Year away

A year ago I packed my stuff in boxes and showed them to my dad’s tiny attic, piled all that I thought necessary in my old backpack, and left for a trip that was intended to be 2 months of yoga in Bali, then a bit of Vietnam and back home. A year later I did not do yoga but instead started surfing, ended up going to Cambodia too, and have been living and working in melbourne for 8 months, and a myriad of unexpected things have happened.

New skills learned: Surfing, driving a scooter, scuba diving, selecting cacao beans for chocolate production, letting go of things, proper headstands, knife skills, how to survive alone in tight situations (ie you’re not allowed to enter a foreign country and you find that out at the airport, or how to escape a motor vehicle accident situation in another…or how to change the scuba diving BCD vest in pitch black darkness in the middle of the sea)

Gili Trawangan, Christmas with friends.
Gili Trawangan, Christmas with friends.

Appreciation for things: Sunshine and warmth, fresh fruit pretty much straight from the trees, sea and marine life, nature, bicycles, people’s help, good company, trial periods at yoga studios and gyms, exercising, work, having the opportunity to do basically whatever, learning new and growing. New friends!

Bali style breakfast by the pool.
Bali style breakfast by the pool.

Best foods: Crate cafe breakfasts, Gado Gado and fresh mangos in Bali, tuna steak at Christmas dinner in Gili, rice paper rolls in Vietnam, the delicious meals at Hariharalaya in Cambodia. Smashed avo and poached eggs at Organica cafe in melbourne, Hummus from South melbourne market. Drinkwise: Fresh coconut water and coffee coffee coffee.

All the (vegan) rolls.
All the (vegan) rolls.

Accommodation: 3 Bungalows in Bali, one private villa. One month in the same hostel in Canggu. Hostel in Vietnam, one night in a “family stay” in the mekong Delta, and another one in a border town hotel. 4 hostels in Cambodia, one night in a bus, 10 nights on a retreat. (Luckily) I’ve only spent time in 1 hostel in Australia, and times of homelessness I was able to rely on the help of 5 friends.

Pretty much deserted island in Cambodia
Pretty much deserted island in Cambodia.

Love life: I learned that the Finnish word for love, rakkaus, apparently sounds like “crack house”. Fair enough. I’ve had more action this past year than ever before, mostly because I’ve been open-minded and just gone out. I have definitely learnt more than I thought I would have, and even though I got sick of dating and lost my faith in finding “the one” (or even someone I could imagine spending a whole weekend with), I am now closer than ever to realizing my feelings and where I stand in life. Winning!

I made someone popcorn for their flight.
I made someone popcorn for their flight.

Dealing with health: Eating probiotics, eating local. 2 Doctor visits, one dentist. In Cambodia I got bitten by a mosquito in the eyelid on the day I was supposed to go on a scuba diving trip to a remote island. Early trip and waking up the only doctor of the hospital to get cream I didn’t end up using, luckily that was nothing more serious. In melbourne I went to a GP to see if I have sinus infection (I didn’t), and had my wisdom tooth pulled.

Holidaying in Byron Bay.
Holidaying in Byron Bay.

Public holidays: I have pretty much skipped every holiday; Christmas I spent on a beach having a barbecue, New Years I was at another beach, Easter I only hid eggs for my housemates but that was it…I have enjoyed the Queen’s Birthday, and I understand why Anzac day exists, but having a public holiday for football and horse races is a bit strange to me. Nevertheless, I’ll take any reason to have a special day!

Halloween pumpkin at work.
Halloween pumpkin at work.

In the last year I have had more experiences I would never have had if I had stayed home, and going out of my comfort zone has proven worth it and beyond. I can’t wait to see what the next 12 months will bring along! And in the sad poor pictures front, by the end of the month things will look brighter and I will be able to write my hometown with a capital letter again! YAY!

I love love love that animal suit.
I love love love that animal suit.
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Swedish Christmas in Japan

Christmas just isn’t the same without certain things. Here up in the mountains, I have been isolated from all of the Christmas hassle that is going on in the stores and around the “civilization” (pun intended), which has maybe been a good thing. Good thing because the Japanese way of (not) spending Christmas is so very different from what I am used to, look forward to and love.

Gift game after dinner: I got socks!
Gift game after dinner: I got socks!

 

Luckily, the Swedish girls who are also exchange students are big fans of Christmas, and their way of celebrating the best holiday of the year is pretty similar to ours back home. So, I got a chance to have a small, sort-of Christmas after all this year!

What's Christmas without a tree?
What’s Christmas without a tree?

 

Eating anything and everything with chopsticks comes quite naturally now, and it didn’t even feel weird. The Swedish Christmas food was surprisingly different from the ones we have in Finland: it was more like something we would eat other times of the year (or on a Swedish cruise!). Something both countries have in common: mandarines, glögi/glögg (glühwein) and chocolate, last two of which are pretty good quality here in Nippon, too!

Essential for Christmas: overdose on chocolate (because you have to try as many different kinds as possible!)
Essential for Christmas: overdose on chocolate (because you have to try as many different kinds as possible!)

Japanese confectionery selection: highly approved. In stead pineapple, the staple in the Finnish boxes, there was mango. Other options included salty caramel, green tea, darjeeling tea, marron, bitter (my favorite, surprise surprise!) and espresso. Plus about 20 other flavors.

Hostess cooking self-made köttbullar (meatballs), pile or mandarines and self-decorated mugs
Hostess cooking self-made köttbullar (meatballs), pile or mandarines and self-decorated mugs

We sang songs (both in Swedish and English), played a gift game, and enjoyed the jolly atmosphere for 6 hours. As everyone was stuffed when leaving the table, the Christmas feeling was just as it’s supposed to be.

Christmas spirit all around
Christmas spirit all around

Who needs snow anyways?

4th of July

Great things happened on 4th of July 1776, and many years after that, too. Nowadays the Independence Day is celebrated with barbecues, picnics, fireworks and a hot dog eating contest.

Our first barbecue was at the pool where we served over 200 hot dog buns and hamburgers, as well as two 10 ft. hero-sandwiches. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me to collect evidence of the fiesta (and the red, white and blue shots that were also served).

The seconds barbecue of the day was a bit more relaxed, if you ignore the happy and playful sounds of seven 5-10 year olds running in a small area.

Typically American: Coke, party cups, hot dogs, corn and Heinz ketchup

As the night got darker, the bugs came out to their feast – on us.

Some people were shooting fireworks even during the day, but the real bombing started after dusk. I settled for the annual Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks, which was shown on NBC (with tons of commercial breaks to remind us, that even the Independence is not independent of money).

True patriots on tv

The fireworks seemed never ending. I wonder how much money could be used for actually useful purposes if the show was, say, only 15 or 20 minutes long.

Over 20 minutes of fancy fireworks over New York city

Wednesday seemed like a Saturday, so getting a loooong weekend after it seems really odd. More time to figure out what to do (in Merrick).

Easter – or wester?

Growing up, for me, like many other Finnish kids Easter meant chocolate egg hunt and a general overdose on chocolate for several days. We went “trick or treating” dressed up as a witch, and ate traditional Finnish delicacy called mämmi with a pound of cream and a mountain of sugar.

The Easter feast was not my favorite, not only because I was usually stuffed with candy, but because it involved eating something as cute as a lamb. We would always have either lamb or rabbit as the main course, served with mint jam (which one year was forgotten, resulting in a dispute on whose responsibility it was). I could deal with eating rye pudding that resembles poop, but not even the best mint jam would make me eat lamb. Lambs were just too sympathetic to be eaten! After refusing to enjoy the same delicacies with the rest of the family, my thoughts concerning cuteness and animals evolved.

The Easter lesson learned: Follow your heart. As a kid I said, and continue to say no to the traditional Easter, because I am more of a wester.

As for the horror to all foreigners visiting Finland, I highly recommend you to try mämmi. One spoonful doesn’t kill you. If eaten with cream and sugar, you can almost hide the taste.


This mämmi is made by Saarioinen, one of the leading food companies in Finland. The most brave make their own mämmi.

Have a happy Easter, or Wester if Easter is not your cup of tea and your bowl of mämmi!