Last quarteryear

Dear friends,

I am still alive! (Not that I thought any of you might have thought I was dead because of what seems like forever-lasting radio -erhm- blog silence)

My last post was something about food, posted from my home at that time – actually my mom’s home- in Tampere. After that, so many things have happened, that they would be worth several posts. Anyhow, since it’s the New Year and the new year is all about looking back and ditching all the bad things and thinking positively about all the great things that lie ahead, I decided to make a comeback. No matter how unpopular this blog might be in the Finnish scale, since Finns read only blogs from Finns that are in Finnish (go figure)…here I go. Again.

La vie, c'est belle!
La vie, c’est belle!

Yeah, I went to Paris (and I did go closer to la tour Eiffel than that). For a brief few days in October, to visit NatExpo trade show for organic industry. Ate a lot of baguette, and have been gluten-free ever since! No more French paradox for me, merci beaucoup. The trip and all the pictures I took would definitely be worth a post itself, but I’ll just give you a hint: if you go to Paris, you must visit all the markets, i.e Bastille, Raspail (organic!), and if you get a chance, go eat in Sol Semilla. I didn’t, and I regret it. Paris, I’m not done with you quite yet.

Morning sunrise in Pyynikki
Morning sunrise in Pyynikki

In September I was feeling out of breath, and not in a I-just-ran-5k way, but in a What-the-f-am-I-doing sort of way that makes you want to just, well, I don’t know how to describe it, really. Long story short, I changed the view above to the biggest hustle and bustle I could find in this country: Helsinki.

Big city life.
Big city life, no kidding

Here I have been since November, busy as a bee. There was Smoothie national competition where I was not smoothing but working for my friend’s company, there was Chocolate Festival where I was working and eating myself up a weight category (though I don’t do any sports that require categories…), there was the Food &wine expo where I was promoting Vitamix for 4 days to people who were interested mostly only in free samples, there was the new job, the other new job, the thesis that finally got started in a way…and trying to figure out which gym to join or sport to start.

My “day job” is now working in a raw food/smoothie bar that is inside Finland’s oldest vegetarian/living foods restaurant. I have learned a lot about coffees and such, get to work with nice people and see people at my workplace (which is luxury), and get to eat proper food! Win win win. Maybe soon I’ll learn how to make the heart shape to cappucino.

Silvoplee, aka who wouldn't want to eat/work here?
Silvoplee, aka who wouldn’t want to eat/work here?

The other job has been editing and creating product descriptions for Foodin.fi, my friends’ online store that sells the best quality stuff I know and have had the chance to try. I am proud to be able to sell the same products in Silvoplee.

The best candy.
The best treats and Lasse.

The third job is not really job – I am working on my thesis for Goodio (chocolates, which just happen to be the best chocolate, pictured above). Coconut ice cream coming up! I have been extremely lazy on the thesis, but this Christmas time I got a kick to do it since it was pitch black and raining all the time, my brother and dad were in Thailand, and I just wanted to feel at least tiny bit proud about being miserable and stuck here. Mission accomplished.

Umm…I was supposed to post this on 2nd of January, but there was few things that got on my way…like a broken wrist. Anyhow, we’ll see how things go. See you soon, I hope!

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Sado, way of the tea

Third post is a charm? After being a complete rookie and out of place in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony 2 times I can now proudly say that the secrets are beginning to unravel!
I have now studied the “Japanese Traditional Arts” aka tea ceremony for a few weeks, and let me tell you: it’s not as easy and simple as one could expect. Midterm is coming up next week, and there is still a lot to memorize! There is a certain manner when entering the room, certain amount of steps to take to the tokonoma (alcove) to view the scroll and the flower, specific number of bows at certain points, and so much more. One does not simply grab and munch the okashi (sweet) and wash it down with matcha – there are semiformal and formal positions, bows and phrases that need to be remembered. It is a must to apologize to the next guest for eating and drinking before them, and of course the previous guest has to know that you will join them with your treats. And of course one has to be thankful for the tea and the treats, express thanks and admire the cup from many different angles. No chit-chatting involved.

Tokonoma and eager students waiting for tea
Tokonoma and eager students waiting for tea

Wa kei sei jaku – harmony, respect, purity and tranquility are the key terms. Respectful I am, but tranquility is far when trying to remember to wipe the empty cup from right to left, and leaning on your knees to view the inside of the cup. Our group is quite big, and the atmosphere is more like in kindergarten than in a hut of peace (which is the name of the space where the classes are held). Besides the atmosphere and the challenge of memorizing everything, the ceremony is extremely interesting! And each time we get to eat an okashi, traditional Japanese sweet treat (that’s why we paid for the course). There are unbelievably many creations one can make from bean paste and rice! I think it might deserve a blog post of its’ own.

Ichigo ichie – One opportunity, one encounter. I hope that’s not the case when it comes to the test!

Matcha, ready to be served and the cups to be observed
Matcha, ready to be served and the cups to be observed

APU Life

Few months in the culture, I have had time to adapt to the Japanese up-in-the-mountain way of life. Here are some characteristics I have gotten more or less familiar with.

Some of the Happy R3 residents
There can never be too many pictures. Some of the Happy R3 residents

When you are tired, you sleep. No matter if you’re in a train, in the cafeteria, or in class. The library is open until midnight, and people often stay up until the wee hours of morning. In APU, the classes can last until 7.30 pm. No wonder students doze off – usually sleeping is very obvious and not even tried to hide.

Modest nap in class
Modest nap in class

Birthdays are celebrated at midnight, when the birthday is beginning, rather than bringing breakfast in bed like sometimes in Finland.

Tatsuro got his piece of the cake
Tatsuro got his piece of the cake

The word “party” usually making dinner with more than 2 people, rather than going drinking and/or dancing. Parties may also include games, activities etc. This came as a surprise to some of the exchange students in the beginning of the semester.

Floor party: Japanese winter food Nabe.
Floor party: Japanese winter food Nabe.

Other things I’ve noticed in APU:

Unlike in Europe, where perm is equivalent to the hottest of hot 80’s style, in Japan getting a perm is popular. At least in APU, that is.

The Japanese never say no. When they mean no, they can say maybe, a little… or even yes – in a special tone that is supposed to give the hint. Sometimes this can be a bit challenging/frustrating or even annoying. Or maybe I should learn to not say no?

The myth of the healthy Japanese diet has nothing to do with the substances people consume here. And by substances I mean the more or less processes products people fill themselves with throughout the day. Besides the polished rice, pasta is a big hit!

Guess who is about to be eaten?
Look who is about to be eaten!

For most people, there is rarely such leisure as free time. If not in lectures, students go to their circles activities, do homework or prepare presentations etc. Also, the AP house residents are not that keen on leaving the house.

Stairway to campus
Stairway to campus from Ap House

School, finally

The first school week is almost over and I am overwhelmed, to say the least. After the first Japanese lecture on Monday morning, I was shocked of the amount of small Asian people all around me, even though I though I had some concept on the population here.

Campus getting busier, summer weather still going on

A good student as I am, I took too many courses. Therefore I am now in the happy situation of having to drop my least favorite ones, and hoping that my university will accept my learning agreement (as if they had a choice). So far, I am considering dropping Introduction to management (Chinese teacher with really poor English), and the rest remains a mystery. Maybe I will just do one extra course for fun. I can hardly call Japanese traditional arts (which means tea ceremony) studying hard, can I?

My schedule every week is first 95 minutes of Japanese, which will probably take the most effort. Then I either have a nice almost 2 hour break, or a lecture on Principles of marketing. After that follows Human Ecology or Social Theory, followed by Business Ethics on Mondays. On the other quarter my Tuesday afternoons will be International Marketing and aforementioned Japanese Traditional Arts.

Study environment

In APU, Wednesdays are a day off for most people – I happen to have Consumer Behavior lecture in the morning. No parties or trips on Tuesdays, then, since the lecturer is pretty strict and the course demands a lot of effort. On Wednesdays there are many clubs, or circles as they are called here, and I will probably post later about them when I find out which I will join.
I am not planning on buying expensive books for just a few weeks use, so it will be interesting to see how I will manage to pass the courses that require books.

I am rather happy with my course selection, although I had few courses in mind that I couldn’t get (like International Management, Media and Pop Culture and Japanese Culture and Society). On the other hand, this amount of courses seems to be more than the average, so maybe it will be ok – at least I’ll have time to put effort on learning Japanese!

Nihongo ga wakarimasen

Today was the last lecture of my Japanese class. The course started in January, and since that I’ve spent all Friday mornings in the classroom with our sensei Miyamoto-Maunu and my classmates. Time goes fast! I now know (somewhat) all hiragana, and I have promised myself that I will study all of the katakana before my exchange starts.  Learning Japanese has been really interesting, and some of the phrases and words are rather amusing. Some of my personal favorites are:

 ときどき (tokidoki) – sometimes
インフォーメーション (infomeeshon) – information
セブンイレブン (sebunirebun) – seven eleven
かっか (kakka) – emperor (kakka means poo in Finnish)
ディズニーランド (deizunirando) – Disneyland
マクドナルド (makudonarudo) – McDonalds
いちにち (ichinichi) – one day

This last Japanese lesson was a bit more informal than the previous ones. We have done origami before, but this time there was more Japanese culture-related things, too.

 

Sumo origami game
Japanese game, similar to the one where you have to tag donkey’s tail to its’ right place
Japanese games, children’s books etc.
Most of our snacks were already eaten at the point of taking pictures

I will miss studying Japanese, since it might be quite difficult independently. I have few iPhone apps that I have found useful when studying hiragana and katakana, but I haven’t really found many good websites for studying. Do you have any tips on self-studying?