Monday, 26 April 2010

Growing old disgracefully

Today I went to one of the hospital service points to get some crutches. I'm having an operation on my ankle on Thursday, and the orthopedic hospital doesn't have its own crutches (I know, right?). Fair enough, there's a service point right next to it, but it opens 30 mins after I have my operation, so it can suit itself.

I am excited. I get to be awake the whole time because I'll have something like an epidural. Apparently I can listen to an ipod while they're doing the operation, but I would prefer to ask questions and interview the surgeon. I'm not allowed to drink, which doesn't really affect me since I don't drink, but I would have drunk a cider because it's nearly May Day and May Day is a big thing in Finland. Hopefully high on painkillers I will have a better May day than everyone else. So there. It will also be my first operation ever, unless we don't count the one time my ear mutated and ate my earring overnight, and I had to have it cut out at Accident and Emergency. It hurt, but I missed double maths. On that note, I am of the opinion that you should always optimise your injuries to make them work for you. For example:

I briefly owned a pair of crutches around Christmas and found the experience to be mixed. On one hand, nice people leave doors open for you and buses might wait for you to pathetically hobble your way to a seat before they drive off. But as the laws of physics tell us, for every one nice person, there are least 2 bastards who will shut a door on you and at LEAST 4 pensioners who think that age beats cripple. In England they insist on telling you that they fought in the war, or simply even that they're 84, to which I generally reply I'm 22. To be honest I don't care how old you are, you appear to have two working legs while I only have one. In Finland the pensioners appear to just sort of look at you distastefully at first, but then notice your crutches and get over it. But one time I witnessed


It was the epitome of "I'm old so I can be a complete shithead to everyone I meet". Squared, because there were two of them. Granny #1 got on the bus shouting WAKE UP to a girl who was nice enough to have moved as soon as the woman got on the bus with a zimmerframe. #1 then turned on an unsuspecting foreigner and shouted in Finnish "If I'm not mistaken THIS is the invalid place". This woman was not an invalid, unless you count crippling rudeness. Eventually the foreign girl realised what the old bat wanted and moved to a tiny seat, with a massive suitcase trundling behind her, which was probably the reason she'd chosen the invalid seat to sit in in the first place.

Enter granny #2, who sits on an aisle chair and leaves the window chair empty. The bus is fairly full and granny #1 screeches across the bus at #2 to MOVE OVER AND LET PEOPLE SIT DOWN. Wow, I thought. They don't just hate young people. They're bitter at everyone. But to my delight, granny #2 was just as much of a grinch as #1.

"What has it got to do with you?", she queried

"The bus is full and YOU are taking up two seats"

"I'll move when someone asks me. Nobody has asked me yet" quipped number two.

No-one actually did ask her to move, unsurprisingly. And that was when I realised that it is totally possible for two 70+ year olds to behave like children. They actually gave each other the evil eye for about 15 minutes. You have no idea how much I wanted #1 to say "Let's take this outside!" and see what happened. Anyway, that day I realised that I'm not dishing out politeness and respect to every OAP I meet. They can earn my respect, and if they want to sit in my invalid seat, we can take it outside.

My crutches have ice spikes on the bottom.

Friday, 23 April 2010


Okay so I felt bad dissing Kallio yesterday so I thought I'd write something nice about Finland to make up for it. I chose the sauna because the sauna is a wonderful thing and I'm glad Finland chose to invent it.

The sauna is the kind of thing that sends fear into the heart of tourists. What, naked? What, 100C? What, you're whipping me with foliage?


First of all, even though the temperature in a sauna ranges from about 85C (a cool or "Swedish" sauna) to over 100C for hardcore enthusiasts, your blood DOESN'T boil and you don't melt, because there's low humidity. A sauna is not a steam room!
So that doesn't happen. At first, however, you do wonder if all your friends actually hate you and this isn't a tradition, but they've just found an incredibly creative way to bully you. At least you're questioning their mental health because they're throwing water on an ELECTRIC kiuas. The kiuas is the stones onto which you chuck water. Luckily, it is acceptable to take the following supplies with you
to make saunaing a much more pleasant experience.

You can take juice, too, but don't tell anyone I told you.

Saunaing is a funny thing. It was once explained to me that it's perfectly acceptable to be naked in a public sauna with people you don't know, which is true. In swimming centres it's forbidden to wear swimming costumes in the sauna. It's also fine of course to be naked with close friends or family. But it's ACQUAINTANCES that are awkward. People you know and say hi to, but you wouldn't pop their zits sort of thing. The first few times in a sauna are spent doing a sort of noob yoga where you fold yourself up like a deckchair trying to find the optimal position to sit in while covering up your most delicate parts, partially because it's hot and partially because you have to go to work with this person on Monday and the idea that they've seen your nipples is disturbing.

Then your boss or mother-in-law or someone picks up part of a tree and starts thrashing you with it enthusiastically as if they're doing you a favour. This is called a
vihta or a vasta depending on where you're from.


They actually ARE doing you a favour. It's good for the circulation. And rage. So between being whipped and not really being able to eat or drink because the air is so hot and dry you are supposed to relax. It's too hot to do anything else. This is why Finns will laugh at you if you think people have sex in saunas. It's just too bloody hot. Anyways, it's rude to have sex in a sauna, you will anger the elf.

Since being in a sauna makes you incredibly hot, you have the option of doing something incredibly cold so that for about 5 seconds in between you will experience a body temperature which is acceptable and perhaps even pleasing. If you're at home in the city you usually take a cold shower but if you're in a summer cabin there should be a lake nearby. Jumping in a lake after a sauna is great:

Or not:

Yes, that is a frozen lake that someone has taken the time to drill a massive hole in purely for you to dunk yourself in so you can see if you have a cardiac problem. You could probably use the hole to fish with, but why would you do that when you can immerse yourself in icy water?

Finally, some sauna tips:

1) You should definitely try it, because it IS relaxing and you feel really clean afterwards.
2) Be careful if you're drinking alcohol in the sauna, it may be dangerous.
3) Sit on the beginner's bench or leave the sauna carefully if you get dizzy; and
4) If you see someone about to wee on the stones, run.

Chicken nuggets and gin

Last week I had to go to a place called Kallio. There's nothing actually wrong with Kallio, but as someone who is abnormally intolerant of drunks and hobos it is the kind of place where my arch enemy would live. As it goes, my arch enemy is norovirus, so if a virus can be an enemy and a place can be an arch enemy dwelling, then norovirus would live in Kallio.

Unfortunately two of my good friends live in Kallio and I like them more than I hate norovirus, so I got on a bus and set off to Kallio. I got off the bus and went to the local shop and then to my friend's. When I got there she realised she needed soy milk and I realised I'd forgotten everything I'd originally meant to buy because I was too busy trying to avoid the natives. I'd already seen a woman crying on a step and what I'm pretty sure was drugs changing hands but anyway. My friend lent me her key and I went to the shop.

I picked up all the stuff I needed and got in the queue thinking how great it would be to get back to my friend's place when a small woman came up to me and said:

Woman: Can I cut in front of you? I've got a good reason, I just can't be bothered to tell you.

At first I had a small argument in my brain with myself because I'm trying to learn to be assertive, and I thought that if I were to let this woman cut in front of me while I really want out of this shop, she should tell me her reason. Hopefully it would be a juicy reason, and it would justify me spending more time there than needed. I was just gathering the courage to say no, which happened to be hiding in my left big toe like a wuss, when I noticed that the woman was off her head on something of the intravenous kind.

Dear god, what kind of crazy drug mafia does this woman belong to? What will happen to me if I say no and she gets all her drug friends to chase me or something? What if she kidnaps me and sticks syringes all over me like a weird kind of heroin acupuncture? The fact that heroin addicts will probably do anything NOT to share their heroin escaped me at the time. I (at least mentally) jumped into the arms of the customer behind me:

from whence I squeaked "Yes". The customers behind me sighed at me. They are obviously impervious to the crazy drug mafia. I tried my best to look pissed off at the woman for taking up my valuable time so that the other customers would hate me less. I don't think it worked, but since I'd started already I decided to keep up the slightly annoyed face. And I did, until I heard a scream from behind me. I turned around to see a woman fighting one of the supermarket assistants. They were arguing about whether or not she'd shoplifted. Eventually the guy got her plastic bag off her and recovered a packet of chicken nuggets and a can of gin drink. She left, swearing about the current government.

I bet they didn't put that in the Kallio tv show.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Breaking the cycle

"Money was made to be spent", said a friend of mine a few days ago trying to comfort me over my lack of funds. Perhaps that philosophy is why neither of us are particularly rich.

Finland is such an amazing place that not only do I get to see polar bears on a daily basis and be naked all the time, but they also pay me to go to university. I get a monthly student grant called
opintotuki. Apart from this, and some housing benefit, I don't get any other money. Both grants just about cover my housing and basic expenses.

The problem is that after 5 years of living financially independently from my mum, as soon as about 400 euros drops into my bank account on the 4th of every month I still feel like this:
My life is not that exciting though, and I actually look more like this:

Hi. So, on the 4th of the month I feel great. I start thinking about how many penny sweets I could buy with 400 euros. I browse online shops just thinking of the possibilities. I look at hoodies in hues I don't already own. I consider BUYING SALMON.

But the worst offender in my budget is IKEA. I bet you've been to IKEA. If you haven't been to IKEA you should definitely go because you can get breakfast for 2 euros and you get porridge and a sandwich and everything. And DAIM (when I was younger it was dime, what did they change it for, it looks weird) bar cake.

Anyway. I always go to IKEA for a purpose. I intend either to buy a cheap breakfast or some sort of furniture. I drag a friend and we pretend we're going on holiday to Sweden. Finland is bilingual so you can speak swedish in IKEA if you want and it's all good. So I finish my great breakfast and start to browse for my furniture, but they have planned IKEA in such a way so as to tempt you from every angle before you get to what you want. The names just make it even better. My bed is a Sultan and my chair goes by Moses. (Shame I don't own any of the stuff with a proper Swedish name, comment if you do and tell me what it is :D)

But this time I was in the kitchenware section when I noticed this.
Do you know what this is? It is a MILK FOAMER. Don't ask me why I wanted to foam milk. I had never foamed milk before, but I suppose I thought it would be fun to try and it cost something like 1 euro 50 cents and of course that is nothing because everything here is cheap and I HAD TO HAVE such a cool thing. I bought that foamer about 3 years ago and only about a month ago learnt to make lattes at home with it.

So, I've been getting the same 400e pretty much every month for about 4 years. By now I know that this amount of money should be spent wisely. First I get rid of my rent and my travel card expenses so I'm not homeless or immobile. Then I leave some for bills and some for food. But then I decide on the spur of the moment that it is imperative that I buy something from a cafe that costs 8 euros while I could make the same thing (only better) at home for about 2 euros and to accompany my posh lunch I must have an equally posh beverage with syrup and foam. I do this fairly regularly, finding some excuse to justify such wasteful squandering until I realise that it's the 15th and I have to wait until the 4th of next month until I get more money. Shit. I clamp down on my actions and make a battle plan (porridge and noodles). Unfortunately poverty, porridge and noodles do this to me:

Why yes, I am that pretty when I sulk.

I also have chronic "well I'm getting some money from here (note future tense) so I can spend this now (note present tense)" syndrome. Which is probably why it's the 20th of April and I have just about enough money for food and other basic stuff, but not enough to buy milk foamers or salmon.

Update: The proxy voting is fine, I can vote!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Seriously Britain, seriously?

Since I am officially (but not in practice) an adult, the nice people of Great Britain have entrusted me with a vote. I have never voted in anything very important before, having only been given the chance to express my opinion on things like parish elections. But this year. This year there is a


and I want to vote in it. I remembered something vaguely about my mum having put me on the electoral register, but then taken me off it because I emigrated, and then I got really annoyed because I can't vote in Finland and I have to feel like I make a difference somewhere (right?) and then she put me back on. At least she thinks she put me back on.

So I got down to business and went to the UK electoral register site thing some months ago and decided to apply for postal voting. They sent me a nice, hypocritical form.

Here's the form.

Anyway. The form wants me to go and find some other British person to confirm that I'm British and not in Britain. That would be okay, except I live in Finland which has about 6 entire British people in the whole place and I don't know any of them. There was a lecturer at uni, but I'd feel weird asking him to prove I'm an upstanding citizen and should be allowed to vote. And how would I know anyway that HE is an upstanding British person who has already registered to vote? How did this process work when there was only one British person in Finland? What did that person do? Who am I supposed to ask?

So sod that, I thought. I'm going to explain the dilemma. They are nice, reasonable people. And they were very nice and reasonable. They sent me a letter to Finland saying I'm very welcome to pop into their office at any time to discuss the matter. Except that their office is 1,412 miles (that's 2272km) away from me. Here are the google map route finder instructions for you to understand how impractical this would be for me.

Näytä suurempi kartta

See that? Three ferries and two massive bodies of water to cross. In case you're wondering why I didn't put in driving instructions it's because I can't drive and nor do I own a car. I'm just being realistic here.

So then I forgot about it for a couple of months and then Gordon Brown went and called an election and I was reminded of my unfounded desperation to vote for something and so I went and found out from a government website that you can vote by proxy. The form was neither hypocritical nor overly-optimistic of my social network. I filled it out and now I'm waiting to hear if my mum is allowed to go and vote on my behalf. Everything should be sorted.

Should. I felt confident. Everything is going to be fine. I totally owned this voting procedure.

But then I thought how do they know that the proxy voter is dutifully carrying out the vote I want them to vote for? What if I have some crazy nationalist tendencies and I want to vote for a horrible evil party and my mum feels the need to change my vote to a nicer and more sensible party? Who regulates that stuff? No-one's going to ring me up and ask if I actually meant to vote for that party, right?

The voting system makes me nervous.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

I'm a predult

I was thinking last week about how I pretty much function okay in life, I mean today I broke my previous record for number of consecutive days alive. But then every now and again something comes along and makes me want to scream for my mummy. Last week that thing was a tax return form.

How does everyone else know what to do with these? Did you all go on a course that I'm not aware of? Are there "learn to be an adult" courses? Books? How do I know how to sort my washing without dyeing everything first? Where are eggs located in most supermarkets? And for that matter, how to blow eggs (apparently all grandmas can do it). How do people buy insurance so easily? Or do stuff on the stock market? Or clean their windows without making them streakier.

I'm not ready for this shit, even though I'm 22 and technically became an adult in 2005. So I can't claim I'm an adult, because, well, see previous sentence. And that would be cheating and people would expect way more of me than is realistic. So I'm a pre-adult. Or post-child. Post-adolescent? Nah, pre-adult. Pradult. Predult.

So the tax return form. I thought it would be simple because I don't get any money that's worth mentioning apart from student grants from the government. So I assume the nice people at Vero have got it right and I trust them. But then I see this suspicious looking number. It says "returnable". I panic. Returnable to WHOM? Me? You? Finland? Do I have to pay this amount of money to someone and by when?

In horror I flung it across the room and begged my Finnish friends on IRC to help.

They were less than willing to help because apparently I'm just that helpless and every Finn was born with a microchip in their brain to tell them how to interpret tax forms but since I'm foreign I have no such chip and am thus left to decipher the enigma by myself.

Turns out that it had my account number written on it so I guess they're paying it to me. Yay. But I still don't trust it. The tax office is, after all, the only place in Finland where I have to ask them to speak English (which doesn't help). So the form is still on my desk and we stare each other out every now and again.