08 January 2013

Finnished the first week

so, our first week here...id say it went more smoothly than any of our other times of first settling in. good thing for all of us. yay finland.

wednesday (jan 2): arrived. at the helsinki airport daves colleague/boss (john) picked us up, took us to our neighborhoods nearby grocery store (prisma), and dropped us off at "home". the apartment owners/landlords were there to greet us and show us around the appliances and whatnot. the wife is living with her parents nearby and is looking for work while her husband gets a theology degree from oxford. they are nice people. once we bathed the cat (and i nursed the scratch wound she gave me as thanks) and got a tiny bit settled, X and i napped. then we unpacked. the apartment is only 67 sq meters (about 670 sq ft) but it is perfectly laid out with huge picture windows in every room but the bathroom. there is also a balcony that is somewhat glassed in (for the winter), a washer in the apartment (my first time ever!), and the place is furnished. it snowed our first night here. beautiful.

thursday (jan 3): X was hungry and thus got herself up at 3:30a (and stayed up until 6:30a). at least we got to facetime my mom and al and tell them we made it. we were out the door by 10a for errands. we took the bus and tram to the local government register office. the line was short and the employees helpful. they told us it would be 2 weeks until we get our identification numbers (you can do almost nothing official in finland until you get this number. then you are a part of the all-inclusive system). X was hungry by now so we went to stockmann for lunch (their bustling well-labeled prepared food section supplied us with soy/dairy-free roast chicken, falafel, rosemary potato balls, bread, and a smoothie). it is SO nice when it can be that easy to feed her while we are out and about in the city. afterward, we went to the akateeminen bookstore and bought 2 good books in their new childrens section (it was much nicer from when we were there in april). X fell asleep on the way home followed by a too long nap once at home. dave went out to the grocery store and X and i stayed home to try out the washing machine and dishwasher. that night, X got up for a snack again and then agreed to go right back to laying in bed, but didnt actually go to bed until about 1.5 hours later. :(

friday (jan 4): we did a huge grocery store trip. dave bought household goods while i bought food. we hauled it back home and were tired. we had lunch and dave went in to work. X and i explored the playground right out front of our building. we need better winter gear to truly enjoy ourselves (better mittens! a snowsuit! lighter boots!). dave made dinner and we tiredly finished the evening (we had gotten almost no nap from X). she was up twice at night, screeching for 30+ minutes each time.

saturday (jan 5): had a late start to the morning. after breakfast we played at the playground out front. the apartment landlord came over to show us a few more things before heading back to oxford. we went to hakaniemi market. they have meats, bakeries and specialty food on the ground floor and artisanal handicrafts on the top floor. it was easy to browse without crowds when we went an hour before closing, then we took the tram down to stockmann. we got some new food items and looked for a slow cooker. no dice, so we went back home. the city center was/is nicely lit up for christmas. once back, we were in for the night. when the sun goes down here (~4p) you feel an instinctual pull toward home and to get cozy. i will try to obey that feeling in the future. actually though, the light factor is easier than it was in sweden. we realized this is because sweden is on the easternmost edge of the central european time zone, so its darkness comes earlier in the day.

(tire swing out front; her comfy nook in the couch)

sunday (jan 6): we explored a second playground, behind our apartment. there is a sled hill and play house! we hit the sales at the itis mall for a new snowsuit and polarn o pyret shirt. while at the mall, we experimented with a lactose-free sorbet for a snack (there was still milk in it, though the lactose was processed out, i guess). it appears lactose was Xs problem all along! how wonderful to have discovered this! on the way home from the mall, we saw the special tram that was a part of the light festival going on in the city (though it wasnt lit up yet). at night, X continued with her stretch of awful night sleeps (though the screeching was at least diminished).

monday (jan 7): when i finally woke up from surviving overnight tending to X, we went down to the "in to finland" office to see about health insurance and other new-to-the-country procedures. we confirmed we truly cant do another thing until we get those identification numbers (see thursday, above), so we got to take a break from administrative stuff. while at the office though, it was nice to hear that we are entitled to all kinds of kid benefits (tax benefits, subsidized daycare, pay for staying home with your child up until they are age 3) and i am even eligible for unemployment. crazy. after the "in to finland" visit, we ended up buying a humidifier in the shopping complex nearby (at store musta pörssi). then we got lost when we came out of the shopping centre, and found our way again when stockmann caught my eye. its like a damn beacon in the city for me! so...we had lunch there again, and then headed home. i was dog tired and took a nap with X. dave went to work and X and i played around home and facetime-d with my friend georgette. 

tuesday (jan 8): X and i walked to the viikki library (our closest one), they have a nicely laid out kids section with enough english books to occupy us for at least a few visits, though im hoping a more complete childrens section is in a library nearby (the viikki library is a city library housed within one of the university of helsinkis viikki campus buildings). it snowed all morning and was so very beautiful. X climbed on snow/ice piles and we dinked around the apartment for the rest of the day. i was already starting to feel that managing her all day was not in me...on my first full solo day here. ugh, im awful. researching daycare options was not encouraging though. so many questions, so many options. im a little bit afraid...like i want to hide under the covers until someone else does this stuff for me. but, it was my first major life panic in the first week. thats something, right?

(climbed the ice/snow pile all by herself [just above her head is our window]; proud; dancing in the living room)
(a silent tour of the apartment while it was snowing)

finn quirks so far:
-people dont say hi to strangers while out and about (this is fine by me)
-i smelled vodka breath before mid-afternoon
-trees and exposed rocks abound, even in the city
-the bright sun is not out as long, but really it still feels like morning and evening at the appropriate times. perhaps in the later afternoon you are ready to turn in and stay in a bit earlier but its not as depressing as i expected (thus far).
-confirmed by Xs boot: no one picks up dog poop in the winter! (im starting to think this is not actually a quirk, but just a general pet peeve of mine that i happen to notice wherever i go)
-kids are always seen out playing in the cold on the playground. they have such cool gear too!
-they are a quiet people, privately and publicly it would appear
-they dont shovel sidewalks during winter (they throw gravel on it for traction. you are required to drive with snow tires. but, city center has heated sidewalks, so theres that)
-due to the snowy sidewalks, parents use sleds instead of strollers

helsinki notables:
-there is a lot of use of sounds (beeps, ringing, etc) in public spaces to indicate matters of safety and convenience: at road crossings, doors to metros/buses/trams, in the metro stops as you go down to the platform, inside the buses/trams. perhaps im just rusty at city life with functioning public transit, but i find it to be very useful and smart. 

1 comment:

Mary Ann said...

Trees in the city and quiet people. Sounds very refreshing!