Friday, June 27, 2014

dog walk

 I took Truffs out for a walk this arvo and got to check out some recently completed pieces of public architecture in my neighbourhood.

First up was the new Library at the Docks. It looks quite modern from the outside. I didn't get to check out the inside because of the time.

On our way back to the apartment, I noticed that the Jim Stynes Bridge has also opened.

back in Melbourne

I flew out of Helsinki on Tuesday afternoon (local time). I was suppose to fly British Airways to London (to connect with my Qantas flight back to Melbourne). However, because of flow on effects from industrial action in France, BA was experiencing flight delays across their European network. Luckily for me, the attentive check-in lady at the BA counter made alternative arrangements for me to get to London on an earlier flight with Finnair.

Qantas now flies London to Melbourne via Dubai. I had not been to Dubai before (or anywhere else in the Middle East, for that matter). The airport was like any other major modern international was full of duty free and luxury brand shops...I could have been anywhere in the world. And just to show how small a world we actually live in, I bumped into one of my work colleagues who had been holidaying in Europe and was on the same flight back to Melbourne.

I got back yesterday morning and slept most of the day. Still, I managed to go to bed last night without any problems and slept through until 5am this morning. Hopefully it means I will be able to enjoy my day off from work today and actually get out of the apartment.

Monday, June 23, 2014


I went to the city of Tampere for midsummer and stayed with my colleague's parents who smoked a beautiful brown trout for dinner.

A photo taken before the fish went into the smoker...
...and after...
Dessert was a delicious rhubarb pie served with crockery made in the U.S.S.R...

what's the difference

Where I am currently...
Where I will be by the end of the week...

Friday, June 20, 2014

tail end of the trip

My stint in Finland this year is almost at an end.

The time has really flown. During last year's visit, I was feeling kinda home sick already by week 3 (the same was true of my field trip to Nicaragua).

This time around, I seemed to have successfully kept my mind focussed on the tasks I had to accomplish (most notably, an invited scientific paper I needed to submit by mid-June). Despite the work, it has also been incredibly relaxing living here at the research station and being able to go for walks in the forest if I needed a break (not to mention trying to gorge on as much smoked salmon as possible).

Earlier this week, I was invited to dinner at the home of one of the researchers. He lives in the nearby village with his wife. They have an amazing home, filled to the brim with old books, paintings and all kinds of interesting 'stuff'. We had a great night eating home-made pizza, singing songs (it was mandatory in between the schnapps), and talking about quirky science stuff like kamikaze sperm.
Tomorrow is mid-summer eve. We are planning a bbq here at the station. I'll then be leaving my students behind (they are still busy with experiments) to go to visit my friend's folks, who live in the city of Tampere (my most favourite city in Finland). Then it will be back to Helsinki for a couple of days before my (sigh) long flight back to Melbourne.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

tonight's dinner

Yummo...locally-caught perch, pork chops and grilled vegetables.

Monday, June 9, 2014

the village

I gave my students a break yesterday and took them on an outing to the delightful village of Fiskars, home of the iconic orange handled scissors.

Fiskars reminds me of a town from a fairytale, like the ones you see in movies such as The Lord of the Rings (Many Finns actually have elf-like features, which only serves to reinforce the illusion).

We went for lunch, and then wandered around the town, checking out the various shops. One of my colleagues bought a tar-scented candle for his dad (he figured it was the most manly-scented of all the candles in the shop).

We also stopped for some locally made ice cream. I opted for blueberry. It was delicious. The girl serving us asked where we were from. We told her we were Australians and that we were in Finland doing research. She thought that this was weird.

Obviously the ice cream girl also found us fascinating because she came out to speak with us while we were eating our ice creams.

It turns out that ice cream girl is a HUGE McLeod's Daughters fan. I never watched the series but apparently they are still showing re-runs here in Finland. She said that in Finland, farmers use machinery to do the work (we didn't have the heart to tell her that Australian farmers use machinery too). I asked the girl what other Australian programs are shown in Finland. She mentioned Master Chef and Dance Academy. So, I guess she must think we are all horse-riding farmers who can cook well and love to dance.  No wonder she though it was weir that we were in Finland doing science.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sunday breakfast

So what do you do when the only thing left in the pantry is some flour, oil, tomato paste and a can of chickpeas?

Oh, and you've got to feed three hungry students and two work colleagues (and yourself)?


Friday, June 6, 2014

Canberra: an American perspective

Readers of the blog will know I grew up in Canberra and still have a soft spot for the city.

I read in the Fairfax newspapers this morning that The New York Times had published a  travel piece on the Canberra. It's nice to see a positive travel story about Canberra – or that an American newspaper would even think of writing an article about the city. Indeed, if you're American, chances are that you've never even heard of Canberra.

When I was living in the US, the conversation with people tended to go something like this:

American: Where are you from?
Me: Australia.
American: Where in Australia?
Me: Canberra [at this point I learnt to say 'Canberra' really slowly as if I was talking to a 2 year old]
American: Where's that?
Me: It's between Sydney and Melbourne. It's the Capital of Australia.
American: Really? I thought the capital was ____________ [insert 'Sydney' or 'Melbourne'].

Hopefully it will make people more aware of the city (in a good way).