meaning I can't live in it straight away - even if the toilet seat is the ugliest thing known to man.

The whole place is unfurnished, which meant an urgent trip to Ikea upon landing because Finnish decor (wooden flooring and no curtains) doesn't make for a great first night sleep... I have to say it took a lot of strength and a little bottle of wine in the Ikea restaurant to move from the desire to flee the country ("this weird place is my new home?!") to the desire to obtain soft furnishings...

Anyway the house is now a home.

But some observations of Finnish life already:
* It's bloody bright up here - the sun shines very brightly at 7.30 in the morning, bounces off the snow and straight into my headache without even a glance at my blackout style reflective very heavy new curtains...

* To use the washing machine, I need to fill out a bank transaction form for 1 euro each wash...

* I can't buy wine in the supermarket. Don't even contemplate what I have to do to get gin.

* My real estate agent has to write to the landlord of my appartment to officially have my name put on the door. Once this happens, I become a real person and get all sorts of exciting social benefits. Like junk mail. At present I am a member of the previous Babai family and await the new lettering with excitement.

* The post man has the keys to the front of my flat so he can personally deliver each person's mail. Apparently this is for the benefit of little old ladies who don't want to walk downstairs to get their mail, and lazy people who want the daily paper over breakfast but are not going down in their pyjamas for it. The State here is very caring.

Some things I am yet to find (and a hint for anyone contemplating care parcels!)
- bin liners (Finns have to buy plastic bags at the supermarkets and use the old ones for their rubbish that isn't automatically sorted into biodegradable food stuffs, paper, glass, plastic, metals, old spectacles and prosthetics, fabrics, etc.

- carton or tinned soup.They just add water (yuck) or make their own (what to do when feeling sick?) I am making a new rule, anyone coming to Helsinki or Tallin must bring Heinz tomato or pumpkin soup.

- Turkish delight chocolate. This is even beyond translation. All mail to Finland must now be accompanied by 2 bars (one for me and one for the postman who will personally ensure I receive only mail bearing Turkish delight)

Love to you all and thanks for those sending well wishes, emails, texts, cards already - you have no idea how much they all mean.

I'm off to translate the communal sauna roster for the flats and sort my garbage.