Even though we came back from vacation a couple of weeks ago and I almost forgot we had it, I thought of putting a post about the trip with some photos. So, as it also says in the blog, we left on Monday, 10 April and we flew with GermanWings to Cologne-Bonn. We spent almost a day in Cologne, where the weather was very nice, the artists were out in the sun , the shopping area was very crowded, and we also met with Andreas , Dirk’s friend. Other interesting stuff: here are some perfume bottles from the first /second century: . Plus, in Cologne we saw the first blooming tree this year: ! After saying bye to Andreas and to Cologne, we traveled by train to Wittlich, where Dirk’s parents live. During the next days we went on various trips: to Idar-Oberstein (they have a huge amount of stones there, mostly semi-precious but also precious) , to Burg Eltz , to Cochem, and a few times to Bernkastel . We then spent the Easter with Dirk’s parents and his brother’s family and came back to Helsinki on Monday, the 17th.

Last night we saw “March of the Penguins”.

On one hand I was amazed about the things I saw in the movie and on the other hand I felt bad about how little I knew about the emperor penguins. Most of the documentaries I’ve seen so far focused too much on how cute they are and so on, so I had no idea what they go through to keep their species go on. The movie opened my eyes to lots of things I had no idea about: how they travel so far to breed, how the mothers leave the eggs with the fathers for months while they go to feed themselves, how the fathers have to stay without food for about four months and endure terrible weather while trying to keep the eggs warm, how the mothers return from their feeding trip exactly after the eggs hatch, how the fathers leave on the feeding trip after they transfer the chicks to the mothers, and so on.

While I found out new things, lots of questions came up after the movie:

* What happens to the penguin pairs that remain without a baby, either because they could not protect the egg well enough (it seems it happens in a quarter of cases) or because the mother could not protect the chick well enough? Do they still remain a pair, even though they have no child? Do they still remain at the breeding place or just go back to the sea?
* What happens when a mother does not return? Will the father just leave the chick to die and go to feed? Is a chick ever “adopted” by a childless mother?

I think the movie shows very well that not everything is perfect in nature. It is quite sad that the penguins’ “home” is in the water, but they cannot actually breed there, they have to endure terrible ordeal to go and breed somewhere far where the ice is thick enough to survive melting untill the chicks are big enough to go out to the sea on their own. I wonder how long it took them to find that breeding place and what will be the impact of the climate change on their routine.

Another thing: in the movie I realized how small these penguins are ! I always thought that they are tall but they seemed to be about knee-high or smaller!

Anyway, amazing movie! Quite a memorable experience for me.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” Albert Einstein

Since I have some time to kill now, I thought I would write an update on life in Finland 9 months after moving. While I cannot say I am as enthusiastic as I was at the beginning, I have not found anything fundamentally wrong here. I still like to live in Helsinki and we keep discovering places around: restaurants, cafes, and others. I am still amazed how different every house is, with all the ornaments and architectural style. As for language, I got so used that mostly everybody speaks English here that I am surprised when I find somebody that does not speak. I cannot say I am too much up-to-date with the Finnish news since we cannot understand what they say on TV. Well, we don’t even watch that much TV anyway. Maybe I also don’t care that much about what happens since I know nothing as stupid as signing anti-abortion bills or cutting education spending is going on here.

The weather is not my favorite but it has not been that bad. The worst time was in November-December when it was dark and there was not too much snow. Then from February on, the day started to get longer and it snowed quite often so it looked much nicer. Of course I would like to see some spring now, but I can still enjoy bright sunny days like today even though it probably was still around zero degrees.

One thing I don’t like here is that Helsinki is definitely not on the route for major tours. I assume it’s both because you need to use a boat to get here but also because there are not that many people to make it worth. Also, my first visit to the Finlandia Hall was a dissapointment: I did not like the hall at all, both as acoustic and as design. Modern design is fine but I still prefer concert halls that have more of a classic look than a sterile, hospital-like one. I will try the opera, maybe that will be nicer. Also, as I wrote on some previous blog entry, there is something weird about the Finnish audience: too many people get up and prepare to leave when it looks like the show is going to end. Still not sure what this is about. However, I really like the movie theatres: the screens are big and the seats are amazingly comfortable, not like in Boston where I hated to go to a movie because the chairs were terrible.

Helsinki is more of a small city, but I really like it so far. Also because of that! There are enough stores to keep you occupied for a while (recently, another big shopping center opened in the middle of the city, in Kamppi). I am not really missing anything here, in terms of shopping.

Speaking of missing, there are some things I miss from US: HD channels and Metropolitan Opera. However, the lack of HD TV channels would be a problem anywhere in Europe, since they seem to be so slow in adopting that. About the opera, we would probably have to move somewhere like Berlin or London 🙂

Overall, I am feeling good here. I never miss US and I got so used not hearing/seeing Bush on TV that I get startled when I acidentally see him. I appreciate the variety of channels from Europe that do not play the bullshit media game like in US. I sometime try to watch the same news on different channnels and then compare to CNN, just for fun, to see how the greatest US brainwashing channel choses to present the same thing 🙂

So, I got used to the superior quality of life here, all the little things around like: high-quality houses, modern public transportation, RF travel cards, no checks, credit card payment everywhere, real people (not fake overly nice service personnel), short flights to anywhere in Europe, goverment and people caring for the less fortunate, permanent residency card and social security rights, walking everywhere, and nice and relaxing cafes.

Today I had again the confirmation that moving to Finland has been a good move when it comes to getting help while living in a foreign country. I had to buy something from pharmacy and also get a fidelity card and the woman was so nice (not the US fake nice that makes you vomit, just naturally helpful and nice). Since we moved here in May, all the people in the service area we’ve met (including doctors) have been so kind to us and so easy to communicate with (except some minor bad experience with BMW service people). Yesterday, we had to call in US to a credit card company and we heard again the “Hiiiii, hoooow AAAARE you?” in such a fake tone that you felt sick. I really do not miss that… I don’t get why people say that Americans are nice just because they greet you with their fake platitudes. I prefer so much more Europe, even though sometimes you get some rude behavior from some waiters. But we’ve also seen rude behavior in US, so nothing unusual.
Just felt like putting this down since I did not write too much good about life in Finland lately. People have been asking if we still like it here: Yes, we really do. Some things at work got more annoying than they were last year, but Helsinki and the Finns have not dissapointed us so far.

Just read this article about an abortion ban bill being almost passed in South Dakota and freaked me out! It’s absolutely unbelievable that they can go back to the Dark Age of prohibiting women to have abortions! And who is yelling louder: men! I just remember the horror stories about the communist times in Romania when women had to go to the factory’s doctor every month to be checked if they are pregnant or not and then monitored so that they won’t have an abortion. Maybe that’s what the Americans should do. Just treat women as child factories. That’s their job anyway, isnt’s it?! Of course, nobody cares about the children or the mothers after they give birth. Nobody from the yelling self-righteous people will help them raise the kid, pay for the childcare and food. That’s not the point. They don’t actually care about the child anyway. They just care about the fetus! Then maybe they should take the children that are born from parents that cannot afford to raise them. Of course they will take them when they’re old enough to go to war and get killed!

“…It is, for example, incredible that wherever prime raw material is discovered, the locals die in misery, their sons become soldiers, and their daughters are turned into servants and whores. Hearing and seeing the same stories over and over makes me feel sick. After hundreds of years of slavery and colonisation of Africa, globalisation of african markets is the third and deadliest humiliation for the people of this continent. The arrogance of rich countries towards the third world (that’s three quarters of humanity) is creating immeasurable future dangers for all peoples.”

Hubert Sauper, director and writer of Darwin’s Nightmare – documentary film nominated for Oscars 2006

Last night we watched the short program for men figure skating in Turin. I am not sure anymore what this is about since it seems to me like most of the skaters, including Plushenko, do not even need a music for background because their steps do not match the music anyway. It’s true that for the past years I did not watch too much figure skating so maybe that’s the reason that it all looks more like a circus act now than skating. I liked a lot Johnny Weir and an Ukrainian, Anton Kovalevski, that got pretty bad grades but I found he had the best match of skating to music. Plushenko skated like a possesed person with a music that did not fit at all (except maybe at the beginning). Yes, his steps were impressive but nothing beautiful… I hope the free program will be better.

Some observation after going to two shows in Finland: more people than I’ve seen before get up and leave before the ending (when it just looks like it’s going to end). At the horse show, the horses were still in the arena and doing some good bye jumps when bunches of people started to leave. Is it fear of getting stuck in the traffic that gets out of the parking??!! It could be but it was not that bad anyway. Remembering some of the bad experiences from US (like trying to leave by car from the Tweeter Center in Mansford, MA) getting out from Hartwall Arena was nothing…
I noticed the same thing when we went to a Barbara Hendricks concert. Maybe it’s fear of staying in the line to get back the coat!
Whatever it is it’s just rude! Maybe that’s why not too many famous people come to Finland ! Or maybe they are like that because not too many famous people come to Finland 🙂 !