Tuesday, July 30, 2013

So ...

So, you've probably noticed that I'm not blogging on here anymore...

Well done...

I've been working on a collabrative blog project with a dutch man and a laplander.

Check out our blog:


Friday, March 29, 2013


I've been meaning to do this for a while, but never actually got around to doing it. As most of you know I moved house about 6 months ago, into Vanha Domus. It's a student apartment rented from TOAS in Kaleva, Tampere.
 It's nothing special, but it's 18 square metres of home, and more importantly, it's bloody cheap. I pay less than 200€ a month, all bills included. So anyway, in the spirit of continued over-sharing. This is what my home in Tampere looks like. It's got pretty much everything I need, Television, Coffee machine, kettle and a pair of decent speakers! Also, most I've actually only bought the bed and the computer chair. The rest of the furniture has been begged, borrowed and acquired from various friends and strange places. Not bad really! It somehow works.
 It's about a 30 minute walk from the city centre, not far from where I used to live in 'The Cat Land', Kissanmaa. I decided not to take photographs of the bathroom. There's my little 'pöytäuuni' where I cook, and the N64... Speaking of which, if you have any games lurking around, let me know. I've only got Mario 64, and would like a few more :)
So yeah, That's my home :)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Twig or treat ... At Easter??

Easter, it's not normally a time that you'd associate with Trick or Treating. It's the time when those pesky rabbits are everywhere and the Easter Bunny comes and traumatises small children and hides chocolate eggs in the garden...

But Trick or Treating? Nah, not at Easter...

In most other countries, that would be done on halloween, when little children dress up as witches and go begging from door-to-door loading themselves up with as much chocolate and sweets as they possibly can. Providing to be a nightmare for all parents who have to deal with little, sugar-high screaming monsters… But in Finland, No. That would be Palm Sunday. When, the rather disturbingly cute children, dressed up as witches come a-knocking and recite a little poem for you…

 "Virvon, varvon, tuoreeks terveeks, tulevaks vuodeks; vitsa sulle, palkka mulle!"

Now, my Finnish isn't that great, so initially when I first tried to translate it, it was something to do with whipping and spanking for the healthy year, so I decided to ask a friend for a proper translation …

"With this twig I wish you blessings and good health for next year. You get the twig, I get a treat" 

Now, this twig, it's not just any twig… That would just be rather boring. They decorate the twigs with feathers and brightly coloured nicknacks, and wish you well with a casting of the rhyme. In exchange for the well-wishing, you send them on their way with sweets. So, I did what I would do in the UK on halloween. Lock the doors, lower the blinds and pretended to be out ! :)

Spring is coming, Slowly...

Easter is around the corner and that means, it's time to eat Mämmi. I avoided this cultural delicacy last year, but I think now I've been here for nearly two years, it's time to try it... But seriously, it does look like the inspiration for the food came from changing a baby's nappy, and thinking "mmm that looks tasty, how can we make this in food form?" ...
Well, Spring's nearly here. The snow is melting and the sun is shining! It's friggin' horrible! Well, not really but it's so bright outside that it's a bit of a shock after the long dark Winter. I mean seriously, look at this forecast, it's so weird. Of course, although the snow is starting to melt, it's not over yet, Takatalvi is lurking around the corner and will probably dump all the snow back on the ground sometime in April.  It's so strange how bright it gets all of a sudden. I realised that I made the fatal mistake of buying my lovely curtains in Autumn, so I've had to put the old ones behind the new ones, so that it at least gets a little bit dark in my room. However, this has had the effect of making my room look like a bad acid trip.

Apologies for the lack of updates recently. Life's been rather manic, as usual, but it's getting back on track now. The thesis is pretty much finalised, there's only one essay and one exam left. As usual, I've filled up my 'spare time' with various different projects and activities. I'm desperately searching for work in Finland and I think the solution is to start up my own company selling my services as a 'Conversation English Coach'. It does seem like a hell of a lot of bureaucracy to navigate, but it would appear that some other companies would be interested, especially after the project with Edutech at the Technical University, but are unwilling to put me ad hoc on the payroll. Although, I'd much rather be employed by someone, doing something related to my degree, but I'd settle for a cleaning job right now! If anyone hears of anything, or needs any proofreading done, please get in touch. Seriously, I will work for food, do anything, and work anywhere.

I'm coming back to the UK on the 10th April for a week and I'm really looking forward to it. I can't believe it's been nearly two years since I was last in the motherland. I AM REALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO THE FOOD... Sausages, Kit Kats, toad in the hole, Hovis, and lots of spicy food... mmm curry... oh, seeing everyone too, of course! I think I'll mainly be in Devon due to lack of funds, but hopefully can arrange an overnight thing in London for a mass get-together or something.

There is an exciting project coming up, it's a kind of blog collaboration with Tredea and Dream Hostel Tampere about real life, living in Tampere and cultural perspectives of Finland from an outsiders perspective. I'll keep you updated as the project moves forward, but I've already started writing some interesting pieces for it. There's no monetary compensation yet, but there has been a handful of free lunches, but it's definitely an exciting project with a great potential for exposure... Watch this space...

Monday, January 28, 2013

Lamentations of a Student

There comes a point in the life of every student, when a choice had to be made... 

Do I continue to pursue my passion and carry on studying, or do I just get a 'real job' and enter the world of work?

The decision is influenced by many different factors.  For most people (I speak from my circle of friends), the decision to pursue a Masters degree comes down to two factors:- Passion or a high rate of graduate unemployment.  They want to carry on studying so that they look more attractive to employers.  All common sense no doubt.  My decision to pursue a Master's degree was definitely passion, I wanted to carry on studying, I wanted to move to Finland and do this degree, I wanted it more than anything.  I've known for the last year, that starting a PhD after my Master's degree is not even a question anymore, it's a must!

After so long of scrimping, and saving, and budgeting, and denying myself nice things so that I can pursue my dream.  I had reached a point where I have everything that I need, and few things that I want. I even decided to splurge a little this weekend, and bought some pictures and some new furniture from Ikea.  Just to make my little flat (well, Solu in Finnish), feel more like home.  I bought some new speakers, a hoover and a little mini-fridge - so that I can finally keep milk and butter in my flat.   I'd even decided to buy some new clippers so I can cut my hair at home still, as my last pair are pretty much dead. 

I'd fought the battle with the British banks, won back my charges, paid some of my credit card off.  Decided to open a bank account with S-Pankki, sure it's a 100 Euro investment, but after three months of food shopping, I'd start earning money back from my shopping.  

I'd even bought myself some new Manperfume, anti-aging creme (I am that vain) and a nice bottle of wine and a tub of decent ice cream! At the start of the month, I went to IdeaPark and bought new clothes.  Not much, but just a new coat, a pair of trousers that fit and a couple of t-shirts.  My wardrobe is such a mishmash of clothes, hand-me-down, and flea-market bargains that it was nice to buy something that fits.  I don't like looking disheveled. 

I had come to terms with the fact that I'd overspent, I had even decided that it was worth it and it wasn't the end of the world as I have a job that pays the rent every month (although it might only last for a couple more months, but it's a job!).  I knew that I'd have to go back on a strict budget for the next three months, but that was ok! I could buy cheaper food, cook it up, and store it in my fridge!! I could buy bread, now that I have somewhere to store the butter and live off sandwiches!! I can buy cheaper coffee! Pop to my Aunt's place for dinner.  I didn't really mind, because my house is my home, and I have everything I need.   I'd signed up for more Finnish lessons, which set me back nearly 80 euros.  Everything seemed to be going really well.  Sure, I had been a little bit fiscally irresponsible, but it was all in the pursuit of something more.  Be it vanity, turning my solu into a home, my future, and just making my life in Tampere that little bit easier.

I've started to build up my networks in Tampere, I've been working on my LinkedIn Profile, getting recommendations from people that I had been working with to improve their conversational skills.  I had decided that come April I would start pitching the idea to more companies, working with them a few hours a week to improve the level of spoken and written English of their staff.  That would continue to pay the rent over the summer, Hell, I might even find a full time job over the summer, or another paid internship.  Anything was possible, once I'd made it through to April.    

Nothing was going to deter me from my PhD path, I'd got a great letter of recommendation from one of my Professors.  My thesis is going really well, this is what I want more than anything else. I've even put myself under a lot of pressure and stress to get the thesis completed sooner than it should be, so I can make the April deadline for Helsinki, I just couldn't wait until the October Deadline.  

Yet this morning...

I completely lost all motivation.  I decided enough was enough, I needed a full-time job, I needed money.  I couldn't take it anymore.  I had gone back to being broke after a short time of just being poor.   

All over a pair of boxer shorts.  It's funny what makes you snap. I bought a few new pairs a couple of months ago.  I put the first ones on, realised there was a big gaping hole in them.  So I threw them away.  I put on a second pair. Another hole.  Threw them away, Tried a third, guess what? Another hole...  I accidentally knocked my glasses off the table, luckily they survived, unlike the pair I had in October when I dropped a hammer on them.  I was really getting agitated now.  I still don't have insurance, I couldn't afford to replace a pair of glasses at the moment.  No matter though, as the fourth pair of boxers, were ok! I then went through 5 pairs of socks with holes in them. 

I'd completely lost it by this point.  These are simple, everyday items that I should be able to afford.  What 26 year old can't afford to buy new boxer shorts and socks!?  I started job searching in a frenzy.  Helsinki, Turku, Tampere, Stockholm, Germany, France... It didn't seem to matter where.  I'd had enough, 5 years of studying, and another 3-4 years ahead of me... What did it matter?  I felt poor, cheap and worthless.  Relying on friends for hand-me-downs and trying to make the best with what I was given. I was / am fed up!

But, I had managed to pull myself out of this hole of despair, anger and frustration.  8-9 years of studying: of struggling, of being poor, of living on what you can beg, borrow and find from other people, trying to find a job to balance with studying, waiting for birthdays and christmas with baited breath in the hope of a cheque so you can treat yourself to something... Those highs of feeling like everything is finally, and then life pulls the rug out from under you, in the form of underwear nonetheless! Just knocks you for six every now and again.

It was all worth it.
Sure, it's not easy.  There's the possibility that when I get to the end: Masters Thesis, PhD Applications, PhD Funding, PhD writing, PhD defence, finding a job ... I might not actually like teaching!  But there are a few certainties, I love studying, I love my research.  I am so happy when I've got deadlines, pressure and a mass of articles to read, and papers to write.  How many people can truly say they enjoy what they do? Suddenly, being poor doesn't seem so bad.  I have a great circle of friends who are fantastically supportive, and willing to give me their old sofa's, plates, cups, desks and pans! I'm sure this won't be the last crisis of studying, the last feelings of doubt. But at least I know I'm on the right track.  

I can't think of a place I'd rather be.

Friday, January 18, 2013

New Year, New Adventures

So Christmas is all over and done with, and the festive season is well and truly behind us.  Term has started and it's full steam ahead.  After the holiday's, of which, I did bugger all work. It's time to start working properly and get this thesis written.

Now, I could have done the sensible thing, but that would simply be too easy!  The sensible thing would be to complete the final semester and write my thesis over the Summer, as is recommended by the Master's programme, but Noooo. I have set myself a rather ambitious target of finishing the first draft of the thesis by the 13th February, which, coincidently is also when Emma arrives from the UK for a holiday. I'm currently have about 40 pages in my document, with the first two chapters finished and notes for the next two.  If I work at a rate of 5 pages a day, I'll be done with three days to spare.  Shame I have an exam next week on an entirely different subject!  I've managed to sort out all my credit requirements, so the only thing I have to do, besides the exam next week, is a week intensive course in March, attend some thesis seminars and write this beast.  Although, my motivation to work has gone, and that's a terrible sign...  

So, you maybe thinking why would I do such a thing, and put so much pressure on myself to get the thesis written in time.  Well, it's all about PhD places.  I really want to study at the University of Helsinki for my PhD, hopefully, they have more funding opportunities there and I've already been in touch with supervisors.  The problem is, that they only have two application rounds. One in April (for August start) and one in October (Starting in January), and whilst I have some employment at the moment, it is not guaranteed to last until January, and I don't want to be an unemployed bum, having a lazy time at home.  Besides, my bank account doesn't allow that option.  

Now, I simply could try to find a job, but I don't fancy a break between my studies, especially when my PhD will be based upon my Master's research, it makes absolutely no sense.  I also have to find other places to apply for my PhD, just incase I don't get accepted at Helsinki.  Turku is one option, and thankfully they have an open application process, so I can apply when I have all the paperwork.  Unfortunately, I've not been able to find a supervisor at the university of Tampere, which would have been ideal! I'm not looking to go outside of Finland, but I think considering the education reforms here, it might be worth considering possibilities further afield... Just as I'm starting to get a handle on this wonderful language and place.  

I cannot believe it's been 18 months since I landed in Finland. Bright eyed, bushy tailed with no clue about the country I've just moved to.  Now, I feel so ridiculously settled, calm and contented.  I've grown to love the food, the people, the weather, and even the silence! Some mornings I even wake up with a big smile on my face and think, "I get it, this is how life should be".  It's such an amazing feeling.  That being said, I've booked a ticket home for a week in April. I'm looking forward to seeing my friends and family, but something tells me I'll have some culture shocks going home - and find it difficult not to say kiitos in the shops! Or when you start talking whilst breathing in, and no one bats an eyelid, or instead of saying sorry when you walk into someone in the shop a simple noise of surprise will do 'Oho!'.  

I've had to deactivate my Facebook account.  When I say, I've had to. It's just because I appear to lack any substantive amount of self-control and rather than working, waste far too much time on Facebook.  It's rather sad when you think about it, but Facebook seems to have taken some of the joy out of life. I know I sound like an old person now, but how many times have you been in a situation when you are listening to a friend tell a story and you are bored out of your mind because you've read it on Facebook and seen the pictures.  Part of me never wants to reactivate it again as I get so much more done without it, but it's not only about productivity, it's also become a replacement for phone calls, personal invites to parties and almost, a substitute for real human interaction.  I found myself horrified the other day, when I realised that if I talk to someone on the chat, I rarely say goodbye, I'm not that focused on what they are saying, and only half listening to everything that's going on, but yet it seems to grab my attention for hours on end...  So, should you want to contact me. You can email, Skype, text or drop me a call! I'll be happy to talk or write, or just pop out for a coffee.  We'll see how long this abstinence lasts for, but my love affair with Facebook seems to be well and truly ending...    


England, this is what real snow looks like... there's more snow in my yard than on the entire island. Don't have a cow, and remember... the entire country need not stop for 10 cm of snowfall...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Home Sweet Home!

The sweet sound of silence. It's not something I ever thought I'd miss, I've said this many times before, but I've really come to appreciate the quiet that comes with living in Finland. Russia was absolutely amazing. I had the most fantastic time, but its incredible when you cross the border how everything changes. The Finnish train stations are quiet, everyone is aware of their own personal space, and Finns require a lot of personal space. Compared with the hustle and bustle of Saint Petersburg, I feel like I've just found my inner zen again. Although, I'm not sure what that means entirely, but I'm calm and relaxed :) But it was bloody great to get away and experience city life, and civilisation for a few days! Although, after all the great food I've eaten, I think it's time to take up jogging again! 

 Today was a great day, again. I got to the university at around 10am, it was still dark, which is in the most beautiful building, it looks like it used to be a monastery as there is a really lovely cathedral in the middle of the complex, and the side buildings are used for the University (Lenin was there a few times too, apparently there's still a piano that he used to play on). The morning lecture was quite interesting and so was the afternoon thesis seminar. I received lots of positive comments about my thesis topic, and how it's progressing, there was even someone from the British Consulate who turned up to listen to my topic, and left after my presentation. I'm not entirely sure why she was there, but well, it was nice :) 

After classes we did a little shopping and then went to a restaurant with the whole group. It was Dmitri's birthday, the Saint Petersburg co-ordinator and plenty of beer and great food! It was rather strange to listen to many, many toasts to him, it's something that we don't really do in the UK or Finland. Although it seems like a great tradition, I think I might have to spend my next birthday in Russia! One thing I noticed, is that everyone in Russia reads! I'm not just talking about at home, but on the metro, on the escalators, people are walking around with books! Real books, not so many iPads and phones, but books! Unfortunately, I didn't get to do much exploring again today, classes and all that, so there aren't any new pictures to show. Apart from one of a British bakery I found, I refused to go in on principle, even though it's been over a year since I tasted British food… 

 Unfortunately, I had to leave the party early to catch my train back to Finland. I'm getting quite good at this travelling across the city, even though everything is in Russian! I thought I had forgotten all of my Russian, but it quickly comes back! It took me a little while to work out where the Finnish train departed from. It's not exactly from the main station, but around the corner, I had ask for directions from one of the railway staff! It's quite a famous railway station as its the one that Lenin came back to Russia from Finland. The train journey home was pretty stress free. The Russian customs woman remembered me from Saturday, but the Russian border guard was very perplexed by my British passport, examining every centimetre of it with some sort of magnifying glass, showed it around to some colleagues and after 10 minutes, he seemed relatively satisfied that I was British, and wandered off.  I have no idea what it is about us British that causes the Russian authorities to be so confused. Maybe it's because I don't fly into Russia, but rather go by Car, or this time, by train. Surely, I can't be the only one.  It's all rather strange. 

 I've provisionally found two supervisors for PhDs in Finland. One in Helsinki and one at the University of Turku. Things are looking up again, I must try desperately hard to get this masters done by April, so I can apply to start in September! I'm still looking further afield, but Finland is where my heart is at the moment, and that's where I want to stay for now! Plus it's close to Russia, which will be great for doing research, and I must go back, I didn't spend all of my Roubles :)) There was talk of a return trip to Petrozavodsk in May ! Any how, I'm rather sleepy and I didn't get home until 1,30am (or 3,30am SPB time!). I'm back at work tomorrow, as it's my final week at Finland Future's research centre, and then I've just got the part-time teaching job at Edutech, which means I can concentrate on my thesis with renewed vigour after today's thesis seminar! So, Good night all!