Finding your stable feet

There have been quite a few posts on my blog, in which I shared about my feelings towards different places I have lived in or have been to. Jyväskylä is probably the most mentioned city. You see, I came there before I even turned 18 officially, and the place was very much a representation of my big life milestone. I also lived in London – UK, in Breda – the Netherlands, Mandelieu La Napoule – France, and now, I find myself in a coast city: Vaasa – Finland. In addition to these cities, I have been to other few places for short to medium length travelling.

If you have read some of those posts, it may not come as a surprise that I usually develop connections with the places I stepped my feet in.

London was where I found a fresh young girl falling in love madly. London taught me the very first real but crooked definition of “love”.

Breda kept within it my Erasmus exchange memories, the laughter, the drunk parties, the friendship, the companies, the partners in crime and the one that got away. The Netherlands was how I brought myself back to excitement of being in a new place, making new friends and having a new purpose to dip myself in experiences.

Then, in Mandelieu La Napoule, I hid. I got defeated in these last 1,5 years. I was blinded with my own failures, I came back to my oldest passion – travelling/ moving to a new city, or perhaps, come back to also my most common excuse for escapism. Southern France gave me the peace behind every single wave rolling on the beach surfaces, behind the winds floating through trees while I pushed myself to hike towards higher and further point; but of course, to trade for such peace, I lived with lonesomeness.

Finland. Well, Finland became my second home town years ago, and has always been. In a way, I feel I am re-born here. Certainly, my relationship with this country has began to face obstacles and plenty of wonders. Even so, I doubt I would ever change my way of looking at it the way I am looking at it now – after every each time I return here after being in a different place – as if I am looking at the most familiar place to me ever.

I take pride in telling others the places I have been to, and lived in. Even though I take joy in dazzling others’ eyes when I tell them those places as my life achievements, they are also more than that. They have become parts of my identity. To tell people about my different types of crushes for these places, I am reminding myself of how I am living closely to my ‘coreness‘. Sure, it sounds romanticized, but sometimes, the things which sound most cliché, are unfortunately deniably true.

It is easy to forget the dream you had when you were kids. And I am not even talking about all the silly dreams we had, like being a superman or cat-woman, or a princess/prince/ king/ queen (despite the fact that the idea of having a castle is still very tempting now and then), etc.

But I mean, THE DREAM. The one and only one dream, speaks to you the most, and stay with you the longest.

For me, it is travelling, even before I am aware of what the term “travelling” would mean. This very special kind of dream seems the most challenging to keep. Because it is not unrealistic, you know you might be able to make the dream come true one way or another. But it is also unrealistic, years of growing up and attempting to be an adult at least has taught you much.

I have not lived enough to out-say other more experienced people about how to achieve your dream eventually. This post is not about that.

This post is for me to share the other side of my dream: the breaking-up phase with my places. As I know how lucky I still am, I don’t normally say out loud to myself the holes made inside me sometimes, after I leave a place.

Being on the move is great. Being on the move also equals not settling down, either physically, geographically or mentally, sometimes all. The excitement for exploration I depend on is short-lived. After certain time living in a place, you may fall back into a life with usual pattern plus repetitive daily activities. I myself find me in boredom. I see myself being curious about what may be different in some other places. I see me starting to look at tickets, jobs, paper work process and day-dream about being able to just pack and go.

So, people usually say, being on the move sounds exciting but one cannot always be on the move, and do that forever. And I usually laugh away their sayings. I laugh away even more if people add the ideas of starting a family and living permanently in one place. But there is nothing wrong with those ideas. In fact, I secretly agree with those people in parts. Being on the move requires you to be emotionally adjusted. Being on the move makes you realise you have never had a particular place where you call home, and you can just buy tons of housing decorations without wondering what to do with them when you move again, at least for the next many years. Being on the move requires financial support, if you are to hold a limited passport. Being on the move means you cannot promise to make a work contract for years. Let’s not talk much about what being on the move might affect to your relationships, I guess, we are all somehow aware of that price.

I laugh away, because still, being on the move is my very important dream. To imagine me forgetting it, is scary. To think about the things I cannot have in exchange for what I am passionate about, is challenging, (hell, many times, really challenging); but yet satisfying. It reminds me of my ‘coreness‘. All the places construct the very present me. I know that my future me will be even more evolving with new places I will be in.

I guess, my very main message is that even if I am seen as living my dream, I may not have every ingredients to make a perfect life; the same for everyone else and every other situations. Food for thought (?): nothing in life can be in total perfection.

I don’t know if I will ever have stable feet. But I know I have no desire to find out anytime soon.


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.


Finnish winter and its fun side

I wrote this post one day ago, but to go with the spirit that Finland is hosting the coldest day in this winter, I want to share here my little experience.
I bet that normally, when you want to explore a city and go to recommended local places, you would not imagine part of the exploring walking is under temperature -17 degree Celsius, snowing and rather windy. But being abnormal sometimes is part of life package, isn’t it? That is what I just did.

I have not experienced such cold temperature since my last winter in Finland in 2013. I simply forgot how the coldness can touch sharply to your bones. I arrived in Helsinki yesterday and would stay here until the end of this week. The last time I was here, is Autumn. I was quite sure Helsinki would be fresh start then. This trip is now officially the first trip to Helsinki for new year 2016. Oh yes, the new year….How was your New Year’s Eve, saying goodbye to the last year?

Usually, I made the farewell by looking at the fireworks in the sky, imagining as if they were every single things happened to me in the last year and flashing up to sparkling dust in the air. This time, I was inside a club, and I kissed a friend, following a fun tradition from America. I guess due to so, I have not actually felt the sense of new year coming to me yet; or in a way, the past year’s sense has not left. I found myself “clinging” to both the memory and the willingness to re-start.

Anyhow, this week in Helsinki turns out the be the first coldest week for the winter this year. I also decided to make this trip to be my own first exploration of Helsinki. I went to the city many times before. I always stayed around in the city center, spent time eating/ drinking in some places with friends. I wanted to give this trip a little bit of something new. I did not plan of what places to go; but I planned to search for a random local place, in a random area except the center circle. So far, my day went okay, according to my wish. I had to go taking a test this morning. I stayed over my friend’s place last night and she had already showed me the way going train station so that I could be on time for the test. A good me would get up early enough, focus on preparing and give myself extra time of recalling the route. However, a typical me always does the opposite. For some reason that I could only blame on myself later, I chose to be “typical me”. I had to walk around, longer than the route instructed by my friend, to the train station. I was late 5 minutes to the test. And that was my first long walk in -17 degree.

After the test, I caught a tram, expectedly going towards the area called Kallio. I ended up again in the center circle. I got off, walked to a student lunch restaurant UniCafe, recommended by one local of Helsinki. It was a lovely place; reflecting the exact spirit of University students. I did not feel hungry just yet; hence, I walked back outside, wandering and thinking of going to this old clothes shop. It looked interesting on the website; maybe I could use some “time-travelling” means. Well, of course the plan did not go as such; because I pumped coincidentally into my other two nice friends from Jyväskylä. We were supposed to meet only in a conference from AIESEC, which will happen at the end of this week. Apparently I did not mind seeing them now either. The coincidence was surprisingly funny and warm. I have not seen them for more than a week because of the holiday.

After lunch with them, I wanted to give another try going to Kallio; so I took the tram and fortunately, got off the right station. The only problem was I did not know how to walk to the address I wanted. Eventually, it became my third walk in the temperature -17 degree, without knowing the end destination I wished to arrive. I thought to myself how crazy this would sound if I retold the experience to my friends. They would surely roll their eyes; since I was already rolling mine to my own self. Anyway, it is not like you can always turn back after making a decision in life, “what the heck”, right?

Finally, I arrived at this small coffee shop called MadeInKallio. I am glad I took the walk. The place is nice, cozy, rather artistic as well. The owner sold hand made things inside: wallpaper, flip books, earrings, paints, shirts, etc. In the middle exists small coffee bar, surrounding by art. I am sure, for anyone stepping into this place, would have to stop for minutes checking out the postcards and all the arts around that bar before one can actually make the call of what to drink.

It is now -18 outside, has stopped snowing even though the sky is getting dark. The place is getting more crowded. But it is okay, because I have a friend coming soon; and I am not yet getting backed out from the exploration.


My first something new of 2016

So, at 13:37 on 06.01.2016, I decided to do something new. I finished my earliest post in Tumblr blog – small corner I created to share my stories in any sorts of my life since summer 2015. I moved my mouse up and down looking at my blog site after posting the post; and it did not seem to fit in Tumblr anymore, as the way it used to be. I started writing publicly in Tumblr for a reason (which I will share with post here soon). I thought I would continue writing there for a while more before I changed to here. I heard about WordPress the first time through my friends who gave me advices on writing blogs.

Since I started writing in high school, I have always been writing for myself. I used to be bad at literature when I was in Junior High School, but for some reason, when I got to write freely years later again, I found my secret crush for writing. It was supposed to be for my own self only, I felt free thinking so. I am not following any rules of writing, I express the words in the way I felt like most at the time putting them down in the screen. Then, one some random day along the way, I got to read a random blog of a random person. My crush in writing developed into something bigger ever since – a passion, a dream. I thought of starting my own blog. But I am shy of bringing one of the most private things in my life to public; and there is even high chance I will receive criticism for doing the things I love. Time passed by. I remembered about my own self before moving to Finland. What people see me, mattered to me so much that I did not recognise I let go many parts of me. The day I moved to Europe, I made a promise to change, and to never treat myself in such a way. I am free; and I want to share with the world what I meant by that word “free”.

Tumblr was my first step ever into this blogging world. I have not yet felt the sense of new year 2016; hence, there could not be better moment than this to start something new. I wish to write not only for myself; but also for you now, who wish to read something random on a boring day, who want to kill time waiting for something, who think one might find a light through others’ stories or simply who accidentally found this blog. This is my corner online, but if we fit in the way of thinking, you are always welcome to stay 🙂

You can find through this link some of my old posts.