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Archive for November, 2007

Staying in

I might have been a bit too optimistic when I bought my running tuque (as Maureen would call it) since I haven’t been able to go out for a jog for a couple of months now. The Finnish weather is not so pleasant in November. It’s either warm and rainy or cold and slippery so I’ve actually been forced to buy a gym card. Or rather a gym sticker, as I am still a student I have the right to buy a cheap sticker to put on my student card. I bought one that’s valid for six months for only 45 euros!! And now I’m a regular attendee at the nearby Kumpula gym.

What I’ve learned so far is that gym people can be put into four categories:

  1. guys (there is only one kind)  
  2. girls that are real athletes
  3. girls that look like they don’t need to go to the gym but go there anyway just to piss off the girls in the fourth category
  4. girls like me, who have not been to the gym for x number of years and suddenly find themselves in need of a sports bra

The real athlete girls are those that come in what looks like bikers pants (without the stuffed ass). They may not be the ones that jump the highest or do most push ups in least amount of time, but this is only because they know how to maximize the strain while reducing the chance of getting injured.

The girls in the second category are those with perfectly toned abs, wearing small tops and gym shoes that match their outfits.

I belong to those who try to stand at the back of the room – but never succeed I might add (darned, those nr 3 girls!). I’m the one wearing the once black T-shirt with the weird print (thank you CUHK) and the outdoor gym shoes (!, is that even allowed?). I’m the one who is desperately praying that the gym instructor won’t be a total freak who thinks it normal to skip across the room while moving your arms in the opposite direction to your legs. I’m the one who gets lost when the instructor says “and now: turn left” – yes, I’ll probably turn right…

But as I’m now an adult (at least I’m not 14 anymore, even though catagorizing people like this might make me seem a bit younger) I don’t really care. It’s so much fun! I just love exercising. Who would have thought that I, who once shunned everything that could make me sweat, would be jumping around like a maniac and loving every moment of it (or that’s not totally true as I always get a bit scared when the instructor tells us to find our deep stomach muscles…)

        

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Drinking problems

So I’ve just realized that I’ve been avoiding the real reason as to why I don’t drink alcohol. Instead of telling it as it is I’ve tried to convince myself that I’m not drinking because of all the alcohol related problems I’ve seen in the Finnish society. It is true that wives get beaten up, the state has to pay a huge amount of money in healthcare every year and people are living on the streets because of alcohol, but that is not the reason why I avoid the punch bowl.

I don’t drink because I don’t think my God wants to see me drunk. I don’t drink because I want to be a temple of God. I don’t drink because I don’t want to need to be someone else, happier, more funny… I don’t drink because I want to show my God that much respect that he can use my body whenever he pleases – and I don’t think that is possible if I would be under the influence.

So now it’s said. And I don’t know why it feels like this would be such a strange opinion since no-one would have anything to say about a Muslim not drinking.

I just hope I can be brave enough to tell it like it is in the future without having to involve some social issues!

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Related issues

I must admit that I’m a blogstat junky – and unfortunately for me the amount of people reading my blog is quite modest. But lately there has been a turn for the better! My theory is that all my relatives have now finally found my blog. I got this impression when my dear cousin Stina wrote a comment on my blog (and she managed to give out her own blog address at the same time, so I’ll add that to my blogroll, he he)

You who have had a longer conversation with me might feel that I mention my cousins far too often, yes it might even be a bit annoying. But I have a lot of them (15 in total) not to mention my cousins’ children (8 in total, since Lotta just got a little boy this weekend, congratulation and best wishes from me 🙂 ). And I love them all! And they give me all the knowledge I need to cope with life by telling me their own experiences. So since my life’s not that exiting I tend to relate to their stories whenever I want to make a point in a conversation. Sometimes I try to refer to them as friends instead of cousins so that people won’t get too annoyed. Like: “my friend did this..” or “I have a friend who…”.

Chinese people have a brilliant system when it comes to relatives. They namely have specific words to describe the age, gender and from which side of the family the cousin is. So for example there’s a word for older female cousin from my mother’s side (which would be Stina, Lotta and A-K). I don’t know how much the cousins themselves would like to have the word older in there but… The advantages to this system are huge. Instead of giving out anonymous names you can tell someone the most vital thing about the cousin you are speaking of. In just one or two words you have explained everything your conversation partner might want to know. It’s absolutely brilliant!

Then of course they have the number system for their aunts and uncles. The oldest aunt is “number one”, the second “number two” and so on. But I’m not so sure what you should do with your own mother. For instance; my mother is number three in a group of four sisters. Should I then call my youngest aunt “number four” or “number three”?? And I do not really see the advantages in this system, as this is only an age related name and could offend sensitive people 😉

Speaking of relatives and blogs: Li-Min had a blog when she was in HK that her mother never saw (I do think all her cousins did thou) and I just didn’t understand how she managed to keep it from her. I told her that my mother would find my blog at once. One of my cousins was bound to tell her some time or another. So when I started writing my blog I did a little experiment. I did not tell my mother that I had started writing and waited to see how long it would take her to find it. I think it was less than a month. Someone had, I think it was my brother, showed her Johanna’s blog (Stefan’s, my second cousin from my mother’s mother’s side, wife) and after a while Johanna put out a link to my blog. So of course my mother found it. But I’m quite glad she did. You are very welcome to read everything here mother 🙂

Well, I’m happy that someone is reading my blog, as the exhibitionist I am 🙂 And I hope I can keep up writing as often as I do, it’s not like I’m running out of subjects, it’s more of a time issue. So I hope you enjoy; all you relatives and relative’s wives and husbands and children and relative’s relatives and so on to infinity or until we have gone through the whole of the Finn-Swede population.

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Going to church

Last night I went to Otnäs (where Helsinki University of Technology is located) to attend Ristin kilta, a Finnish Christian student gathering.

I’ve done the most ridiculous things to learn Finnish: I’ve taken a summer course, I’ve worked together with a lay worker in Vasa, I’ve studied photography in Kuusamo for a whole year and so on. So when I came to Helsinki, my studies, which were of course in Finnish, were not enough to satisfy my need to humiliate myself linguistically. I therefore started to attend a Finnish bible group. The meetings were held every Thursday, if I remember correctly, at some church facilities near my campus. We were around 6 girls that would meet up, drink tea and read some chapters from the Bible.

I must say that this project was just another failure on my long list of Finnish studies. But I got some Finnish friends, which is great – because now I can increase my language skills on a regular and more pleasant basis, without feeling all too stupid when my grammar is incorrect.

Not only do these people give me a chance to speak in a foreign tongue but I also get a glimpse into a very foreign way of living. I had namely entered into the alien world of Lutherans.

As I’ve belonged to the Pentecostal church my whole life, it’s a true rarity that I get to go to any Lutheran gatherings. The only time I would actually go was when we went from school (before the Christmas holidays or summer holidays) or when I attended a wedding or a funeral. But I must say that I recommend the experience to anyone who belongs to another church!

The strange thing about Lutherans is their commitment to order. I personally think that the Pentecostal church is the most disorganized church there is – and this includes every aspect of it – from meetings to worship to cell groups to… the list goes on. Maybe we just rely too much on God sometimes… Then it can be nice to enjoy an evening with Lutherans once in a while – just to put things into perspective.

Some thing about Lutherans that I find strange: They always always always say the Our Father prayer AND the Lord’s blessing prayer, it can’t be either or, it’s always both (not following each other of course, but if you stay at the meeting long enough you’ll hear both). And another thing that might be special for Finnish Lutherans are their songs that are always always always in minor key. Why? I have no idea, because even though they sing about happy things they sound like they’re at a funeral.

And then it’s the organization. When you attend a Lutheran youth gathering in early fall you get a program for the entire fall semester in your hand as you enter the room. The entire program! How do they do it? They have all the speakers marked AND the headline for the sermon. Again, how do they do it?? In my church someone is always calling me one day before something is happening asking if I could come and help out, I can’t see this happening in a Lutheran church (but maybe I’m not that experienced, I’m not, after all, a member of their church).

Well, I’ve yet again written something close to a short story instead of a blog, soon I’ll start writing books – I’m very sorry for this. But anyway, my point is not to point out the faults of my church, which I love with all my heart, but more to show the importance of stepping out of your little box that has become like your second home and see yourself from a little different perspective.

      

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Killing small animals

First an educational video. Unfortunately you don’t find this stuff on Youtube so here’s a link to the site:

http://www.jove.com/index/Details.stp?ID=85

This is what I was doing on Tuesday – dissecting fruitflies. I was not looking for the CNS (central nervous system) but for the wing imaginal discs (small sacks that will form the wings of the adult fly). If you watch long enough you can hear two guys talking, the dissecting guy and the ignorant guy holding the camera. The video guy is asking where the CNS is and the dissecting guy is pointing at it with his enormous forceps. “Here it is” he says and it is now that we realize that the video guy is not as ignorant as he might have seemed. He obviously possesses some super powers that allow him to distinguish between the CNS and the rest of the beige mush that is the head of the larva! I myself do not separate the wing discs from the head but stain the whole thing. This is to avoid the mistake of cutting off a piece of the gut instead of the disc… And of course, to avoid loosing the discs during the staining process – they are extremely tiny.

As you can see in the video the larva is still alive when the dissection process begins. But instead of tearing it apart, I prefer a pinching technique where you pinch the waist of the larva while at the same time tearing it in half – much neater, if I may say so.

It does however feel quite cruel to kill an animal in this way, and I’m just glad I don’t have the ability to hear them scream as they are ripped in pieces. But it is surprisingly fun to do and easy as well. You don’t expect that you can turn a centimeter long larva inside-out in less than a minute!

Feel free to try it! You don’t need any approvals from some ethics committee to start torturing flies, so go ahead!

        

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Presumptions

Finns have strange assumptions about Chinese food. It has probably a lot to do with all the “Chinese” restaurants we have here, but even they cannot explain the biggest misconception: Finns think that Chinese people eat Basmati or Jasmine rice! My mother, my friends and my colleagues all think that every Chinese home is filled by the blissful odor of scented rice. Why? Not even the restaurants serve scented rice, even though the staff would be from Thailand, they know better than that.

My second theory was that Uncle Ben’s (the largest rice brand in Finland) had something to do with it. But when looking at their homepage they state that: Jasmine rice comes from Thailand and Basmati from India. Hmm, maybe some of Uncle Ben’s commercials have been too complex for Finns. If you see a Thai person standing on a field with a big straw hat on his head, a Finn could easily get the idea that this was a Chinese.

But still, for the theory to be this wide spread there has to be further explanations. My own hypothesis is very simple: As scented rice is the only rice that can become sticky (in Finland that is) people just assume that this must be what they eat in China.

I hope I’ve managed to open up some peoples eyes to the facts about Chinese food: yes they do eat sticky white rice, but no, it’s not scented.

And how about the fried bananas? Has anyone been served fried bananas for dessert in China? The only thing I’ve got is some weird kind of jell-O containing coconut or read beans. I would prefer the banana, but unfortunately that can only be found in our wonderful “Chinese” restaurants…

efter.jpg

This is how a dessert could look like in Hong Kong, although I must say that this is kind of fancy since they usually only consist of one layer 😉

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Current events

The only way a person can remember the mundane seems to be through a bigger event. I’ve heard the question time and time again in American series: Where were you when Kennedy got shot? And with the answer you have a snapshot of an exact moment in time. Multiply that by a million and you have an actual snapshot of a society.

Photography events are often organized where people are asked to take pictures on a certain date or at an exact time on that day. By doing so you try to capture the grey every-day life. But this does seldom work, as people still tend to photograph the most beautiful thing in their surroundings. I remember an exhibition they had on Helsinki bus stops where you could see big blow ups of these kinds of photos. Well, actually, the only thing I do remember is a kissing couple (I think there was a picture like that…) The point being: it’s hard to capture reality.

But I do remember where I was when Estonia had sunk. I was at my grandparent’s house, where I went every day after school, together with my brother and some of my cousins. We were sitting in front of the TV and there was nothing on, except for news about Estonia. And I was so pissed at this. (You have to remember that this was when there were only around six channels to watch.) I was probably waiting for the regular soap, “the Hospital”, or something equally ridiculous and I couldn’t for the life of me understand why they had to show the same news reports on every channel, and in-between the news they showed discussion panels with serious looking people who tried to come up with some explanation as to how something like this could happen. It became a very boring day.

And I remember where I was when the planes flew into the New York skyscrapers. I was in Kuusamo and was alerted by my classmates who were watching TV in our common room. The cold, old, brick clad room with a fireplace where you weren’t allowed to light any fires. And how my mother called me as she thought I would like to talk about the events, that I would be worried. And I was utterly surprised by this, since I felt nothing of the kind. I guess I had not lived long enough to realize the impact this could have had, even on our country.

And now I will remember yesterday. I was coming from the farthest end of the forth floor corridor, where they keep the machine for capturing western blot images, and as I was walking towards our lab I overheard a conversation. “I did not think this could happen in Finland”. And now you could have snap shots of the every day life of around 5 million people…

       

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