Dog days

Now in Tampere, my pretty much only daily task is walking the dog. Easier said than done!

About to go for a walk

The dog is incredibly lazy – after hours of lying on the bed, or on a chair in the balcony, I’ll have to persuade her to go out.

Pit stop on the driveway

Yes, people do find it funny that the dog will go lie down and refuse to move.

Pause to watch the scenery

Although I am a woman of action and a rather brisk walker, I and Sophie share one interest: berries. So, I take a “beard gaffer” (Greek yogurt) container with me when we go out, and then we are in harmony – she eats as I pick, mostly blueberries but also raspberries.

Maybe this years’ last raspberries, self-picked from Pyynikki

Life is all about compromises.
Ps. a small box of blueberries costs probably around 5€. Win-win!

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Nihon go go

Going to Japan is not just a matter of hopping on a plane and buckling up, for me at least. Specially if one wishes to spend more than 3 months in the bedazzling country, some -and by some I mean more than a few sheets of- paperwork is required. If you’re a lucky citizen of Finland, you have to deal with the bureaucracy of the social services, too.

For a student, you first have to get accepted by a Japanese school. After applying to a school via your own school’s exchange program, or independently straight to the desired school you want to enroll, they will send you a Letter of Eligibility after approval. You will need to take the Letter of Eligibility with you when you go to the Consulate (which in Finland means a trip to Helsinki). The Embassy will also need a Visa application, which you will print and fill out the best way you can (I have no clue who is my recommendator or who invited me to the country). You also need to bring 27€ cash, your passport, and a passport picture. I went to get my visa yesterday, and now I have a certificate in my passport that should allow me to stay in Japan for a year. If I wish to travel elsewhere after arriving to Japan, I need to get a special re-entry permit. When arriving to Japan, I will hopefully also get an alien registration card.

Random break from all the bureaucracy stuff: art!

Knitted police car in Kiasma museum of modern art, Helsinki

On my visa trip I also met my friends going to their exchange, and two of my cousins! I also saw the car pictured above – all in all it was a good trip!

Back from the infomercials:
For the social services in Finland, KELA, you need to present a paper that your studies in Japan (or whatever target country) are related to your studies in Finland. These papers will be found somewhere from the Internet, and after printing they need to go through the school’s International Office before being sent to KELA. You also have to fill out a form stating that you’re leaving the country, but will be back in less than a year. When you get back, you have to tell them you are home again. I just happened to buy a one way ticket, which means I have no clue when I will be back in Finland. Therefore, after my school ends, I will be cut from the Finnish social security system. Nice.

Of course the school in Japan will want loads of information about you, even after you have been accepted. They want several plus a few more passport pictures, too. I was lucky APU only wanted basic health information and vaccination records (which were not easy to get in July from Manhattan), and not x-rays of my lungs, like some other schools.

I highly recommend a to do/checklist, so it is easier to keep on track of the progress of affairs. Studying some Japanese wouldn’t probably hurt, either! My next step is to buy a power adapter.

Living dead walking

The living dead came to surprise and scare (and maybe also amuse) people on a sunny Saturday evening in the city centre. Crazy doctors, nurses, brides and other creatures gathered together and dragged themselves from the Tammerkoski rapids to the end of Hämeenkatu and to Näsinpuisto, which is basically the whole city center of Tampere.

Zombie bride

I happened to join the crew by a quick decision – heck, who doesn’t love fake blood and scars?

Pretty pretty, though probably not my best day

Since I was feeling like a zombie already, it was fun to actually get to look like one! This was the longest it has ever taken me to walk Hämeenkatu, or every other street, for that matter.

There was quite many kid zombies, looking for brains

I could have my own one person zombie walk every week!

Preparing for war

Skydiving can be something more than a hobby

My brother is currently in the Utti jaegaer regimen, which is probably the hardest and most challenging army training in Finland. He’s running up and down the hills, swamps and the hardest terroirs with 30kg backpack and gear in for 12 hours a day, standing in form for 3 hours straight after that, and God knows what else. Men throwing up and passing out is not bizarre, and their minds are constantly tested with encouragements to leave the service.

Latest fashion in scuba gear and forest-look

This Saturday the 44 jaegaers of this year gave their military vows. After marching, parade, few hyms and walking around with flags the platoons showcased their weapons, gear and had a demo of skydiving jumps (the jaegaers jumped off a bench, rolled on the ground and were rewarded with push-ups if the rolling wasn’t done in proper manner). I had not seen my brother since before he started his training in June, so I was rather anxious to get to measure his biceps and punch him in the stomach to see how hard his pecks were.

The soldier in good form, with his neat closet

The soldiers got to go on their weekend holiday at exactly 2 pm, even though we were done eating (pea soup and pancake with strawberry jam, the every Thursday-tradition on a Saturday) after 12.30. So, we waited and waited, then finally got to take our soldier home for 2 days.

Back in New York, I came across something different military-wise. I wonder how these conditions would work today.

Camp style from the American Civil War (Governor’s Island)
America’s finest

I Scream for Ice Cream (and other cold stuff)

Despite the mostly rather chilly or even freezing temperatures in Finland, Finnish people eat 13,7 liters of ice cream a year. In New York, with temperatures rising to 30’s Celcius (100 F), it is not hard to believe that ice cream (and shaved ice, italian ice, gelato and frozen yogurt) is everywhere to be found.

I have not tried all of the following, since I seem to be most fond of the most dangerous places for a person with bottomless cravings and a limited budget: self serve frozen yogurt stores. My favorite place to get my fix in New York was 16 Handles. Perfection depends on the daily flavors and the combination you create with the toppings, though, but the possibilities of combination are endless!

In Merrick I heard a lot of different ice cream truck tunes, so I wanted to see how many different trucks there are. In Finland, we just have one blue truck that plays the same jingle everywhere.

Mr. Softee is probably the biggest ice cream truck chain. Selection includes ices, cones and soft serve ice cream
YoGo is also popular, serving frozen plain or vanilla yogurt with optional toppings
This truck I have only seen once. The price is over half less than in some other places – wonder why?

Some interesting non-trucks:

Old fashioned ice creams and popsicles for refreshment in Central Park
Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches are upper scale offspring of two traditional treat combinations
People’s pop’s shaved ice with syrup
Big Gay Ice Cream shop had a line of few dozen people, when I visited

In Finland the ice cream market is dominated by two big companies, Valio and Arla Ingman, both offering mainly the basic cream based ice cream in ridiculously high prices. There are some smaller companies, like the ice cream factories of Tampere and Helsinki, but the prices are even higher. If you can buy 4 liters of ice cream from the shop for the price of one scoop, what’s the point? Helsinki is lucky to have I guess 2 frozen yogurt places, but they are the only places in this country, and I haven’t visited either of them. Soft serve ice cream, with three optional flavors (vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, who would have guessed), is available all over.

Couldn’t be happier, even though the homeless guy next to us claimed that we were on his turf

Wonder what kind of delicacies Japan will offer – in New York, Japadog offered ice cream inside hot dog buns and called that Japanese. I know there is green tea ice cream, and I hope froyo is also available!