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To allow or not to allow…

May 20, 2015
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Disclaimer: Anyone who is surfing in for the first time and leaves comments on my posts or responds to comments made by others will be subject to moderation.

Yesterday I discovered five comments waiting in the queue for moderation. They were in response to comments other folks had made here earlier on the posts regarding Finland’s recent parliamentary elections (here and here). While the comments were not directed at me personally or what I had written, they were aimed at other readers who had commented on my posts.

The comments are angry, hateful and racist; and could be considered offensive to many, the tamest of them being: “You can shove your cultural sensitivity up your ass.

In the spirit of allowing for “debate,” I asked my friends whether I should allow them or not, everyone said no.

For the record, I have only ever prevented two comments from seeing the light of day in the ten years I have been writing this blog. One person left a comment that I considered inappropriate and racist and another identified precisely where I live.

To the person using the handle “Juuso” who commented yesterday, thank you for taking the time to surf in here and read. In the interest of preserving my personal safety and that of my family, I have decided to allow these comments to stay in the queue unpublished rather than deleting them.

Life in Finland is meant to be a journey of discovery, fun and reflection for myself and everyone who reads this blog, and I would like to keep it like that.

-Carmen P.

Things I didn’t know last week

May 13, 2015

So what did I learn last week?

I have to thank the Little Miss for the first part of this entry. She asked me how do blind people read. I told her what I know of Braille and then realized that we have stuff at home that have Braille printed on it: medicines and prescription drugs. I somehow knew this already, but it escaped me. We also have medicines that we acquired in Canada – and they do not have Braille printed on the boxes. According to an administrative regulation under the Finnish Medicines Agency Fimea (3/2013) “The name of a medicinal product (if necessary the strength) shall be indicated on the outer packaging in Braille of an approved standard. This requirement does not concern human medicinal products intended solely for hospital use or for dispensing by health care personnel or veterinary medicinal products.” Thanks to Karin K. Senior Researcher at Fimea for answering my question.

On the left, a box with Braille, on the right, none

On the left, a box with Braille, on the right, none

And the more I thought about it I realized that there are lots of accessibility aids for visually-impaired people when they are out in public. Elevator buttons, the stop buttons in buses, different kinds of stones at bus stops and train stations, raised knobs on floors, sound cues (beeping) at traffic lights and so on.

The World Hockey Championships are on in the Czech Republic at the moment, so that means our household is glued to the TV every day, no matter who is playing. Three things I didn’t know about players from the Finnish team, until I looked: This is the first team in a long time that has no players born in the 1970s (i.e. no Selänne, no Koivu, etc.). Aleksander Barkov was born in Tampere, plays in the NHL and is only 19 years old! Number one goaltender Pekka Rinne is not a small guy, he’s a giant – 196cm (6’5″) tall! They finished second in the pool with a mind-boggling shootout win over Russia yesterday – what a game!

There has been plenty of angry reaction to the clear-cutting of an old growth forest around the popular tourist attractions at Hvitträsk in Kirkkonummi. Last week YLE ran a video of the site after all of the trees had been cut. It’s sad, because this place will never look the same again. I fear its value as an attraction has declined markedly.

This seems to be happening a lot in the capital area lately and clear cutting in this manner clearly makes people angry. Just yesterday the City of Helsinki agreed to develop the island of Vartiosaari into a residential district. Thousands of people are opposed to the idea that a forested oasis in the city that boasts plenty of wildlife and offers a chance to rejuvenate with nature therapy, will become a concrete jungle. A friend assures me it is not too late, something can still be done… I can only hope.

Signs of spring

May 11, 2015

It’s always great when spring arrives in Finland. The past two winters have been rather brown and grey in southern Finland ( = no snow), so the return of the colour is welcome. Here’s a few snaps I got with my phone over the last few weeks. Enjoy.

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Unexplored territory: Finnish music

May 7, 2015

<hangs head in shame> I have lived here long enough to know better: the Finnish music industry is alive and well and has scads of great bands and singers to suit everyone’s taste. While Finland is known as a heavy metal haven and boasts its share of bands that fit the genre, you can find out more about the Finnish music scene here.

The Von Hertzen Brothers have been around for a long time, but I have just come across them recently and finally took a serious listen to their music. Fantastic stuff. Right off the bat, their talent puts them with the likes of the Foo Fighters (in my opinion) and Mikko Von Hertzen, not only sings and plays guitar – he also plays the drums. Mikko’s brothers Kie and Jonne round out the guitars and vocals and feature the versatile Juha Kuoppala on keyboards and Mikko Kaakkuriniemi on drums. These guys have released several albums in English and it seems that their break on the international scene is about to come with their new album New Day Rising – look for it, it’s awesome.

Nightwish has been around for ages and has undergone some changes over the last few years. Now with Floor Janzen fronting the band and the permanent addition of Troy Donockley, they’ve headed down a different road. They still sound great! I’m sold.

Rap music is also very popular in Finland, but what is amazing (and I say this because I have no idea what the situation is in other countries) is that the Finnish language features front and centre on the rap scene. Some of the more popular names I have come across include Cheek, Elastinen, Paleface, Redrama (who raps in English), Mikael Gabriel and Unikki. I am not a fan of rap music, but it sells well here, so these guys must be doing something right!

The genre known as “iskelmä” can be described as light pop. Finnish pop music has always had a strong following. Jari Sillanpää who is a perpetual favourite turns 50 this year and he will be offering coffee and cake to all concert goers at his birthday concert in August. Fun! Other popular pop/rock acts in Finland include Haloo Helsinki (gave them a listen and wished I could understand all of their lyrics, I like them), Jenni Vartiainen, PMMP, Eppu Normaali, and a host of others that are far too numerous to name!

The one genre of music you will not find in Finland is country music. I have never heard it on any radio station anywhere. I am sure there are country fans here, but they do not have a very high profile. (UPDATE: A friend of mine told me there is country music in Finland in the form of Freud Marx Engels & Jung, with songs translated from English to Finnish)

This is the sad thing about music – there’s so much great stuff out there. I am learning that now – YouTube is great! I have lamented many times that Finnish people have no idea what they’re missing because they never get to hear great Canadian rock on the radio here. Now it goes the other way – with my lesson in Finnish music over the last year or so – Canada, you have no idea what you’re missing!

Pipe up folks, who are your favourites?

My favourites: The Von Hertzen Brothers, Nightwish, Kolmas Nainen, The Rasmus, Robin (the kid can sing), Michael Monroe, Sunrise Avenue and Eppu Normaali.

Disappointed: Election 2015

April 23, 2015

So, the election has come and gone and the Centre Party is now tasked with finding the right mix of partners to form the next government. There has been plenty of analysis by the media, including YLE News, which I follow on a daily basis. What always makes headlines is the demographics of the elected MPs.

I can’t even tell you what I think might be a good government in Finland, all I can say is that I am not optimistic about how the next four years will go – although, it could be (and should be) better than the last four years under a conservative government. There were far too many MPs and ministers who were completely out of touch with what is going on on the ground in this country. See my last post for some examples.

Now we’re headed for a government that will be run by the old boys club, and that means business, money and profit over doing good for the common people and the environment.

Let us see how this plays out. I hope it will not take two months to get a government together as it did back in 2011.

And yet the anti-immigrant theme continues… Loudly and clearly.

A headline from YLE three days after the election reads: “Yle poll: Majority of Finns oppose work-based immigration

One must remember – and this is the same the world over, no matter where you are. When the economy is bad anti-immigrant sentiment increases. So yesterday’s news item was no surprise. I remember the same thing happening in Ontario in the early 1990s when we were in a deep recession. I wonder if ethnic Finns ever think about how their opinions may hurt the people who are already here and working and contributing to society.

But again, this leads me to question the mantra that Finland needs immigrants right now to fill the jobs out there. What jobs? Are there really that many jobs. This morning YLE reported that March saw an increase in unemployment, now at 10,3%. Nearly one-third of those are under the age of 25.

And I think it is utter and complete bullshit (excuse my language) that people shun jobs because it is beneath them to do “that kind of work.” I can tell you now, if I lost my job tomorrow, I would find another one right away – even if it meant cleaning office buildings, working in a kitchen or picking produce at a farm. We all have to start somewhere. Think about it – all you adults out there: What was your first job? Probably something you would never picture yourself doing these days, right?

I think we have set the bar too high for ourselves in Western countries and many believe that immigrants are and should be happy with any job, which is a complete crock of poo. I don’t work in the field in which I was educated, but I am incredibly fortunate to have a job that offers many perks: flexible hours, healthcare, generous holidays, opportunities to learn and so on. If only other immigrants could be so lucky eh?

Come on Finland, we’re going to be in a big hole at some point in terms of elder care, so we need to start thinking forward now and taking the blinders off.

All work is meaningful and that is something we all need to start believing in again.

To end off this post, I’d like to thank everyone who dropped in on last week’s post and commented in the many fora where it appeared. I’d also like to thank the people who e-mailed me with kind words for bringing up what is a polarizing topic.

Anti-immigrant campaign messages: Election 2015

April 15, 2015

I am not normally one to stir up controversy via my blog and I normally keep my thoughts to myself (or within my circle of close friends and family) with regards to political issues, but these are things I have to comment on ahead of the Parliamentary election this coming Sunday.

If election ads like the following appeared in Canada, which I consider racist, they would never see the light of day.

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Freedom of speech, sure.

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Racist and fear mongering? Absolutely.

Immigrants are not the root of the problems we’re facing in Finland. It still boggles my mind that candidates can run on an anti-immigrant platform. Mind you, for those not up to speed on Finnish politics, most of the main parties in Finland do not run on these kind of outright anti-immigrant platforms, though there are a few politicos who have put their foot in their mouth over the last few months.

When asked if Finland needs more immigrants, Päivi Räsänen (Christian Democrats) told the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation (YLE), “Yes, we need more immigrants,” she said. “We have areas in our labour market that we do not get Finnish people to do. Nowadays we have many immigrants working as bus drivers or taxi drivers and so on.” She freely admits that we need immigrants to do the work that Finnish people refuse to do. <sarcasm> Wow, that sets the standard really high for that person who hopes to come to Finland to practice the profession they trained for.

A few months ago in a YLE current affairs program (A-studio), the National Coalition MP Pia Kauma alleged that immigrant families with babies received better benefits than ethnic Finns. She claimed that ” ‘that Finns are losing out to non-natives when it comes to discretionary purchases made by local social services’ – in spite of evidence from an Espoo city official, who says all customers receive the same modest sum for baby gear.” And she added, “For example why should immigrant families purchase new baby carriages with social support, when if Finnish families have to recycle old carriages?”

An official from the City of Espoo had to immediately go into damage control mode, iterating that “immigrants do not receive more money for prams than Finns do.” Kauma had no evidence to back up her claims – and yet she was able to smear a whole group of people in front a national TV audience with no repercussions for her apparently false words.

That being said…

We keep being told that Finland needs immigrants to secure the future of its workforce and tax base. In the current economic climate with unemployment hovering near double digits and layoffs happening at a brisk pace, I really wonder where the jobs are.

Finally…

A message to the candidates running on an anti-immigrant platform in this election: You must remember that the people who come to this country cannot all be painted with the same brush.

This is a message to the candidates of Muutos 2011: Stop classifying educated immigrants who work and pay taxes here in the same group as the so-called “threat” you single out in your election ads.

And a message to all eligible voters (and thanks to a friend for suggesting a different word here): VOTE. Because you have the right to – even (especially) if you hate what the government is doing to the country.

Picture of the Day

April 14, 2015

It’s spring and that means the first flowers are blooming! Enjoy!

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