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Things I didn’t know last week

November 10, 2017

When you listen to the radio you find out lots of new things. When you take the time (or when you have the time) to read, you’ll also find out a lot of new things. Here’s what I found out recently:

  • The mushroom season has been pretty poor this year. (I blame the crappy weather.) Experts said the crop of ceps has been particularly bad, worst in almost 40 years. While there are mushrooms to be found out there (because I have found plenty), they’re just not as good as in past years.
  • There are 1700 water treatment plants in Finland. One expert said that for a small country like Finland, this is too many and that some consolidation of water treatment services is needed. (I don’t know much about this particular segment of infrastructure management, but this was an interesting bit of trivia.)
  • The largest concentration of unvaccinated children in Finland is in the west coast municipality of Pietarsaari.
  • From the S-group magazine Yhteishyvä: 90 percent of Finns consume only 10 different kinds of vegetables. That speaks for a need to expand our palates a little, doesn’t it?
  • There are 261 dogs in the service of the Finnish Police.
  • According to a report in Helsingin Sanomat last month, Finnish boys are the fattest in Europe. Every fourth boy is considered overweight, with 13-16 year-olds the largest group of overwight kids in Finland. Obesity is considered the biggest risk to youth around the world, an even bigger risk than malnutrition, according to the World Health Organization.
  • In the same edition of HS, it was reported that Finns are by far the largest users of mobile data, using more than 10,95 GB on average, per year. The OECD average is 1,89 GB. The reason behind this is the unlimited data plans that operators offer in this country. Finns use their mobile devices to stream video on-line, a lot.

This is just a mishmash of trivia, no themes, but interesting nonetheless.

P.s. I apologize for my absence lately, writer’s block and a busy life at the rink don’t help. 😉

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Driving school – sort of…

September 28, 2017

I did it – got another thing scratched off my ”to do” list.

Long ago and far away, I learned how to drive in the winter time when the roads were full of snow and slippery conditions were a normal part of driving life.

Fast forward to life in Finland and being a one-car family; it meant I wasn’t doing a lot of driving and these days when I do it’s because I am headed to the arena (my second home). The winter weather conditions haven’t been ideal the last few years, but the road conditions can always leave one guessing in the winter.

I am getting older (we all are) and I felt like I needed to have a refresher on what to do in slippery conditions. We also got a new (second hand) car this summer and it’s an automatic (not my favourite alternative). As of now I am still learning to get used to it because it’s big, heavy and has a powerful engine. As a driver, I do not want to depend on the car to save me from sticky situations, gadgets and sensor technology do not interest me so much. I’d, yes, rather depend on my own wits and senses behind the wheel.

The Mr. offered to cough up the money for me to give some track driving a go. He shopped around and found a place that offered instruction in English.

So earlier today I was at the UAR Finland Road Excellence Centre in Nummela. I booked the training through Autokoulu Viheri based here in Espoo. For EUR 220, I got to be on the track for just over an hour and was able to ask and discuss with my instructor (Olli) for about 45 minutes afterwards. If you book something like this you have the option of using the driving school’s car or your own car. You can also opt for the instructor to have the brake pedal too.

The driving track in Nummela is covered in oil – vegetable oil. Let me tell ya, it was an interesting experience. I practiced keeping the car under control as it was sliding, sudden braking in slippery conditions and sudden braking on a normal surface.

What I was looking for was an opportunity to keep the car under control in slippery conditions and avoid doing what some people do in dangerous situations – over-steering. I kept the car on the track and overall it was a positive learning experience. I recommend it to anyone who has the time and the money to try it out.

At the end of the day, when driving, it is not the car that will save you, it is you – your speed and anticipation of things unfolding in front of you.

In Finland the single most preventable cause of traffic accidents is following too close… Back off a bit from the driver in front of you.

Drive safely!

Women in Sport in Finland: still invisible…

September 13, 2017

If you can read this article in Finnish, please do.

This is about Marika Hara, 11-time world champion, winner of 10 other world championship medals and 13 European championship medals. The significance of her dominance in sport feels really watered down.

She does mountain biking orienteering, a sport that is not practiced by a lot of people. That is not the point.

(This really gets my goat) 11-time world champion and Hara is still virtually unknown. Apparently her male counterparts in the sport (who have also been successful at the world championship level) have been honoured at the annual President’s Independence Day ball – but not Hara.

Maybe she better start shopping for something to wear… I will lament, yet again: Women in sport in Finland deserve far more recognition for their efforts.

A victim of crime

August 3, 2017

-written by Life in Finland (blog)

I have become a statistic.

I was robbed in broad daylight in my own neighbourhood while I was walking my dog yesterday.

Pick pocketing by foreign gangs (apparently largely Romanian and Bulgarian) is not new in Finland. They are regulars on the streets of Helsinki in the summer. Just last week the Finnish Police issued a public statement saying that pick pocketers were on the move in Helsinki.

So, let it be told: criminal thugs are now targeting people in the suburbs in the Helsinki region.

Yes, I made myself target. I fully acknowledge that. So I don’t need any advice or harsh mean words to tell me what an idiot I was.

Hindsight is 20/20.

Just after 16.00 I was walking my dog when some people in a car stopped and asked for directions. Being the helpful person I am, I went over to help. But the car that stopped was one I had seen just a few minutes previously turning at a set of lights where I was waiting to cross.

The man in front passenger seat took a long look at me, I remember this…

This is how highly I think of my dog: He is so unusual looking that I would never leave him tied up outside a store or anywhere alone for that matter (not even my yard). When they lured me over to their car, I was thinking of my dog – not the gold chain around my neck…

They wanted to know how to get to Turku. They identified themselves as Turkish. They were not Turkish.

In an exchange that lasted probably no more than a minute, while I was giving them directions, the two (likely Romanian/Bulgarian) women who were sitting in the back seat of the car got out and gave thanks by shoving worthless jewellery into my hands.

It was a slight tussle, they didn’t hurt me at all. I don’t even remember what my dog did – but he didn’t figure in to anything obviously. But in those few seconds one of those women stole the gold chain from around my neck. Yes, really.

Then the car sped off. I didn’t get the make or model, but it had Swedish plates and it was a grey/silver older looking car that I would describe as a Volvo.

I checked the time. I looked at the worthless junk in my hands and called 112. The fellow on the other end was helpful and told me I should contact the Espoo police the next day (office hours were already ending).

I continued my walk. About five minutes later I reached up and realized my gold chain was gone.

I called 112 again and told them about the previous call, what had just transpired and then started to cry. The fellow on the other end was again helpful and dispatched a patrol car to meet me at the local fire station, since I was closer to that than I was to home.

I called the Mr. and told him what happened. He was flabbergasted. Because our kid was also at home I told him not to react or tell her what had happened. He left the house and came to meet me at the fire station.

The officers arrived and I told them what happened. They were very helpful, took my statement and told me it wasn’t my fault. I followed up with one of them to send along some pictures of the chain that was stolen from around my neck. I know it’s gone and I won’t ever see it again. That’s fine.

That it is gone is in fact partly my fault.

My fault for not wearing a shirt where it normally would been tucked under the neckline.

My fault for being naive and too trusting. (Honest, I thought they were targeting my dog.)

I’ve made it through more than four decades of life and now get to wear the title, “Victim of Crime.”

Am I afraid? No. I am pretty pissed off though.

It won’t happen again and I will continue to walk around like “I own the place.”

I’ll be ok.

Thank you to the two officers, Mikko and Janne who took my statement. They were kind and understanding.

 

p.s. The gold chain was a gift from the Mr. and quite valuable.

p.s.s. I have not told my child about this. I don’t want her to fear people. The people who robbed me yesterday targeted me for my jewellery. I suspect these thugs are not going after little kids to terrorize them…

Plagiarism SUCKS!

August 2, 2017

WARNING: Life in Finland is being plagiarized by someone else.

Last week I got some pingbacks on my blog and I was curious, so I clicked and was horrified to find out that someone has been lifting my blog entries in English, translating them into (apparently poor) Finnish and calling them their own. They are also using MY photos.

There’s not much I can do it seems.

I want it to be known now, that I am the only writer of this blog and all my content is original, unless otherwise specified.

Plagiarism is WRONG.

-Carmen P

What do you do if your spouse dies?

July 18, 2017

This past year has been a bit of a reality check for me. People around me have lost siblings and significant others. It is truly shocking. This is life, I know, but unfair nonetheless. 😦

Yesterday a friend of mine here in Finland lost her husband unexpectedly. She is not from Finland. My heart breaks for her, as she also has small children who now have to live their lives without a dad.

She has some hard times ahead, choices to make and things to do. One of life’s unwelcome challenges.

Last year Helsingin Sanomat ran an article highlighting the things that must be done (over a period of time) after a loved one dies. I am still waiting on an answer from them to see if I can access the article.

Meanwhile I searched for information in English and was surprised to see that many Finnish institutions provide a wealth of information.

The Social Services Institution (KELA) is a good place to start.

Infopankki, which is a portal of information for foreigners living in Finland also provides some advice in the event of a death in the family.

Suomi.fi is a service that is being developed by the Finnish Population Register Centre, and actually provides detailed answers to a lot questions that grieving people may not think to ask.

Of course, there are two things that are certain in life: death and taxes. The Finnish Tax Authority also provides information on things that must be done on the financial side.

When a spouse of working age dies, the surviving spouse is entitled to a survivors’ pension. Dependent children are also eligible for an orphan’s pension. The Finnish Centre for Pensions also provides information on that topic and what forms to fill out.

What is important to keep in mind is to ask, “Is there something else I need to know.” This seems to be a standard for foreigners in Finland, as the dissemination of need-to-know information is not always equal in all communities.

Coming to terms with the loss of a spouse/sibling/friend who is still of working age is a scary thing. My heart goes out to anyone and everyone facing that challenge right now.

Have time, will travel

July 14, 2017

Hey! It has been awhile! I have had visitors from Canada, and in between visitors we squeezed in a trip to Iceland, so I have been enjoying some holidays. The weather in Finland this summer has been less than ideal – but of course the weather is getting better (and warmer), just because I have to go back to work. Oh well.

As a family we decided that when we are in Finland, we will always try and visit places that we have never been to before. This time around we actually a few visited places we had been to before and threw in a few new destinations that we hadn’t been to before.

We decided to keep my dad’s visit low-key because he needed a break. I had a good laugh when I talked to him on the phone before he came when he asked, “So have you got anything for us to do when I come?” I kinda assumed he meant work-type stuff (because we do have things to do around the yard and house :D), but he meant fun stuff! Yes, we did. And because the Little Miss was done school, she was also with us too.

We visited the Tytyri Mine in Lohja (new for me) and my dad really enjoyed that, seeing how he has had a long career in mining. One thing my dad made clear was that he wanted to see a Finnish baseball game, aka pesäpallo. Fortunately one of my teammates from ringette is also a pesäpallo player, so she was able to give us some hints. The closest Finnish national league team is in Hyvinkää, so we piled into the car (with another Canadian visitor) and braved the rain to watch Hyvinkää Tahko battle it out against Koskenkorva. It was fun to watch, but so many questions about strategy!!! If you want to know more, here is a good review of Finnish baseball in English. Thanks to some fortunate timing, we also got to see part of the Helsinki Air Show on June 9.

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My dad was pretty happy to just relax – in fact he really enjoyed going out walking with our dog; so we spent the good part of his (albeit, short) visit just hanging out at home.

After that it was Iceland, which was absolutely fantastic. Since it is not really related to life in Finland, I won’t go into the details here. I’ll just share this – the land is so awe-inspiring and changes all the time. The greatest part of that trip was seeing the iceberg lagoon at Jokusarlon and the mud pots at Hverir.

Jokusarlon

Hverir

Midsummer was pretty relaxing, we sailed with our friends and enjoyed it even though the weather was crummy and cold. We lucked out though, and had some great sailing weather on the way back to the home harbour.

And then all of a sudden, my mom was here! We checked out Heureka and got to see Animal Body Worlds, which was totally awesome! The Little Miss brought a friend, so she had a good time too.

We stopped in at Haikaranpesä in Espoo and I was really surprised to find out that it is actually closed in July. It is such a unique tourist destination in Espoo, I thought for sure it would be open in the summer. What I didn’t realize immediately is that a large part of the clientele is actually business-based, and since most of Finland is basically shut down in July, it doesn’t make sense to keep it open. It seems that there is some discussion about whether Haikaranpesä will remain open in July to cater to tourists next year… Watch this space.

Canada Day on July 1 was pretty special, as we got to spend part of it aboard the research vessel Aranada, which was a part of the 150th anniversary celebrations. It was a cool experience for my mom, and great for me to be back on board! (Read about it in a previous entry here.)

My mother had Turku on the brain, so we actually ended up there for an afternoon and spent the time checking out Turku Castle. The weather was cold and downright inclement, but it sure brought a lot of visitors to the castle! One bit of history that didn’t stick with me the last time I was there was the fact that the castle was bombed during WWII and a huge restoration project was carried out in the 1960s. A large part of what we see today in part because of that restoration effort. Across from the castle is a really great little cafe called Linnan Talli. I highly recommend it – great sandwiches and great “munkki” (basically a sugar doughnut)!

A few days later we were off to eastern Finland and on a mission to head to Lusto (translation: tree ring), the Finnish Forest Museum near Punkaharju. One could spend many hours at Lusto as it is stuffed with history. Our next destination was Koli. My mom remarked at our pictures from a few years back on how much Koli looks like the shores of Georgian Bay and the North Channel in Lake Huron in Northern Ontario. So this was a must! We had time to take a hike and did the 3,5 km nature trail that took us down to Mäkränaho and then back up to Ukko Koli. The ski lift is also in operation in the summer and for EUR 9, you can get a round-trip ticket that takes you down the hill. Hop off, run around to the other side of the lift shack and head back up. It’s neat to see the forest from that perspective – and it was surprisingly quiet! If you are afraid of heights, then this little bitty is not for you.

Back in 2012 I visited the Valamo Monastery with my dad, stepmom and sisters. Since it is not too far to drive from the Mr.’s parents’ place, we decided to head down to take a peek. Valamo has lots to see and do (workshops, retreats, concerts, good food), so it’s always worth a visit. See more on the Valamo home pages here.

The same day we also headed to the Alahovi Winery. Whenever we visit the Mr.’s parents we always grab a couple of bottles of wine, so they know our faces when we show up (or call ahead in the off-season). They also produce beer and cider. It’s nice to support local products! (I’ll have to write more about that in another entry.)

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One place that was kept completely off the agenda for my parents this time around was Helsinki. I was talking about this the other day with one of my colleagues from work – why go to Helsinki when we have everything we need here in Espoo? My parents have seen Helsinki before, so there was no need to rehash the experience this time – in my opinion anyways.

Holidays are about relaxing as well, so we didn’t run all over the place this time. There are places I’d like to get to in Finland and I still have time, so let’s see what the rest of the summer brings!

When you travel, do you go back to the same places again?

What’s on your Finland agenda for the summer?

Inquiring minds want to know! 🙂