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


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.