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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. 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 pesÀpallo. Fortunately one of my teammates from ringette is also a pesÀpallo player, so she was able to give us some hints. The closest Finnish national league team is in HyvinkÀÀ, so we piled into the car (with another Canadian visitor) and braved the rain to watch HyvinkÀÀ 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.



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 HaikaranpesĂ€ 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 HaikaranpesĂ€ 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 MĂ€krĂ€naho 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! 🙂

Propaganda in the mailbox (?)

June 1, 2017

Back in May during the weekend of Vappu, we got these in the mailbox.

The Mr. brought them into the house and my incredulous reaction was more like a, “Wow, WTF are these?!

These two books were written by Harun Yahya (also known as Adnan Oktar), an Islamic scholar and he calls Darwin’s theory of evolution “deceit”, among his other arguments. I won’t attempt to articulate any of his other thoughts or try to summarize his arguments, because this article from the New York Times does a very good job. It’s all very fascinating actually.

I actually thumbed through the first few pages of one of the books and then thought, I will open my mind and actually read these. (When I have time, which is in short supply these days, but that is another story.)

A friend of mine was stopped by some Mormons last week and they offered him a book. He too decided it was time open his mind and he pledged to read it. I applaud him for that. The point is, reading these books will probably not change my world view, but it will offer a perspective different from my own. My book shelf is a mishmash of books that cover different world views and perspectives and I do want to devote my attention to them at some point… Anyways…

I was wondering if we were the only ones who had received these books, and then I saw a few in our garbage bin and one thrown on the street when I was walking the dog. So, I guess not.

A few days after the surprise in our mailbox I mentioned it to a friend of ours and he later sent me a link to a news story from YLE. Indeed we were not the only people who had received these books and police were baffled. As far as I know, no one has claimed responsibility for their distribution. See the news (in Finnish) here.

Has anyone else received these books?

Any thoughts on this? I’d love to hear from you.

Picture of the Day

April 28, 2017

It’s that time of year!

Spring is coming and with it, all sorts of weird and interesting weather. It’s basically squalling all the time in Espoo – nice weather intermixed with crazy winds, hail and snow – BOOM! Then a few minutes later, it’s nice and sunny again. The Little Miss remarked about that and wondered why the weather is doing what it’s doing…

Anyways, as I was leaving the arena to head home yesterday evening, there was this cool cloud. I actually drove around it on the way home.

More crazy weather to come I am sure, we’re just getting started!


Mixed feelings about bikini fitness

April 25, 2017

I just watched a documentary called Muodonmuutoksia (Director: Kati Juurus) about four Finnish women who compete in bikini fitness, which has become a favoured trend among young women. All I could think while I watched it was “starvation and abuse.”And at the time of writing this I can say I have had very little time to reflect on this, I was left feeling confused and even angry.

There was very little that was real about these women: hair colouring, heavy make-up, fake nails, breast implants, painted-on tans, unrealistic expectations and having their bikinis glued to their rear ends so they stay in place during competitions. Their “coaches” meted out punishing nutritional routines, right down to the grams of food they consumed.

What is real about living up to the standards of people who think that this is the cornerstone of beauty?

All they become when they stand on the stage to try and outdo their fellow competitors, is objects. No one in the audience, nor the judges appreciate the efforts they made to get there in the first place – it only boils down to how they look.

I understand the fitness part of it, these women were all in very good shape and trained hard. Fitness should be for life, for piece of mind, not “beauty.”

These are not role models for my daughter, so please, stay far away from her.

And I am sorry if I have offended anyone, but sport and fitness is for life and health, not these over-the-top, unrealistic standards that millions of women can never hope to live up to.

If you are in Finland (and understand Finnish), you can watch it here for the next 80 or so days:

Dokumenttiprojekti: Muodonmuutoksia

“Bikinifitness on nuorten naisten suosikkiharrastus. Se vaatii ankaraa itsekuria, tiukkaa dieettiĂ€ ja rankkaa treenaamista. MikĂ€ saa nuoret naiset kilpailemaan keskenÀÀn ruumiin tĂ€ydellisyydestĂ€? O: Kati Juurus”

Muodonmuutoksia – via YLE, directed by Kati Juurus

Municipal elections this weekend in Finland

April 7, 2017

On Sunday, Finns will head to the polls to cast their votes in nation-wide municipal elections. Here’s some things that are on my mind. I am not sure how much elected officials can affect some of these things I have on my mind, but nonetheless. I have some bones to pick. For me important issues are the environment (pollution, waste management and recycling), public transit development, youth education, the health of youth and young adults, smart infrastructure development (enough with the destruction of green spaces already!!), sport and Laaksolahti’s future as a sports complex and arena.

A little more detail:

– Enough with the shopping malls in Espoo. I am so fed up with the encouragement to consume rather than show some restraint on that front. The two stores I’d like to see open doors in Espoo, however, are Budget Sport and Kodin Terra. That being said, we do not need anymore damn shopping malls!

– The SDP had a good little ad tacked to the back of a bus seat. One transit zone for Espoo. According to future plans from Helsinki Regional Transit, they’re proposing to make two travel zones in Espoo, which basically punishes people who live and work in Espoo (refer also to my previous entry about the LĂ€nsi Metro and how that is going to mess up my day when it comes online). (EDIT: I stand corrected based on a comment from a reader below, thank you Urmas! But in the end it is the metro that will mess up things royally…)

– A friend of mine from the ringette world has made an excellent point about the development of ice halls in Espoo – they’re all being developed in LeppĂ€vaara and along the LĂ€nsivĂ€ylĂ€ corridor in the southern part of the city. Espoon Kiekkoseura (the Espoo Hockey Club), aka EKS, which also includes ringette has their home hall in Laaksolahti. Basically all of Espoo’s ringette teams from C juniors and younger practice and play in the practice hall. The main arena in Laaksolahti was condemned a few years ago and is not being used. The local paper LĂ€nsivĂ€ylĂ€ reported last fall that the City of Espoo has no redevelopment plans for Laaksolahti. Rumour has it that the practice hall will be shut down in a few years, leaving a great deal of Espoo’s ringette players with no place to play practice. Here is a FACT: EKS has the largest ringette club in the country, with more licenced players than any other club in the country… So yet again, women and girls get the shaft again because people think we are not a priority when it comes to the development of winter sport in Espoo. BUILD A NEW COMPLEX IN LAAKSOLAHTI and stop ignoring the constituents who live in central and north Espoo!!

I tested out the YLE and Helsingin Sanomat “voting machines,” in which your responses to the same statements made by candidates can be matched to find your ideal candidate. These results of both were surprising because they came up with candidates from parties I would never dream of voting for! I have an idea of a candidate, but when it comes down to it, I tend to vote along party lines. The voting machines didn’t really help me out this time.

If you are eligible to vote, be sure to exercise that right!

Shades of winter in Savo

March 28, 2017

Last weekend we were up in Kuopio for a hockey tournament. Fortunately the Mr.’s parents live nearby, so we didn’t have to stay in a hotel.

There has been no snow in the capital region for a couple of weeks now, so winter is definitely over. Not so in Savo! I brought my snowshoes in hopes I would be able to slap them on and head into the bush. I wasn’t disappointed. There was at least 50 cm of snow in the bush – and it had a nice hard crust on it – making it absolutely superb for snowshoeing! Even the Mr.’s dad strapped them on and went to investigate around the property.

I didn’t have a lot of time, but it sure was nice to get out and enjoy the snow (which was sorely missing in southern Finland this past winter) and the bush. My dog had a great time roaring around. 🙂

The moose have been munching on the trees too… It seems they have had a harder winter than normal.