My HOME Is Where My HEART Is

WALLED GARDEN

Sometimes it does feel like this picture*
that we are looking from the outside in…

‘My Home is where My Heart is.’ Tis for me, for after living in many countries and cultures, it really has been the only way to survive to an extent. Lapland is the country and place where I always say that I am from, more so than from Finland, actually.

It is easy-peasy to move from A to B geographically ‘in body’ with our suitcases of clothes and whatnot, but it takes a long long time for our mind, attitude, emotions, thinking and heart to follow!! It applies to within one’s own land as well moving from one part of the land to another, of course.

Tis my own experience moving from country to country and culture to culture, and also moving from Lapland where I was born and where I grew up to other parts of Finland; so I have learned to give myself time, space and place to adjust in peace to the new or as is now the case, back to the ‘old’ for as you know, I am back in Finland presently – for how long do not know, yet.

It all takes its time. Period.

Happiest, as in the most fulfilled personally, is the immigrant/emigrant who has learned to take the best of both – or all as the case may be – countries and cultures one left and combine them with the new, so that this becomes such an added richness into one’s life in every way possible which is priceless, methinks.

It is perfectly normal and ‘within the norm’ to feel like the way you do at present over there as an alien in an alien land.

To be ‘processed’ into the new and to personally process the new strange land: its language, its culture, its landscape, its people, its media, its sense of humour, et cetera; Yes, it is a process and rather painful at times, I think.

BUT SO MUCH WORTH IT!

The crux of the matter will be again when and if you change back to where you came from or to another culture and country – the same process will be repeated… Not a bad thing at all, at all, for it makes us take stock of our own values, life & living and ‘the very being of our person’ that is you and that is me.

Now when I am back here in Finland – well – it has not been easy to settle back in here. The hardest thing to me is the weather. It being more on the freezer style than anything else! But I am determined to make the best of this situation, this clime, and all the things that it is now to a strength. It is not Finland per se that makes it difficult to settle in; it is life. Life, in every country and culture has things that take their time to get into the gear, to get used to and to be familiar.

That is why I am patient, I am giving myself time to adjust, to ingest all that is here and now. It is the only way, I have learned. It can take years to become somewhat ‘in’ in the things in the new culture and life. It is not usually an instant happening; though, one can feel that instance nearly immediately arriving in some place. That is the way I felt in Israel, I had absolutely no culture shock, no feeling of being an alien, not a thing. I just jumped in and ‘BINGO’ – I was at home! 

It is one’s own attitude to everything – even to oneself that matters.

Tis for now. Rii xx

PS.
You know what the greatest shock was in Ireland for me and the next one to it?!

That it was SOOO C-O-L-D in Ireland INSIDE the houses and that the coffee was soooo BAD! Real bad as in AWFUL then when I arrived there in 1980! Now it has improved.

* The photo is by me taken in Ireland summer 2006.

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Travelogue from Dublin: Eating, Food and Such

Walled Garden

About food, eating and the like is what I am going to write a few words in this entry today on the Travelogue from Dublin. The green, green grass of the Emerald Isle makes the cattle and also the sheep to produce the most tasty meat on this planet, I should think.

Before I arrived in Ireland in 1980, I had become more or less a vegetarian because the meat in Sweden tasted absolutely foul so that I couldn’t eat the thing without feeling ill, so my solution to the problem was not to touch the meat at all. I must say that I did feel much better by not eating the meat over there. In Israel and in Finland and any other country I am all right eating the meat, it was just the meat in Sweden at that time that caused problems to me. I have eaten meat again in Sweden while visiting and it was okay for me to eat it with no dire consequences.

The very first T-bone Steak that I was served in a guest house in County Wexford was the size of the enormous plate where it was amid the garnish and the spuds winning me over to be a carnivore once and again. Needless to add that it was poetry in the dining! The European Union in its quest to be useful to the citizenry came out one year with a ban on the t-bone in the T-bone Steak, so for a good while twas forbidden to sell and to serve, but I believe, it is all right again by the bigwigs of the EU to have and to hold, even to eat it with relish. Excellent.

Ireland is famous for its great lamb as well, in particular, the Wicklow Lamb, that we used to buy at our butcher’s  who also as a farmer grew his own meat with such skill and care that the taste came through in all the meat he sold. The County Wicklow, which in Ireland is my home county, is also known as the Garden of Ireland due to its lush growth and the rolling green hills with the fresh, clean air to boot. I used to roast the lamb in the oven with lavendar (fresh or dried), cinnamon, fresh garlic, pepper and salt drizzled with honey and the best quality olive oil and serve it with the Roast Potatoes – raw potatoes cut in good size chunks, plenty of herbs as in dill and parsley, olive oil and butter with some gorse sea salt cooked in the oven until golden. Then, of course, with the seasons I would serve it the fresh green salad and other salads or in wintertime with the Ratatouille – the French roasted vegetables of aubergine, zucchini, et cetera. Delicious.

And last but not the least is the fish which is plentiful on this island of a nation. Although, the Irish themselves are/were not so keen on the harvest of the seas surrounding them. At first I could not understand why until I was given the typical fish dish on these shores at the time: the smoked cod with the white sauce and the mashed peas from the dried ones, steeped in water overnight and boiled to death! Terrible, absolutely dreadful, so it is. This was the tradition in here for every Friday being a day for ‘fasting’ – as in no red meat to be had on that day.

I had my work cut out for me in changing the thinking of himself and our Irish guests on the eating fish and considering it to be delicious. I grew-up by the vast river in Lapland that made the border between Finland and Sweden, so I am and have always preferred fish as in the wild salmon, white fish and the like to be superior to the red meat. It was served simply but always so very tasty that one could not help but to love it. That same approach I did with the fish in Ireland as well and it worked.

The Irish Brown Bread is well-renown the worldover, and rightly so, because it is so tasty and yummy. It’s fairly simple to make oneself as the ingredients are not expensive neither is it complicated to produce only really requiring the time and the bother to bake it. At present it is my breakfast toasted and lashed with humous and for the choice of the morn beverage at the moment it’s strong herbal tea. So my breakfast is a kind of ‘west meets east’ and grand so tis.

Tis for now. I will write about eating out later on. Riihele xx.

PS.
The picture is of a walled garden in the Powerscourt Demesne in County Wicklow taken by moi on a toasty hot Saturday.

TREASURES in LIFE: True Friendships

Two Friends

These two friends are my daughter and her friend
in the countryside one summer in Ireland.
Photo by me.

“A FRIEND LOVES AT ALL TIMES”
(Proverbs 17:7 Ampl.Bible)

In some countries it is harder than in others to make the ‘cut’ – that is – to get into the mainstream of the life and the living but once you are in, ‘you are in’, for good! Finland, Sweden and Israel are like this. It requires much patience to get there. The Finns, the Swedes and the Israelis are cautious at first, then after a while they let their guard down and you will be firm friends for life. No matter how fiercely your opinions on matters differ and how much you would argue, at the end of the day; it only clears the air and strengthens the bond of friendship. I am not saying that this the rule 100 per cent in each and every case, but certainly in my own personal experience, it has been the norm.

The Irish give the ‘hail fellow, well met’ – impression of ease and quick skills of getting to know other people. That does not lead to lasting friendship, most of the time. It is just politeness, social skills or whatever one will call it. I am most outgoing but it was in Ireland that I found it the hardest of all to really get to know people where they would be genuine and real. No stereotype Irish, but the person, the people as they are.

A friend said this in one of her comments in my page on another entry on friendships:

“Funny how to put the differences in friendships in a cultural view, because I’ve had to deal with this issue myself. Americans are more like the way you describe Irish…easy get by with on basic social levels, friendly in that “hi, how ya doin, see ya” way.

But maybe because it’s so easy to become “friends” with them, you don’t realize that you aren’t really really friends, true friends, until you try to get closer and come up against a wall. I sound disparaging, but that’s the way I am. My Israeli friends often tell me that they see Americans as hypocrites, or pretend friends. And I find the Israeli friendships to often be suffocating. It’s worth knowing when you go to a strange culture.”

My response to her:

“Yes indeed, it is wise to know some basic things about the strange, as in different, culture one is moving to. It makes the adjusting so much easier. The Scandinavians, particularly, the Finns are considered ‘cold, aloof and distant’ by the others who don’t understand that the culture is such that people take their time ‘letting’ you through the barriers bit by bit.

Then once you are IN; YOU ARE IN for life. This kind of process takes a lot adjusting to do but it’s worth it in the end. I’m not a typical Finn in this aspect either but more Latin in my manner, style & personality in that I am not reserved in meeting new people, yet still Finnish in this that when I am your friend – I truly am your friend through thick & thin!”

Tis for now. Riihele xx

Alien Corn in an Alien Land – Shavuot

Nafoura

Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,

She stood in tears amid the alien corn;

Source: Line 65 of the Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats (1795-1821)

The story of Ruth is a story of an alien in an alien land as she originated from the neighbouring and somewhat distantly related country of Moab in the ancient times. I came to think of her and her story as tis the time of the year when this story is read and celebrated in Israel. Shavuot – the weeks – is what this word means; as does the word ‘pentecost’ meaning: fifty in Greek, which both count the fifty days – that is seven weeks – from the Passover to this festival as instructed.

I went to Israel at the time when the war had been going on in Irak for just a short while. Not the best time to go to the neighbourhood, I hear you think. True, but twas the time I had to get away to be totally in a place of absolute rest and recuperating from an extremely hectic time of work and whatnot. A time to get me head together again – not having to take anybody else into account in any way affecting me. I had given so much that I could not give no more, to put it bluntly.

The spa treatments, the complete rest and the time to be still did me wonders. Even with the F16’s and their relatives constantly flying really low – I was on the 12th floor in the hotel and they flew at that height over the Dead Sea between Jordan and Israel – did not disturb my recovery that much. I found the aisle seat to observe rather interesting, actually.

The temperature was just perfect – not too hot, not too cool – to take moonlight walks by the shore and while walking looking over the Dead Sea to the other side where the ancient Moab was and where the present day Jordan is situated, I came to think of Ruth, the Moabite – in that link there is a poem I was inspired to write about her. It must have been extremely tough for her to leave all that was home to her and go to a place unknown, unfamiliar and unsure. One has to be/have been an alien in alien land to get to the depths of her soul. I have been that several times in several countries. And like, Ruth, I did get integrated into the greater society as a member and not as an observer. Here some thoughts on the being an alien in the alien land as an immigrant that I wrote earlier on.

Ruth’s secret was the giving:

  • She gave of herself to her mother-in-law unconditionally.
  • She gave her birthright away in her own culture and country.
  • She gave of every morsel of food she got to Naomi, too.

I am sure that there is more but these are the ones that spring to my mind while writing this here and now. Ruth also received blessings and fame beyond measure. Even today we know who she was/is.

The story of Ruth is the most beautiful love story that I have ever read. I hope that the people in Israel do think of her in the midst of the feasting on the mountains of cheesecakes and the fresh fruit as this also the Festival of the First Fruit – HaBikkurim.

Tis for now again. Riihele xx.

The mountains of Moab are the most gorgeous shades of pinks – one of these days I shall paint them.

PS.
The photograph is by me of one of my very favourite restaurants and it’s in the Old City of Jerusalem. The wall on the right is the actual wall from the 1500’s that surrounds the entire old city there.

Memories: Sweden

Swedenpics

‘Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.’
Oscar Wilde in
  “The Importance of Being Earnest”

This fabulous scenery – taken by me – is a small town called, Öregrund, which is situated in the archipelago that lies in the Baltic Sea between Finland and Sweden. This gives you an idea how and where Sweden is and what it is like. I have not yet really lately talked about my time in Sweden but tis now.

The relationship between the Finns and Swedes is very much one of love-hate. Rather like the Brits and the Irish – the master and the mastered, I think. There is in both nations’ dependency on the other that even now, though severed years ago, is still so very strong and hence resented by the underdog, mastered nation. “Du Gamla, Du Fria, Du Fjällhöga Nord“…! The national anthem of the Swedes. The nation was a super power in the Baltic region in the times past. Not that terribly long ago, really. It is quite like a child saying to the mother: “I am big now.” Yet always looking for the mother’s approval and being in a kind of competition with her; to outdo her and everything that she stood for.  Complex, but intriguing. How it pops up to the surface every now and then is, when the Finns meet the Swedes in ice-hockey or the Irish play against the Brits in rugby. NO MERCY GIVEN – NO MERCY ASKED. It is: Let the best nation win. More often than not, it is not the best nation that wins as far as ability and skill are concerned but the one with the greatest will to win.

I did what thousands upon thousands of the Finns then did: we took the ferry to our neighbour’s across the Gulf of Bothnia to work and for me it meant at first to be an au pair in the Stockholm area. It is rather amusing that the French phrase that describes this word means: ‘equal to’. Funny, because  the au pair, in most cases, is anything but equal to any other thing than a cheap labour at the whim of the employers who themselves know very little about children and child rearing. This was my case, too. I am afraid my au pairing memories of Sweden are not great but my social life memories are first class, though!

My first impressions of the Swedes and Sweden in this region – as I am familiar with the Lapland Swedish variety since childhood – was that they are much more open and, also, have a more positive outlook on life in all its aspects than the Finns do. I found it much more relaxed and easier to breath in every way. Even the weather was milder than what I had been experiencing in Finland. The coldest I have been in Lapland was all of -44 C!! I know, insane!  At that stage I did not know that my family roots go to Sweden, I just felt so at home from the word go! Only the last few years have we been aware that this is where some of the roots go quite far back there as well to other countries on my mother’s-mother’s side.

My time in Sweden was such a brilliant and blessed time. A time for healing and a time for good friendships that are, even today, extremely strong, close and vibrant! The hospitality of the Swedes, that I experienced, was most extraordinary and warm during all my years living over there. Did we drink coffee, tea; also, hot chocolate! Rivers, it must have been when the total amounts are all added up together. Even these days when I do pop over there, it is still ever the same.

We used to arrange these great parties where everybody was told to come to them dressed up to the nines. The lads were told very firmly that if they appeared at our do’s in their usual jeans & t-shirts -ensemble, we girls would not talk to them again. It worked, as they always came well turned out. The parties themselves were sometimes, as in mid August in the summers, the Crayfish Parties when we would have beautifully set out long tables in the garden. Cook gorgeous food and take our time eating and have great time together. Different teams of us in the gang would do the cooking and another team would do the clearing and tidying up. One of us was and is a qualified chef but after feeding the hungry beasts for a few times on his own, he got wiser as the time and feeding went on; hence, the teams came into being! Other times it was somebody’s birthday or another like occasion. Food, again, played a large role in them as it is the best means of getting people to enjoy and relax in one another’s company in any and every culture!

One among other marvellous things, I must say, to my parents credit is that they did not try to stop one doing this thing or that thing but quite the opposite; they encouraged me to go and do whatever was on my mind. Also, they had such confidence in me and my ability for survival that it was with a bushy tail and a positive outlook that I left, every time.

When young one really is not bothered about things like: not knowing anybody or how to arrange this or that, one just trusts that it will be fine. And so it is many a time, actually. Could it not be said of the people as well; that we begin our life, our walk with a whole but tight bundle of various shades like a rosebud not opened yet? Then maturing, opening to the full bloom like a rose, we have maybe one or two colours that are more prominent than the rest. With colours I mean, traits and that which is so typical for and to us that it is us. And these things essentially make you, you and me, me!

All in all the years in Sweden for me were exceptionally good and the years that I still have great memories of. The times that were like an investment for the years to follow. I go to Sweden at regular intervals to visit and to feel at home again!!

Tis for now until the next posting. Riihele xx

 

Thoughts of An Immigrant/Emigrant

BOAT2
The boats sailing between Finland and Sweden became more than familiar to me over the years that I crossed over the Gulf of Bothnia – one way or the other way, either I was going from Finland to Sweden or vice versa. In the early years of these sailings I would be so very sad leaving either port, that at times, I was thinking to myself that I should really settle in the in-between place called Mariehamn in the Aland Islands!

The happiest immigrant/emigrant is the one who has learned to take the very best of both worlds -or whatever number there is – and to combine them into a source of inner strength in the new. There is just no point to keep on hankering after something that is not going to happen in the new country, new place. One would not have left – many a time – at all if it had been possible to remain where one was living. Neither can I force my way in the new place to be exactly the way I want, as I am a newcomer who has to earn, one who has to get the right to express one’s opinion on the things and issues in the setting. I have no right to demand to be heard. I have to bide my time. I have to be ‘in’ to do that.

This is the thing, that I have learned and understood to be the case in my life going from place to place and from country to country, to do. When I did accept that things are never going to be the way I like or want to the T, the quality of my life improved vastly. I just chilled and enjoyed the here and now. I made the most of that circumstance, not wishing this way or that way.

In the first year in Sweden I was rather green in the life of an immigrant/emigrant – I bundle them together because one is really both – I would say things like: ‘Oh, our summers in Finland are just so great.’ As if the summers in Sweden would be the rock bottom! I did not mean it mean, it only sounded so, looking back. My new Swedish friends were very gracious and took it admirably.

When I went to Sweden my whole idea of the going was that I would be with the natives aka the Swedes even though the place was crawling with fellow Finns by the hundreds of thousands.I wanted to learn the language properly; and had I spent all my time with other Finns, that desire to learn the language and the culture would have been lost. Only the very last year – that turned out to be that – did I spend more time with my fellow countrymen.

Now when I am back here in Finland – well – it has not been easy to settle back in here. The hardest thing to me is the weather. It being more on the freezer style than anything else! But I am determined to make the best of this situation, this clime, and all the things that it is now to a strength. It is not Finland per se that makes it difficult to settle in; it is life. Life, in every country and culture has things that take their time to get into the gear, to get used to and to be familiar.

That is why I am patient, I am giving myself time to adjust, to ingest all that is here and now. It is the only way, I have learned. It can take years to become somewhat ‘in’ in the things in the new culture and life. It is not usually an instant happening; though, one can feel that instance nearly immediately arriving in some place. That is the way I felt in Israel, I had absolutely no culture shock, no feeling of being an alien, not a thing. I just jumped in and ‘BINGO’ – I was at home!

It is one’s own attitude to everything – even to oneself that matters. It says in a Bible translation:

 

‘A HAPPY HEART IS A CONTINUAL FEAST. ‘ So it is.


Tis for now – Riihele xx.

The photo is taken by me.

PS.
I have four home countries: Finland, Sweden, Ireland and Israel.
If Lapland is counted as a separate entity, then five!!