- libraries (arabia, malmi): the arabia library is in a shopping area/center. an interestingly beautiful building but again in a university area/neighborhood so the kids section was quite small and the library space was so large and airy that it wasnt cozy (except for the bubble chair). the malmi library had a nice kids area, but again the book selection was just yuck. so far i havent been impressed with the books at any of the three libraries weve been to.
- indoor playground (leikkiluola) in hakaniemi neighborhood. a fun indoor play place thats open and spacious and filled with bouncy areas and slides and places to climb. its not exactly cheap, but its a nice option for every once and a while in the winter.
- finnbrit meet-ups/play dates. this is an english-speaking organization (they mostly do english language courses) that organizes family playgroups once or twice a week. its nice to have english speaking moms and kids around, but its a challenge because a lot of the people are very temporary and dont learn finnish and are just bidding their time until they leave. its not really the vibe i need to support me in my intent to get comfortable here and find ways to enjoy myself. so im uncertain of the usefulness of this group for me.
- annatalo. a kids book cafe/art museum. we met a playgroup in just the cafe/book area, but the whole place is free and they have art exhibits on regular rotation that are aimed entirely at children.
- tropicario. an indoor reptile house. a nice layout and setting to see so many large lizards and snakes. if your kid is in to it, its a great place, if not, youd be done in about 15 minutes. at 12 euros, i suppose you want to get your moneys worth. we did. X found a lizard who was quite active and she stayed near him most of the time, asking me all range of questions from "does he like to swim in water with his own poo?" to "where do you think he goes when they clean his home?"
- "open daycares" or leikkipuisto (weve visited the maasälpä and salpausselkä ones). these are city-owned lots of land with a large outdoor playground/rec area and associated indoor family center. certain mornings, the indoor space is a free play place for kids and their parents to come. other days its still free, but your kid has to have been accepted to the centers program (this just takes an application and time on a waiting list). they offer morning programs for toddlers, and afternoon programs for school kids to have a place to be until their parents come home from work. each open daycare also has one "family cafe morning" where you can come and have breakfast for only 1€50 for adults, 1€ for kids.
(the outdoor grounds of the leikkipuistos are always open to all. during working hours, they even offer sleds for all kids to play with)
- vanhankaupunginlahti bay nature area. we went for a walk at the mouth of the vantaa river. this area is called vanhakaupunki (meaning "old town") and is apparently where helsinki was first established. its very beautiful. we walked in a circle from the mouth of the river, along the river edge by a power station i think, onto the frozen bay to watch ice fishermen and people cross country skiing on the frozen bay (and cool pedestrian bridge over the river). then we looped back and walked along the open water, over the bridge onto the tiny kuninkaankartanonsaari island, and past the dam/waterfall for the power station. what a pretty place, cant wait to see it in the warmer months.
(examining an ice fishing hole in the vantaa river; on the ice of the vanhankaupunginlahti bay near the pedestrian/cross country ski bridge; some big trout statue near the river with the bridge to kuninkaankartanonsaari island in the background; walking around the power station to the waterfall/dam...our camera battery then died)
- kamppi shopping center. a useful one stop shopping/eating/transit place in the center of the city and easy to get to from our house (one bus all the way there). X can even find it on a map and read the word "kamppi" already. lol.
- elisa. we got my phone from here, they are a telecom company that does landlines, cell phones, and internet service. we tried to get a nokia cell (to support finland) but was talked out of it (really!?), into a samsung smart phone.
- hakaniemi area is rich in ethnic food (indian/asian, african) with lots of supply grocery stores (we visited "indian market" for our lentil and spice needs).
- helsinki regional transport (HSL) main office is in the central train station. we went there to get long-term transit cards.
- malmin nova shopping area. the store called punnitse ja säästä (translated "weigh-n-save") has nice bulk and organic foods.
- fida thrift stores. these are like salvation armies, with proceeds going to humanitarian efforts around the world.
- pet food supplier (murren murkina). they sell the canadian brand of cat food nutmeg has gotten used to, we decided to continue the indulgence. spoiled animal. nothing like buying bags of pet food and riding public transit...
- IKEA (actually in the city of vantaa). did their cafeteria for lunch. we also learned the details of their kidcare drop-off (45 minutes of free babysitting), so perhaps next time we visit we can attempt to try that with X. we got so much glass food storageware for very little money, it was worth the trip, though im glad i dont have the time to just browse that store, its a dangerous place.
-pieni ihminen. a kids clothing store that specializes in nordic companies. expensive, but unique.
- university cafeterias. we try to have lunch with dave at least once a week. he has 3 different nearby cafeterias. its inexpensive for two people and X to eat, and we get to eat together. plus, X is very willing to try anything on our plates and they have so many lactose-free options.
(lunch date with dave in his sparse-at-the-moment office)
- palmia. these are city-run cafeteria style inexpensive lunch places (X is free), though the food isnt super good its nice to be able to have an easy hot lunch while we are out exploring.
- cafe ekberg. did a sunday brunch here once, 35€ for two adults (X free). ouch. their desserts arent worth the overall brunch price, but it was nice to have lots of choice for a meal.
more finn/finland notables:
- daylight. when we arrived the daylight hours were like 9-4, but by months end it seemed to be 8-5.
(sunday morning [jan 20] there is quite enough light coming in the house to feel perfectly normal)
we havent encountered any challenging language situations yet. everyone knows enough english to manage the interaction. yet, while i dont feel condemned by the finns for only knowing english right now, they do radiate something that makes me want to make them proud (by learning/attempting finnish), to show them that i want to belong.
the finnish for "no" is "ei" (pronounced "eh")...as in what the UPers of michigan (and ontario) say. seeing as how the finns populated much of the UP this should be no surprise to me, but i found it amusing to learn. typically when languages translate to english i hear people ask a question, and end it with "no?" as a way to say "thats right, right?" so, "nice weather we're having, eh?" fits in totally with that scheme. fin-glish. lol.
its amazing how ive learned almost none of the language, even with daily exposure. i know "hei" (pronounced hey) means hello, "moi" (pronounced moy) means hi, "moi moi" means bye bye, and "kiitos" is thank you. i know by sight the words for milk (maito), butter (voi), lactose (laktoos), soy (soija), and i know how to read when products are lactose and soy-free. other than that, even the food words are kinda hard to remember (i had those memorized in french in no time). mustikka is blueberry, omena is apple, applesini is orange, and puolukka is lingonberry. thats about all i can recite. there is just no common frame of reference for word roots or similar logic it seems. this is gonna be a long uphill battle, but im willing to try.
- cleanliness. ive seen more bidets here (public and private) than anywhere, ever. i honestly dont think i ever saw one in france! in general, the finns are a very clean people.
- early risers. our neighbors appear to start their day as early as 5a. people typically clear out of daves office by 4:30p.