Walkabout

Jalaka

When did you last walk somewhere? I walked home from work today. The whole thing absolutely got on my nerves. “It’s gonna take me at least an hour and I won’t even be home in time for Dr. Phil!” I whined to my wife in the morning. After the initial shock, however, one starts to notice that when you slow down, mind flows. When you walk, thoughts run.

Suddenly it was just like back in the elementary school days, walking from Oulunsuu to Lämsänjärvi. Years in the meter had tripled but the walking distance was approximately the same: three kilometers.

Just like on fourth grade, I began to skim the street for a suitable piece of icy snow to kick about. This is not as self evident as it sounds. The piece needs to be just the right size and shape. The way you kick it must be just right as well. It must go straight and not wonder to the opposite lane. The point is that you need to be able to carry on kicking it forward for as long as possible. Nothing beats the feeling of satisfaction when you succeed kicking it so many times that it finally breaks into such small particles that you cannot kick it anymore!

Now that I think about it, having read all of the above, I think my thoughts didn’t flow or run anywhere. My head was empty and I did not think about anything. I kicked snow. That too, is probably pretty healthy every once in awhile.

-Juhani

The Immigrant Song

the author

A friend of mine has been doing academic research among immigrant women in Finland. When she first started, she had in her mind a hypothesis considering the happiness of these women. As a Finn, she assumed that many African housewives might be suffering here, trapped in their homes, working only with their families and often learning very little Finnish and thus being unable to communicate with the majority of our society. That is of course a very predictable assumption, and my friend was worried of the mental wellbeing of these women.

Her research has been going on for quite a few years now (many more than she expected), and the results are quite intriguing. Most of the women she has interviewed seem to be very satisfied with their lives. Coming from cultures in which family is ultimately highly respected, they are often very happy they have given birth to many kids, and they are happy they have been able to stay home and raise the kids well. They have not felt much of a need or pressure to build a career.

So now my friend is more worried of these women’s husbands – men with a cultural background in which it is the man’s job to earn the living so that the woman can take care of the home. And these people have ended up in Finland, where attitudes towards immigrants looking for a job are surely not the most welcoming ones.

Xenophobic and somewhat conservative attitudes have been growing in Finland and throughout the whole Europe recently. Now this research done by my friend has lead me to see an interesting clash in the arguments of these conservatives.

The conservative view sees those immigrant women staying out of working life as a burden, just loss of money to our society. At the same time these conservative politicians want to encourage Finnish women to stay at home with their children (this week, for example, the minister in charge of Social welfare, Paula Risikko, commented on the topic admiring the amount of great work Finnish women do when they stay home to take care of their kids). Now isn’t that a bit two-faced?

So what’s the difference here? Wouldn’t it be time for these xenophobic politicians to admit that the only difference between these two cases here is that a kid with Somalian background, raised at home by his/her mother, is for them actually just a wrong color kid.

-Kili

The Swine flu vaccine

Fitting the mold -final. For other mold texts, see Mold 1, Mold 2 and Mold 3.   

A Finnish newspaper reported that last year’s swine flu vaccines may cause narcolepsy or brain illness at least among children.

A White House nurse administers the H1N1 vaccine to President Barack Obama at the White House on Dec. 20, 2008. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Already more than 50 cases are reported so far. As a parent of two children, it is very hard to make your own decision against all recommendations that were given last fall. I even got patronizing comments about my responsibilities, not giving them the vaccine. Going against the health care experts… It was actually YouTube that shed some light to the situation. The fact was that the vaccine was not tested thoroughly and the topics flew even into government’s and medical industry’s conspiracy.  Now I’m glad that my daughters did not get the vaccine. It is already hard enough to wake them up in the morning for school and kindergarten :D. Seriously, one should always watch the road even though it is asphalted and seemingly in good condition, it still may have holes in it. And making your own decision… even when the stakes are high.  

-Antti  

Renovating your home is like digging your own soul

Ilya Mayer renovating. Festival Surpas '10, Portbou.

Ilya Mayer renovating. Festival Surpas '10, Portbou.

When you go house hunting, you have unrealistic dreams and expectations about the fabulous life that awaits you when you sell yourself to a bank for 25 years or more. The same is true with music. You play the beginning notes of “Nothing elese matters” or stairway to heaven” and  get so much admiration from the girls in your class that in your mind headlining  Wembley with Metallica as your warm up act is the next obvious step.

Then you find and buy a house. You are all enthusiastic for awhile, getting to know the neighbours, taking good care of the lawn, putting up paintings and buying furniture. Then it all starts to fade and reality strikes. The grass is not perfect but it needs taking care of; the floor just looked like wood and is actually plastic; the rooms are too small; there’s an odd smell here and another one there; The rounded door frames are totally eighties no matter how hard you try to ignore them.  Then it starts. Little by little you start to improve your home. It seems like there’s no end in sight. You work and you work. You pay your first visit to K-Rauta and get totally no service there whatsoever. You work. And then you work some more.

The same is true with music. A Finnish violin player once said that practicing an Instrument is much like climbing up a greased flag pole – you can go up very slowly if you constantly work hard. However, if you stop for even the smallest moment, you slide down to where you started from in an instant.

Then an unexpected disaster strikes. The damn dish washer has flooded the kitchen floor. Water is dripping from the basement ceiling.  You think that life as you knew it, ends there and then but after the dust settles you start to realize that world didn’t end after all. Actually, a brand new window has opened and new winds are blowing through it. You feel a sense of bright realization as in your mind some of the walls come crumbling down, door frames become square and plastic becomes wood. A decision is made to make it all happen:  reinvent your home, dig out the true essence of your vision. The project is long, expensive and exhausting. Never the less, in the end you have created something honest and beautiful and hopefully so that your guests can enjoy it as well.

The same is true with music.

-Juhani