How my balance organ realized it appreciates shampoo…

This is a small story for all the people who don’t give a $%^& when going out of the house with a hairdo so fat you can bake fries in it. You might not even notice it yourself, but you will for sure saddle up your fellow human being with this unpleasant smell. Brrr.
The reason that I write this story is because I was struggling not to throw up when taking a bus ride to Helsinki-Vantaa airport in Finland. My balance organ is rather sensitive so therefore I’m not the biggest fan of driving in busses and cars. My bus happened to drive through every little Finnish farmer village in order to bring the locals closer to civilization. All the curves made me breath like a pregnant women some minutes before giving birth to a little baby. This was the only way to prevent my breakfast from coming out.
Nevertheless, in the middle of nowhere the bus stopped and let a 60-year old smiling woman in. In my opinion age is no excuse not to take care about your looks and hygiene anymore. It was already visible from a distance: instead of many happy hairs floating on the wind it seemed like she only had 20 bundles of thin hairs all clumped together, shining so much that it couldn’t be called a ‘fresh, healthy glow’ anymore. Even though the bus was almost completely empty, she seated right in front of me, immediately placing her chair backwards into relax mode. So, she was practically laying on my lap.
We continued our trip towards to south. I kept on struggling with my car sickness. No pregnant-women-puffs for me anymore. Because of the indescribable dirtiness of the fatty hair smell I tried to prevent soaking up this aroma as much as possible. Moving to another chair in the bus would seem like an easy solution, but the balance organ just couldn’t handle any single movement without making it a very dirty and embarrassing situation for me.
 Just at the moment I sat with both hands in front of my mouth almost not being able to stand it anymore the bus driver decided to make it all a bit more unpleasant. He switched on a general air conditioning system blowing a steady wind straight through the fatty hairs right into my face. Thanks a lot! This is kind of a dirty fact I’m giving you right now, but I had to swallow the sour milk and cinnamon bread I had for breakfast three times again during my bus trip. Sorry for that.
In some kind of way listening to music makes my car sickness always a bit less worse. While still having one hand in front of my mouth – just in case – I managed to grab my mp3 player. Many, many thanks to the men from Level 42, Tears For Fears and The Alan Parsons Project to help me through this difficult time!
The moral of this story… Please don’t make it too difficult for sensitive balance organs and just make sure you have a freshly washed bundle of hair. This will please others’ eyes and nose and the nice thing is that you’ll feel a bit more attractive and confident as well.

The squirrel and an interesting moustache

Just a short message from Finland this time. Time passes by so fast! I’m having a great time here, even though it has been quite rainy lately. The Graphic Design course is over already. Today I presented my final work and I’m quite happy with the result. As soon as the class was over all Chinese classmates got their camera’s out of their bags and fanatically started to make group pictures. When I answered their question with ‘yes, this is indeed my real hair color’ I had pose for some pictures with all of the girls separately. I felt like a giant monster! They were all so sweet and tiny. 

Nature keeps on surprising me. I took a long walk through the forest last week and Sunday I managed to make a beautiful bike tour during the two hours it was not raining that day. What a beautiful country. The forest smells great and all the flowers look so colorful. When I visited my friend Olga, she was my classmate last year, we spotted a hedge hock adorably running around the grass field. This morning I came across a squirrel right in front of the house. This little creature was pretty curious and not too shy for a small photoshoot. I love it here!
Because of midsummer I’ll join my guest mom and brother to their summer cottage for a long weekend. I’m curious how that will be.. Back to nature, no electricity.. As long as there is a sauna it should be fine. I’ll also take my camera with me so I can keep you up to date about my discoveries as soon as I return.
One last thing… When I cycled home this afternoon I came across such a weirdo! He was wearing an antique army outfit and was marching around like a true soldier. Furthermore, he had a Hitler moustache! This looked so silly. 
Well, that’s it for now. All the best from Suomi. Moi moi!

The moose is loose

Again a little update from the country without night. Luckily I have no problems to catch some sleep when it’s still so light outside. 

A few little things I want to tell about…
Tuesday evening I had a look at the new house of my guest mother Anu. She will move next summer if everything goes following plan. Last year I had a look here as well, but there was not much more to see than rocks and trees. Now a beautiful red painted house was standing on top of the hill, far away from any neighbors. It’s a lovely place Anu and her fiancée can be very proud of. 
On our way back home we saw a car parked right next to the road, actually in the middle of nowhere. Anu told me she heard on the news that last weekend one man had an accident with a moose crossing the street. That was the car of that man. Quite scary to see how ruined that vehicle was! Seems like the moose died at the spot. Wow, that must have been quite traumatic for that poor car driver. 
The Wednesday morning lesson went all fine. I voluntarily stayed two hours longer to work a bit on my Photoshop skills. I’m very happy I took this course! I learned already how to work with a lot of useful tools.  
When I wanted to cycle back home I spotted one small dark cloud. Since I’m not made out of sugar I just took the risk. One kilometer further it started. First some small drops… Then some huuuge hail stones! I didn’t know that could be so painful. Within five minutes all streets were flooded. There was no place to shelter and my clothes were anyways soaked already. Brrr, cold.
Wednesday evening I joined Anu for a visit to her fiancée. They had some quality sauna time together and I decided to take a walk. On my way I discovered some abandoned houses and sheds. It was very exciting to stroll around there! Since moving images say more than words I made a small movie about this. You can check it out here.
Just like last year I’m attacked by the Finnish Air Forces again…  My head, face and hands are covered with incredibly itchy mosquito bites. Long live the anti-itch stick I brought with me from the Netherlands!
Tomorrow the last school day of the week. Let’s see what I’ll do this weekend… If the weather allows I’d like to make a long bike trip Saturday. Ohja, I want to watch some soccer too!

It’s Finland time again!

Soon after the championship in Lithuania I could pack my suitcase already again for another trip. This time I was heading to the North, my favorite corner of Europe. Saturday I took the bus from Riga to Tallinn. I managed to buy my ticket during the sales period so for only three euro’s I had a comfortable trip of around four hours.
I listened to some music which I liked to hear when I was fourteen. I was (and still am) crazy about synthesizer-like 80s mixed with some French top hits from the same period of time. Most of the songs accompanied me to my first ‘far away’ school trip. We went to Luxembourg. I remember well that during that trip I daydreamed a lot about being older and able to travel with boats and planes all over Europe, alone, without supervision. That what I was dreaming about has come true. Far away from home I’m travelling over bad Baltic roads discovering crazy but beautiful countries with nature and people’s habits way different than I was used to while still living in the Netherlands.  On my way to Tallinn I realized that it’s actually quite brave to do all this and that all my travels from the last few years made me to who I am now. I’m very privileged that this is all possible and that I can live with such a huge sense of freedom. It’s good to realize this from time to time. Well, that bus trip was such a moment.
In the afternoon I checked in at an Australian owned backpackers hostel not far away from the city center. I spent some days around new years eve 2009 there. I recently found the bill back for that stay; only 38 euro’s for six nights. Not bad! It was very clean and comfortable too, and that luckily didn’t change. 
I did some sightseeing in Tallinn but the weather wasn’t that wonderful. It was extremely dark and the sky looked like it could burst out in thunder any moment. Nevertheless I enjoyed a nice performance in front of the Jaani Kirk. A band called Reincarnation from Armenia played some lovely happy reggae tunes. Especially the instrumental parts were very strong. 
Back at the hostel I heard from a Finnish traveler that the Sunday morning boat to Helsinki he was supposed to take was cancelled. It was so windy that it was simply too dangerous, he told. I booked a ferry ticket for the same date but luckily the company I chose didn’t cancel anything. Good, because it was not even so windy anymore when the boat eventually departed. In 2009 I made the same trip to Helsinki, but then the sea shores were partly covered with huge ice plates. This time it was cloudy and sunny at the same time and it was not necessary to wear two winter jackets at once. I enjoyed passing by all the little Finnish islands.
The weather in Helsinki wasn’t too wonderful. Half an hour after my arrival it started to rain and it didn’t stop for the next few hours. I brought my suitcase to the lockers of the central railway station so that I didn’t have to annoy my sensitive hand palms even more. I visited some churches, just out of curiosity about the interior, not about the fact that it was Sunday. Furthermore I had a look at a small market with strawberries, reindeer fur, wooden spoons  and that kind of stuff. When it became even more rainy I went to two big warehouses; Stockmann and Sokos. Nothing interesting there, or at least, nothing I could afford. Finland is an expensive country, especially with the incredibly cheap restaurant visits in Lithuania still freshly in mind. A visit to the supermarket took a while. I first had to walk tree rounds through the whole shop in order to realize that food and drinks are really so expensive. I didn’t remember from last year that it was that bad. 
Just some examples of approximate prices I remembered…
A simple normal sized box of cookies: 4 euro’s
Some kind of average 1L yoghurt pack: 3,50 euro’s
One liter of milk: 2 euro’s
One 0,5L Heineken can: 4 euro’s
One 0,5L still water: 2 euro’s (in a normal supermarket!?)
Mind that these prices are supermarket prices and not from any restaurant, bar or little kiosk at a touristic place. Supermarket prices? Hello? Scandinavians reading this probably have no idea what I’m complaining about, but Dutchman most certainly do. I ended up with two pink childish juice boxes containing raspberry juice and a sandwich with some chicken spread. 3 euro’s lighter. Could be worse. 
What I really like about Finland is that they have a huge assortment in the three flavors I like the most. Licorice (hundred kinds but also available as ice cream, drinks and chewing gum), raspberry (juice, as cookie flavor and heavenly sugary candy) and mint (Oreo-like mint cookies you get really sick of if you eat too much – I did the experiment, and, even mint chocolate milk and different kinds of ice cream). 
To come back to the actual travel story… Around 16.00 I took the train towards East Finland. On the opposite there was a sweet old lady with an even sweeter old fashioned suitcase. It was clearly visible the elasticity disappeared a bit out of her face, Here chin was hanging like a thin piece of dangling skin halfway her throat. Her nails were nicely polished in an old pink shade. She asked me something in Finnish and when I told her I didn’t understand any word of what she said she asked me in English about my destination. We found out we had to get out at the same stop. During the train ride a certain rhythm developed. Every time we approached a railway where we would stop the loudspeakers informed: *PINGGG* The next stop is… (but than in Finnish, Swedish and English). The poor lady probably had some problems with the high frequencies her hearing device received. After every *PINGGG* she jumped up some centimeters from her seat. As a result I had to giggle every time this happened. It just looked too funny. So, during our two hour trip we had a lot of *PINGGGS*, whoops up in the air and silent “hihihi’s”. I had my fun.
Anu picked me up from the train station. It was very good to see her again. It has been one year ago since my last visit and I missed her a lot. I immediately felt at home again.  We had a tasty diner and exchanged many stories about our adventures during the last year. It was great to see my little note I left last year still hanging on the fridge. 
Monday morning was my first school day. I woke up at 07.00 after a good deep sleep. Anu already prepared me a bowl of Finnish strawberries. That was for sure a good start of the week! I really enjoyed cycling to school again. It’s a four kilometer trip through a nice area with a lot of trees, red painted wooden houses, blooming flowers and here and there some huge rocks. The graphic design course I’m taking is given by the teacher who gave the basics of tv production course last year. It was very nice to see her again. My new classmates are mainly Russian and Chinese. Some I still know from last year but most of them are new. Next to me sits Anatolli, the most non-Russian Russian I’ve ever met. He doesn’t fit to the ‘angry style of speaking’ idea I have in mind when thinking about our neighbours in the East. Together with him, Jessica from Germany and some smiling Chinese girls we had a tasty lunch at the cafeteria. The first school day was a success. The Photoshop tutorials are very interesting. Also the second lesson passed by without any problems. At a certain moment there was some action though. There is a fire department located right next to school and I was quite excited when a trauma helicopter landed on the firefighter’s parking lot. I just love that sound. Nothing bad happened as far as I could see. 
My first impression of being here again is a good one. I must say I don’t understand anything about the Finnish stereotype except for their sauna usage. I heard so often that Finns are so closed, silent, shy and want to commit suicide all the time. Well, not true! Maybe that’s about winter Finns? I don’t know… As far as I can say summer Finns are great! The people I met here are so open and friendly. They smile and speak good English. This afternoon I even had a ‘waiting in line in the supermarket’ talk with an older lady. So nice! It almost felt like how my mom can always spent hours in the local supermarket, talking to any random person. Also my visit to the international office was a nice one. I met the International Services Assistant who helped me filling in some documents. Within one minute we had a lively conversation about how to pronounce ‘Hoegaarden’ and how bad Dutch beer can be. All in all the first days have been so nice and I feel so welcome here. It’s good to be in Finland again!
If you’re curious for some more pictures feel free to click this link.