Well, that just confirms that I still exist.
I can see from the notes I made yesterday (or actually this morning) that I thought it would be a splendid idea to give you an itemized account of sort of list the different things I miss, and some things I don't miss from the different places where I've lived, and make this into a series of posts. Now, I'm not sure how good this is really going to be, but I'm also thinking that making any list is always a nice distraction, and a good getaway from the task at hand - this currently being cleaning the apartment. I'm taking a day off from mother and from showing her how to get her pictures from her camera onto her Mac, and will instead be pretending to do some laundry of pants that can walk by themselves by now, and vacuuming up of little balls of something that will otherwise think they own this place. At the moment I'm still being looked up to as a fickle, largish god of wine, but I'm not sure how long it will be before the balls of something go all secular on me.
Being back in Finland, if only for a short while and out of reach of the balls of something but in the land of the actual and sometimes lovely, but mostly slightly scary and off-putting RWP (Real World People), has definitely brought back memories of things I used to consider essential, and could never ever live without, and things that I had completely forgotten about, and could never ever live amidst again, not to mention some new, refreshing, just-discovered acquaintances, which will be possibly later featured in a wholly different post.
I used to log kilos and kilos of Finnish coffee to Denmark. I realize no coffee grows in Finland and said coffee is actually from South America or Africa, but as I soon found out, the secret is in the roast, and that I prefer a light roast, which most other Finns do as well. Am I a Finnish Coffee snob (the kind looked down by Italians with Berlusconi spearheading the mock committee)? Yes, I am. But also, every time I return to Finland, upon that first sip from that first cup of Juhla Mokka I'm instantly taken back (in the best Proustian manner) to my teenage years, to the beginnings of my coffee addiction. Discovering coffee was one of the lovelier things from those years and has a lot to do with who I've become. Believe it or not. It just might be that I consist of nothing else than coffee, wine and burgers. A high functioning load of junk?
Nowadays, my Finnish coffee hoarding years are over. Turns out that if you try to smuggle transport a lot of coffee in your suitcase to a country sometimes talked of as the 'drug-gateway to the US' the little drug sniffing dog will sit by your bag at the airport and you end up explaining that there is in fact no cocaine hidden in the ten packets of coffee, and that you are transporting Colombian coffee to Mexico, because you like the roast and the shiny red packaging, only to end up having it stolen taken away from you by the customs officials. Still, Mexico did offer some very nice substitutes in the way of beans and roasts, and you can never go home again. And maybe you shouldn't even try.
Regardless of the ubiquitousness of coffee in Finland (If a Finn asks you whether you'd like some coffee or tea you are to answer "yes" meaning "please fill a big honking mug with coffee and fast". Tea is automatically disregarded.), another precious liquid is a little tougher to come by. The state has monopoly on the sale of alcohol and this translates to no wine in grocery stores, and special state-owned shops (with rather annoying opening hours) called Alko, and a bad selection of tequilas. In recent years Alko seems to have upgraded their wine selection from the 4 different kinds I remember seeing on the shelves fifteen years ago, but the tequilas on offer are still too few and too white. Also, I really don't miss having to remember to go by an Alko at a decent hour, just to indulge in two bottles glasses of wine at night. Having to remember such details doesn't make me think twice about drinking, it makes me want to drink more. So there Finland. Take that!
Because of the Finnish language (and perhaps because we are not tall, blond and smiley like the Swedes, but tall, pasty white, and have deep set eyes that often make us look ominous. Think a blond Damien from the Omen) we have existed rather separately from all of the other cultures that surround us for quite a while now. This has resulted in a Finnish sense of humor, which I can completely survive without, but has also brought about a lovely culinary culture (also sneered at by Berlusconi) that I like to refer to as 'Bet you didn't know it was food?'
I love Karelian pies with egg butter
and mämmi with cream
and real 100% rye bread with cheese
and 'plastic' cheese with cloudberry jam (my pic has lingonberries. Sadly.)
Yes, these dishes are all DELICIOUS. And every time I go away, I sorely miss them, and upon returning completely overindulge, resulting in weird tasting belches and bad, bad heartburn. No, the coffee has nothing to do with the heartburn. Don't even go there.
Walking around town
Seeing that in Johannesburg walking around is a major no no, spending time in Finland has really had a profound effect on how much I really appreciate the possibility of quickly 'stepping out to get a carton of milk', or the never-to-be-revealed-to-the-Hubby 'returning from a bar crawl by myself, on foot, at 4AM, with all of my valuables precariously hanging from my purse, and with the Canon around my neck'
Resulting in this kind of awesome photography action.
These are not my towels.
Saving the world made easy
I know I'm no environmental superstar/hero like my siamese sister, Vancouver's Enviro Girl (VEG), but Finland really makes recycling easy. Our apartment came with separate trash cans, and there is an equal assortment of such things downstairs to match the ones we have upstairs. Wine bottles are even recyclable, and not just as glass, but as actual bottles. Hurrah!
This is both a negative and a positive side of Finland. Finns are quite possibly the most blunt people on earth. I have had to de-learn this to some extent, but alienating even complete strangers still comes fairly easy to me (none of you had thought this, correct?). In Finland honesty means that you can leave your wallet on a park bench and someone will surely call you and tell you to pick it up with all of your money still in it, but it also means that when you have just squeezed into that pair of pants the size of which you already feel is a new low, the sales assistant will helpfully remark that the store also carries the pants in plus-sizes. I miss being able to say what I want when I want and not get glared at. Unless of course I spoke to a complete stranger in the elevator, in a waiting room, a cafe, or a store, where you are simply to pretend like there is no one in there with you. Got it?
I'm off to fetch my black leather Converse All Stars now, since the lady from the shop just called me, left a message both in Finnish and in English telling me my long awaited shoes, in my freakishly big size, have arrived (from somewhere else in Europe), and that they are keeping them for me until I can come and pick them up. And I don't think that I gave them the correct telephone number.
Next stop Denmark, or Mexico. I haven't decided yet.