cimorene: (is this thing on?)
Two separate coworkers to whom I came out in conversation in the last month at the Red Cross have subsequently, the next day, gone out of their way to be nice to me. My theory is that this is a socially competent person's gesture to show they're not homophobic and regret the awkwardness.

I posted about them both on Tumblr at the time:

  1. A 40s/50s mideastern immigrant, one of those guys who's friendly to literally every human being he ever encounters and makes friends in the space of 5-10 seconds and basically everyone describes him as 'a good guy' stopped me when I said "My wife -"

    with "Wife? Really? WIFE?" and then stared at me in confusion for a while, unsure if I said 'wife' on purpose or due to error, and ultimately asked me, but not without apologizing first, "Your wife... a man?"

    "No, my wife is a woman," I said cheerfully, and then he apologized again and said "Good, good!"

    The next day he came to find me in the morning and opened with "I just wanted to talk to you for a bit," and we exchanged extra-polite and extra-bonhomous smalltalk for 5 minutes or so.


  2. A few days later, speaking English with a Finnish young man who is addicted to gaming and attributes his English skills to that, I dropped a casual "My wife" again.

    "You have a wife? You have a WIFE! Nice! That explains a lot actually!" he said.

    I think he was a little surprised that this reaction made me dissolve in laughter. "Explains what?" I said, and he gave an up-and-down gesture at my entire person, finishing with a flourish at my head. "My hair?" I said, laughing even harder.

    The next day he popped out of nowhere when I was working at my station and not on break or anything, asked if I was allergic to chocolate (no), then handed me a candybar with, "Do you want this? It's 'on me'" (with audible ironic quotes, haha), and then breezed away again while I called after him, "Thanks!"


A few thoughts about this.

In the first place, it's quite effective. As funny as these moments were at the time - nice but funny! - of course both dudes have correctly divined that you do always have a little bit of that worry when you have to come out, no matter how many times you've done it, or how friendly the person otherwise seemed. So it's a good socially adept solution, and indirect even if it is fairly obvious.

Secondly, the frequency with which these coming-out conversations hit that awkward note. Mostly one can put this down to heteronormativity and heteronormative assumptions, probably. In the second case, I guess my presentation is slightly butcher than I realized, maybe? Not that that offends me. I've had plenty of coming-out conversations, including in Finnish, including ones with casually dropping 'my wife' in conversation like the above, that have gone smoothly, or completely without comment. Those are usually with women, though, maybe?

And finally, I could stand to receive more "Sorry-If-I-Kinda-Flubbed-Your-Coming-Out-Moment" chocolate ("Sorry-If-I-Offended-You-With-My-Gender-Comments" chocolate?). Like, for a moment that size, a chocolate bar combined with no repeat performance seems like a perfectly good tradeoff, and who doesn't like free chocolate? It would be great if that was just the widely socially-accepted fee. And the super-friendly conversation was equally acceptable, if not equally chocolatey. I mean, flattery is always nice, and friendly conversation is always welcome when your coworkers across the aisle insist on turning down the radio so low that you're forced to pretty much work in silence most of the time. (You probably have to have those extra-special like God-Tier friendliness skills to pull off that method successfully, though.)
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (Default)
So as the lone native speaker in an English "shower" (less than an immersion which in Finnish is a "bath", so it's a sort of pun) daycare where part of the paid service is using English phrases with children, should I correct my Finnish coworkers' mispronunciations?

I've noticed two so far, but I haven't corrected them. In one case she'd already taught all the children to pronounce "owl" OH-wl, and in the other she wasn't talking to the children at all and I presume she just said pudding ("POOdding") so any little eavesdroppers wouldn't realize we were having chocolate for snacktime and get excited in advance.

People feel quite differently about such things - some welcome it and some hate it - so usually I don't offer corrections without strong reason to believe the person would welcome it, usually when they've asked me to teach them something. But having been told that I was chosen for the work practice partly so they could get the benefit of my English skills (although the context for that was using them to talk to the children!)...?
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (domestic)
I'm busy from before sunrise until the verge of sunset for the next few weeks (the mini course the employment bureau case worker sent me on) and this has meant it's nearly impossible to take any photos because, even inside, artificial light doesn't look very good (unless I turn the sunlamp on, but the cats can be very stubborn about taking direction for some reason). There's been an appalling drought in my kitty pictures lately as a result.

Also my brain is happy to be engaged for 6 hours a day, but using Finnish for 6 hours a day without a good solid dose of quiet solitude in the middle to recover my ability to socialize is a little much. I get overstimulated by about 12:30 and spend two hours with my mental queue so backed up on "NOPE" and "WHY IS IT SO LOUD IN HERE" that it takes me extra seconds of hesitation to produce a sentence in Finnish. (I can't even explain that my brain is slow because I'm tired in Finnish without pausing to try and remember the right case endings, in spite of how often I've done it before. Answering a question at the bus stop yesterday felt like trying to talk on the phone when you've just been woken up.)

As for the course content itself, it hasn't been more than slightly helpful so far, but I remain hopeful. The intended audience is wide, so the range of advice and information is also pretty wide, and I think they just haven't gotten to the part that I wanted yet. A lot of the stuff in the second half of the week was aimed at people who want to switch from one career to another and there's a fair amount about adult education and professional certifications and stuff and that is stuff I've heard a lot ("" "") of times already and also it doesn't apply to me at all.

Trying to be sociable has probably been good for me, though.

There's a black-hoodie-wearing fuchsia-haired lady with adult children who sits next to me, and she saw me drop my phone at the bus stop and the next day she brought a skein of yarn and made a little phone case out of 4 granny squares with a carrying strap, stitched it together and finished it off all within a couple of hours, and then spontaneously gave it to me like this:

"[SHOVES THE PHONE SOCK CASUALLY OVER TO ME] There. That'll cover your phone up. Should fit. Keep it from getting banged up. If you drop it again. You dropped your phone at the bus stop yesterday, didn't you. It's soft. And if you listen to music the holes in it are big enough to get through to the touch screen."


XD ♥ Finnish people are frequently this gruff, yes. It was really sweet of her though. I was watching her make it all morning from the corner of my eye while I was knitting, wondering what it was going to be.

Also overheard this week, from a long-haired working class dude with a goatee:

Meil on sitä, että lähemmät napurit ovat metsä ja pelto.

For us... the closest neighbors are woods and a field.


I had a hard time not laughing out loud, but then I couldn't explain to myself why this was funny except that it was SO SO FINNISH, but then I told [personal profile] waxjism and she laughed just as hard as I wanted to (though maybe it was the delivery), so at least I wasn't hallucinating.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (workout)
So I saw a remark on Pinboard that perfectly encapsulated my sense of 'WHY' when reading a lot of old fandom fic, and also about my own teeniefic: "hilariously unsexy".

"Hilariously unsexy" certainly doesn't cover everything unique about old fandoms or teeniefic; it just captured the thought that had been on the tip of my tongue as well after reading a lot of old Legolas/Gimli fic (and also the problem with the ones I wrote) (not ALL Legolas/Gimli by any means, just a lot of it).

Obviously, writing sex isn't the only thing that gets better about one's writing with practice, but I started thinking about how that is true of all my teeniefic. Trying to write better sex is, I think, something many of us have struggled with, and I often got hung up at that bit in a story and went back to look at my older ones over the years, trying to analyze which bits I'd done right and wrong. So while it wasn't a straight upward trend in my own eyes - there are some I liked better and some I hate completely - in general, it got better.

I was musing that I actually remember the first time I read many of the stories that now appear to have glaring weaknesses in the sex sections, and I clearly remember liking them or loving them at the time. I remember finding them hot at the time.

"So in my defense, I also genuinely liked reading hilariously unsexy sex at the time," I mused.

But it wasn't that. It wasn't like I thought, "I'm going to read some sexy sex and I love that. Now I'm going to read unsexy sex and I like that too." (Not ruling that out. I do it sometimes. Getting the giggles isn't necessarily a detriment.)

Ultimately I realized that at the time, I couldn't tell the difference between sexy and hilariously unsexy sex scenes (has the word 'sex' lost all meaning for anyone else or should I type it a few more times?). I'm not sure it actually occurred to me that the world contained both of those things. I literally could discern no difference among sex scenes; they were essentially all the same to me, although of course, sometimes I'd like one better or worse, and sometimes I wouldn't like one, but that was usually a matter of squicks or wandering bodyparts or unreadable punctuation - certainly not a matter of unsexiness.

And then I realized something else. The reason the sex scenes in slash mostly all seemed quite sexy to me was that in comparison to the sex scenes I'd been exposed to until that point, they were. Read more... )

Even sex that is hilariously unsexy by fandom standards is usually sexier than the average published sex scene.

Only after reading tons of slash, for a long time, did the shapes of 'good' and 'bad' emerge from the mist. It was sort of the way I learned to distinguish between Swedish and Finnish vowel sounds that don't exist (or are grouped together as only one sound) in English. It took a lot of listening for that, just as it took a lot of reading during which 'unsexy' and 'sexy' sex writing became clearer and clearer.

And now, of course, the difference between "yö" and "öy", and between the various sounds covered in Swedish by Å, O, and U, seem blindingly obvious, just as bad sex writing does, but I can still clearly remember when it just sounded like Wax and my teacher were repeating the same exact sound over and over again and expecting me to hear the difference, like Lina's diction coach in Singin' in the Rain.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (why is the beverage gone)
Tomorrow I'm going to start that work practice at the public after school program, 10-17, M-F, for the two months until school's out.

I specifically requested this, with the main motivation that I find older, school-aged children a little more interesting and a little easier to relate to than preschoolers. There's no question they're scarier for me too, since my Finnish fails to be up to the task of communication more often, and many of them still aren't really old enough to understand why I "talk funny" or don't understand something.

(As I found at preschool, some six-year-olds in an average small group are sophisticated enough to explain usefully for me, e.g. with synonyms and simpler vocabulary! But most children this age cannot conceptualize a lower level of language mastery in that way as separate from just not knowing. If I ask what's a snail, they say "But everybody knows snails: it's an ANIMAL!", not "You know, it's this big and slimy and lives in the garden, but it doesn't have a hard shell on its back", which is more or less how the language teacher tackles it.)

Anyway, school kids should be harder to follow - their conversations faster and more complex - but I'm hoping also better at explaining themselves to me, so maybe the language immersion will be more helpful than the one at the daycare was. That one was actually very useful to me! But a lot of the time went by without practicing much if any new vocabulary, at least with the children themselves, because your average 3-year-old is just not that vocal. (If I'd spent all that time with the niecephews at age 3, or any of the kids in my family, it would have been a different story: all those stories about Perrin were from when he was 3... .)

Speaking of the niecephews, my girl and [personal profile] waxjism's goddaughter/eldest niece Big C who is now 8 goes to Swedish after school, which is run out of the adjoining classroom to the Finnish one, and according to Brother in Law #1 is super excited for me to arrive. It's kind of the cutest thing ever. (I was chuffed to find out she still thinks I'm cool because she's old enough now to act very possessed and calm in person, no more of that OMG HI!!! :D that we got from the niecephews when they were wee.)

The last point is that the after school is located in a breathtakingly gorgeous nouveau building downtown, less than a block from the art museum, and possessed of an enormous marble staircase with wrought iron rails. Can't wait to take some photos there.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (i'm an ancient! i love chiffon!)
My current Finnish course will end in March, but my Finnish isn't good enough to take any sort of further professional training courses, like the practical part of my school assistant classes, in Finnish. (It would probably be good enough to work in a shop or something.) And in general, although I feel good about my progress, I'm not satisfied (I mean, confident) with my skills yet. I need way more vocabulary and practice. When I had the work practice interview at a local daycare, I got the gist and the keywords but I had to completely give up on big swathes of phrases where I couldn't pick out enough recognizable bits to start parsing the grammar and guess at the meaning: people who are talking about real life things and not just smalltalk or shoptalk don't use the same sorts of simple, bite-sized sentences.

So I'll probably be applying to the next level Finnish class, which will mean a significant reduction in support from social services down to, I think, 300-something €/month. Right now I'm getting full unemployment with all the extra options 700-something €/month, as one does when engaged full-time in professional development mandated by the employment bureau; for the second level course you only get the regular government allowance of student support, but it's still 35 school hours a week which makes working at the same time difficult.

Wax is still going to secretarial school. After learning the Microsoft Office suite at the basic level - like she hasn't learned macros, which I can't help feeling would have been quite useful - they moved on to torturing them with Business Swedish, and the school made her study it even though Swedish is her native language. It went something like this:

WAX: But I already know Swedish because it's my native language.
TEACHER WHO IS NOT EVEN A NATIVE SWEDISH SPEAKER: Ah, but this isn't just ordinary Swedish, it's BUSINESS Swedish.


She was still made to take the exams, and in order to not have to take lengthy weekly vocabulary tests and sit through hours of painful instruction, she was ordered to write "an essay" on a topic of her choice, with no further guidelines. Obviously this should be easy, but it isn't because she's too angry about the whole thing.

So after finishing Business Swedish, they moved on to...

... Business English. Only, right, everyone in her class is competent to the basic Finnish high-school-graduate level.. except for one, so they actually started with conjugating "TO BE" and "TO DO".

Her unemployment/winter/this sucks depression has consequently spiraled to the level where she is almost entirely nocturnal and can't always force herself to suffer through her horribly painful homework assignments. Instead she is reading a lot of hockey fic and has even started reblogging things about hockey on Tumblr. I'm mostly worried about this because of fear that she might actually get further into sports. As long as it's just the players it's fine, but if she watches any actual sports on purpose, we will of course have to get a divorce.

But on the plus side, we have a lot of yarn around the house and Canonical has just announced they're releasing Ubuntu for phones next year, which is exciting because we were previously worried that Nokia's N9 might be the last Linux phone in existence, but neither of us could bear to use Apple, Windows, or Android. Sometime next month you should be able to install Ubuntu yourself on the Nexus Galaxy, though, which means by the time one of our phones breaks (they're currently 2 years old I think), the early adopter bugs should be ironed out. They say they hope to release the first manufacturer-partnered shipping-with-Ubuntu phones in 2014.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (murder hurts more)
(I didn't get around to posting about this extremely irritating day until yesterday, when I posted it spontaneously on Tumblr in response to a post about gender-neutral toy marketing in Sweden, where someone mistakenly stated that Swedish doesn't have gendered pronouns and my wife corrected them. I thought I'd repost it for posterity and because it relates to the ongoing narrative of my Finnish class adventures.)

[personal profile] waxjism: It's Finnish that doesn't have gendered pronouns (all people are hän). Swedish has "han" and "hon".1

That said, that magical language quirk has not stopped gender essentialism from hanging around like a bad smell. Sweden is working much harder on that shit.



Finnish doesn't have gendered pronouns but it has exercises like this one I had to participate in last Thursday meant to practice the approximately 1002 different forms of the plural partitive (one of several types of objective) case: 'What are women like, and what are men like?' (The point is to make a list of adjectives in plural partitive form.)


CLASSMATE: Women are beautiful! Men are handsome!3


CLASSMATE: Women are short!


OTHER CLASSMATE: No they're not!


ME: Women are adult people.


CLASSMATE: Oh, you mean 'adulter'! Women are adulter than men!


ME: No, I don't mean that. That is not true. Men are also adult people.


CLASSMATE: Right, not all, just most women. Men are more childish!


ME: No, I don't mean that. That is not true. But! Women ARE paid less money for the same work.


TEACHER: That's true! The 'women's euro' - 80 cents. [...] Right then, what are men like?


CLASSMATES: Strong! Tall! Funny? Handsome.


ME: They're more violent, especially towards their own wives, than women are, and also in Finland, they're more violent towards their wives than in many other European countries.


CLASSMATE: I don't think so!


ME: Yes, they are.


TEACHER: Is that true, did you read it somewhere?


ME: Yes, in a sociology course at the university, 'Gender and Sexuality in the Nordic Countries.'


TEACHER: Oh I see! Actually, that makes sense: I remember that there was a lot of domestic violence in Finland when I was a child.


CLASSMATE: Probably the explanation for what you read was that nowadays Finland has many immigrants from different countries, like Africa, but the police statistics can't say which group is which.


ME: No, that's not true. They can say. It's Finnish men.


TEACHER: Yeah, it wouldn't be new immigrants; it's Finnish culture. Because I remember it was already the case a long time ago, when I was young.


ME: Finns are more depressed too.




So basically I'm the one that's always killing the mood with angry feminist opinions.


Later:



TEACHER: What doesn't a little girl need?


EVERYONE: Uh...


ME: Over 100 pink toys.






Footnotes )
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (perfect)
1.

The fashion highlight slash teachable moment of the last few weeks was when my Thai classmate asked the Bangladeshi one why she doesn't wear jewels dangling from her nose/ear/face daily. There were other related questions but this one stuck with me the most, possibly mainly because the lady in question tried to answer by miming the amount of stuff that would be dangling in her face if she had worn it. ("Wedding! Wedding! Only wedding." "Why?")

I pointed out that although our Thai classmate also owns some large and elaborate jewelry, as do many of the rest of us, she doesn't wear it out every day with jeans and a t-shirt either, and she ceded the point reluctantly with a wistful protest, "But it's so pretty." Well, this is true.


2.

It's Father's Day in Finland today. American Father's day was in July and when I talked to my dad on the phone I told him that I thought of writing him a haiku in Finnish for the occasion (he's a poet so there's a lot of poems-for-occasions going around in our family), but my Finnish hadn't got very far and also I wanted to say "poet", which in Finnish is 5 syllables by itself (runoilija). I had to ask Wax how to say it; at the time I'd only been learning Finnish a couple of months. But now I was able to write one completely on my own (although Finnish word length was still a bit of a stumbling block)! And I was even able to make it a science fiction haiku (he's been into those lately)!

Isäni kulta
Tuoli nopeampi
Kuin aikakone


("Darling Daddy, chair faster than time machine.") (Finnish doesn't have definitive pronouns, so it could be a specific time machine or a general time machine; context doesn't specify.) (My dad's power wheelchair has the ability to jump curbs and zoom around really fast, possibly not actually faster than a time machine, if one exists, but assuming that one doesn't I guess it is still faster. My sister and I both enjoy standing on the back of it and riding around. In San Francisco this summer she banged her knee on the frame twice and I did it once. It's not a completely hazard-free hobby.)

3.

I know that Red Dwarf is crack and has about as much concern for continuity as Gene Roddenberry or Arthur Conan Doyle, which is to say, less than none unless continuity looks like it would be useful for a good joke. But still, even on second watch-through, it is quite hard to deal with 7x02 "Stoke Me a Clipper" when Rimmer leaves, because it lends a (perhaps ludicrously out of place?) bittersweet note to latter seasons to know that Original Rimmer is still gone, even though Resurrected Rimmer is right there (ludicrous because everything else is already rather sad/bleak/bitter-along-with-the-fun-bits by definition, written right into the basic premise and everything). There's badfic where Original Rimmer comes back and he and Lister have a variety of action-packed, tear-streaked, porny love stories in consequence, but aside from any other potential drawbacks to them, they also leave me feeling badly for Resurrected Rimmer. (Except for that one where it actually was Original Rimmer who had traveled back in time after 600 years of immortal badassery to go undercover as himself and he wasn't really resurrected at all.)

4.

I've mentioned my Ideal Dress before, the dress I have exalted above all others and always wanted since childhood. (It's the green flapper dress that Cyd Charisse wears in the Broadway Melody dance number of Singin in the Rain.)

Well, [personal profile] waxjism and I still haven't got around to making a formal replacement-for-the-nonexistent-wedding portrait of the two of us that we didn't have taken when we eloped three years ago. (Wax has a suit that would work alright, but I don't have anything I could wear for it, not even a white blouse that fits to stick under a waistcoat in a pinch.)

(NB to [personal profile] waxjism and people who hate descriptions of clothes: skip this paragraph) I mean, I have my old bridesmaid dresses: a black satin evening gown from Amanda's wedding, a black twill dress such as a sexetary might wear to a 1940s funeral from Aubry's, and a Grecianesque number in eggplant-colored chiffon from [personal profile] pierydys's; I also have the raspberry chiffon cocktail dress I wore to Marre's wedding, and my favorite dress has served at both [profile] hollsh and [livejournal.com profile] guinevere33's weddings, but the straps literally broke OFF both times and it's waiting to have a third set sewn on. And basically, black glitter lace over nude and black twill and black satin and red-wine-ish chiffon are all way less apropos for one's OWN pseudo-wedding portrait than they are for somebody else's. I don't want it to look like a PROM portrait.

So sometimes I toy with the idea of using this as an excuse to get (let's be real: make) myself something like this dress. (I've never really had anything close, except for the sequin-trimmed green satin leotard I performed a tap recital in at age six... I've only ever even owned two pieces of green formal wear, an ill-advised forest velour overall at age 10 and the metallic dark green party dress I wore to [livejournal.com profile] bexless's wedding.) So even a piece of only semi-dressy stuff in a shade from the emerald/malachite-green family would be a hugely exciting event in my wardrobe. On the other hand, as much as I love that particular shade of light-malachite-emerald-with-a-dash-of-kelly green, sequins aren't really me. For that matter, formal wear isn't really me.

That's why after we became obsessed with knitting and uh, spent our first 50 euros on cashmerino silk-blend yarn, it occurred to me to maybe interpret my Ideal Dress in the form of a dressy pullover sweater, like maybe a tunic-length one with a cable design echoing the shapes of the sequin embellishments. Obviously we can make a silk-blend pullover for Wax too, but the design is complicated by her refusal to have favorites of anything. She doesn't even have a favorite TYPE of shade of green, let alone an Ideal Dress. She'd be quite happy to go out dressed as a bag lady whose entire wardrobe had fallen into a random selection of different green dyes.

The last few days I've been pondering the linked diamond designs on the Cyd dress and the 30's-inspired design of Keira Knightley's Atonement dress, which would look better on me, and is just as beautiful, although it doesn't have the same nostalgia attached. (The neckline of the latter is certainly easier to interpret onto a long-sleeved sweater.)
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (whatever)
Spent today assisting the school's two Japanese students to teach origami to other foreigners in Finnish, making Christmas ornaments to sell for charity.

Several people including two strangers asked after the election results and then congratulated me. One of them later turned to a second student and said,

CUTE LITTLE DUDE: Oh, Obama won!
ASSHOLE: It doesn't matter.
CUTE LITTLE DUDE, falteringly: ... Oh.
ASSHOLE: It's the same. They're all bastards.

And then I almost smacked a bitch. Namely, him. Then cute little dude came back and told me that his asshole friend was American like me, to which I responded loudly, "But he has such a strong accent when he speaks English!" Apparently he's German but he lived in America just long enough to become too hipster for politics.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (studying)
Here's some Finnish homework I wrote a month ago or so in case anybody would like to laugh at it!

Koti, missä haluan asuu... )
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (sign)
Over the weekend I had decided I should approach three of my classmates about asking the teacher to teach us better because the class is too slow for us.

And then today on the way into school two of them came up to me and said they were going to and they'd already talked about it! I was all ready to ambush her en masse after class today but it didn't happen. Then I thought, are they waiting for an opportunity to ask Kaja and Gigi to support us? Or did they catch her somewhere in the hall during our coffee break and bring it up already?

I got a bunch of knitting done today - started a new 50g skein and I've almost used it up. And this is bad as it marks the second entire day learning the words for aunt, uncle and grandma (which many of us already knew and which our Finnish Culture teacher already went over and which our teacher knew we'd been taught, not that that stops the dumbasses in the class from failing to grasp the meanings and usages).
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (sleek & stylish)
One of my classmates was so cranky after a full two days of learning nothing whatsoever that she was scowling and ranting at the bus stop. I mean, she has a point, I didn't learn anything either. Knitting is pretty good anger management but it can't convert 8 hours of desultory practice with like <20 new vocabulary words (none of them difficult or NEW) into a challenging language lesson.

Unlike Azra, I don't think bad teaching is the problem; I think we're just moving too slow and, essentially, being held back by our classmates. But it got me thinking about it and there are definitely 4, maybe more in our class who could legitimately benefit from a completely different group.

I think the four of us could probably go at 1½ speed, accomplish a lot more written and spoken work, etc. It might even be possible for us to do that if we just like, asked for extra books and sat in the corner. Or maybe if we went together to the course organizer with our complaint they could find something else to do with us. Because as it stands we're wasting a lot of our time and it's not like our Finnish is so good that we should be resting on our laurels right now? We're hardly employable or anything.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (don't defend the shoe to me)
I look forward to and dread Finnish class every day because Finnish class is both fascinating and boring. (Boring is true but inadequate; it's usually actively frustrating.)

It's fascinating because I haven't mastered Finnish, so even just listening to the teacher speak is at a level somewhat above what I already know. Close enough that I can understand most of it, new enough that I have to try. I'm also learning things regularly, and practicing old things when not picking up new ones, so my brain is feeding and stretching constantly.

It's boring (and frustrating) because the class moves about 40% slower than the optimal speed would be for my brain, with about half as much material as I'd really like (I wish the texts we read were about twice as long, that we read many more of them, and that we practiced formulating our own thoughts about things and expressing our opinions in new ways, instead of spending the vast majority of our time mastering simple expressions which is basically just imitation).

It's also frustrating because there are a couple of REALLY dumb people in the class who are also sweet and well-meaning, but they're DUMB, like, one of them has redefined 'stupid question' for me, and even though I like them, the idiocy of their questions tends to inspire me to headdesking (literally), crying (not literally, just in my head), extended ranting (once I get home), and repeated flashbacks that always come with a little full-body flash of sharp dismay or anger.

Last week when I was describing how I feel constantly simultaneously angry and guilty, like I have a devil ("She's stupid and she should feel BAD for wasting your time!") and an angel ("But she can't help it!") on my shoulders to my therapist, he mostly laughed. I mean he also tried to help me explore how I could try to calm myself and if I could improve the way I look at these things, but first he couldn't stop laughing for a while, and I laughed too so much I had a hard time stopping to finish telling him... except when I had another flashback to the Stupid Question of the Day and got so actively angry I practically leapt out of the chair yelling about it. Then we went back to laughing.

This week I've been knitting in class. (I've almost used up two skeins - getting ready to divide for the shoulders in a top-down wrap cardigan for my SIL.) And knitting has been an amazing anger management tool! Neither one of my teachers minds it, which is very lucky, and it seems to take up the right amount of my attention - I have no trouble following along (in fact, I admit it's still a little slow for my comprehension), but the knitting at least slows me down and also it makes me mind less because it's sort of soothing and meditative, and conveys a sense of accomplishment ("Four rows today already!")

Sadly this won't work for my wife because her teacher is kind of paranoid.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (chillin)
So I have one perfect bra - 100% cotton jersey inside and out, 65A (that's 28A in US terms). I found it on sale at Citymarket like 2 years ago, but there's a manufacturer (Finnwear/Nanso) outlet so I went there and - not a single 65-band in the place (or in either of the department stores in town btw). I bought two 70As, but they have to be fastened at the tightest hooks and you're supposed to fasten them at the loosest when they're new. :(

I asked the clerk about it and she looked it up for me and they don't make any 65s now - at least not this season. It did occur to me that it might have been intended for children, but at least at the outlet they didn't have any cm-sized ones in the children's section.

But on the plus side, I had a whole conversation with her in (slightly wrong) Finnish! It's the first time I've done that with a storeperson, not counting the standard Hi, Thanks, etc.

If you read Finnish )

#woes of being tiny in the ribcage
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (studying)
Our homework is to talk about our home and how Finland is different from it in Finnish. I've written up a bit of stuff here that has tons of mistakes and, to quote Wax, "my cases and tenses are all over the place" (which is because we haven't actually learned all the cases and tenses). Even though I have a bed-lexicon, I won't let her correct the text for me because a) teachers don't like that and b) in most cases the differences are beyond my ability to master.

My Finnish friends laugh a lot/ think that my bad Finnish is cute/funny so I thought I would type up some of what I wrote.

Suomi on kylmämpi kuin Alabama. Alabamalla on myös monta metsää, mutta Alabama on lämmin ja kostea. Alabamassa ei sata lunta, vain pari sentimetriä, noin joka toinen tai kolmas vuosi. Alabama on meksikonlahdenrannalla. Meksikonlahden vesi on lämmin ja Itä-meren vesi on kylmä. Minä en halua uida Suomen meressä koska vesi on kylmä.

Suomalaiset ovat varautunut. Eivät puhu paljon vieras kanssa ja eivät hymyile paljon. USA:n etelävaltiolaiset ovat seurallinen ja ystävällinen. Alabamalla on vieraanvaraisuus ja kohteliaisuus kultturi. Alabamalaiset hymyilevät paljon.

Alabamassa ja USA:n etelässä paljon ihmiset menevät kirkkoon 3 kertaa viikossa. Ihmiset ovat uskonnollinen. Etelävaltiojan oman ruokan nimi on Soul Food (sielu-ruoka). Ruoka keittetään pitkä aika, tai (upo)paistetaan. Tässä ruokassa on paljon sokeria ja öljyä. Se ei ole tervellinen. Suomen ruoka on tervellinen. Alabamassa ei ole busseja, kaikki ajavat autoa. Talot ovat isompia ja seillä on paljon ilmastointi.Paljon ihmiset tykkävät amerikkalainenjalkapaloa mutta minä en tykkä.

Kevät on aikaisempi Alabamassa kuin Suomessa. Alabamassa on paljon kukkia. Huhtikuussa minun isän ja äidin kotilla on monta atsaleaa, kurjenmiekkaa, tiikerililjaa, pääsiäisliljaa, leijonankitaa, ja hortensiaa. Alabamassa on myös monta visteriä ja magnoliapuuta. Seillä on myös pekaanipähkinäpuut ja mustasaksanpähkinäpuut.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (WHAT?)
We were talking about travel and I wanted to say I went to a wee island in Nagu yesterday but I had to start with 'brother-in-law' which is a word that doesn't exist in Finnish, so:

ME: My wife's -
TEACHER: No.
ME: Yes.
TEACHER: No, not wife - husband.
ME: No, my wife.
TEACHER: Ah. - Not in Finland. In Finland it's not possible.
ME: ... Yes, it is wife.
TEACHER: Are you married?
ME: Yes.
TEACHER: In Finland it's not possible for - [I guess she was going to tell me that gay marriage is illegal, which I guess I as a gay person would just be completely ignorant of? It's amazing how often straight people think gay people might not know these things]
ME, on the verge of trembling with anger: Yes, we traveled to America and in America, in Iowa, got married where it is ... legal. [I didn't know the Finnish word for legal].
TEACHER: Oh, okay, I see, blah blah [at this point it was like a complex speech in Finnish and I didn't know all the words and I was too pissed off to track but something something thought I didn't know because something something Finland but now she gets it. This speech was vaguely apologetic but she didn't actually say anything that I recognize as an apology, but then the only Finnish word I've learned for that is 'excuse me' which is probably not the appropriate one anyway.]


But anyway, so I really like this teacher, or at least I did - no, I guess I still do and that's partly why I'm so upset - but anyway, I'm pretty sure this is another person who's completely unaware that what they're doing could be identity policing - they're just correcting you! Helpfully! In case you weren't aware of where the glaring gaps in your basic civil rights are, they want to make sure that you are reminded and not accidentally laying implicit claim to them!

I was so angry that for the remaining 20 minutes of class I just sort of shut down and I couldn't even track what was going on around me and what people were saying. I just sat there angrily drawing in my sketchbook, ranting and raving inside my head and concentrating on not making weird facial expressions.

Then on the bus Farjana and Gigi made me feel better, although I'm not sure they realized I was upset, but they were definitely explicitly acknowledging my relationship AND being super friendly about it so I felt touched.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (audrey)
My dad and I walked my mom through signing up for an RSS feed of my journal a couple of weeks ago so she could follow my profound thoughts, such as they are. So I guess I could try to update a bit here.

I've gone to a month of Finnish classes now, and I've adjusted more or less to sleeping slightly less and even to running errands after class is over rather than collapsing in an unconscious heap. I'm hoping that I'll manage to adjust still further to a) being more active in the remainder of the daytime so that I can go back to collecting/posting plebefic and shoes and updating my Poirot blog on Tumblr and b) start meal planning so that I'll be able to cook during the week again instead of subsisting on sandwiches, cereal, and frozen food 5/7ths of the time.

I've also adjusted (sort of) to being more social! Adaptations that I have made to my natural inclinations include:
  • I don't put on my headphones at the bus stop, because I share the bus stop and ride with Natalia, Azra, and Farjana. Usually the four of us sit on two seats out of solidarity, but mostly we're too awkward to have very much conversation - like, an average of one exchange every two days, I guess? Also, though, Finnish is our strongest language in common, and we don't have very much Finnish between us yet (though I have my suspicions about Natalia's English... I can't shake this feeling that she gets more than she lets on, because she has this composed, subtly and deeply amused air that just very strongly reminds me of Black Widow, even if, as mentioned, she's not QUITE that deadly/hot/red-headed).


  • I don't read at the lunch and coffee breaks. Instead, I join the largest group or second-largest group of my classmates at the table they share and take part occasionally in the conversation, although it is necessarily dominated by the Russian-speakers. We've had some fun exploring the different Thai, Russian, and Bosnian words for different things, though. And listening to Daoprakai's anecdotes about her husband, who has some extremely intense opinions about very weird stuff.


  • I sit with my classmates in the café at lunch, when they're there. I'm there the most often, though. I think it's a kind of cultural difference. The more Finland-integrated you are, the more you take cafeteria-lunch prices for granted and the more you're willing to pay. Pepe, whose better half is also Finnish, is the second-most casual cafeteria customer. Ksenia and Maria go once a week or so, but I think this is because they are each eating for two, and they're vocally dismayed by the prices vs. quantity and selection. Whereas from my viewpoint, the food is cheaper and better than the Finnish average, so it's doing fairly okay.


In terms of the class material, we've reached the Talking about the Weather unit and are 3/5 done with how to conjugate verbs in the simple present tense (we're spending way, WAY too long on this, considering how regular Finnish verbs are: they're pretty regular). We've started to learn partitive (which is necessary for direct objects and some types of plurals, among other uses) and genitive (possessives), but we're not done with them because they are each formed in a variety of different ways, so we're slowly practicing the different categories and going over the explanations again and again for the benefit of the slower classmates. We even briefly brushed over some of the more complex cases that deal with spatial relationships ('-ssa/ä and -sta/ä is for the inside of a house, and -lla/ä and -lta/ä is for places related to a house, but still outside, like the patio. Except when it isn't, which is a lot of the time'): just enough to cause intense headaches, in other words. Meanwhile, I can't help feeling that a limited selection of past tense would be more useful to us, considering the amount of off-the-cuff conversing/explaining we're supposed to be doing. After all, this class is immersion for everyone who doesn't speak Russian.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (o.O)
08:05. I leave for the bus stop.

08:16. I grab the first bus going the proper direction, the 21. The 21 is the same bus that I took Wednesday, but got off when it turned towards Runosmäki instead of Raunistula. I thought it didn't go where I wanted, but I was able to walk the gap in 10 minutes and when I got there found the sign at the appropriate stop said 21, so I concluded the bus was going to make a short loop. I have observed this behavior in other buses before, such as the one which goes to my brother-in-law's house.

08:30. Class starts without me.

08:45. We've passed Moisio, wherever that is, and are headed further into the boonies. Every time we pass a highway sign with an arrow back to Turku I think the bus is going to take it, but it doesn't.

We go through Patis and pass its rural church. We drive through a residential area and pass, in order, Virgin Mary Street, Madonna Road, Domina Road, and couple of saint roads, and then turn onto Midsummer Way and promptly pass a turnoff for Dionysus Street.

At some point two small boys get on the bus and are so excited talking about their Pokémons or something that they can't even sit down. Then a tiny, like, four year old gets on with his daddy. They all go to the same rural school and get off. We pass another rural school.

08:55. The bus driver asks me where I was going. I say "I don't understand Finnish, but... wrong bus."

HER: What? Where are you going?
ME: I was going to Turun AKK in Raunistula. Wrong bus.
HER: There's more than one route and this one doesn't go through Raunistula!
ME: Oh, I see.
HER: You should have asked!
ME: Yeah, I see that now. But you see it says 21 at the bus stop, so I thought bus 21 went there. But anyway, I will have to wait for you to turn around and get off when we get back to the point where the routes diverge; it's fine.
HER: Yes, you can do that, but after I get back I will come here again and that time I will be going to Raunistula - no wait actually I won't.
ME: I can take a different bus from that bus stop.
HER: Yes. But now I have to ask you to get off and wait at the opposite side of the street because I have a 25 minute break between routes.

(At this point she seems to me to be projecting a definite air of miffedness, slightly hunted, but I think it's because she is worried/guilty about kicking me off the bus to wait: she seems to feel badly for me, but I'm trying to project as relaxed and friendly as I can: it isn't her fault, after all, and it's not like I really mind waiting. I'm dressed all right for the weather.)

09:00. This is way more fun than Finnish class would have been. I've been able to listen to Trespassing all the way through on this trip and looked at lots of cute little buildings and I am having an adventure! So I walk across the street. The rural bus stop is this sad little hollow with two plank benches on either short end, and walls made of actual pressed-paper boards full of embedded staples and covered in sad, faded graffiti. The whole thing seems to sag together with embarrassment.

I decide that since I have 25 minutes to kill and my thermos of tea is already empty I should class the place up a bit.

I have nearly finished writing out the entirety of "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll in blue ballpoint on the wall beside me (I'm at "And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?") when a small blonde apple-cheeked farm woman arrives dressed completely in dowdy mumsy printed windsuit, carrying a lot of bags.

I finish the line on autopilot - then freeze - then studiously pretend that I haven't seen her in the other end of the bus stop. When she turns away (I see from the corner of my eye) I risk a quick covert glance and she doesn't seem to be looking at me, but nonetheless I guiltily slip the pen into my bag, trying to look like I'm not doing anything and haven't been committing acts of graffiti. We wait the last 5 minutes in a pregnant silence and I get out the ereader, but I'm lost in a paranoid fantasy that she's calling the police to arrest me when she gets out her cell phone, and that they're going to come cart me away and I'm going to have to defend myself in Finnish ("It's already got graffiti! Poetry raises the tone! It's LEWIS CARROLL") and will perhaps be sentenced to community service, which will be awkward for me because I don't speak Finnish. I try to remember how to say anything about poetry in Finnish, for my hypothetical conversation with the cops.

09:25. The bus arrives again. I wave sheepishly to the bus driver, and she asks me if I still have my ticket. I show it to her even though - dude seriously? Do you not remember our conversation??? Whatever.

09:35. By this point I have to go to the bathroom and am thinking that instead of rushing to the one at school I should stop in the Hesburger next to the bus stop where I will have to change buses to get to school.

09:55. A mother and child have gotten on the bus at some point and the child is sitting directly in front of me, and has spent at least ten minutes taking her hat and scarf off and then putting them back on. I'm thinking hysterical thoughts about how I hate having a bladder. Adam Lambert is my only comfort. I think some more about how much I want a Hulking-out-centric Avengers fanvid to "Pop That Lock" (no seriously it would be SO GOOD let me tell you my thoughts about this sometime).

10:05. I get off the bus and head for Hesburger. It opens at 10:00 on weekdays, and I think I am quite lucky that I've gotten there just after this. I wonder if I will have to buy something in order to use their bathroom. It seems unlikely because they don't get a lot of traffic there, but I could totally buy a tea to refill my thermos. Except the door's locked. No staff are in sight. They haven't opened yet. I walk to the bus stop to wait instead and try not to pop anything, contrary to Adam's advice in my ear (former advice, since by then he has moved on to "Underneath").

10:16. Bus 1 arrives 3 minutes before my 2-hour bus ticket would expire! The driver checks the clock to make sure I am still allowed to ride on it.

10:25. Finally at school and the bathroom, where I spend some time running hot water on my wrist arteries to warm my hands up before I go to class. The teacher has been making photocopies and I run into her right outside the door. She's like "Cim! Hi, where were you?" And I'm like "WRONG BUS!" *armflail* She laughs and is like "I see, where did you go?" "MOISIO and - and - Patis?" Then she laughs even more and is like "Oh, long bus ride." Fuck yeah.

11:15. Class lets out early, taking me completely by surprise because I've forgotten that we have a short day on Friday.

11:30. Home again, home again, jiggety-jig!

Whew.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (why is the beverage gone)
Fun, right?

Here's my related thoughts, but they aren't organized so I don't think they'll make a paragraph.

  • The starring guy, the one who plays Dirk - I can't remember his name but [personal profile] waxjism always can, but she's sleeping - (Stephen Mangan. I looked it up)... I like him already. He was the guest hero in the same episode of Marple with Martine McCutcheon and possibly the only way that an episode already starring Martin McCutcheon and Geraldine McEwan could get any better.

  • Wax found a copy of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency in dead-homophobic-Granny's attic and so I've just reread it - only the second time ever, and the first time was in middle school. Unfortunately it smelled like it'd been in a granny's attic for at least a decade. It wasn't as funny as I remembered, but I still enjoyed it a great deal.

  • Fewer laughs per page than Pratchett or Wodehouse,the two I always compare Adams to the most; it's more a kind of structured underlying absurdity. Still, it's definitely less absurd, and less Pratchett-like, than I remember Hitchhiker's Guide being, but I haven't reread it in almost as long. My dad and mom weren't giant fans and only had two of the five, I think, plus The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.

  • Dirk Gently is described as round and podgy, which couldn't be further from Mangan, but I suppose if you're going to be delivering that type of absurd-humor these days (or investigating things?) it's shaggy hair and cheekbones that are in style. For some reason. Can't imagine why (DrWhoSherlock). Anyway, it's not like I mind, precisely.


Every now and then I rewatch that episode of Marple just to stare at Martine McCutcheon. She's so lovely. Where was I?

Oh right. Other things that aren't remotely related to this new Dirk Gently series:

  • I got into that Finnish course, but all I know about it is that the first class is on May 7th: not how many hours per week or how long it lasts or anything like that.

  • I need to make a doctor's appointment but I'm afraid of calling people to make appointments so I've now put that off for a solid week.

  • Wax is unemployed, which is bad of course kind of, but good in that she got out with an excellent severance package, and she hated her job anyway so if she hadn't been laid off she probably would have cried. I'm very happy, as I was getting sick of watching that place suck the soul out of her. But on the other hand, she's been there a long time so even though she's glad, it's been a big shock and she's greatly discombobulated. So far she's mostly responding by sleeping in the least healthy pattern possible and avoiding anything and everything, which is a functional way to recover from a shock for me too, so I shouldn't worry unless it goes on more than perhaps a week and a half.

  • Unfortunately Wax is the most senior descendant of deadhomophobicGranny who doesn't live outside of Finland, so she is supposed to be responsible for estate-executor things right now, and it's the worst possible time for her to be responsible for anything. My ability to help is severely limited by incomplete knowledge of Finnish and Finnish inheritance laws and practices.

  • [personal profile] copracat posted on Tumblr about this Australian show called Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. It's got a female protagonist and it's set in the 1920s and it's a murder mystery show, so I would like it even if it were horrible and American, but it's not horrible and everyone is Australian and has cute Australian accents. So that's nice. It seems to be based on some books. I wonder if I should check them out.

cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (lol yep)
So, a week ago I went to a Finnish course placement test, and at the time the interviewer for the oral portion (which was quite funny, as my Finnish is almost wholly inadequate to complete sentences in response even when I understand the question, and I also didn't recognize the word "wife" and completely forgot some of the standard question words even though I know them) emphasized quite strongly that I wasn't to travel or do anything because the classes might start as soon as the last week in March. Well, it's the last week in March! And I've just gotten a letter inviting me to a Finnish class... that doesn't start until May.

I could totally have been making appointments with my therapist all along! Also I could have made that doctor's appointment last week!

Actually I'm more disturbed by the prospect of waiting another two months than anything else. I've become extremely anxious for SOMETHING, ANYTHING to happen recently, but if the class really is capable of taking up to three days a week it will probably make it impossible for me to get a job in that interval (although I will be compensated with a higher unemployment allowance because it was arranged by the employment office and counts as job training).

In the long term, though, Finnish is an inescapably essential life skill if I want to stay in the Turku-Åbo area and eventually get a job, and it's going to take a lot of time and work whenever I do it so it should be good to get it over with. If only I didn't have a sort of Job Fever just now (which is kind of funny - that it's just NOW I mean - as I've never had a real job or even a full-time one and I've only worked a total of nine weeks outside the flat since 2004).

So. Cabin Fever. Maybe in addition to knitting, I should take up some kind of volunteer activity. Some kind of volunteer activity that doesn't require being able to form sentences in Finnish...

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cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (Default)
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