Thursday, January 22, 2015

Minä opiskelen suomea

Minä opiskelen suomea - I'm studying Finnish - and man, it's hard! I mean, I have fun. I like it. I know I should study more at home, really learn all I had in the class and whenever I sit at a table and open my book Suomen Mestari 1, I see how little I know, how hard it is to memorize all the words and all their grammatical forms and how even harder or almost impossible it is to start to use this language. Every time I go out to make groceries, to buy tickets, to ask a mom playing with her kids in a park about those kids, like age or names, so every time I wish I would speak Finnish and I am searching for words but only very few are coming to me and never enough to start a conversation. Little things, but so hard to do this. This is actually the first time in my life when I have an opportunity to study a language (I mean from scratch) in a country if its origin. This means I do have lots of opportunities to use whatever I've learned in the class. This is helpful and I can see it. For example the fact that I've been living in Finland for almost three and a half years helps a lot. I am very familiar with a sound of the language. Even before I started the course I already knew many words - words of food products, some simple verbs or basic adjectives. Of course I didn't know how to conjugate them, but at least a few I've known.
Is Finnish harder than other languages? No, I don't think so. It is just different. And because there is only those 5.5 million Finns who are speaking it, you probably have never ever heard it before. And of course in my case it is also that I am learning it as an adult. All the other languages I learned in my life, that is English, German or French I had during my school years. Was it easier that time? I don't remember, probably not so or I just didn't pay much attention to that. But kids take it easy and are just used to learn many new things, many different subjects, some easy and some difficult. Kids also take it for granted that they are not proficient in anything yet and that they don't understand many things. As an adult and being proficient in one foreign language, like English, you - wanting it or not - you compare your knowledge. For example you can of course speak, write and read books and newspapers in English, so you think - when will I able to do this with my Finnish? But at the same time you forget that you were learning English since primary school and Finnish you started four months ago.
But I can say now that Finnish is quite a logical language. The grammar is very different from all the roman or germanic or slavic languages, but if you are able to think outside the box it doesn't seem so hard. Just stop comparing everything to English or to your mother-tongue - whatever language it is. What is quite simple in Finnish is how you read. Basically you have to read every single letter in a word. There are some hard to pronounce sounds - but of course it is always very subjective and depends what's you mother-tongue. You decline all nouns and adjectives and of course conjugate verbs, but so it is in all slavic languages, it exists to some extend in German too. On the other hand in Finnish you don't have masculine or feminine or neutral forms! Not only for things and animals but also for people. There is only one form - equality in every sense :)
What else? I feel quite lucky because we have a cool teacher, charismatic, funny and energetic, so it is really fun to attend the classes. And the group is also good. Very international. Most are quite committed to it and really want to study. Some are moms like myself. Others just young people who happened to come to Finland. So far so good. Hyvää paivää!

Monday, January 19, 2015

In Finland you are born in ice-skates

Have you ever been to any ice-skate rink in Finland? Were you cautiously walking on the ice afraid of falling down, ashamed of being the only adult not able to move on smoothly forwards and backwards and being in panic because you just noticed you have no idea how to stop. And of course you are surrounded by all those kids from the age of 4 and wild youths who seem to be born with ice-skates. Yes, this is Finland. Literally everyone knows how to ice-skate. Kindergarten-aged kids go to ice-skate rinks during day care time, like my dauthter last week. Just instead of playing in a park. When the winter is cold enough you can find dozens of so called natural ice-skate rinks around the city. All football fields are covered with smooth ice, all lakes and puddles are turned into ice-skate rinks and of course you have also several artificial rinks, which can work even when temperatures go above zero. This year so far only the latter are available, cause the winter looks so so, too warm and too grey so far.
But anyway, going back to my skills. Unfortunately I am such a person as I mentioned above. No, no, it is not my first time ever wearing ice-skates. I used to do it a little when I was a kid (in Poland we do ice-skate), but first - I was a kid quite a while ago, second - I never took any instructions of how to properly skate, so I was always bad in this, third - standing on the ice again after... well, many years, is strange enough feeling to be afraid of moving. Falling down when you are close to 40 is not such a piece of cake as if you are five, like my daughter. But for this winter season my goal is to master my ice-skating skills. My and my daughter's of course. We are both very committed to this idea and passionate about it. Wish us good luck and good weather! 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Inspiring culinary trip to Copenhagen

Denmark's capital is now famous in a modern culinary world with Noma and some other Michelin' spotted places. But this is not why I visited the city and my culinary inspirations didn't come from their best chefs. My visit was, say, more local. A weekend with my best friend who happens to be also a cooking savvy. First - I have learned something about salt. Yes, NaCl as simply as it is. So far I used to buy whatever cheapest I could find in a grocery store, usually iodized, either sea or rock and didn't think much of it. I couldn't understand recipes asking for some sophisticated strangely sounded names of particular salt like Fleur de Sel or Kosher Salt or Himalayan Salt or others. I used to fully ignore them and used my cheap stuff. Why not? Salt is quite important in our life and in our cooking. First: Different salts do have different taste - at least to some. At least if you just add it for serving the food, not for cooking itself. Artisan salts can have better quality, better taste, different structure. But also be careful - they are usually not fortified by iodine. And as we all know iodine is essential in our diet. So, although my friend promotes salts with no additives I would still be buying those with iodine. Why? Making my own research about salts I have read a lot about iodine deficiency disorder and how easy it is to prevent it by simply consuming iodized salt. Even mild deficiency can cause learning problems and lower IQ (think about your growing kids!). So, even if you'd prefer to pass the fancy artisan salt, try also so smuggle the regular iodized one for the sake of your and your kids well-being. Second - I have learned to make bread. My friend is a regular baker and she shared one of her basic recipes with me. I have made my own sourdough which I keep tightly closed in a fridge and feed it once a week or whenever I bake a new loaf. I've bought several different kinds of flours: rye, whole wheat, oat meal, spelt. I keep different seeds like sunflower or pumpkin. And I bake. And it is so simple and the final effect is so delicious you almost wait for a new fresh loaf. Like this one:

Third - I sort of changed my mind or maybe a way of thinking about hunting and eating game instead of meat from factory farms. Have you ever thought about that? You buy that cheap pork or beef sold in supermarket but you can't stand a thought about shooting a deer, right? For most of us unfortunately the answer is yes. As if pork would be grown on a tree and not coming from a poor treated pig, who never experienced any freedom in her life and was slotted in quite a horrible way. So yes, if you really mind, you should a) become a vegetarian b) buy only organic meet or meet from small traditional farms, where animals can have a decent life c) hunt and eat game. At least this deer enjoined free life in his natural environment. Fourth - some simple but delicious recipes for side dishes and how to smuggle vegetables into your family members plates. For ideas visit this tallerken blog, my Copenhagen' friend used to write.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Dress a child for Finnish winter - my response to a friend's blog

A friend of mine wrote recently a great and funny post on her blog about how-to-dress-a-child-for-finnish-winter - dress for outdoor play of course. Melanie came to Finland from New Zealand and this is her first winter. So far she is coping very well, brave woman! What I particularly liked in her post was a picture depicting all the pieces of clothes needed for a particular weather. Especially the equipment for -20C was really impressive. Yes, with all that warm but light modern winter clothes you can really enjoy outdoor play, but what I would like to add is nothing comes without a cost. Yes, to dress your kid properly you need proper money. Winter overall at least 100 euros or if you decide for one of the best brands - and most parents actually do - its closer to 200. Boots. Something between 50 and 100 again. Balaclava - a good one, woolen with a wind-stopper could be 30 or something similar. Waterproof mittens another 15 (or about, or more if you go for big brands). If you also decide to get a woolen overall - especially for younger kids and for really cold weather, it adds another 40 euros or maybe more. I'm not sure, cause I never needed such. What people also use for their kids are thermal underwear, woolen socks and some other special clothes more similar to the alpinist's equipment than to a normal winter outfit. So, how much do we have? Something between at least 200 and up to 400 euros. Per one child, per one winter. Remember - kids do grow fast! One of my friends needed to buy a second, bigger winter overall for her child, because literally that winter was lasting from October till May and the kid simply grew out of the previous one. And it's not all, because if there gets wet and rainy and temperatures grow above zero, you will need some extra rubber pants and rubber boots. Best to get two pairs - one light for spring/summer and one with a warm filling inside for autumn/spring. Oh, and of course good rubber jacket and rubber mittens - remember it's so wet and muddy from March till June and again from September till November, that your child after playing in a park resembles a piglet rather than a human. Didn't I mention a set of outdoor pants, also waterproof but not rubber and same jacket? Yes. That's on your list too. I guess that is that barely. How much off your pocket already? Huh... And again, this is only the basics. And with Finnish weather conditions all the above equipment will be really used after one season. If you are lucky enough maybe the winter overall will be reused by your younger child. Reselling it? Yes, the second-hand market for kids clothes is very good and I am a regular customer of some "kirppis" shops, but not often you find there those big pieces of clothes. Why? My guess is, they are simply too damaged after surviving a harsh weather condition and being worn day after day for half a year. Yes, winter. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Some more about vacation in a Finnish mokki

So basically you are suppose to do nothing but resting, swimming, rowing, BBQ-ing, drinking, sweating in a sauna, picking berries (although at the time we went there were either too early or too late to find some blueberries) and last but not least - fighting mosquitos. Yes, those notorious insects can change your heavenly holidays into a battle field. I think I used something like three bottles of different anti-mosquitos sprays for myself and my kids and one day I started to feel dizzy and I stopped using them at once, because they basically didn't work anyway. I was afraid I am poisoned but not the little guys. So yes, be prepared or simply ignore them altogether as my husband did and he was less ticked by them than me. Unfair! Another thing - if you really wish to have a true Finnish experience of being all alone surrounded by Finnish nature and the only voice you hear for a week is your inner voice, don't choose a place within 200 km from Helsinki. Go further up to north or east maybe. I can't give you exact tips for the most remote place, but the one we went to was definitely not the one. While booking our cottage we didn't notice that there were actually two cottages on that plot bordered only by a thin line of young trees and bushes. Luckily the house was not occupied for the whole week, but still we had for a few days some sort of company. No, no, nothing bad had happened. Not at all. The people were just fine, quiet - definitely more than us with two overenthusiastic kids running around from 7 in the morning. But for example if you'd wish to run all naked from the sauna to the lake - be prepared to be seen by a neighbor. Or cover yourself with a towel. 
My husband is a guy who needs to have some plans and things to do, so for him the first day was kinda weird. What shall I do? Hm, well, nothing? So after three days of that idleness we went for a day trip to see an amazing place, namely an old paper factory located somewhere in nowhere which was still operating in the 1960. Here you can read some more about Werla. Basically the whole factory is preserved perfectly well, you could start the production process any time, all the machines and tools are there. I was really amazed seeing the place and learning about the paper production process, actually quite simple and really almost hand made with machines very simple more like manufacture then machines.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Experience Finnish summer with a summer cottage and sauna

I know there is winter outside, dark and snowy days (although so much longer now comparing to pre-Christmas days), but on and on I am coming back with my thoughts to our week in a Finnish summer cottage at a lake. We rented a small place somewhere between Mikkeli and Lahti at a beautiful lake surrounded by forests. It wasn't very remote place though, there were cottages every hundred meters around the coast line of the lake bordered only by some woods. It was a perfect distance from Helsinki to drive with two small and crazy excited kiddos almost exploding on the back seat. Two hours on a highway. After that just a few kilometers through a forest path... Yes, our GPS got sort of lost and asked us to turn to a little road off-road actually. Through a deep forest. The "road" looked like used last time some five years ago since there was deep grass growing all along it and bushes and small tress almost covering it too. Luckily we had a 4WD car. After driving with a speed around 5km/h and making jokes about how remote our summer place is going to be and how are we going to survive for a week if every grocery trip is going to lead us through this path... so after some minutes later we finally reached a gravel road and after another few minutes of driving in dust we reached our final destination. It looked cute from the first sight and we loved it from that first sight. The house was painted in this deep reddish color - as most of traditional Finnish country houses) and it was situated just few dozens meters from a lakeshore with a tiny sandy beach and a rowboat rested down there. Idillic! If I add to this that it was some +30C and sunny and sooo green, there is nothing more I would need. The cottage had a wooden heated sauna and this is a must if you ever decide to spend your summer in Finland. Of course that was our first time to operate such a thing. But of course it wasn't a rocket science and my hubby managed that just fine. Oh, that cosy smell of burning wood, the heat somehow different from the heat made in electric sauna - I know, sounds ridiculous, but if you have done both, you know what I am talking about. This is just THE SAUNA. Indigenous. Real. Ancient. On the first day we wanted to enjoy it with the kids, but Tomek, our two-years-old, was scared and Wanda, the five years old, was too hot. And she was of course right - remember, there was +30C outside, so why those crazy parents want to get even more heat? So we didn't make another effort for the whole family sauna bath and waited until they were asleep to get some heat. Oh, amazing! Now, in the middle of winter, I am almost jealous of myself indulging in that Finnish heaven. But what is the best thing in sauna? Running naked right to the lake and letting the cool water coat you and chill. The still water of an evening lake surrounded by a dark deep green forest and yellowish and pinkish blue evening sky. Heaven. And right after that a glass (or a bottle, it's vacation after all) of chilled white wine. Yes, this is why you go there. The days are just days with no plans but BBQ-ing, swimming, rowing on a boat - or actually not so much, since our little one was kind of afraid and wanted to escape from the boat. Playing with the kids, pretending to read that book you brought with you, but now you are also watching the kids (water shore is right there), chatting with your husband, wandering with your thoughts, daydreaming and are not able to focus on anything in particular. Vacation! 

Friday, January 9, 2015

And back again in 2015

Hello and welcome back after shamefully long break of not posting any single word. After summer I sort of felt there is nothing to add about my life here about Helsinki and Finland or that everything I have already said or my life is boring enough to not writing about it at all or maybe I was excusing myself for being too lazy to write or not having enough time or whatever reason you could possibly find. Anyway, I was hoping to find out a new huge topic to post about to establish a brand new blog and to start my brand new blog-life and story telling. But nothing has come to me. On the other hand every week or so I do have something quite interesting to say or think about this simple life, those everyday events happening around me and my family or to comment about what is going on elsewhere. And so anyway, my New Year's resolution #1 is to continue this blog. Because I believe it is worth it. It is worth writing just for myself. Yesterday I went through some old and very old posts from the early days in Finland and it was such a warm feeling to read about my little daughter (how much has she changed since!) and my first steps in Finland (how much has my mind changed since!).

Because so much time has passed since my last post I would like to write a little about some past events. First a bit about our summer cottage experience. Second about my Finnish course which I started in September and now I am continuing it after the Christmas break. Third about my new routine having both kids in day cares and having some free time - not free actually, but kids free :). Fourth about my thoughts according to where do I belong to - those thoughts appear whenever I go to my home country. Fifth - about this and that as always on this blog, about my kiddos and their development, good and worse moods, weather etc.