Archive for the ‘Työ = Work – Chapter 4’ Category

18.01.11 – I made it through Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year, but now I’m in a fog :( Fog seems to pop up whenever the temperature rises above freezing. I think I actually prefer the subzero days where the sun, when it shows its face, can stroll across a cloudless sky.

Send me some love people! I needs it!

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17.01.11 – Snow removal is big business in Finland. Even before stepping out of the door, the sounds of the trucks and front-end loaders clearing the streets and sidewalks can be heard churning away outside. Throughout the day, navigating the city on foot, staying alert for the snow removal crews is a matter of survival ;)

At least three or four times a day, I’ll come across a sidewalk cutoff by yellow and red warning tape. The tape is to prevent pedestrians from getting dumped on as snow removal crews shovel the snow from the roof of the building. The deep “thump” of the snow hitting the ground makes it obvious the precaution is not a matter of convenience. Getting hit by one of their “droppings” would definitely ruin your day.

The whole process is an exercise in safety. While most of the crew are rigged like mountain climbers above there is always someone below with a whistle and/or walkie-talkie. There are times they are removing snow above a business and they have to pause to let customers come and go.

Once the roofs have been cleared, the crews then begin clearing the sidewalks below. The process is lengthy but necessary as it’s not uncommon to see in the news how someone has been injured by falling snow or ice.

I guess it’s a part of dealing with the winter in Finland. It’s easy to wind up staring at the ground so you don’t slip on the ice but it’s best to look up too.

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16.01.11Munkkiniemi is a beautiful neighborhood in the western section of Helsinki known for its architecture and the history of the communities urban development plan led by the famous Finnish architect, Eliel Saarinen, in the early 1900s. The area is situated by a large bay, where the Baltic waters push into the coast of Finland, and easily accessible, the 4 Tram ends at a nice little cafe, Café Torpanranta, by the water. I headed out with a friend Mikko to meet Jaana and the kids to try to walk on water ;)

The water off Munkkiniemi is very popular this time of year for skating, ice fishing, cross country skiing or like we were doing, to just go out for a walk. Because the water is so far inland and there are two large islands just to the South, the ice is well established and safer to walk on. You still need to be cautious, it’s best to follow other people’s tracks, because every once in a while you’ll find a “soft spot.” Apparently there are sometimes little streams of water that flow above the ice but just below the surface.

We played it safe and followed other tracks almost a kilometer out towards the center. If we wanted, we could have continued all the way to Espoo, a suburb of Helsinki, but we weren’t feeling that adventurous. It’s a great feeling to be out on such a flat an open area though and every once in a while you need to just stop, look around and take in the beauty of it all.

We walked back to a different section of the beach where Mikko showed us a beautiful building his father had designed in the 1960s. We could have easily stayed and enjoyed the neighborhood but we were all chilled to the bone so we headed back home. I’ll definitely be heading back to see more.

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15.01.11 – Long dark nights and plenty of bright white snow have a way of reducing the color palette of Finland this time of year to simple black and whites. I find myself craving color almost as much as sunlight on these winter days which are slowly growing longer.

I was out on a walk, making my way along the coastline towards the harbor, and looking for somewhere I could pop into to warm up before continuing onto the city center. The Wanha Kaupahalli, which translates to Old Market Hall, is an indoor gourmet market where you can find fresh vegetables, the best cuts of meats and even some handmade crafts. It’s also a great place to pickup a lunch of salmon soup or grab a coffee and korvapuusti, a Finnish cinnamon roll.

I spent about 10 minutes wandering through the kaupahalli taking in the vibrant colors and letting the feeling return to my fingertips.

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14.01.11 – Why did I start blogging? Why I’m glad you asked :) Keeping up a daily blog is no easy chore. I find myself thinking “why?” at least a couple of times a week.

I like to think this type of question is “poetic.” On the one hand, I could answer the question with one simple response, I was looking for something to do. On the other hand, when I have the time to dig deeper, I see there are a number of reasons, past and present, why starting a blog was the right thing to do.

Something to do? I started my blog right after moving to Finland with my family. I was leaving everything which was familiar to me for a country I knew very little about. I can still remember landing in Amsterdam on a layover, getting off the plane and trying to find something to do before my next flight to Helsinki. I found myself desperately searching for an internet connection so I could at least tap into something familiar; Facebook, Gmail, anything. The sense of structure in my life, my phone number, my home address, my group of friends and coworkers, had just dissipated in less than a day. The void was almost overwhelming.

What do you do? The only thing you can do, you start rebuilding. The day-to-day exercise of keeping a blog was just the type of structure I could use at the time. The thought of having a daily routine was comforting. I was already pulling my iPhone out to capture all the new and interesting sights of Helsinki and I wanted to share them with my family and friends abroad. So, I started this blog ;)

Now I can dig a bit deeper. I’ve always enjoyed photography, travel and telling stories which are the three key ingredients to my blog. My first camera was a Kodak Instamatic X 15 which my dad brought back from a business trip when I was in the 6th grade. You had to choose your shots wisely because getting a roll of film developed cost about a weeks worth of money made from delivering newspapers.

My first “real” camera was a Canon A-1 I bought overseas when I was in the Navy, which was also when I first started travelling. Ok, the military isn’t exactly the best way to travel but I was a sucker for the recruiting campaigns, “Join the Navy, See the World.”  I used that baby to take pictures from vultures row on the USS Carl Vinson to the St. Pauli district in Hamburg, Germany.

The next big step was buying my first computer, a Macintosh Quadra 660AV. I started playing with page layout programs, like Aldus Pagemaker, putting text and images together to make short stories to send to my family back in Ohio. My favorite story involved a trek/climb up Mt. Whitney in California with a couple of friends. My family loved it but it was still a pain to publish and print so the stories were few and far between.

Blogging with WordPress has helped me get past the pain of print. It’s still a challenge to come up with ideas but it I’ve now been able to publish more often. I think I have a small group of people who appreciate the posts but I’m thankful to have an opportunity to do so.

Now, why did I post the pictures I did for this post? This is a little reason for myself to think about ;)

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13.01.11 – Luckily we’ve had some new snow which has covered the “ice rink-like” city sidewalks of Helsinki and makes walking a tad bit easier. If you would have asked me a week ago if I was looking forward to more snow I would have replied with a nasty look. After doubling my “slip and fall” stats for my first Finnish winter, I’m happy to have some fresh powder which is slightly easier to walk on.

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12.01.11 – I’ve always loved trains ever since I was a young boy and my brother and I would setup model trains in the basement. Back then, when the issue of money was, you just didn’t have any, I would pour over model train catalogs dreaming about the different types of trains, buildings and tracks I would someday buy and build.

Even now as an adult, I still get a big kick out of anything to do with trains. I remember living in Santa Barbara where you could stand so close to the tracks you could almost touch the freight trains and Coast Starlight passenger train as they whisked by on their way to Los Angeles. Europe still relies heavily on trains to move cargo and passengers which makes it a great place to admire the stations and the different types of locomotives.

I spent some time walking around the Helsinki central train station and reverting to my childhood. I hope I never lose the feeling.

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11.01.11 – The weather is quite the topic these days. Snow cover in December was approaching record-breaking numbers. This wasn’t so surprising because I’ve been hearing about the possibility of this year’s winter being one of the coldest ever. The forecasters seemed to be “spot on” and all signs were leaning towards a brutal winter.

Over the last couple of days we’ve had a bit of unusually “warm” weather, temperatures around 5°C, which has turned snowfall into rainfall and the city into a giant slushie. My outdoor walking strategy turned from avoiding patches of ice to avoiding “potholes” in the packed snow which were now ankle-deep in water. Ice has also been falling from the buildings at an alarming rate and even took a man’s life!

Today the temperatures have dropped below freezing once again which has added a yet another challenge. Snow covered streets and sidewalks which have been worn smooth by the rain are now freezing over. The other areas which have been cleared of snow now have a thin layer of ice good enough to skate on, which is in fact, what I am trying to avoid.

The good news lately is that it’s going to snow soon which should make it a bit easier to walk around outdoors :) They say the grass is always greener but I guess the snow can also be whiter on the other side.

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10.01.11 – The kids have been out of school on Winter break so we’ve been trying to find different things to do. It’s way to easy to stay in, watch movies and play video games :P. Jaana has always been great about suggesting different activities in and around Helsinki. She told us about a ski and water park called Serena located in Northern Espoo, the city just outside Helsinki. Max and I ended up taking the 20 minute drive although public transportation from Helsinki was also an option.

Serena is a small park but there were just enough people there to make it exciting without the burden of long lines. We passed by the ski area on our way to the indoor section of the water park and watched skiers and snowboarders catching air and flipping off of jump in front of the resort. Inside the water park were a number of different swimming pools,wave pools, waterfalls, hot tubs and four large water slides. Max and my favorite was a 45-meter aquatube which was a good four story climb which zipped you down a number of turns and dives and then ended up in large “bowl” where you swirled around (I’m trying to avoid the toilet analogy!) until you fell through a hole in the bottom.

The fact the park had both a ski side and water park side made things a bit comical. It was interesting to take a break, in nothing but swim trunks, and take in the view of the snowboarders on the other side of the glass. Max and I also had something to eat before we left and a table on our one side had two boys in nothing but swim trunks and on the other, a group of four in jackets, goggles and hats.

There are a number of options for accommodations also. I could have seen spending a night there to get a bit of both worlds, swim and ski ;)

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09.01.11 – Helsinki’s Season of Light ended today but that doesn’t mean the town is going dark. I don’t have to go far to enjoy the “nightlife” of this city. My favorite view of the city is from my balcony where the warm city lights, the Northern sky and sometimes the moon are there to entertain me.

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