Skip to content

Life In Finland takes part in “Suitcase Story”

November 27, 2015

Earlier this year I got a message from Anna Vershinina in Russia asking if I would be interested in taking part in the social project Suitcase Story. Her idea is to send a suitcase around the world to willing people who would take photos, conduct interviews and contribute to the contents. The main idea of this project is uniting people from all over the world, telling about each region, sharing traditions, show the world and to attract attention of people to social problems. At the conclusion of this “experiment” we are planning to sell the suitcase at auction, and give the gained money either to charity or to a social project, to be decided up by the participants.

I said yes! So via Anna, I got the suitcase from Stacy up in Ylöjärvi (near Tampere). A postal strike in Finland has really messed things up lately and it took a long time for the notice to arrive in the mail.  I only had the suitcase for a few days. Unfortunately I didn’t get to nearly all the places I was hoping to get to in Espoo, but I did take it around to some popular places that are not far from where I live. I handed the suitcase over to someone else (Elena) in Helsinki just a few days ago. I am now waiting to see what she will do with it!

I was instructed to

  • travel with suitcase in your city (so I went to a few places around Espoo including Glims Farmstead Museum, the Bemböle Coffeehouse from 1737, Oittaa and the Angry Birds Park, Nuuksio, Haltia and the main cathedral in Espoo)
  • -take some pictures with suitcase (there are a couple attached here)
  • -make a video with wonderful places (I did take video and they have been uploaded to the Facebook group Suitcase Story)
  • -put some souvenirs in suitcase (With the Little Miss’ help we out in a Finnish-Swedish book for babies, some postcards, a map of Espoo, a tourist guide for Espoo, a figurine of Uncle Scrooge, A Moomin figurine, a reflector, an Espoo Blues hockey ticket, some things from Kuopio (where the Mr. is from) and some pins and stickers from Canada)
  • -keep the suitcase for just a few days (indeed – only a few!)
  • -send suitcase to another friend / person in another city or other country (I handed it off to Elena, who is actually from Russia, in Helsinki last Sunday)
  • -make it fun (Once I got it, I really did think it would be fun! So I did my best!)

If you’re interested in how the project is going and want to know more about (and you’re on Facebook), find it here.

The entire picture gallery of my own pictures of the suitcase are here.

I thought taking part would be fun and Anna’s directions indicated I was pretty much free to do what I wanted with it. I hope it gets far and filled with fun stuff!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Pictures of the Day

November 25, 2015

Last weekend I was out and about – as per usual. I made the effort to get myself to a place that I haven’t been to in ages. It was only a scouting mission, because we’re planning to head there some time soon: Kattila in the Nuuksio National Park here in Espoo. There were not so many cars and plenty of parking. The most popular part of Nuuksio is often so crowded there is nowhere to park. I think I’ll try and make Kattila our new “must go to” destination.

I was so pleased to see the snow… unfortunately it has warmed up again and it’s all gone. I hope winter will arrive soon, my snowshoes are getting very dusty!



The Map

November 13, 2015

When I came to Finland for the first time in 1997 I travelled around a lot. I bounced from one end of the country to the other a few times that summer. One of my relatives gave me a road map of Finland, which I have (not always so) diligently highlighted to keep track of the places I have been. It has gotten a little dusty and I needed to update it a little more because of all the new places I have been to in the last couple years (Koli, the southwest archipelago, Pyhätunturi, Ruka).


Finland North

Finland South

I also have a bucket list of places I would like to go in Finland, which includes one over the border in northern Norway. Maybe I’ll have to write a future entry about my Nordic bucket list because I am so totally game to explore the north. I’d also like to travel around Finland by boat, but since we don’t have one and we only sail with our friends once a year, we’ll have to wait on that.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A lot of the places I want to visit are in Lapland and you should be able to find more information about them here on the National Parks website.

What’s on your Finland bucket list?

Picture of the day

November 3, 2015

We’ve been experiencing some unusual weather lately. October was incredibly dry and November has started with record warm temperatures. Yesterday a record high +13.3 C was recorded in Porvoo, east of Helsinki.

I am feeling pessimistic and that winter will pass over southern Finland yet again…

In any case, we have had some nice sunrises and sunsets lately. You gotta love the colour!


Is the Finnish government in disarray?

October 28, 2015

(Long time, no hear, but I am here – just really busy!)

… At least the media makes it sound that way. I’m still not sure what to think. Disclaimer: This is my analysis and my opinion only, any errors that are here are solely mine alone.

If you want to explore what has been reported, you’ll be doing a lot of clicking this post.

Awhile ago I was thinking this, “Well, it is certainly a nice wake-up call from previous four years. I might not like what the current government is doing or that it is essentially an old boys club that does not have my interests as a woman or a parent at heart, but at least there is something going on.

After years of lolly gagging and inaction by Finland’s previous coalition government, we now have one that is making headlines on an almost daily basis – and not always for the right reasons.

It feels like we’re descending into politics that are bordering on lunacy. The threats and the flip-flopping… It is only a three-party coalition (Centre, National Coalition and Finns), but they cannot even seem to decide on what or how to do things. What on earth is going to be accomplished if the current government doesn’t take things under advisement from other people and authorities who (do) know better?

There appears to a break in the ranks of the upper echelons of the (True) Finns Party (aka “Persut”), with several members disagreeing with the way the party has proceeded in the current government. The deputy leader, Sebastian Tynkkynen was just suspended from the party a few days ago. Background here.

If the poll numbers are correct, it would appear that Persut supporters are very unhappy with how their elected MPs have functioned thus far. Mr. Soini has made some unpopular decisions, doing a complete 180 on some of the campaign promises he made prior to the election. If I supported his party, I’d be pissed too…


We are being asked to make sacrifices, yet the government will not do the same.

Here are a few headlines from the last few weeks, and I am doing my best to make sense of all of this!

One of the first proposals in early September was to move a couple of public holidays to Saturdays and cut sick leave pay for the first day.

On September 10 it was reported that with the proposed changes to sick leave pay, MPs in the Finnish parliament would be exempt from that measure; except they failed to report that when they were outlining the proposals for changes. This pisses me off. If we are all going to be subject to austerity measures in this country then MPs in the parliament should be sucking up the same cuts. NO PAID SICK LEAVE FOR MPs!

If this goes through, what will happen is that the people who can least afford to be away from work will indeed go to work when they are sick.

A lot of the populace was so pissed off about the proposed cuts that that there was a huge nation-wide protest on September 18. That day actually turned out okay for me even though no public transit was operating. The Little Miss’ school was open and staff were present, I rode my bike to work and the Mr. said that the highway to work was virtually empty, so I think a lot of people found another way to work or stayed at home and worked remotely if they were not part of the protests.

Another consideration that came to light was reducing the number of days a person is eligible for unemployment benefits. A number of different proposals have been tabled, but it seems that cutting unemployment benefits by 100 days, which means unemployed people would still be eligible for 400 days of benefits, has the most support. The legislation supporting this move may not be drawn up until next spring.

With all of the news regarding cuts and proposals, experts from the outside started chiming in.  American economist and Nobel Laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, who happened to be in Finland during the austerity protests said: “Stop obsessing about government debt and focus more on how to stimulate economic growth.”

That call fell on deaf ears and a few days later the government then said that the unions were not making enough concessions and threatened to move ahead anyways.

And then a few days later the media reported that the government had reneged on some of the proposals that were made. I was beginning to feel rather bewildered at this point.

Union bosses started chiming in that the government had little idea where it was headed and that proposed changes in fact go against the current legislation related to worker’s contracts. The head of the Metalworker’s union, Riku Aalto called the cuts “amateurish” and said that the proposals were all very confusing.

The saga continues. The media then reported internal strife among the governing parties on how to proceed.

The hullabaloo over proposed cuts appears to have died down in the face of the on-going refugee crisis that has been playing out all over Europe in recent weeks. Let’s see if the government gets down to some real and beneficial business in the coming weeks.

In other issues…

The Finnish government has stepped on the toes of the indigenous Sami people whose homeland is in the far north of Finland (and Sweden, Norway and Russia). Why just a month or so ago, the Supreme Administrative Court interfered in Finnish Sami affairs and granted voting status as a Sami to 93 people who had been previously refused by the Sami Parliament.

Even the United Nations stepped in and asked the Sami Parliament elections to be suspended. The former head of the Sami Parliament in Finland, Klementti Näkkäläjärvi resigned from the Sami voting register as a protest. I am unsure of how many followed his lead. One thing is for sure – the Twittersphere erupted with the angry voices of the Sami. Talk about colonialism! (I agree with Sami academic Rauna Kaukkonen on that call.)

In early October, Hanna Mäntylä, the Social Affairs and Health Minister said that foreigners on benefits in Finland be subject to some kind of supervision and reward system. There are certainly more ethnic Finns on benefits in this country, surely, so why won’t they be subject to the same system!? I kid you not, here’s the headline: “Daily: Finns Party minister wants rewards, sanctions for foreign residents receiving social benefits”

And the PM has the gall to say that Finland is not a racist country?


Let’s talk about money and some of things that are facing cuts and IMHO the foolish decisions that have arisen in recent weeks.

By the end of the current parliamentary term some EUR 3 BILLION will apparently be cut from education and I found it really ironic that the minister responsible, Sanni Grahn-Laassonen (who is completely out of touch with the reality on the ground) said, “It’s an inspiring task to be able to make reforms in education.” Cutting EUR 3 billion from education is inspiring?? Science education is one thing that will take a big hit, and this worries me.

The Helsinki Times had a bit more of a detailed breakdown of the changes.

Taxes that have provided craploads of revenue are being scrapped (the sugar tax is to be phased out in 2017). This does not bode well to focusing on the health of the population. You can cry nanny state or whatever, but the sugar tax (although not very well-thought out when it was reintroduced awhile back) is one tax that should remain!  Yet, it seems that another proposal will be tabled.

The government is sinking millions and millions of taxpayer money into the failed mining venture at Talvivaara. While the environmental crimes case against former CEO Pekka Perä and others is still before the courts, the company has been rebranded. This will not help: same polluting shit, different name and everyone will remember Talvivaara until time immemorial.

Don’t even get me started on immigration policy, which at this moment is in disarray with no concrete strategy (or budget, even though the government has asked for EUR 94 million as a start) on how to deal with the many hundreds of people that are making their way to Finland. Yet, on the other hand, we’re in unfamiliar territory, since the migration crisis Europe is currently has not been seen on this scale since WWII. We’ll all have to learn from this, and yes, make mistakes and sacrifices.

We have thousands of asylum seekers arriving in Finland and there are calls to get them integrated and fast. The construction industry is hopeful they’ll have a new pool of workers to choose from. (How about the thousands of unemployed Finns and foreigners who already live here who would also be easy to train and retrain?)

One MP from the SDP made a practical suggestion: Get people integrated into Finland instead of focusing on benefits cuts. Get them integrated and working so they don’t need the benefits in the first place.

Since everyone is so worried about money – let’s get our new arrivals on track NOW in order to make them productive members of society. The sooner they can start working at something, the sooner they can add to the tax base! Let’s get the people who already live here back on the payroll. I think that also means an adjustment in attitude (that I alluded to in a previous post) – all work is valuable, so we might have to suck it up and do things we don’t especially like doing to get a foot back in the door.

It was reported (on October 26) that the unemployment rate will increase as more and more people are laid off from their jobs. Ironic, since the Finance Minister (Alexander Stubb), said that making cuts would stimulate the economy and create thousands of jobs. I just don’t believe that will happen. I just read a Letter to the Editor in the free paper Länsiväylä the other day from a 50-something woman who has been unemployed for quite some time already. Since being laid off she has applied for hundreds of jobs and had four interviews in that time with no success.  She lamented how she wants to work, but no one will hire her. This is a scary trend – plenty of 40-and-50 somethings being laid off and unable to find work… I am afraid there will not be an ending to this any time soon. I am afraid for my age-cohorts.

In a televised address to the nation in September, Prime Minister Sipilä told the nation that we needed to make some sacrifices… I appreciate that he made an effort to address all of us, but he better start listening to the experts on the ground  and stop ignoring the proposals coming from the people who know more than his government ministers do.

A visit to R/V Aranda

October 5, 2015

The Finnish-Canadian Business Club gathered on the decks of the science research vessel Aranda in Helsinki on September 15. It was a fantastic chance to see the boat that is famed in science circles around the Baltic. Our host was Juha Flinkman, who is the Development Manager for Research Vessels at the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE / Marine Centre in Helsinki. In fact Aranda had just opened its doors to the public on September 10 and it was by all accounts, a wild success. So Juha was quite ready to greet more visitors.

R/V Aranda was launched in June 1989 and is 60m long, weighs 1734 tons and can accommodate up to 25 scientists and 13 crew. It is a reinforced vessel which is able to operate in all seas. Aranda was designed for sub-polar and polar research, so it is in fact an ice breaker. It has been to the Antarctic (twice) and been on the North Atlantic. Aranda is involved in Baltic and polar research and it is one of the first science research vessels that is truly in international use. Juha mentioned that they are always looking for more partners and opportunities for cooperation with Aranda. The next opportunities could come when he travels to the US later this year.

The number of sea days (around 200) has increased because of a recently renewed agreement for fisheries research by Finnish authorities and cooperation with Swedish scientists. This year marks the second year in a row that Sweden has conducted all of its marine research aboard Aranda (as they have no science research vessel of their own). Aranda works all year round in the Baltic Sea and is the only research vessel that is considered “resident” in the sea.  Juha calls the annual big winter cruise in the Baltic his “baby,” because he deals with the planning and getting the permits for entering Russian waters (which can sometimes be a challenge). In terms of mileage, the annual winter cruise is nearly the same as going around the world.

The design of Aranda works so well that it has been copied several times, for example, an American vessel operating in the Arctic is a carbon copy of Aranda, just 40 metres longer! We got to see all of Aranda, right from the depths of the engine rooms, the sauna, the labs, all the way up to the bridge. Aranda has different lab modules for research that can be easily put on and taken off the boat.  Juha said that there is nothing secret on Aranda and that everything it does is public record. That was a really refreshing thing to hear.

Aranda also has the distinction of being the first research vessel that is using domestically produced bio-oil and biodiesel with little to no carbon loading into the atmosphere. “That leftover oil from French fries? We use a derivative of that to power Aranda.”

With all of the construction happening in Ruoholahti, Aranda will also be moving to a new home in the coming months. With the completion of a new hotel in the West terminal area, Aranda will be moving around to the other side of the peninsula and find its home near Salmisaari.

In the coming years Aranda will also go through a refitting process, which will extend the useful lifespan of Aranda for up to 15 years. The refit also includes plans for adding a 5-10 section to the middle of the ship, which would mean cutting it in half, fitting the new piece in and then welding it back together again. An extension on the vessel will also allow for the installation of a “drop keel.” Juha hopes the refit will enhance Aranda’s chances of being used for Arctic research. Research will continue during the refit through the use of a ship from a shipping company.  Hopefully this work will be carried out in Finland.

As of this writing R/V Aranda is out on the Baltic Sea participating in the Baltic International Acoustic Survey on herring and sprat, research that is being carried out simultaneously in other EU countries. Aranda will return to port on October 10.

See more about Aranda here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Finland, what is going on here?

September 25, 2015

Racism is rearing its big, fat, ugly head in Finland…

This will be brief.

WTF is going on in Finland? The headlines in the media over the last few days are staggering.

A Molotov cocktail was thrown at the door of a refugee centre in Kouvola (Finland Today)

Ku Klux Klan-clad protester in Lahti anti-asylum seeker demonstration (YLE News)

Anti-immigration protesters urged to stop wearing hockey shirts (YLE News)

“Close the borders!” This is the message of anti-immigrant demonstrations today (Finland Today)

I’ll ask the ever rhetorical question(s): What on earth has happened to kindness and human decency for those who need help? Why is the media giving press to the vocal racist minorities whose photos will no doubt be splashed across other media outlets around the world?

Then the finger wagging will begin, as will the vehement defence that, “No, not all Finns are like this.” We’re not…

I realize we’re experiencing difficult times, but come on! Throwing Molotov cocktails to express your displeasure is nothing but destructive.

The Finland I moved to in the late 1990s was not like this – and man, it’s getting ugly out there.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 132 other followers