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Monday, September 26, 2011

Weird Dietary Twists

I'm in the middle of my usual European "eat like a healthy human being" kick.  Translated that means I always eat healthier and lose weight in Europe.  I put it down to a combination of exercise (I almost never have a car), poverty (I look at European prices and NEVER buy anything pre-prepared, although this year that's less of an issue), space (I never have a fridge of any size to store pre-prepared and frozen stuff in), and sheer unadulterated laziness (I refuse to lug a bottle of Coke or anything else that weighs a ton and is not absolutely necessary).  Now if I could just manage to keep these habits back home!

One really odd thing I've noticed this time, though, is that I'm CRAVING sweets and that, when I do eat Finnish desserts, they don't seem really sweet to me.  Don't get me wrong: chocolate is chocolate is chocolate.  It's just that when I treat myself to things like pastries they don't seem as sweet as the stuff we get at home.

Out of curiosity I've done some digging around Finnish recipes and it does seem that their baked goods have less sugar in them, but I actually think the reason is more insidious: corn syrup.

Since I've been here I've had VERY few things that have corn syrup in them, and let's face it, a cup of hot chocolate does not have anywhere near the punch of the corn syrup saturated goodies in the US.  Most of my cooking is from scratch, and when I do want something sweet, I add sugar to my coffee (or make hot cocoa, like tonight), buy good quality ice cream, or stop at the local bakery.  And when I decide I'm actually going to pay for baked goods, I make darn sure that I'm not buying something mass produced--and, therefore, filled with corn syrup.

Since the strength of this craving is actually freaking me out a bit--and I feel great save for it--on Wednesday I'm going to try to go "cold turkey" for sugar of any sort for a week.  (I have dinner at a colleague's tomorrow and don't want to be rude!)  They say that it takes that long for things like sugar cravings to clear your system.  Wish me luck! 

If it works, it'll be great, but boy, will I be A LOT more paranoid about corn syrup and the various -oses when I get back home!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Official Photos & the Hattifatteners

This past week we all got copies of official photos that were taken in early September, and I thought I'd share some of them with you.  The idea is that that they use the group photos on the website and Collegium publications.  The individual photos here are more for a pr magazine that gets sent out to a more general population; that's why Ted's in them--he's the human interest story.  My "official" individual photo is already up on the Collegium's website (my page).  (BTW, the group photographer was Veikko Somerpuro; we were asked to give his name if we distributed his photos anywhere, which seems only fair.  The group photos will blow up MUCH larger if you click onto them.)

Here's everyone for this year, at least as of the fall; some of the folks only have a 4-month appointment unfortunately.  I'm in the second row, as you can see; my fellow EURIAS fellows are the man behind and slightly to the right of men (William, who's the archeologist at Pompeii) and in the front row with the blue sweater (Rogier, who works on the philosophy and institutionalization of science).  Among the others you may have or will probably hear about are some of the other front row folks, who are the pub and Töölö Towers group, and the staff members, who are on the far right side sitting on and around the ledge.  They've really made my move here so much easier!  Kneeling near the back are some of the Russian scholars you may have heard me mention, too, who are part of the pub and dinner crowd and who are in the same hall as me, as is the short haired woman kneeling in the back.  Here it is: faces to go with the setting!  (The photo was taken on the steps of the original University of Helsinki building which is just around the corner from the Collegium.)

Here's another big group photo, just taken from a different angle.

Compositionally, I think I like this one better, although I could've lived without being right in front.  I think the other one does better at letting you see everyone, though.

A few days later, Antti, who handles our PR (among many other things), came to take photos for our brochures.  He really wanted Ted in them, so we had to figure out a day when we were both free AND it wasn't raining.  Then, too, part of the gimmick was to have something representing our research in the photo.  For William and Rogier, that wasn't too bad; you can find lots of archeological and scientific images.  But ghosts!  Antti solved the problem by bringing a stuffed version of famous Finnish ghost character called a Hattifattener from a TV series, "The Moomins."  That's the white thing in the photos, and my favorite description of it comes from one of my favorite blogs about Finland from an expat's point of view: Note from Lapland (The link is to the specific page about the ghost character, but the whole site's a hoot).

In any case, Antti instructs me to play with the Moomin while trying to keep both Ted and me in the shot and making it obvious that it's the Moomin ghost, the Hattifattener.  Supposedly every Finn will get the reference, although from a non-culturally-saavy perspective, you can interpret that Moomin in a series of not-so-straightforward ways  (I'm TRYING to be clean here.)

Antti took dozens of pictures, but these were the three he thought were the most successful.  As you can see, Ted thought the Moomin was meant for him.  Antti thought Ted's antics were hysterical until he realized that Ted mean to disembowel it--not exactly the fun and fuzzy image he was apparently going for! :-)

Here you can see the Moomin really easily, but I just look too precious for words.  It didn't make the cut.

Here I'm trying to keep Ted from tearing apart what is clearly a terrified Moomin and to look like this is all in a day's work.  Not exactly the most academically respectable image! :-)  About 5 seconds later, Ted had jumped up on me in his pursuit of the Moomin.

Finally, a reasonable picture of both Ted and me, although I will remain speechless about the Moomin!  This is the one that's going in the brochure.  I'm actually quite happy with the picture, although it made me realize that I need to get my hair cut soon!  (The appointment is next Saturday.)

Given that USC has still not even managed to publicize that I got the EURIAS, I'm a bit amazed and amused at the very professional pr machine here.  I guess here it's okay to be a European historian. :-)

Moomins -- what was the designer on when he thought of those?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Finally--the decorated apartment

I'm sorry I've fallen so behind blogging this week.  For some reason, all the social and professional aspects of the Collegium have hit in spades since last Tuesday!  I'm hoping that life will settle back to normal next week.

In any case about a week ago, I took a series of pictures to show you how I've added some color and liveliness to my white and tan, Ikea-modern room.  (Don't get me wrong.  It's quite comfortable, very convenient, and in great repair, just not super homey).

So here they are with Ted as the demonstrator--think of the flash girl in magic shows.  (Oh, that's a horrible image!)  Voilà, entryway.

As you can see, an entryway is an entryway except that it's now become a depo for scarves, mittens, coats, shoes, and Ted stuff--including the very flashy blue poop bags that come directly from Stockmanns.  (Think of it as buying dog poop bags at Bloomingdale's; ludicrous but easy to get from where I work and cheaper than buying plastic grocery bags.  I'm still wrapping my mind around gender-colored bags for my dog's excrement, though.)  I love just being able to kick my shoes off as soon as I get in the apartment and to assert that, by doing so, I'm just respecting cultural norms!

Looking back towards the kitchen living room, it doesn't look like much has changed, but I've actually added a lot of things to make it more comfortable.

I've just let things drape so that it adds some color to the space.  I was actually amazed what a difference colorful scarves on the closets and orchids on the window ledges made.  With the kitchen, I've actually now got it set up so that it can be used to cook decent meals, complete with wine and various vinegars and oils.  The mini fridge works amazingly well: I can even keep meat and ice cream frozen in the tiny freezer compartment!

I will, though, find a way to hug my dishwasher and deep sink when I get back.

As you can see, I set up my dining table as my desk.  It just didn't make sense to have it in the middle of the room all the time, and it actually gave me some sense of discreet spaces.  It's also very handy with the two computers, as I've learned since the NFL has started: I can enter things into my database with the Niners playing the background!  :-)  You can also see the blue chair in the bottom right.  It's actually quite comfortable, although lime green and itchy.  I threw one of the extra, hotel-style (read unfunctional) blankets from the bed on it and set up a desk lamp there on what used to be a second bedside table (like Ted needs a lamp!).  Lovely reading spot!

This picture of my couch makes it look much starker than it is primarily because I took it on what seems to be one of the last really bright days of the summer.  I broke down and bought navy blue covers for the bed and couch, so that things are now relatively harmonious (I can't believe I just used that word for "design"!) and the fabric no longer itches!  It also makes it easy to keep the place from smelling like Ted and looking like a kennel--just throw everything in the wash once a week!  Basically it means that the apartment has lots of shades of blue and purple now, rather than unmatching purple, lime green, forest green, tan, white, black and turquoise I started with.  (This list makes it sound bright.  Believe me, it was far from bright and all of the shades clashed.  With the pillows piled up and the second of the bed blankets draped on top of me, it's a nice place to swatch TV, although I'm going to hit the local Goodwill for some sort of floor lamp so that I can read there.  (The light in the living room area is intentionally dim--atmosphere or something, they told me--and it'd blind me to read on the couch.)

Now the bedroom, which has become one of Ted's favorite places--other than under the dining table when I'm typing (like right now).

It's amazing what a difference the blue sheet, some big pillows with blue pillow cases, and the orchid make.  When I came here, they were lovely about giving me extra pillows but they were all tiny, so stacking them up to read in bed just wasn't happening.  I figured I'd live with it since all the pillows I saw in the stores were 90+ Euros.  I'm just too cheap for that!  Then one day I walked into Stockmann's and found these huge square pillows for all of 15 Euros each.  That I'd pay, so now I'm a happy camper.

Ted has also discovered the joys of a queen-sized bed, especially since there are two, separate duvets.  He considers that as "one for you, one for me."  Then, of course, there are times, like this one, when it's "all for me!"

Oh, and you can see a bit the rugs I got, too.  The floor was so slippery here that I had this image of Ted flying off the bed one day, sliding, and me paying for knee surgery again.  Basically any sort of real rug was going to be expensive, not to mention a pain to keep clean.  Then one day I got this brainstorm when I saw a bunch of bath rugs on sale.  I managed to pick up 3, good-sized ones for about 50 Euro total: 1 big one in blue, 2 medium ones in white.  If I throw them in the wash every week they stay nice, and it's become part of my Friday entertainment to see in what pattern the cleaning staff will lay them out when they're done!  On the mundane level, Ted's sliding around much less now, and it's nice getting dressed standing on the soft rugs.

In fact, here's the final testimony to how well we've settled in to our little apartment: Ted laying on the bed, trying--and failing--to look innocent after stealing one of my pairs of socks from the closet.

Next will be more random musings or pictures from my latest exploration of Helsinki neighborhoods!  Good night and time for pizza!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My First Finnish Gale

Last night Ted and I experienced our first Finnish gale, and it was interesting.  (For anyone who's a weather buff, the  Finnish national weather service has a nice, English-language website; this will take you directly to the weather for Helsinki, but it's easy to move to the satellite and regional views.)

About 11 last night you could really hear the wind pick up, and since I'd checked the weather report before I went to bed, I knew that they were expecting rain, sustained 45 mph winds, higher gusts, and 15+ foot seas in the waters around Helsinki.  Pretty exciting, but since I'm in a 11-story, cement-and-steel building I didn't think much about it and went to bed like I usually do, with my windows open.

I spent all night being woken up every hour or so by noises from the wind, especially the sound of covers and other materials blowing around at the construction site next door.  (I know, I could've gotten up to close the windows, but that would've taken effort and left the house really stuffy!)  When I got up around 6 you could see a really pink sky with the trees waving all around; when I finally took Ted out at 8:30 it looked like someone had dumped branches all over the walking paths.  Nothing really big, but the twigs were everywhere.  (It seems too early in the year for the leaves to be affected.)

By the time I headed to the Collegium I was worshiping the Land's End "SunShower" parka that I'd bought before I came here.  Despite the sideways rain, I could zip it up, put the big hood on, and remain completely dry.  Even better, I didn't die of the heat!  It was so nice not to have to rely on an umbrella that wouldn't have lasted 50 feet anyway!  I also understood why so many adult Finns seem to own galoshes (sp?). 

When I got here I ran into one my colleagues who lives on one of the islands connected to downtown, and she told me that it had been pretty wild where she was.  Not only did they have branches down, but some roof tiles.  It seemed like it freaked her out a bit, and I suddenly stopped being envious that I didn't live on one of the islands!

Now everything's blown over, but I'm imagining how "pleasant" those will be when the weather's in the 30s and 40s.  I have a hunch this is the November weather folks here warn me about.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


No, that's not a new stage in my 3-word Finnish vocabulary.  It's the name of this great open-air museum about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from the Towers.  Several people had recommended that I go there, and since the weather was absolutely perfect yesterday, Ted and I wandered off.

Let me warn you now: many, many pictures!  In fact, I'm going to keep the ones here fairly small, but if you want to see bigger ones, just double-click on them.

In any case, to get to Seurasaari you can walk or take a tram or a bus.  I figured I'd take one of the trams about halfway there, then wander through the burbs as a way of getting to know more about Helsinki.  So Ted and I meandered about 3 blocks down the road to a different tram stop than the one I usually take--getting to trams is just so hard in Helsinki! :-)  -- and waited a whole 5 minutes for tram 4.  Here's two views from the stop, one looking back towards downtown and the other looking out to the burbs:

It was really nice being on a tram that wasn't packed.  In fact, the only people sharing our area were a family with two little kids who were just fascinated by Ted.  After I got him lying down, I managed to communicate that it was okay to pet him.  I wish I'd been able to get a picture of two kids, kneeling on the tram floor, petting Ted for about 10 minutes!

Once we got about 2/3s of the way to Seurasaari, we hopped off.  It didn't seem like much to look at, but, what a surprise, as soon as we got a bit off the main road, we ran into more parks.  Just as good is that we ran into some beautiful, single-family homes.  I realize that wooden houses are traditional here, but I know that I've owned a house too long when I kept thinking about the maintenance costs and hassle of taking care of the small one on the left.  Still, I could be forced.  (Anna, if you're reading this, are some of those houses there the old mokki that are now so posh?)

I later found out that one of the houses I walked past yesterday was the President's, which fits my impression that Seurasaari is now in a pretty nice neighborhood.  I kind of thought so, but that's a story for closer to the end of the blog.

In any case, we eventually meandered our way through this lovely neighborhood and alongside the shoreline to the island itself.  Sorry, I forgot to mention that Seurasaari is the name of an island, and the park/museum also called Seurasaari was set up ca. 1900 as a way of preserving old Finnish buildings and providing people from urban Helsinki with a way to keep in touch with their rural roots.  It's a classic 19th-century nationalist move but fun nonetheless.  What this Finnish professor convinced the government and other patrons to do was to relocate a bunch of old Finnish buildings that would've been destroyed anyway to an island where folks from Helsinki already went for weekend "days in the country."  There they could wander around, picnic, swim on the beaches, and generally enjoy themselves while now strolling through their cultural heritage.  To find out more about Seurasaari, click here.  (And, yes, I love that the Finnish National Board of Antiquities abbreviates as NBA; it would seem to make sense, but that's if you're thinking in English.)  That's the island to the right as I look down the inlet back towards downtown.

 After walking across a lovely, old-style bridge

(This picture was taken as I was walking across the bridge.)

we were faced with our first challenge of the day: go directly to the buildings part of the open-air museum (some of which Ted couldn't enter) or go on the walk around the island called the President's jogging trail.  (It gets its name from a past president of Finland who used to go jogging there.)  I decided to make a day of it, so off "jogging" we went.  Actually the biggest challenge was not to treat the walk as a "project," but once I got into the habit of stopping every 50-100 meters just to take some deep breaths, close my eyes, and enjoy, I could just feel any sense of "project" flowing away.

The walking path really was lovely, a real get-away from any sense of "city," and for most of it you could look through the trees and shrubs into inlets of the Gulf of Finland.

Although there were other people around, it wasn't outrageously crowded either, which made the whole thing quite nice.  I mean, Ted had a brief play with a 5-month-old Golden and I watched him and this very elderly Finnish lady have apparently a nice conversation--after which she sincerely and forcefully assured me that she hoped to see us again--but if I wanted to dodge people I could.

Once we got about halfway down the west side of the island we started running into buildings.  I'm probably getting this out of order, but the first I remember was the old harbor master's house.  Back in the 19th century the boats from Helsinki would dock here, people could wait on the ground floor if it started raining, and the family could live upstairs.  One of the things I thought was really cool was the carving on some of the wood, especially the boards crossing in front of the house at the roofline.  (Is it bad that I'm pleased that I no longer know the technical term for those?!)

Just past here, I managed to avoid the temptation to hit the restaurant and cafe (in the distance in this photo)

and keep clambering over the granite.  (I'm still wrapping my mind over how HUGE granite blocks just pop up in the middle of nowhere here in Helsinki!)

I figured Ted and I could have a lunch break at one of the "scenic" points at the far southern end of the island, which were well marked on the big maps posted about every 1/10th of a mile.  Unfortunately the paths OUT to the scenic points weren't so well marked, and while I have every confidence the points are quite scenic, after watching Ted go up to his hocks in mud a couple of times, I opted for the paths of discretion.

On those more sensible, or at least not as muddy, paths, I eventually came to a crossroads where you could head directly to the main museum complex, go to the restaurant, or keep walking along the shoreline and see some of the museum buildings.  I gratefully sank down at a picnic bench, and after a few minutes watching a group of Italians who seemed as lost as we were (despite the frequent signs!), Ted settled down, too.

Then I got one of the biggest laughs of the day, given the Finnish rep for technological expertise and delays I've had getting a cellphone established.  Right at the far end of the open-air museum was this.

I don't quite get the bottom, unless it's now intended as a kid's play area, but it did crack me up having an old telephone booth as part of the open-air museum.

Since I couldn't quite follow the maps, I guessed at the path that would keep us closest to the water and still let me see some of the museum, even with Ted.  It turns out I hit the jackpot.  Right around a corner on the path I ran into whole farm complex made out of old wooden buildings from the 19th and 18th centuries.

 One of the great things about Seurasaari for us non-Finnish speakers is that the information boards for the buildings are often trilingual with English as the third language (as opposed to the ones that tell the rules for the park; those are only in Finnish and Swedish.  Viva anarchic English speakers!)  Here's one of the ones for this farm complex

 The people who set up the museum were really quite clever, too.  Aside from the nice commentary and chose of buildings, they knew how to attract an audience.  There were some complexes that you had to pay to get into while others, like the one above, where you only had to pay if you actually wanted to enter the buildings.  They also set it up so that around almost every corner in the museum section there was some interesting building to see. 

From my perspective, I just kept imagining people living in some of the buildings I saw--not all, granted, because about half of them were just storehouses--and was amazed at the skill shown in carpentry and joinery.

One of my favorite buildings, and certainly marketed by the museum as the high point of their building collection, was the church dating from, if I'm not mistaken, 1675.

It was a lovely, simple building.  I especially liked the red paint, which I understand is a very traditional color.  We also here finally got to see some of the red squirrels of Finland.

Given the menagerie that lives in my SC backyard and the huge horse chestnut trees in "my" park, I've been astonished to see so few squirrels here; then when I did see one, they made me smile: they're about 2/3s the size of the big gray squirrels and have rust-colored fur, huge bat ears, and a long black tail.  Quite cute actually but not nearly as bold as the ones I'm used to, even out in the protected island.  I learned later from one of my fellow residents at the Towers that actually red squirrels are somewhat more delicate than the big grays, which are an artificially introduced species (and a delicacy enjoyed by some members of the Slow Food Movement in the UK), and in some EU countries red squirrels have to be protected.  Protected squirrels--amazing.

Squirrels and buildings were not the only red things we saw on the island, but this one is definitely odder.

Yep, that's a mushroom--a real one, not a Photoshopped one.  I have NEVER seen anything like this in nature!  I mean, I've heard that mushrooming was a big deal in Finland and mushrooms have a special place in Finnish cuisine, but I can't decide if I'd be tempted or appalled to be served something like that.  Maybe that's why no one's harvested it yet.

By this stage Ted and I were starting to drag, so when we got to the bridge again, we sat on one of the benches and shared an apple and our last bottle of water.  (When traveling with Ted, you always bring LOTS of water!)  After watching some kayakers come from Töölö to Seurasaari, I figured it was time for me to recreate their trip but on land. (Can you imagine Ted in a kayak?  Frightening.)

Slowly but surely we slogged our way around the bay; you know you're tired when you walk right in front of the president's house and the only thing that goes through your mind is, "I wonder who the big-wig is with the manicured flower beds."  (It seems to me that most Finnish planting is a little more wild/natural, which I actually prefer.)  In some parts, particularly near the beginning, the look was much more rustic, however.

5 hours later, Ted and I staggered up to the Towers; neither of us are used to real, long walks--normally we go for an hour or two.  I made the mistake of sitting down in one of my wooden chairs to download these photos, which meant that getting up was like unfolding a pretzel.  Ted had the right approach.

Yes, within less than 5 minutes, he was asleep on the floor only cracking his eyes when I turned on the camera and moving when he woke himself up storing!

My dog had the right idea.

Unfortunately today was spent catching up on all the stuff I didn't do yesterday because I was at Seurasaari, but I did find the time to buy tickets to "The Nutcracker" for December 22.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Kay Gets Oriented

Last Friday the staff at the Collegium organized a long orientation session for us, one of several that they have done or will do by the end of next week.  It's another of the ways they've been absolutely lovely about providing us with information, guidelines ... you name it--and being sure that we can settle into things as quickly as possible.  The whole process made some of the differences between the system here and the ones I'm used to (US, British/Irish, French, and even German) even more striking.

Because for this year's purposes I'm an employee of the University of Helsinki as well as the University of South Carolina, I have two layers of benefits and bureaucracy I need to reconcile.  Because I'm a EURIAS fellow, they negotiated some additional perks for me, but there are also some aspects of the bureaucracy I don't need to deal with.  That actually means 3 layers.  The challenge is keeping things straight, something that I'm finding hard even though, as most of you know, I'm pretty good with bureaucracy.  In any case, the best way to explain this without, I hope, boring you to tears is to describe the day.

We began our 4-hour tour through the labyrinth of university bureaucracy with most of the fellows sitting around one table surrounded by several tables of staff (the big orientation for the Finnish fellows was in August).  The chief fellow coordinator at the Collegium, Minna, began the presentation by describing the organizational structure at the Collegium itself and referring us to this amazing handbook that they'd put together for the fellows and that they sent me back when I was in SC; she describes it as their Bible, I think of it as a model for handbooks that should be given to all new faculty.  It was slightly funny having people introduced to us that we'd already met, but my impression is that they'd had problems in the past with some fellows assuming that the entire staff should instantly drop everything to help them in whatever quest they might have, an embarrassingly common problem in academe.  Some of the high points were

1.  having the existence of the free, bimonthly, half-hour massages confirmed.  I'm already signed up for my first tomorrow!

2.  listening to Minna stress repeatedly that they'd do or buy anything "reasonable" to help us with our work.  Considering I've already got a research budget of over 5,000Euro that they urge me to spend buying books in addition to likely research assistance come October, I keep trying to imagine what some of the previous fellows have asked for.  When I've asked a few staff, they just smile knowledgeably and say I'd be amazed.

3.  having the concluding statement be the completely honest and too often unexpressed point that they will do anything possible to help us because they plan to take credit for our accomplishments for years!  I thought I was going to lose it laughing when she said that.  It's so refreshing to have someone be that straight with you--and so very unSouthern.  (And it's not a language issue.  Minna got a PhD from UCLA; she has fluent English.)

We then moved to the pension and benefits system.  The poor person tried, but I don't think any of us was particularly interested in the organizational tree of UH and most of our benefits needs are individualistic.  Here, though, in the middle of this presentation was the high point of the day's talks for me.  Brace yourself.

I now have a Finnish pension when I retire!

Yes, you read correctly.  Granted the pension will probably be minuscule because I'll have only been here for one year, but I'm eligible for full Finnish pensioner benefits.  God, I love European social services!

The other highlight of a very informative but tough day was during the presentation about the university libraries.  The system is more complicated that those I've dealt with before because of my topic: I actually end up getting material here from ca. 8 different libraries.  Mind you, most of the time in the States at a big, research school, you borrow materials from multiple libraries.  In any case, as the librarian was explaining the borrowing privileges (I mean, I can only renew 50 times. :-)   ), cataloging, etc., we hit the section on overdue fines.  Then she stopped herself laughing.  Why, you ask?  (At least I did.)  Because professors here, like us, don't pay overdue fines.  I looked so shocked that the room just cracked up.  Ah, Europe: the weird combination of egalitarianism and classism. :-)

We wrapped up the day with a lovely reception where I got to meet a few more medieval/early modern Europeanists as well as chat with other fellows.  I must admit, though, when I got home about 6 pm, I collapsed on the couch; Ted got pets, no walk, that evening.

A pension, massages, and no library fines.  How ever will you put the girl back on the farm? :-)

Oh, and I've been told by several people how much they like to hear my laugh and how cheerful I am. Well, the people in Helsinki have been lovely thus far, although I could wish that the tram drunks weren't so magically attracted to me (one friend blames it on a perfume of Mad Dog 50/50, but it can't be; it would cost too much to import!).  I think it's pure, unadulterated relief at spending my days researching again, although I'm still not in quite the routine I'd wish.  Suppose I can't tell them that. :-)

Oh, and if you want to read about Ted the Towel-Tugging Terror, he's been written up on, a great blog by the Canadian family who's living up on the 11th floor.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Park Photos

Enough folks responded to my encomium of my neighborhood park that I thought I'd post some photos.  (Un)fortunately my camera's battery died after about 7, but I think it's enough to give you a feel.

In any case, this is the porch that I spend my late afternoons and evenings on.

See what I mean when I say it's just big enough for the two of us and somewhat covered when it rains.  See, also, why I worry when Ted manages to pull a sock off my foot and starts shaking it around!
Then once I walk across the street, I have a couple of choices for a view (usually these are appreciated in the morning and evening when Ted is busy, if you get my drift).  The first is to the left: the soccer field.

Here it looks a little more barren because you can't see the soccer nets and the benches all around it.  One of the smart, design features here is that the soccer nets move, so it's possible to set it up so that people can play a regulation-sized soccer game and yet other folks can still use the area for things like boules or just hanging out.

I saw this a few days ago and had to include it here.  Is it just me, or does it look like this lady is walking an otter?  (Please excuse the somewhat blurry image.  I took the picture from a distance, because I didn't want her to realize I thought her dog was the strangest looking thing I'd ever seen walking on gravel.)

Okay, now that I've made my first rude comment ....  If you look straight ahead from where I was standing when I took the picture of the soccer field, you get the entrance to the children's park.  It's fenced off both to protect children and to keep dogs out.  Trust me; there are these little Scotties with Xs on them on signs all over!

The park runs for about half of this VERY long block; basically it's about twice the size of the normal block I'm used to.  It's not that Finnish blocks in general are particularly long--they aren''t--it's just the way this one was set up.

In any case, if I head to the right to walk down the lovely gravel paths that I take Ted on several times a day, once I get past the building that provides one of the indoor play areas for the kids, I get to the second, big, open area for children.

Some of the coolest stuff is actually a little hard to see from these pictures.  For example, in the top picture, you can see in the background a ton of kids' toys in all sorts of animal shapes and a big, blue area that's actually a small wading pool.  In the bottom picture, you can see a bit more of the wading pool and these great, ca. 3-foot tall camels, elephants, and rhinoceros that the kids can ride on--and that Ted barked at when he first saw them.  Also, during the day kids are running all around the grass and riding these trikes that come with the play area all around the paths.  Let me see if I can blow up these pictures to give you a somewhat better sense of how this works.

Well, better, but by no means perfect.

Once I get to the end of the block, the view back up the path is like this.  The play areas are on my right now; they were on my left as I walked down from the Towers.  I love the huge trees; some of them are at least 6 stories tall, and they are much broader than this picture makes it seem.  I have no idea what they are!

Turning back around so that the play area is again on my left, I go across a street into another park.

As you can see, while doing these walks, Ted takes his responsibility to pay attention to me very seriously.  And, no, he's JUST sniffing!

Then you cross a bike path and come to a big boat dock for private boats.  The beach is off to the left, and there's a walking and biking path going alongside the water for miles.  Here's a few shots of the beach itself.

Ted loves chasing the geese, at least as much as he can on leash.  The Finns so far have cheered him on, when they say anything.

So that's my park and the 2-block walk to the beach in pictures.  While Ted can't actually go on the main beach, there are lots of areas nearby where he can walk or swim, and I can take him for walks right next to it.

To give you a sense of what this is like and how close it is to where I live, here's an overhead shot.  (And, no, I take no credit, although I did think about how to convince people I did this!)

The red circle near the top and slightly left of center is the Towers.  You can see what I mean about the park outside my door.

Time for bed and a LONG charging of my camera's battery.  Next entry: my official orientation--or Kay joins the Finnish pension system.