Sunday, December 18, 2011

Finnish specialties

I don't know the Finnish cuisine yet, only that they eat rutabaga! ugh! which to me tastes horrible and they used to prepare it as one of the must for Christmas Eve. Well, maybe it's similar as with our carp. Whenever I mention this fish to someone from abroad, they ask: and is it any good? Well, yes, for us it is, because this is our old tradition.
Anyway, I didn't make any rutabaga, but another very Finnish and very delicious food, that is lingonberry jam. In fall season the fruits were sold everywhere. They are bright red, small and round and have bitter taste. I don't like them eat raw, but the jam tastes great.
I had just a little of them and it made only one single jar of jam, but still, at least something home made for those winter days.
And so you can see here the final result of my work. It's really easy and not time consuming at all.

Here's how to make it.
Just take lingonberries, add some sugar (I use brown cane sugar) and couple of cloves to add some distinct aroma and cook it for a while - I mean until you'll get a syrupy liquid from the juice and sugar.
When it's still hot pour it to jars.



Than close them and turn lids up until they cool down.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

sunrise, sunset...

OK, I'm much better today, although nothing has changed. But well, after a bad day comes the sun, even if only in my imagination. Sun rose today at 9.19am and went back to sleep at 3.12pm. But this is what the calendar says, because we didn't see it even for a single minute. If you want to feel better and compare how long days are in your countries in December look at this page
Welcome to the Land of Darkness!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

bad day

Maybe it's the weather - grey and rainy with the ever later mornings and earlier evenings, maybe it's the empty apartment with no sofa and what so ever in the living room or maybe it is the neighborhood we live in or maybe everything mingled together what makes me feel a bit sad, disappointed or just melancholic. I miss our previous place - not the tiny apartment - but the part of the city. Nice, old, well preserved houses, close to the see and nice parks and streets. Whenever I go there I miss it more and more and I feel bad taking the metro back home. Yes, Myllypuro is not the best place. Yesterday afternoon we walked with Wanda around. She didn't want to be at home so we took the stroller and we just walked along. It was dark of course - 5pm and wet. And it looked to me like an old Polish housing estate with apartment buildings and parking lots one next to the other. It was a very depressive feeling. Maybe even more so that I know that beautiful Kruununhaka and other nice places in town. Nice and expensive though... And maybe even more so because on Monday we visited Adam's colleague in his well furnished and decorated apartment with a river view downtown. And there were his friends, who happen to live in Kruununhaka on one of the best streets I know there. And I felt so bad mentioning our Myllypuro and having in mind, that we even don't have a sofa! I know, it's not important what you have and own only who you are, but... sometimes you simply have a bad day.

And this is, where we live:



Sunday, December 11, 2011

Big moments

While time's passing by we're slowly becoming a part of the society. Being a parent makes this assimilation even easier and faster. Comparing to our life in the States, before Wanda was born, I was living there like an outcast on a remote island. I was busy with my writing and I was completely out of the society - I wasn't working for any American employer, I didn't know any people, I felt like I could have leave that place any day and change for any other on the planet Earth. Wanda made me feel in HP like at home. And so it happens here in Helsinki. You learn the society from meeting other moms, from having your child in a day care, from things like doctor's appointments for flu shots or other issues and so on and so forth.
One of such moments we had last Saturday.

It was in the morning. Wanda with all the other kids from the day care had a performance in one of the biggest venues in Helsinki - in Finlandia Hall - designed by Alvar Aalto, the famous Finnish architect. I knew for a long time about this Christmas concert, but I first thought the kids will be the audience not the artists. But the latter was true. So, there it was. Dozens of kids in costumes ages two to six on that big stage with all the staff running around. There was the music, lights, cameras and excitement. Big moment for the kids and perhaps even bigger for the parents watching from afar. They were singing and dancing, which was so funny sometimes. The little kids were constantly forgetting what to do and when, but the preschool ones were quite good. And there was our Wanda with other toddlers - they looked so small. We were so proud of her, that she made it.



Thursday, December 8, 2011

changes

As you can notice, I've made some changes in layout. And maybe there will come some more. I'm a total dummy in creating web pages so unfortunately I didn't manage to do what I wanted. But I promise to dust off my camera and take some winter pics in Helsinki.

Monday, December 5, 2011

home made in Finland

"Home" - because to buy "Made in Finland" is too expensive or I'm too cheap to do this now. Anyway, this year I decided to make DIY Christmas decoration. I'm not particularly skilled and I didn't do anything like that for ages if not zillions of years. Sometime in elementary school perhaps and even than I wasn't that horribly great in crafts. So, why this idea? Only because of money? Yes and no. Last weekend my Finnish friend asked me to join her on a small trip to Helsinki Art School where there were students selling their arts and to another winter fair with Finnish design, arts and crafts. It was a very nice experience and tons of very nice stuff with not that nice prices. And although I only bought two pairs of earrings for myself, I've brought home some inspirations of how to make some crafts myself.
And off we go!
Here's our workshop table:
 We're cutting and ...
... hanging our hand made toys:
and some aroma from oranges and cloves:
And well, the end result was far from what I've seen on those arts and crafts fairs, but at least we had fun for more than two hours and I spent ten instead of hundred or more euros.
And there is another good thing - we won't spend Christmas here, so there is no worry Santa won't come because he will be too offended by our Xmas tree :)
Oh, and shhhh... tonight he's suppose to fly over Helsinki and drop some small gifts for kids. Remember to put your boots close to the windows so he can see them and drop one for you! - This is what I was told and what I believed when I was a very little girl and now - being a mom - I told this story to my two-years-old. Her little boots are already waiting by the window for Santa to come tonight.  Be prepared!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Santa is coming to town!

Sometimes it's good to live in Helsinki. You can for example see Santa. And the real Santa! From Lapland. It was today afternoon on the main streets of Helsinki. I think Santa brought with him the Northern weather, cause today it was really cold, minus 3 C or so, but also sunny. So there he was, sitting in an old, old automobile, from 30. I guess and the whole parade was kind of old-fashion. All the old cars - fire-trucks and other automobiles, no laud music at all, only his big entourage walking along with children dressed as little Santa and Angels singing Christmas carols and some jingle-bells. We had an impression, that it must have looked like that 40 and 60 and 80 years ago and nothing has changed. Only Santa has grown even longer beard. Very nice event, touching even, when you see this old guy in a red suit and you know, that this is THE ONE and suddenly you feel a bit like a little child again, believing he's real. Wanda was moved too and so excited. She waved to him with her little hand and on a way back home saying about Santa and that winter is coming with Santa.

We forgot to take our camera and so I only managed to take couple of those worse than ever shots:




Saturday, November 19, 2011

Light, light, I need some light!

It's so dark. We wake up about 7.30 and it's still dark outside. At 10 it's suppose to be light, but the sky is so densely overcast, even a single sun ray can not brake this curtain. And we still lack lamps in our apartment. Funny, before I always preferred dimmed illumination in a room to make it cosy. Now I desperately crave for a brightest bulb ever. We have to buy some lamps and maybe also an energy lamp. Something very popular in Finland. I don't know how does it work exactly and when I asked people, they didn't know either, but it is a very white light which maybe substitutes sun light? I don't know for sure.
And it's still a whole month left till the shortest day! Hard to imagine, since for example today there wasn't any minute during the day you could have switch the lights off. Grey outside, grey inside. And sleepy. Goodnight!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Myllypuro, Helsinki



This is where we ended up. A suburban neighborhood as they call it. It's only 15 minutes by subway to get to downtown, so not that suburban to me. But yes, it's not a downtown any more. Our apartment is in a new building and next to it there is an ongoing construction site finishing couple more houses with shops on first floors. I suppose they should be ready by early  2012. But if walking farther from the subway station you have all those old block of flats, city rental apartments, which means - rather cheap opportunity for living for people, who don't have enough money to own something better. And you can tell the difference. It was here on Sunday when I saw the first police car in Helsinki since I've came here. No kidding! Before I only saw some police guys riding their horses. And here they were taking care of a drunkard! Yes, here you can see them quite often. And there are many immigrants too. People from Somalia I guess - since they are black and muslim and I know there is many Somali people living in Finland. They are at least quiet and I never saw any awkward situation. But there is a very nice play park, which Wanda loves already. You can play either outside and there is plenty to do - like those little bikes and inside, where my girl loves to play cars and trains! Here we have some forests, so there is plenty of trails for walking.
You can see it's a poorer neighborhood than Kruununhaka was, but well, the latter is one of the most expensive and upscale parts of the city, so no wonder. I hope we will like this place. I mean, I like my house and so far I think there are very nice people living here. You can easily notice that simply from looking at the windows and balconies - with cute decorations, lightening, flowers.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

darker and darker...

... shorter and shorter are the days. It's harder and harder to wake up in the morning. I'm getting sleepier and sleepier while the day passes and those long dark afternoons are coming along. Well, it's mid November and it's Helsinki.
With those grey days my mood swings too. Was it a good idea to move to Finland? What am I doing here? Why did I do that? And those long five years. Right decision or wrong? What am I suppose to do here? Yes, they are the questions I should have maybe ask before I said "yes" for Finland. But well, better later than never. And maybe they has arisen now, because before it was kind of hard to imagine the situation. Now I'm learning this new country and how to live in another european country with a language no one can understand besides of the five million Finns themselves. And maybe it's funny, but now I think it's harder to become a part of a society in another european country - even such a great place like Finland, where everyone speaks English - than it is in the States, where more or less everyone in an immigrant. Sometimes it is frustrated that I don't have a slightest idea what's written on an add or a sign or in a newspaper or what people say among each other. For this reason I really don't know what's the general attitude towards foreigners. A very unpleasant situation had once a friend of mine, this Mexican girl. There was a lady on a street who suddenly approached her and started to yell at her about what they think about immigrants, that the Finns has built this great, rich society and now the foreigners simply want to use it without paying anything. Well, not particularly nice behavior. Of course I'm sure that was just a remote incident, but still not a welcoming one. On the other hand I already have a very nice friend - a Finnish girl, who is not only a very open person (against all the stereotypes!), but she's very, very friendly and so helpful with getting along with everything Finnish - like where to find second hand shops or Finnish e-bay or other simple and useful stuff. And the funniest thing is she's a journalist too, exactly my age, a little freaked out about living eco-friendly and she even before studying journalism were studying engineering for a while! Not to mention her husband works for a Bank of Finland... Amazing. What a coincidence. Anyway, it is on one hand easier to get along here, because many things work as they used to work in Europe - brands, shops, transportation, how the city looks like, how the houses are built and how they look like - all this is similar in Europe. In the States on the other hand everything is like in movies and it really is like that and at first it's very strange for us - Europeans, but well, we lived there for almost six years and I finally got used to all that. What makes the life here harder than in the US? THE LANGUAGE! And the thing, that I'm so new out here and I have to make everything out of scratch again! Still I think I got along quite well so far, I made some friends - and they all are really great people, I'm driving and I sort of know the city and I made our life here HOME real HOME so Wanda can feel safe and for her it is so natural that we are here and that here is our home.
What a chaotic writing - it's just a stream of so many thoughts I have recently. I think about my new situation and about my life and the nearest future and I want to make it pleasant and happy.
I light the candles... every day from down to dusk. Breakfast with candles, Marta! Yes, this is it :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Updates



It’s Friday, November 11. Time’s passing and I’m not writing anything. It’s because we moved to a new apartment and we don’t have internet connection yet. So now we finally have our own place. Unfortunately we had to move from the downtown and we no longer live in Kruununhaka. It was a little bit sad to leave that place, cause I really liked that area - those old part of the city, nice buildings and being close to the sea and living downtown. But well, you cannot have everything. Now we’re living very close to a subway station and it takes about 15 minutes to get to downtown. But it takes about 3 minutes by car to get to the biggest shopping mall in Nordic countries hahaha!!! 
Anyway, the apartment is big and nice with a big open space - kitchen plus livingroom and with it’s own sauna! And it’s empty :) We need to buy some furniture. Wanda got her own room and she seems to feel at home already. 
And I’m tired from all those changes. I’m happy that I can finally settle down and make this place my home. Since the end of May I’m constantly on a go. First in Poland moving back and forth then here in that temporary apartment, which almost became our home. But knowing that we have to find a new place I couldn’t settle down. 
The area is nice although it’s not on a seaside. But there is a little forest and a great play park. Wanda already loves to go there. And she doesn’t cry anymore in a daycare. She likes that place and there is no crying while saying bye-bye! Yuppie! 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

out of habit

Good to be in Europe. On this small continent where a distance from one country to another is like from one city to another on the same coast in the States. No more those overnight flights! Last weekend we spent in Warsaw. We had a flight Friday afternoon and we were back home Sunday night. So easy! So fast! Amazing. Almost no time difference - just one hour. The flight took less than two hours. Such a funny feeling - you live abroad, but somehow it doesn't make a big difference than living in another city in Poland. At least to me after living for six years on the other side of the pond. But so often I have those moments that I think I'm still there. Like with calling someone from the family. Whenever it's evening in Helsinki I think it's too late for calling Poland! I used so much to making all those skype calls no later than 4 pm it's hard to change those habits. During the Nobel Prize week every day I made that mistake. Right after I was awake I opened my laptop to check who won the prize this year - but of course there were no news yet! They announce them around noon in Stockholm. And another thing is with the American and metric systems. Whenever I talk with someone about temperature or other measurements I want to explain how much it is in Fahrenheit or I'm saying weight in pounds forgetting that here we use kilos! So, my old brain is still in transition...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Where's the perfection?

We, Poles, are obsessed with being perfect in any field of activity. And if we are not or don't have something which is or works perfectly well we of course make biggest complains in the world. We always think that if something doesn't work properly or isn't proper in a way we think it should be, it is because we are poor, lazy, post-communist or any other argument works fine. To complain on everything is our national trait and I think it is in many cases because we, as a society are simply narrow-minded, we don't know the world and have huge complex about being a post-communist country, poorer than the Western Europe - towards which we are running breathlessly. We complain on our public transportation system, that busses and trams are not on time, we complain on our sport facilities that we don't have the fanciest aqua parks and that there is not enough of them only those old swimming pools, we make our home perfectly - the walls have to be as smooth as possible and whiter than white, best bathrooms and kitchens and so on and so fort. The list os long.
And now I'm living in one of best developed and richest countries in the world famous from its transportation system and highest living standards and satisfaction. And well? It is really hard not to complain. So far I'm using only trams from the public transport variety of busses, subway and light rail. And it is actually a rule that trams are not on time. And especially if YOU HAVE TO BE somewhere ON TIME. Recently I was waiting with Wanda for 20 minutes for a tram to get home. But it happens so often I stopped to check the schedule. But here people (those tough Finns, who survived the harshest winters) are somehow very patient and very calm. And - oh sweet irony! - recently in one English language paper I've read that the Finns are the most satisfied among the European countries in case of public transportation. Well, yes, while standing at the tram stop and waiting and waiting and feeling more and more irritated I started to look at the people. They seemed not to be annoyed, they simply were waiting. And while walking back home I've met my neighbor and I told him about that 20 minutes. And he was calm and relaxed too. He said, well yes, they sometimes get stuck somewhere and come late. Yes, I said and quickly changed the topic to something more pleasant. I didn't want to be matched with a complaining Pole...
Another example today on the police station. Here you go to the police to get ID cards, so I went, cause as a Finnish permanent resident I should have a Finnish ID. The building looked inside like any ordinary Polish bureau or department or registry office. But the "interior design" is not that important. I went there (with Wanda of course), I took a number from this machine (I had to ask someone, which button should I press if I apply for an ID card - Finnish language makes me illiterate person, but about this I'm write in a separate post), I looked at it - 136, then I looked at the number currently being on screen - 96. Well, yes. I didn't wait. I left. I'll try another day in the morning. I was not annoyed or irritated. It made me actually feel better (what a Schadenfreude!) that in Poland things are not so bad. We are not Russia - as many of the depressed Poles think, we are Europe! We have to cure our complexes, we have to learn to enjoy what we have good and nice.
And tonight I went swimming to the oldest swimming pool in Helsinki, from the 20., in downtown. And again - it didn't look like a five star spa. It was an old and old-fashion swimming pool with pretty cold water and very modest sauna.
And I could give you countless examples about how this rich but modest society lives and doesn't complain. They teach me good lessons almost every day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Easy driver

That's me! Yeah! I'm driving. I know it's maybe not a very fact I should share with you on the blog about Helsinki, but it is in fact something important in my life here. First of all I never drove myself before - besides taking some refreshing classes in Poland last summer (being constantly stick in a traffic jam and getting numb limb from pressing the pedal, ugh!) and doing my driving license ten years ago. But here finally I started driving by myself. And I couldn't find a better place for that. Helsinki is a dreamplace for newbies like me. In several places in downtown you have to drive no faster than 30 and in other is 40 up to 50 and a rule means A RULE - no one drives faster. And it's the same outside the center - on a highway if they say 80 or 100 - it means exactly 80 or 100 in all vehicles on the road. Heavens! It seems to me like no one is in a rush, no one is irritated - and believe me - I'm still making those irritated mistakes on the road. But anyway even my husband told me today - you are driving all right! Yep, here I am!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

culture shock

One day while playing in a park with our kids I was talking to my friend - she's from Mexico and our daughters are in the same group in a day care. And while freezing from the cold wind (it was no more than 5C plus that wind, so I guess it made close to zero temperature) she said: you know, I've heard here in the winter people use something like a stroller but with no wheels and the kids sit in and you can pull it. It's great for the snowy weather. Yeah, well, I know it - I said. We use them in Poland too.
Any guessing, what she has mentioned? ;)
It's funny to meet people from countries with different climate.

Friday, October 14, 2011

:-)

Just wanted to say many many thanks for all your comments! I'm reading all of them and they make me feel my posting is worth something. So, keep sharing your thoughts!
Today I stayed at home with Wanda, she's coughing a lot for couple of days. We went to a doctor, it's just a common cold, but at least we've got a coughing remedy. I asked for vitamin D :) since soon there won't be much sun any more... And of course the health care system works perfectly. All the service is in English, no queues and waiting time, nice and tidy. Or we were lucky today! Anyway, have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

looking for an apartment

Friends and family are constantly asking us about an apartment, did we get a new one already, do we search for one? Well, not so fast.
We are still in this studio or one room apartment we've got from the bank (Adam's employer). With no deadline for using it, but definitely it shouldn't be for roughly five years. Besides, it's way too small for us. I still keep some of my stuff in boxes (those, which I packed in May in the States), cause there is no room for it.
To find an apartment first you have to register in some real-estate agencies, that is you fill an on-line application, where they ask you about your preferences but also about your incomes, employment, your finnish social security number. Well, yes, if you don't have one, you cannot apply. And after that you have to wait until they start to send you offers. For me all of this goes somehow awry. And way too slow. But I hope we will get a new apartment before Easter...

Monday, October 10, 2011

learning

Toady after school Wanda started to count in English: one, two, three, four, five! And again and again. She said, they counted at school. And she sang something like : happy you, happy you. Finally I asked her, was it happy birthday to you? and I sang this for her. She said yes and than she said, Miss Xenia brought a cake and she had birthday today. She says let's go and bye-bye and yummy. And while still crying before I leave her there, she seems to like that place. Whenever she plays duplo, the little figures are doing what she's doing at school - they play play-doh, have little tables and go washing hands. And she asked me to draw Miss Xenia and Tim - the other teacher. So, it makes me feel good :)

Feminism at work

Today I really started to like this country. And it was not because of November kind of weather with rain and wind and 8 degrees Celsius. It was because one sentence I've heard today morning. It happened in Kela office, that is in a social affairs department. I was filling out a form applying for a child care allowance (those almost 500 euro a month this beautiful country pays stay-at-home-mothers) with an assistance of a nice clerk. There were some questions about if I am employed - no, if I am unemployed - no, hm, I said - I'm just not working but I'm not register as an unemployed. And then I've heard: yes, you are not unemployed, you are taking care of your child at home and this is the money Kela pays for this care. Wow! Have you ever heard something like that? In Poland there were only some empty talks among politicians about how much is woman's work at home worth. In the States probably never this sort of question appeared even in an imagination of any politician. And here? Voila! Being at home with a little child is a job to do and for this not easy job you get some money. Easy. No wonder there is so many kids everywhere and families, which consist mostly of at least two kids and very often of three. At least this is what I've noticed living here for a month. But still what I've heard, many new mothers are getting back to work after the nine or eleven months of maternity allowance. It is a country for women - president is a woman, bishop of Helsinki is a woman and the fertility rate is 1.86 children born per woman, comparing to Poland 1.4 (and for the metropolitan areas only 1.3).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Empty land

It is empty indeed. First who noticed this fact was Adam when we were going by tram to Wanda's day care. It was Friday morning, before 9 am. The tram route goes right through the downtown, next to the railway station, next to a subway line, right on the main street. And there was no crowd on board, there was no crowd on the streets, there was no traffic jam. Simply: no people. Or not that many you would expect. Where were they? Still asleep or already at work or maybe there is just not that many of them? I don't know, but comparing to the huge and never-ending traffic jam in Gdansk or Warsaw there were empty streets.
On Saturday we went to the country side. The day was gorgeous, warm and sunny and full of colors. We went to the West to the village named Fiskars - yes, the same which is famous worldwide of their scissors and knives. By the way - there is no production in Finland any more. But it is in the US, Canada, Sweden, China... It's about hour and a half from Helsinki. Soon after we left the city we were on a highway surrounded by fields, forests, meadows and some sparsely populated villages or better to say couple of remote houses. All the houses were made from wood, all of them in the same dark reddish color, all of them amazingly well preserved. Funny, but that landscape looked very much like one somewhere in Pennsylvania or New York state. You drove and drove and there was nothing around, no towns, no villages, no people, even no cars only those wooden houses somewhere up the hill, hidden by the trees.
Oh, and Fiskars. So, it's a small and old village where centuries ago the iron work began. That Saturday they had a slow food farmers market and this is why we went there. They have even a small museum with an exhibition of all the old knives and houses where they show, how the life was not that long ago. And it was hard. For example the peasants families baked breads once a year (!!!) and in every house there was a long wooden stick hang from the ceiling, where all the breads hang. This is why the traditional Finnish loaf is round, quite flat and with a hole inside. Why had they bake them just once a year? Because in many houses there was no space for a big stove. Anyway, in such an old house Wanda and I could make our own small bread and bake it and eat it with hand made butter. Simple but nice tourist attraction.

Some facts from Wikipedia:
Around 5.4 million people reside in Finland, with the majority concentrated in the southern region.[6] It is the eighth largest country in Europe in terms of area and the most sparsely populated country in the European UnionFinland has an average population density of 17 inhabitants per square kilometre.[6] This is the third-lowest population density of any European country, behind those of Norway and Iceland.


To compare Poland has 122 inhabitants per square km

Friday, September 23, 2011

fall is coming

Leaves already started to change colors into yellow, red, orange and they slowly fall down. Today I picked up some chestnuts! Isn't it earlier than in New Jersey? When does it start in Poland? And it's cold it really is. This afternoon around 3pm we went for a walk and to the park on a small island. I had a sweater and waterproof jacket and I froze and my fingers were ice cold.
Wait, is it today the begin of fall season, the equinox?

Mom's life in Helsinki

There is actually plenty to do with a little child. Around the city there is about seventy so called play parks that is places with a big playground and a small building for playing inside. For some days or part of the day it works like a part-time day care and parents are not allowed to assist their kids. Also you have to register first like for a regular day care. But for some other days - usually two, three in a week parents are welcome and it works like an indoor playground. There are plenty of toys, there is a small kitchen so you can have coffee and some snacks, lunch for you little one. Those play parks have a long history, the first one was open around 1920 or something and they are very popular. There is also some family houses, that is places where you always come with your kid and there are just spots for moms and babies to chat and spend some time, usually indoors. The great thing about it is that all the information you can find in English on the official web page of the social services department. All the play parks are for free. There is another great thing in this city and it is quite new, so even the Finns are quite surprised. Namely there are some clubs for small kids which work like a part time day care and they are absolutely for free. Your baby can stay there no more than twice or three time a week and its only for 3 hours a day. But still. We pay for our private day care more than 200 euro a month and it is only twice a week. And of course there are many clubs for moms and their kids, which are open mornings and are not provided by the municipality only are private? or belongs to the community? I don't know. But they are for free too. So, generally there is plenty to do during rainy days. Last week we went to one play park called Seppa. Wanda discovered tricycles there and they made her day! We spend on that huge playground three hours. In the same place next afternoon was a multi-culti English speaking get together so we went there. Nice, but at the beginning everybody was shy and the atmosphere was a bit awkward. But the funny thing is I met there a family who lived in Princeton for many years and moved to Helsinki this summer! It was a very nice and warm feeling. We talked about were we delivered our babies, funny. Funny, for a moment I almost could smell the smell of Highland Park and Princeton, the air - so distinct from what is here. Anyway, another day I went to a small club in my neighborhood, but that was a Finnish place. Of course all the people spoke English, but they talked together in Finnish. So as you can see I do my best to start my new life here, to meet people, make friends and not to feel lonely and stacked at home.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

It pays to be a mom in Finland

Today in the morning I went with my neighbor - a very nice and open Finnish girl named Petti and her little son Osmo - to a moms' club in the area. While walking and chatting I've learned that she's a journalist too, but I also learned that it pays to be a stay-at-home mom in Helsinki.
The maternity allowance you get for nine months and it's a decent money. I think most of what you earned before having a baby. In Poland it is now 20 weeks I guess and in the States? None? Two weeks? When you have a little child, under 3 years old, and you are a stay-at-home-mom you will get all together at least 500 euro a month (300 from the state and 200 from the city of Helsinki) and even up to 700 euro if all the family income is low. And when you have a kindergarten age kid you still can get some support if having a private day care and it is around 200 euro. Generally for a first child you will get monthly 100 euro until your little one reach 17 years. This is not that much, but now I'm focusing on those 500 for which I'm going to apply as soon as I will get my social security number and become a permanent resident. Well, the Fins understand that staying at home with a baby and toddler is not an easy job and they pay for all the hardship :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Another Monday morning

And again it was hard with Wanda. She didn't want to go to her day care, she cried a little at home, was better on our way there, but then again was crying and was sad, when we came there. Finally she said through her tears "mommy will be back soon" (or "mama niedlugo wroci") and she went to the teacher and waived bye-bye.
Yes, it's hard for me. While going there by tram I had in my mind my own memories from my early childhood. And this strange sort of fear while going with my own mom to the kindergarten. Every morning this stress and this crying. I wanted to be with my mom, not in that institution. And now I'm on the other side. But on the other hand I think she likes the place. It's such a lovely place, small and so cosy and it's only three hours twice a week. I know, I was telling this before, but I can't stop thinking about it.

Well yes, another Monday. Three weeks already. Slowly I stopped feel like a tourist and started a regular life, my own routine. I know streets in the nearest area, I know playgrounds and shops, we have roughly our daily schedule. And I think with this everyday life came also some melancholia... maybe it's the fall, which is coming here so early, this cold wind blowing in our faces, or maybe just the feeling and understanding, that I have to arrange everything from the beginning. Like friends. Yes, I think this is what I miss now. After the first euphoria I experienced during my first days here I started to settle down and I started to need to have some friends. And... this is why yesterday night I started to memorize our past days in Highland Park, in the States. How I called Laura, and what are the plans? going to Donaldson or to the other park? why don't you come over? etc. Yes, I miss all the HP moms :) Although I know, that this fall is very different there, some people moved like me and for the others life changed because of new babies. And to be honest I wouldn't like to go back there to that life. I was tired of it, of those lonely weekends with Adam at work, with no car and no possibility to go somewhere anytime I wanted, of that lack of money. Yes, that was enough. But still I will always have good memories :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Not that rosy after all...

Well, yes, not so idyllic. Today morning was grey and grey and grey and windy, very windy and rainy, so rainy! And cold. And Wanda was moody and me too. No energy for doing anything and well, what to do, when it's pouring outside. But than it stopped and we got dressed and went to that windy and grey world. For the first time here I thought, well, maybe it won't be that rosy after all. People here say the rainy season just started and it can be like that until November and than will come snow.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

language

I think slowly but surely we got used to it - to that strange sound of Finnish (quite nice though) and to the fact, that we don't get a word from what we hear on a street. Or - maybe we get some words. For example on a playground I will hear and even understand words like that: hyv√§! means good, kiitos! means thank you, hey! means simply hi!, ei - no, joo - yes. But that's mainly all. I think Wanda is a little bit confused that other kids don't understand her. Sometimes she kindly asks to get something like a bucket or a shovel, but there is no reaction. I feel sorry for her. She doesn't have an easy life with us. Another country, another language. I hope she is more familiar with English and that it helps her in the day care.

OK babe

That was Monday, her second time in the day care. The morning was hard. She even said, she doesn't want to go. When we got there, she started to cry. I was talking to her: mommy will be back soon, go and play etc. Finally one of the teachers took her to her arms and I left. I had tears in my eyes, I had a broken heart leaving that place. I was thinking - is it worth doing it? And I know, that all of you, who are mothers themselves understand me. 
But now the good and funny news. When I came back to pick up Wanda, she was fine playing on the floor. On our way home she was talking a lot, that she ate apples and yoghurt and drank some milk. And that she played with a car. And... that she had good time there and wants to go there again. What a relief! 

And last but not least...
That was late afternoon already. We played at home - play-doh and stuff and suddenly she said: "oh no!" - in English. And than again and again. After a while I hear "OK babe". And she was laughing saying that. I asked, where she learned that and she said from a boy. At a dinner table I asked her to eat what she has on her plate and she answered: "OK babe!". We all bursted out laughing and so she did. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Big day

Yesterday was Wanda's very first day in a kindergarten. This is an international day care with English as a spoken language. Very nice and cosy place. For many days I was talking about going to the kindergarten and how it works, that there are children like Wanda and they play but there is no mommy and no daddy, that we go there together and than I wave bye-bye and than I will come back etc. And so it was. She was quite excited from the morning, that she will go by tram with me and Adam. She took her little bunny with her. We entered the room, there were already some other kids and there was salt dough! Her favorite thing to play. So we made a quick bye-bye and kiss and we left. She started to cry, but one of the teachers hold her and after five minutes it was over. Uff, a relief. I left. It was only three hours 9-12. And I was OK :) When I came Wanda was a little sad, but on our way back she was talking about what she did, what she played and that she wants to go there again and that she liked it. I'm so happy. it's such a big step for us. And the place is so nice. I really feel secure.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

suomalainen means Finnish

It's not easy. Yesterday we played on a playground. And at a time I wanted to go back home I wanted to take our toys - a cup and a little shovel. Well, with the latter one I had a problem. A boy was already playing with it. So I came to him and asked in English to get the shovel. He even didn't look at me. I saw a guy near by and I asked him for help. He spoke English. So he became my translator and we got our thing back. What a silly situation!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

city charm

I'm charmed by the city. You can just walk along, walk down the streets - any street you take is fine - and you discover new and beautiful places. Those houses build across the centuries, old and new, those cafes , restaurants, butiques, parks, squares. And everywhere the sea with hundreds of little boats at the marinas and some little islands right at the shore. The weather makes it look even more charming. It's sunny and still quite warm. I take Wanda, her stroller and a map and we go to discover our new place. We walk with no hurry, we stop at nice playgrounds, she naps in between so I can walk in my pace. It's amazing how peaceful I feel here. I don't know - is it the overall atmosphere, or the peace of mind, that everything goes how it should go, that we have a good job, we have a nice apartment and we are lucky to be in this city. Well, whatever it is, I like this feeling.
And - we will become permanent residents of Finland! Today we went to the police department to register, after that to another office to get social or identification numbers.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

How did we get to Helsinki




How does things work

For example garbage. One container is biological waste. This is easy. Another one is for paper like newspapers, third one for paper like cartons and juice and milk cartons and other paper packages. But what to do with metal cans? What to do with glass and plastic? Bottles both plastic and glass you can return and get cash back. Others you should take with you and go to the closest place where there is several containers for different sort of garbage. Things, which are outside of all the above categories you can just throw away to a general container. What are those things? For example used diapers, other kind of plastic (and this is already not that clear for me). Well, if you think it makes too much effort to follow those rules, you must be not from Helsinki. Today - Sunday - we went for a walk to look for those containers. There were several people emptying their bags and sorting thoroughly all the waste they brought with them: glass here, plastic bags there, old clothes there etc. 
That means well organized society. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Wanda and Helsinki

I'm impressed how our little daughter got to her new life. After those long three months in Poland, when we were moving back and forth from one family to another, from one place to the next and she got frustrated about sleeping every two weeks in another house, we finally got to our place. And what impressed me is how fast she got this message, that this is our home. Maybe because for the first time there is only three of us living in this apartment, no grandma, no aunties, no cousins around. But form the very first day and night she fell asleep without any problems, she slept in her crib, she slept for 12 hours! She plays so nicely I can't recognize my own child. Yesterday we made salt dough and she played with it for hours. She started to play with a little doll with lots of clothes to change she got for her birthday. She draws constantly. And she stopped to use diapers in the night.
Next week she starts day care. Only twice a week, but it is a big step for us :)

first days





Thursday was my first day without Adam. For him it was his first day at work. And so I took Wanda in a stroller and we walked first to this most famous square with the huge cathedral on a hill. Than we walked to the harbor. It was the first sunny day and marina looked just amazing. Those white yachts, the ray of sun touching the surface of the water, people walking to work and tourists taking pictures. After that we walked along Aleksanderinkatu - very nice and elegant street with shops and restaurants and slowly we ended up in a front of the main railway station. Check on the internet how this building look like. It is impressive, build in 1914 its style in I think art deco. It looks for me like from a futuristic movie made in Charlie Chaplin era. Next we walked to a park and than around to a shopping mall. It was such a new feeling for me and I think for my daughter as well. We were walking in this completely new place, which already became our new home. I was constantly thinking about it and I know already that I will remember that day forever. That after a year or two, while walking those well known streets I will have in my mind that memory of my feelings I had that very first day. And what are the feelings? Well, I don't know. I feel well... strange? Maybe this is how little kids feel, because for them almost everything is new. So they look at everything and they just let themselves learn, how it works, how it looks like, how it feels etc. I hear this language and I don't understand a word and this is strange. And against the stereotypes not everyone in Helsinki speaks English! We had already several situations like that.

Quiet life

It is the quietest capital I saw. We have an apartment right in a downtown - walking distance from the harbor with a beautiful marina and farmers market, from the main railway station (this amazing building!!! from 1914), from the shopping streets and in general - the center. But still there is so quiet like in a suburbs. There is no traffic jam! Just streetcars, pedestrians, bikes. It looks like there is no rush in peoples' life. No rush and no noise.
We will look for an apartment, because this one is just temporary and too small for us (it's a studio). And I'd love to stay in downtown. It won't be probably possible though because of the rent. In those houses it can be 3000 euros.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hyvaa paivaa!

So, here we are. In this cold, northern country with the strangest language in Europe. Today is my third day in Helsinki. This is my new home. And I'm going to post about my life here, share my thoughts and feelings.