Saturday, August 12, 2006


Reader, I am still here, but not here.
This is where you'll find me. If you're looking.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

My native land, good-night

Going tomorrow.

This is the city I was born in. My two childhood homes and one "own" home - my haven from the divorce, shared only by my children -, the locations of my first memories, my school, the place where a boy first kissed me, the park where my sons used to play in, are all within half an hour's walk.

My husband and my new home are on the other side of the globe.

It sucks.

One can learn a lot by living abroad. One can "broaden one's mind", cliché though it is. One can have fabulous experiences. But if you want to minimise your inevitable pain quotient in life, do not spread your life in several countries. It hurts.

This city is more layered, for me, than any other city can ever be, and for all its shortcomings, quirks, its depressingly long winters (November! April!) I love it. It is mine.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

One more thing on the matter of the speaking hole

You may recall my recent episode with a sound installation in a drainage hole (see post entitled "This you will not believe"). Yesterday, I showed it to my friends Joel the Younger and Rebecca. We created our own artsy installation with plane tickets and paper aeroplanes, Joel took this picture of it with his camera phone, and text messaged it to the number provided for feedback by the artist himself, Markku "Sika" (The Pig) Puustinen. In an hour or so, we had a reply from the man: Sikahyvää matkaa Sika toivottaapi, which loosely translates as "Have a swinishly good trip, from The Pig". We were tickled pink.

The end is nigh, soon

I shall be returning to Hawai'i on Thursday. In these internationally dangerous and hideous times, please keep your fingers crossed for our flights not being bombed and for the immigration officers being civil...

I am currently uploading my tourist snapshots of Helsinki onto my flickr account. Please take a look.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Sibelius Monument

is in my neighbourhood. My childhood: stick your head in any one of the pipes you can reach (and preferably not get stuck in). Shout "woooooh". Enjoy the echo effect and appreciate Sibelius.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Knowing I'm on the street where I live... four in the morning. Mannerheimintie.

This you will not believe

Not just any old drainage hole, this. After a party in Kurvi (see previous post for general look), our host wanted to show us something very special. This hole is linked (he claims) to the Helsinki Airport, so you can hear the announcements echoing in the cavity underground. I tend to think it is actually a recording, but it was tremendously effective. We were there at two in the morning, and beneath us, a disembodied voice told us "Lähtö Finnairin vuorolla AY 844 Amsterdamiin, portti 15..." ("Finnair flight AY 844 to Amsterdam, gate 15...") over and over again. No, I wasn't hallucinating, or schizophrenic. Or fallen into Being John Malkovich. I think.
The plaque proves it is not my imagination: MUTTA MINÄ LÄHDEN... (BUT I SHALL LEAVE...), by Markku "Sika" ("The Pig") Puustinen. There is also a mobile phone number for text message feedback. Unhappily, I can't quite tell apart the 5s, 6s, and 8s.And finally us, the appreciative crowd: Hessu, Ivor, me, Mark our host, and Joel the Elder. Picture taken by a wonderful Colombian lady, Paola. Thank you all, what a night it was.

Kurvi By Night

Kurvi, "The Bend", a part of the city with a rougher reputation, by night. I'd love to claim those were Northern Lights, but no, they were only clouds...


Right dear hearts, I have been gone a while due to unexpected computer problems (My dad uses Windows, need I say more) but am back with a vengeance. Meet Spårakoff, the Helsinki round-tour pub tram. Isn't she lovely? She goes round the city and serves pints of beer. The name is a play on words, spåra being Helsinki slang for a tram (roots in the Swedish for tram, spårvagn. The a with a funny circle above it is the Swedish o) and Sinebrychoff being Finland's eldest brewery (at least one still functioning, methinks...?), whose beer is called Koff. English speakers found it hilarious, for some reason, to place an order for "4 Koff" at pubs...

Monday, July 03, 2006

Poplar snow and The Magic Lantern

In July, the seeds of poplar trees in the parks snow down upon Helsinki. My younger son says he and his friends make poplar balls and play snowball wars with them (poppelipallosota, poplar ball war). They (the seeds, not my son and his friends) twirl in the air stirred by passing cars: snowing in July, it is magic.

My friend Rebecca, an English girl who discovered her spiritual home is Finland, introduced me to another fabulous Helsinki cafe today: Kahvila Taikalamppu, Café Magic Lantern. See the sewing machine on the table? The proprietress sits there and sews the wall hangings, except while we were there, she decided to sit outside in the sun and read a book instead. Rebecca is a wonderfully gifted singer-songwriter, she played me some of her songs . When we left the cafe, we passed a window with a white cat sitting inside it. Her eyes were one green, one blue.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


During the summer months in Helsinki, you can enjoy incredibly high quality classical music just walking down the street. Russia and the Baltic States are close: conservatory students as well as professional musicians from National Orchestras and the like come over during their summer breaks. Often, they earn more busking in Helsinki than they do employed in the cultural instances at home. This string quintet was superb. The girl on the left sold their cds for 15 euros, but I was too skint and stingy to buy one. I did give them what my mum&myself had in the way of change, though.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The best cafés in town

Right, I have my tourist guide's cap on, and here goes: Café Tamminiementie, the best café, is suitably off the beaten track yet within easy reach from the heart of town. It has a truly Chekhovian atmosphere both indoors and out, the slices of pie are warship-sized, delicious, and served with generous dollops of whipped cream (flavoured with real vanilla), and you can drink as many cups of coffee (or tea) as you can handle, for the price of one cup. I have also had the best slice of mushroom and asparagus quiche of my life at this establishment. The name means "Oak Cape Road" (also the address), and that's my mum on the left.

The midsummer rose, "juhannusruusu", blooms gorgeously in the garden area of Café Tamminiementie, but only for a week or so.

Another good café on the fortress island of Suomenlinna, 15 minutes by ferry from the heart of town. Sadly, my camera ran out of batteries, as had the one local shop, so I have no more photos of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

At the sculpture park, Helsinki

Note Finlandia House and the National Museum in the background. I have always loved this entirely undeveloped bit of wasteland, put to artistic use, right in the heart of town. Unfortunately but hardly surprisingly, it is all facing development soon.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The sauna cures feelings of displacement and all other human ills...

...what the sauna doesn't cure, will kill you, they say.
A view of the lake from the sauna. I took this picture at around 11:30 pm, round mid-June, when there were still a few nights left for it to get even lighter. (Of course now, we're only heading for the darker times again.)

My gran taught me to make reed boats the way her brother had made them. My summertime friends, the boys next door, refined and updated the design. I spent most of my childhood summers making these...

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Hääyöaie, or how I missed John Irving at the pub

Bloomsday yesterday. After the entertainments at O'Malley's, one of the local Irish pubs, the evening degenerated into general pub nonsense, with (for instance) the Finns round the table trying to list the seventeen cases for nouns in our peculiar language, unrelated to almost any other. We were stumped at around thirteen - fourteen, although I am sure I can smoothly and effortlessly use each and every one of them in speech and writing. One of my pals came up with a Finnish word he uses to stun foreigners with: hääyöaie, wedding night intention. Seven vowels in a row, what a beauty (please note y is always a vowel in Finnish: purse your lips to whistle, then make a sound like the oo in too, or ui in suit). Much later in the night, we were told the author John Irving, currently promoting his latest book in Helsinki , had just left he pub. I read and liked Hotel New Hampshire as a teenager.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

It is telling, perhaps,

of the human condition how a long and eagerly awaited homecoming can make one feel an inexplicable sadness. I sit in what was my girlhood bedroom, now my father's "study", an overly-posh word for what it is, and I cannot make out whether I am the same person now as then, whether I regret everything or nothing, whether life feels infinitely long or fleetingly short.

On the windowsill, my father has an old photograph, a portrait of his father's family with parents and eight children - my great-grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and my grandfather at around eight. He looks so much like my younger son you would think someone has photoshopped my baby into the picture. My great-grandmother is not many years older than I am now but looks almost seventy. She will die not long after the picture is taken. I cannot remember whether she lives to see the baby of the family drown. The child is around four, fair-haired, tiny, frail. I imagine I can see him already marked out for an early death. My grandfather was born 1900. The picture will be nearly a century old.

Even this far "south" (all is relative), the days are almost 24 hours long. You would think it would give people a sense of eternal life, but quite the opposite. The Arctic-Slavic blood in my veins spells out "it will all end soon" with every heartbeat. Oh, life, life.

© 2006 Anna MR

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Finland, Finland, Finland...

...the country vhere I vant to be ...

(please remember this is a Monty Python song rather than thinking I've gone mad)

Odd fact of the day: Finland, a country of ca 5 million inhabitants, has ca 2 million saunas. The sauna was the first thing the old forest-dwelling Finns would build; only after the sauna was ready, would they start on the actual living quarters. People were born in the sauna, died in the sauna, and best of all, got warm in a sauna. In a word, it is irreplacable for any genetic Finn and pretty damn good for the rest of mankind, and I have missed sauna madly in the tropics.

I arrived on Thursday last week and *still* haven't had a sauna! We have a particularly romantic and wonderful one at the mökki (important Finnish word # 2: mökki, summer cottage), built practically above a lake, it is fantastic. I am certainly off there in the next few days. Photographic evidence will follow.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Lightening up a little, with the help of a sandcastle and a red balloon

The cathedral

I love the cathedral, but I do recognise it is excessively white and pure and austere, like the epitomy of North European Lutheranism...

A view downtown

My favourite statue

My favourite Helsinki-ite

Isn't she pretty? She is called Havis Amanda.

Finland, the promised land of funny headgear

Right then dear hearts, here we are. We didn't miss the planes, although it was close in LAX, and they didn't crash, although I was convinced they would. My husband broke the car, but that was only on his way back from Kona, and although it was a bracing +9 C when we arrived, the sun is up (for most of a 24-hour period) and it is already considerably warmer.

Do you like this hat? Learn to say "kiva hattu", or "nice hat" in Finnish. You get the most outrageous headgear here.

This is going to be the sister site to My Hawai'ian Diary, only valid while I am in Finland. Currently I think it will consist mainly of pictures, although uploading them seems so difficult on my father's Windows machine, I am uncertain whether I will ever post again.