Monday, 16 December 2019

Friends and fresh air in Finland

A mini holiday in Finland around the first Advent weekend was refreshing and nostalgic. I met first some old student friends in Helsinki and after that stayed for two days in Tammisaari visiting a good friend of mine. Helsinki is such a wonderful city and I miss being there. Luckily we I could stay one night by my other friend and also see my sister for a coffee. 

Time was flying and I mostly forgot to take any pictures. The days are also short and it's getting dark too early. One afternoon we walked a little bit around Tammisaari centre and there was a beautiful winter light and white snow covering the dark tones of earth. It was enough cold for a very thin ice layer on top of the sea water. The moving ice made fabulous noise. I had forgotten this sort of sound existed. As a child winter was my favorite season. I loved to build snow castles and the snow was the most interesting material to play with.

The goal of my trip was to reconnect with some of my friends. I only had three days time and I saw many nice, friendly faces and heard some stories about the time that had passed. Evidently the time had passed yes, but it was so great to see the same light of the different personalities sparkling there and the humor filling the space with a laugh and witty remarks. I sometimes miss a lot my own language and how effortless it is to be fluent, fast and playful in your mother tongue.

I was lucky to see some sun and snow. It had been grey and rainy before my arrival and after my visit the temperature got higher again with some wet weather. 

It was like opening a door to a different world when I came back to Holland. Still the same autumn-like mood and some golden glitter on the yellow leaves.

Evenings are so dark without snow...and with the snow as well :-). 

 I have some christmas lights and flowers at home to color these black velvet days. 

One sunny day in Amsterdamse Bos in December

Have a peaceful Christmas time :)

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Beach views and plastic fishing by the Canals

We meet our friends few times during the year at the beach. Walking  there and seeing the open views is mind freeing. A good place to change the latest news of our lives and relax. I've noticed there are only few people that I'm comfortable to really share what I feel and what I dream about. I sometimes admire the people who are extremely sociable and can market themselves so well. I have decided that I have to try to be more open sometimes, because I enjoy the good company, good talks and a good laugh. It is ok to be the one who needs to be alone sometimes, but it's also a good feeling to belong to a group of good people and friends.

We met at the beach of Zandvoort. You can easily go there by car and with public transportation. The train trip from Amsterdam to the beach takes 25 minutes. If you make a trip to Amsterdam, you should visit one of the many beaches near the city. The mood at the coastline is interesting in every season and there are always few beach restaurants open even in the winter time.

Zandvoort is not my favorite beach, but there is a good variation of services, sport opportunities and cosy restaurants. Personally I do not like the architecture of the area - the element houses build near the dunes. I do prefer the beaches that are more natural looking and not too busy.

There is a funny retro feeling beside the beach. The contrast with the wind beaten element houses, the left overs from the summer, the ruins of beach restaurants (the ones that are taken down for the winter season). It looks interesting, like a movie scene waiting some actors and some action. 

I wonder how it is to live here. The centre of Zandvoort is so close to the sea and there are many appartement houses along the dunes. The wind can be extremely hard in the winter time, we can feel some of that even in Amsterdam. The sea is beautiful to watch, but also a reminder of the powers of nature and how we have to be careful what we do to our planet. Often it seems we do not know what we are doing. Sometimes we seem to wake up too late!

The environmental issues are made more visible for the new generations of people. The education system and teacher are doing a great job by bringing these problems as a part of the daily themes at school. I joined the class of my daughter for a day to go fishing  some plastic by the canals of Amsterdam.  

The Plastic Whale company is organizing plastic fishing for groups with their boats around the  canals of central area. The children are searching and collecting some plastic and other garbage from the water. This is very educational and fun way to point out how much garbage people drop to the water or to the streets. It was great to see how driven the children were to clean the environment and how much they already knew about the effects of plastic and micro plastics in the water and circling around in our ecosystem.

The boats from the Plastic Whale company are made from recycled plastic found from the water. For example the floors of the boats are made from the bottle caps. The aim of the company is to collect, create and educate: This means collecting the garbage, creating new products from the material (like the boats and some office furniture are designed and made from the recycled plastic) and educating children and other groups by organizing work shops and presentations about the environmental issues. They have ambitions to spread the word internationally and make this movement to grow to other countries as well.

This experience gave me a bunch of energy and inspiration. Taking part and cleaning the city is about small daily decisions and actions we can do. This is part of stopping the plastics ending up further to the rivers, to the sea and in the stomach of the animals and in our food. With a right attitude and respect we can always do our part of caring the environment we live in. Every action counts!

It was cold out there, but it was fun!

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Sounds without a voice

 The sounds of dropping leaves on the path I walk
 and the darkest speed of the evenings. You don't have to say it loud:  "autumn"

The feeling of silent waiting and the voiceless breath of the wind
the autumn storm

The painting, the layers of the temperatures and the geology of ending growth, 
the leftovers of green

Invitation for a walk,
making sounds
without a voice

Today I had three different walks. I wanted to capture some autumn moments. I only managed to take a picture of my shoes with some fallen leaves. I felt a bit shy with my camera out there. I was avoiding crowds and looking for the most silent corners at the park. 

The blurry season change is making me a bit more tired than normally. I was looking for strong colors, but instead the poetry of darker evenings felt more suitable for my mood. 

Some memories came back to my mind, one autumn five years ago...when my voice was gone and talking loud was a struggle. I took a lot of pictures with my camera back then. I was talking and writing through the pictures, focusing on something that brought me joy. I felt relief, that I could express myself this way.

I hardly never think of the three years I had this problem with my voice.  It started back in Germany and I did not get a prober help from the local doctor there. I felt he did not take my problem seriously even it was impacting my daily life so much. Talking, reading loud, making phone calls and just going to super market was getting more and more difficult. I was concentrating enormously just trying to produce some normal sounding speech. People were asking what is wrong with my voice and I started to feel like a stranger in my own body. I was hoping this problem will go away if I just relax more.  

In the end I was too tired of my problem and even trying to find out some more information or getting a second opinion from another doctor. I almost gave up. The funny thing is I had studied logopedics at the University in Finland and how powerless I was so with my own voice problem. But some knowledge of the speech problems helped me not to panic. My german doctor obviously thought this was more a psychic, stress related thing. He just wrote me some homeopathic pills to be more calm. I did not feel connected with him, he made me feel invisible. 

People are complicated and all different factors together are slowly creating a spiral and affecting to different situations in our life. From this process I learned I have to trust on my intuition. I know myself better than anyone else and it is extremely important to find the professionals and people out there who are listening to you and taking you seriously. Many problems in life are invisible to others, you don't see the individual problems from the outside. I started to avoid some social situations and I chose carefully the words that were easier for me to produce. 

My intuition said we have to move from that little town and go to a bigger place with more possibilities. We also wanted to be more close to our families. We had some close family in Holland and it was easier to combine with the work situation. One of the first things I did in Amsterdam was that I took contact to a local nose, ear and throat doctor. My husband had read an article in the internet about a radio dj who lost his voice and was diagnosed and helped by this local medical specialist.

This meeting gave me hope, I was very fast diagnosed having a spasmodic dysphonia. It is a neurological condition and the reason for the motorical coordination problems in producing the sounds, (needed for articulating words) are basically neurological. Nothing dangerous or serious, but making talking normally more difficult. I felt relief: I was not being crazy and I was taken seriously. The problem was lying somewhere between the connections of  my vocal cords, my nervous system and the motorical areas of my brain. We tried some voice therapy for a while with a logopedist to evaluate my situation and see if the therapy helps me. But the voice therapy did not really help. 

From the start it was clear there would be another option for me available: a small surgery on my vocal cords, manipulating the connection between the nerve and the muscle. After this surgery I would not be depended on the Botox injections to my vocal cords like most of the people with spasmodic dysphonia are for the rest of their lives. The doctor is a pioneer in these sort of operations in Europe. I could have not got this surgery in Germany back then and these are not available in Finland, where I come from. I did not even know this sort of treatment exists. But I am happy I found this option and it helped me. I can speak totally normally again after this surgery and I can be "me" without thinking how I sound and what sort of first impression I give based on my voice.

I could make this a long story, but it is already quite long. Thank you for reading :). The intuition pushed me towards to Amsterdam where I found a specialist. One of the only ones in Europe and he could help me. 

If you ever have a problem with your health or with something else: Use your intuition and trust on your own feeling what is best in that situation. Find help and find people who make you feel connected, take you seriously and listen to you. 

Stay connected to yourself too and enjoy the nature!

Sunday, 8 September 2019

From France to Finland and back HOME

It is great to see new places and be surprised of the sceneries and details you find. On a holiday you have more time to watch and wonder. Our summer went very fast this year and mostly because we were so extremely active this time. Even it was a bit too much to go here and there, I felt totally relaxed after our traveling. At the same time this was not the most ecological thing to do. 

Compared to this fully booked summer, our daily life is quite simple: we walk and cycle to school and work instead of using a car, recycle, try to eat more vegetables, consider what we shop, do not take a shower every day:),the heating goes on only in very cold days, we turn off the lights when not in the room and try to educate ourselves being more sustainable family. We enjoy the basic things in life! Our children are more aware of the environment than we ever were. It is still hard not to feel quilty about flying so many times during this summer holiday. But otherwise my son would have not gone to rugby camp to Ireland and got some new friends from there, we would have not spent a nice holiday with our friends in France and we would have not seen my parents in Finland. 

I don't want my children to be afraid of life and afraid of making choices that can make them grow, bloom and get more open to the life. We can never do enough to please the world and we never stop feeling guilty if we just concentrate on the negative side of our time. I rather try and want to see the things that I do right. I want to continue seeing the beauty in life and believe in good developments. Things are getting complicated, more background information is needed even making a simple decision. For example what milk substance to buy?: amandelmilk, rice milk, cashew milk, oat milk ...which is the most ecological, the most tasty and the healthiest choice? Living with all the daily information is sometimes overwhelming. And many news are focused on just finding the problems and not the solutions.

In the end these are luxurious and small problems. The most of the people have much more heavier things to get over with, or live with. I just read that the amount of homeless people in Netherlands and Amsterdam have been growing a lot lately. That is sad. Many personal tragedies behind these stories and also a lack of affordable  apartments and shortage of suitable support for the people who are in risk to losing their homes. I see often an older man at the park nearby sleeping on a bench. He comes there regularly late in the evening and goes away the time that I normally wake up. He is a calm  man, seems to enjoy the peaceful spot by the water. I don't see him in the winter time, there must be a shelter where he goes in during  the cold months. Anyway my point is that this problem is excisting also in Amsterdam. While writing this I got a message from my husband who is for the first time in his life in India for a work. He is staying in Pune 130 km from Mumbai, the biggest city of India (18 miljoen people living in Mumbai). He says it's brutal to see the very poor areas where people are more or less living on the street, the endless looking slums around the cities. The scale of the poverty in our planet is huge. About 8% of the population is living in extreme poverty. The richest part has a chance to consider their use of money and use of power.I wish better choices for everyone.

Check out the growth of poverty in here: World poverty clock

My story seems to be more serious this time than I meant, but all these things have been bothering me last year. Maybe it is some sort of crisis, that I don't really know how I would like to spent the rest of my life. Getting more heavy, I know. I also see how much on performance our life is based on. How much we expect also from our children, how you have to prove yourself from the early years. So much focused on numbers and "hard working". The good feeling should be then the result of a hard work, reaching the set goals, getting more black on white prove on your history of existence. Maybe I am just jealous for the ones who did see it so clearly from the start and were so sure what they wanted. I have always been more like an observer, considering the different ways of seeing things and had difficulties to understand the black and white filter on issues. I often meet people that are very sure about their own opinions. Sometimes it seems to be like a blessing, easier to focus and stay on that one path. These frustrations I mentioned are normal in our modern world. If you have to struggle surviving from day to day instead, you don't have time for this soul search. 

The most happiness often comes from nonmaterial things if you're basic needs are filled (food, home etc.). I understand the importance of orientation for some goals in sake of mental happiness. At the moment I am searching for a good goal I think, something personal and with a good meaning.

What matters to me the most is my own family and the HOME. At the same time I feel that nowadays we share too little with others. I have started to see more and more value on those friendships that lasted the distance and difficult times too. They last even through our vulnerabilities, clumsy words and mistakes. But honestly said, I should put more effort on those friendships too. It is good for you and your family life - some outside kicks from great people!

modern architecture in Arles
Anyway, our trip to France with our friends was relaxing. The kids loved our swimming pool in Sausset les Pins and we spent a lot of time in our holiday house. One day we drove to Arles to see some history and feel the atmosphere of Provence from the other perspective. It was a wonderful day to walk the narrow streets and have a nice lunch on one of the old squares. Vincent van Cogh was spending a short and a very productive period in Arles and made many  of his famous paintings there. We were eating just beside the yellow house with a terrace, which you can see in one of his paintings(Cafe terrace at night). Now it is a touristic spot, but I let my mind to wonder over a hundred years back in time. South French light and colors have inspired so many artists. The combination of modernity and the history has always inspired me. I love to watch the modern architecture, but as much I appreciate the feel of the different layers of time. The word is full of magical stories and that magic I would like to feel more often.

Roman ruins

the Arena from Roman times in Arles

We spent the last pages of our summer in Finland, my original home. It is wonderful to feel the familiarity everywhere (especial in the nature) and meet the people you can in that short period of time. We stayed at a beautiful location near Sotkamo. I never get tired of the lake views: 24 hours of small, delightful surprises from the nature. My old friend came for a visit one day. She asked if I felt like home in Amsterdam? It was a difficult one. My soul landscapes are in Finland and I feel so easy there. I miss it sometimes enormously. But when we came back to Amsterdam I felt like HOME. Not because of the location, but because the family. Just knowing everyone is doing their thing and being there for everyone if needed and even when we want to be alone. The identity is changing through our experiences and this means staying curious is a good thing. Home is a place to find the balance between the crossing journeys and thoughts.

The most peaceful moments by the lake this summer

The home can mean different things and maybe there is just not one home. But home is a good and safe place to return. Having a break and seeing some other stories out there can help us feeling home right now and right here.