Archive for November 25th, 2005

The weather

Regardless of what everyone thinks, I am surviving the weather. I’m finally starting to adjust to 0˚C being “normal,” although I do prefer to be inside. The problem is that I’ve found that following an ice hockey team around doesn’t necessarily mean that inside is any warmer than outside. I understand why the vending machines in the lobby of the ice rink consists of kaako (hot chocolate) and coffee (don’t know the Finnish word since I still don’t drink it). What I don’t understand is the cold candy bar machine and the ice cream machine. Who’s bright ideas were these? Maybe they sell well in the summer, or maybe all these crazy ice hockey players are much more cold blooded than I am.

Today it has finally gotten cold enough that this mist is really snow. I’m actually looking forward to snow. If it is going to be cold, I’d rather it be snowing than raining. Thanks to Ryan, you can all see what I look like in the cold. The picture is from Helsinki.

Vierumäki Sports Institute of Finland

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Lahti for lunch

Tim, Ryan and I ventured half an hour to the city of Lahti. We were expecting something on the scale of Bangor, ME. The Finnish refer to it as “The Business City,” so my expectations were that of factories, mills and offices. What they meant was shopping. The main drag is lit up like Hong Kong, only in a more organized fashion. Neon abounds.

According to The Lonely Planet Guide, the city of Lahti was started in 1908. That was surprising because I expect in Europe to have lots of history. At that rate, there are buildings in my hometown that are much older than that. My hometown, however, is lacking gigantic, professional ski jumps. Maybe that is something meine schwester and I can start. We are looking for a business to start in our hometown to help out the economy.

We found parking after “whipping a shitty” as meine schwester calls it. I learned that trick from my brother in Boston. You can’t let a parking spot go just because it is on the other side of the street and there is oncoming traffic. I especially appreciated his skill on University Street in Palo Alto. The Finnish don’t really seem to have parking meters. The ones I found at “The Institute” turned out not to be meters but electrical outlets to plug in your car. If you aren’t familiar with plugging in your gasoline car, this is to keep the battery charged and make it easier to start on mornings when it is -20˚C. Instead of meters in Finland, you have to find a little machine near by, feed it some money, and it spits out a card you put on your dashboard. We had about two hours to find the Western Union and get some lunch.

Our first stop was the lobby of a hotel we were passing. The hope was that the woman at the front desk would know where the Western Union was. She didn’t, but we learned something fascinating about Finnish. The words here are extremely long, and as the driver, it is difficult to look for street signs when the words are all 20 letters long and the passengers can’t pronounce them any better than the driver can read them. It seems that the Finnish language enjoys adding extra letters onto words as well as using the German trick of squishing words together. We were attempting to find something on Aleksanterinkatu. The woman replied that she didn’t know where it was on “Alexander Street”. “Alexander Street?” Why not just say that?! Katu must be the word for street as I’ve now seen it at the end of many words. Why the extra letters in between. Wouldn’t it just be easier to write Aleks Katu? I digress.

We wandered down Aleksanterinkatu until we found the Western Union hidden in a real estate office on the second floor of a small mall space. A young guy from Senegal helped us out. Seems that he has been here for two and a half years and usually eats at home as he didn’t have any suggestions for lunch in the area. We asked if he likes it here and he refused to answer the question seeing as he didn’t know if we liked it here or not. I put that question in the same realm as when meine schwester thinks it is a good idea to ask the waiter which one of us is older. She doesn’t seem to understand that when she asks that question, I always win no matter what the answer. Either the waiter is correct, and I’m not offended, or he is incorrect at which point I laugh hysterically. She still hasn’t learned.

We then started to search for food. I said no to any tex-mex as my experience so far was lacking. I suggested Thai, but seeing as they are going back to China in two weeks, all asian cuisine was crossed off the list. Drinking before a game seemed like a bad idea, and most of the bars don’t seem to serve food. There was a McDonalds that we ignored along with Hesburger which seems to be a more upscale McDs chain type place. There were a couple of Italian places that we passed by as well. Hunger finally won as we stopped at a pizza/falafel place. I found this an extremely odd combination, but I’ve been told that the Turkish nationals seem to run the pizza business in Scandinavia.

I tried to use logic to figure out what the pizza toppings were. I’d heard that Finnish/Turkish pizza has a habit of being sprinkled with shrimp. I finally decided on Hawaii Pizzat. That helped us to determine what the word for ham was. Of course, the ham came diced in quarter-inch squares. Overall, the pizza was good. Not something that I’d crave all the time, but edible. It was not so good the next day. Guess this isn’t the kind of pizza that gets better with age.

Lunch ended our trip to Lahti. The trip back to Vierumäki was nothing to write home about. We are going back again on Friday night, so look for more then.

Fascinated by German TV

I am sucked in by German television. I have one channel and it seems that they repeat the same shows once in German and once in English. I think the thing that threw me was one of the news programs where the people were speaking American instead of British english. It first hit me when they used the word “soccer” instead of “football. I’ve been enjoying watching the German versions and trying to figure out what they are talking about and then watching the English version and realizing how much German I don’t recall.

So far I’ve learned that Dubai is becoming a big tourist hotspot. Their oil reserves may run out in the next 15 years, so they are spending billions of dollars to reinvent themselves as both a tourist destination and Wall Street for the Middle East. I’m really interested in “The World” which is supposedly a set of man-made islands in the shape of the world.

I am bored of hearing about Angela Merkel though. She seems to be all over the headlines. She does deserve it, being the first East German born Chancellor, but still, I am more interested at the moment in the Benzene spill in Harbin since that is where the Chinese team will be going back to in two weeks.

The other channels available are kind of odd. For the last two days, CNN News has had a computer window in the middle of the screen. I can’t understand it since it is in Finnish, but there is one button that reads, “Ei” meaning “No,” but I can’t get the window to go away. Here is what I can figure out of the available stations.

1 Info Info about the Sports Institute in Finnish.
2 YLE TV1 Sometimes in English, sometimes in Finnish. See www.yle.fi. The news right now is in Finnish, but the weather was suddenly in English. First time I’ve actually seen the weather specifically for Finland! Has some English shows dubbed in Finnish.
3 ??? A weird game channel that is making no sense right now. See www.ylex.fi
4 MTV3 Right now it is a Finnish cooking show, now an exercise show with some woman in dreads. I think I watched Melrose Place on here with Finnish subtitles.
5 ??? Another strange game channel. Not game show. Kind of like the stuff you play in bars sometimes. Ryan and I were playing the other day. All the questions were in Finnish, but I think I got 6 out of 8 right.
6 SubTV see www.subtv.fi. Maybe a community “What’s Happening” thing? But I don’t see a lot of dates. I do see smilies being used. :) Maybe it is an online chat. I guess the picture of the person is the person responding at the other end of the computer. How very odd. Can you imagine having this for IRC or Lily?
7 TV Shop Home shopping network stuff. Right now they are selling the lateral thigh master. The funny thing is that I’m not sure what the actors are speaking, but it is dubbed in English and there are Finnish subtitles
8 MTV in English for the most part, occasionally odd songs I’ve never heard of.
9 CNN News In English, but annoying with that window
10 BBC News In English and is probably the best source of news if they would stop telling us about the starving people in Niger (pronounced Knee-Cher).
11 TV5 Europe Haven’t really watched this. Right now I think they are speaking French.
12 German News I think I’ve watched all the shows now.

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