Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rankings

My dear cousin just reminded me what a wonderful place on earth I chose to live. Finland so far wins or is in the top 3 or top 5 or at worst top 10 best (whatever aspect of life you take) country in the world. So, let's start from the most recent ranking. Finland is the best country for being mother. In top 10 are all the Scandinavian countries, Holland, Germany, Spain, Australia. And yes, this is something I really appreciate every day. I knew it already while deciding for Finland. I knew that my life as a mother will be nice and easy. And so it is indeed. Jumping to the next ranking "Newsweek" ranked Finland "best country in the world". Wow! Here is why. And if you think Finns are gloomy, pessimistic, sad and depressive you are wrong again. Finland ranks third most happy country in the world. And it was based on self-satisfaction. And of course there is education - a top one product of Finland (next to Nokia and Angry Birds). About Finnish school system talks everyone in any country and everyone asks over and over again - what is the magic bullet why Finnish schools are doing so well? Read the whole article I linked, but here is an excerpt: "The [Finnish] curricula are very much focused on critical thinking and problem solving, project-based learning, and learning to learn," she said. "There is a lot of collaboration in the classroom."
In his lecture, Sahlberg discussed three key areas: equality in education, time management and perception of teachers as professionals, topics also covered in his recent book, Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? To all those rankings I would like to add my own one: we have best winters in the world! just kidding! ;)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Reflections about Poland

Do you remember that I used to complain about Finnish behavior towards pregnant women on a tram? Or about drunkards here and there? And that I was trying to assure me and my readers that in Poland (that is my home country) such situations are very rare. Well, not really after my last visit there. One day I took a tram with my two little ones. my baby in a stroller and my little girl holding my hand. So we got inside and there were no free seats, but all the seats around us were occupied by very young people - I'd say mostly students in their 20-ties. Mostly guys. Everyone took a look on us and than again back to the window or his/her smart phone. Nobody was interested in giving me his seat although Polish tram drivers are usually unfulfilled Formula 1 drivers trying to speed up to maximum between one stop and the next. So I've got a lesson: there is not a Finnish problem about self-oriented and ignorant people. This is a general problem about self-oriented, ignorant people, especially young generation raised in front of a laptop with a smart phone in one hand. They seem to care only about what's going on on FB and not around them. I wonder what's going on with people? Are they really so careless? Are they too busy? But one day those young students will also push a stroller and struggle with a kicking toddler. Will they learn their lesson this time?
And about those drunkards and bums. There is a very nice square close to where my sister lives. There is also a nice play ground there. Green. Quiet. But it seems to be a favorite place for those ugly bums for ages. I remember they were there occupying the benches years ago and they are still there (a new generation I guess). So, actually nothing has changed. 
And so walking around my parents old residential area I was again considering my Myllypuro not such a bad place to live.
It is strange, but always after visiting my home town I feel sort of depressed. There are changes, of course. There are new streets, new buildings, even new squares and play grounds, new cafes and restaurants, but somehow all in all I have an impression that the city is so chaotic, unstructured, crowded, noisy, hard to live. People are nervous. Public transport is horrible. The old residential areas are deteriorating. People complain about everything - how hard it is to live in Poland, to rise a child, to get a job, to live on a decent level. On the other hand all do have apartments, at least one car, but very often two, job, they go on vacation to Italy, Spain, Egypt. But one thing which is still so common is comparing us to other European countries. People think somewhere else is better, easier, nicer. In many cases it is true - at least comparing the life in Finland - but in some maybe not. And the question is what makes the Polish life so hard and what makes the Finnish life so easy and relaxed? 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Let's spring!

Spring is now official. Well, no wonder on May 20th... but I mean also a spring atmosphere around the town. Last Saturday there was a Restaurant Day in Helsinki. What it means is just everyone could establish a restaurant for one day. What does it mean in practice? You could make a stand somewhere in a park or on a street, cook or bake some meal, cakes, snacks, whatever you'd wish and you could sell them to the people. One of my friends established a "Mobile Cookie Jar", that is a huge basket full of home made cookies on a Christiania Bike and she was riding the bike and selling cookies for one day. We didn't make any restaurant, but we did try the goodies made by others. And it was fun. Some Mayan snacks, Indian vegan meals, Asian sweets, Eastern cookies etc. After such lunch my stomach was a bit confused, but I survived. Next Saturday there will be a Cleaning Day means again - everyone can become a seller for one day. Or a donor. So, you can sell or donate (to one of a few foundations like Fida, UFF) whatever you don't need anymore but what is still in a good shape and someone could use it. This time I'm considering to join the crowd. Most probably I will just donate some clothes and stuff. The spring/summer spirit you can see from people relaxing on the lawns around the town and from hundreds of bikers. There will be plenty of events but of course with a baby still depending on my breast it is hard to plan a night out. Talking about "night" - there is hardly any already. Yesterday right before going to bed I went out to our balcony to breath the fresh air and I was really astounded how light there was outside. And we have still a whole month to the longest day.
Oh, and I went to Poland for a week. Me plus the kids. I was a brave mom traveling by for the first time myself - first by car to Turku, then by plain to Gdansk. My in-laws were sort of shocked that I want to make it all by myself and that my husband should drive me there and help me, but actually it was a piece of cake. I packed the kids to the car in our garage and drove all the way (one strait like in Arizona highway) to Turku airport. And it is only two hours drive. Have you ever been there? Especially on terminal 2? It doesn't look like an airport. It looks like a wooden stable somewhere in the woods. Really. There is a forest around. You park right in the front of this building and walk inside. There is no people cause there are only a few flights from that terminal. One check-in point. One gate. One plain. And besides - my great daughter is just a perfect traveler. I love to travel in her company. She is alert, smart, smiley, ready to go.


Friday, May 3, 2013

May Day

There came May. And there was a may-Day or Vappu in Finland. Everywhere in the world people celebrate the Day of Labour, but in Finland people celebrate this day as it was a New Year's Eve. There is sparkling wine everywhere, people are picnicking in parks all over the city, the booze is everywhere and cheer mood too. We were considering going downtown and see all that silly crowd, but than I said - well, maybe our seven months old baby wouldn't appreciate that dizzy atmosphere. And so we just went for a long walk to the woods near by and we really appreciated the spring weather, the spring forest - green and free of snow! And again so beautiful with all the huge rocks and conifers around. And believe it or not on that special day we'd got a special weather. It was the warmest day so far this year. It was almost 14C plus full sunshine plus unfortunately strong wind, but in the forest we didn't feel it that much. And you know what, walking in the woods we actually noticed that this northern forests are quite smart. Because there are almost only the coniferous trees and on a ground there is moss - everything is green again the moment the last snow melts. It is smart in the climate where new green leaves come in mid May at the earliest. Anyway, my mood is of course much better now.