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 (lol yep)
Today our totally qualified native speaker!!! Finnish teacher "explained" that what differentiates casual speech from written language is that there "kind of aren't any rules".

SOOOOO, not a linguist then!

She did say she "didn't really like grammar" to me in passing once, which I found difficult to understand. How can you like teaching language, let alone teaching lower-level language to non-native speakers, if you don't like grammar?

But I've noticed sometimes that the syntactical underpinnings of explanations aren't really there. Like, it's completely plausible that they would just confuse many of my classmates, but the difference, for example, between a gerund and a participle is pretty hard to explain without using some version of the concept of "modify", and without comparing the words in question to nouns and adjectives. Not that she doesn't fully undersatnd the nuances of the different forms and modes she teaches, but the way she explains them is almost always a combination of semantics and examples.

She's pretty good at explaining things generally, but it's not in a way that's extremely suited to the way I organize grammar in my brain. Her counterpart who loves grammar, like me, is easier to understand.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (pastoral)
Like so many other people, I was instilled with a deep hatred for doing sports largely through the efforts of sub-standard physical education teachers who forced us to play tons of under-supervised ballgames with little to no instruction. (Not everybody also acquired my level of resentment for sports fan culture through growing up in the college football capital of the country though.)

Would it be remotely possible to count the number of times I was forced to "play" "softball" in long, itchy, sun-crisped brown grass when it was actually too hot to be outside? No.

I mean, I hear people talk about sports being boring to watch, and it's true that I don't want to watch them and have occasionally seen them and been bored, but since nobody ever forced me to watch them, I don't have any flashbacks to bad memories there. Obviously other people enjoy watching them. They should keep doing that (although many times in my hometown I've felt that they should take it to a sportsbar so that ordinary restaurants and grills weren't suffused with sports noises). Watching sports is just boring to me, but talking about them (so many years of not telling all the crazy rival-team-trashtalkers to stfu) and mandatory participation in them (WHY) is what really gets my back up.

RIGHT WAY TO DO CASUAL SPORTS: "Anybody who's interested can come out for a casual game of softball after lunch. No need to have played it before, we'll teach you."

WRONG WAY TO DO CASUAL SPORTS: "After lunch we're gonna all play softball on the lawn, but if you can't run don't worry, there are positions in the outfield too."

Guess which one of these my Finnish course pulled today?

This wouldn't be so much of a problem if they simply accepted that when they arrange for these non-Finnish-lesson activities like scavenger hunts and music trivia people will opt not to join in, and that's their right and there's nothing wrong with it. Obviously people do this anyway and it's not like they can stop them. But the point is that you don't need an excuse, because you're a fucking adult and you're here under your own willpower and you might not want to participate in something and it's not like you're getting paid for it.

ME: I'm going home at lunchtime because I hate softball :).
TEACHER: Ugh, *eyeroll*. You know what I've heard all day today? "I didn't bring my sneakers", "I can't run", "I have a headache", "I have trauma", "I didn't bring sports clothes with me"...
ME: Haha. Well, I have a trauma too!
TEACHER: If you don't ever play softball again, you won't ever have a chance to work through your trauma though and you'll just stay traumatized forever!
ME: Heh, well, that's completely fine with me. Bye!
TEACHER: Okaaayyy, bye.

I don't need to "work through" anything, here (though if I did it would be none of her business if I indicated a desire not to today).

It's not keeping me awake at night. It just taught me, with about 100 hrs of overkill, that I am not good at aiming, catching, running, or any other sporty things; that the desire to win and "team spirit" make about as much sense to me as pickles on icecream; that standing around waiting for a ball to come flying towards me, or alternatively for my chance to fail to hit a ball with a stick, is even less fun than getting nettle burn all over my feet; and that trying to pay attention to the action of a ballgame is even more difficult and painful to my poor brain than trying to pay attention to the names of all the utterly unmemorable plants in my mom's garden (but at least nobody wants me to remember where the plants are going or why, or predict these for the future).
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (this is awkward)
I spent most of the last year, from May 2012 to March 2013, in the same Finnish class, with the same group of people. It had its up and down sides, and by the end I was more than done with it, but one of the benefits was that by the end the school and the routine associated with it had become familiar places, and all my classmates however irritating had become familiar people, which made my anxiety a lot lower. I'm an anxious person and new situations and people are my least favorite things.

February I spent in a work practice at a daycare, which was not enough time to get over the new place anxiety, even though the people there were nice enough. April and May I spent at the more recent work practice at the after school program, and I had acclimatized enough to be happy and excited about going there in well under a month. It didn't get as familiar as the school, of course, but it was also a more fun, entertaining, and engaging environment. I suppose actively liking the place helped reduce the anxiety, even if I still had to be more 'on' and alert there.

So now I'm doing Summer Finnish. I've only been there for five days so far, though, because of my trip to London last week - it made me miss a week where the subject theme was sports, for which I am grateful because I hate sports. I like the teacher, and I like the size and makeup of the class group better here. They assured us that they didn't divide the summer course into groups by ability level and we're all using the same materials at the same speeds, just with slightly different emphasis, some groups doing more exercises than others. Although this is only conjecture, I suspect that I'm in the "hardest" group in the sense that it is made up of the students with the best mastery of and the quickest speed at Finnish grammar, but with a comparatively weak vocabulary. Most of the students in my group have been studying Finnish a pretty short while, but all of them are determined, motivated, quick, and diligent. It's deeply soothing to have everybody doing their work and taking it seriously, with none of those assholes who were always sitting around whispering or yelling in their native languages, goofing off, skipping half of the class, etc. This class is also not moving too slow for me, which, with foreign languages, is a huge thing. Actually, it's literally a first for me. The amount of explanation that the teacher provides is always really close to the amount that I needed to grasp the concept, as opposed to the 2 to 4 times as much I'm used to.

BUT. I don't like this class. All weekend, starting Friday, I've been close to tears every time I thought about going back on Monday. And I'm not sure why. I've got my friend, Nariko, and I like the teacher, which is good, but...

  • The bus trip. It's over half an hour. I sit with Nariko and our lunch buddy Anna, but Nariko gets carsick and it's crowded and noisy, which mostly precludes soothing and pleasant conversation. I don't like crowded and noisy situations.

  • One morning on our first week I overheard at least 20 minutes of racist ranting from a guy who's in one of the other groups and I still get nauseated every day when I catch sight of him.

  • One of the older ladies in our class interrupted me with an impatient, exaggerated fake-sigh of exasperation when I was speaking in a class discussion 2 weeks ago. Before that I liked this lady and she probably doesn't remember it anymore, but rudeness is bad enough without being personal and I always take things personally. I'm now afraid and mistrustful of this lady and don't want to talk in front of her at all, which is difficult to accomplish.

  • A different lady disparaged the Finnish attitude to child-rearing (which I agree with) by saying that in Finland she's "always afraid" that she won't be able to raise her son effectively because in Finland you aren't allowed to hit children. The aforementioned lady that I'm now afraid of did a champion job of arguing her into submission, but not before she provided a spurious anecdote about how someone she knew saw a kid misbehave on a bus and his mom claim that she "doesn't believe in forbidding things" as supposed proof that Finnish child-rearing is bogus, even though that sounds like bullshit and obviously Finns do, in general, believe in forbidding things. I pointed out that that wouldn't even be possible, because even the most permissive parent will have to forbid their child from playing with kitchen knives or running into the street without looking, because things can be dangerous. This lady eyerolled in response and huffed "Uh-huh, 'dangerous'." I don't fear her as a result, I just dislike her intensely.

  • Since the first day of class I have come out a bunch of times, as is my habit now, by simply allowing Wax to come up in conversation whenever is natural and referring to her as my wife, and answering any direct questions about her. When I was first studying Finnish, it was Finns who would stop and question me, thinking that I meant 'husband', because my grasp of Finnish led them to suppose it was more likely that I had got the wrong word than that I was gay. Now that my Finnish is better I've never come upon the slightest hesitation or surprise from a Finn, not since, oh, Christmas or so. I guess that's when my Finnish got that good. But since I got to this school, I've gotten double-takes, eyebrows, and what I take for cold stares three times, from three different older ladies, two of whom were Russian and one Ukrainian. One of them stopped me and said "Wait, did you say your parents?"

    "No, I said wife."

    "Your - spouse?"

    "Yes, and she's a woman," I said.

    Then there was an awkward silence. And the stare. Am I just projecting because of what I know about Russia? Maybe. Still. Uncomfortable.

So am I just dealing with an elevated baseline anxiety temperature to everything for social reasons, because of the people in the room I am wary of? Or maybe due to some completely unrelated cause, like hormones? Or was I still this nervous on my third week at AKK too, and I just don't remember it anymore because I got over it after?

I'm no longer too tired to make dinner, but on the other hand we've been living with the flat so messy for a while that I'm starting to want to throw away like, everything except the furniture, but I don't really have the energy for it. Which is probably a good thing because I would miss many of my possessions later. And I don't really know what to do about the kitchen. I'd kind of like to seal it from the rest of the flat and open it to the vacuum of space, which would take care of the dishes, food in the fridge that I keep forgetting to remove when I take out the trash, and mysterious, suspect smells all at once. On the other hand, it would also take the tea set that [personal profile] pierydys brought us from Taiwan before I even got a shelf adequate to display it on. So I guess it's also a good thing that I don't have access to the vacuum of space. Bummer.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (snille och smak)
I have needed a loooooot of distraction over the last couple of weeks and have temporarily kind of run out of fanfiction (there's still Hobbit fanfiction out there, I've just gotten kind of fed up with it for the time being) (and then I read some Javert/Valjean from brodinson's recs on Tumblr, which was kind of funny because I had no idea what happened in Les Miserables before I read it, except that there was a big deal about some bread and Russell Crowe wore a uniform and everybody was miserable; but I ran out of those pretty quickly too, because it's not exactly a giant fandom, which is probably a good thing because I don't have a very big appetite for misery).

I haven't finished watching all of Ask This Old House, but when I feel anxious I usually feel too fretful for watching television, and also I don't want to run out of online episodes, since it seems there's no way to obtain any more of it, not even for money. (Also the shipping situation was getting a bit dire. As of 1½ weeks ago, I actually have a premise and a plot and several fragments of an imaginary slash story in my head, and it isn't even crack. It is debatable whether this is truly dire, of course, but I definitely was in mounting danger of actually trying to write drawerfic.)

So I have mostly been obsessively looking at shoe websites. I do this periodically anyway, obviously. But this time I've also been trying to shop for shoes for myself, and it isn't going well. I simultaneously DESPERATELY want some new shoes and can't make up my mind to buy even one single pair, because even if I have the money I have an internal limit for how much I'm willing to spend on a pair of shoes based on how much I'd actually wear them. Basically, I want every pair of shoes that I own to personally speak to me and that makes it hard to choose. It's working well as a distraction, but a compulsive vortex is an awkward place to be. I tend to forget to eat and drink.

I've managed to slog through the final month of Finnish class in spite of every day being way more torturous than usual, thanks to the fact that we can't really learn anything new so we've been reviewing stuff for the last module test. Our class size is 9 people now, and Asshole Who Always Complains Whenever He Has To Work or Speak is only there about half the time so it's pretty peaceful, but instead of making me exasperated the painfully obvious questions of my classmates are mostly making me sad. I am still irritated, of course, especially when Racist Girl is all 'I asked Cim the answer, and she didn't immediately tell it to me! She was just giving me HINTS!' OKAY FUCK YOU, NEXT TIME I WON'T HELP YOU AT ALL - but anyway. I've applied to a summer Finnish class and I've got the application for another two next fall, and all the arrangements have been made for another work practice placement in between. April and May I'll be working at a downtown after school program 7 hours a day.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (strike a pose!)
One of our Finnish teachers uses IE. And she's the more computer-skilled of them. (Neither one of them can remember how to scale up text size, either on webpages or in Word. Literally every time somebody in our class asks someone to enlarge text, whoever is teaching has to be told how to do it. Several times.)

Anyway, so the teacher who hates computers was trying to show us how to walk from the bus stop to the public ice rink, and she was in Google maps dragging the little point of view figure who opens street view. She kept dragging the little person in different directions, quite far away from the destination, and zooming in and out in map view without any appreciable effect, for like five minutes. Various people were shouting out theories for why it wouldn't work, and suggestions like restart the computer, or the browser, or maybe the mouse is broken, when suddenly and apparently miraculously a photo of the ice rink appeared!

"OH!" gasped the teacher. "You have to DOUBLE-click!"

(I teared up with laughter and had trouble gasping, "All that time you weren't double-clicking?")
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.


TEACHER: What doesn't a little girl need?


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)

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.


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.)


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.)


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 [ 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 [ 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 (that just happened)
DAOPRAKAI: Indian and Bangladeshi people eat lots and lots of Kali.
ME: Huh?!
DAOPRAKAI: Curry, curry.
FARJANA: Yes. Well, I don't know about Indian people but Bangladeshi people do.

...She appears to use the same method for remembering vocabulary as my mom, which is weird because she's a competent speaker of multiple languages and Thai has tons of weird sounds that Finnish doesn't. But maybe still only one sound for l/r I guess.
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 (tiny small swimwear)
We went to my oldest friend's wedding on a mountain outside San Francisco last weekend.

According to the news, they've been having the same weather as us lately: around 20°, kind of. On the day of the wedding it was actually way hotter than expected, but when we went back into the city on Sunday it went back to the forecast. The problem is that Turku is nowhere near as windy as San Francisco in this time of year, apparently. (In the autumn and winter Turku is VERY windy, though.) There was a constant hard, cold wind that made it feel like it was firmly below 15° the whole time, and I didn't have adequate garments for layering with me at all.

Sunday we went to the Aquarium of the Bay. Then I went with my family to Ghirardelli Square - we wanted the old factory to still be open but apparently all it is now is a collection of giftshops so crowded you can barely walk into it. It used to be home to a tea salon I have been dying to visit for over a year called Crown & Crumpet, and I was super excited to go there, mainly because you can't order the teacups with the pink crown teapot over the internet; but when we got there we looked up their website and found out they're closed for moving and I didn't get any awesome tea swag at all. :(((

I want this teacup and also I want it on like a shirt or possibly on everything

Monday we were supposed to just meet Dad's internet fandom friend (his fandom is original sf poetry and it's mostly old people and doesn't overlap with our circles much) at an sf bookstore in the Mission called Borderlands, and then spend the majority of the day exploring the Castro. But some things came up: Read more... )

The Return Journey from Purgatory

We had to wake up at 4 am for our trip to the airport and I was out of cash to tip the bellhop, and then there were no Starbucks in our concourse. My earbuds had started to hurt my ears so badly that we only watched 1 episode of Game of Thrones, and we were unable to locate a deli with bagels OR a Starbucks or indeed ANYWHERE to sell us tea during our layover in NYC; and the world's rudest, most obnoxious American jerkface lady had the seat in front of Wax on the Helsinki leg. She kept her seat all the way back, which is so far that to get out of our seats we had to climb OVER THE ARM, the entire time, and had to be told by the flight attendants to straighten it up when they served food both times. To which she responded respectively "Why?" and "Who, me?" So her seat was literally pressing against Wax's knees the entire time and Wax is only 5'5". There LITERALLY wasn't room between the seatback and Wax's abdomen for her laptop!

So after this 7-hr interval of BOILING RAGE we got to Helsinki completely exhausted and promptly got lost on the way to baggage claim. While we were trying to find it and on the verge of collapse, Wax's backed-up SMSes arrived and one was from her mom saying that the dog hadn't drunk or eaten anything since Thursday! Making 5 days! And we were still trapped in the airport. When we found someone to lead us out, Wax was freaking out because they delayed us TWICE at the stupid passport control even though we'd ALREADY BEEN THROUGH IT FIVE MINUTES BEFORE, and the said someone gave her attitude about it (srsly fuck you dude; she wasn't even flailing at YOU). Still not having eaten, we piled onto a (VERY HOT) bus for a 2½ hour commute...

...and then went immediately to meet Wax's mom to take Perry straight to the vet. I stayed there with him for two hours or so, almost completely zombified and having come out the opposite side of hunger so that I didn't even know I was hungry, while they gave him an IV to prevent him from shriveling up and floating away, took a blood test and urine sample, and ultimately prescribed some antibiotics for a UTI.

I gave him his medicine and he ate and drank Wednesday night before I fell asleep, but I think I got a broken 7 hours of sleep altogether, and Thursday morning I kept staring at the computer, unable to remember when I needed to leave to catch the bus.

Purgatory Still Not Over

So I was late to class, and then I found out that we hadn't learned anything all week and the substitute didn't intend to start now. It was so boring (and overcast outside, and nearly deserted inside the school) that I sort of felt like I was dreaming, just floating along blankly through everything with a severely delayed reaction time. That is, until I got home and found out that THE DOG HAD STARTED PEEING BLOOD! I didn't really have a panic attack, but I think I just couldn't anything anymore. I just sort of sat there moaning and nearly crying in response to every single thing that happened, including when Wax started (FINALLY) playing the latest episode of Teen Wolf.

Eventually (after talking very incoherently on the phone to the vet, and giving the dog some pain meds) I took a Xanax and slept. And, yes, we did spend 3 hours today covering 'to get from [person][case]' and 'to give to [person][case]', which, yes, we had actually already seen before, and, in fact, the substitute DID demonstrate using the clever device of pretending to hand her pencil to at least six different people, and she did explain 'take' and 'bring' a LOT of times and tell Loud Girl to be quiet when, for the first time ever, I didn't even want her to shut up because nobody was actually saying anything that conveyed any information at all; but at least I finally got to come home and sleep another four hours. Oh, and we didn't even do so much as a worksheet in that time, just looked at the overhead while she yapped. I'm bitter.

But whatever, at least it's the weekend and the dog seems to be getting better. And my mother-in-law did the dishes for us while we were gone. She's a champ.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (working)
I need to apologize to my friends from the internet in varying degrees of abjection for my absence lately. The demands of school leave me requiring a nap every afternoon on top of going to bed by midnight (which doesn't really help me feel rested AT school, because it doesn't matter when I go to bed, my body ALWAYS regards 6-8 am as the armpit of the middle of the night).

But right now I'm extra EXTRA socially exhausted, because Wednesday I unexpectedly ate lunch with one of my new classmates (+110% social anxiety because I'd never had a conversation with her before, +20% anxiety because I didn't get my usual lunchtime alone-time)(but I like her a lot! She's from the Philippines and her name is Gigi and she doesn't want to have children and her husband is Finnish!), Thursday I was unexpectedly given a rage blackout by this petty bitch who first picked a fight with sweet, shy Amerah and then tried to pick one with me leading with 'What is that girl's name again? Cim?' (I raised a single eyebrow at her and she stopped talking and I left the room, but still: wtaf?), and Friday we took a field trip to Ruissalo and I was friendly to and started conversations with several different groups of people over the course of the day, and then had one of those awkward conversations where you try to come out and Nariko is like "WIFE? Really? Not man? Heeeeee? WOMAN? ... Wow! So she's Finnish, cool!"

Then I spent most of the time since Friday afternoon napping, with breaks for preparing food. Also, there's a low pressure system here now, ugh.

On the plus side, all my coming out experiences at school so far have been at least 80% positive EXCEPT the rage blackout from the teacher that I really like (I don't literally BLACK out during these: I just kind of lose the ability to hear or produce sounds) (also I still like her a lot but every time I talk to her is still kind of poisoned. The residual extra anxiety every time I spoke with her after last Monday's confrontation stopped after Wednesday).

Side note:
I followed a Finnish recipe for a 'Greek pasta salad', and mostly it's pretty delicious except there is SO MUCH OREGANO, OMG. I mean luckily I love oregano, but this is maybe the first time ever that Finland as a whole agreed with me about a spice? And also I tend to want some other seasonings in there too, not just, like, Oregano Salad or Oregano Pizza like they do here. It's weird.

Our ten-year anniversary of our first date is in a couple of months. I'm thinking splurge on expensive feta from the posh cheese counter for it. I mean, we don't really like wine.
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 -
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.


23 May 2012 08:41 pm
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (arrrgh brains)
Learning new things is fun, but if this is the fast beginners' Finnish I shudder to think what the slow one is like. We typically spend about half again as long practicing each new thingy as I feel we should before introducing the next new concept. I regularly want to beat my head repeatedly on the desk until it drowns out the sounds of maddeningly persistent incomprehension.

I've tried knitting in class a bit, but I don't want to overdo it because I know it can seem rude to, you know, make evident that I'm as bored as I actually am. And I don't want to hurt the teacher's feelings. She's very good as well as very sweet and I think she's actually doing a pretty good job considering how slow the slow people in our class are.

It sort of reminds me of actually being in elementary school, except if I'd tried to not act bored then I'd have driven myself crazy, so I just read an average 1 novel per day instead. (Actually, I couldn't get away with reading the whole time, on reflection, so that must mean I am getting more new information than I did in elementary school. At least that's something.)

But on the plus side, I am making steady progress towards friendly acquaintanceship with various classmates. Not A++ progress or anything, and not much progress compared to how my less introverted classmates are doing, but I don't think I've given anyone the impression that I'm a compulsive hermit. I'm not even the shyest person there.


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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