Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My wedding and other secrets

I saw three movies on the plane back from Finland. The only one of note is a film from New Zealand called 'My wedding and other secrets'. It's a story about a chinese kiwi girl who falls in love with a white kiwi guy. I very rarely cry during movies but I did watching this one....the cross cultural references really struck a chord, and I think the movie captured superbly what it's like to be chinese growing up in western society. The guy who plays the boyfriend is also very cute.

Pain in the back

I've hurt my back on only a few occasions. The first time was when I was lifting a 20 litre bucket of aquarium water without bending my legs (stupid...I know). The second time was when I was having a coughing fit whilst brushing my teeth (wtf?). Yesterday I hurt my back again...when I stood up to get off the train in the morning on my way to work. I'm not quite sure how the heck I managed to do my back in from simply standing up, but boy is it sore today. I had to cancel my meetings and work from home instead.

Last night, I made Nathan do the cooking and the washing. He had to fetch me ice cream and rub dencorub in my back. This morning he set up my home office and bought my medication to bed. He is much better at nursing me than I am of nursing him. Nathan gets sciatic pain all the time so I asked him how he manages his back pain. His reply was short and simple... he says "I suck it up".

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Back in Melbourne

There were no flight cancellations, not by Cathay Pacific at least. A typhoon had just brushed past Hong Kong so there were delays in and out of the airport. My Finnair flight into HK was delayed and the landing was a bit rougher than usual but fortunately my flight from HK to Melbourne left on time.

I got in early Friday morning. It was interesting to hear the pilot mention over the PA system that there are sometimes laser attacks at this time of the morning. I find it hard to believe that someone would get a kick out of pointing laser beams at airplanes.

It was nice to be home. After a quick nap, Nathan and I went to see the new Living Waters exhibition at the NGV. The exhibition comprised a collection of indigenous art from the western desert gifted to the gallery by the Felton bequest as part of the 150 year celebrations.

After a nice afternoon tea at the nearby NGV international afterwards, I had to go home for another nap (probably not such a great idea for getting over the jet lag). I woke up at noon today. I seem to be sleeping a lot this time. Hopefully I can shake off this jet lag by Monday.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The ash cloud

I'm due to fly back to Melbourne tomorrow via Hong Kong.

Although I've had a fun and productive time, I can't wait to get back home after five weeks here in Europe.

Still, I've been closely monitoring the ash cloud over Australia and reckon it wouldn't be too bad to be 'stuck' in Hong Kong for a couple of days....I can go shopping and eat roast goose.

Alas, Cathay Pacific seems very unlikely to cancel any flights...while all the Aussie carriers have been grounding their planes, Cathay has been flying to and from Oz with out any sign of disruption.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

An observation

Stephen Nicholls, the property editor for the Sydney Morning Herald, is very handsome. That's all.


The dining experiences here in Helsinki seem to be getting better and better.

Last night I caught up with my friend Hanna for dinner at a fancy restaurant called Muru. It's one of those restaurants that has to be booked weeks in advance (Hanna made the reservations six weeks ago). After dining there, I could see why...the food was sensational.

We started with an entree of snow crab and crayfish on brioche, ate our way through a dover sole for mains, sampled some cheese in the third course, and finished off with a dessert that looked something like this (but with rhubarb instead of raspberries).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Best meal in Finland

Fried Baltic herrings on mashed potato at Salve, an old sailor's pub in Helsinki.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sauna open air metal festival

I had my first taste of heavy metal concert last night at the Sauna open air metal festival. As is typically Finnish, we had to walk through a pine forest to get to the venue.

When we finally got there (it was a 40 min walk), I was greeted by a sight reminiscent of the time I went to the Laird Hotel in Melbourne...the place was full of shirtless, muscular, hairy men dressed in leather or army pants.

I tried not to gawp (too much).

I made my way pass the eye candy and headed to the main stage, where I got to see Queensryche and Accept perform their sets. Then it was off to look for some dinner.

I ended up with a plate of potatoes with sausages, onions, cheese and hunks of pork. It is suppose to be quite traditional: i.e. what Finns traditionally do with their left overs from the night before.

After gorging on the high carb, high fat meal, I made my way back to the main stage for the headline act, Judas Priest. Wow. What a show. There were flashing lights, various outfit changes, lots of smoke and flames, and even a motorbike. The audience went absolutely crazy (the only time I have seen Finns show any sign of emotion; Finns have such a poker face).

The people around me started to play air guitar (it's moments like this that I wish I had learnt a musical instrument). Towards the end of the set, the guy behind me started to do that head banging thing, whipping his long hair back and forth in a move that would make Willow Smith proud. A word of advice: do not stand too close in front of a guy with long hair doing head banging motions - I got myself a nasty bit of hair whippin!

Six hours after first walking into the venue, it was all over (Finland has very strict city noise laws). Getting out of the venue was like a pride march...I found myself shuffling out with all the half naked muscle men and the bears into the bright Finnish night.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Currently in the city of Tampere visiting with my friend's parents. My friend also bought me a ticket to the Sauna open air metal concert (yes folks, I traded Kylie in Melbourne for heavy metal in Finland).

Tampere is a beautiful city to the north of Helsinki, about 1 hour and 40 minutes by train.

Before we left for Tampere, we made a stop at the Hakaneimi markets in Helsinki to buy some fish to bring to my friend's parents. A bit of music trivia...the Hakaneimi metro station was made famous in a videoclip by the Bonfunk MCs (for the song Freestyler in the 90s). Here is a still from the clip. You can see the orange door of the station:

This is what the Hakaneimi markets look like above ground:

The fish section:

I bought a whitefish and an arctic charr. When we arrived at Tampere, my friend's dad popped both of the fish into his hot smoker. Twenty minutes later, we were tucking into a amazing fish dinner overlooking one of the big lakes that borders the city.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The endless, perpetual light

The lengthy days here in Finland are causing me to go to bed late and to wake up very early (earlier than usual). At this time of year, it doesn't get completely dark even at midnight.

When it's finally time for bed, I've tried closing the blinds and shutting all the curtains but both are quite ineffective at completely blocking out the light (for some reason, Finns don't have very heavy curtains covering their windows). Fortunately, I'm still able to fall asleep (I think 5 years living in the middle of a large city means I've grown quite accustomed to sleeping in brightly-lit environments.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Finnish food

The five basic food groups.

1. Fish

There is a huge fish-eating culture here. Although the cured herring makes me gag, I'm rather partial to hot smoked salmon and have been eating it almost every other day.

2. Berries

A favourite past time of Finns (young and old) is to go berry-picking in the forest during the summer. Wild strawberries and blueberries are my favourite.

3. Dairy

Finns sure love their dairy products. Everyone here seems to have a glass of milk with their main meal. Even better than regular milk is something the finns call piima...sour milk.

4. Rye

White bread is hard to find here in Finland. Rye is the default.

4. Salmiakki

Salty licorice (ammonium chloride). The same stuff comes spewing out of volcanos and gets left behind when you burn coal.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Finland Summer

1. long days
2. birds singing
3. everything is flowering
4. wildlife

1. perpetual light
2. nightingales singing in the middle of the night
3. hay fever
4. mosquitos

Friday, June 3, 2011

Slow worm

I just went for a walk and saw one of these (a lizard that looks like a snake that is known as a 'slow worm').

The Finnish sauna

Finns really love saunas.

The friend I was staying with in Turku has a private sauna in his actual apartment (even though the apartment itself is tiny). His parents are even more obscene: they have one sauna inside the house and another outside, in a separate building in the backyard!

Finns are proud to declare that the word 'sauna' itself is Finnish (pronunciation sounds something like 'sou-na'). Finns believe that saunas are very good for you. When I first arrived in Finland, I was told that women use to give birth in the sauna and that the sterile conditions meant there were less birth complications. People also like to drink beers and cook sausages at the sauna (though I soon realised that the grilling of sausages takes place OUTSIDE the sauna itself, on a nearby bbq...it is bad etiquette to grill sausages inside the sauna proper).

There is no such thing as modesty when it comes to a sauna session in Finland....you go naked. Here, is a chance to see all of your family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours naked.

"It's not a sexual thing", a Finn once told me.

"Yes", I replied "but it's more a nakedness thing."

(As an aside, I've once had to tell a Finn to avoid her local sauna back in Australia because it was being used as a sexual thing.)

But back to the Finnish sauna...for added pleasure, you can beat yourself with birch branches. Pine branches, though, are a definite 'no, no'. Alternatively, go to a public sauna to be washed by old, angry-looking finnish women (the kind that look like female hammer-throwers at the Olympics).

Alas, as much as I enjoy the sauna (It really does make one's skin feel smooth and subtle), it also gives me heart palpitations so I try not to do it too frequently.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I'm currently working at a research station near the city of Hanko, which is situated by the shores of the Baltic Sea in southern Finland. Here, the birch and pine trees grow right down to the water's edge. It's really beautiful. All that fresh air and nature...no wonder people from the nordic countries are consistently some of the happiest on earth.