lauantai 30. joulukuuta 2017

Veselé Vánoce!

Greetings from Ostrava, from a happy and over-fed Iiris. I am truly overwhelmed by the hospitality and kindness I've encountered during my short stay in Czech Republic. After few intensive days of celebrating Christmas, it is time slowly get back to the routines. Just for few days though, before welcoming the year 2018 by celebrating it in Warsaw with my squad!

Just to make sure I wouldn't miss any chance to celebrate, I arranged an after Christmas to myself for the time I return back to Finland - because simply, I cannot be a year without Finnish Christmas food. It is quite hard to even think about eating now though, since I have celebrated the Christmas in typical way, by eating a lot. And I mean, a lot.
We were spending the Christmas Eve in Hradec Nad Moravicí with Ivo's family. They were kind and welcomed me to take part in their family Christmas. Otherwise I would have spend the Christmas alone in Warsaw, since I didn't have enough time to go back to Finland between the Christmas and New Years Eve. But fortunately, I could spent my holidays with Ivo's! Mockrát děkuji. <3
On Christmas Eve, we woke up slowly, and ate some Vánočka for breakfast. Vánočka is like our pullapitko, typical pastry which is offered on Christmas. With butter, for some reason, it was even better. Even though the "butter" they eat in Czech Republic is weird, because it is sweet, rather than salty. Well, on the other hand I've heard that the Finnish salty version is strange for Czechs - so I guess again you tend to prefer things what you're used to :D
We had a traditional Czech Christmas dinner, fried carp and potato salad. The potato salad I am used to eat, is rather horrible dish which you can buy ready from the stores. We in Finland are usually eating it as a side on New Year's Eve and on Vappu. It does not really help the situation that it reminds me of a certain New Year's Eve on 2010, when I was not feeling that well, because of the combination of that and salty liquorise liquor. However, the Czech version of potato salad on the other hand was self-made, and really different from the one I'm used to. There are lot of different methods to make the salad, various ways starting from how to cut the vegetables to the usage of mayonnaise - but I guess the main point is that you make tons of it. Fried carp was also very tasty, and even as a vegetarian in favor of vegan food, I enjoyed the meal a lot.
After a meal it was time for the appearance of Ježíšek. Unlike I'm used to, the gift were brought by Baby Jesus, rather than Santa. The shock moment for me was to discover that not all people know that Santa is from Finland. The image of American version of Santa Claus is rather dominant, and his real origins are often unknown. The battle between Santa Claus and Ježíšek caused lot of discussions, and arguments, which one is better. Conclusion was, they are both pretty creepy. :D
One tradition concerning the Christmas Eve in Czech Republic is that if you don't eat anything between lunch (typically polévka, a soup) and the main dinner - you are able to see a flying pig in the sky! Well, we didn't see a flying pig but actually we did see a shooting star. After the main dinner there was still place for cukroví, sweet small cookies, from which of course I had to taste every single flavour. And then do the other round with my favourites (meaning all of them).
The following days were filled with eating and spending time with Ivo's family. Everyday I would say I'm unable to eat more, and everyday I would find myself taking another and another offered cukroví until the point I could not eat more. I got to learn a lot of Czech Christmas traditions as I got to be part of them. I had a special Christmas, the first ever spend anywhere else than in home, and the first one spend in other country. Ivo's family was sweet to take me as a part of their christmas, even though I don't (yet) speak Czech in understandable way. But, to be honest, I am starting to understand it, a bit. If it is being speaked pomááálu.

In the next post I will tell more Czech stories, and explain what we did on the days between Christmas and New Years!

Na shledanou,
- Iiris

maanantai 25. joulukuuta 2017

Päivän sana slaavi, fuck skandinaavi

First of all, where did the time go? I am currently (19.12) spending my last "normal day" here in Warsaw, as I am leaving tomorrow to spend Christmas to Ostrava. Next time I'll come back here, it will be only for holidays, and I will have the whole squad here for new years. Then I will return to Finland. It feels sad to leave the Warsaw-life behind, but I really need to return to Vaasa and start to focus on my thesis.
Last week my Suomi-Squad visited me in Poland. Aada unfortunately fell sick just day before the journey, so she had to stay home - but Aleksi and Taru were able to come to Gdansk. Eventually, I mean. Their first flight was cancelled because of the snow storm in Finland. As if that would've ever stopped anything in Finland though, I am a bit disappointed... :D Well, I had a day in Gdansk with myself and I managed to do some minor progress with my thesis in a meanwhile. Also I had a room for six people just for myself, no big deal, a basic day.
The next day finally my friends got to their flight, and so I went to the airport to pick them up. We had scheduled one day to spend in Gdansk, so I took they through the main sights. We went to eat Pierogi's in Mandu, which we discovered a good place last time in Gdansk with Ivo. My friends were amazed of the prices, which are starting to feel scarily normal for me, I will have hard time to face the prices in Finland again...
On the evening we had a flight to Krakow. I usually never fly with domestic flights, but actually the flight was way much cheaper than the train would've been, and it took four hours less. As we wanted to save some time, and money, the choice was easy. When we reached Krakow, the first essential thing was to have a drink in Bania Luka. (The infamous bar where I almost died in January, it was good to be back!).

We had actually some really exiting programme, since the new Star Wars had its premiere. Naturally, we needed to see it immediately, so I booked the tickets in advance for us. AND OH MY GOD. The film. I am still processing what I saw, but if you haven't seen it yet, please do as soon as possible.

Krakow was as amazing as I remembered. I was there almost an year ago, and surprisingly well I remembered the places. We were shamelessly acting as touristic way as we could, and so we took annoying pictures with, well, everything. Thanks for Aleksi, now I have a terrible urge to buy a Polaroid-camera, since it might be the coolest thing ever. Can I?

We spend two days in Krakow, and it was totally enough since we were walking almost the whole time. Of course, we also had to try their trams because someone wise once said that "whenever you are in new city, always try the tram". And cool trams they had. Really nice.

It was a pleasure for me to show Poland to my friends, who had never been there. Next time we will see each other in Finland, quite soon, but to have them in my current home country was special to me. Now I have terribly much things to organize before I can relax, and start to get to the Christmas spirit. So probably, I'll be in the spirit somewhere around February. No, but to be honest, I am really exited about this Christmas. I'll get to see Czech Christmas, with its traditions, can't wait!

Do widzenia,
-Iiris

maanantai 11. joulukuuta 2017

Suomi 100

This independence day was anything but traditional for me. I am not a biggest fan of traditions, as some of you may well know, but I'm used to celebrate independence day in a certain way. Including good food, Finlandia and Linnan Juhlat. At least it has been a day off, and a certain point between autumn and Christmas. This year was extraordinary. It was obviously like a normal day here in Poland, so I had lectures. Well, okay. I knew that there was going to be an event on the evening, so I was not as unpleased as I could've been.  As I mentioned in the earlier post, Finnish Embassy in Warsaw was organizing the event on 6.12. to celebrate Finland's 100th independence day. There was also another possibility to get to the celebration spirit, as many cities around the globe, including Warsaw, were illuminating their venues and buildings to congratulate Finland.
The event itself was held in Old Orangery, located in Lazienski Park. We had a slightly different opinion with my map, what was still considered to be 'in Lazienski Park', but after a while searching the place, in the rain, with my fancy dress, I found it - stylishly twenty minutes late. The programme started at 7pm with a cocktail hour, and the menu was designed to represent Finnish flavours. They were offering dishes including reindeer meat, whitefish, Karelian pies and "breadcheese" with cloudberry jam just to mention few of them. I had hard time to find a translation for leipäjuusto, since the straight translation sounds just stupid. Google is offering me a word "Finnish squeaky cheese", which is actually quite well expressed!
Since the only Finn I knew from Poland, Tuuli, was going to London on the next day - I went to the event by myself. I decided to socialize a bit, since it would've been too boring just to get drunk alone. I did something really untypical, and started a conversation with few girls who looked around my age. It turned out that they were studying Medicine in Bialystok, and most of them had been living in Poland for several years already. In this "tiny town" Bialystok, they have a relatively huge community of Finns, which I found weird, since I haven't been able to find a single Finn from the city as huge as Warsaw. Well of course now when they were gathered to the same place, it was much easier, and I eventually met two Warsawian Finns!
After the cocktail hour, the event continued with the programme. We somehow managed to acquire the best places of the whole venue at the balcony. But since no one threw us out, nor came to claim the places, we stayed. First we heard the national anthems of both Finland and Poland. They were followed by the video messages from President of Finland Sauli Niinistö and President of Poland Andrzej Duda. The programme continued with the speech of the Ambassador, and ended up to a short concert of Sibelius's music. The musicians were awfully skilled young Finns - we were impressed.
With Bialystok-squad, who quickly adopted me to their group, we continued to a restaurant. It was a good call since I could not eat that much in the event, for obvious reasons. One guy from the group turned out to be from the same small area in Tampere where I've also lived, and we found out that we've been hanging out in same groups before! Again I had the feeling that the world is so small. At some point of the evening, I started to wonder how absurd it was so spend the whole evening with the people I had just met. Sometimes it takes just a small push out from your comfort zone and you end up to the weirdest situations, potentially leading to something good. As they said: "Well, you happened to pick a good table" - I surely did!
In a meanwhile, Finland was celebrating the independence day in traditional way. At least most of the people. I read about the demonstrations, and to not go too detailed in those, strictly speaking I do not think those demonstrations should be part of the independence day (or any other day in that matter...) Demonstrations such as 612 and "Kohti Vapautta" were luckily smaller than expected, nevertheless I still find it, slightly saying, disturbing that nazis and fasicsts are able to walk under these slogans, freely in Finland. Despite these marginal demonstrations, I am glad how these issues are being dealed with right now in the court. The Nordic Resistance Movement was banned and convicted illegal in the end of November.

Maybe the fact that I've been living abroad for awhile now, has helped me to appreciate Finland in a -different way. Some things I've taken in granted, but the distance has helped me to see features that are unique to Finland compared to other countries. I am grateful for our honest society, honest people who you can trust. You can leave your wallet to the bus, and know that there is a higher possibility to get it back than not. I am grateful for the safe, clean and peaceful environment where I've had a privilege to grow. I am grateful to have benefitted from one the world's best education systems. I am proud for being from a country which was and is a pioneer with fighting for equal rights and gender equality. My Finland is multicultural, tolerant and respectful.
Myös oman äidinkielen merkityksellisyys on korostunut ulkomailla asuessani. Suomen kieli on luonteeltaan erityislaatuinen - kieliopillisesti sukupuolineutraali, rikas ja vivahdeherkkä, ja juuri nämä seikat tekevät siitä minulle erityisen rakkaan. Olen onnekas että olen saanut oppia suomea ensimmäisenä kielenä, ja käyttää sitä itseilmaisuni välineenä.

Hyvää itsenäisyyspäivää, Suomi 100 vuotta sekä hyvää itsenäisyyspäivää suomalaisille ja suomalaismielisille! <3

All good here

Long time no hear! I have been extremely busy while settling back to life in Finland. Obviously so busy, that the whole January just passed ...