Thursday, December 27, 2012

Survived Doomsday

As many of you are aware no Doomsday happened on the 21st, in fact it was a normal day. There are still a few new agers saying things happened that day but are unable to provide any more solid evidence than 'look inside your heart' or 'do the research yourself'. Typical unintelligent response for these type of people.

Well I know I am writing this on Christmas day but this blog is not my Christmas blog, that will be separate and done on Boxing day or maybe the day after as here in Finland they have a 3 day celebration.

So the biggest thing that we have had since I last wrote was the graduation party for Tanja's best friend, Tiina. She graduated as an Engineer and Tanja had offered our apartment to hold a party so people could come and congratulate her. So this meant we had to get the entire flat shipshape. We had help from Sonja and Päivi on Wednesday, we got the place hoovered and most of the stuff away. Tanja got her hair cut whilst this was going on, so she was 'supervising'. On the Thursday we had the Finnish lesson at the chapel. I had a talk on Sunday and decided to give it in Finnish, so I took it with me to the class and spent the last 30 minutes giving it. It took me to whole 30 minutes but we'll practise it. Then we went to do our Christmas shopping as well as get ingredients to make 3 cakes for the party. We spent over 100€ on the Christmas shopping but we did buy cheese and other things that will be obviously more than for Christmas day.

The rest of Thursday night was used up making the three cakes. The first one was a plain three layered Strawberry cake. The second was Chocolate sponge with a middle plain layer filled with Banana & cream. The third cake is something they call a sandwich cake, it is a Finnish thing. It is bread with two layers of a ham, gerkin, mayo and mustard mix and then a layer with an egg butter mix. Then it is covered in cream and I am not entirely sure if I like it or not yet, very undecided; however Finns seem to love it. On the Friday I spent the day cleaning up the last bits, going over the kitchen a third time and just making sure the house looked and smelled nice.  Then at 4 Tiina and her family arrived so it was all hands to action stations for setting up for the party.

We covered up our table and put the food on it. Then Tanja unveiled the great plan.... she had earlier that week printed off loads of photos of Tiina, then she put them into picture frames and put them all over the house. Later on a few people commented that I was only in three photos in the entire house, so I know my place in this relationship.

People started arriving from 6 and within an hour the house was fully buzzing with people mingling. Tanja and  I went into the 'study' and called it the VIP room, several of our friends also joined us and we had a good laughed. We talked about all getting together on New Years Eve, how I was getting on in Finland, what everyone is up to, what we all doing over the xmas season and several other topics. Overall the night was very fun, I know I enjoyed it. 

Everyone left at coming up to ten, so as a reward Tanja and I decided on getting Pizza from town (Oulu really needs to get on the home delivery wagon). We managed to get the bus with five minutes to spare and ordered two pizzas from one of our frequent pizza places. After finding out that ten minutes outside in -20oC is a really long time, we got on a bus home. The driver was only going to the Hospital stop which is not far from our flat, about 7-10 minutes but as he got to the final stop he asked us where are we going, when we said we only live at the next stop and we were getting off here, he told us he will drive us to the next stop. That was nice, there are some nice bus drivers out there. Ate the pizza whilst watching the new Batman, it wasn't bad but I am not entirely a fan of the new Batman. Tanja was fast asleep on the sofa for almost the entire movie but it was because she was tired not because it was boring..... I think.

When Saturday came we didn't set the alarm for the first time in a while. It was Tanja's first day of the Winter Holidays. We didn't get up till after midday but I was so rested. We then had a visit from our home teachers who talked about Christmas Spirit and about how we can rediscover it. After a good discussion and general chit chat, they left. Then Tanja dyed Sonja's hair, whilst I went over my talk in Finnish. I got it down to 20 minutes first time but on attempting the second time I couldn't get my head around the words and became disheartened. I then gave it another try and still made it 20 minutes. I'm not entirely sure what we did for the rest of the day but I am sure we just chilled.

I woke up on Sunday and before even getting dressed I was reading my talk again to see if I could get it shorter than 20 minutes. This would be my last practise. I got it down to 16 minutes which I was thrilled with. I then got all suited and booted, grabbed both the English and Finnish versions of my talk and then we headed to church (Päivi, Tiinas mother was giving us a lift as she came to pick up a cake that was left on Friday). We asked the Branch President if it was ok if my talk took sixteen minutes as I wanted to do it in Finnish, he said ok. So I start at the front facing the congregation, the first time up front and before the whole thing starts I already start breaking out in cold sweat and my hands become clammy. So after the Sacrament  a musical piece by the missionary Sisters and Heidi Laitinen, it was my turn. I was not feeling well at all, my tummy felt like it was a butterfly park, my hands felt like they were not responding to my requests, my legs felt slightly weak. Well I couldn't back out now, I could change it too English but I had no translator ready and that would defeat the point of why Tanja translated it for me and my practising then asking the President for the extra time. So with a deep breath I put my head down and began to read. I heard a ripple of what appeared to be giggles but not giggles of mocking but of shock. I know when you are giving a public speech you are meant to address the audience but I was reading in a different tongue than my mother one. It was hard, I had to think about how every letter was pronounced  how the word was constructed and how to approach the next one. After what seemed like an age I finished my talk and got off the stage fairly quick, I passed the President who whisper Thank you. As I was getting to my seat I was thanks by three elderly ladies and then Tanja's Grandmother. I sat down next to my wife who showed me sixteen minutes and forty four seconds, not bad I thought. Tanja told me that when I started talking in Finnish, a lot of members turned to look at her, that must have been when I heard the giggles. Overall we thought it went well and I know many people got the drift of what I was saying. This was what I talked about:-

You are the light of the world
Good Morning Brothers and Sisters.
Please bare with me as I attempt to give this talk in Finnish. I originally was going to do a talk based on the Shepherd story presented in Luke 2, but as I was going through some research I had inspiration to do a talk on another subject.
In Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount he says 'Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.' That's Matt 5:14-16 (KJV). In the Nativity story the Shepherds went to see the newborn Jesus,“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.” These humble Shepherds became the First Evangelists of the Dispensation of the meridian of time. They left their flocks, a rare thing for Shepherds to do, obeyed the commandment receive from a heavenly messenger and then they testified of the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ.
We should be like the Shepherds of Luke, proclaiming the truthfulness, not shamed by the world we live in. We are living in an age where being a Christian is a stigma, there have been several articles this year alone where Christians have been persecuted because of their faith and not following the ways of the world.
What are some of the ways we can strengthen ourselves and become a beacon for others? We should continuously study the scriptures and apply them into our lives. In 2 Nephi 15:24 we are given this promise “And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.”, we are promised protection if we hold on to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We will also find it easier to hear the spirit and strengthen our testimonies. Our testimonies can be powerful tools in helping keep us strong in the face of adversity and also in spreading the Gospel.

We should pray often. D&C 19:38 tells us Pray always, and I will pour out my Spirit upon you, and great shall be your blessing—yea, even more than if you should obtain treasures of earth and corruptibleness to the extent thereof.” We are promised that be praying often we will be treasured by the spirit and receive blessing and are warned off the things of the world. This is similar to the warning Jesus told us about storing up worldly goods in Matthew 6:19.

Be Christlike. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” We cannot be a beacon onto the world if we are doing the same thing as those of the world. If we steal, we cannot tell others not to steal. Christ laid down the perfect example for us, Paul followed Christ's example as closely as he could and we should follow that example too. But we have to be wary of getting prideful in our Christ-likeness, we are warned in Matthew 6:2-4 “Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” So be humble. 
Jesus says in Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” So let us be a light unto the world, be able to stand out of the crowd and praise his name.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

After the whole service we went to the family home. Janne was not very well, sick the day before, and so he and his Mother stayed at home. The dinner was a nice stew with mash potato which I lapped up. When Tanja and I got home, we took a wee nap which lasted till nine at night, we slept a few hours over. The rest of the night was spent chilling. The next day we had to be up at nine so we could spend the day with the family, Christmas eve is the first day of Christmas here in Finland.

I will write another blog about my three days of Christmas soon, I hope you enjoy this and had a Merry Christmas. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fighting the Winter Blues

As you can guess from the title I have been feeling down lately. When you live in the UK and British Isles most of your life you think that 7 hours of light is not a lot and during the winter it gets dark quickly. However, in Finland at this time of the year we get just over 3 hours of light. Over the last 4 weeks I have seen the sun on 4 occasions and the night sky twice, the other times it has been white or grey clouds. I have suffered from Depression for a very long time but had over the last two years come to manage it fairly well, with little episodes every so often. However, it has slowly been creeping up on me since about October I think. Tanja has been very supportive of my mood swings, which go from very low to very high within minutes of each other, she has been joking about me being on PMS. So for the last four days we have been turning on a 'Bright light' an hour before having to get up and I have also been taking Vitamin D and Multi-vitamins in an effort to help my mood. As I speak, though, the clouds are breaking and we have a beautiful orangey-red sky. I know the old poem of 'Red Sky in the morning; Sailors Warning' but pfft..... I'm gonna see the sun! Hopefully.

Over the last few days a breeze has gotten up, it is like a normal Manx day breeze but here in Finland I have not felt much wind. With it, this breeze has brought a terrible chill. When you breath in with your mouth open your teeth tingle; when you breath through your nose it is like hundreds of tiny icicles are coming in. You learn new ways to keep yourself warm. Like tucking your t-shirt in and putting a jumper over that before your coat, giving you layers. Using a scarf to cover as much over the lower half of your face as possible and a hat to cover as much of the upper half as possible. Gloves become essential and I am grateful for the mittens I received from Tanja's Grandmother in February, they are ten times better than the thinsulate ones I had. The best thing I have in my arsenal of winter clothes is thermal underwear, basically Boxer shorts that go all the way down, so in effect boxer trousers ["or male leggings" -Tanja].  I put them on, tuck them into my socks and with my jeans over them my lower half is fairly comfortable in the cold outside. I can now understand why my father has a pair for winter in Belfast.

Tanja and I added another thing to our inventory of random things we have done. Alongside dropping a watermelon out of the window of the 5th floor, drawing a pen moustache on my face at a restaurant and other hilarious and random things ["like trying to explode a marshmallow in the microwave.." -Tanja], we produced and ate a doughnut burger. That's right, we made meaty burgers and got sugared doughnuts and then made a cheese burger with all the bits and bobs and then ate it..... why? Why not?! We were inspired by the movie 'Seeking a friend for the end of the world', it was a good movie, Tanja and Sonja were laugh-crying ["talk about the PMS.." -Tanja] at the end, I was sort of open mouthed, stunned.

Last night I went to chapel where the missionaries were holding a Family Home Evening. It was fun, we had a spiritual thought about how if we imagine people as they can become, rather than what they are, they can achieve greatness. So for an activity we had small cards with our names on it, then we passed them round the group. Everyone wrote something positive on the card. Well, I got mine back and someone called me Scottish........ really?.......... well he only met me once before, so I am sure I can forgive him. ["Dude, the same person called me 'a loving mum'!!!" -Tanja] To finish off the evening we went carolling in the near by neighbourhood, however in Finland door to door carolling is not common, in fact it is almost unheard of. So we didn't get anybody taking us up on the offer. I think it would be better if they went carolling somewhere, like in the city centre or outside a market instead of knocking on doors. We finished the night by getting Pan pizza in the centre, they were good. Finnish Pizza places don't really do Pan pizzas (Deep dish to those who don't know) but this place does a 24 cm one with any 4 toppings for 7€. I had Kebab, Chicken, Salami and Majoneesi (Mayonnaise but different from what we get in the UK). Tanja had Reindeer, Chicken, Blue Cheese and Onion. Both pizzas were good and we were both pleasantly full by the time we got home. On the subject of food, I had one of the nicest tasting meals just the other day, a taste from Tanja's childhood. Her family used to have Chicken legs cooked with rice (sort of porridge type rice), so we had this on Sunday. Tanja put it in the oven before we went to church and by the time we got home it had been about 3 and a half hours in the oven. The chicken was beautifully cooked and the rice had all the flavour of the chicken juices and with just a wee bit of salt and pepper it was out of this world. Well, shall we just say, there was nothing left in the pot. Also on the topic of food, Tanja and I bought a turkey for Christmas dinner as they were on offer at the German Shop (Lidl to those that don't know) but as we have no space in our freezer it is pleasantly sitting on the balcony and is still nicely frozen down to the fact it stays in the minus all the time. I have heard many people clean freezers out this time of year because the contents stay frozen outside whilst defrosting. I know we have used the cold outside to chill bottles of pop as it is quicker than in a fridge. 

I don't think there is anything else. Well, I will have to start writing on a notepad small bits and pieces so I don't forget them when it comes to writing my blog. Hope all my readers/friends are having a great time where ever they are and I will write soon. My beautiful wife is going to go over this blog before it is posted, so there  won't be any spelling mistakes this time. ["or as much, at least." -Tanja]
["My husband rocks!" -Tanja]

Monday, December 10, 2012

My first week of December

So I have survived my first week of December  The coldest it has been was -27oC on the 4th and the warmest it has gotten is a boiling -5oC. So as you can imagine I have been experienceing a different kind of weather than back home. I have even had my beard turn white and freeze, which was interesting to say the least. My upper body has been wrapped up very well with layers, however my bottom half has been suffering, so we recently bought two pairs of thermal underwear.

So the white stuff has arrived and not going away any time soon. Tanja and I got off the bus the other day and walked from the local hospital home (about 600 metres give or take) and I made a snow angel, which I instantly regretted on the count of how cold I got very suddenly. We also walked though about 2 feet of freshly fallen snow for no other reason than because I wanted to. Then Tanja attacked me with snow to the face, the joy we both had that night, even though we were freezing by the time we got in.

This past week also saw Itsenäisyyspäivä (Independence Day), a very important day in the Finnish calender and history. For the first time since the 12th century Finland became free from any controlling body (it had been part of the Swedish and Russian Empires). When the October Revolution gathered steam and had taken over most of the industrialised part of Russia, the Bolsheviks issued a declaration for rights of self-determination, which included secession. On November 15th 1917, the same say as the Bolshevik declaration, the Finnish Parliament issued a statement claiming sovereign rights for Finland. A Declaration of Independence was drawn up and was formally accepted on December 6th 1917. The newly formed 

Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic officially recognised the Republic of Finland on January 4th 1918, being the first country to do so. However the newly formed Republic was not to be left in peace, only 52 days after they became a sovereign nation, a bloody civil war erupted. However that's for another blog.

So what happens in Finland on Independence Day? Well for starters almost everywhere closes, of course the usual essential services are open. There is also parades held at war memorials around Finland and a big religious service held at Helsinki Cathedral. I attended the Oulu parade at the memorial, it was very cold and we were stood outside for only 30 minutes but standing still meant it felt like longer. Various groups laid wreaths on the main memorial and 2 other memorials in the cemetery. I noticed that Finnish Soldiers march a lot differently to British soldiers, I thought it looked like they were swinging their arms in a joyous manner. 
The current President and the three previous ones with their spouses. The last time four Presidents were together  at the ball was in 1974 (I think)
Father and Daughter
All suited and booted

So not much more has happened (that I can think off). Oulu river is frozen over but not enough to walk on, the sea is also starting to freeze over. Winter is truly set in now.

We also watched the Finnish classic, Tuntematon sotilas (Unknown Soldier), a film adapted from the novel of the same name by Finnish author Väinö Linna. The film revolves around Machinegun Company's experiences during the Continuation War of 1941-'44 between Finland and the Soviet Union. The novel is based on Linna's own experiences from the war. It may be fictional but is considered to be realistic, very gritty and shocking in places.

The highlight of the day is the Linnanjuhlat (Castle Ball), a reception held at the Presidential palace. It is broadcasted on TV and many Finns get together and watch the some 2000 guests (this year there was 1,800) line up and shake hands with the President and First Lady whilst criticising the dresses that people wear. I have to say there were some interesting gowns present and I did enjoy the 'show' but didn't understand a word that was being said.

The previous day I had attended with Tanja a concert held by a Military Band, it is in honour of Veterans of Finland's wars. The theme for the night was Finnish Composer Jean Sibelius. I really did love the performance.

I also got turned down for a job for the first time. I was a small term job at the place when Tanja and I got married. They wanted someone who was fluent in Finnish, but it's ok, these things will happen but something will come up. I did make my first €30 though, which was an upside. Myself and a Friend did a Build a Burger lunch at a local University project called the Business Kitchen. We only had 20 people interested when we went to buy the stuff on the Tuesday (4th) but had 30 people turn up on the day and everything was eaten. We noticed a few things that we will need to improve upon next time, like more plates and cutlery. Better service times and sittings, an more equal control of the product. We are hoping to do a tex-mex day in the first few weeks on January. So with that money I took my wife out to a Chinese Buffet. It was very nice but I felt so stuffed at the end of it. We also got out 'Brave' from the video shop, a good movie but the storyline wasn't that original.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

..... Then I took an x-ray to the Knee!

Like the title suggest I recently had an x-ray on my knee. In August 2011, my knee gave way after going out with some friends bowling. I went to hospital and spent two weeks on crutches before returning to work. However the knee has been giving me trouble ever since, days when it locks completely and I cannot walk very far, the problem is though the waiting list on the Island was 2 years. I went to see a doctor here in Finland last week who described my leg as 'löysä' which as you can probably work out means loose. Tanja told me she could actually see my leg moving when the doctor was pulling on it. So after the appointment we scheduled to go for an x-ray on Tuesday morning at 0740, which is not the best time to go for x-ray as you are half asleep when the technician is giving you instructions to follow. The results came the other day saying there is no sign of fractures but there is damage and so I am now in a queue to see Orthopedics.

I am still waiting for Kela to process my paper, which is annoying as it has been there for a month now and I cannot get any support until it goes through. I am planning on plastering the town next week with my CV to see if any place needs a chef, even if it is for the holidays.

I am not sure if I told you all but my wife has put me on a fish fingers and noodle diet because I told her it was my favourite food and she wants to see how long it will take for me to get sick of it. I am currently on my second week of it, but am lucky because we eat out at family every week. On Tuesday evening Tanja made me Fish Fingers and Noodle pizza, it tasted..... interesting to say the least. As you can tell from the pictures it is very yummy.

It has been mega cold all this week, not been any warmer than -10. It has been so dry too, I go outside and within minutes my ears are stinging if I am not wearing a hat and my hands turn a curious shade of blue without gloves. I will see this winter as a learning experience, of that I have no doubt.

I was invited to the school again this Thursday but instead of giving a talk, I was there to help cook with students of my Father in Law's class. At first it was like trying to get blood from a stone getting the students to do the work but soon they settled down and all but one contributed to the dinner. Overall we made cottage pie (but tomato based and topped with parsnip mash), coleslaw (made with yoghurt), bread rolls and Apple Crumble. The students loved eating the final result. It was fun for me too, even if most of my contribution was hand signing and pointing. On the same day we went to the parents house and made deep fried mars bars, I had made them for Jani before he left for England and now Mother and Father wanted a try. Mini Mars bars work a lot better than full size ones if you don't have a deep fat fryer I discovered. We also deep fried some strawberry chocolate, it wasn't half bad.

Not much has happened. It is the first of December so I have brought up the Xmas decorations from the basement, it is snowing outside, which means soon it will be a white blanket and I can create my massive ice lolly for no reason other than I want too. The rivers are freezing over and so the sea cannot be that far off. So till I write again my friends, have superfun.