Enrolling for school!

Wow. Today was essentially the day to sign up for the Spring language classes, and for the one I really wanted (as it had a discount available), it opened at 11am, but I was in class. By the time I got to a computer to sign up, the class was full. Wah. But I am number two on the waiting list.

However, that really doesn’t matter any more, as we went ahead and paid for a full time class that starts January 12, and I snagged the last opening in that class. I go five days a week, 9:30-12:00. Plus homework. Real homework. AND I signed up to go to a twice-weekly night class with a friend, so that’s Tues/Thurs from 5pm-7:30pm. Having a study buddy might help, plus we are talking immersion here!

I’ve enjoyed the free class at the Familia Club, but I haven’t really invested the study time that I should have, as there are no tests or anything to get prepped for. Still, I think it was a good experience, especially for my first time, and I have a better idea of what I need to do to step up my game.

I got my FitBit charged and synced up when I got back, and my goal is to hit 10k steps a day (at least to start). I took Shiva out for a long(er) walk this evening — in the rain, I might add, just so I could hit that 10,000+ step goal. Additionally, I find myself taking the stairs whenever I can, and when I feel like my knee is up to it.

Here’s a picture out of the kitchen window at 8:45am this morning:

December 8, 2014

December 8, 2014

Day 8 Challenge: What happened today at 6pm?

Oh, this is an exciting answer…watching Elementary on TV and eating dinner (pasta). Sorry, no picture as I didn’t think to check the challenge questions today before everything was cleaned up and put away. And sorry it wasn’t that interesting of an answer. 🙂

Want to learn Finnish?

I didn’t have much to talk about today. It was grey and cold, but not so bad. Took Shiva on a few walks via new paths. Oh, and she went to S-market with me, and sat outside and waited patiently for me. So that is going well.

December 7, 2014

This morning’s picture. December 7, 2014

I decided today to make this post a public service message by providing some helpful links on how to learn Finnish. I only wish that having these links did anything for my ability to learn the language, but it does appear that the requirement is that you open the links and actually study. Always a catch.

http://www.uusikielemme.fi/index.html Translates to “Our new language”. Very detailed.

http://www.fsi-language-courses.org/Content.php?page=Finnish This one is really cool, as it comes from the Foreign Services Institute (FSI) and was published around 1987. It contains links to the textbook and audio tapes. VERY comprehensive.

http://iteslj.org/v/f/ This one gives you tests. Very good to see what you really know.

http://www.101languages.net/finnish/finnish-flashcards/ I seem to have this obsession with flashcards. I just think they are a great way to help self-learn something.

http://www.uuno.tamk.fi/ This one has a lot of graphics, and is a bit fiddly to use, but could be a good supplement

http://www.dlc.fi/~marianna/gourmet/fin_glos.htm This isn’t so much about learning to speak Finnish, but is an indispensable tool for going shopping. I have it booked on my smartphone. It breaks down all the foods and gives you the Finnish names for them. It’s a 5-star!

http://www.digitaldialects.com/Finnish.htm This one has a lot of graphics, and since these are user-generated, I have found some mistakes on a few cards. Not enough to be off-putting, but you may notice them as you go through the cards.

http://www.flashcardmachine.com/ If you want to make flash cards to study with on the computer, you can use this program.

http://ilanguages.org/finnish.php A very basic course in learning a rudimentary level of Finnish. Still, more than I know yet.

http://quizlet.com/subject/finnish/ This also has user-generated vocabulary and flash cards. I haven’t been through this one quite enough to say how good it is.

I’d also purchased (when it was on mega-sale) the Pemsleur Approach CDs for Conversational Finnish. Yes, that is from the ads that you see popping up about the way to learn a language in 10 days and all that malarkey. While I need to listen to each lesson at least ten times to finally get any of it to stick (Teflon brain!), and the phrases seem pretty cheesy, I am finding that some of what stuck (and what I have forgotten but can recognize) are bits and pieces from every day conversation. I am probably going to dust it off and start off again. If you find it on sale (I think it was $24.99 on sale), it’s probably worth it to get.

My mom made me these flash cards from Avery business cards and lists that I sent her. I can put 48 of them in a 96 card business card holder (so that I can see back and front of the same card) and practice my Finnish words on the bus. Right now, I’m concentrating on common phrases, colors, months and days of the week, plus a few random vocabulary words tossed in. As I learn words, I can pull those out and replace them with new ones. I have about 500 other ones in the bag. I’ve got my work cut out for me!

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I’m sure there are more links out there. Let me know if you’ve found any that worked particularly well (or that you think look pretty, but haven’t gotten around to using yet…) 🙂

My girls!

My girls!

Day 7 challenge (I remembered!): What do you feel guilty about right now? What I feel guilty about every day…that I can’t bring my kids over here (yet) to experience what I am experiencing. It’s probably a variation on the usual “mom guilt” of not being there on the spot when they need me, that uncomfortable part of them learning to stand on their own two feet, of making their own mistakes and me not being there to help pick up the pieces. Skype and Facebook are probably enough in principle, but not enough for the emotion. I just comfort myself with the knowledge that I’ve raised great girls, that one is getting here for Christmas, the other will be here for 2016 (hopefully), and the third will come when she can. I know it will work out, but I can’t help but feel some guilt.

Busy, busy day!

Today was one of those days that was really busy, but I didn’t get anything done, really. But I did ride a bunch of buses and run all over town, so you get to see pictures from my errands!

First off, the day started late, as I slept in rather late. I had napped yesterday–I swear, I laid down at 3pm for a nap…but with the cool air and it getting dark already…I slept until like 7pm. Which meant I was awake until…past 1am. So anyway, I slept in, meaning my day day didn’t get started until 10am already. The apartments had a notice that they were cleaning and waxing the floors today from noon until 1330, so could people please refrain from going in or out during that time. That meant only one thing to me–I needed to plan to go shopping during those hours so that I wouldn’t leave tracks on the newly polished floor!

I have been jonesing for a really good burger (Spoiler alert: haven’t found it yet), and there was a place in the Center called Stones that has a reindeer burger. Got there, but the burger alone is like 17€, and that doesn’t include a drink or anything on the side, plus it has onions in a sour cream sauce and all sorts of stuff I wouldn’t want on it, so at that price, I passed. There is a Hard RFB_IMG_1415878281922[1]ock Cafe right around the corner, so I figure some good ol’ American place would have a decent burger.

And I’d be wrong.

It was ‘okay’, but it was underseasoned and generally bleh. Not bad, but nothing I would cross the street for.

After that, we headed out to go pick up my Moomin duvets which arrived. They didn’t come to our local pick up place, but instead were shipped to Valentatalo, and that was a new bus for me. Once that was done, we did return back to our R-Kioski and picked up our new digibox. But the real star of the mail delivery service are the Moomin duvets! These will be on the bed by tomorrow!

Arrived!

Arrived!

Opening!

Opening!

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

I can’t wait to get these on the bed and take pictures. I am such a fool for this Moomin stuff! I love these little characters — possibly because I identify with the little round-shaped figures.

We went to the Arabia Design Center, to go check out the Finlayson, Fiskars and Ittala outlets. Even as outlets, these places are way out of sight in prices, even for 2nd grade items. Did get to see the Fiskars ‘museum’, which had a few cool displays, and some interesting history on the Fiskars scissors.

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These are frying pans.

Those are the iconic orange handled scissors hanging down in what is a sort of creepy dangerous chandelier. 🙂  I think if the zombie apocalypse hits, this is definitely one place to come get weapons…no one would think of a museum right away! Look at all those splitting axes; just perfect for splitting undead skulls.

I got this amazing Moomin find on Facebook, for just 10€. 20141112_140531The key to wind it up and play music is missing, so I am using it as a desk organizer where I can see it every day. 🙂

Is this not the cutest thing? I wish I could hear the music, but I’ll need to find a broken music box to steal the key from.so I can hear it at some point.

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In schooling news, I am struggling with the very basics. Why couldn’t Finnish be more like Spanish? I am still in toddler classes, learning colors, numbers, basic vocabulary, and I am having so much trouble making it stick.

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This blank board is like my mind. I just can’t seem to get it. The language just refuses to stick to my Teflon® brain. Although, in all fairness, every once in a while, I do manage to recognize or remember a word. I just wish I could do so in context.

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I have so many books, websites, phone apps a20141110_142920nd you’d think it would come easier.

However, I have to continue to believe that once I really get in to it, maybe it should be better.

I was studying my flash cards on my phone app, and managed to miss my bus stop this morning! I was cursing under my breath as I got out of my seat, and the girl next to me asked me what I was grumbling at and I told her I missed my stop. She laughed and said she missed hers, too.  At least I’m not the only one having to cross the street and take the bus back one stop!

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Speaking of bus stops, I managed to take a picture of this backpack at the bus stop this afternoon. These things are EVERYWHERE! Of course, I want one, so I can be like the rest of the cool kids, but in looking them up, I find out just how expensive these are… 70+€ for the basic backpack! I haven’t paid anywhere near that for any backpack that I’ve owned. I suppose I will have to get a closer look at them to see if maybe they are lined in gold or they carry themselves or maybe they are some sort of Bag of Holding so that they can carry everything!

If you’re feeling ambitious, you can look at the Fjallraven Kanken website to see if you find something you like. According to the website, these backpacks were originally designed for Swedish schoolchildren back in 1978. Of course, now I want one. Damn peer pressure.

I think I will end with just a few photographs that I took around town that shows the winter season descending upon us.

Berries against a winter sky

Berries against a winter sky at Helsinki University

Inside the Forums Mall

Inside the Forums Mall

The Stockmann's corner

The Stockmann’s corner in downtown Helsinki

Sleep is for the weak!

*Yawn* It was one of those nights that just never really got started. I ended staying up way too late last night, until around 1:00am, which is not the usual for me, but I just wasn’t sleepy. Then when I finally went to bed, I just drifted in and out of light sleep, finally giving up around 3:30am, and getting up, staying awake until 4:30am, when I finally started feeling tired. Went back to bed. Big mistake! Had to wake up at 6:45am so as to get ready and catch the bus to the police station to turn in my paperwork before the lines started to get really long. I felt like I was trying to think through a molasses brain. None of this was helped by the fact that hubby was also plagued by the same sleeplessness, except his had to do more with all the emails he was getting from the U.S. side for a project he is working on. Misery loves company!

But, turned in the paperwork, and that happened with relative ease. For the return trip, we decided to try and take the train back, except that the next train was canceled. And the next one after that. Apparently, there was an issue with the switch up the line. So, not knowing when the trains would be running again, we went back to the buses. We eventually got home around 11am or so, and I just crashed to back to bed. Slept until close to 3:00pm, too!

I needed to get up to head to Caisa for drama practice which was starting at 5:00pm, but I had volunteered to run by the Vero office when they closed at 4:15pm, in order to scavenge their used queue slips, to use as props in our play. Hah! That simple request didn’t go over well, with the clerk apparently thinking that I wanted them for some nefarious purpose, and denying the request. Odd. In any case, as is the case-in-point for our play, enough places use the queue slips that I can find another place to beg them from.

Our play is going quite well, and our Markku character actually did very well after just having a single night to review the script. I have some more work to do on the screen shots, but nothing too difficult. We’ve got one more meeting next Tuesday, then the performance! I encourage you all to come out and see it if you can.

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I did a couple of web searches out of curiosity earlier, and found a few oddities when searching for things Finnish.

Notice the different search themes that come up, depending on how you enter it in? 🙂

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In other news, Finns are funny! At least one of them is. Ismo Leikolan won Laugh Factory’s annual World’s Funniest person contest this year. He was actually quite funny, too.

http://m.iltasanomat.fi/viihde/art-1288756376058.html (this article is in Finnish)

(The video below is in English)

Well, I should probably get to work on my project. And I have school tomorrow! Yay for learning in a language I don’t know! 🙂

Finnish is Hard!

Wow! Today was quite a busy day and it hurt my head! However, it was an exciting day in its own way. Remember me mentioning the language class that I had signed up for through the Family Club? The one that is supposed to be for people who are illiterate, so I figured that maybe I’d be able to keep up? Well, today was the first day of that class. However, I think something was lost in translation (ha ha) in that everyone could write (at least, they were writing something down), but just couldn’t speak Finnish. So it appears we are all on the same level. Well, except for one of the older guys from Iraq who figured that the teacher would give him higher marks if he answered quicker and louder than everyone else, sometimes even before the teacher finished speaking. Fortunately, she did shut that down pretty quick. I got the impression that he has either taken the class before, or was at the very least, known to the teacher in some capacity.

The class is taught almost entirely in Finnish, and you pretty much just have to figure it out from her gestures, pointing and context. It actually wasn’t quite as hard as I thought it might be to do that. I managed to keep up with most of it. But it does make sense to teach the class in one common language (that no one else speaks!), as not everyone speaks English. The class is pretty multicultural, with 3 folks from Iran, 3 from Iraq, 2 from China, one from Cambodia, 1 from Taiwan, 1 from Afghanistan, and 1 from the U.S. Guess who that is? 🙂

I learned some words, wrote them down, and wrote them down a bunch of times each while saying them. Plus we’re going over the alphabet and pronunciations, which is where I am having some issues. I did write down one word ‘lokakuu’ and thought i was for ‘month’, when it is actually for October (close, but no cigar). However, I am feeling pretty stoked about the classes, and for ‘free’, they’re the right price.

Day 1 study notes

Day 1 study notes

After the class, I left for Elisa to try and argue my case about the service charge for technical support. Unfortunately, my powers of persuasion were not enough to sway them. I felt it was a smidge unfair that I called about unlocking a phone from the States, stated specifically that I needed an English technician, yet at no point did anyone think it was important to inform me that the recording at the beginning of the call (in Finnish and Swedish) was warning me about a 2+€ charge per minute for the help. Ah well, I will just have to consider it an ‘account activation fee’ in my mind, which makes it more palatable, since it would be nearly twice the cost back home. A downer, but not majorly so.

I did discover the Moomin Shop at the Forum, and just HAD to get myself a little something. Of course, after purchasing it, I did realize that I didn’t have anything leftover to put in it! ha ha. No seriously, it wasn’t too bad, as far as Moomin stuff goes. I think I will go back and get a reflector for my backpack. They’re just so cute!

Moomin sussie!

Moomin sussie!

Afterwards, I met Wellu for lunch at his favorite place, and we noshed there, while I tested out my new knowledge on him. He corrected a bit of my pronunciation, plus the aforementioned month/October snafu, but overall, I did well. I had some thoughts about going back to the mall, but instead decided to head home to clean up, which I didn’t do before I left (since I was running late, as is usual it seems).

I took a short nap, cleaned like crazy, and was ready to go about the time Wellu got home. Drama club! We were interviewing two potential actors for the part of our Finnish male lead, and I wanted to get there on time. We actually had three males show up, but one decided to take on the other male parts we needed, and the other two tried out for the lead. We’ve made our decision, although the guy is pretty quiet and we just hope he’ll be able to project well on stage. But he was definitely the part.

Got a letter from the Poliisi today about my application for my residency permit. At least we know it is in the system. Apparently, they want a copy of our passports to show proof that we actually did travel to see each other when we said that we did. Also, I have to bring in some form of proof that I live here. So that’s a trip for tomorrow! But it is in the system and working its slow way through the sea of red tape.

And the snow is gone

One day. It was exciting, though. Well, for a Southern gal, that is. Everyone else was probably like, “Eh.” and moved on. 🙂 I woke up late this morning, and when I went to the window to take the picture, most of the snow was gone, with just the memory of it all in small white lines against the grass. But I’m sure it will be back.

October 24, 2014

October 24, 2014

We were going to run in to the City Center together to get his new credit card (I mean, of course!), then catch some lunch, and then I planned to come back to study some more. We got in to a long conversation on the bus about long and short sounds, and it went round and round until it was finally clarified that those terms mean something very different in Finnish and in English. Pronunciation is going to be the hardest thing to get right in learning Finnish. There are plenty of websites, blogs and YouTube videos dedicated to learning Finnish, so I won’t go into it here, except to complain about how hard it is!

Some guy interrupted us, saying in a thick Russian accent, “You two back there speaking English. Russian state will collapse in two years!” then he turned back around. Not sure what that had to do with our conversation of the long i and short i sounds, but hey, whatever. 🙂

We did some walking around the city, at lunch at his favorite place, went to Stockmann’s so I could buy an English version of the Helsinki Times, and then made a break for work and home.

I just love the Tiger stores!

I just love the Tiger stores!

Helsinki city corner

Helsinki city corner

I did the laundry, made the bed, washed the dishes, and generally played a bit of Suzy Homemaker. (Fun Fitting in to Finland Fact (FFn2FF): there are washers, but typically not dryers. You wash your clothes, then hang them up to dry. Either outside on the line, even in the freezing weather, or in the drying room, or bathroom. Means you really need to plan your laundry day!) Then I sat down with my reference cards on Vowels and Dipthongs, practiced those, watched some YouTube videos, looked at some of my textbooks, and then cried in despair.

20141024_212414[1]Flash Cards

I did call up Avery, and we had a good, long chat. It was really nice to talk to someone from back in the old country. Sigh. Back in the day… well, not to get all nostalgic and stuff. But yeah, today I had an attack of the homesickies, and was feeling blue for a while. I decided to try and snap out of it by doing something constructive, so I made some amendments and additions to my reference cards, and went to reprint them. I decided to label my printer with what direction to feed the paper in to do two-sided printing, and in rummaging around for my EU plug adapter, I found money. SHOPPING! Boom! Good mood returns!

For dinner, we decided to break out the wild boar that we bought from Tallinn. Oh. My. God. It is so tender, so delicious…I could have eaten it all in one go. But we didn’t, wanting to save some of this deliciousness for tomorrow! I have decided that this is my new favorite animal. We also bought some moose sausage, so we might have those for tomorrow. I will certainly report on that.

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I’ve been chatting with the kids off and on today, just general stuff. I think we’re all feeling the miles, but it should get better. I do miss my girls. However, for now, we’re kicking back, with an exciting Friday night, catching up on episodes of The Flash. A bit slow to start, but the reviews I’ve read said that it really has potential, so we’ll see.

Let’s wander around a bit.

Today was somewhat productive, if not always in the way that I had set out for it to be.

Started off the morning with a series of emails between myself and the TE office. Earlier in the saga, KELA had said that I needed to get documentation from TE that I had attempted to apply there, but was turned down because I didn’t have my residency card yet (this is after they said I should be able to apply with just my Finnish SSN). TE emailed me back and said essentially that KELA had no idea what they were talking about, we don’t do that, so if they want some sort of proof that we’re denying you, use these emails. Not the outcome I wanted, but at least it was a ‘final answer’.

Then, headed down to the Familia Club ry, in order to join up and get enrolled in a Finnish language course. That went well, although I did get turned around a bit, walked all over the City Center, but with the help of Google Maps, finally found my way — retracing steps that I had already done twice before. Apparently, I zigged when I should have zagged. But place found, annual fee paid, registration made. I then read the pamphlet on the bus, and realize that I been signed up for the course so basic it is for folks who do not yet know the Latin alphabet. So, I can be tops in my class! Yay! But, the course does teach some basic Finnish phrases, so I’ll stay in it. It does give me something to do twice a week.

After that, I went to go meet Wellu at the University for lunch, but since I was arriving a bit too early, I decided to go kill some time at the Arabia Mall. A small mall, but there was a nifty discount store that I managed to drop a few shekels in before heading to the safety of the University. We did some rounds of being introduced, then ate lunch and chatted a bit. After that, I went to the grocery store, get dinner stuff and came back to fix said dinner stuff (yes, my life is getting a lot more domestic).

Did find this car in the parking lot. I’ll bet it can be had for cheap :):

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After dinner (which actually turned out well, despite my trepidations), I made phone calls back to the States. My mom. My retirement fund company. My bank. My retirement fund company again. The apartment complex re: my deposit (45 days to get it back??), my youngest daughter. I’ve got lots of forms to print out and send off, but hopefully most of the drudge work will be done before I get back to the States for the Thanksgiving break.

Here is a random picture of some of the fall color to finish off the post with. 🙂

Fall foliage at the campus.

Fall foliage at the campus.