27 October 2013

Learning to cope with all the bicycles in copenhagen

our reward for making it through the busy stress of daves first teaching semester was a short trip to copenhagen (or, as it is known in-country: københavn). it turned out to be a nice, relaxing choice.

the one thing that struck me right away, however, was overwhelming at first, and was certainly the most unusual thing for me, in terms of departures from my regular life, was all the damn bikes. we made it from the airport, to our first destination (the aquarium, see below), and a metro ride before we finally emerged in downtown copenhagen. we came up from the metro underground and there were bikes EVERYwhere! i mean rows and rows of double decker bike racks, too many bikes to even be contained in the racks, they were strewn everywhere. granted we got off at perhaps the most central (therefore busiest?) metro stop called nørreport so maybe this was the citys biggest concentration of bikes, but it doesnt matter. it looked like there had been a tornado and all the bikes in the world had been thrown here, or if there had been a plague that wiped out an entire nomadic bicycling community of thousands overnight. something like that is how it felt to have arrived on this scene. 

we mostly walked during this trip, or occasionally used the bus or metro, so we never first-person experienced this enormous section of society (cycling). however, i can say, that bikes rule that town. and its great that they win out over cars, but walking made me feel like a third class citizen. the cars were just an ignored group going about their business in the middle of the road while the bikers, in all their hipster gear and clothing and scarves and hair flowing in the breeze, were leaving pages of magazines to enjoy the fresh air and invigorating charge that was biking to work or pleasure activities. there were no people in exercise biking gear or helmets here, these were regular people going about their regular lives. the city, nay the country, is so darn flat that you neednt break a sweat when you get on your bike. its the fastest, most logical way of life. amazing, though ive never lived in a place flat enough to take up biking with any seriousness. but, back to being a 'walker' in this city...well, the bikers have such priority that by the time you get to the sidewalks, as a walker i felt sandwiched or pinned between the walls of the shops and the rather wide bike lanes. plus, bikes also had the ability to park on the sidewalks in front of the shops. so being a walker was challenging, but pushing a stroller almost made you feel like a damn idiot. 

anyway, not to continue to act so shocked about the bikes, i will say i was starting to accept them by the end of our 4 days. and nothing against them, i mean, if we lived there or were staying for a longer period of time i would love to rent a bike (the family/kid hauling bikes were SO cool!) and really do it right, but that wasnt in store for us this trip. the city is very lovely and i would like to come back, so perhaps there is hope of that becoming reality. or at least we will be better prepared should we ever visit the netherlands. :) 

(city-chic biking in the downtown)

thursday (10/24): we had an easy direct flight to copenhagen and since we hadnt seen food options on the map near our first destination (the aquarium) we decided to grab something in the airport before we left. wrong. we had a time-consuming shitty lunch at olearys pub. lesson learned.

then we had a short, easy metro ride to the brand new national aquarium of denmark (den blå planet). what a gorgeous place, it was laid out for ease of enjoyment without the pressure. im glad it wasnt crowded when we went though (it has apparently been PACKED since it opened in march 2013), we could see what we wanted and not feel crushed. i loved the reef tank, i think we could all have sat there for hours. it was a very relaxing space.

(at the aquarium)

afterward, we took the crowded metro to the city center. after getting over the shock of the bikes, we took a short bus ride over 'the lakes' into the hipster neighborhood of nørrebro. i would highly recommend this neighborhood to anyone who likes to visit citys and get more of the 'how locals really live' feel, rather than just the tourist experience.

anyway, we had rented a familys apartment for the weekend (from airbnb), so we checked in with them, unpacked and went to the nearby grocery store. it was jam jam jam packed with people because it was 20% off day (food is very expensive in denmark). when we finally got back for dinner, we were pooped. so we just ate and watched a movie.

friday (10/25): after breakfast in the apartment, we headed out for the morning. the bakery around the corner was a perfect place to stop each day. X chose a chocolate cream pastry while dave got his standard cinnamon roll. both looked great. they ate their treats on our walk through the nearby assistens cemetery, the burial site of famed author hans christian andersen, among other famous danes.

on this walk, in which our end destination was supposed to be a playground, we noted the large number of thrift stores this neighborhood had and decided to enter one. they were VERY kind to children here, and we found some lovely, rather inexpensive baby doll clothes. then we focused on finding our destination playground but had no luck so we took a bus across 'the lakes' to the edge of the city center. i got to choose some things from a nice bakery with gluten-free treats, oh man it was yum. i chowed down while we peacefully walked back across the bridge and along the water. we found another thrift store (with only kids stuff) and a small playground to finish off our morning. we had lunch at the very filling and tasty nordic noodle and headed back for a nap.

then we walked over to the gorgeous tower playground. what an awesome play space, the design firm apparently has designed tons of playgrounds in denmark, and i now i want to go find every one. i also liked that the playground drew in enough locals to really get a look at regular copenhagen family life. the weather was definitely damp on this day, like halifax, and the kids gear was rather different from helsinki (hat styles and the choice of outer layers). its so interesting how each nordic country seems to have its signature way to outfit kids against the elements (i noticed this in iceland too).

(walking up to the playground gate; family photo in a mirrored building at the playground)

on our walk back from the playground, we gave X her first bubble tea experience. dave chose the more traditional tapioca 'bubble' tea while X and i went for some weird burst in your mouth super sweet 'bubbles'. she loved both of them of course. then, in the short block or two walk from bubble tea back to the apartment, i was able to get some tasty gluten-free dinner take out (from beat root, middle eastern food), while dave and X had a bagel sandwich dinner. we had a really great afternoon together, and to finish his lovely day, dave went out to meet a friend (a colleague from dalhousie) for some drinks at the beer-enthusiasts dream locale: mikkeller & friends bar.

saturday (10/26): after breakfast in the apartment and another trip to the bakery and tea shop around the corner we made our way to the neighborhood library where we found enough english books to entertain us for a bit. then we dipped into another thrift store for baby doll clothes (this owner was also very nice and gave X some treats) before choosing a place called soupanatural for takeaway lunch.

(reading furniture in the library)

after lunch at the apartment, we decided it might be time to head across 'the lakes' and actually see the city center today. so we crossed the bridge, hit the gluten-free bakery for yummies for me and wandered into a dreamy gourmet food market. this place, called torvehallerne, is on a cobblestone square and comprises two glass buildings. every food stand is drool-worthy and the selection is wonderful, though pricey. the fish markets were gorgeous and caught our attention right away. seeing all the fish laid out in appealing ways was fun for X and the fish counter guys even passed her a lollipop. she was in heaven. as we walked around the market, she was even bold enough to try some samples that were out. i have to highly recommend this place, and wish that helsinki can create one of these some day.

(giant monkfish in the display case of one of the fish counters)

next, we took the metro to the neighborhood of christianahavn. we passed by the gorgeous shining spire of the 'church of our saviour' before stepping into the strange self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood of freetown christiania. this place used to be military land but then devolved into kind of a squatters town where you can buy cannabis. we felt safe the whole time we were there, though im sure we arent the right kind of people to really 'get' the vibe and mentality of the 800+ residents who live there. there were signs inside the area that said photography was not welcome, though honestly, at least on the paths we walked, the place wasnt really as much of a spectacle as you might imagine.

(mural where we entered freetown)

after freetown, we decided to walk back into the city center. we stopped in to the huge department store called 'magasin du nord' for some of their chocolates and a smoothie at the 'joe and the juice' inside. the department store was enormous and fancy, something like londons harrods or paris' galeries lafayette. i still like finlands stockmann better, it feels much more user-friendly and accessible.

we left the department store and X promptly fell asleep so we peacefully strolled through parts of the more historic city center. many of the areas of the city center we had previously seen were clean, square, stone buildings that were nice but rather bland, but this part of the center had low buildings of many colors and much more character. we didnt make a circuit of the must-see things in the city (for example, we didnt even attempt to go see the little mermaid statue) but in this way our visit was more relaxed. we werent feeling pressure or like we were missing some essential copenhagen experience by not seeing these things. or maybe we did, but there is always next time. i saw enough to know i liked it and would like to come back. the city center didnt whip me into an excitement frenzy though, rather it was the things we did more on the outskirts of downtown that were memorable.

after our walk, we found ourselves back at the gourmet market for dinner. i got a gluten-free panini while dave and X got a great looking pizza from gorms pizza. she also dazzled the fish guys into giving her another lollipop. then we walked home and relaxed for the evening.

sunday (10/27): after breakfast in the apartment, we cleaned up the place. X and i went to the tower playground again while dave picked up tea and pastries. this time, the tower playground was even more interesting because the previous day we had seen, in person, several of the citys historic buildings the playground was modeled after. such a cool cultural gift for the kids of the city.

(this picture doesnt do justice to the true height of this slide. it was like sliding from the second story window of a house. very fun, even for adults.)

when we left the playground, dave pulled out a huge chocolate cream pastry for X to have a couple bites of, and when she saw it she paused, widened her eyes, and whispered "my eyes lit up!". we both busted out laughing. priceless. then we gathered our stuff and bussed and metroed it back to the airport. we checked in easily and grabbed some lunch. we had an easy flight home and were welcomed back by fog, drizzle and darkness. lol. (we had also experienced daylight savings time overnight today).

*click here for the full album of our trips pics.*

24 October 2013

X files - 3.5 years old - Busy bee, curious cat

such an active little thing with tons of diverse interests. shes certainly one of the most intriguing people i know. she can absorb so much now and sorts through it to find her biggest interests and uses that to drive her ever onward. its fun to be pulled along on the journey, and we feel lucky to be the ones who get to privately travel the early part of her path with her. we are also learning so much more about life.

obsessions: hearing stories (made up or from books), her (toy) animal friends, dessert

good picture books: on a beam of light, drat that cat!, nicos octopus, creepy carrots!, jumanji, the dark, meg goes to bed, very tricky alfie atkins, the big orange splot, the caterpillar and the polliwog, who needs donuts?, what can you do with a shoe?, the magic bed, aunt green/aunt brown/and aunt lavender, everyone poops, arthurs reading race, the day the crayons quit, mog and bunny, the story of the little mole who knew it was none of his business

good chapter/longer books: cloud tea monkeys, buddha at bedtime, jip and janneke, folktales from africa, the acorn tree and other folktales, orpheus and eurydice, theseus and the minotaur

adventures of tim series: tim and ginger, tim and charlotte, tim to the lighthouse

good special interest books: a first book of nature, whats it like to be...a bee?, are trees alive?, creepy creatures

 (summer girl)
 (cardboard butterfly wings; bucket o snails)
 (flying across marimekko bean bags; tire swing - finnish style)
 (testing the waters of her pedal bike; big jumping)
 (last day at linnanmäki. she was brave enough to ride solo on the horse)

X-citing developments:

1. daycare. its going well. she has a close friend there (someone else whose native language isnt finnish, but isnt english either) and has some older kid friends on the playground. she has several grown-ups she also calls her friends and she is socializing more each week. she seems to love the food and is really enjoying herself there. weve slowly added time to the length of her daycare day so she could be exposed to more finnish and her curiosity for the language has skyrocketed, even in the first week of increasing her time (she went from 8-noon originally, but now its 8:30-2p). if it was possible, id keep a list of the finnish words she now knows and has used. theyve told me she answers in finnish now to questions she is familiar with.

2. traditions.

family dinner. this is becoming real fun now. she can usually actually sit at the table for the whole meal, and as long as we all sit down together, with everything we need for the meal at the table, we can keep her attention focused and actually all eat slowly and calmly enough to share things from our day. she tells us what she did and ate and learned at daycare and then she asks dave how work went. we discuss events that happened in the world or in the city if they are interesting and just generally keep connected with each other.

flashlight walks at night. we dont have a set routine for this but after dinner since its been getting darker, weve taken the flashlight and gone for a walk through the nearby woods. i think it helps her to see her neighborhood and home in a whole new way, and to not be afraid of the dark. i forgot how different and exciting things can feel in the dark.

3. wonder week. i dont think these are ever going to go away. before her half birthday we had a week or so of very messed up sleep. she was irritable, sensitive, and clingy all for unknown reasons. daycare was even noticing it and curious about it.

4. nightmares (ive kept a list of those she tells me about): a bone crushed the roof of our house. a needle poked her. nutmeg (the cat) barfed on her leg. dishes crashed and broke. she was inside a mouth with teeth and got munched.

5. hidden talent: describing tastes. she seems to have a finely tuned palatte. she has tried things and been able to describe them very well. she had a jellybean flavor she didnt like and said it tasted like kitty litter. dave tried it and agreed. at a restaurant she tried a hearty, dark bread that dave was unable to describe to me, but within two bites she was able to tell me it tasted like raisins, which dave agreed was true.

6. personality.

-we have been working on meeting new people and how to talk to people you dont know or feel comfortable with (this is really coming up a lot with daycare interactions). we dont require her to perform, smile, or talk to people who try to interact with her if she doesnt want. we do require that she says 'hi' and acknowledges them, but beyond that weve been focusing on not being rude and taking her time to get comfortable (because once she is, then she is always quite happy and engaging and talkative, but pushing her to get comfortable before she is ready just doesnt work).

-for many things, she now wants to have exactly what im having (a pony tail, some milk in the same kind of mug, a candy of the exact same flavor bitten into by both of us at exactly the same time). for the most part, i think its cute and im aware that it will be short lived and soon what i am doing will be the height of uncoolness.

-emotional firestorms (screw calling them tantrums). phew! these are only manageable to deal with on a full stomach and enough sleep. im working so so hard on my own anger buttons during these moments and hoping against hope that i can help her formulate better anger management skills than me. in calm times, we talk about the times when she and i were upset, and i think we are making very interesting progress. these things might be hard or uncomfortable for some people, but i somehow find it to be among my favorite kind of thing to talk about with her, the tricky or embarrassing stuff.

-she is becoming a finnish kid. she has asked to play outside by herself (and lasted up to 5 minutes before coming to get me). she has woken up from a nap outside in her stroller and calmy and quietly walked inside the apartment building and knocked on our door. she is very comfortable with our yard area out front and knows to look for cars and to get to the side and can open the door to our building all by herself. this is not to say that we leave her alone for long, or routinely, but there are times when we feel okay with her being more independent.

7. likes/dislikes.

HATES: having any part of her clothes even a tiny bit wet. thus, we can go through 6 shirts in a day.

likes: mazes and hidden pictures, "tropical ice skating" (her terminology. this occurs in the living room and is basically dancing involving some slides and twirls), photography (my camera pisses me off with its suckitude so ive begun letting her take pictures with it. she seems gentle so far and has a lot of fun with it. she even takes videos. and some of her shots are really interesting).

8. learning.

-finnish. out of the blue, she counted up to 9 in finnish for me one day (i think she can get up to 20 now). it was so amazing to hear that come from her mouth. and a week after that she came to get me for bedtime stuff and called me "äiti" (finnish for mom). i was grinning all night long. its just too cool. every day after that it she seems to come home with a new word she knows from daycare. a week after that she came home with short phrases and promptly left me in the dust in terms of finnish comprehension. after a week of trying, she figured out how to roll her 'r's (this is a part of finnish pronunciation). so cute, and now she even rolls some 'r' sounds of her english words. lol.

-she knows our local tree leaves. when she picks them up she goes and tries to find the tree it came from. she can spot the tree even if its in the woods off the path, or from a tree with branches that start high up. because of this curiosity, we can now name all the trees in our typical walking/playing route.

-back in finland (after our north american summer trip), we rode in to the city center and X saw a couple of trams pass along the way. she noted their #s and told me where the route was going to take the tram (to the pool, to the sea/water). i was impressed. she also remembered that the bus we were currently riding on (one we dont normally ride) would have taken us to the house of a friend who we had been to only once, back in march. she even remembers details about where certain (non-regularly used) nature paths/trails take us. her memory is stunning.

-she knows the days of the week in order and can keep track throughout the week of which day we are on. she knows what are weekend days vs weekdays. she seems to know most of the months of the year and we certainly talk about seasons a lot and note all the differences and tend to talk about the name of the months with the seasons.

9. anecdotes.
-one day i found her singing to a whale book we had gotten from the library. the song seemed be entitled 'my humpback whale' and she spent a long time singing it to the pages in the book, complete with conductors arms.

-we were talking about translating finnish to english food words one day, and she said "porkkana". i said "carrots". and she said "not, its just ONE carrot". excuse me, i dont know all the grammar rules for pluralizing, geez.

-one evening, dave played a song he likes called "umi says" by mos def. one of the repeated lines is 'shine your light on the world'. X was listening to this and playing with our flashlight and she stopped to say "i AM shining my light!". lol.

-while lying in a hammock, with X, on a nearby playground in the shade, listening to the breeze rustle the birch leaves one day, X said "i laid my head down on her chest" (she likes to narrate 'stories' of her actions in this way sometimes).

-one day she got into her snowsuit and zipped it up all by herself and then put on her own shoes. she told this to dave and he said "alright, now you can move out" and she said "but i dont know how to cook yet!".

-we sometimes listen to the audio book of arnold lobels "grasshopper on the road". at one point, the grasshopper says "good morning" and a beetle says "every morning is a good morning". X came up to me and said "so, when the beetle said 'every morning is a good morning' he didnt know that grasshopper was trying to say 'hi'".

momma mentionables:

1. post-gluten-free diet. my mind is clear enough now that ive been able to make up stories for X on the spot. my mind could never think on its toes enough to do that before. i had even expressed this frustration to dave on a few occasions. very weird, it was like, before, i was panicky and tongue-tied and the idea of making something up on the spot was energy draining, even in theory. and, it was scary because my mind would literally be blank. but now, instead of telling her i can only read her a story, ive been able to make things up for her at the bus stop, while relaxing in the hammock, etc. and while its become energy draining in its own way (she now wants all moments of down time to be filled with stories. we have had to set some boundaries), im happy to feel like i have use of more parts of my brain now.

2. childrens book freak. this is what ive become. its partially because the english selection in the helsinki library system is, understandably, not as fleshed out as a native english speaking countrys library system. but its also partially born of boredom and lack of adult hobbies (i think), and of course the love of books in general, and the magical, adventurous fun that is childrens literature. i came upon (for better or worse, lol) a great site that has cheap used kids books that ships easily to finland (and currently shipping is free with two or more books purchased). its given us a great way to expand our library without paying an arm and a leg for english books purchased in finland, and we dont have to wait to stock up at thrift stores when we go back to the US. ive also got about a dozen different reading wish lists created for X on my amazon account, they make me unnecessarily giddy sometimes. and, im always searching childrens book/reading lists and comment sections and amazon ratings and other peoples recommendations and looking, looking, looking for new, good reads. if you ever want a kids book suggestion, on various topics or from various time periods (say 1940s authors up to present), im more than happy to point you down the worm hole. and please dont hesitate to pass along the names of your favorite kids books too!

3. halifax photo book. i finally got inspired and motivated to finish a photo book about all the trips and exploring we did while living in halifax.

23 October 2013

Fall (early) into helsinki

ah the beauty and fast retreat of early fall. it was beautiful here, and the feeling in the air made you want to savor every minute of wonderful weather days. it may have been short (compared to other places weve lived) but it was great.

to note for next year, peak fall color time was roughly the first two weeks in october. i cant tell if thats on-time or a bit late due to some warmer weather we had. it was also a dry summer so the colors seemed to be less brilliant than perhaps normal.

(peak fall right outside our door)

-helsinki festival/charlie chaplin shorts. the helsinki festival was perhaps 2+ weeks long featuring lots of music, theater and entertainment shows, but this one was the best for us. it was downtown at the orion theater and the show consisted of 3 charlie chaplin shorts with music accompaniment by kids. different age groups of kids did the 3 shorts so that the first group were young and inexperienced, the second group were older and better organized and played impressively enough that the crowd laughed where they were supposed to. unfortunately, X and i didnt have the patience to stay until the final (and no doubt most entertaining) short was played, but we had a nice time.

-"we love pihlis". this was a 51st anniversary festival for our neighborhood. the only thing we attended was the yard sale at the nearby playground, but it was a treasure trove and a nice place to see neighbors.

-library: munkkiniemi. this was an average library with a small, plain kids section.

-leikkipuistos: savela, unikko. savela: a nice playground nestled in a ring of apartments. what a compact little neighborhood with a set of all the schools, parks, and playgrounds you would need with highway access and a train station all super close. unikko: this playground had lots of variety, a large indoor building, trees and fencing to keep kids partially contained, but lots of areas to play.

nature (click here for a map):
-hertonniemi to viikki farm (part of vanhakaupunginlahti nature area). so now weve walked almost all the way around this bay. its such a lovely place. the hertonniemi path area was busier than i had expected. also, when we went it seemed that all the bugs and animals were acting strange, which i attributed to them performing their last activities before settling in to finding places to hibernate or die. but, it was a perfect weekend day for a walk, we found a frog pond to return to in the spring and we ended the walk through the farmland of viikki, just east of the arboretum. i really love this whole area of the city.

(hertonniemi area; the viikki farm. migratory birds were resting in the fields)

-pikku huopalahti-meilahti. a nice water and trail area with lots of little bridges and playgrounds interspersed. X and i hadnt seen the west side of the city so we went over just to explore. while i would say there was nothing special that would make me come back specifically, it was a pretty area and i had a friendly, useful chat with a finnish mom in the sandbox of one of the playgrounds.

-munkkiniemi beach and neighborhood. we walked through munkinpuisto first, and that was kind of a bust; it was just open grassy areas and a disc golf course. we then went to the beach and that was great: a nice shallow sandy area on the edge of a forest and sauna buildings nearby for, possibly(?) year-round use. we then walked along the water back to the bus stop to complete the loop of the neighborhood. the coastal walk was pretty and we saw people quietly sitting soaking up the last of the days westerly sun. there was a fancy cafe at the end of our walk (cafe torpanranta) which looked inviting.

-tervasaari. a tiny island on the east of helsinkis downtown peninsula. it breaks up the marina area and has a dog park, playground, cafe, and walking paths on it. a nice little spot, but nothing fancy.

-seurasaari. this large-ish island in the westerly waters of helsinki is home to an open-air old fashioned museum, a fancy restaurant, a nude beach, and trails. it is only a pedestrian island and it has a definite forest gnome vibe. we went on a day when there was a small festival that included cookie decorating, so that was a hit. the island was rather crowded and being used in lots of ways by different people but it was a pretty place. with lots of little cafes/stands, im sure it is a great place in warmer weather, if you want to be in a busy spot.

(seurasaari museum buildings)
(on seurasaari, near the beach. last time of the year she got to go barefoot)

-katajanokka island/neighborhood. just off the market square in downtown this peninsula-turned-island is mostly not of interest for tourists. its mainly a cruise ship docking area and has tons of apartments and a few hotels but not even the coastal edges are that exciting. the prettiest area is right were the island re-connects with the city: the uspenski cathedral is a beautiful brick building (brick seems to be the material of choice in this area actually) and the marina area to the north of the island is pretty. we also found a fantastic cafe in the neighborhood (see below for details).

(uspenski cathedral)

-hertonniemi kartano. this is a nice wooded, water-lined estate to the east. one of the borders is on a noisier, busy road, but once we got onto the grounds it was a peaceful spot. i think it would be a great place for a walk in the summer. there was supposedly a beach nearby too, but we turned in a different direction.

-wooden houses and trails of käpylä. this seems to be a nice hilly, hideaway neighborhood in the city that has lots of nature and old wooden houses.

-ravintola makalu (nepalese, in malmi). this place has good prices and portion-sizes and is open on sunday, but theres nothing remarkable about the food.

-cafe koti (in munkkiniemi). this is a basic cafe with a decent location and nice little kids play area.

-doi thai. a nice thai place in the historic city center area near the eastern marinas. i had some good thai iced tea and the chiangmai noodles with chicken done northern style was fun, different, and delicious. our food was all flavorful but simple. we had a nice time.

-kahvi siskot (a food stand on hakaniemi square). this is a coffee and sweet bread tent. very popular with locals. ive gotten dave their dense, homemade cinnamon rolls. he fully enjoyed them.

-johan & nyström cafe. this cafe is on the eastern harbor/waterfront by a yacht marina in a historic brick building with wood rafters. this place is so cool. its got great decor and colors and smells inside, combined with gorgeous looking hots drinks and divine treats. i was beside myself when i found their treats were all raw, gluten and lactose free. its like a place made just for us. and just down the way is a lovely coastal kids playground. i think we will be back over this way quite often.

-wanha mylly (meaning: old mill). on the hertonniemi estate (kartano), this is a traditional scandinavian restaurant in an old wooden building. lunch was mid-priced and they were quite quick and good with children. id say its definitely a place valued by the older generation and families, something akin to michiganders and their zehnders and schulers restaurants.

-k-market mustapekka in käpylä. eureka! recommended by a friend, it was a wonderful surprise to find this grocery store. it has a huge selection and its not a gourmet/high end place per se, it just has a very large selection of all categories of food. certainly a nice place to know about for special events or holiday cooking.

finn notables:
-people here give sun worshipping a new meaning. in the last warm days of summer/fall i saw countless people sitting in silence, face turned toward the sun, eyes closed, soaking it up, being in the moment, being grateful. it certainly shows that the outdoors is their spiritual place, and one can hardly blame them.

-im finding that there are tons of nature areas in the city, but the parks with actual names (colored in green on google maps) are usually the groomed multi-use kind of places (sport fields, playgrounds, picnic areas, disc golf courses, etc), which is perfectly fine, but if im looking for a walk in the woods, these arent the places.

-calendars. ive found that instead of talking about "the week of oct 6-12", people here talk about week 32 or week 41. which, im sure is a much better way to do it, but when you say week numbers to me, i have only the vaguest idea of what month or time of year you are talking about. additionally, calendars here start on mondays, the two weekend days are together at the end of calendars week.

-dental appt. so i had my dental check-up, everything looks good. he said there is no need to come back for 3 years! is that ever a recommendation for adults in the u.s.? now im feeling like they are just trying to take advantage of people with dental insurance. hmm...

-im REALLY missing avocados. they always look terrible here. and even when you get them green and hard and patiently wait the week for them to ripen, ive found that most are moldy. so basically i dont buy them anymore. :( its the only thing i think ive really craved multiple times.

12 October 2013

Halt-i[n]-a name of fall

what a gorgeous fall day. we are a tiny bit past peak colors (it came and went so fast!) but it was a great day to get out and enjoy the season.

during breakfast we looked out our window to the common yard and noted that people were gathering for a clean-up day like they had in late spring. i had been confused about what was going on then and didnt know how to help once i figured it out, but this time i was determined to do something. so after we ate, x and i got dressed and went out to rake leaves. it wasnt much, but we made a few large piles. most of the other adults were filling dumpsters with broken household items or trimming trees or other more useful tasks, but i felt better that we at least contributed something (as proof of my efforts i received a sore body the day afterward).

anyway, our main and original goal of the day was to pick-up a rental car and get out to a nearby forest and see the fall colors away from the city. we chose the newly opened haltia nature center. the park is at the southern border of the large national park called nuuksio (in retrospect, we perhaps should have gone there for more of a color burst, but you live and learn) and was about 30 minutes away (west and a bit north). unfortunately, half of finland had the same idea.

the new nature center building was nice, made of all natural materials including, im sure, local wood. we enjoyed the room surrounded with screens that was playing a video cycling through the seasons of finland. very beautiful, and we timed it right to get to watch the thunder and lightening of summer scenes twice. we also enjoyed a snack on the terrace upstairs that overlooked a hilly forest of bright yellow trees. i believe this was just a hint of what the nuuksio park would have shown us had we chosen to go up the road a bit further.

(haltia building; terrace)

as it was, we did an easy nature walk right on the haltia grounds. it was rather ho hum, as most of the trees in the direct vicinity were evergreen, and thus not bursting with color. it was also the busy trail of the day so it didnt feel very private, like many of our other experiences in finnish nature have been. but, in the woods on the trail was an exciting looking adventure ropes course for middle aged children that looked like fun, certainly a place worth coming back when x is older. also, the overlook for the trail was pretty and there were people collecting mushrooms, which was interesting to see.

(ropes course; trail)
(found a few leaves to shuffle around in)

all in all, the day was lovely though. being outside was nice no matter where we were, and the idea to get away from helsinki was a good one. the drive to the nature center was very pretty and it reminded me of how much more of finland there is to see, and that while city nature is a lucky thing to have, rural nature is a whole other thing.

*title is a strained reference to the song "stop! in the name of love". :)