Friday, May 27, 2011

Miso mackerel

I've had some amazing food here in Finland.

Today, we went to a japanese restaurant for lunch. It reminded me of some of the small home-style restaurants I visited when I was in Japan. It was compact, the owner did the cooking, and there was a TV in the main dining area showing weird japanese programs.

I ordered the special of the day, which comprised a piece of mackerel braised in a miso-flavoured sauce. The mackerel was accompanied by rice and a number of interesting side dishes, including fern shoots. I've never had fern shoots before (apart from asparagus).

I started chatting with the owner of the restaurant who told me that she picked the shoots herself from a nearby forest. Apparently they are popular food item in Japan and have a very short harvesting season so I was quite fortunate to have tasted them. Admittedly, they had more of an interesting texture (crunchy) than a taste but I'm glad I got to try them.

The woman was originally from Tokyo and settled in Finland thirteen years ago. She has two sons (and a bunch of grand children) still in Japan. She tells me she has visited Australia once before (she has a friend living in Brisbane) but has never been to Melbourne.

Wood peckers and fire trucks

I took the morning off today and went with my friend/colleague to a nearby island (there seem to be many in Finland) for a walk through the woods. Saw some rabbits, a hare and a red fox on the way to the island...they look much less like vermin in their native habitat.

Whilst walking through the forest, I saw and heard a couple of wood peckers. I got very excited by those (in much the same way that my colleague/friend got excited when he saw cockatoos for the first time in Australia).

We ended up walking about 10km through birch, maple and pine forest, and decided to catch the bus back home. When we got back, we noticed six fire trucks across from my friend's apartment. The old building across the road had caught fire sometime in the morning when we were out. Most of the roof was gone. It looks like several units might have been affected. I wonder if it was a sauna incident gone wrong.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I'm in Turku this week spending some time with a friend/colleague who works at one of the universities here. Turku was the former capital of Finland before the city went up in flames during a big fire in the 1800s (a sauna accident?). It is a beautiful city. So far, I've been working mostly with my lap top set up in one of the many cafes that line the river bank. It's nice to be out of the office.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Howdy from Helsinki

Arrived two days ago. I think I brought the Melbourne weather with me. It was cold, wet and windy on the first two days. Beautifully sunny today though.

Man, I love Helsinki. Such a stylish city. There are changes happening here though...and it is palpable.

My friend/work colleague was telling me that nationalistic sentiment is growing and that people are becoming more and more xenophobic. I suggest it's because Finland is essentially a mono-culture and with an increase in migration (and tourism from asia), the people here are being exposed to non-caucasians in large numbers for the very first time. It might take a generation for things to improve but, in the meantime, I hope it doesn't get too bad.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

To do list

1. water plants
2. look for european adapter
3. pack bags
4. transfer files from old laptop to new laptop
5. remember passport
6. bring medication
7. Give Nathan metcard

Monday, May 16, 2011


Off to Europe tomorrow for five weeks. So long Melbourne weather. Hello European summer...Mwahhhh....

Oh, hang on, it's going to be 13 degrees and raining in Helsinki on Wednesday. Crap.

The shop assistant

Was talking to a sales assistant the other day who was trying to make conversation. She should have stuck to something simple like the weather (You can't easily say something offensive if you talk about the rain or the cold).

Nope, this stupid woman decides to talk about asian people. I guess her thought processes must have gone something like this..."I am serving asian customers so I will talk to them about asian things."

She begins by telling us about how her son whom she suspects is secretly wanting to be asian. And in an effort to show us that she is completely cool about her son turning his back on his continental european heritage, she tells us that she hopes he will mary a nice asian lady so they can have asian babies.

She then tells us about her holiday in Thailand and how she loves Thai food. Like I really give a rats arse...I'm not even Thai.

And just when you'd think she couldn't get any more offensive, she asked Nathan if he was our tour guide.

"No" I should have said, "he is our immigration detention officer. We are on excursion from Villawood".

What I said instead was "No, he is my partner" to which the woman replied "Good on you." We made a quick exit before she had the opportunity to begin talking to us about gay things.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

the revenge

Hell has no fury than a woman scorned. My friend's flatmate went on a date with a guy she met on an internet dating site. The guy seemed genuine. He was handsome. His profile said that he was looking for a relationship rather than a one night stand. The usual story.

The first date goes well. They ended up shagging on the second. The day after, the guy cancels plans for the weekend, saying that his rugby mate from Queensland was in town. Meanwhile, my friend's flatmate finds the guy's facebook page. His personal details reveal that he is "in a relationship". She confronts him about it. He confesses.

Half an hour later, my friend's flatmate makes contact with the guy's girlfriend via facebook and they end up having a very good conversation. She fills the girlfriend in on the goings on of her sleazy boyfriend.