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Glimsjoki nature trail

May 25, 2020

Yesterday I took a walk on the Glimsjoki nature trail here in Espoo. If you follow the map, you start from the Träskända manor (in the Järvenperä area. The trail is a bit rough in parts and Glimsjoki isn’t much of a river (more like a creek), but it’s a nice trail and takes about an hour if you don’t stop to look at anything. There some very big trees in this area: pines and oaks. This is a good time of the year to walk because there are no mosquitos yet! The biggest surprise on this trail was coming out at the Jorvi & Espoo hospitals on the old Turku road – Glimsjoki is flowing quickly downhill by this time (and it’s loud); and you would never know you’re near such a huge complex, unless you look up through the trees!

I’ll post a few pics from my walk here for you to enjoy.

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On coronavirus, part II

April 20, 2020
tags:

This entry contains my own opinions and observations about the coronavirus situation in Finland and in my personal life. You are free to disagree. All comments on my blog are moderated, so any abusive remarks towards me or my opinions will not be approved.

We’re into week 5 of being at home from work and school… My dog is like:

At school

The City of Espoo has done some good stuff since the kids were asked to stay home. Though it looks like the school year will end at home (and they won’t meet at school anymore). We will probably know more in a few weeks. That’s sad – the Miss’ class is moving on to grade 7 in the fall and that’s a lot of familiar faces that they may not see in person anymore for good long time. 😦

In any case, a message came through back on March 26 that kids who wanted (and needed) food services could apply to have a snack bag delivered to the school every day, where they can go and pick it up. It came on very short notice, but for the families who depend on school food being provided every day (yes, every day – and without any extra cost), this is extremely helpful. There were a lot of restrictions apparently, and hiccups along the way, but the idea was a good one. I am sure a best practices policy will come out of this.

At work

In an on-line meeting one of my colleagues professed to drinking up to 20 cups of coffee per day. I wonder if he needs a pallet of coffee delivered to his home any time soon. LOL!

Some people who need access to certain tools at the office have been allowed to be at work. People have also been dropping in on an as-needed basis to get things done or pick stuff up.

We’ll find out more soon about when we can start going back to work – and stay there.

At home

The Mr. is getting stir crazy. I don’t blame him. Provided we are not subject to any heavy restrictions, it looks like we will both continue to go to the office once a week for a change of scenery. I have actually had to go there out of necessity.

One of my colleagues at work gave a great tip to those of us who have two-car (or more) households. We are able to take insurance off a vehicle temporarily, which is helpful especially if our cars mostly remained parked in the driveway at home. So as it stands now, my car is off the road for at least the next six weeks and we will save some EUR 25 a week in taxes and insurance costs.

We’re getting a lot done around the house and the yard. It’s great!

I think it’s getting boring for the Miss, so we’re hoping for some warmer weather soon.

Society

There are so many things that have changed in the last few weeks. It feels like much longer!

The City of Espoo sent out a general text message to its residents on March 20 informing them of where to find out more information about coronavirus. This message came to me before I wrote my first entry, but I forgot to include it. To folks in other parts of the country – did your local authorities send you a message too?

The daily traffic between Helsinki and Tallinn (EST) has dropped off by more than 90 percent since restrictions were installed on travel between the two cities. On a normal day some 20 000 people move between the cities by ferry, now that number has dropped off to about 1 000 per day, the majority being people making deliveries.

Long-distance night trains have been cancelled until the end of May according to YLE News. I heard this on the radio awhile back.

People who help others in abusive home situations have reported an increase in the number of people seeking help via chat or helplines. For now the services have been expanded, which is a good thing. Being told to stay home with an abuser cannot be an easy thing. 😦 This is not just a thing in Finland, it is happening world-wide.

When the restrictions regarding movement in and out of Uusimaa came into effect on March 28, the Finnish Police also sent out a general text message to all residents. The Mr. got it first, then I did – and even the Miss got a message. This was good to see. I applaud this move – it needed to be done. As inconvenient as this was for a lot of people, we all have to do our part to stop this virus from spreading. The borders to Uusimaa have been opened up again, but I think it is too early. We should still be cautious, as I agree with the chief doctor at HUS: a second wave of coronavirus is entirely possible.

A lot of us are able to work from home and we have been, while making a lot of adjustments in our working habits. So far so good from my side. It seems there is a good deal of support for this to continue in the future.

People are spending more time outside.

On a potential vaccine: Researchers around the world are racing to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. Would you take it? Given the fiasco we had here in 2009 with the H1N1 vaccine causing narcolepsy in dozens of Finnish kids, some people might think twice about this. That being said, research is needed and thankfully scientists and researchers all over the world are on top of this.

There is so much going on and things are changing so fast. I wish you all well. Stay safe! We will get through this.

Mitä tänään syötäisiin? (What should we eat today?)

April 20, 2020

Now that a great deal of us find ourselves at home more often than before on account of coronavirus, food has become front and centre in many families.

There are lots of social media posts of people baking more bread now that they are home. It’s also been picked up by the media in outlets around the world. (The previous link is from the CBC in Canada.) I saw a link showing hilarious bread making fails too. 🙂

We have a freezer full of food and during ringette and hockey season we don’t have the time to put a lot of thought into our menu. Now that we have been home, we have tried a few things, and it’s fair to say, the food has been pretty good!

So what have we made?

Brownies

Homemade pizzas (we do this a few times a year anyways, so this isn’t new)

One-pan Moroccan chicken and couscous

Avacado on toasted rye bread

Pulled moose meat with mushroom risotto and fried breaded zucchini

Carrot pie (with bacon)

Homemade hamburgers on the BBQ (we also do this a few times a year)

Pulled moose burgers (these were goood!)

Pasta carbonara (for the first time ever) The picture doesn’t do it justice, but really was very good.

Korvapuusti (for the first time ever) I will be tweaking the recipe the next time I do this. They looked like a total train wreck – but they tasted good!

Bon apetit! 🙂

On Coronavirus

March 25, 2020

First came the orders to practice better hygiene, then the end of public gatherings, so that killed our sports seasons on the spot back on March 13. Then came the orders to stay home, the ending of visits to our elders… and here we are. Coronavirus has become the story of 2020 around the world.

Below is a smattering of my thoughts on what we’re facing with coronavirus in Finland and in our personal lives. These are my opinions only, so feel free to disagree with me. There’s so much to say…

Rules, regulations and directions

People have widely criticized the Finnish government for dillydallying around with closing schools and banning public gatherings and so on. Given that we are dealing with something quite unprecedented, it appears that the workings of a coalition government mean that a lot of haggling is going on behind the scenes. I agree that it took too long to close the schools, but it is taking a really long time to shut down the bars, nightclubs, cafes and restaurants. This might not happen until March 28!! This should be with immediate effect considering that the virus is spreading a lot in the capital region. It appears that Prime Minister Sanna Marin is concerned with doing things within the confines of the law. I really think that people are not going to worry too much if she and her ministers have to bend the rules a little.

I give the government a passing grade thus far.

At this moment, the people of Uusimaa (the southern-most province of Finland, and its most populous) are waiting to find out what kind of restrictions on our movements will be put in place. I say bring them on because there have been plenty of people who don’t give a rat’s ass about staying home and reducing the chances of infecting others. It appears that the military may even become involved in this operation.

Social distancing?

What was pretty unbelievable were the reports of hoards of people headed north last week to ski because the hills of the most popular resorts were still open. All I can say is that people are incredibly selfish. Plans were to shut them down this coming Friday, but it was deemed necessary to shut them down last Sunday. More here on that. I am glad the hills got closed early – especially since a couple of positive cases of coronavirus emerged from there last weekend, this was definitely the right move. YLE reported on that extensively. It’s a hard pill to swallow since the skiing conditions are absolutely incredible at the moment.

The shopping mall Hertsi in Helsinki had a grand opening last week in the midst of government restrictions on large gatherings. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw pictures – there were hundreds of people gathered there. What the HELL is wrong with people?

Another report that floored me was the number of doctors that were forced to self-quarantine in the wake of this virus – because a bunch of them met at a doctors’ conference in early March in Lapland. A couple of the doctors who attended the conference tested positive for the virus… THE VERY PEOPLE WHO SHOULD KNOW BETTER!

As it stands at the moment (and we get reports every day) two-thirds of the reported infections are affecting men, the other third women. What does this mean, how can this be interpreted? Men travel more? They work in professions that increase their chance of exposure? They don’t care to follow the recommendations of the government? Who knows? There are certainly a great number of people with a cavalier attitude about this.

The Coronavirus fallout – observations and opinions

Plexiglass walls – here to stay? I was diagnosed with asthma last year. Last week I made a trip to the local pharmacy to get one extra inhaler (because the number of doses remaining is pretty low) and they were installing plexiglass windows at all of the counters. News reports yesterday indicated this is also happening at many retail stores and banks across the country. I get it, but will they be here to stay? I hope not because this will stunt social interaction and make us even less social than before. Everything will feel very impersonal if all of our business needs to be done with a wall separating people. 😦

Psychological effects? The long term effects of reduced social interaction and how we will relate with one another in the future is a concern. I am very worried the lack of social contact over the coming weeks will have a long term psychological effect on people (including kids). Senior citizens report being very lonely already – no doubt social distancing will have an even bigger effect on this population. People will hesitate to have any kind of contact with others. As you know, I coach young kids. It appears I won’t get to see them for a long time. In the past it has been okay to be in very close proximity to them and give them hugs and encouragement during practices and games. I really hope we will not be banned from doing that in the future. 😦

One of the most interesting things I heard a few days ago was a directive from HSY (Helsinki Regional Environment Services Authority). Kleenex (nenäliina / tissues) are to be thrown in the garbage and not into the compost. Yes, we are allowed to compost paper towels and kleenex, but because of coronavirus, we have been directed not to for the time being.

About two weeks ago when the government was getting ready to impose restrictions on large gatherings and closing schools, there was a huge rush at the stores and people were hoarding stuff – it was crazy! I went to the Vaasa bakery where I usually buy bread in bulk, and they said that they had some trying times in the lead up to all the changes that came into effect. Helsingin Sanomat reported that Finns were buying crazy amounts of toilet paper, pasta, rice, flour and preserves. In the days since then, it seems that people are buying a lot of groceries in one go, but are not hoarding anything per se. Reports indicate that stores have stock on the way, but shelves in some places are empty.

Other things that have changed: People are cleaning their houses and starting to renovate. There’s been an uptick in recycling and the hardware stores report being busier than normal. Looks like people are going to get their TO DO lists done.

How things have changed at home

The order to work at home came to me first, then the Miss had to stay home from school and lastly, the Mr. was also ordered home. My company has ordered us to stay home until April 30. I haven’t heard anything regarding the timetable on the school front, and the Mr. hasn’t said anything about the restrictions placed upon them.

So far so good. The Miss’ teachers have done a stellar job in getting the kids online for classes. They even practiced ahead of time in anticipation of the order to stay home. She and her classmates are in daily contact with their teachers in online meetings, so things are getting done.

You know what my kid said today: “I would rather be at school than at home.

Since our ringette and hockey seasons were cut short, we have already put all our gear away. It makes me really sad, I’d certainly like to be at the rink skating, but this is the reality. Instead, the gardening season has started, our bikes are ready to go and things are getting done around the house. I will make a dent in that TO DO list!

I set up a little area for doing some stretching and other exercises. I am still getting over a nasty cold, so I will start using this area soon.

Our dog LOVES that people are home. He is very happy.

We are using more water at home and producing more garbage and compost. It’s interesting actually.

We have a freezer full of food, so we have been getting creative with our dinner menu.

And…

On the larger scale of things, there have been plenty of background articles that give plenty of food for thought. How has something like this emerged with such dangerous consequences? Our treatment of the environment has a lot to do with it, I think. But that is just my opinion. If you are interested in exploring that angle, I encourage you to read this article from Damian Carrington, the Environment editor at The Guardian.

My final words to all of you: A very big thank you to personal support workers, pharmacy workers, nurses, cashiers and grocery store workers, doctors, paramedics, police, fire fighters, dentists, childcare workers, TEACHERS, truck drivers, people working in logistics and distribution and many others who keep the day to day workings of our society going. Tsemppiä!

There’s so much to say and to cover here, but I will leave it here for now.

Stay safe. Wash your hands, Stay the F home (if you can). We will get through this.

Climate change hypocrisy

February 14, 2020

On this Valentine’s Day, we think about love for people. I think about love for the environment.

I believe that we are in the middle of the Anthropocene and I feel like a climate change hypocrite.

A few years ago we bought a second car.

Our family takes part in a very climate-heavy activity. We all play ringette, my kid plays hockey and I coach both. We travel a lot back and forth to the arena – pretty much every day of the week.

Not gonna lie: I enjoy long showers now and then.

In Finland it’s kinda hard to avoid plastic, in fact, it’s damn near impossible.

I travel, though because of financial constraints and my involvement in ice sports, that has been pared down big time. The last time I flew anywhere was in 2018. I don’t foresee doing that again for another year or two. Yes, I do think about flight shame – and I did support the citizen’s initiative for a flight tax in Finland.

Occasional food waste: yes, not gonna lie about that either. In my house, however, I am the queen of creating good meals out of leftovers.

The one thing I am nearly always conscious about is where my produce is from. If it comes from anywhere outside of Europe, I rarely buy it.

Has palm oil in it? It stays on the shelf. But that in itself is a whole other issue. Avoiding products with palm oil is also very difficult these days. Some of my favourite chocolate brands tout their sustainable cocoa, but they use palm oil… I will be calling them out on that.

What am I doing otherwise to mitigate my impact?

Our house is heated with electricity, but we also have a fire place. We never turn on all of the electric heaters in the winter, in fact we haven’t turned the one on in our bedroom at all since we moved in (nicer for sleeping). I am a bit of an ultra nut when it comes to turning off lights and unplugging stuff that is not being used. We moved into a bigger house a few years back and it has been interesting to observe how much electricity we have used compared to the people who lived in the house before us. We have used significantly less. We also use a lot less water than our neighbours do.

New clothes? Not really. I buy new underwear and socks (as needed) and have bought new outdoor pants, jackets and shoes because my old stuff has worn out. Right now I will do my best to wear what I have until it wears out. It’s great that chains like H&M and Lindex take back old clothes (and shoes) in the capital region (they have deposit boxes near their cashiers). I also make sure that old towels and bed sheets are forwarded on to animal hospitals where they can always use those kinds of things.

Since I moved here over 20 years ago, the amount of consumption has exploded. I feel like people went into overdrive when they finally had more money to spend at the change of the millennium. And it seems to have continued unabated until just recently. We can take hope from the fact that the second-hand economy is doing well in Finland. These days I find I am mostly spending my money on food and not much else, gas for my car and fees for sports activities… except when the Miss needs new sports equipment (which thankfully isn’t so often anymore because she has stopped growing like a weed).

The squirrels are great at planting acorns in our yard, so instead of cutting down those oak trees, I have replanted them near our house. Some of them are doing okay, but the erratic weather has been hard on them in the last couple of years.

We recycle virtually everything that we can. I have talked about that awhile back in previous blog entries. The HSY website dedicated to information about recycling has improved a lot. Kierätys.info is also a very useful website.

What is heartening to see is the reception to plastic recycling over the last few years. Now that there are bins for recycling, they are often full. Let’s hope that that the infrastructure for sorting, recycling and reusing that plastic in Finland is a fruitful one. Better yet, avoiding plastic and single-use items is another big step we can take.

Global climate change is a real fear of mine. Yet, at the end of the day my main concern is pollution. The amount of garbage, plastic and cigarette butts that get tossed into my local environment is shocking at best. I spend a lot of effort picking it up. I pick up hundreds of cigarette butts a week… But for every butt I pick up, it’s one less butt that a bird will mistake for food, one less butt an animal or a bird might use to make its nest, and less butts that end up in our waterways. If there one thing I can make a direct change, it is by battling the litterbugs and butt tossers.

Very few people have ever inquired about it. Although lately the comments have come from a few people. Last fall I ran into a young guy said he was so happy to see that someone cares enough to clean up… An older couple walked past me and the fellow offered to take my dog poop bag to the garbage can for me – because I had already gone past it when my dog decided to do his thing. They had seen me picking up garbage prior to that… My neighbour went jogging past me and commented that I was still “plogging” – “Good!” he said. 🙂

It feels like society is so fragmented when it comes to taking care of our common well-being. There is a segment that believes we should work together for the common good (I like to believe I sit mostly on this side of the fence), and others who are vehemently against working for the common good – “every man for himself.” Considering how much the environment is suffering at the moment, I can’t believe that more people don’t want to work for the common good.

We can all do our bit, whether you feel like a climate change hypocrite or not.

Find my little one-woman campaign on Facebook to battle litterbugs : 10 000 Butts Finland.

Doing good is better than just making money
Doing good doesn’t need to cost the earth
You do the right thing and still be successful.
– Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet

On a whim a few weeks ago, I decided to go and pick up a big pile of styrofoam from the banks of Espoonjoki.

A coach’s suspension has turned the sport world upside down

January 24, 2020

(*All of the linked articles are in Finnish.)

Background: In 2019 the Finnish Sports Ethics Center (SUEK) launched an investigation when more than 10 former synchronized skating athletes filed a complaint through the “You’re Not Alone” site to report the abusive behaviour they experienced at the hands of their coach.

Some of this behaviour included bullying, verbal abuse, humiliation, exclusion, body shaming, singling out athletes who had made mistakes, and putting the “offending athlete” in the middle of a circle so the others could shout at them. Overall, what one could describe as unethical behaviour.  It took nearly a YEAR to process the complaints.

Last week, the Disciplinary Board of the Finnish Figure Skating Association imposed a one-year ban on the coach (Coach A) in question, and suspended another (Coach B) for not intervening to stop the abuse. Coach A is banned from coaching in domestic and international competitions. She was also employed by the club in question, but her employment has been suspended. She has denied all the charges through her legal representation. What is also surprising is that the Disciplinary Board of the Finnish Figure Skating Association didn’t even exist until AFTER the skaters had filed their complaint! <WHAT?>

The sports division of the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation broke the story last Friday and it has snowballed since then. Some media outlets have not named the coach, but others have, so it is not difficult to find out who is involved.

Helsingin Sanomat also reported that Finnish Figure Skating Association had received information about the behaviour of the coach in question back in 2017. “At that time, our interventions and subsequent measures did not have the desired and desirable impact,” says Laura Raitio, chairman of the union. See more about that here.

The question is, why wasn’t something done sooner? Apparently she has been coaching for a very long time – and that adds up to many lives touched by her behaviour and abuse.

More background on the story is here from YLE and from Helsingin Sanomat. Google Translate helps a lot and gives a much more in-depth analysis of the issue.

The Finnish Figure Skating Association also issued its own statement.

What is really sad is that abusive behaviour seems to be pretty commonplace in this sport, because former figure skater Kiira Korpi lambasted the Finnish Figure Skating Association last fall. Korpi also posted a video on Facebook last week lamenting the current situation and iterating that all young athletes deserve to grow and develop in a safe sporting environment. I couldn’t agree more.

***

In the end, this affects anyone who coaches junior athletes. This affects me. The reported abhorrent behaviour of this coach has now put every other junior coach under the microscope and I resent that. People have asked me about it and I have told what this really means for me and others who coach kids…

I coach young girls in Espoo in both junior hockey and ringette. I can tell you right now that if I ever behaved like this coach did, I would never be allowed to coach in this city ever again.

When I was at practice earlier this week with our ringette crew, there were a lot more parents in attendance than normal. While I knew about this story breaking on the figure skating scene, it didn’t really register with me until later – parents in all sports are watching.

Helping develop today’s girls into the athletes of tomorrow means encouraging them no matter what their starting point is. We have girls who have started playing ringette and hockey which many would consider “quite late.” Late, maybe – but it’s never too late to learn and improve, especially if they are motivated. I had one team of less experienced girls a few weeks ago who took a big beating a tournament, and I expected that would happen. I also shared that with them, but it didn’t bother them in the least. We had a fun day, they did their best and that was all I expected out of them. So – something was done right on that day. <thumbs up> Small victories like this add up over the season.

Exhale…

I am sure we have not seen or heard the last of this yet.

Finally made it to LUX Helsinki

January 8, 2020

LUX Helsinki is an annual light exhibition that runs for just a few days every year at the beginning of January. Since it is at the pretty much the darkest time of the year, it is a welcome blitz of light at the height of the darkness.

I finally made it there with my family last night and had a good walk around. We didn’t feel like lining up to wait to see things, so we just walked along the entire route. In spite of the wind and rain, it was nice to be outside – and great to see so many people out and about and enjoying it.

Have to get there again next year.

I took a few shots of my own…

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Find out more about the annual light exhibition here.

Being a statistic – again (UPDATED)

December 16, 2019

Earlier this year I was so pleased to get an invitation from Statistics Finland to take part in a research study collecting information about education completed outside of Finland. The gist of the study was to find out more about the educational background of foreigners in Finland, which has never been done before.

There are an awful lot of foreigners who have moved to Finland, but never taken part in the educational process here. I have taken some courses here and there, but I have no plans to re-train for anything. I have three university degrees already, surely that is enough.

The synopsis is as follows:

Description of the data collection

The aim is to complement the Register of Completed Education and Degrees with qualifications and degrees completed by the population with foreign background in so far as these qualification data are missing. The data collection is carried out as a mixed-mode collection (web + paper), where the primary mode of answering is the web questionnaire.

From whom are data collected?

Data collection concerning qualification data for the population with foreign background born abroad. The data collection is aimed at persons for whom there is no qualification data in the Register of Completed Education and Degrees and who have not participated in education leading to a qualification in Finland.

You can find out more about it here, (the previous two sections were copied directly from the site).

I was able to answer via the internet, which made it easy.

I sent an e-mail to find out whether the results of the study had been published, but no word just yet. If I find out I will be sure to follow up.

January 24, 2020: I got a response from the study team and the preliminary results have been published. You can read more about them here.

Picture of the day

December 10, 2019

We had a pretty tough summer in southern Finland. It was very dry for a long time. The fall has been incredibly wet in comparison.

That being said, it was tough time for wildlife and I made sure I left water bowls out in my back yard. I was happy to see evidence of them being used regularly.

We decided to feed the birds early this year. When the Christmas lights went up last week it didn’t take long for our local neighbourhood squirrel to do its Houdini thing.

<eye rolling emoji>

Why I haven’t been writing

August 22, 2019

There is plenty to discuss, I just haven’t had the energy to write it down.

I am also constantly bewildered by the news I am reading, here in Finland and around the world. I’d have to go back to the Finnish parliamentary elections back in April and the EU vote in June to start expressing my frustrations…

I think tomorrow it is time for a break from the news. It is maddening, distressing and mostly makes me feel angry.

The world is going mad. We can do better than this and we should.

I’ll try and share the better parts of life in Finland, which sometimes feel far and few between.

I’ll be back… Soon hopefully.