Pocket-sized capital city

I am on the train going back home, finally, after days procrastinating. My procrastination started suddenly and unexpectedly when I returned from Stockholm. There is a voice inside my head, keeping whispering, refusing to accept of being home just yet. So I stayed a couple of more days in Helsinki. Always a charm in deciding to stay in Helsinki. It is not a big capital city, not even a little bit comparing to my home city in Vietnam. But comparing to Jyväskylä, then it might be considered at another level. But that is not the factor growing in me a mysterious adoring feeling for Helsinki. There is something else.

So I am doing my thesis research involving Helsinki city. There are lot of things stressful about doing the thesis as an undergraduate student. But the greatest in researching this topic is that I catch many inspiring adjectives people use to describe Helsinki, based on their readings of their own city. Let me rewind a bit further to few days back when I was in Stockholm, I went to Modern Art Museum. In there, I saw the architecture and urban building exhibition. Took these two pictures about topic of “city”. Instead of putting the pictures here, I will quote, as I am in love with words and expressions.

One thousand questions about a city. Walk down any street and ask:

What does the city feel like? What does it smell of? What does it taste of? What sounds do you hear? Are the sounds the same on every part of the street? Does it smell the same everywhere? Does it taste the same everywhere? Can you measure what you see? Height? Length? Breadth? Weight? Why does it have these dimensions? What shapes do you see? Are they tall and slender? Are they round? Are they flat and wide? Are they square? Are they symmetrical or are they asymmetrical? Who are the buildings for? How are they made? Are they made as a whole or as several parts put together? Are they made by hand? Are they made by machine? Have you seen someone making one? How and when they are used? Is it used at nights? Can you open and close it? What materials is it made of? Are they natural or artificial materials? Could other materials be chosen? Which raw materials are used? How were the materials made? Do the materials influence the form of the building? Is the function of the building influenced by the choice of material? Has the building been you reused in any way? What are the pros and cons of the material? What problem does the building solve? What problems does the building cause? Could you solve the problem in another way? Was it expensive? Would it be a good building to own? Is it only for young people? Is it only for old people? Is it easy to repair? Does it need much care and attention? What will happen to the building when it is old? Is the building designed for a special profession/ function? Is the building designed for specific group? Is it designed for a special nationality? Are there any buttons to push? How do you use it? What colours do you see? What tones do you see? Do others like what you see? Do others like what they see? Can you describe what you see for someone who cannot see what you see? Can you describe the building with words? Can you describe the building using pictures? Can you describe the building in any other way? Is it a modern building or an old-fashioned? Is there any missing or broken? Has it been repaired or changed in any way? Does it work practically – is it functional? Is there any text on the building? Why is/isn’t there text on it? What does the text tell you about age, use group, price, and nationality, for example? Are there any symbols on it? What do the symbols mean to you? Is there a date on it? Is there a name on it? Has there been a previous type of the building? What would this building have looked like 10,000 years ago? What would this building have looked like 100 years ago? What would this building have looked like 10 years ago? How will this building be developed? What will it look like in 10 years? What will it look like in 100 years? What will it look like in 1 000 years? What will it look like in 10,000 years? How many of the building types is there? Can you estimate or measure its quality? Can you measure the object qualities in different ways? How much is it worth in economical terms? IS there any other value placed on it? What does the object say about the people who made it? What does the object say about the people who use it? What does it say to you? What does it say about you? And a couple of thousand more questions.

 

Reading the city

Imagine flying over a Swedish city and looking down from the aeroplane – or for the more adventurous jumping out and dropping by parachute. As you floated to the ground from several thousand metres you would first see the city’s geographic position in the landscape. Is it near the sea or on a river, on a plain or surrounded by forest? A little closer you would see the overall pattern of the city and get an idea of its proportion and size 10,000 50,000 500,000 or 1 million, how many people live there? Coming in to the land you would be able to see the layout of the city and follow the different street patterns, see parks and gardens, housing, factories, office blocks, harbours, airports and all the other elements that make up the city. Upon landing you could read other clues, the very make up of the city, its materials and technology. The city has a scale and existence from micro to macro.

Cities are complex and fascinating places, which are becoming increasingly important to our way of life. in 50 years, 80% of the world’s population will live in or near a city. Consequently, reading the city and understanding the city is becoming more important, is it a question of lifestyle, enjoying and participating in the life of the city to its fullest. If city living is to be the future way of life for the majority of the world’s population, perhaps the most interesting question that needs to be addressed is about how as many of us as possible can learn to read the city.

Fascinating, aren’t they? I mean, really fascinating. And I would not pay attention to these, if not one random in summer, my brain caught up a topic about city branding and I have not given up ever since. My study field is not directly connected to the theme, and I myself have not even gained well-established background about it, but my own interest. There is that challenge, but as one of my recent interviewee for this thesis, it is a positive challenge. I got sucked into reading about this, more and more; which was rather bad, because I love reading, and I assume I read more than I am required. Anyhow, look at the first 1000 questions, they are not something you never thought of, but I ensure you, never at the same time, especially when you first place foot steps in a city. One question after one, is developed throughout period of time you become a local in the city, after you grow a seed of connection and attachment to the city.

You might usually catch a saying or sentence, “Oh I am falling for the city“, or “so in love with it“, as even from my blog. Only when you start to research and study deeper, the word “city” appears under many complex layers. With those sayings, what do the writers or speakers mean to say, exactly? The people? The building? The design? The vibe? The system? Then, we get the second quote about Reading the City, to reply to our queries. I have interviewed 3-4 people in the last two weeks, and asked them to describe Helsinki in their own words. How amazing to hear people use words to convey their deep connection and attachment with the city, express it out to the outsiders. And that’s how I am in love with words. I believe a description of a city, activities one does in a city can be experienced by a listener, through the power of word’s affection.

So, I am told Helsinki is a hurry-free city, in which you need more than just couple of days to grow love for it. I guess it is true. In my first year, Helsinki is just a capital city of Finland. In my next few years, every time I return to visit Helsinki, I brought back home a new different piece of impression. Then, I am told the city is small but there exists its perk – so closed to the nature. “Within in 10 minutes, you can see the lake and nature, if you want“, quoted from another of my interviewee. She was not the only one telling me so. And I realised it as the most unique feature of this small Nordic capital city. The nature is blended within urban life. I did not pay attention to that until yesterday, in fact; since Jyväskylä gave me enough all of the nature I could ask for. I took a last run in the city yesterday, and in my head, running all the things I am told by my interviewees. I kept my eyes opened this time. And I got these two pictures to show you:

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I always make a small satisfied smile, whenever I manage to take these beautiful pictures of nature. It feels as if I might as well have just discovered a new pure touch of nature. It is true i did  not have to run anywhere really far to witness these. The city is a combination of two options for you, whether you are an addict of busy business modern life or an adorer of slow urban lifestyle. Back in the time I lived in London, I was not given such option. But London was another story, a story with views being thick of a long lasting urban life, a story of the energy of youth to freely swim into mistakes for experiences. I have figured out myself, why the word “city” is so complex but also simple to use. City is a word you use as a box, with all the memories, affection, sadness, happiness, all kinds of emotions or success, failures inside. City is where you reflect that part of your life onto.

But anyway, as I said, always a charm to be in Helsinki.

 

Reading addiction 

I like reading. I mean I like reading a lot. I remember how my autumn before I moved to the Netherlands was all about reading. Sometimes it is harmful, because once I start, I cannot stop. I shut the doors around me, and both literally and metaphorically being in my corner finishing the books. I have not got a time to redo that vibe of autumn again, also because of this isolation. Reading helps my own self not wandering to my real trouble life; as it is busy exploring the fictional life the book is building up. Another thing about reading is, it touches some buttons inside my head. Every time I am sucked into a reading time, there are so many pauses I have to stop, to breath in these descriptions in the book, relate or reflect them onto my life. Sometimes it is harder than it sounds, the feeling those pauses create.

Then, I start to feel like writing down stuff. Those buttons, when being touched, began a stream of words demanded me to let it all out to the real word, on a blank page or a blank document on laptop or a blank note on the phone. Like right now. I rarely pay attention to how my style seems to be like. The small details if forming a sentence, of linking the dots, do not matter as much as which word will convey the best the flow stream. So I tend to let them all out, I might read them again later or some other days, polish them a bit more if I wish and once I am brave enough, I will turn it into a blog post.

I finished the first short story of this book: “A girl with flammable skirt” – Aimee Bender. The chapter is named “the Remember“. And if not for my friend (who gave me the book as a gift on my bday) warning me at first about how strange the author’s writing style might seem, I would be really confused even after first few lines. But I hold back my prejudice, and tried to chew in her words in my own sense. I found myself somewhere in that story.

A story of a woman, letting go of a man; because along the way being together, she cannot realise him anymore. She let him go, and hope that one day he comes back in his original being and knocks on her door. Now, these are not the exact words used in the story. These are my own interpretation. If you decide to check out the book on your own, you might look at it differently. That marks the third great thing about stories and books—they are kaleidoscope. There exists no perfect true meaning, but the one fitting the most to a certain reader. I hope you know what a kaleidoscope is, I used to love that toy when I was a little kid. It was like a magical toy to a kid; since that is one way telling your kid that the world can be full of colourful small things to appreciate, and hope for.

Anyway, the story, made me questioning about how sometimes two people ruined each other self throughout the time staying with each other. They found a reason to begin with, to stay with, despite other people they might have met. There is a click, a connection. Then, things start to change and maybe one of them turn to be someone the other does not recognise. It is not happiness anymore. It is being stuck in a cage, in which they are dragging each other to go down together. I think it is rather sad. I don’t believe in “the one”; if you might tell me because that person is not meant to be. I think the concept is weird. I used to believe though; like everything happened for a reason, and so things don’t work out with one person because of the next one coming. Now I change my opinion. I don’t actually have any reasons; or at least that is what I assume. I just change, because i don’t like the way that belief shapes you: you just let go of one thing and you tell yourself that it is okay, since that has been arranged by some strong force in life and you wait for the next sign.

So then, this makes the story sad to me, to my own sense. But it also gives me a sense about “remembering”.

Feature image: https://unsplash.com/photos/7bYARiDY7lQ Kate Williams

What to do at 01:44am of the day and you can’t sleep, but allowing deep life thinking?

It’s the adrenalin drying out. You know, like when you are in an accident that happened so quick, you could not sense the pain or realize what was happening. Your brain only processes and reacts to certain things, but definitely not the pain. The pain comes later. Grey Anatomy taught me that, and I hope I remember right. So I assume the feeling when the party is over, or something good ends, or a good relationship breaks up, or a job got terminated, the endings in general cannot be compared to that adrenalin after traumatic accidents, in medical terms. But to me, so far, I called those feelings rising up after endings are similar as when the adrenalin produced by your brain is up. 

You are left with what is really happening. Everything rush back like a big tidal wave, which might hit you so hard that now and then, you find yourself being drowned. Or it could be in more gentle form, for the first few days after “endings“, you are given some space to go through denial phase. During this phase, those wave are only a bit more aggressive waves, appearing whenever wind begin to work a bit harder. Until you reach the accepting phase, you might also find youself, for some reasons, already drowning and your feet is touching the sea ground. 

Travelling is my adrenalin. Alcohol, running, books, movies, good parties hanging out with friends, work, stufy, business, are all my adrenalin. And the more I have to depend on adrenalin’s use, the less length it can last. Tricky part is, when the moment of drowning reaches, would you ever believe you will rise up to the surface soon? 

I thought of leaving this post at this very point here. But I went through my old blog in Tumblr, just minutes ago. And I found some of my old posts, which seem not to be much related to what I am expressing here, but in strange way, they are also kind of are. They are not the answers, they don’t help me to say to you “yes, you should believe you will rise up the surface” or “no, you absolutely will be drowned“. But that’s the idea, there’s no right or wrong answer. You would just have to see, whether a tiny bit of light will reach to your eyes when you are at the bottom of the sea. Or in much better expression, a quote I caught from Shonda Rhimes – writer for Grey’s Anatomy series (one of my very own favourite ones): “All you can do now is stand very still, breath in the moment and try to be opened, whatever the wind’s going to take you next“.

However, what came after Erasmus life? Last week, I talked to a friend, who also used to go on an exchange. She said “Erasmus life was not real, anything happened during Erasmus life was hard to be real”. And that is what comes after Erasmus life. The goodness you had make you cling to them as much as you can, even when it is time for you to return to the old life. Nowadays, whenever I receive the feeds from those exchanged students, it makes me urge for those goodness again. It makes me wonder, what else I can do here to have them as well, as a fourth year student, who does not have many classes anymore except the big thesis, who cannot just spend money without thinking and have to use all the chances to work for the salary, who needs to live more healthy, and who does not even live near the exchange students village. You see, how different and more challenging it is to turn your normal life to exchange life?

Believe me, never pass by the chance to be an Erasmus exchange student!

Since I came back, I did not know who I was. I came to the Netherlands expecting something else than I got. Still, I went with the flow anyway. I took the risk, as I gave my trust again to life and to him that the risk would be worth. It was, sort of worth, until now when I lost him, I lost a part of me sharing with him. He was my memory in the Netherlands. I came back, being nostalgic and all, but on top of everything, I tried to hold onto him, to keep that piece of myself. It still ran away. I was left with disappointment and sadness that sounds like just a broken-hurt but it sucks all my energy out some days. I call them the bad days.

That is the reason I have been looking, searching. I am not sure what I look for but I have been doing it. So yesterday, I took a trip to Helsinki, stay there for a couple of nights. I wanted to get fresh air. I met up with an old friend in the same Erasmus exchange. After that, I walked slowly to the nearby park. It was a beautiful day in Helsinki, luckily, the city welcomed me well. I sat there for a while, with my dark-drama book. I looked at the young fresh people walking and dressing nice. I noticed some lying on benches enjoying the heat. I looked over the birds jumping on their toes, and flying around me. I heard the traffic noise all the time because here is more urban life than my city. If i looked straight up, I could see the shopping malls, the trams, the flows of people moving back and forth. And I know I found something. It was a rush growing inside me, drawing in front my eyes the possible new page, new chapter in my own story. I might not be able to move right away, but there it is, there is the possibility I need. So go ahead. If you are in a bad place like me, and you feel stuck in your own life at the moment, don’t hesitate to move forward. Make a bucket list. Do new things. Do things you have never done. Move to new place. Refresh. Press the F5 button. No matter how many times you have to press the button, in order just to make your “computer” runs smoother. Even if you have to shut it down and restart, go ahead. There is a big chance the computer will be on again, be normal as the first moments you use it.

My possible next step?

 

 

What it feels to be in the so called Scandinavian Capital

In my last post about Gothenburg, you might have caught how I made this spontaneous trip to Sweden. At 22:27 Sweden time today, I have the pleasure to share with you how amazing the experience to be in the city has been. I arrived to Stockholm on Saturday, quite early in the morning, by train. In the last 5 minutes before the train arrived at the station, it passed by the sea views, in the centre. I could not find a better word describing except “wow!”. My face started to form a smile, because I could not hide better my own excitement. The city began to shape clearer appearance; sunlight was reflecting partly on river’s surface; turning the whole view through a small train’s window sparking as little diamonds. I felt something urging rising inside me.

I used Couch Surfing again for this destination of the trip, figuring out it would be fun to meet new person. I took the bus to my host’s apartment; and the weather changed slowly to little wind and greyness, but I did not mind. I arrived at the address quite well (not lost as much as usual), came in and got greeted in the elevator; since my host spotted me on the road, from his apartment’s window. He is a lovely guy, around 30-40 years old, looks successful and really friendly. He comes from Turkey, has lived in Sweden for four years, had a steady job but was planning to move back soon to Turkey for another better conditioned job. He has been travelling a lot too, and he also spent 4 college years in Canada. It is always great to meet person who is also in love and a travel addict. It is always even greater to have new shed of lights for distraction, meaning I got so focused into sharing new information, new hobbies with this new person; that I sort of have been forgetting about my own situation for days. You might wonder what “shed of lights” I might meant to make a metaphor of.

Johan Edelheim (2015) wrote a book researching about Tourist Attraction, stated “travelling is a way of finding identity“. Identity is a challenging abstract word. Simply in words, identity defines who you are; but words brought to real world, become harder to capture. There exists so many demands of many sources for one throughout life, I guess it turns to be quite easy for one to be lost about who he/she really is, what he/she really wants. I won’t bother you about reasons why I am at such phase where I am; but I’d like to believe in the sentence of Johan Edelheim. Travelling is a form of escapism, in which a person obtains the psychology that he/she does not have to do normal things of daily life (or at least this is how I have understood).  It is as if the pressure of being common is taken away, leaving space for you to be uncommon as much as you want to be. Possibly within such space, you are free to see what you really actually like and are fond of. I owe Stockholm this.

Day 1

I spent my first day in this city, walking. In fact, I spent all the days in this city walking. My host’s place luckily was near the centre; I didn’t find a need to purchase travelling ticket card. I did not mind walking either, the view was too fabulous to miss out being inside the bus or tram. My host lives in Sodermalm. It takes 10-15 minutes walking to Gamla Stan – the Old Town.

In my opinion, the Old Town was not much different from any other old towns I have seen. The same as old town in Prague, Czech Republic. The same as old town in Warsaw, Poland. And so forth. There are lots of vintage shops, cozy coffee shops and obviously, tourists. Not that I am a local citizen. I liked the old town, but was not so much impressed; until I walked to the area in the second picture, enjoying the sea view. I did pass by Nobel Museum, Royal Palace Museum but I realised I did not enjoy them as much as the outside view. Therefore, I just left Gamla Stan, continue walking aimlessly to where I am attracted the most. I walked towards a bridge (there are many bridges in Stockholm), crossed over to see this amazing hotel building Grand Hotel, a bit further passing National Museum, and arrived at SkeppsHolmen.

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(I had to sit down a bit taking these pictures before walking to SkeppsHolmen island. Breathtaking, isn’t it?)

I had my small lunch in Asia Museum on the island (picture 1 below). Then, I spent few more hours in the Modern Museum. It made me wishing to be an Art student, if I had had a chance to turn back to the past. I bought two post cards, one of which has a painting of Picasso – “The woman in blue collar“. I am literally still glad that I bought something from that interesting museum. I decided to leave it then, I was afraid I might end up spending more money and more time being stuck inside. I was urged to see more beautiful outside views of Stockholm. Unfortunately, the weather became worse at the time. It was snowing and windy, as you might see in the next picture. However so, I found it rather amusing. I thought to myself, that I would tell my friends later whoever told me this was the worst time of the year for travelling. I mean, it can be surely better with more brighter colour during summer. But, the snow has its own perks. I did not have a proper camera to catch flow of snow in the air for you all; so you might just notice the groomy atmosphere. In reality, it was not so bad. I ended up being all soaking wet on the way walking home; but that was just because I decided to walk further to near city centre and walked the whole way back.

Day 2

It was Sunday, and since I spent time chatting, watching movies with my host previous evening, I woke up rather late (well, suitable for a Sunday morning). I had my host as a company later, as my city tour guide. I asked him if we could walk the whole journey; since I still wished to stick to my original plan of walking for this whole trip. We walked again to Skeppsholmen, but we did actually walk around the whole island before leaving. I noticed lots of nice houses, nice boats further at the back of Skeppsholmen. In fact, I cannot even tell you how many nice vintage, historic buildings I have spotted in Stockholm. The European architecture in the city is undeniable wrapped in royal vibe. It hit me in awe, noticing how the buildings look outside as castles, but inside just average offices, houses, apartments, department stores, etc. How would one feel to go to work, to shop or to live in places appearing as if they are only meant for royal and rich people. That is how it struck me, and I think for many moments, I have been taken away with such feeling.

We walked a lot with my host, until quite late in the evening, passing Culture Centre and the most popular shopping street of Stockholm. Then, we ended the day with walking up to this Goladen, for me to see the city view from above (always my favourite thing ever).

Day 3

We walked again, to Djurgarden and Skansen area, where almost the popular touristic museums were placed: Vasa Museum, Nordic Museum, Tobaks Museet. There also places Tivoli amusement park , Cirkus, and Abba Museum. I went inside to buy my parents a postcard of their favourite band. We spent one hour wandering around, talking about different topics. Again, my luck to have a nice lovely host.

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Then, we stopped by for a warm coffee, before heading back to home resting and ended the last day with a big delicious Turkish dinner. So I did not go inside those museums, or a lot of attractions; but the trip was how I wanted. I have never been such a big plan of the museums, as I said, unless some particular that stayed in my head. And since this trip was supposed to be a budget backpack short spontaneous trip, I tended not to spend a lot money for entrance admission of eating outside quite often. I did not even spend even a day researching for where I wanted to see in Stockholm. I did the plan, along the days since I arrived at the city. I took some guidebook, noticed some areas recommending to visit, and of course, my host’s opinions as a local actor. As in one of my recent interview with Cory Lee – an accessible wheelchair user, “local people interaction is always important, since they know more we do, and their input is valuable“.

So that pretty much summed up my days here so far; and now I am sitting writing this. I owed this city. I owed this trip. For its ability to make me realise some lost parts inside me, a version of myself who accidentally smile seeing a spectacular view, who happily share experiences with others with same hobbies, who would not spend so much time eating out but do not mind spending for coffees in different places, and who would sigh out satisfied sipping in a nice coffee with a good urban atmosphere. And most interestingly, Stockholm does not even seem as urbanised as I thought it would be; but I am aware of how developed it has been and how people fit to their “capital” sense of dressing. There is an old me only woken up while travelling, a passionate me refusing to be attached and in love with her moving legs. And you know, I have been asking myself many times, walking around in Stockholm, “How have I forgot?“.

Gothenburg – my convenient escape destination

So today is my last day in this city, tomorrow I will take a train going to Stockholm, really early unfortunately. I want to write a post about it.

Earlier, I did mention shortly about my trip to the World Cultural Museum; but now, I will rewind a bit backwards more about this whole trip. I did not plan for this trip at all. I just wanted to go somewhere. I recalled my friend saying he would go to Gothenburg to visit his boyfriend soon on St. Valentine’s day. I have been to the city before, and I also know his boyfriend for two years. And it might not be the perfect to ask my friend dragging me along with him, when he wanted to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day with his loved one. I kind of did anyway. I only bought the ticket going there at the time. I thought I would not entitle myself to the day returning this time, just because I really have no things in life to attach to that strongly. Then, I felt guilty during the last week before I left. I was about to use money again, when I was not supposed to, when I should act more responsibly towards my life. Travelling has always been in my blood, you know. I assume it is owing to that, I purchased the ticket rather spontaneously and recklessly. But there was no way of feeling guilty when there was nothing more I could have changed. The ticket was non-refundable. I just had to go along with it.

The first day I arrived there with my friend, we stayed in to watch Melody Festival competition happening in Sweden, preparing for upcoming Eurovision. So, it was rather a chilling evening with friends. The second day, we had nice breakfast, stayed input, watched more different sorts of entertainment, movies, comedy series; but the weather was too beautiful not to go outside. We then managed to get ourselves off the couch. I mean, I would do it anyway. Jyvaskyla has been in a gloomy winter for a while; I started to forget how much lively the sunshine could make me. We went for a walk, to the forest and all, and that was also the day I posted about St. Valentine and sunshine.

The next day, I spent a day with my friend. It has been a while, since October. I mean, I met him after New Years; but he was having a busy time. So we didn’t do many things together. I stayed input in his place when he was at work; then, he came home, and we watched stuff and ate (do you notice how typical these activities are?). But last Monday, we did stuff together again. We went to have a lunch buffet, then we walked through the park, and got caught up in discussing about relationship stuff a bit, in an okay amount. I did not wish to speak more, I was afraid I might end up telling him a whole lot, and I did not think he was in any mood to help me dragging my baggage around. He has his own. And it is weird we do not share with each other. But I guess, that is how it is, sometimes?

The point was we had fun; and I was reminded by what sort of fun I had being around him. In the last picture, it was me, being tiny in the whole lot of nature. It is hard to be gloomy when you have such a lightened background as that behind you, isn’t it?

Then, we visited two bookstores. The second one was a science fictional book. And I laughed a lot. I laughed pretty much at everything, and I remembered about how we were like this as well, on the trip to Tallinn during New Years before I left to the Netherlands. We found this comedy section, marked our high-peak laughing. We were tired at the end of that day, I wonder whether it was because of all the laughing.

He left back to Finland the next day because he had a job. I don’t have anything much except my thesis, so I stayed a couple of more days in Gothenburg. I walked around, explored a bit more of the city on my own (which was unfortunately mostly the center area, since I was afraid I might be lost somewhere strange and I did not have phone service to call for help). The weather for the last two days weren’t as good as the first few days. Today it was quite foggy, in fact. Anyway, Gothenburg has its own charm I did not realise last time I was here. It could be likely due to the fact I only stayed for a weekend; as when I still had a job to go back to. My friend’s boyfriend lives in the area, which takes 20 minutes to the center by tram. It has to go over the bridge, and I love that part the most. I got to see the harbour. It is so lovely, even if mostly you can just see boats and ships surrounding. I mean, you might think this sounds ridiculous, given the fact that it is harbour. It is just that, I experience a different type of harbour in Jyvaskyla. In the city I live in, we have this small area near our biggest lake there, and we call it harbour anyway; even though it is not so surrounded by ships as this one in Gothenburg. The Gothenburg’s version leaves me more industrial feeling; still, my best part of the trip going to the center area. I paid visit to two museums, World Cultural Museum and Gothenburg Art Museum. I am normally not a huge fan with museums. I don’t hate them, but I assume I don’t have such a strong knowledge background about art, pushing to visit every museums in new destinations. But I do it sometimes, when I come across the ones I feel like I am interested at. I don’t like to pretend to understand something I don’t; but I figure it is no harm to give it a try, being artistic for one day. So I gave it a try yesterday when I walked to the Gothenburg Art Museum. It is a big marvelous building, at the end of Avenyn street, near Haga area. It is also near the city’s library (I assume, but I am pretty sure it is a library anyway).

There are surely more than these pictures; but these were only the ones I wanted to take pictures of. The first picture reminded of the view, from this spot near my place that I found during my first summer in Finland and I was mostly alone in the city. It was probably a normal day I got off work, and went for a run. This view:

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This spot turned out to be where me and my two best friends managed to see the Northern Light, last October too, one night before a short-lived happy period in my life happened.

There was also a portrait piece of art, made my buttons. You cannot see very well through my poor skill of taking photograph; but it looked pretty amazing through real eyes. The ways the buttons’ colour are purposely arranged, and placed on each other. If you look close, you would not think they make any difference until you walk backwards a bit, and look at the whole picture. Like someone always shouts to you “Look at the big picture please!“.

The last one was me, not trying to have a selfie. It was a small room, with the mirrors around, and this fabric art on top of me. It was work of someone (which I hated myself for not noting her name down), out of an art researched. She considered still fabrics reflecting something musical, so she built up this art, with such fabric and the colours you noticed in the picture, are in fact flowing, along with this music tune in background. I touched some parts, and you can see the colours inside the fabric moves, as if when you touch the lake, and you see the rings sort of vibrating to larger areas and not ending. The spots I touched at (oh by the way, I am allowed to do so), will also reflect a music key, and it will keep doing so every time I touch. I was acting quite like a kid, playing with new toy in the room. I was somehow grateful that there were no other kids around me to see so.

Then, I left the museum, kept walking around the center, stopped by some shops to check out stuff and eventually sat in a coffee shop for few hours. I always like to do that, walk until I am tired and notice different places I would like to stop by when I do stop. It is sometimes causing a lot of headaches. I can actually see myself as such an indecisive person in those situations. I simply cannot make a choice! Anyhow, I like being in one spot, when I am tired, and have a cup of coffee, and stair at outside, before I took out my laptop, or book, or notebook. Every now and then I did so, I recalled this one focus group I was in, researching about human social reaction. I stated during the focus group time, that I did this activity a lot, going to a coffee shop, and being in a corner by myself, while in fact I can do that at home too. But I like to be invisible within the crowd, in a strange way. It gave me push of concentrating on my work. They asked me why, I had no idea. But I used not to pay attention to those, until after that focus group. Now before I took out my laptop and my work, I looked around and noticed how many other people do the same thing. I noticed them in not a creepy way, their focused face on the laptop’s screen and papers surrounding them, and maybe the cold cup of coffee, and maybe the salad or muffin they are trying to digest while working at the same time. So, that is pretty much our lives have become to. Too busy even to stop doing stuff and eating and enjoying the coffee. I would probably do the same thing though. But, suddenly, for some reasons, going to the coffee shop alone and not doing those kinds of stuff just make the whole situation so sad, and lonely; not that it is less lonely in reality when you do so, but maybe in your head. And I guess, that makes a difference.

But this city, I kind of like it. I kind of like it, not in the Breda kind of way ( the city I used to live in the Netherlands); but in London kind of way. I would try to describe a bit more. You might think it is more alone and you have more space living in a countryside, since there are like no one around you. For some cases of my Finnish friend’s hometown, there are actually NO ONE around you, except your family and the forest. But for me, growing up with the urban life for so long, a big city is where I find the clear emptiness. You might think there are all the people around you, so you have no space. Physically, yea. But mentally, you have all the space in the world. No one cares about you; because life is a bi pushy, fast, hard and stressful in urban style. So much demand, so much hopes, so much determination. I kind of like this sort of loneliness sometimes. I know how it might sound expressing explicitly as such; but this loneliness, I assume everyone needs it now and then. Kind of crawling back into your introspective world (a word used by Nick Hornby, in A Long Way Down); but knowing there are still tons of things for you to do, people to talk to, if you want to, when you decide to leave that shell. I like the nature in Finland. I like the quietness. I like the views which I have never paid attention to, throughout years living in big city. I am pretty sure I am affected by Finnish way of living a lot too. But I never throw out my deep crush for urban life. It is as if in my blood, a part of me growing up. So Gothenburg is okay, actually a nice place to visit too, especially in the summer time.

Maybe I will return soon, during the summer possibly. Now, I think I am sort of ready to see Stockholm.

A little bit too late to catch up with classic writings of Nick Hornby

I admit the title is rather long, which I meant intentionally. I wanted to keep it simple with the title of the book and the name of the author; but I wonder how many versions of them are already existing out there. This is not to say this piece of writing would be noticed in some way, and definitely not by Nick Hornby himself. But I read one of his book, only at the beginning of this week, for the first time, and I have never heard of him before, and I do read. And I also assume I read considerably an adequate amount. Anyhow, the book fit me, in my particular situation in life, so well that I did question whether this is a coincidence. But as Nick said in this book, “you consider coincidences in life when you have no power to control your life” (not exact those words, I am just rephrasing); I think it would more or less sum up what situation I am in life now.

So, I wanted to make an effort, finding a contact of Nick maybe, and maybe wrote him an email, expressing layers of affection his book had on me, in spite of the chances he must have had already received tons of emails as such, given that he ever received and had time to read those emails. The effort lasted for a couple of minutes; then, I realised all the online contacts are from the publisher, and since this book connects with me in such a personal way, I don’t think I want people working at the publisher reading them. So, clearly this post was not meant to be published either. However weird I find sharing these small bits of those affection in public here, I do sincerely want to mark something, before the book will eventually belongs to the list of my favourite books. Because I know it is a bit more than that; but it is most high-peak and clear just at this moment when I finish the book 20 minutes ago.

A long way down” – Nick Hornby. How many of you have read the book?

I did not even buy the book myself in the first place. I found it on my friend’s bookshelf, and thought :”Huh, okay, why not giving it a try?“. You are welcomed to comment about my ignorance. Anyway, I started to be sucked into it. The way the book started with four different mindsets, got me confused a bit at the beginning. The humour sense is so well-crafted that even if I am reading about deep thoughts about life, about possible tragical situations which can happen to every one of us, I end up laughing anyway. It was those kinds of laugh that I sighed a little at the end, thinking to myself “What a sad laugh it might sound to people around me!“. But I did not mean this in a bad way. I think Nick did such a great job in placing those hilarious moments there, in where they are supposed to be; in order for readers not to fall into a deep well of depression over life, finishing the book. It got me thinking a lot though, and feeling as if I am heard.

And you can say that we shouldn’t have been up there, because wanting to kill yourself is a coward’s way out, and you can say that none of us had enough reason to want to do it. But you can’t say that we didn’t feel it, because we all did, and that was more important than anything.

Nick describes well how an unhappy person feels normally, despite what background or sort of issues make you unhappy. Unhappiness will push to away from average social life, a bit or a whole lot. I figure it is becoming harder to let yourself be heard or understood these days. Because everyone is like walking through life, with a baggage of their own. Or some of them don’t. So I have my own baggage, and I don’t even know what words or expressions to use when I am asked. It makes me somewhat unhappy. This unhappy vibe will surround me; and people might feel I am doing this all to myself, it is my choice to be so, as an adult – which I can’t say 100% they are wrong. Reading this book, I feel heard in a different way, even though I am in no situations as the characters. Four of them also are in no similar problem as the rest; which make the content interesting to read. I got to experience from four different angles. Each of them reflects a bit of myself; and all of them, together, gave me this thought: “Well, you know what, you are not the only one“.

I am not saying that it makes life more pinky. But, I guess it does not have to. I am not starting to read a book, wishing when I finish, something will enlighten my life. I usually got sucked into a book, due to its surprisingly fitting to my own mindset at the time. Reading about stories of people who wish to die, you presume it must have sound more depressing than this. It does not actually; it is one of the book does not obtain a fake happy ending. I know this; since I was trying to find one and was waiting for one through out the whole time reading. I thought, okay, so at some point, something would happen, and all four of them would have a happy ending, as in Hollywood movies. Everything falls into places at the end, you know.

Four characters do not suicide, of course; it is still not an ending I was hoping for. But it is okay as that, in fact, more than okay. It ends with the four looking at the London Eye, acknowledging that it is moving even when it does not seem so. That is one deep sentence. I am still processing it, but I like that ending sentence. Not a happy one, but not a depressing sad one. I want to say a realistic one; but lately, I have been questioning what the line is between “dream” and “reality” (except the obvious between when you are dreaming sleeping and awake, obviously). Anyway, it might be another post soon, me sharing about random philosophical thoughts of mine. The purpose is, you should read if you haven’t (in case you are also slow of catching like me). I can’t tell you in details on what scale the book helps me; but I can tell you it gives you some angles to think about.

Varldskulturmuseerna

So I didn’t have a chance yesterday to make a post about this exhibition in the World Cultural Museum that I went to, in Gothenburg. All of my writing ability were used and dried up for thesis, not that I had to write anything specific yesterday,except for transcribing the interview. But I want to share with you all a bit about what amazing stories I have read.

They were different stories, in different shapes, of different brave individual who decided to share a piece of their life to the world; so that some others who might have similar situations, would have the strength. They are not only the stories about being gay or lesbian or transgender. They are also about their beliefs in polygamy, as long as the story shows a side of different from the common world, not normal, but the common world. I did not even think about it that way before; despite the fact that I always support the difference within life. But I like whoever quoted this from Dorothy Parker: “Heterosexuality is not normal. It’s just common”. And I like the words used.

The exhibition was small, not as big as I thought. I held in my hand the stack of papers conveying all those stories. I read some, then I walked a bit more to see around. There were pictures of different couples in Vietnam, from my own country and culture. I recalled seeing them before in Prague, from Maika Elan.

The Pink Choice is a series of photos about the love of homosexual couples which focus on living spaces, the affectionate touches, and more importantly, the synchronized rhythm of lovers sharing life together. Viewers may not feel the personalities of the subjects in the photos, but hopefully they can feel the warmth of their love and caring. In way, I wanted to show what I see of homosexual people and not how they see themselves.

Photographer: Maika Elan
Website: www.maikaelan.com

She wanted to show a different approach to Vietnamese society, through “personal stories using direct language: documentary photography to capture real moments and real people”. And I think she did a wonderful job. Not that she needed one more person to tell her so. I, myself, have never even looked at my own culture from such angle. I am a voluntary person who wishes to go abroad and explore and sometimes find myself being strongly disagree with many things relating to Vietnam. Something about the life when I was there, quite turned me off now and then. However so, the pictures “nostalgized” me in a way, reminding me of my own rootedness. It is a warmth you might find, living abroad for some time and subconsciously, you start to forget or let go some of aspects of your old life.

There was a whole corner only showing aspects about my culture. They were mostly in Swedish; hence, I did not take many pictures, except for these.

The left one, you can easily see what is about; and the second one emphasised women’s power and role in our society. Even though women are still considered to be in weaker position, to be taken care of and protected by men; Vietnamese women have a unique difference from other Asian cultures – we fought in the war, literally, and we fought against enemies when the men were not available. I liked it a lot. I liked hearing those stories, and seeing some of Western people know about this aspect of Vietnamese women. Because I was raised so. In some of the post in Tumblr, I had shared a bit about my parents. My mom is a tough woman, and not in the strict way or so. She likes to have fun, jokes around and not like I am always tip-toeing around her. But she is strong and tough. She has been through a lot, that I know; but she does not lose her spirit. She might lose her temper quite often though. She does not show emotions out a lot; and clearly, she does not always need my father to have a life. She can always be on her own. She is fine being on her own, most of the time. She keeps whispering to me, since I was a kid, that I needed a career first before getting married. Nowadays, she mentioned more about me having a boyfriend and not delaying those things too late, I don’t know why, I am still “freshly” young. But that was how she used to teach me. From whatever vibe she has wrapped me up, I grew up as an independent girl, so far, both fearful but also fearless. Pretty sure the fearless is from her.

The left picture though, was true in a sad way. And I don’t think it only applies to LGBT community; even though the situations might be the most unfortunate. It is said; owing to the fact that society there has too many standards for people to follow. It reached a point that we rarely questioned why, especially the old generation. A lot of young people, with different new modern mindset, have to be put in situations, in which they are against their family. I ensure you, it can be one of the worst feeling, to know that even your family is not supporting or believing in you. Or at least, from where I was raised, it is one of the worst feeling. Family should be the stop one returns or crawls to, knowing that stop would always be there no matter what harsh life has put you through.

There was a black board with a chalk; and I picked it up just to write: “Thank you for doing this exhibition. From a Vietnamese person.”

I walked further to see them presenting about our musical instruments, different types, and our traditional outfit – Ao Dai. The right part of the exhibit room, there was a screen playing about natural phase of a girl having armpits; in order to declare a refuse to believe in the norm, that all the girls are supposed to shave all the armpits. Then, there was a board with many faces, from many background, having a diverse skin colour. That is what a diversity exists within our community. I already wrote a note to myself, reminding me of how much this exhibition has given me. But I would also share here again, its impact.

I like to study about culture. Because I believe in differences. This is not to say I embrace it so well; but I believe in it, and try to study more about it, so I could embrace it better in the future and help others to see it too. Having people doing a totally different things or being different from the common knowledge one is taught about, makes one start to wonder about his/ her identity. I suppose it is a hard thing to accept; because most of us start to react in a negative way. We refuse to believe. We tend to hold onto to the common norms; because that is the way it should be. But I realised, through my limited living experiences, that we are all different. We are different from each other from the core, but that makes us all the same. Looking from far away, we are all same human, with body, legs, hands, arms, brain and all. Then getting closer, we reflect different pictures. I even realised, sometimes, in spite of how different the road you might take from the other, the two people might end up to be exact the same point. Between difference and likeliness exists such a thin life, would you agree?

 

 

The thought with St Valentine and the sunshine

IMG_0072

So this is what I woke up to. Gothenburg, Sweden, 14th February 2016, Valentine’s Day. I woke up to see a bright blue sky with sunshine all over the white snow covering roads, the spring feels as if it is really near. I personally have not been celebrating Valentine’s Day with anyone since 4 years ago. Not to bring this up in a sad desperate feeling. It is definitely not the best feeling to be alone among other couples on this day though. For whatever happened to me recently, I do not think such a bad feeling on this particular day will make any differences. But I woke up to this sun light. Then I had a nice walk through the forest with two friends (who were also a couple). I looked at them, and breathed in fresh wind of possible early spring. Today does not have to be about me at all. In fact, there is even no need for single people to be sad on this day, or jealous to who has someone to celebrate with. This day is for couples, for who do not give up love over challenges in life and luckily still stay together. I then read another post on this site: http://extradrymartini.com/, in short moments, warming up my hope muscle. There were days before I thought I could not continue, and allowed myself to be pushed down into a dark hole. I cannot say I can maintain such a state like today for long; however so, minutes of this is worth keeping. Deep down in heart, far back in head, I do still care enough to keep on living. I am still aware of friends who I have been neglecting, of dreams that might be buried but not lost and of family who are still on this Earth. At least for today, I will try to hold onto this before it slips away again.

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone!

But little by little, it started to come back. I started writing again. And over the last two plus years, I have written a lot. I wrote while my life changed. I wrote through all kinds of moments – heartbreaking moments and sweet moments, laugh out loud moments and joyful moments. You see, once you get through the worst part of a trauma, once you realize it won’t actually kill you, once you realize that you still care enough to pick yourself up and keep on living, you become capable of experiencing profound joy. And it’s often joy where you wouldn’t expect it:  in small, seemingly insignificant moments that you never even realized were beautiful until you looked at them through the lens of loss. Even though you’re sadder and more broken, when you laugh you really mean it, and when you love you really mean it, and even though you wouldn’t wish what’s happened to you on anyone, your dirty little secret is that you don’t want to go back to the way you were before, because the old you was oblivious, fumbling around in the dark, while this you is awake to everything. And once you’ve woken up, you can’t go back to sleep.

“What is home?”

I have recently taken part in a project with the aim of creating an empathy from Finnish people towards refugees and migration matters. I have always thought of this as my lucky opportunity, to be a part of a meaningful project, to at least feel like I am making a change. I would keep the details of this project under low profile for now; but I mentioned this since owing to this project, I got to read two papers produced by Joanna Sell and George Simons about the state of being a foreigner in a strange land. Joanna Sell’s work involves directly with life of Frederic Chopin – a famous Polish composer and pianist. Her work reveals the mysterious life of Chopin, through his own words stating in the journal, reflecting about himself being a refugee.

The paper triggered me, providing me background knowledge about acculturation and bilingual people, from a specific single case of Chopin leading to generalisation to a wider population. Her work even inspired George Simon (as my supervisor) to produce a paper of himself, or more as a storytelling and reflection of himself. After reading that, I feel like writing my own story too. It is as if a chain has established, hopefully some of you would do the same, for any chances you might read this post.

I moved to Finland less than four years ago, voluntarily. As I might have mentioned many times throughout my old blog Tumblr, it has always been my dream to go abroad. I do not recall how it started, but I dreamed of being in a foreign plan and the though about exploring new possibilities gave me excited adrenaline ever since I was a kid. I am not a refugee or immigrant (as George described, “someone has decided or at least intended to become a permanent resident of the specific country one has entered“). I am, for the time being, only an abroad student in Northern Europe. But I found many familiar things reading George’s story.

All of this leads to an exploration of the topic of “what is home?” Those of us who go abroad voluntarily to explore new possibilities, whether as an exchange student. To learn in a new context, or as a laborer or professional to explore new working environment or opportunities.”

I face a phenomenon addressed as acculturation—”the process of cultural change and psychological change that results following meeting between cultures.” I was born and raised in a big city, and the city I am currently living in Finland has way much lower population. In fact, the whole nation Finland does.

When I first arrived in Jyvaskyla, I found myself being scared of the space I was given, the space that nowadays I am actually in need of. Finnish people prioritise their space, and their privacy. Owing to this fact, they normally come off quite cold to people around. This is not to apply to everyone; but only the majority of people I have in contact with. I recalled the challenges I found making an effort to break into a new land, a new group of friends, a new environment with my best; so that I would not belong to the group of foreigners who only stick among the familiar people from the same background. I left my country for a purpose to explore. The effort was not successful. I recognised me doing many new things, quicker before I myself can access whether such an activity is for me. I did the actions because I wanted to fit in. I got exhausted after a while; felt confused by the overload of new changes. I crawled back slowly to a comfort zone with one close friend arriving in Finland, at the same time as me. I still tried now and then though, but not as much forceful as the beginning. I ended up building some connections with a few friends, who could join me in the common interesting activities for both sides. I started to develop my new self abroad ever since. I made decisions more on my own, rater than following a pre-decided path from society or parents like when I was in Vietnam. This was the way pushing me to form who I thought I was. I picked up many new life philosophies or beliefs or advices along the years, and kept the ones closet to my instinct, and my identity. The thing with living abroad is sometimes remembering about your core values. It is easy to be lost among variable selfs I obtain every time I move to a new place.

However so, in some of my writing, I claimed that Saigon—my home city—is still where my heart is. Despite how romantic it sounds, I occasionally question on which scale the statement is true. I came back to my city last year, shortly for a month. One might say the time is rather short, leading the time be filled more with fun and happiness, than irritation and annoyance. You might wonder why one will feel irritated and annoyed being back home? It does actually happen quite often; and academically, it is addressed as “reverse culture shock”. I also suffered from it briefly in the first week in Saigon, being overwhelmed with the crowdedness, the air, the traffic and the noise. They were distracted later by busy schedule I had to meet my friends and my relative fast. Reverse culture shock was not so strong; but the connection with the place was clearly weakened. Most of my friends who used to be so important to me, now got their own lives that are far different from mine. I saw myself not comfortable sharing any European experiences since I was shy away from the possible judgment they might form in their heads. I am not ashamed, but I am more aware of the fact how one may cope with the differences. If you ask me now the reason to return, I might just say it is for the food and for the family. I left four years ago with my own life back there; and up to this point, such lifestyle has been away from me long enough to be considered as “non-existent”.

George even mentioned: “Self esteem and identity. I’m fascinated by the fact that the immigrants often do much better than the locals in performing in school and in tasks, perhaps by but the motivation to survive and succeed in a new environment whereas the local students are comfortable and less challenged”.

I also belong to the hard-working group, which I am mostly proud to say it was due to my culture. In a way, I think my supervisor is right to point this out. Life abroad is harder than one might think, and it is sometimes not the physical sides to notice by eyes. It appears within the values and psychological mindset of an outsider. I always have this whisper in my head that I have to achieve better than my friends who stay in Vietnam, I have to be more hard-working, more patient and more talented to have a job comparing to Finnish students. All of that equals to me in a sense that I have to cope better with situations to survive. I like my freedom abroad. I like my way of living and how I have encouraged to grow and change, through each contact I have with different person I meet. In exchange for these, there always exists a sense in the back of my head “I have to…”. Again, self esteem and identity.

At the end of this post, I am left with two questions from George, the two questions I am suddenly on my way of searching answers again, in the fourth year my abroad journey.

  • Cut from roots, how does one regenerate?
  • Must this mean learning self generation?

 

 

Modern Romance

 

I was browsing through Discovery of WordPress since I was in a mood of reading some nice posts, and maybe leaving a comment. I was advised to do that by the blogger of “The Waiting”; and I started to try couple of days ago, leaving only two comments on two different blogs. Strangely, it felt rather nice. I have formed myself this ignorance since whenever I cannot recall. This ignorance began with not leaving comments on any online discussion; since I don’t believe they would change anything by sitting behind computers, writing down thoughtless comments and hurting others and arguing, proving you will be the rightest. Then this ignorance expanded to not leaving comments online at all, even though some posts I find interesting or fit to my own view or it would be just about a topic I hope to raise opinions against the author. Slowly, this ignorance even includes not reading news, newspapers, articles, listening to radios, anything but the one calls out to my instinct. I admit, I myself, dislike this ignorance of mine. Sometimes, I realise myself on a stand where I don’t follow what others are talking about; just because I chose to ignore reading the news and instead watched a dancing video.
So, since I have already created another public online identity; I figured I’d better act differently. I followed the advice, I left comments and it felt, for the first time, I actually cared. This is not to indicate I am a careless person, I hope. I do care about a lot of things, and people who matter to me the most. However so, I also tend to let go/ ignore things/ people who don’t matter. I have this huge conflict wrapping my personality.

Let rewind back to the article I read 10 minutes ago before I started to write this post. The name is “Isn’t It Romantic? Looking for love in the age of Tinder” – a story (not sure whether it is fictional) about a woman who meets guys through Tinder. In one post of mine in Tumblr, I also shared that I had Tinder account myself. I discussed about how some of us judged this creating account on Tinder; and how I thought social dating app should not receive such strong judgment. I read this post today, and it described quite similar to my own experiences. At the end of the day, Tinder is for one-night-stand, I think. The story draw up briefly how short the contact between two people are sometimes, leaving the total awkwardness for the first try, growing to more frequent after few times, some experience turns out to be good, some turn out to be not. Going on Tinder is not about finding a listen partner or your dream love. Still, human contacts are still human contacts. One get to hear stories from the other one, a piece even a small piece of that person’s life. How strange it has become, that the most intimate thing as sex has transformed into something less intimate thank talking and sharing; owing to the fact that almost every single of us has a skeleton in the closet.
Anyhow, I personally would recommend the writing to everyone to read 🙂

Isn’t It Romantic? Looking for love in the age of Tinder