Woman vs Finnish

I’ll keep this short and sweet. The past two months have felt like I’ve been in the boxing ring with Finnish…yes, the language! Unfortunately, I do not hold the Finnish language in the same high regards as I do Finnish people. Finns are friendly, welcoming and extremely helpful. The Finnish language is confusing, has words that are miles long, and the second you think you’ve found a pattern and could possibly be having that “ah-ha” moment, it goes and completely changes on you! It’s THE hardest language to learn! I mean Rosetta Stone offers Swahili, but not Finnish?!?! That says a lot, don’t you think!?!

Finnish – 1. Woman – 0. Finnish, we’ll continue meeting in the boxing ring! Even if it takes me a lifetime (which it will!), I will one day, knock you out!

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Welcome Home, Luna!!

Good morning, mommies!

I’ve presented hundreds of ideas to Wife. Ideas ranging from multiple career alternatives to going back to school for additional degrees to moving apartments to finding the perfect dining room table for a New York City apartment the size of a shoe box. Usually, she’ll let me sit with whatever new idea I have for three days so I can think it through and if I’m still thinking or talking about it after the three days are up, then we’ll discuss it further; but more often than not, I realize it was a dumb idea or completely unrealistic. What can I say? I’m a dreamer and always looking for the next best thing.

Well, there are a handful of ideas that have actually made it past those three days, one of which is getting a dog. We were ready for a dog back in New York City, but our management company didn’t allow us to have pets in our apartment. Luckily, our wonderful landlord in Helsinki said yes to a small dog.

As you know, the past six weeks have been quite busy. Not only have I been getting all my paperwork in order, looking for a job, and going to Finnish class (and yes, it is coming along very slowly and will continue that way for quite some time!), I’ve also been looking for a dog! We’ve been monitoring a few websites and checking them almost every day.

About a week ago, we thought we had found the perfect rescue dog from Spain. She was an adorable two-year old short-legged Jack Russell. After submitting the application, we come to find out she already had a home…update your website, people! Well, I guess the little Spanish rescue dog wasn’t meant to be the perfect addition to the Brockmann family. Back to searching I went…

Welcome home, Luna!

Yesterday, as Wife was making brunch, I checked one of the websites I monitored religiously and there she was, the future Luna Brockmann. The cutest looking 4 months terrier mix. That adorable little scruffy dog had to be ours. Long story short, Wife emailed the owner, 30 minutes later, Wife and the owner were on the phone, three hours later…And then there were three…welcome home, Luna!

What?!

Nap time!

Great Weekend!!!

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Helsingin Tuomiokirkko (Helsinki Cathedral)

Last weekend was quite the busy weekend! Thanks to amazing weather and our flat finally being complete (we couldn’t fathom the idea of going to Ikea for the sixth time or to the hardware store or any store having to do with decorating our flat, for that matter!), Wife and I ventured out into the city. On Saturday, we walked from Kallio to Kauppatori and stopped at a few places in between. In my previous visits to Helsinki before moving here, I had walked past the Helsingin Tuomiokirkko (Helsinki Cathedral) in the Senate Square, but had never actually stopped and really taken in its beauty.

Suomenlinna

Next, we made our way to Kauppatori, a market square in the center of Helsinki where we took the ferry to Suomenlinna, a fortress located about 20 minutes from Helsinki. The fortress, originally named Sveaborg, was constructed by the Swedes in the 1740’s in order to protect Finland from Russian expansion. It kept the Russians at bay until 1808 when the Russians finally succeeded and took over the fortress during the Finnish War. The Russians occupied Finland until 1917 when Finland finally gained its independence. The fortress was renamed Suomenlinna, which means Castle of Finland in 1918. How’s that for a short, but sweet history lesson?! Suomenlinna is one of my favorite places in Helsinki. I can’t wait to go back in the summer for picnics!

Kauppatori – Helsinki Herring Festival

On Sunday, Wife, cousin-in-law and I went to the annual Helsinki Herring Festival. Once again, we made our way to Kauppatori, a very packed market square with people from various surrounding islands selling an array of herring to Finns and tourists alike. Wife and I brought two delicious samples home (not sure the flavors, but they were so good!).

Kauppatori – Helsinki Herring Festival – Muikku

While at the festival, I had Muikku for the very first time. Muikku are tiny little fish that are fried whole (YES, eyes, organs, scales…everything!) and served with seasoned butter. I must say, it’s an acquired taste…I’m glad I finally tasted them, though I’m in no rush to have them again any time soon.

Rakkauden Silta, the Bridge of Love

On our way home, we stopped by Rakkauden Silta, the Bridge of Love, located in Katajanokka, where couples “lock” a lock onto the bridge and throw the key into the water, symbolizing their love and commitment to one another. How sweet is that?!! Of course Wife and I are going back and adding our own lock!

Last weekend was definitely a great one! I can’t wait for many, many more weekends like it!

Email Exchange – September 28, 2011

On September 28, 2011, Appiukko emailed me the following:

Moi Diana!

Kiitos syntymapaiva onnitteluista.Mukava kun “muistutitte” minua vanhenimisesta.

Oletko jo aloittanut suomen opiskelun taas kesanjalkeen?Vastaan nain kun en

ole facebookin ystava,luen kuitenki mita te kirjoittelette heh.

Paljon kaikkea hyvaa teille!

ps.day oli ihana

T:Appiukko

In order to be able to “understand” his email, I used online translator and this is what I got:

Hi Diana!

Thanks to syntymapaiva for his kind words. Nice when you reminded me of vanhenimisesta.

Have you already started the Finnish study, on the other hand, kesanjalkeen? Against the nain when I ystava, I read there was no Facebook mita you kirjoittelette heh.

Much everything hyvaa you!

PS. the day was wonderful

T:Appiukko

This is my response to Appiukko:

Moi, Appiukko

I am so happy you had a nice birthday! I wish we could have been there to celebrate with you. I am starting my Finnish lessons again soon, but this time I am going to try to learn on my own, maybe I will learn better that way instead of in a class setting. I hope to be able to speak to you in Finnish one day!

Love!

Diana

In order for Appiukko to be able to “understand” my email, he used online translator and this is what he got:

Moi, Appiukko

Olen niin iloinen, oli mukavaa syntymäpäivää! Toivon, että olisimme voineet siellä juhlia kanssanne. Olen alkanut Suomen oppitunteja pian uudelleen, mutta tällä kertaa aion yrittää oppia omasta, ehkä oppii paremmin näin sijaan luokan ympäristössä. Toivon puhua Suomen yhdessä päivässä!

Rakkaus!

Diana

For English speakers, this is what Appiukko actually read

Hi There, My Father-in-law Snowman

I’m so glad you had a nice birthday! I hope that we could have been there to celebrate with you. I’ve started the Finnish lessons soon again, but this time I’m going to try and learn on their own, perhaps on the other hand, the class learns better in this environment. I hope to speak Finnish in one day!

Love!

Diana

“I hope to speak Finnish in one day!” Wow! Now that’s ambitious! OH…and where did “Snowman” come from??? Thanks, online translator!

 

28.09.12 – What A Great Day!

Letter from the Helsingin Poliisilaitos

Well, last Friday, the 28th of September, Finland once again proved its greatness! I came home from Finnish class and found a letter from the Helsingin Poliisilaitos (the Finnish Immigration Police) addressed to me. I immediately knew what this was regarding and called Wife at work…there was NO way I was opening this letter by myself…what if it was all in Finnish?!?! I wouldn’t have the slightest clue if I was holding a good letter or bad letter in my hand! I guess it’s not like in the States when you’re waiting to hear from colleges/universities to see if you got in or not…if you receive a nice, thick 9×12 envelope you know you’re in – that’s your acceptance letter along with your welcome packet! If it’s a regular, thin #10 envelope, well, you might as well not open it…who wants to read a rejection letter!?! At least that’s how it seemed when I was applying to schools…18 years ago!!

Anyways, back to the letter from Helsingin Poliisilaitos – so Wife and I are on the phone and my hands are shaking as I’m opening the envelope. Letter in hand, I’m trying to see if I can read anything…finally, half way down I see a sentence stating, “A decision has been made regarding your status.” Okay, what’s the decision?!?! APPROVED??? DENIED??? My brain was clearly not registering the following sentence, “Please stop by to pick up your resident permit card…”

“Ohmygod! Ohmygod! I got it!!! I got it!! I’m a Finnish resident!!” I yelled into the phone once it finally hit me! With tears streaming down my face, I jumped up and down while Wife was on the other end of the phone trying to contain her excitement…she was, after all, at work! As soon as we hung up the phone, I called Helsingin Poliisilaitos to confirm I could really just drop by and pick up my resident permit card…yes, as long as I came by 4 pm, they close at 4:15 pm…enough said, I was on my way!

Wife’s official Welcome to Finland!

With my resident permit card safely in my possession, I raced back home, picked up our bags and met Wife at the train station. We were going to Imatra for the weekend to celebrate Appiukko’s birthday. Wife never ceases to surprise me with her sweetness! An official “Welcome to Finland” awaited me at the bar!

I must point out why Finland once again proved its greatness on this day. Not only did I get my resident permit, but I got it in EIGHTEEN days!! EIGHTEEN DAYS! It took me nearly ten years to get my U.S. citizenship!! Well, I think that says it all.

It’s The Little Things…

So when I went to Sampo Pankki, where I opened my bank account, I was asked what design I wanted on my bankcard. As I looked through all the options, I almost jumped with joy when I saw the second to last option was a Marimekko design! I practically yelled, “that one!” as I almost clapped my hands like a two year old being given a lollypop!

For those that don’t know, Marimekko is a very famous Finnish company that designs textiles, housing goods (ie – bedroom, kitchen, bathroom stuff), bags, clothes, etc. Most people recognize the Unikko (poppy) print pattern.

Unikko (poppy) print pattern

Well, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Marimekko!! I would decorate our entire flat in Marimekko if we could afford it…yeah, it could be a little pricey. So for now, I’ll have to settle for the few Marimekko things we have here and there and of course, my new Marimekko bankcard which I get to enjoy every day! It’s the little things…

The Move is Officially Complete!

One of my favorite parts about moving is buying new furniture! And we did just that last Wednesday. Wife and I ventured to Ikea…when in Rome, do as the Romans do, right?! After Wife’s morning work meeting, we picked up a cute, box shaped, blue van and made our way to Ikea in Vantaa. We had a list of essential items – ie – mattress, bedframe, bookcase, coffee table, side tables…to name a few. We managed to get most of the things on the list, as well as a few extra things that we saw along the way…

Shopping at Ikea

We had the van for 8 hours and had to make a number of stops before returning the van promptly at 9 pm. Aside from the trip to Ikea, we also had to go buy a flat screen TV and pick up an enormous canvas of New York City (it’s practically the size of our queen bed!) from my cousin-in-law’s flat (yep, already using “flat” instead of “apartment!” It sounds so much more European!).

The fact that it was a rainy Tuesday afternoon in Helsinki didn’t really help matters when loading and unloading the van. But Wife and I rolled up our sleeves and got to work. It took us about an hour to unload every last piece. We were actually able to return the van with plenty of time to spare!

Seven boxes arrived via cargo

On Friday, I went to the airport to pick up our seven boxes from cargo. Everything went so smoothly and as you can see, all seven boxes arrived in great condition! I wouldn’t expect anything less from the Finns. The nice lady at cargo even ordered me a huge taxi that would fit all these boxes so they could make their way to their new Kallio home.

Wife and I have spent the last few days bringing our flat to life and making it feel more like home. We have most of the things we need, but a move is never complete without a second (or third) trip to Ikea…guess what the Brockmanns will be doing this Saturday!?!

Time to study!

In other news, I started intensive Finnish lessons yesterday (or Finnish “experiments”, as online translator likes to refer to them!). With classes three days a week, 2.5 hrs/day, I’m hoping I’ll at least learn basic Finnish and be able to “get by”…or at least to be able to introduce myself! Good thing I already know one of the most important sentences…”Yksi (kaksi, kolme, nelja…) olut, kiitos!” 🙂

Email Exchange – May 6, 2011

On May 6, 2011, Appiukko emailed me the following:

Rakas “Miniä” Diana!

To day Happy Birthday 34v. and”fraiday” jes. To day shampanjaa and food red vin!

Olet vuotta viisaampi ja myös vanhempi. Olet aina herttaisen iloinen olet paras!

Terveisiä keväisestä Suomesta ja juhlikaa …

T:Appiukko

In order to be able to “understand” his email, I used online translator and this is what I got:

My Dear Daughter-in-law Diana!

To day Happy Birthday 34v. andfraiday ISA. To day champagne and food red vin!

You have a year wiser, and also older. You are always glad you are the best herttaisen!

Greetings from Finland and keväisestä juhlikaa …

T:Appiukko

This is my response to Appiukko:

Moi, Appiukko

Thank you, thank you! It’s Friday and my birthday, what a great day! Sako has a surprise planned for me, I wonder what it is! Can’t wait to find out! Have a great weekend!

Love,

Diana

In order for Appiukko to be able to “understand” my email, he used online translator and this is what he got:

Moi, Appiukko!

Kiitos, kiitos! On perjantai ja minun syntymäpäivä, mitä suuri päivä! Sako on yllätys minulle suunnitellut, ihmettelen, mitä se on! Ei voi selvittää jaksa odottaa! Hyvää viikonloppua!

Rakkaus,

Diana

For English speakers, this is what Appiukko actually read

Hey man, the Father-in-law!

Thank you, thank you! Is Friday and my birthday, what a great day! Sako is a surprise to me, I wonder what it is designed for you! Cannot be resolved to get tired waiting! Good week end!

Love,

Diana

“Sako is a surprise to me” really??? Thanks, online translator!

 

We’re Here!!

Well, the Brockmanns have officially moved to Finland! I still can’t believe it. Someone pinch me so I know it’s not a dream because it sure feels like one!

After a very long day of traveling, we finally made it to Helsinki on Monday afternoon. It was a rainy and slightly chilly day in the city, but it still welcomed us with open arms. A very nice cab driver drove us to our new home. Wife had found the apartment two days before she returned to New York after her 5-week directing job in July. I had seen photos, but was still anxious to see the real thing. The moment I stepped foot in the apartment, I felt right at home; I was running from room to room like a little kid in a candy store…and the apartment has a big balcony, something I’ve always wanted…Wife did good!

My in-laws had driven all the way from Imatra, about 3.5 hours East of Helsinki, two weekends in a row to paint the walls (with the help of my brother-in-law), clean every inch of the place and stock the fridge/kitchen with the Finnish essentials – kahvi (coffee); makkara (sausage); maito (milk); salad makings; ruisleipä (rye bread); Vichy (sparkling water); suklaa (chocolate); appelsiinimehu (orange juice); and of course, olut (beer) and a bottle of bubbly so we could toast to our new abode! They also brought Wife’s stuff from her old Finnish apartment (glasses, dishes, flatware, coffee mugs, towels, bed sheets, etc.) and picked up a new couch for us. Words can’t begin to describe how grateful we are.

As exhausted as we were, we managed to unpack over 250 lbs. of luggage.  If you added up all the storage space in this apartment, it would add up to the square footage of a small studio apartment in New York City (I may have to go shopping just to fill up the closet space! Kidding, Wife…sort of ;)).

Over 250 lbs. of luggage

To our surprise, the Rainbow Family (two of the most amazing people I know along with their adorable boys…two white Westies, the baby, John Lennon and the wise one, Ukko, who’s birthday is today…Onnea!) came over late night to personally welcome us! Have I mentioned how much I love the Finns?!?!

John Lennon & Ukko. Photo courtesy of Niko Hänninen

The Brockmanns were up bright and early yesterday morning. We had a long list of things we had to accomplish before the day was over…forewarned, you may feel exhausted after reading this! First, we started with a tram ride down to Maistraatti, the local register offices or magistrate. Wife was able to register herself back into Finland, but since I don’t have a Finnish social security number yet I was denied…I already knew this would happen, but it still felt a little discouraging. From there, we took the tram to the bank, first of three visits that day, so Wife could deposit her U.S. dollars (I was scheduled to open my bank account later that day).

Matkakortti

Our next stop was Helsingin Seudun Liikenne (HSL), the Helsinki Regional Transportation office, so I could get my Matkakortti (tram/bus/subway card); next, a train ride took us to the Malmin Poliisilaitos, the Finnish Immigration Police that handles resident permits for foreigners, where I anxiously handed over my application (now I get to wait anywhere from one to five months for their decision…and we all know how patient I am!! Hopefully it will be a positive one!).

iPhone

From there, a quick train ride brought us to Tector, an Apple reseller, so we could purchase iPhone 4S’s at retail price since all mobile phone carriers in Helsinki have run out of iPhones…really??? (A huge thanks to our dear friend that called and had them set aside the last TWO in the store!)! With very expensive iPhones in hand, we stopped at this dear friend’s home for a quick cup of coffee before taking the train back to the city so we could go to Verotoimisto, the tax administration offices, so Wife could get a form she needs for her work that starts on Thursday, but the line was too long and would’ve caused us to miss my appointment at the bank; we grabbed a quick bite to eat instead. A subway ride from Kaisaniemi to Kamppi (yeah, we know it’s a short walk away, but we were racing against time) took us to the bank where I finally opened my bank account, though we would have to go to yet another banking branch where they would convert USD’s into Euros so I could deposit my money. Once my money was secured in my account, we went back to Verotoimisto to see if the line was moving any faster…no such luck…so off we went to the mobile carrier to set up our iPhones…YAY, I had my Finnish phone number!

Before heading home, we stopped at S-Market for some dinner makings (Atrian Pippurinen Broilerin Rintafilee = Finnish chicken (that’s what I call peppery, honey flavored chicken…my favorite!) and of course, we had to make a quick stop at Alko for some wine! Phew…after 10 hours of running around the city, we were finally home!!

It takes a lot to establish residency in a new country!

Today is another busy day for the Brockmanns (we wouldn’t have it any other way!)…it’s furniture shopping day!

Not to mention, for the first time in a long time, I’ve slept like a rock the last two nights…maybe it has something to do with living in Kallio (“rock” in Finnish!)?! 😉

Preparations Are Well Underway!!

Week View

As I was preparing to get ready for the move, I knew I had to find the PERFECT iPhone app that wouldn’t let not even one task fall through the cracks. Since my iCal app on my laptop is synced with my Google calendar, I needed a calendar app that would sync my Google calendar, iCal and iPhone perfectly. They all had to be mirror images of one another. After days spent reading reviews and emailing the customer service department at Readdle regarding their Calendars app (I’m sure they regretted the day they responded to my email!) and driving Wife a little crazy, I was convinced that the Calendars app was the perfect one for me! I was right!

I’m ready!

Now, with three short days left until the big move, it’s crunch time and thanks to the Calendars app, we’re right on schedule! Furniture is sold and waiting to be picked up; utilities are scheduled to be canceled; boxes are packed and ready to be taken to JFK cargo; check-in luggage (a total of 250 lbs worth of clothes, shoes, belts, etc!) are ready to go; and carry-on bags packed with our most valuable possessions (our penguin collection – the breakable ones, our champagne wedding flutes, and soon, this very Macbook Pro I’m typing on) are inching their way to the front door.

Packing

U.S. Passport Photo Requirement

Finnish Passport Photo Requirement

Aside from packing, we’ve also been preparing for my Finnish resident permit application. The other day, I spent all afternoon trying to get passport photos – Finnish size. Every place I would go to could only do U.S. sized photos! Seriously, U.S. DOES NOT equal universal! With my patience wearing thin but still not willing to give up, I walked into what felt like a photo store from the early 90’s (they still developed 35mm film in an hour!). I handed the photo specifications over to the clerk at the counter expecting him to say they only did U.S. sized passport photos, but when he told me they could make Finnish sized ones, I almost jumped over the counter and hugged him…Finally, my application would be complete! Fingers crossed that all goes well and I get my resident permit!

I wonder how long it’ll take for me to realize I’m not vacationing in Finland, rather LIVING in Finland?!?!

OMG! My next post will be from Helsinki! Stay tuned!