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. 🙂

Lazy, lazy Sunday

I love lazy Sundays. Except for when I feel the guilt of not getting much done. I’ve only recently reached that point in my life where I can roll out of bed at whatever hour I want, and be lazy. Well, I do need to walk Shiva, but that’s okay. Speaking of which…she had some kind of morning. First off, she hasn’t gone #2 for two days, which I figured was a bit too long (more on this in a bit), so I took her out for a loooooong walk, figuring that we were not going in until she did her business.  We walked over to the ostokeskus to mail a letter, then around towards the bus stops. Understand, the slush has frozen into a patchwork of ice, so I was having to walk like a penguin as to not fall, so the going was slow. And hilarious to onlookers, I’m sure.

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Anyway, she kept going between trees and under brush and up the side of a hill…thanks, Shiva. She flushed a rabbit, which had her going ape-shit for like fifteen minutes, trying to pull me down the side of the mountain on the ice to chase it, until something else bright and shiny caught her attention and she went on to investigate that. Those tracks are not rabbit tracks…I got totally lost trying to figure out where the damn thing came from and where it went (it was fast!), and I couldn’t find the tracks to photo them. So enjoy these bird-like tracks instead.

In any case, Miss I-Dont-Wanna-Poop spent another half hour sniffing everything she could get to, until FINALLY, we had poop. Success! I’m thinking that since I am feeding her better dog food, along with some real meat treats (this stuff called B.A.R.F., which is amazing, at least to her), she might be processing it so efficiently that she’s only needing to go every other day or so. Any dog people who have knowledge in this area, let me know what you think.

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The rest of the day was spent just lazing around, chatting with the youngest on Skype. It was really nice seeing her, and her new glasses look amazing (didn’t get a screen grab, sorry. Just trust me!). Finally, around 5ish or so, we bothered ourselves to get up and head to the Senatatori to go see the carolers. We brought Shiva along for the experience, as we were under the impression that the singing would be outside. Must have misread something, because instead, the singers were inside the cathedral, and there were big speakers on the steps, which were broadcasting the music. The singing was pretty, but I had hoped to actually see the choir. Bummer.

The Christmas market in Senate Square as seen from the top of the Cathedral steps

The Christmas market in Senate Square as seen from the top of the Cathedral steps

Shiva checking out the door of the bus, waiting her turn

Shiva checking out the door of the bus, waiting her turn

We climbed the steps, looked around at the pretty city lights from that vantage point, then headed back home. We stopped by the ostokeskus to go atm some money, only it was out. First time I’ve ever encountered that, in the US or here. Wellu decided to pop into the SMarket since we were there, so I stayed outside with Shiva. While outside, we met a very beautiful husky/wolf hybrid named Sepe (and his human, Lea). Sepe and Shiva got along great, and Lea, an older Finnish lady, was petting Shiva and telling me that she was pretty. Of course she is. Then, she asked me about going to the dog park tomorrow so that Shiva and Sepe could play together. This was all in Finnish (as apparently she speaks no English), but I managed to work it out, and so we have a “playdate” for tomorrow at 2pm! I was so proud of myself! Just to be on the safe side, we confirmed it all when Wellu came out of the store, but I did get it mostly right. I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of Sepe, but I will for tomorrow. He’s a magnificent looking dog.

I have my TE integration interview tomorrow, so I am going to head to bed early, so that I can be fresh and alert for that.

Day 14 Challenge Question: Do you remember a time when you felt lonely? Can you describe it?

I had to sit here for a while and think about this. While I know that I have, my life has been so extraordinary these past few years, that I can’t remember any time in particular to recount. I’m going to take this as a good sign. Or a rather poor memory. Take your pick. 🙂

#500 words, yo.

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!

I might be official, but it’s still complicated.

I picked up my residency card the other day (complete with horrid picture), and decided to head to the TE office and Kela the next day to start the journey to getting my benefits started. Wow, what an education.

First off: the TE office. You have to go there first, get registered as a “client”, and then you can go to Kela and tell them you are registered as a jobseeker, and start the process for unemployment benefits.

The way to think of it is this: TE makes the determinations as to what status you are (this is regarding unemployment), and will tell Kela. Kela actually disperses the funds.

In any case, I registered as a ‘client’ of TE, as an unemployed jobseeker. However, we hit a few snafus. Because I don’t have a degree, or any sort of certificate from a vocational school, there would be a 21-week (aprox 5 month) waiting period for unemployment benefits. In addition, any studying I do on my own (such as Finnish language classes) need to be cleared with TE, as that can affect payment status.

Additionally, I was scheduled a Finnish language assessment test (can’t we just skip that and go with ‘0’ as my starting level?), which will tell them where I should be placed for their intensive language course — which already has a waiting period of an undefined time.

After that, I will have my actual interview, where they will go in to more detail on my rights and responsibilities as a jobseeker in Finland, and this is when I will put together my integration plan with the TE office that is submitted to Kela.

Things I still need to provide, which you may want to keep in mind if you are coming here. Any job held in the past two years needs a certificate from the employer that states who you worked for, essential job functions/responsibilities, dates you worked and why you left. Apparently this is de rigour in Finland, but since it’s not in the States, I have to get one typed up from my last employer. And since I owned my own business in the last ten years (sold in 2007), I have to type up a statement or show that I did sell it. Good luck on me finding the sales paper, although I’m sure I scanned it somewhere. 🙂

I also have to get a certificate from the Finnish language class that I am taking now, saying that I am enrolled and what the level of study is.

Now, let’s move on to the Kela office. The wait wasn’t so bad. I was 14 numbers out when I got there, but my number was called within 15 minutes or so. They do move fast. Sat down with a nice fellow, who had me fill out an application for benefits, although he said, and this is the big thing, nothing will move forward until Social Security approves me…and they don’t start their approval process until they receive notice from the Police that my residency was approved. It shows in the system that they got the notice of approval on Oct 28, and he said it could be three months before Social Security gives their approval. THEN the paperwork that I am filling out with Kela will move forward.

He did say that I would receive something in the mail with the Social Security determination, and if approved, then my Kela card should arrive in the next week or so.

I have a doctor’s appointment in mid-November, and as a resident of Helsinki, they should accept me without the Kela card, which we have confirmed they will. Also, to cover the meds for my MS, I should ask the doctor to fill out the form to give me a “medical certificate B” type of Kela card. This way, the meds that usually cost 1912€ and are only at a 35% discount, will be covered at 100%. Much better. Keep that in mind if you have some issue like I have. If I get this form from the doctor in to Kela before everything is approved, they can send that sort out; otherwise, they send out a new card.

As for the unemployment benefits. Currently, I am looking at close to May before those would start. However, if I enroll in an intensive language course (which is defined as a 20-hour or more a week course), then they can waive the waiting period and pay me unemployment at a student rate for those months. So I am currently looking at courses. The lady at the TE office gave me her email address and said that I could send them to her and she would let me know if they qualify before I actually register.

In closing, pretty much everything is in the computer, just waiting on Social Security before anything can move forward. It’s the typical pitch of “Hurry up and wait” found so often in dealing with the government. I think I got it all accurately described above. There’s quite a bit of ‘do this first, then this, but this has to be done before that’ sort of confusion.

In fun news, Wellu and I went to the Moomin Shop this morning before my class. He loves me and bought me the silly advent calendar that I really wanted (yes, I am a fool for the little Moomin figures). He indulges me so much. And I got two reflectors, one for my backpack and the other for my jacket. I don’t care if “adults don’t wear Moomin reflectors”, as he says. I do, and I am proud to do so. So nyah!

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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.