cimorene: A vintage nouveau illustration of a reclining woman embracing the enormous head of a dragon (love)
I don't mean to imply by the following story that I usually know what to say. I have anxiety in social situations (not of the same nature as the condition known as Social Anxiety Disorder) and I tend to be shy. But in familiar contexts, surroundings, and situations, where I have over time constructed a decent model of what is usually expected of me, I can rely on shortcuts, and at work, with my friendly work acquaintances who are usually speaking to me in Finnish, I tend to quickly, even automatically reply with "Mmm!" or "Hmmm?" or "Mm-hm" when something else doesn't leap to mind, as it often doesn't due to factors like not understanding what they said or not knowing what they're referring to.

But last week my friend Ella was relating something about a sick grandmother being sicker recently and I got so distracted thinking about what she said - like just basically processing it and then continuing that with stuff like mental math for how old she'd've been and stuff - that I hadn't even got around to wondering how I was supposed to react and I suddenly realized way too much time had passed, during which my face was no doubt completely blank due to my thoughts being focused inward. Ella was late and ran back to the cash register, and she wasn't offended or anything, but I was actually startled out of my thoughts and a little alarmed to realize I had lost track of what exactly was going on around me (couldn't remember what facial expressions people were making and wasn't quite sure how long I'd inadvertently been silent). I was focused so far inward that I was too slow to decide what intonation of "Mm" noise would have been appropriate until it was too late!

And I realized that while my mother was dealing with the deaths of her grandparents into her 50s - all of whom were terrible people who were physically and/or emotionally abusive, cut for some more discussion of abusive parenting, though nothing graphic )
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)
My mother-in-law finally got a tenant for the home she moved out of a year ago & we went on a flat-emptying roadtrip yesterday (because it's an hour and a half away from us in Ekenäs, halfway to Helsinki). It was really almost empty already, with just a washing machine, a bookcase and tv/media shelves, the light fixtures and the odd plastic bin remaining. In <2 hrs, mop & rubber gloves were being wedged into the van and I was done sweeping up the dust bunnies. We didn't have to pry anything out of the walls because they're being professionally redone.

Coming back to Pargas (20 minutes away from us in Turku, [personal profile] waxjism's childhood home and MIL's new digs), we drove right through an intense blizzard of big, fat, fake-looking snowflakes that hung swirling in the air over a surprisingly large area encompassing most of the town, both the bridges and a big chunk of rural mainland. It was two degrees below freezing when we got dressed in the morning, but with glaring sunshine all day, most of our work was done above the freezing point, with the furniture-carrying members of the party (including [personal profile] waxjism) leaving their jackets indoors. So while the temperature may have dipped a degree or two in the storm area, the flakes were vanishing as they hit the ground like soap bubbles, but sticking to the noses of the cars driving out of the gale in little white patches like they'd been pranked with a towelful of shaving cream.

While driving in the middle of the blizzard, there was a clear sense of moving through the inside of a cloud, which is of course literally true, but not usually so visibly so. At the treeline it looked like fog; up close the flakes were streaking past like the stars past the windows of the Enterprise; and in the middle distance you could clearly catch individual big flakes in isolated moments, making out the size and shape and he weird little giddy swirling trajectories they made coming down.

We watched the storm die down out the window of MIL's new flat while drinking tea, with the last snowflakes literally steaming off the roof of the house next door.

There's isolated snowflakes falling outside our livingroom window today too (currently -1° C), though nothing like a blizzard. They look like dandruff falling from a bright blue-gray sky. Or ash, as [personal profile] waxjism observed.

So, Happy Easter, as the Finns are all saying ironically.

It snowed after Easter last year too. I maintain that Easter is too premature for spring in this climate. May Day is more legitimate, or the traditional pagan spring carnival of Walpurgis, but they're still on the chilly side and not really showing enough new growth from nature to inspire the proper springy feeling yet.

The vibe is less the joyous verdant carpets of new grass and daffodils in bloom and heaps of blooming flowers and buds on all the trees which one pictures, and more a sort of cautiously hopeful donning of sneakers instead of insulated boots, sweeping mud and gravel off the streets and waiting for the grass to come back to life. (To be fair, there are buds - the little furry ones - on the trees. But not baby leafs yet. The bunnies weren't very keen on the twigs we brought home last weekend.) Spring clothes and sunglasses and sunhats and thin cotton scarves are selling briskly at the Red Cross, but the customers are still all coming in bundled up.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (Default)
Sooooo, what's going on with me is that I'm with the Red Cross for the next... 6 months or so.

The last time I was in a work practice placement it was a daycare The equivalent of The Previouslies, a short summation of how I wound up switching Employment Goals ) I decided to do some retail for the time being, because I have some experience of it and it's doable without any certification or training, unlike many other fields.

My Finnish isn't perfect - it's what you'd call "fine" or "pretty good" probably, and I'm still terrified of someone unintelligible due to mumbling or regional accent coming along, but I don't have trouble ordinarily. It's also been 13 years since I was a cashier though, and the technology has changed since then, and I've never done it in Finland anyway. So when the little group of social workers, employment bureau caseworkers and mental health professionals that my therapist's workgroup belongs to heard my explanation, they swiftly concluded that a few work practice placements in different areas of retail would be best, because it would provide the best chance to polish my Retail Finnish language skills and appease my anxiety by familiarity with environment and expectations of the field.

They also sent me to a new department of the Employment Bureau, which - okay, let me just pause here to note that this is amazing as fuck: The Employment Bureau has a SECRET DEPARTMENT where they give slightly more help to people who need slightly more help. In the ordinary run of things, caseworkers there have 500+ customers apiece and are overworked and underfunded to death. I've had like four caseworkers in the last few years before this already. And when you go to their information desk, or to their ordinary caseworkers, and ask for more help, they typically send you to that Career Planning course that I was sent to a couple years ago, which wasn't useless but was aimed at people who needed help navigating the bureaucracy and things like that more than people suffering from social anxieties and culture barriers and uncertainty about their language skills.

But even though I had previously inquired in multiple places about help, nobody at the Employment Bureau had been empowered to tell me about the existence of this department, which I gather you get sent to only with the referral of a psychologist or psychiatrist? That's where the representative came from who was at the the meeting with my psychologist I mentioned, and he immediately put in a request to have me transferred to that department. I got a new caseworker from there who was calm, friendly, brisk, and reassuring. She said that if I hope to work arranging the little showrooms at Ikea there's a certification for that (Somistaja, a window dresser/display maker) which depends on the certification for being a salesperson.

So she sent me to the Red Cross's thrift store, Kontti, which is staffed with students, volunteers, work practicants and people eligible for the thing where social security reimburses the employer for their salary. So it's almost entirely charity, with most of the proceeds going to the Red Cross's various projects in Finland (50%) and abroad (25%), plus it's very diverse and friendly and generally a pretty nice place. Their reputation as a training ground for retail and warehouse workers who then move on to employment elsewhere is so good, in fact, that they are fairly selective with their new trainees - the big boss told us in our introduction on Tuesday that our group of 8 represented over 100 applicants over a couple of months, which is like... a Harvard-like acceptance rate. (The Swedish language got me in the door here, I'm pretty sure: EVERYBODY who hears that I'm interested in retail and speak fluent-ish Swedish gets excited, because there's a huge demand for that skill due to the legal and practical requirement for stores to have someone who can speak it on hand - there aren't really many Swedish monolinguals around, but there are still a few.) You can also get salesperson certification on the job there, as well as a long list of other certifications - the lady who was supervising me and my fellow new-cashier trainees yesterday is on the verge of finishing one in business admin. (Hence why it was my caseworker's first choice.)

We spent the first couple of days on the warehouse side, where the donations are processed, sorted and priced, and it has to be seen to be believed. It's just such an unbelievable quantity of stuff. The area around the station where the bags are emptied and unpacked is just like something out of a movie, walls made out of racks and shelves and carts packed solid with bags of donated stuff waiting to be opened - cases four feet deep and six feet tall, banana boxes towering up towards the warehouse ceiling, and an overflow area with just a five or six foot high mountain of bags just... piled against the wall like a heap of snow. But that's only the beginning of the journey, because once they're unpacked and sent to the proper departments there's yet more sorting to do. The front half of the warehouse is also packed with racks, crates, shelves and bins of objects on their way to the store front, so it's a bit like an antique mall except cleaner - one little room of china, one little room of books, one little room of paintings, one little room of toys, one little room of electronics - where the walls between them are once again made of storage packed solid on both sides with stuff. Walking in for the first time felt a bit like, I don't know, visiting Willy Wonka's factory, or one of those quaint little Museums of Curiosities.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (Default)
Hating to make phonecalls makes it extra awkward, of course, but eventually I called the card cancelling service, the regional lost and found (they didn't have it), and the social security agency for a replacement card. Then I registered my ID and SS card lost with the police's online form in case of identity theft.

That left:

  • Grocery store membership card. This took me and [personal profile] waxjism BOTH over an hour last week attempting to figure out how to request a new one.

  • Other bonus cards, infrequently used: you don't actually need them; you can just give your name at the register. Less plastic to carry around and hunt for in the wallet: sounds good to me.

  • Replacement ID card: Unlike in the past, when you had to print or pick up the paper forms, fill them out, and bring them with exact change in cash and physical copies of approved ID photos to the police in person, you can do most of this online now. You fill out the forms electronically and pay with a direct bank transfer, and the photographer emails the photos directly to the police, but you still have to go to the photographer in person (to take the pictures) and the police in person (to give your signature), so I haven't actually got around to this yet. (I also am trying to get [personal profile] waxjism to replace her 20-year-old oversized driver's licence which doesn't fit in her wallet without stretching the zipper out of shape in the same trip but this requires dragging her around on her day off). On the plus side though, you can also make an electronic reservation for a timeslot at the police station to do your paperwork, so you don't have to go there and sit in the waiting room for several hours (it's happened before).

  • (Because of this dawdling, though, I had to take my passport to the post office to sign for a registered package the other day, haha.)

  • The raw food handling certification: I don't have an immediate plan to apply for work in a kitchen so this isn't exactly URGENT, which is good because it requires me to cold-text a total stranger. I'm working up to it by putting it in my calendar with an alarm repeatedly, so that when the alarm sounds and I cancel it and re-set it for a later date ("I don't have the mental integrity for this today") I feel a little prick of guilt.

I also finally have permanent residency status in Finland!

The physical permit expires in 5 years, but the right to reside does not require new applications any longer.

I should have received this after four uninterrupted years' residence as a family member (I only acquired family member status after living here on a student visa 3 years, because that's what same-sex couples had to do - cohabit 3 years - in order to acquire the right to Finnish registered partnership and the common law partnership status. Gender-neutral marriage passed here recently, but to my knowledge the laws haven't been implemented, so this may still be the case.) So that meant 4(spouse)+3(student)=7 years after I moved here, but I hadn't adopted electronic calendars yet at the previous permit renewal, which was THREE YEARS before the final Permanent Resident Status would have kicked in... and my application was a month late, which meant I was no longer eligible, and got sent back for four more years of waiting (and another hefty processing fee). That penalty period ended last November, and I got a fancy new Resident Card yesterday!

The police have been downsized, though, and effective at the new year, foreign national permits are no longer processed in Turku. All of them for the southwest region of Finland have been concentrated in our suburb, Raisio, the one that's 20 minutes by car and where our Ikea is located (that means that a bunch of offices were closed besides the Turku one). Meanwhile, Raisio's permit-processing offices (they used to do IDs and many types of licences) have also been closed, and Raisio residents who are natural Finns have to come to Turku for their permit needs. That all happened over the new year, and I'd never been to downtown Raisio before. It took two bus rides and then wading through four parking lots in calf-high snow. I discovered they only have one service window open there, next to about six shuttered ones in their lobby (Alien Affairs in Turku usually had 2 or 3). Luckily the lines were not long yet, so I didn't have to wait long before making another two bus trips and a lot of frantic snow-wading to get back home with my toes numb (it was -15°).

In relation to the downsizing, I asked the desk worker, "So before the 5 years are up I have to come back?" and she laughed,

"Well, who knows what the permit will look like or who will be processing it in five years! We might not even have a police office!" Touché, desk worker, touché.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (crack)
I delivered our end of lease notification today, so our last day to vacate this flat will be 1 September.

We looked at three flats in the past week, all rent-controlled. Finland has rent-controlled developments, all(?) owned by private companies: one downtown is part owned by the city and the one we're going to move to is (part?) owned by a non-profit.

That makes these the closest available parallel to the projects, but rather than the depressing, dilapidated air given off by completely un-rent-controlled developments in some areas of the city (like Runosmäki and Halinen...), the development in Jyrkkälä reminds one most strongly of a sinister utopian colony set from Star Trek, with immaculately-maintained lawns, gardens, gazebos, playgrounds, and bushes and trees in the spaces between each building. The buildings at the front of the development are slightly ugly, but way less horrible than the worst of the 60s-80s monstrosities that infest this city right up to the most visible areas of downtown, including our current building. And the building we're moving into is currently in the finishing stages of a facade renovation from which it (and the buildings immediately visible from it) have emerged looking shiny and beautiful, complete with a tall panel of decorative mosaic on one side. This building is also nestled up against a beautiful, idyllic forest, so the overwhelming impression is tweeting birds, not traffic like here. From that (back) end of the development, you wouldn't even know you're relatively near two big highways.

Our future flat was also recently internally damaged by a plumbing problem, so the walls have been freshly paint/papered and the floors are all new. The kitchen cabinets are horrible, and the layout is stupid, but not as stupid as this flat's, and at least we're getting a spare room and a walk-in storage closet for less money than our current rent.

(We looked at a 1-bedroom flat in the same development - hence even cheaper - and it had a nicer kitchen and much better layout, as well as a larger livingroom, but [personal profile] waxjism rejected it because it was on the first floor with big picture windows looking right onto a park area with a playground and walking paths, liable to wake you up early with playing children or nosy retirees.) (The development is amply supplied with retirees, who have their own chess club in the development's communal building.)

The big drawback of this flat is the commute, which is still about max 10 minutes by bus to downtown or to my brother-in-law's house. We've been spoiled by living so near downtown for so long, though, that that seems like a long way to me, haha. It is about equally accessible by bus to [personal profile] waxjism's hated workplace, though the hilliness of the aforementioned forest makes biking impossible.

The facade work will have gone far enough to put the railings back on our future balcony in approx 2 weeks, at which point we can take possession and start moving all our crap, and we are SUPER EXCITED. We spent all yesterday evening with 3D room planners.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (sleek & stylish)
I followed a link from Pinterest to this list of supposedly the "essential" "basics" that "any woman" would need in her wardrobe, and like... gobsmacked.

I mean, I can ALMOST accept Tim Gunn's theory of basics, but there were still "basics" according to him that I objected to on the grounds that many many women, even many middle-class women living in the modern west in cities, would not need them. But THIS list is... something else. For one thing, it's way too long to conceivably be any kind of "universal", but that's just for starters. It's not just kinda classist by being tilted explicitly towards OFFICE work; and it's not just overly femme, which these lists usually are... )
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (wtf?)
I sent an email to ask how to go about arranging a continuation of this work practice arrangement, because the job bureau only answer the phone when I am busy with said work practice. I got an email back that said if all parties are in favor it's fine, just "deliver a new contract to the job bureau about a week before the end of the current agreement".

Not unnaturally, I think, I took this to mean that all I had to do was deliver the new papers to them about a week before the end of the current agreement.

That's next Friday, so I went there today half an hour before their reception window closes to deliver the papers in question.

But the receptionist guy seemed unaccountably angry, all like "THIS IS TOO LATE" (which left me probably visibly astonished since, half hour before closing) because apparently the social workers have gone home and nobody but them is allowed to accept paperwork because they have to be examined right away to make sure they are in order. This was brand new information for me (I was envisioning a post-box kinda situation where you get an answer in the mail later. I've even been told to send my papers to them in the mail for a past work practice).

"You have to come back Monday," he continued, sounding about as annoyed as if HE was the one who was going to have to run across town first thing Monday morning and miss an hour of work. "Between nine and three." He also conveyed with a world-weary air that the workers' office hours are ALWAYS then which I already knew, but didn't say as it was unlikely to help things along.

"Someone tried to call you," he added disapprovingly, "on the 13th, and you didn't answer." The same day I got my email reply so I assume to convey the contents of the email, and definitely while I was at work but not a number I knew came from them. Talking would have enabled me to get that detail ironed out, but I can't leave my ringer on all the time and since 9 out of 10 unknown numbers are telemarketers, I answer to them but I can't start calling them back.

I'm irritated that I have to go back, but there isn't anybody to blame really, as I imagine the writer of the email expected me to understand 'deliver the papers' to imply 'into the hands of a social worker, and then watch with an air of alert anxiety while they examine them'. So I don't really blame that person, or, hence, anyone but the inevitable gaps between cogs in the machinery of bureaucracy. Therefore, mostly I'm kinda stumped by the dude's irritation.

I mean, of course it's better when there aren't these little misunderstandings, but he has to see a lot of them working reception in the most overworked and understaffed organ of federal bureaucracy around, right? And his attitude would be entirely understandable if I had been a Difficult Customer, but I hadn't; or making more work for anyone but myself, but also I hadn't (there wasn't anyone else there and it's not like he could leave early). Maybe he was having a really bad week.

I want cookies.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (Default)
Just a few hours ago: Finnish Parliament approves same-sex marriage

This law comes from a citizens' initiative (a petition) and makes Finland the last Nordic country to recognize same-sex marriages, to many people's embarrassment.

Wax and I call each other 'my wife', but we got married in Iowa and went through the usual process for getting approval of a foreign marriage, that is, submitted paperwork to a judge, who issued the decision that our Iowan marriage's "closest equivalent" was the Finnish registered partnership (which didn't actually convey all the legal benefits, just most of them).

The article says that the details won't be ironed out before 2015, so I wonder if our status will undergo an automatic conversion then, or we'll have to do something. Of course even if it's automatic, Wax and I already went through a lot more trouble and expense than, say, my Thai classmate who met her Finnish husband via an online dating site and got married after one short visit each.

If a Finnish citizen is engaged married (or in a registered partnership with) a non-EU citizen, their fiancé(e) spouse can get a family member visa - they can work and receive Finnish social services, and don't need proof of income (ETA: though [personal profile] pierydys and her husband had to prove cohabitation when she moved here as a fiancée, so although it is possible to get a fiancé(e) visa it's got a lot of requirements and counts as a special case).

On the other hand, we lesbians could only get a Finnish registered partnership, or a family member's visa, if we could prove we had already lived together for two years (though that isn't the case anymore apparently). In order to meet this requirement, one of us had to get permission to live in the other's country for that time. Getting a green card is literally like winning the lottery, so it was a lot easier for that to be me.

I applied directly to a Finnish university, which required reading up for an entrance exam that I flew to Finland to take at my parents' expense, and once I was accepted I got a student visa, but that required me to submit proof that I had €6000 in a Finnish bank account at the beginning of each school year. (Also students can't take jobs beyond a certain number of hours and don't get social security, though their healthcare is covered by the student union.)

After two years, I was automatically eligible for a family member visa because the government had a record of our cohabiting and considered us common-law married. So our Iowan marriage, years after that, didn't change anything in our daily lives, although we would have had the opportunity to change our names or something I think.

But the barriers to our relationship were costly and complicated, and we wouldn't have managed it without some €12000+ from my parents (a gay tax that would be good to refund to them given the current economic crisis), a ton of paperwork, and support from [personal profile] waxjism's brother, mother, and even her brother's best friend and sister-in-law's sister, both of whom gave me places to crash when [personal profile] waxjism was still living with her homophobic granny for economic reasons and I was banned from the house.

I can think of three gay Finnish celebrities who are married to foreigners, but I don't know a single other gay couple that's half foreign... and, as the Finnish teachers I've seen in the past couple of years will tell you, the majority of immigrants in Finnish language classes are here because of love: married either to Finns, or to spouses who are working here. That's a lot of immigrants and a looooooooooooooot of heterosexual relationships with Finns.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (working)
Hahahahahhahahhaha. Hahahahh. Hah hah. Hah.

Remember that whole farcical encounter with the employment bureau officer who promised that I shouldn't call anyone because my case-worker would call me? And refused to give me her contact info?

Well, since 3 weeks had passed I decided to just try the front desk. The front desk has one shared email for hundreds of workers and they promise only that someone will get back to you inside 3 days, but whatever, it's better than nothing right?

So I sent an email recounting this story and asking what I should do, could I talk to my case-worker even though I didn't know who it was or what?, last night.

This morning my case-worker called me.

She read my email.

And it was the first time she'd heard about it.

The hilarious worker never passed any message on to her in the first place?????


So I went through my little spiel explaining what I wanted and what I was confused about and she was like Oh that? That's easy, we have this thing going that lasts a couple of weeks where they walk you through the process and explain the different places you can look for that kind of work. It starts next month at Turun AKK, how's that?

I was like, uh, sounds great, I mean, I'm nothing but time...?

And she was like Haha, right! Yeah, and after that, you actually don't have to call us. I'll call you or a substitute worker will call you, but we'll check up to see if it helped or what. And we'll send you a snail mail letter with the dates and times and stuff.

Man, that was totally easy (assuming she actually sends it, knock on pine etc). Like, uh, once I actually got to the man behind the curtain.

But she also gave me her name and number so I can actually reach her next time.

So they're tears of relief and also laughcrying about the whole extra-farcical conclusion to the previous chapter.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (crack)
Since my mother-in-law has a summer cottage with an orchard 40 minutes from here in Pargas, generally there are a few things we get called on to help do every fall:

  1. Collect as many apples and plums as possible from the orchard, chop down unnecessary seedlings and prune the apple trees.

  2. Move the outdoor furniture from the deck in the meadow, the garden at the bottom of the hill, and the terrace outside the cottage door inside well before the first snow, including: a gas grill, three tables with their associated chairs/benches, and a bench glider swing in a big-ass rusty metal frame.

(We got out of #1 this year thanks to a disappointing apple year.) Now, when it comes to taking in the furniture, usually Local Brother is involved because while [personal profile] waxjism is a sturdy farmgirl, genetically speaking, lifestyle-wise she is a couch potato; and I'm a not-even-100-lb-weakling. But yesterday we had to attempt the Taking In of the Furniture without BIL's aid, and even though [personal profile] waxjism poured a kettle of boiling water on her left knee two weekends ago, giving herself a second-degree burn that is still taped up in bandages.

It was painfully slow without help, my arms quit working before we were done, I wasn't warmly dressed enough because my calculations didn't make room for the damp, and I ended up climbing the pine tree to cut down the hammock swing because of lack of ladders, sap-saturated knots in the rope and [personal profile] waxjism being unfit to clamber. I don't usually mind climbing trees, but the muddy slimy green smears on my jeans and everything being wet and getting my knitted gloves all dirty weren't fun; but lying face-down draped over an assortment of pine branches, trying to saw through a bit of rope with a big sharp knife was an amusingly surreal moment.

I'm tragically fragile though. My arms don't want to lift today and I had a headache before I even managed to get to bed last night, plus my legs are dotted with little bruises from the tree.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (Default)
I want to find some kind of outside-of-the-house source of exercising to help make it into a routine that I would be more likely to stick to.

The main reason is that if knitting is the only real workout my shoulders get, the right one hates it and responds with cramps and agony. I can do something about this by limiting the amount of time spent knitting, adopting a good posture and relaxing the rest of the arm etc., and a lot of arm- and shoulder-stretching, but I think this would work better. Also everyone I talk to from [personal profile] perhael to my 10-year-old niece to my mom & sister is joining gyms and/or Zumba and/or yoga classes and talking them up.

I don't really want to invest the kind of money upfront that gyms and yoga classes cost, though, especially not right now when I'm in Bureaucratic Run-Around Limbo in my job-seeking plans. So that's gone on the Think About Soonish Once Two Incomes Are Again Achieved list.

However, my psychologist says he has the power to write a prescription for exercise for me that would require the public, city-supported gyms and swimming pools and things to give me a discount... I'm not sure if that would help me or not. The locals I know seem to use private ones, except my Amazonian Estonian ex-classmate who does weight training (lol, no). (Now I think about it, wouldn't The Amazonian Estonian be a good name for an album?)
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (Default)
I'm 31 and have never had what I consider a real job. In my entire life, starting over 15 years ago, I have earned salary for: (1) weekend childcare at my church in high school, (2) a summer + (3) ~5 months while planning/waiting to move to Finland in retail, (4) 3 weeks as a substitute cleaner in a daycare 5 years ago, and (5) freelance translating (but the total money involved was very little).

The rest of my life in between those events can be filled in with a combination of school enrolment and depressed/anxious breakdowns.

This summer it came to pass that [personal profile] waxjism and I were both simultaneously ~1 semester from finishing the certifications we were pursuing but could no longer pay the bills on two student stipends, so we decided to both put them off for a year or two to work. She found some quickly thanks to her superior language skills (making car checkup bookings in a call center serving Sweden). I was an anxious mess and my psychologist suggested that I contact the friendly social worker I met once before who is tasked with helping people with mental health reasons to have difficulty with jobseeking, so I did.

The very nice social worker went over the whole situation with me, asked a few questions, called social security to check the details of my account and told me several pertinent facts:

  1. To stop angsting that my Finnish skills are inadequate for retail, because my communication is fine for not only ordinary conversation, but even communicating complex ideas verbally. My fears about not understanding a word uttered by someone who speaks a weird dialect are legit, but some dialects are incomprehensible to anyone but a native speaker anyway, and everyone knows this.

  2. My ambition to work (after I finish my certification that I can't complete until after getting some gainful employment and saving some money) in so-called morning and daytime childcare (after-school programs) is good in the sense that they've just recently been made public, obligating the city to provide them, and there's a desperate lack of staff for them. But it's bad in the sense that thanks to simultaneous budget cutbacks all the providers who are desperately asking the city for more staff are denied, so they aren't allowed to actually hire any staff. HAH HAH. Her office, which works with employers as well as jobseekers who have problems, has been fielding a lot of calls from them recently.

  3. She's technically not supposed to help me because TECHNICALLY I'm not long-term unemployed, and their center is supposed to serve people who are long-term unemployed - not that she will let that stop her from advising me if I need it. ("You're not long-term unemployed, you've just been without employment for a long time" = "They're not anxiety attacks, they're just attacks of acute anxiety"???)

    Being a student doesn't count as being unemployed, so all the times when I've been studying anything are off the table - I've only been unemployed... I forget what she said, but a really tiny number of days compared to the official cutoff (which is a thousand plus I think), according to social security's records.

  4. But pursuant to #3, the help that I actually need is meant to be provided by the employment bureau itself. They don't offer it to you, though, you have to know that you have to request it. So with my agreement, she wrote down on a sticky note exactly what I needed to request... in order to do this, she went to the employment bureau's official site to get the correct name.

    And she couldn't find it. She spent like 5 minutes clicking around making increasingly annoyed murmurs and finally found the name, not anywhere on the employment bureau's site... but with Google.

So, armed with my sticky note and tasked to update her with an email when I knew whether they would be able to help me, I walked down the block to the employment bureau.

So when you get to the employment bureau you wait in line at the Info desk, who then directs you.

ME: Hi, I need Job-Seeking Support Program so how do I -
INFO LADY: Haha, slow down there! SSN?
ME: (hands over social security card)
INFO LADY: Here's your queue number. Second floor!
ME: Uh, thanks.

I go to the second floor and the little queue machine lights up with my number within a minute (fastest service I've ever seen there, I admit). I hand over my ss card as per usual and the funny little dude brings up my file.

ME: Hi, I need the Job-Seeking Support Program or the Other Job-Seeking Support Program. I saw a social worker today and she gave me these names to request.
DUDE: Uh-huh. Well, I'll put a note in your file and send it to your case-worker.
ME: Uh... I have a case-worker?
DUDE: Haha, of course you do! Everyone has a case-worker!
ME: But when did I get a case-worker? My last visit I was sent back to Introductory Services because I hadn't been here in such a long time.
DUDE: Yep, I see. You saw (name) on (date), but he's not your case-worker. See? [SPINS MONITOR TO SHOW ME MY FILE] That's their name!
ME: Oh... I... don't think I remember that name... I... don't think I've ever met them...?
DUDE: Haha, of course you haven't met them!
ME: o_O???
DUDE: So, I'll just write a note here in your file that you request these services and send it to them. Then it will be their responsibility to talk to you about it and handle the request. There probably won't be a problem, but they'll contact you.
ME: Do I need some contact information, or a time period to call back - like, say, if I haven't heard from them within a week?
DUDE: No, no, see, I'll check and make sure for you that they're not on vacation - [HE PULLS A BIG CHART OF NAMES MADE OUT OF COLORED PAPER FROM BESIDE HIS ELBOW AND SKIMS DOWN IT] - no, they're not on vacation or anything, they're at work this week, so there will be no problem about them contacting you.
ME: They'll definitely contact me?
DUDE: They'll definitely contact you! Don't worry about it!
ME: ...Okay.

So as a result of this I've been answering my phone in Finnish since yesterday, as if my mysterious case-worker calls I want the conversation to start in Finnish with no awkwardness.

Normally I answer the phone in English because 90% of the phonecalls I get that aren't [personal profile] waxjism's family are telemarketers, and answering in English basically guarantees that they don't even want to try with me. They typically stutter audibly and ask if I'm me then hang up, or a little less than half the time, ask cautiously if my Finnish isn't that great and I pretend it's quite bad and then they apologize in a confused rush and hang up.

So yesterday I talked to two telemarketers (although it only took a couple more sentences to put them off, because I couldn't understand one guy's accent and the other one was looking to sell things for dudes only).

Hoping to hear from the case-worker before I get trapped in a longer conversation with one.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (wtf?)

  • Higher education (every other first-world country manages for it to not be a giant scam)

  • The prison system (for-profit prisons, racial inequality, prisoner abuse)

  • Law enforcement (racism, misogyny, corruption)

  • The entire criminal justice apparatus (i.e. further gaps between reported and prosecuted crimes, jury verdicts like the Trayvon Martin case)

  • Any and all types of social security (i.e. it is almost nonexistent)

  • Military spending (why is it greater than the next ten biggest spenders put together and why is it STILL INCREASING)

  • Disgracefully shitty treatment of actual military veterans (even more nauseating when you look at the amount of faux-patriotic jingoism spewed by the same conservatives who don't want to care for vets)

  • Gun control (every other first-world country is managing a lot better)

  • Campaign finance (enough said)

  • Banks (Wall Street, discriminatory loan practices)

  • Real estate market (still horrifyingly enforcing segregation)

  • Public education (it sucks, it's under-financed, and all the test-focused policies are just making it worse)

  • Regulation of food and food labelling (meat and milk pumped full of antibiotics and hormones, shoddy hygiene and inspection, known carcinogens that are used anyway and which manufacturers aren't required to warn about)

  • Medicine (hospital management and doctor salaries but also the med school system)

  • Public transport (largely missing)

  • Minimum wage (outrageously low)

I saw a post about the mass shooting epidemic, something like "There's nothing we can do, says the only country where this regularly happens", and it got me thinking... this attitude is basically true of almost every area of public policy I can think of.

After having lived in Finland for 10 years, I can only think of 3 areas of public policy where the US is better:

  • The US government will not stop you from naming your child what you want to name it, even if it's a non-traditional name. The Finnish government, in contrast, doesn't allow made-up names or names of the wrong gender and you have to make a case to a judge sometimes even to borrow one from another language or country.

  • US public schools do not have bible school. But on the other hand, Finnish schools only give this schooling by default to children whose names are already registered by their parents with the church (by virtue of having been baptized there). I mean, I still don't think they should do it; I highly doubt that the elementary teacher education conveys enough expertise to qualify the average teacher to teach it, but if it did, the awful anti-Semitic textbook would be automatic fail anyway.

  • A murderer sentenced to life in prison in the US is less likely to be released back into society where he can kill again. This is mostly a side-effect, though, of the fact that he's likely to be put to death (which is bad). There is no such thing as life in prison without parole in Finland (or Sweden or Norway for that matter). The maximum sentence here is... I forget, 20 years or something? The prison/hospital for the criminally mentally ill is the only way and I'm not sure it's even guaranteed. ... And murderers aside, the US tends to let violent and dangerous criminals out to stab and assault again all the time, even though the prisons are stuffed with young black men innocent of anything but, like, driving while black or possessing weed. Plus domestic abusers who attempt to kill their spouses, or who do kill their spouses, tend to be released quickly (or let off scot-free), so it's not like the system actually works in any systematic way.

cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (jewish)
Yesterday I read The Selective Amnesia of Post-War Europe by Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic, in which he reflects on Postwar by historian Tony Judt; the second pull quote was the one that shook me up the most:

Trigger warning: the Holocaust )

The article was obviously excellent. The information it contained was shocking and disturbing, as reading about anything connected to the Holocaust, or by extension Nazism, tends to be.

One effect has been a resurgence of my Jewish anger, which usually is not activated very much in Finland, with the deeply staggering exception of that time I found out that the public schools teach all the children who don't specifically opt out a version of Bible mythology which can be based on a textbook in which an entire chapter is dedicated to blaming ~the Jews~ for Jesus's death and painting Pilate as a good guy.

... And then I told this story to our friend who is a doctor of theology with a specialization in pop culture and a background in feminism, and also an active member of the state Church, because I wanted to know why the Church was okay with racism masquerading as doctrine in its tax-funded child education arm. And she said that's perfectly in line with the Church's official doctrine, that's how it was taught to her as well, and while it's not strictly accurate to what we know about history or to contemporary biblical scholarship, it does follow the text of John, it's just that some of the nuance was lost but that isn't a big deal, and well, they're just following the text. ... No I'm still not (EVER GOING TO BE) over that. (Please, before you say something, if applicable, think to yourself: SHOULD THE ETHNICITY OF MY AUDIENCE IN ANY WAY IMPACT WHAT I SAY? And adjust accordingly. Ie: 'Should I, as a citizen of a country that was however unwillingly allied with Germany during the second world war, say this to a descendant of Polish jews who emigrated as recently as 3 generations ago, leaving behind all extended family and any possibility of tracing it to be obliterated shortly thereafter?')

And of course, anger about anti-Semitism also awakens even more helpless anger that people are using the tragedy of the Holocaust as an excuse for the atrocities being currently committed in Israel. A couple of weeks ago I was at the Turku Art Museum and saw Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour's scifi short film Nation Estate, which was an incredibly powerful commentary on the situation in Palestine. (I looked pretty hard, but I don't think the film can be seen online in its entirety, even though it's only 9 minutes long. There is a trailer though.) It's a humorous dystopian film, but the emotions it provoked were intense and the reflections deep and depressing.

Even more depressing was the fact that the film was developed as her shortlist entry for a photography prize given by a Swiss museum, which abruptly withdrew funding when it found out the film's political subject matter and asked her to sign a document falsely claiming that she withdrew from the contest voluntarily. That was 2 years ago and she obviously got the funding elsewhere and finished the film, so that's something.

What seemed like the core of Coates's article to me was this paragraph:

National forgetting is always a selective endeavor. Italy had no more intention of dismissing its Roman heritage as "the past," than Americans have of dismissing George Washington as "the past." "The past" is whatever contributes to a society's moral debts. "Heritage" is everything else.

This resonates not just with Coates's introductory mention of the Civil War, but also with the yearly events of Columbus Day, in which a fictitious version of this greedy mass-murderer is celebrated for no particular reason while basically every historical detail of the actual disaster that was his presence on this continent is dismissed (or more often, denied). (Coates talks about "forgetting" the Civil War, but of course, it is also celebrated in much the same fictionalized manner throughout most of the South.) Maybe Hitler will get the Columbus/Andrew Jackson treatment after another century.

Read about history or even current events to drastically cut back whatever faith in humanity you had been storing up. Keep reading about it, or spend a while contemplating it, in order to take a brief submerging dip in a black well of despair.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (speed blur)
The Finnish dentistry experience was different. It was also faster and more matter of fact and I didn't experience any sense of shaming about having allowed myself to get cavities, which was always a feeling I got in America. Plus, she was understanding about the pain thing, and assured me I could have more anaesthetic if it was hurting. I got an extra shot of novocaine as soon as I squeaked! I have to go back in a month to get permanent fillings and possibly a more thorough exam, if these ones didn't fix the on-and-off toothache twinges I was getting. But I don't have to get a root canal or anything!

Yay Finland!

I did take a Xanax before I left, so that probably helped with everything. I am now sleepy as well as numb in the face.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (loki)
Wax and I both spent last Sunday trying to fill out the same paperwork for the government (Finnish social security). I mean, literally, the exact same paperwork, and even though one of us was slightly ahead of the other throughout the process, it didn't make the whole thing any faster than several hours. Then there was the supplemental forms that I had to do because I'm a foreigner (and of course the impenetrable questions where I had to guess what it actually wanted to know) and all in all, I didn't manage to finish sending off all the required enclosures until Friday.

Five days of paperwork. That definitely wasn't decreasing my stress level or anything.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (cold)
I'm taking an art history course with Finnish technical school and technical college students who study art-related disciplines at my school. We have to pick elective modules like that to take for extra Finnish practice.

Okay, but the course, for some reason, meets once a week only, but for four hours in a row. Besides the ludicrously long class meetings though, it also moves at a ludicrously fast pace. Today in under 4 hours (because she filled part of the time with introductions and stuff) we covered:

  1. Ancient Mesopotamia

  2. Ancient Egypt (in a total of like 10 slides maximum. Sphinx, Gizan pyramids, King Tut's mask, bust of Nefertiti, statue of Akhenaten, two painted statues, 1 frieze, and that was literally it)

  3. Ancient Crete (6 or 8 slides, I think?)

  4. Ancient Greece

  5. Ancient Rome

  6. Early Christian art starting in Roman times and leading through the middle ages

  7. Latinate architecture in 2 slides and Gothic architecture in 2 slides, only 1 stained glass image, some wall paintings, 0 medieval statues, relics, or illuminated manuscripts)

All of us immigrants are missing next week because of our Finnish class and the teacher said in that meeting she is going to cover the Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, and basic art criticism o_O.

The teacher is a good speaker, but she wouldn't have to be for me to be interested through the lecture, even given that I know quite a bit about art history from Artist Parent Osmosis. Like, there definitely was new information to me, but I am still interested to hear experts talk about art history that isn't new to me. So I don't lay any of it on the teacher when I say that the formatting of this course is exceptionally stupid.

What I can lay partially at her door is the racist European-central nature of the curriculum. She didn't choose it herself and she did mention it, and even acknowledge that it's both problematic and contentious to exclude every other culture in human history from "art history", but she didn't do anything about it. She didn't even give like a textual overview of other significant art traditions, and she justified the ultimate choice on the grounds that the traditional focus is on the art of cultures which are supposedly the 'direct ancestors' of the western European artistic cultures. She had a row of pictures along the wall that included Hokusai's wave, but it was the only work (out of maybe... 25?) from outside the All Europe All the Time Party.

I shudder to think that this school graduates students in the arts with qualifications (media journalism, graphic design, stuff like that) who have THIS curriculum as their whole serving of art history (there aren't any higher-level sequels or anything; it's a small school).
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)
When I moved to Finland in 2004, I couldn't get peanut butter or M&M's. Flavored and/or decaf instant coffees were unknown. (Flavored cocoa still is, to my intense chagrin. My parents keep sending me care packages of Ghirardelli and Land O'Lakes and I use them up within a couple of weeks.)

So lately I've been thinking I have lived long enough without a slow cooker and I really want to have one. I like stew, I'm lazy about food prep, my favorite chicken dish for parties (orange chicken with pear salsa) requires one and when I tried to duplicate it in the oven using my mom's recipe it didn't really work.

Slow cookers are basically unknown in Finland. But today I thought, they have to be coming SOMEDAY, right? I mean they've been ubiquitous in America since the 1960s. How long can it actually take?

ANSWER: Somewhat longer.

The poshest department store in the land still doesn't stock them, but when I googled it ("haudutuspata", or simmering pot), I landed directly on, which is owned by Crock-Pot. They, at least, have noticed Finland, even if much of Finland has yet to notice them.

Thanks to taxes, the basic model which costs 79€ at is only 53€ from Amazon Germany (you can get other brands, like Kenwood, for under 50€ domestically though).

Anyway, I think maybe this winter. Then someday we can entertain again. After we buy some more chairs. (Right now we have 1 chair that isn't an armchair.)


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


RSS Atom

October 2017

8910 11121314
15 161718192021

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags

Most Popular Tags

Page generated 22 Oct 2017 06:25 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios