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Exiting the Olympic bubble…

March 1, 2018

Another Winter Olympics has come and gone, and again I am left with that feeling of, “What now?!”

Well, there is life after the Olympics, but there are still a lot of great performances to savour from them.  A few of my favourite moments and “Wow” moments (it’s taken a couple of days to pull this all together):

The medal count: Norway won a record-breaking 39 medals (14,14,11), Germany was also impressive with 31 medals (14,10,7) and so was Canada with 29 (11,8,10). Korea also managed to pick up 17 medals (5,8,4) giving the hometown crowd a reason to cheer on many occasions! 🙂

Social media fun: I tweeted different athletes (Venla Hovi, Minttu Tuominen, Annina Rajahuhta, Susanna Tapani, Riikka Välilä, Linda Välimäki, Elina Risku, Niklas Edin, Chris del Bosco, Pekka Koskela, Mika Poutala, Denny Morrison) during the games with messages of support and it was great that they got them. The support from thousands of people around the world meant a lot to them and they said so too.

Giving the King a hug: Sweden’s men won the 4 x 7,5km biathlon relay and King Karl Gustav was present at the finish line. I laughed my head off when one of the skiers gave the King a hug. So awesome!

Tied for medals in bobsleigh: Not once but twice! In the men’s two-man event Germany and Canada shared the gold medal. It was tense second or two after the final run, but cheers erupted when the Germans realized they had won too. Bear hugs all around for Team Canada and Team Germany – so great to see.

It happened again in the men’s four-man event when Germany’s second sled and Team Korea tied for the silver medal. Complete pandemonium in the stands!

Krista Pärmäkoski: She was Finland’s shining light these game with three medals in cross-country skiing. Forget Lauri Markkanen – she is hands down my choice for Athlete of the Year. Surely no Finnish athlete will top this performance at all this year. Wait for me to campaign on this later this year.

Marit Björgen (NOR) sealed her place in history by becoming the most decorated Winter Olympic athlete after she bagged her 8th gold medal in the women’s 30km. Her final result: eight gold, four silver and three bronze medals from five Winter games.  Will she retire? I haven’t seen any headlines saying so, so she may be around for the 2019 World Nordic Ski Championships, to be held in Seefeld, Austria.

Kallie Humphries (CAN) also made history by becoming the only woman to medal in each of the women’s bobsleigh events since it became part of the Olympic program in Vancouver.  (Please correct me, if I am wrong!)

Ester Ledecka (CZE) became the first woman to ever win gold in two different events at the Winter Olympics when she won gold in women’s snowboard parallel giant slalom and Super G – on borrowed skis!! Awesome!

(EDIT, March 2, 2018) The men’s 50km – dear heavens, how could I have forgotten this?! I did get out of bed early to watch this! Hopes were riding very high Iivo Niskanen, who was named Finland’s Athlete of the Year for 2017. He made an early break at about 20km and didn’t really look back. A late push by OAR skier Aleksander Bolshunov didn’t phase Niskanen, who changed his skis with just a few kilometres left and stormed back to the lead, becoming the first Finn to win a medal in the 50km at the Olympics since Kalevi Hämäläinen in 1960.

Figure skaters Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (CAN) – find highlights of any of their performances during the Olympics. I have no words, they were incredible!

Impressive women alround: the top four teams in curling, all of the hockey teams, speed skater Jorien Ter Mors (NED), up-and-comer Kim Boutin (CAN), cross-country skier Charlotte Kalla (SWE) (she won 4 medals) and compatriot Stina Nilsson, who also won four medals and Japanese long track speed skaters Nao Kodaira and Miho Tagaki who were multiple medal winners too. I could go on and on!

Impressive men: snowboarder Shaun White (USA), long track speed skater Ted-Jan Bloemen (CAN), long track speed skater Havard Lorentzen (NOR), the German hockey team, ski jumper Noriaki Kazai (JPN) in his 8th Olympics (!), short track speed skater Shaolin Sandor Liu (HUN) and alpine skier Andre Myhrer (SWE) who became the oldest man to ever win slalom gold at the Olympics.

Missed the mark (and you gotta feel bad for them, but this is the Olympics and anything can happen): Finland’s men’s hockey team (they looked good on paper!), biathlete Kaisa Mäkäräinen (FIN), speed skater Mika Poutala (FIN) after finishing 4th again in the men’s 500 – by 0.03 of a second (!) and short track speed skater Elise Christie (GBR).

Another surprise was the Canadian men and women being shut out of the medals in curling – first time ever since it became an Olympic sport again in 1998. That being said, the curling was great to watch! The rest of the world has caught up!

Scary moment: Men’s ski-crosser Chris del Bosco (CAN), who had a scary-looking crash during the qualifying runs. He suffered a pelvis fracture, broken ribs and bruised lung, but was stable in hospital in Korea. No news has come out since then, so hopefully he is okay! Several other skiers and snowboarders also suffered nasty crashes and injuries in Pyeongchang, so hopefully they’re all going to be okay!

Comeback kids: Speed skater Denny Morrison (CAN) and Snowboarder Mark McMorris (CAN). While Denny didn’t make it to the podium, that he overcame life-threatening injuries after a motorcycle accident and later suffering a stroke – the fact that he participated in fourth Olympic Games is simply awesome. Mark McMorris was fighting for his life at this time last year after hitting a tree while snowboarding with friends. He stormed to a bronze medal in men’s snowboard slopestyle. Hats off!

Calling it a career: Finland’s Anna-Kaisa Saarinen (cross-country skiing), Hannu Manninen (Nordic combined) and Pekka Koskela (speed skating) gave emotional interviews to YLE after concluding their last events in Pyeongchang. They have all decided to call it a career – and impressive careers they have had! #respect

Canada’s Alex Harvey also said that Pyeongchang would be his last Olympics. There were high hopes for him to win some hardware, but other athletes had better days than he did. He finished fourth in the men’s 50km and was devastated.

One more year? This article is in Finnish, but use Google Translate to help you… The campaign has begun to get Finland’s Riikka Välilä to continue playing hockey for #OneMoreYear. As Finland hosts the Women’s World Hockey Championships next year, I’d say the time is ripe to jump on the bandwagon. 😀

At 44, Välilä just became the oldest hockey player to ever be awarded an Olympic medal when Finland beat OAR in the bronze medal game last week.

On the negative side: I was so disappointed with YLE’s coverage of the gold medal game in women’s hockey. The commentators were SO biased towards the American team (just like in Sochi). I understand the connection many Finnish women hockey players have with the States, as many of them have played university hockey there… But come on – the bias was really awful! <grr>

I, like hundreds of thousands of other people, believe that shootouts do NOT belong in championship games. To have a gold medal game decided by a shootout – absolutely ridiculous. Play the game until someone wins. Shootouts are okay for round robin games, but not playoff games… Whose bright idea was it anyways? And why do they do it? Wait – it’s probably all about money and TV rights… Who cares – at the end of the day shootouts stink!

The Finnish Olympic Committee and members of the media deemed Finland’s performance at the Olympics a “failure,”… But that is another story…

Women won five of six of Finland’s medals in Pyeongchang, and that too is a different story…

Enjoy some good round-up stories from the BBC, The Guardian and the CBC

BBC: http://www.bbc.com/sport/winter-olympics/43167215

LOL about Scott Moir: http://www.bbc.com/sport/winter-olympics/43151776

The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/feb/25/pyeongchang-winter-olympics-2018-the-games-of-new-horizons-russia

Canada had a good roll in spite of lots of near misses! https://olympics.cbc.ca/news/article/the-2018-olympics-were-big-win-for-canada.html

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“Go back to your home country.”

January 22, 2018

How many of you living in a foreign country have heard that?

I have heard that a few times over the years, but only in the first few years after I moved here.

A social media storm has ensued since Yagmur Özberkan tweeted that she had been told to “go back to her home country” after applying to get a loan with her boyfriend at a Nordea bank in Turku last week. Özberkan has lived in Finland for over 25 years.

She tweeted this:

Which roughly translates to: “I’ve faced many kinds of prejudices, but this tops them all: I asked for a mortgage offer from Nordea, and I was told to go back to my home country. Thanks, Nordea, for good customer service.

Other than what I would categorize as blatant racism on the part of the bank employee involved, what gives?

There is more here on the fallout (in English).

My only reaction wide-mouthed shock. I am speechless. We have already heard about how hard it is for foreigners in Finland to even open a bank account and how it continues to be an issue even these days. All you have to do is peruse some of the most popular English-speaking web forums for foreigners in Finland to see that these kinds of things still happen a lot.

***

Long ago and far away, the Mr. and I had all of our banking business at Nordea. We also tried to apply for a bank loan and were roundly rejected – by telephone, with no explanation given. Now I wonder if my non-Finnish surname at the time play a part in that. One can always wonder.

At the end of the day, no matter how long we have lived in Finland or how much effort we have put into trying to fit in, there will always be a segment of the population who maintains, “All immigrants out of Finland.” or “You will never be Finnish enough.”

It still sucks.

My new favourite spectator sport

January 5, 2018

Handball.

Long ago and far away, I went to watch the Finnish women take on Italy in an exhibition game and so began my mild obsession with a game that I really, really like to watch. I’d like to play, but that’s a different story. I am approaching middle age… I will be content that I still play ringette and hockey – for now.

Handball is played by about 4000 people in Finland, and mostly among the Swedish speaking population on the south coast. It’s unfortunately an obscure sport here, which deserves far more attention than it gets.

I was really happy when the Little Miss declared a few years back that she wanted to try handball (after suggesting it to her). She is now in her third season of handball and really likes it a lot. These days she is playing for Atlas Vantaa. Timetable conflicts with other hobbies meant that I had to search for a new club, because she was vehement about continuing. As a junior player she gets into Atlas’s (men and women) Finnish league games for free, so when time permits, I try to make sure we can go and watch.

I am still learning the rules and I follow some clubs and players on social media, so I was pretty happy to find out there was a chance to see some high calibre handball close to home.

Last night I dragged the Mr. to watch a men’s handball World Cup qualification game between Finland and Slovakia, which was played at the Energia Areena in Vantaa. Finland is in the same pool as Russia, Slovakia and Luxembourg. From what I understand, only the top finisher of the pool will advance, and that looks to be Russia at the moment.

In any case, Finland and Slovakia faced off last night and the game got off to a slow start. I always assume that rivalry is tense between teams in qualification, but the guys on both teams were greeting each other with high fives and hand slaps on the court – even after the game started! They passed the ball back and forth a few times to get a feel for it and then things got rolling. There were a few penalties here and there and even laughs when players were dragged down the floor, and then picked each other up as the refs issued warnings… I was surprised. It was a good game and I’d love to see another one soon! (More on that in a sec.)

Slovakia prevailed 27-22, dimming Finland’s hopes of moving on. I caught some headlines prior to the game about the Granlund brothers (Max and Robin) who are new to the senior national team. They both play Finnish league handball for Dicken, one of the most successful clubs in the country. They’ve been referred to as the “Twin Towers”, and for good reason because they are both 2m (and some) tall – and are by far the tallest players on Team Finland. Of the two, Max saw more playing time… His performance was impressive: six goals. He was named as Finland’s player of the game, totally the right call. He has a cannon for an arm!

I am hoping my timetable is free next Thursday because Team Finland squares off against Luxembourg on January 11 in Vantaa. Tickets are EUR 20 (EUR 10 for kids) in advance and EUR 25 (EUR 15 at the door). Game time is a 18.30 at the Energia Areena in Vantaa.

Oh… And I think the Mr. actually enjoyed the game! 🙂

p.s. Happy New Year!

100 years of independent Finland

December 6, 2017

Well, it’s finally here!

Finland celebrates 100 years of independence today. There have been hundreds of events going on since yesterday and continuing on into today.

We decided to take advantage of the really great weather here in Espoo, and went canoeing on Espoonjoki. It sure was nice!

I’d like to wish everyone in Finland a very HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY! Hyvää itsenäisyyspäivää!!

Life with a dog

November 24, 2017

A couple of years ago we got a dog. The Mr. and I had talked for a long time about taking this step. Having a pet is a huge responsibility and I was pretty worried about how we would juggle our home routine to accommodate a furball. Virtually everything we do now means we also have to take our furball into consideration.

So how did we get this guy?

It all happened very quickly.

On a break between periods during the 2015 World Hockey Championships, I said to the Mr. “Hey, we have time now – let’s look for a dog!”

A friend at work had mentioned a few places where we could search for dogs on the net. I actually had criteria for getting a dog. First and foremost, I wanted a dog that needed a home. I didn’t want a puppy, I didn’t want a purebred (damn, they’re expensive!!), it had to be good with kids, a small-medium-sized dog would be great…

Within minutes of searching we found this guy. His original name was *Riku, but we changed it slightly. (*For the purposes of this entry, I will call him Riku.)

Riku was one of the first dogs we found in our search and I told the Mr. we should ask about him. So he sent a message to the man selling him, and we found out we were not the only people interested in him. To make a long story short, we wound up getting Riku because the seller (and his “breeder”) liked us and liked the way the dog acted with the Little Miss. He was ours for the taking! We’ve sent a few updates to his breeder and he’s really pleased to hear that things are going well.

Riku’s story goes something like this, his breeder has a female hunting dog and she had some “fun” out in the field, resulting in a litter of mixed breed puppies. He apparently went to a retired couple and they wound up returning him. I can understand why because he’s very busy and energetic. Riku needs lots of walks and play time – Every. Single. Day. We heard that one of the couple didn’t want him anymore and hence his need for a new home.

He was about seven months old when we got him and he was well-trained. I have zero complaints – save one. He is a complete jerk around most other dogs, which makes me think he didn’t see a whole lot of other dogs when he was younger. We’re still working on that, but otherwise, he is an incredibly friendly, loving dog. It’s a pity we never got to see what Riku looked like and acted like when he was a small puppy because I am sure he was a real scream. He never fails to make me laugh or smile on a daily basis. 🙂

I can’t imagine our home without Riku and we have adapted our life and schedule quite well, he fits right in. So this monumental task of getting a dog was not nearly as tough as I thought it would be. Finland is a really dog-friendly country on the whole and it is pretty easy to find places to stay that accept dogs when we are on the road.

It was a really good life choice for our household, made at exactly the right time. I wouldn’t change a thing!

There has even been discussion of getting another dog… But maybe one is enough for now! 😀

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. 😉

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!