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Getting Used to Here Pt. 2

What brought me here today:

We’re a little past the three month mark for living in Wilmington. My husband and I feel as though we just moved here yesterday. While at the same time, we’ve lived here for a year or more. This could be due to the fact that we returned to the US, and not another country. The US is familiar, yet incredibly different from when we moved to Finland. We’re still feeling a bit out of sync I suppose.

There are some things that I’m enjoying quite a bit. I guess Wilmington is growing on me!

People:

I’m getting much better at greeting people that I meet on the street. And I’m enjoying the interaction, even if it is brief. I didn’t realise how Finnish I’d become when interacting with people in everyday settings. Sometimes there would be a short verbal exhange at a bus stop, like “Has the #12 bus come already?“. But that was it. No small talk or joking around or anything like that.

Since we walk and take the bus everywhere, we interact with lots of random strangers during the week. In Finland I would never say ‘Hei!‘ and smile at a person on a walking path. That would be considered weird, and a little creepy. More often than not, I would say “Huomenta!“, usually to an older person on a walking path. But nothing more. And I’d say something similar to the bus driver when I got on the bus.

Interactions:

This past Sunday, my husband and I walked to do some shopping. Along the way, we discovered the Italian water ice shop open. We’d wanted to try some, so we got in line. There were several people ahead of us. One gentleman and his wife were picking up some water ice and a couple slices of pizza to take home. He was itching to get home before the football game started. He chatted away with myself and my husband while we all waited for our orders, and had a lovely time!

The week before, we had what I can only describe as the most intensely interesting bus ride of my entire life time. Here are some highlights. The bus driver’s son is in the hospital after being shot; his legs still aren’t moving. A woman that the bus driver drove past at at stop, because she was smoking a cigarette, got on the bus and was not happy with him. He told her he was trying to protect his health. She sat down, and an older lady asked the smoking lady if she remembered her. She did! They started reminiscing about family. THEN the smoking lady got up and walked to the front of the bus to show the bus driver she had tiny bottles of alcohol.

THEN…the bus driver encountered a car that was blocking the regular bus route. There was no way he could get the bus down the street. So, he backed the bus up, did a three-point turn, and took the bus in a different direction. He ZOOMED down the street, hitting every green light too! Then he hooked back up to the regular bus route, bypassing the block with the car obstruction. The entire time, there was more drama going on within the bus too! A lady that got on the bus was talking loudly with the bus driver. I couldn’t make out what they were talking about, but it was intense! My husband was white-knuckling it beside me, looking a bit overwhelmed by it all. He pulled the cord two stops before our regular stop and we walked home.

It was the most exciting, drama-filled bus ride of my LIFE. It was a complete three-act play in less than 20 minutes! I was ready to ride the bus until there was some sort of conclusion too! While walking home, we discovered that there was something happening about three blocks from our bus stop. There were a lot of police cars at a specific spot for what seemed like an incredibly long time.

Exploring:

My husband and I get around via the public bus and train system, and by foot. Neither one of us likes having a car. I personally hate having to worry about where my ‘giant, metal baby’ is and who might be doing some kind of damage to it. My husband hates all the added expenses that a car brings. Gas, insurance, parking, and maintenance. YUCK! Taking the bus or train takes a bit more planning at times. But the lower stress and worry for me is a fantastic benefit.

We’ve been conducting a once a week exploratory walk. Usually on Saturday or Sunday. And we include packing a lunch to eat in a park along the way. Sometimes our walks get a little out of hand too. One Brandywine Park walk was far too long. We were having such a lovely time that we completely forgot about the time. And how far we had walked from home. Needless to say, we plan our exploration walks much more carefully now!

I’ve enjoyed getting to see different parts of the city while doing this. It makes me feel so much more at home here. And it allows me to construct the visual map of the city in my head. Then I know how far one place is from another. It’s also added to my knowledge of the bus system and the routes.

Parks and green spaces:

I was so worried that moving to a city would mean that I would have to get used to not having plants, trees, and general greenery around me. It was as if I somehow thought that I was moving to a city made of nothing but brick, stone, and concrete. Wilmington is not that at all!

There are so many trees here in the city! Even downtown there are small green spaces that are well maintained with huge, lovely trees in them. Wilmington really goes out of it’s way to preserve and take care of trees. There are three lovely parks within a short walk from our apartment. And they are full of large trees of all kinds of varieties. The large oaks are my favourite. There are also tons of sycamore, linden, maple, and even a few walnut trees!

There are not a lot of ponds and lakes. But we’re on the Del Marva penninsula, and already so close to the Atlantic Ocean that it doesn’t bother me too much. One of the parks we go to has an amazing man-made pond that is part of an initiative to grow native species of plants. There’s ample benches to sit on and enjoy the pond too.

SQUIRRLES!

There are so many squirrels here! Every on that I’ve seen has been what I take to be a standard American grey squirrel. They’re not terribly afraid of people either. Some will stop and check you out from a comfortable spot on a tree. We’ve had some squirrels come very close to us while having lunch in a park. They must just be so used to humans, and humans with food, that they can afford to let their defences down a bit!

Grocery delivery:

I detest grocery shopping. I’ve never enjoyed it. Part of me thinks it’s because I can sometimes make horrible choices based on my level of hunger at the time of shopping. My husband is the meal planner and cook. Trips to the grocery store with him are now more like just taking a long walk and carrying things.

Having groceries delivered for us means that our work day isn’t interrupted by a three hour errand. The one grocery store here in Wilmington within walking distance is still quite a walk for us. Add to that lack-luster produce offerings, and you can see why we have our groceries delivered from the Sprouts on the northern side of the city. We can get to this Sprouts by bus. The problem with that is that it takes a three hour erran and turns it into a five hour errand.

We shopped at Sprouts before we moved to Finland. So we’re familiar with the brands on offer there. Plus, the produce is a lot better. I should note though that even though the produce is better at Sprouts, it’s not as good as Lidl in Finland. But that’s another post for another time.

So, now what?

This blog posts only covers the bigger high-lights of things that I’m liking about Wilmington. There are other smaller things, like bodegas that make hot sandwiches. Or all of the amazing historical architecture just in our own small neighbourhood. OH! And Italian water ice! These topics will all be addressed in time. I’m sure.

Completely off the topic, I do have two new items listed in the shop today. Cassandra Tuesday and Annabelle Wednesday. These two little vampire girls are looking for a good home where they can help celebrate Halloween! There are stories behind their names. Cassandra is named for Cassandra Peterson. You may know her better as the character she plays, Elvira Mistress of the Dark. Annabelle is named for a character from the movie The House on Haunted Hill. This was the first horror film Cassandra ever saw. The Tuesday/Wednesday parts of their names is for the character of Wednesday Addams. Her original name was Tuesday-Wednesday. Calling them Little Vampire Girls is for the Jonathan Richman song.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday!

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Settling In

What brought me here today:

At this point, my husband and I have been living in Wilmington for over two months. It seems like it was just yesterday that we arrived. While at the exact same time, like it was ten months ago. That must mean that we’re settling-in to our new home and new city. There are some things that I’m still having a hard time getting used to though. This seems weird to me as a person who was born and raised in the US. I can’t deny how I feel though.

Some things are pleasant surprises. While others are either confusing me, or making me shake my head.

Advertising on television:

We don’t watch broadcast television. There’s no ‘must see TV’ nights for us. There weren’t really any Finnish television shows that we watched regularly either. The Duudsonit (The Dudesons) that we would watch if we saw it was on while flipping around the channels. It was fun to see the weird stuff they did for the show. That being said, we didn’t actively seek out the program. The same can be said for a Finnish police show that was kind of like Cops in the US.

What we mainly watch is YouTube, AEW, and a few things on Netflix and other platforms. There are creators on YouTube that we’ve been following for quite a while. Many of these are creative people. Writers, researchers, historians, artists, cooks, musicians, etc. Most of them have sponsors, so there’s usually a sponsor ad done by the YouTube creator somewhere within the video. It’s not annoying to me. And these creators have to pay their bills just like me. So go make your coin!

Big differences:

Most Finnish ads on YouTube or television seemed low-key when compared to American advertisements. On network television, Finnish ads ran at the top and bottom of the hour as well. To me, they seemed less intrusive. American advertising during a television program, and during YouTube feel so incredibly manipulative to me. They seem to be taking every page from B.F. Skinner in their attempts to condition me to buy-into consuming their products.

The main objective to most of the American commercials seems to be “Buy this product/service and you will have a better, more fulfilling life’. Instead of the product being in the forefront, it’s what the consumer will feel like after purchasing the product/service. It’s a pretty common advertising tactic. It just feels slimy to me. Some plastic doo-hickey, or app for a phone is supposed to change a person’s life?

My husband and I are no where near being  the targeted demographic for most of the advertising we see and hear around us. It may be that I’m overtly sensitive to advertising’s attempts at manipulating my thinking. I never felt like Finnish advertising was trying to sell me a ‘lifestyle’. More often than not, they were telling me that Fazer chocolate is tasty, and perhaps some Paulig coffee would be nice to drink with some chocolates. Oh, and buying it might be a  very thing for the Finnish economy.

Getting around:

My husband had an epiphany a few days ago regarding how we were having some difficulties navigating the city. Wilmington is very hilly. In  that way, it’s similar to Jyvaskyla. It’s impossible for us to stand outside on our street and see downtown. We can see the buildings, but not where the street extends. No vanishing point. It’s lead us, erroneously, to believe that places we need to go are further away than they really are.

Wilmington has a smaller population than Jyvaskyla. But the population is much more centralized. Whereas in Jyvaskyla, it was much more spread out. There were so many hills though, that you could easily stand on one hill and see exactly where your destination was. With the way the houses have been constructed in Wilmington, (mostly two story, flat fronts, close to the sidewalk) everything is all pushed up against itself on the hilly ground.

Figuring it out:

Our regular Sunday outings to explore the city have helped us to figure out that many of the places we need to go are much, much closer than we first thought they were. Part of this is due to the way in which the city curves a bit. And with how the main highway runs through the city, close to downtown.

We now know that we can get to the grocery store and post office on foot. We don’t need to take the bus. There’s also a Dollar Store that we like that once seemed  million miles away, but it’s really not. The walk is pleasant. And there’s a small local corner shop that sells Italian ices right along the way!

We still have a lot more exploring and learning to do. Like, where does this particular #40 bus go that runs even on Sundays? Needless to say, we have many more Sundays in which to explore our new city.

Sugar:

I’ve stated multiple times that every single tooth in my head is a sweet tooth. But after eating Finnish and European produced foods, American food tastes incredibly sweet to me. There seems to be sugar in products that it has no business being in! Pasta sauce? Oat milk? Soy milk? Sandwich bread?! My husband has been doing the cooking since before we were married. I’ve never been quite so happy about that since returning to the US. This has cut out sugar intake down quite a bit.

The sodas are another thing I just can’t seem to get used to again. They all taste thick and heavy. My gastrointestinal tract is not happy when I drink them either. The one soda that doesn’t bug me is Jarritos. It’s one of the treats I pick up at the Dollar Store. The mandarin orange flavour is my favourite. It reminds me of Jaffa. My husband noted that Jarritos uses sugar, and not corn syrup, which may be why American sodas are upsetting my stomach so much.

We finally found some carbonated drinks we like. Yeah. We’re the old people who have to use reading glasses and drink seltzer water. The ones that we like the best are the no calorie, no sugar/sweetners kind. It doesn’t upset my stomach and I’m not sucking in un-needed sugars. Win-win in my old lady book.

Now, it’s habit:

I first thought it was so incredibly strange to order groceries and have them delivered. Now, it just seems like a good practice to keep. Mostly because the current pandemic situation seems to fluctuate so much, regarding variants and exposure, etc. There are still times in which we physically go to the grocery store. It usually coincides with another errand we’re on though.

Ordering my supplies online is still strange to me. This morning, my husband placed an order for some polyester stuffing for me. We won’t be heading out to the mall where the Michaels is for another week or more. I knew I would be creating more dolls, so the order was placed. It will be here tomorrow. I’ve also ordered felt and thread online as well.

Again, this seems a prudent choice for us from the standpoint of wanting to reduce the chances of being one of those break-through cases of Covid that can occur in the fully vaccinated like us.

Pleasant surprises:

I’ve really begun to enjoy having people smile and say hello when we’re out and about in the city. When the cashier at the Dollar Store said, “Oh! I remember! You bring your own bags!” it kind of made me feel like I was becoming ‘a regular’ at the store. The bus is still mostly quiet, but people are friendly and will chat with strangers like me. Again, it makes me feel more at home. Less of a stranger in Wilmington. Usually, I want bus-time to be my private internal thinking time. But not here. I chat away with whomever strikes up a conversation.

Dog owners take leases seriously here! All of the dogs we’ve encountered are on a lease and follow the directions of their humans. I’ve not seen a single stray dog or cat since moving here. In fact, I’ve only seen two cats period! Both had collars, and no time for my nonsense. Interesting aside: the squirrels here seem to like me. The amazingly cute, little, red Finnish squirrels did not. I have no idea why.

Amazing arrays of new types of plants and trees are everywhere in Wilmington! There is not a single outing in which I don’t discover some new variety of flowering tree or plant that I’ve not seen up close and in person before. Kousa dogwood tree, crepe myrtle, several hybrids of Rose of Sharon, are just a few. There are so many different oak trees and even walnut trees! I’ve got my eye on a couple of the walnut trees and am planning on snagging a few. The husks makes a good dye and the walnuts taste amazing!

So now what?

So, yeah. I’m beginning to settle into our new city and being in the US again. Right now, I think I’m going to use up the last of my stuffing to create some new witch dolls. What are you planning on doing this week?

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday!

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Getting Used to Here

What brought me here today:

Seven years doesn’t seem that long, does it? It feels as though it was much, much longer. I hadn’t thought that living in a foreign country for less than ten years would change me much. But it did, and much more than I realized. There are foods that taste weird to me now (bread and carbonated drinks especially). My sensitivity to noise has increased. Having trees, plants and birds around my living space is now an important component to my personal and professional well being.

These aforementioned differences seem trivial don’t they? They are, compared with some of my long-term concerns, like healthcare and being able to obtain my prescriptions for a price that doesn’t drain our bank account. In Finland, I paid less for my prescriptions without medical insurance than I did within the US with medical insurance. But comparisons like that are for another blog post on another day.

Cars:

There are cars everywhere! EVERYWHERE! There were plenty of cars in Finland, but they just didn’t seem as ‘in my face‘ as they are here in Delaware. Cars in the US seem to be a symbol of freedom of movement that has become ingrained upon the psyche of some Americans. I totally understand that. A car means that you can go where you want to, when you want to. And not be beholden to the schedule of a city bus or train.

What the increase in cars means is that there’s not nearly as many good walking paths for people like me to use. The US builds its infrastructure around the automobile. Not around human beings. This is requiring us to be more creative in how we get to places that we need to go on foot or bus. Many of the sidewalks we use are broken, wobbly, tilted at weird angles and require me to stare at my feet while I walk to make sure I don’t trip.

While at a local mall recently, I asked for directions to the Michael’s store that was in one of the stores apart from  the mall. The person helping me could describe how to get to the store easily by car, but was stumped as to how to get there when I told her I was on foot. When I looked used my phone for directions, there was thin sidewalk along a main entrance that could be traversed on foot. Then a large intersection to navigate just to get to the parking lot of Michael’s.

Noise:

I’d become so accustomed to fewer cars, and a lot more nature as a buffer for noise in Jyväsklyä. And by nature, I mean green, leafy forests in the summer, and deep, cold snow during the winter. Both of these things block most of noises from traffic or machinery for most of the year.

The people are much quieter too. The quiet Finn is a long-standing stereotype. First of all, it’s not true. A Finn might be quiet and not talk much when they first meet you. But once you become better acquainted, perhaps even friends, a Finn can talk your arm off too. Add a few beers and it happens even quicker!

I’d become so used to people on the bus being almost silent in Finland. Even when going to a crowded place, a large amount of Finns don’t create a huge amount of noise. By and large, I found public spaces and large groups of people in Finland to be quite calm and low-key. I’m constantly finding myself startled when I hear people talking loud enough for me to hear them from my second story apartment.

Walking:

My husband and I walked and bussed everywhere in Finland. There weren’t many places within the city we lived, or the cities we visited that couldn’t be easily gotten to by walking, busses or trains. There were times in which we called a taxi, but that was rare. Walking and biking were the norm for many Finns. I liked it quite a bit because it was good exercise.

Good, public, well-maintained paths are the norm in Finland. The paths are wide enough so that snow plows and gravel spreading trucks can drive on them too. We could walk from our apartment almost 5 K (a little over 3 miles) to the city center of Jyväskylä. Depending upon the weather, we could take different routes that were less hilly, or better graveled, depending upon the season.

It’s going to take me a little longer to get used to walking here in our new city. I mentioned the sidewalks here in one of the previous paragraphs. Not all of the sidewalks are obstacle course-worthy. But enough of them are that I need to keep my klutzy keister aware of where I’m walking so I can keep all my teeth inside my head.

Personal safety:

This one took a little longer for me to put a finger on once we arrived in the US. While living in Jyväsklyä I had only one instance in which I felt as though I was in an unsafe situation as a female. It took place during daylight hours. At a bus stop. And the man who was creating fear within me was obviously intoxicated. Nothing happened. I simply re-entered a store to watch for the bus from a window.

It’s sometimes hard to explain to men how a woman has to stay on guard all the time when she’s out in public in the US. I have to stay aware of who is around me and how they’re acting at all times. As nice and welcoming as our new city is, I will not be going out by myself after dark any time soon. And that makes me a little sad.

As a woman, I need to make sure that I have clear routes of escape, if the need arises. I need to be prepared for someone attempting to take my bag or backpack as well. Gone are the days when I could put in my earphones and listen to music in public alone while on the bus or walking home after the sun went down. I need to be aware of my surroundings at all times. The possible threat of physical violence requires me to change my habits. And feels as though my personal freedom of movement have been clipped short.

So, now what?

As with any new place, I’ll get used to the environment over time. I don’t know that there is any way to rush it either. I still have yet to eat American chocolate again. I’m not pushing it either. I’d rather enjoy the Reese’s Pieces that I missed while living in Finland instead.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

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New Digs

What brought me here today?

When we moved to Finland, I was entering as a university student. We lived in student housing. Our very first apartment came furnished. It wasn’t extravagant or even mildly fancy. We had a place to eat. A place to sleep. Desks to work at with chairs to sit in. We spent only one year in the furnished housing. When we moved to our last apartment, we spent about a week without furniture while we waited for the Ikea order to arrive.

This time around, we’re spending a little longer without furniture. We do have an air mattress loaned to us by a friend. And the previous tenant left her couch and kitchen table. Other than that, we’ve been working without desks, chairs, lamps, etc. Presently, I’m working at a desk made of four plastic bulk candy containers from Prisma with my computer on top. I’m sitting on the floor with a folded blanket beneath my rear-end, with a cushion from the couch against the wall.

This isn’t ideal, but I know it’s not forever.

New apartment:

It feels strange to say that this apartment is ‘new’. It’s actually the second floor of a house built in the 1880’s. The interiors remind me of the first apartment I had when I was going to art school in the early 90’s. I lived in an old Victorian that had been cut into four apartments, and had previously been used as a Montessori school.

Our new digs are bigger than our last apartment in Finland, and they are a lot more funky and unique. The living room and hallway are carpeted, as is my small studio, There are hardwood floors in the bedroom, and linoleum in the bathroom and kitchen. We really didn’t have a separate kitchen in our old apartment. My husband is happy to have a more separate space for cooking.

There are also two window mounted air conditioners. One in the bedroom and one in the living room. I don’t know that I have lived in an apartment that had air conditioning of any kind, ever in my life. In the southwest, I always had a swamp cooler, which usually did little in the way of cooling my apartment. We’ve had some super hot days here, and the air conditioners have been used. My husband and I both prefer to have windows open for cross breeze though.

Neighborhood:

One of the reasons we chose Wilmington was because of it’s smaller size as a city. There are several different neighborhoods in the city, each with a distinct vibe to them. We both like that where we’re living is mixed with home owners, renters and apartments. It all just looks like a cohesive neighborhood though. We hear kids playing, people walking around. There are lots of porches and small front gardens where people sit and work too.

Jyväskylä is a very ethnically and culturally diverse city. That’s due in part to the international students studying at the university. After living in Jyväskylä for seven years, we wanted to live in a place that was as diverse as possible. Wilmington so far is a nice fit for where we want to be right now. The people here are friendly and welcoming. What more could I ask for?

Finding a place to live:

I mentioned it in my last blog post that our new landlord is a Finn, didn’t I? It sounds so strange to have moved from Finland to the US and have a Finnish landlord. I honestly thought in the beginning that maybe we were getting played, but then I heard our new landlord speak. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

After more than a month of fruitless apartment searches, we were starting to get concerned that we were having little luck in finding a new apartment in the US. We had been looking for quite some time, and all of our inquiries were met with total silence, or a form letter that asked us to “drop by for a tour“. Other times, they asked for a chunk of money just to submit an application. With no guarantee that we would even get an apartment.

My husband stayed up late one evening looking at apartment listings and came across the apartment we have just moved into. He sent the landlord a short message inquiring about the apartment, and was quickly answered by a man who said he didn’t usually answer out of country messages. But he had to answer this one, because it was coming from his home country, Finland.

New landlord:

Honestly, everything happened so quickly. We had signed our lease within a week of that initial email. Our new landlord understood our difficulties in finding a new place to live in another country. He did want a friend of ours to come and meet him and tour the apartment first. We were so fortunate that a friend of ours could do this on the way home from work!

Once our friend gave us a thumbs-up, and several short videos showing the apartment, we were positive that we wanted this apartment. Our new landlord worked with us through email and phone to sign all the paperwork and finalize the deposits, first and last months rent, etc. The new landlords understanding of how Finnish banking works helped out so much too.

So, now what?

We’re quite content in our new apartment. I must admit, it will be nicer once we have some real furniture! Finland taught me many important lessons. One of the most useful to me is that nothing is necessarily forever. Things are always changing around you. Adapting to that change makes the transitions easier to work through. Yeah. I’m sitting on the floor typing this on an old MacBook Pro, but in the coming weeks, I will have a new desk, chair and computer to work on.

I just need to roll with it for now.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

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Planes, Trains, and Governmental Agencies

What brought me here today:

I’ve always liked traveling. Exploring a place, culture and people that are not familiar to me is something I enjoy quite a bit. It’s almost a surrealistic experience for me. All of the experiences that I have while traveling have to be incorporated into every other thing that I know, or have experienced. As an artist, I’ve always loved smushing-together things that seem different. Things whose only connection is me.

But there is a distinct difference between traveling for fun/pleasure and traveling because you’re moving to a new city, and in our case, another country. Every aspect of the travel takes on a distinctly laborious aura. Missing a connection, or being held-up by various governmental agencies are somehow more stressful when you’re trying to get through an airport with all of your possessions in four suitcases.

Flight plans:

Without giving too many details, we had several flights to get to our final destination. My husband and I were divvied-up the travel tasks. My husband handled the airline reservations. I handled the busses, trains and hotel reservations. We were both well-versed in bus, train and taxi travel within Finland. So I had little difficulty with my tasks.

Neither one of us enjoys being on transatlantic airline flights, but we had no choice. It was going to have to be done.

Checked baggage:

I’ve written in a previous post about how I had to break apart my artwork to get it into shipping containers as well as my luggage. When we moved to Finland, we had four large suitcases that were all well over the weight limits for checked baggage. I think I remember that we paid close to 400€ in overages alone. I attributed this to the two of us taking so many things with us because we didn’t know if we could find similar items in Finland.

With this move, we knew where we could find replacement items of clothing, technology, cosmetics, etc. We weeded out any items that we could replace in future. This made a lot more room for my artwork and art supplies too.

Weather and holidays:

When the airplane reservations were made, we hadn’t thought at all about Juhannus. It’s a huge part of the Finnish summer. And it was happening smack in the middle of when we clearing our of our old apartment, and moving back to the US. We were incredibly lucky that the formal business holidays didn’t occur on the actual solstice, 20 June.

Accidentally coinciding with Juhannus was a heat wave that just about killed my husband. It was close to 30° C (86° F). I know that doesn’t sound bad, but Finland is built for cold temperatures, not hot ones. Most homes don’t have air conditioning. This is one of the many reasons why Finns head to the lake cabin or out into nature once summer temperatures arrive. It’s just too hot indoors!

Many years ago, my father (a former Marine) told me to always pay attention to how much I drank and urinated (gross, sorry) while being physically active in extremely hot, humid weather. It got a little scary during the last week in our old apartment, because we were constantly drinking, but going to the toilet maybe once a day. This was not good for our health.

On the move:

Once the apartment was cleaned and vacated, we still had a lot of travel ahead of us. And the temperatures just kept climbing. I know that travel causes a considerable amount of anxiety for my husband. I wanted to make sure that any possible sources of stress were eliminated beforehand. Staying in three hotels seems extravagant. But the good beds and air conditioning helped my husband manage his anxiety levels.

When we arrived via train in Helsinki, it was already 32° C (89.6° F). The city felt like it was closer to 38° C (100° F) with the heat from all the stone and concrete, plus the humidity. It was exhausting to be dragging 50 k (110 lbs.) of luggage around in that kind of heat and humidity.

We wanted to walk around and eat in a park, but we were just exhausted from cleaning, packing, wrangling out suitcases and checking in and out of hotels. We hit a good  R-Kioski. Bought food and drinks. Then headed back to the hotel to rest and chill out. We had to be up at 3;00 to catch a train!

Planes:

Getting to the airport in Vantaa was super easy. We bought two tickets at an automated machine and found our train. It was one of the first trains departing the main Helsinki train station for the airport that morning. Our flight was leaving at 7;00. Traveling early in the morning was part of the plan.

I cannot tell you how happy we both were when we checked our bags! FREEDOM! I felt…well, around 110 pounds lighter! We also didn’t have to pay any fees for our luggage at all. Three of our four bags came in at around 23 k (50.7 lbs.). YES!

We had a short connecting flight to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. It was uneventful. I actually fell asleep during the flight.

Governmental agencies:

We had an incredibly strange interaction with passport and border control police at Schiphol. I went first in line and was asked a few questions then was waived through. For some reason, the police detained my husband. They seemed upset that neither one of us had a Finnish identification card. When we told them that we had to turn them over to Finnish immigration prior to leaving the country, they didn’t seem to believe us.

At one point, they seemed to think we were lying about coming from Finland, or that we had even lived in Finland. They kept trying to trip us up by asking us “How long did you live in Sweden?” and “When did you decide to move to the Netherlands to study?” When what I told them didn’t change, they kept on questioning us. At one point, I was getting a little pissed. One of the officers turned to me and said to me in a very condescending tone, “Why are you so upset?“. I bit my tongue.

I could not help but notice that all of the other people passport and border control were detaining were not caucasian. Part of me wondered if they were trying to make it ‘look better’ by stopping the two of us. In the end, one of the officers took our paperwork and went to call Migri in Finland. He came back a few minutes later (too quick if you ask me) and said we were free to go. One of the officers tried to joke with me and I stopped him. I was in no mood to joke around with someone who had jerked us around for absolutely no good reason.

Flight across the pond:

Apparently, the Universe wanted to make it up to us. When were seated for our flight, the person sitting in the aisle seat noticed that there were a lot of empty seats on the plane. They asked a flight attendant if it was okay to move to an empty seat. It was totally okay with the attendant. So my husband and I had a much more comfortable flight.

I slept. Watched movies. And periodically, the attendants came through and gave us food. Pretty good food for airplane cuisine too. I stuck to drinking water and hoped at some point I would return peeing normally. (Sorry. It’s really gross, but true.)

Oh wait! More governmental agency hoops! Wheee!

This wasn’t incredibly pleasant either. Re-entering the US as a citizen was a breeze compared to getting through Schiphol. The only thing I hated was having to go through the wierd, rushing, screamy search of my carry-on bag and the removal of my shoes. I found it incredibly humiliating and de-humanizing.

Aaaaand again, I had to get felt-up because I wear a bra with an underwire. At least this time, the woman doing the pat-down was much more gentle. She asked permission before touching me. And, just one look at her communicated to me that she knew exactly what an underwire was, and why some women need to wear bras with them. She was quite a nice woman who joked around with me easily. She knew that no one likes getting felt-up by a total stranger.

One more time for each:

Our last flight was delayed three separate times. We were so tired that we didn’t care a whole lot. A friend had arranged transport for us from the last airport to our last hotel room. And I cannot tell you how much I appreciated that. It’s one of the nicest and most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received in my life.

The hotel was pretty good. But when you’re so flippin’ tired from traveling, any place with a toilet, decent shower and comfortable bed is going to feel like a five star accommodation. The next morning we walked to a Starbucks one street over and met the nicest baristas who made us feel incredibly welcomed and at ease in our new city.

We had the hotel call us a taxi to take us to our new apartment. We could have easily walked up the street to our new apartment, but the thought of dragging our luggage was not something either of us wanted to do. The driver and taxi were lovely. We made sure to get his card, because he’s a one-man business, and we want to give him our future business.

So, now what?

We met our new landlord and got the keys to our apartment next. One of the strangest coincidences of our whole experience of moving back to the US is the fact that our new landlord in Finnish. But that’s a story for another blog post.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

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Where We Landed

What brought me here today:

This post is meant mostly to reveal where my husband and I have settled after leaving Finland. I know that it might have seemed a little strange that we didn’t say anything about where we were going prior to moving. Part of that has to do with wanting to have a certain amount of anonymity during the planning of, and actual physical move to the new residence.

When making a large decision, I’ve learned to keep most of the details to myself until I’m committed enough that no amount of criticism or cajoling can make me change my mind. My husband has a similar type of mind set regarding big, life-altering decisions. In reality, the only two people who really needed to know about when and where we were moving to were myself and my husband.

That’s not to say that we told absolutely no one where we were moving to. We told a small group of people, when we thought they needed to know. To be completely honest, I accidentally told a friend of mine in a DM chat on Instagram over a month ago. Then I promptly swore her to secrecy. She’s a busy woman and has little time to bother blabbing about me!

Is a drumroll needed?

My husband and I have moved to Delaware. I must admit, it was not a state that I thought I would ever live. But here I am, sitting on the floor of what will become my studio, typing the words, “…I have moved to Delaware…“.  My husband is two rooms away, working away in his new work space too.

The question you may be asking yourself is, “So….why Delaware?” We wanted to move to a place where neither one of us had ever lived. My husband was raised in a small town near Philadelphia. So, he has a degree of regional understanding and comfort here that it’s been interesting for me to observe.

Yeah, but why Delaware?

Yeah.I can understand why there may be people who will still not understand why we didn’t return to the southwest. Or why we didn’t move closer to family. Well, on the first count, it’s just too bloody hot! I lived in New Mexico for 19 years. And while I miss the friends I made there, I was not moving back to that kind of heat on purpose, ever.  As for moving closer to family, that would no be a good idea for many reasons.

When we were deciding on where we wanted to move to, we had a lot of things to take into consideration. Most of my sales are made in North America. The shipping will be less expensive for my customers too. We’ve positioned ourselves close to several large, cosmopolitan cities. The hope is that I will have more opportunities to show and sell my artwork too.

While I’m loathe to admit it, there are some art supplies and materials that I can locate and purchase more easily within the US. .62¢ for DMC embroidery floss! SWOON! There are other supplies and materials that I may have to do a little more digging around for. We haven’t found a second hand shop where I can purchase materials for my artwork like the ones I grew to adore in Jyväskylä.

But, seriously…Delaware?

Okay. I know. Delaware isn’t exactly flashy or trendy. But then again, do I strike you as a person who wants to live in a flashy, or trendy manner? That ship sailed for me in 8th grade, with parachute pants used as the main sail. No city, state or country is ever going to be a perfect for us. We chose where we’re living carefully and purposefully. This particular place is where we want to be right now.

The people in the city we’re in are friendly. There’s decent public transit, as we’re still don’t want a car. It’s an easy city to walk in. And it has some beautiful public parks that we’ve been enjoying quite a bit. I’m pleased to see so many homes in our neighborhood have small front porches and plots that are loaded with flowers and interesting plantings. I’m adjusting slowly to our new home, and hope that when I begin to create artwork my adjustment will solidify.

So, now what?

There is still so much to do. We’re still recovering from the move. The whole moving experience seems to have taken place three months ago as well as two days ago, simultaneously. We moved during a heat wave in Finland, and moved right into another heat wave on the east coast. 35 degrees with 80% humidity is just miserable no matter how you slice it.

Hopefully we will have furniture soon. Fingers crossed that it’s at least ordered by next Friday’s blog post. As much as I love my new little studio room, my backside is not happy about having to sit on the floor to work!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

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Relocation Update

What brought me here today:

The move has been completed! Well, okay, wait a minute. At least the hardest parts of the move have been completed. No more strangers riffling through my artwork, art supplies, and clothing. No luggage was lost. The flights have all been completed. There will be no more asking about my current vaccine status by said total strangers. Which is nice because I’m kind of done with people for at least a little while.

It feels as though I’ve been away from everything that was my personal routine for either a split second or ten years. Traveling huge distances can do that to a person I suppose. Everything just feels all wibbly-wobbly-timey-whimey right now.

Flights:

Two thirds of our flights went well. One that I was dreading, was actually quite pleasant and comfortable. One flight was delayed three times. That sucked big time. But it was the shortest leg of the journey. So, I don’t think it was that horrible. I have way, way more to say about the flights and some of the experiences we had in airports. But that’s a post for a later date.

Apartment:

Everything is good with the new apartment. Well, there was one tiny over-flowing toilet mishap. But it’s all fixed now. The toilet is now working like a champ. 10 out of 10. Would recommend.

Currently, I’m in what is going to be my tiny studio. I’m sitting on the floor with my computer balanced on four clear, plastic, art-packed, bulk candy boxes from Prisma as I write this short update. It’s around 2 x 3 meters-ish by (7 by 10 ft-ish). There are shelves on one wall and space for a work table, as well as my tools, materials and supplies. Right now, it looks like a rummage sale.

New everything:

Currently, we’re doing what people do when they move to a new place. Setting up all the things that need setting up. Learning the new, and to me juuuust slightly confusing bus system. Getting used to things that are so incredibly different than what we’ve ever experienced. Which is cool and somehow annoying at once.

Berin seems to be adjusting a bit better than I am, but part of that could be due to the fact that I’m a huge, whiny house cat who does not like her routines changed. It will take another two weeks or so before my mind and body are over the stress of travel and moving. By then I will remain a huge house cat, just slightly less whiny one.

Now what?

There is still so much to do! Like I said, I’m sitting on the floor of what will be my studio. We need to order some furniture and start fluffing-out this new nest a bit. And I still have so much more website and shop stuff to do before 19 July! I think by then I will be champing at the bit to actually create some artwork too!

Thanks for reading, and I will see you again sometime soon!