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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Two Month Musings

It's hard to believe I've been here two months, especially since my time at the Collegium has really only just started, but in keeping with my two-month anniversary, I thought I'd share more weird musings I've had during my time in Finland.

1.  Why does everyone, including myself I might add, assume that living in Helsinki is like living in Antarctica?  Don't get me wrong; it's colder than SC, but in September and August a furnace is colder than Columbia.  The weather has been absolutely lovely, and even the Finns freak out if Helsinki gets below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.  From what I hear, that makes much of the upper Midwest a lot colder than Helsinki.  That being said, I'm still going to start the counter on the blog of the number of days below freezing once it happens. :-)  And, yes, you can remind me of this entry come February.

2.  I am truly fascinated at the number of Finns who are already going for walks with those ski pole/walking stick things.  I hear it's to get ready for the cross country (what they call "Nordic") skiing season.  While it makes sense, it certainly looks more than a bit dorky to this foreigner.  And, yes, you can remind me of that when I fall on my rear on the ice come February. :-)

3.  I'm constantly fascinated and amused by the politics of laundry here in the Towers--and will be thrilled to have my own machines back!  Some people dutifully follow the instructions, others can't read the instructions, and still others somehow can't figure out that they have to reserve the machines even though they've lived here for months!  Me, I'm just grateful if I can get my trousers dry in less than 2 hours! (Bet you were waiting for an allusion to February here, weren't you?)

4.  Speaking of the Towers, I have the best shower ever created by man.  I mean, I thought my shower in Columbia was good, but this one's better!  I must figure out how to re-create it.  I'm in love.

5.  I could write a entire monograph about Finns and dogs, especially on the trams.  My favorites are the kids, because they haven't learned yet to be repressed/polite.  Several times a week I have a kid sit down or next to Ted and have a conversation with him while petting him.  Often the parents end up playing translator, and us two adults are killing ourselves not to laugh.

6.  Even though I'm not watching prices obsessively (and I purposefully haven't been looking at exchange rates), I remain astonished at the cost of food: well over $15 a pound for even mediocre cheese, hamburger at $15 a pound, nuts at $20 a lb., and most things at least 50-100% more.  That's echoed in dinner prices, too; tonight I'm going out to dinner with friends from the Collegium.  We're going to a mid-priced restaurant, and I figure that I'll pay at least $90 for a starter, main course, and two glasses of wine.  Alcohol is the real killer: a 1/2 liter of beer runs at least $10 in most Helsinki bars.

7.  Finally figured out how to do a dinner party here at the Towers: have it on the Viewing Deck.  It's enclosed and heated, with lots of space and a panoramic view on three sides.  This November I think I'll do one of my "Mexican evenings" (If Patricia Beatty is reading this, she just cracked up and got nostalgic simultaneously.), make enchiladas, etc., and set up there.  Already checked with the staff, and they're fine with it.

8.  Means I'd better buy tortillas and a few other things when I go to Fort Worth in three weeks.  They have a remarkable selection in Stockmann, but it's not complete.

9.  I continue to love Sundays in Europe, even though (or probably because) they're not as strict as they used to be.  It's still the common thing that most people don't work and stores don't open on Sunday, but there's still a lot to do--unlike during my days in Dole when they rolled up the sidewalks!  It's just done at a nice, leisurely pace.  Makes me feel like I'm not committing some sort of academic heresy by taking a day entirely off things intellectual once a week.

10.  I'm constantly amazed at how different my experience living abroad is now from what it was like when I first went to Ireland or France.  Not the countries, although that, too, but my personal approaches and ways of coping.  Then again, that topic could cover pages, so I'll save it for another entry.

Ted is snoring, and I know I've forgotten half the points I meant to blog about, so that's a sign that I probably should go get ready for this evening.  The question du jour is (I've been reading a lot of French recently) do I try moose, have reindeer again, or go for something I love and don't make, like duck confit? :-)

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