Dare I hope…Spring?

It’s been a long damn winter, and I am looking for signs of spring every where. When I got back from Budapest a week ago, Helsinki was covered in snow again! Gah!

This morning, while out walking Shiva, I saw some hints that spring might be here…or at least peeking in the window. I have been told that Helsinki is gorgeous in the spring and summer. I am looking forward to seeing it for myself…assuming that this isn’t a false alarm.

But here are some pictures to prove that I’m not hallucinating:

The dog park the day after returning from Budapest (just a week ago!)

The dog park the day after returning from Budapest (just a week ago!)

These are pictures from this morning!

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In other news, I got in to see a physical therapist for an evaluation, regarding some issues with my MS and also about getting some rehab for my ACL surgery. Spent about two hours with her, doing all sorts of tests. Essentially, she is recommending some water exercises at one of the swimming pool halls, as well as relearning how to walk up and down stairs. Ugh. I hate exercising. Which is why I am like a fatted Christmas goose these days.

I have another few weeks of school left. My vocabulary has expanded, but I still can’t form sentences, which is a bit ego-deflating. I’ll take the summer off, then head back to another level 0 course for the fall. I’d do summer school, but we have trips to Greece, Italy, and France planned, so I am booked for the warm months. No, I am not complaining, not one bit!

Crazy busy!

I know, I know, I haven’t checked in for ages!

Finnish classes are starting to get really intense. I still feel like I don’t know any more than I did when I started, but every once in a while I realize that I’m recognizing words in conversations or can come up with the one that I need. I’m still struggling through all the darned endings and such, but hopefully, it will click soon. We have a mega-test on Tuesday (tiistai!), and I am simply not prepared. My recall is shyte.

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In the meantime, I have this thesis paper that I am proofing, and it is really taking up my time. I’ve agreed to do it, so I must, but I find myself starting to skim the words, and that’s when I have to take a break. Unfortunately, I don’t do anything productive when I do break from it. 300+ pages to proof. By the end of the month. Crunch time is coming soon!

But let us speak of more fabulous things! It has been a spectacular week for Helsinki, nature-wise! We’ve had spring temperatures (8°, 9°, even 10°!), with mostly clear skies. On Tuesday night, we had spectacular Northern Light displays, all the way here in the city! Nothing that I could take with my cell phone, but some folks got pictures of events just down the road from me. I was able to see them from my bedroom window, and they lasted for ages!

Photo Credit: Engelsman Finland

Photo Credit: Engelsman Finland

Then, on Friday, we got to experience an almost total solar eclipse. It was about 90% covered, and quite amazing. There was a bit of overcast, so I went and met Wellu at the university, where we looked through some special glasses to see the eclipse, plus “saw” it via a reflection from the telescope that was set up. I tried using the lens on the glasses to take a picture through, but it didn’t work.

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And then finally, Thursday night was a “super moon”. Nothing really amazing, just a point when the moon was at its closest to earth. Astronomer hubby sucks all the fun out of it, calling it “bollocks”, as the moon is only a few percentage points larger, hardly enough to notice, but hey, it was a cool event to have happen along with the other two. 🙂

Winter is supposed to return this next week, so time to bundle up again. Snow is predicted. But enjoying spring while it is giving us this sneak preview.

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Got Shiva her pet passport, except that they spelled my last name wrong and put in the wrong birth date for her. I don’t want to get stopped at some border because of technical issues, so we go back Monday to get it fixed. Sucker was expensive too…over 100€ for it! But, it means all her records are in one place and now she’s essentially Finnish, and she can travel around the EU without any problems. Just in case.

Heading to Budapest next weekend, then my mom comes to visit, then we head to Italy, THEN my youngest daughter and her friend come to visit…we’re going to do a ‘girl’s cruise’ to Tallinn, Stockholm, and St. Petersburg. After they leave, we are headed to France. Busy summer!

What’s that bright light in the sky?

Today was a gorgeous day in Helsinki, Finland! Just want to announce that!

It got up to around 8°C, with blue skies and the sun shining.

Here’s some pictures:

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Sunrise

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Blue skies outside of Viikin tiedepuisto campus.

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Blue, cloudless skies on the way to the bus stop. Glorious!

Sunrise on Feb 10, 2015

Sunrise on Feb 10, 2015

Had my first exam in my daytime Finnish class. Hope to find out tomorrow how I did. If she doesn’t count off too much for spelling (hahaha), then I might do okay.

And we slosh on…

Ugh. Slosh. Slush. And it is still snowing! Although at this very moment, not quite as much as before. But it was snowing a good bit during the day.

Tracie and I were hardcore, though. We still toughed out the morning walk, getting in our steps and resistance training at the same time! I think we should be credited for double the steps from this morning, given how tough the going was. I know, I know, the natives are telling me to stop whining, that this is nothing. Wah.

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This is what it looked like at the dog park this morning. About ankle-deep in the frozen slush. Just add rum and flavoring, and we’d have a giant daiquiri!

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I tried a tip I read about on the internet. I wanted to wear my sneakers on the walk, but I knew they’d get soaked, and then my feet would freeze. So the suggestion was to put on a pair of thin socks as a first layer. Then slip your foot into a plastic bag, then put on a thicker sock. Supposedly, this will keep your feet dry. Tracie called them my feet condoms. Well, mock if you want, but it worked! My outer sock was soaked, but my feet were dry and warm. Nyah. Great suggestion I will use again tomorrow.

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On the way to the bus stop, I saw this. A lone mitten in a tree. Actually, it’s not too uncommon to see. Apparently, mittens and gloves get lost along the way, and for some reason, people pick them up and put them on the bushes. My guess is that there is the chance that the owner will be passing that way again and may see their lost half, and be able to reclaim it. It’s kinda neat. This one is so young though.

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Went by the store to pick up a few items on the way home.  Shiva needed dog food. I had been feeding her Canagan, but her poops have been a bit…loose. So asked the clerk there, and she suggested I try Barking Heads and see how she does on it. I’m going to start transitioning her over tomorrow. While there (at Prisma, not Musti ja Mirri), we picked up some luncheon meat and bread. I got some “exotic” (for me) meats to try.

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And lastly, school work. I am really trying, but my recall sucks. I listen,  I write down, I practice, and fifteen minutes later, I can’t recall what was said. Oh well. Sooner or later, hopefully.

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I really need to stop by the pharmacy and see if they sell the Finnish equivalent of No-Doze here. About 1300 or so, my eyes start to droop, my head begins to drop, and it’s a battle not to just say screw it and put my head on the desk. After about 1430, I’m wide awake again. I just need my midday siesta!

Now, let’s try some Finnish.

Tänään on loskaa. Tänään on maanantai. Huomenna on tiistai. Huomenna minä olen kurssilla myöhään. Huomenna on kolmas päivä helmikuuta.

Minä koira nautti ja hyvää tyttö.

It’s pretty basic and simplistic…but baby steps (and baby talk!).

 

 

Walking on sunshine…

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hahahaha…I wish! Haven’t seen sunshine in a long time! But now you have an earworm. Enjoy! 🙂

This has been a pretty good week so far. Nothing really to pinpoint, but just generally going well. I feel like I am finally getting the hang of some itty-bitty part of the language. I still have CRS (Can’t Remember Shit) when it comes to recall, but my pronunciation is getting better, and I’m actually understanding some of the grammar rules, which is more than what I could say about the rules of English grammar. We get to do fun things in class, too!

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Tracie and I have been hitting the trails every morning so far, and we upped our distance so I’m reaching and surpassing my step goal each day. I even raised my goal by quite a bit. So I feel really good about that! Being outside in the morning is really a great way to start the day, and the scenery is beautiful, and it gets Shiva out on a longer walk for her to explore all manner of new landscapes.  Plus, I get to vent with another expat about all sorts of things!

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I was wandering around a store the other day, and remembered Wellu telling me that Valentine’s Day is not a big deal in Finland. Of course, in the U.S., it’s huge (for the candy makers, the card companies, florists, etc), and the aisles are festooned with red and pink for as far as the eye can see. So, this is what I see in the sort of place that back home would be gaudy with the season:

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That is it. The extent of the offerings. I guess I’ll just have to be content with a trip to a resort in Antalya, Turkey for Valentine’s Day (or Winter Holiday). 🙂

These are my notes from my classes today:

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In addition to Finnish lessons, I took advantage of my international classmates and learned how to say greetings in Japanese, Turkish and Arabic, and I learned how to write my name in Arabic:

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I think that’s it for now,

Nähdään huomenna!

 

 

 

What a day!

Where to start?

January 12, 2015

January 12, 2015

Well, last night, I carefully printed out my bus route to get to class…

…and missed my stop (by a few), and got totally turned around. Couldn’t get the map to pull up or the bus schedule, so had to call the hubby to get directions. Was late to class, but was actually able to apologize for being late in Finnish. Win? And it seemed that this first class was pretty laid back, and I wasn’t the only late one, so there is that.

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Can’t express how happy I am that I took that short class earlier, or else I would have been even more lost than I was today. Hopefully, it will come over time, but we’ll see. And at least I’ll be getting paid for taking this class. That’s a bonus.

I have the second (third?) class starting tomorrow, so once more I have printed out my bus route, and this time I have notes as to the landmarks to look for. I have to go from my first class directly to the second one, so I can’t screw this up.

Nailed my 12,500 step goal today by going out in a freakin’ snowstorm to walk Shiva (“light snow”, my Aunt Fannie). That is love and dedication, of course.:)

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One neat thing is that going out at the dark of night (see there, 11:15pm), is that you can feel perfectly safe (other than the breaking of the neck on ice). I wouldn’t dream of going out at that hour back home. Mainly because it is pitch black, but here, as you can see, everything is well-lit, and crime is amazingly low. I just feel safe walking around at any hour, and that is a really nice feeling.

And we start!

Wow, 2015 already…why do I feel so behind and it’s only the 3rd?

I have a lot to do and a lot to get caught up on, and I’m starting with this here blog o’mine. 🙂

The trip to Lapland is over, and I’ll post some pictures, but suffice it to say that it was a wonderful, lazy vacation, made even better by having my youngest daughter there. She hibernated like a bear, but when she bemoaned all of her sleeping, we went over the things accomplished, and realized that she had done everything we had set out to do, so why shouldn’t she sleep? And ergo…she sleeps. 🙂

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Now, we are back in Helsinki, we’ve done some shopping, and today is her last day here with me, as she leaves tomorrow. 😦 It gives me a frowny face, but I am hopeful that she will return, perhaps in the summer or autumn, once more.

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Now, on to some business.

Got a letter back from KELA regarding them designating my medication under a B certificate. Seems they want the test results of various things, which I have had done, but I need to get from my doctor in New Orleans. So, once Wellu translates the KELA letter, I will email the doctor in the States and HOPEFULLY he (or rather, his assistant) can email those documents to me. I’m concerned there will be some sort of HIPAA hiccup in which he has to mail them, in which case I’ll have them sent to my mother’s address and then she can scan and email them.

In the meantime, for January, we have a decision to make. Do we pay the full 2000€ for the meds, with the intention of getting reimbursed 100% (less 3€) for the meds, or do we go forward as if we are in the current plan, get reimbursed 35%, have it count towards the deductible, and then only pay 1,50€ each successive month? It gets rather confusing, but I think we are going to pay for the meds (which has to be done in January, regardless), and let it count towards the deductible, which I think I will have met at that point, and only pay the 1,50€ each month after that. We ‘lose’ the money paid in, but I’m not sure how long this is all going to take, and I’d rather not have to pay out the 2000€ each month until it is figured out, and then wait for a refund. Clear as mud, eh?

Getting medical services is not as clear cut as the socialists would lead you to believe. And it’s not just for us immigrants. I’m hearing similar bureaucratic nightmares from native citizens, as well. Well, we now know that the U.S. doesn’t have a lock on paperwork red tape stories. If you come over to stay, bring your full medical records. The summary that I brought obviously doesn’t cut it.

I start classes on the 12th of January. They are five days a week, so it’s quite a commitment. As I think about arranging my schedule, I realize just how much freedom I’ve had these past few months, and it’s a bit jarring now to think of having to be somewhere EVERY. DAY. 🙂 Well, except weekends and holidays, of which there are plenty. Unfortunately, the lady at TE hasn’t replied to my email to confirm that she is making the change to my records for the class, so I’m feeling a bit apprehensive about how soon the benefits are going to start being paid. My calm in this is just to realize that it will happen when it does, and to just keep checking on it each week. Thank goodness for email (that doesn’t get answered, but whatever).

A bit of TMI…I think I have hit ‘that time’. Hot flashes galore. Isn’t so bad right now in the winter…but I hope this is all over by summer! Never thought it would come about, but gads and begora….here it be. 🙂

Classes and more classes!

Today was a hellishly busy day (after my lazy Sunday!), but I did get a lot done, at least.

Here’s this morning’s picture, taken around 9:15am:

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The first order of business today was a stop by the TE office so that I could have my integration interview. That went smoothly, with no real surprises. Apparently, because I quit my job in the U.S. and didn’t move to Finland within the next week, they deemed my job separation as NOT being for the move to Finland, but other personal reasons. It didn’t really matter, because I am still subject to the 21 week waiting period due to not having a degree or certification.

Note to those deciding to move to Finland, even if you marry a Finn and come over based on family connections: If you do not have a degree, then you will have a 21 week (nearly 5 month) waiting period for unemployment benefits. This does have some exceptions, which I am going to go in to next.

Now, since I was already signed up for a Finnish language course that was on the TE list, they will submit to KELA that I am taking a qualified course, and my benefits should start as of the date of the course. Or the date of my integration interview. The response to that question got garbled in translation, and I didn’t clarify it. My bad.

After that visit, I headed over to the K City Market, not to be confused with a K Market, and checked out their abundant supply of goodies. They have an “American Wall”, but it was pretty piss poor, and didn’t really have anything I couldn’t live without. It was mostly things like Paul Newman’s dressings, Hunt’s catsup, Starburst, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Nothing too mind-blowing. Oh, and Ziploc sandwich bags for like six bucks a box. Ugh.

I picked up the Rice Krispies and marshmallows that I needed, and headed over to the KELA office. Got my B certificate put into the ‘Urgent’ queue, and confirmed that I had all the applications in that I needed. Then it was to Sörnäinen to grab some special candy for Wellu’s upcoming trip, and some dog food for the Shiva. Got her a really cool reflective halter, too.

20141215_200036[1]Came home and hung curtains, and then attempted to fix the Rice Krispie treats for the after-school party tomorrow. That is some evil stuff! Sticky and vicious. I had a hell of a time getting that shit in the pan to cool off. It was hardening up like lava even as I was trying to smush it in the corners. My finished product looks like shit, but actually tastes okay. If you can’t tell, I didn’t make Rice Krispie (or is it Krispy) treats as a kid.

Oh, and when I got home, I had a letter saying that I had been accepted in to this other (much, MUCH cheaper) Finnish course, which is approved by TE. So now I need to cancel the first one and put this one in its place. Fun, fun!

Day 15 Challenge Question: What do you and your family like to do on a Saturday morning?

Simple and easy: Sleep in. Nothing more to it. 🙂

#500words. Again. 🙂

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. 🙂

Language Skills Tests…

Blech.

Sorry for the radio silence for a while there, folks, but between trying to get ready for the trip back to the States and the usual schedule, there hasn’t been much to report.

However, today, I did go to the Testipiste to take my language assessment. You can probably guess how that went. I could have told them before I went that I should start at level 0, slow class. 🙂 It was an adventure getting there, riding an unfamiliar bus, although I did end up in a place that I’ve been a few times before. This time around it was the 506, and I got off at the railway station, Pasila Ansema. Of course, I got turned around and ended up walking all the way around the block to get to the building hooray for Google Maps so I didn’t end up completely lost) and made it in time.

I had all my documents, got signed in and the nice lady took me in to a room to do the test. It wasn’t anything too daunting. I had to read a bit of Finnish, with the caveat that I didn’t have to know what I was saying; they were looking for my pronunciation. She told me that I did very well, that she could actually understand me and my accent didn’t get in the way too much. Accent? I have an accent?

The next test was a spelling exercise. Fail. However, she was encouraging and said that I did well to get most of the letters there, and it showed that my ear was developing. My downfall was the o and u sounds, and the double letters. I either doubled them where the didn’t need to be, or didn’t where they did. Freaky language.

Then, she showed me a cartoon drawing of a bus station, and I was to identify as many things as I could, in Finnish. While I felt like I didn’t do so well, she said that the things I did identify, I did so accurately and with good pronunciation. I think maybe she was just trying to make me feel good.

The last test was on the computer, in another room. It was more of a matching and ‘one of these things is not like the other‘ sort of exercise. I think I did okay on that. Then a sheet with some math. I’m not sure it had anything to do with Finnish, but maybe just to see where I was. Ugh. I haven’t had to find x for nearly 20 years! I’m not sure that I got those right.

It took maybe an hour, from start to finish, then I was free to go. I would have taken pictures to illustrate, but not allowed. Oh well.

Here’s some of the downtown area, just for kicks:

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Leaving tomorrow for the States! Heading back home for the Thanksgiving holidays. I have my suitcases packed one inside the other, like Russian Nesting Dolls, and the innermost one is filled with chocolates and gifts to mail out from home. I figure I am going with minimal stuff (undies and a pair of sweats), as I have plenty of clothes back at Mom’s. And then I will unnest those suitcases and fill them with STUFF! I have things to bring back for other expats here, too. I feel like Santa Claus!

And best of all, when I return, I will have my baby girl, Shiva with me! I can’t wait to show her all around her new city!