Thursday, May 20, 2010

Born in the USA

A throwback from Nick and Jen's wedding almost exactly a year ago.  Uncle Frank and I make the best dance partners.  

I believe word has spread that we're back in our homeland now.  If you are surprised by that statement, then it must be because you don't keep up your correspondence with me, and, frankly, you should be ashamed of yourself.

After three weeks total in Finland, and only about 5 actual working days, Matt "finnished" (I know it's dumb.  I can't stop.) the job on Friday and we packed up that night and flew out on Saturday morning.  Nothing is ever as easy as that, of course, but mostly it went smoothly (I had a minor snag with my tickets because apparently people in Europe don't work on anything until around 8 am... not a problem unless your flight leaves then, in which case your tickets probably didn't get updated and you will have to work with the Air Finland lady who will kindly call Germany FOUR times to get you on the right flight.  Thanks, Air Finland.  I am forever in your debt.).  After a pretty dramatic upgrade and seat switching hassle, Matt and I both ended up together in business class, sitting next to two people from (wait for it).... Benton, Arkansas!  I know, right?  Thank the sweet red Razorbacks for making so many ridiculously loud Arkansas shirts or we never would have known.  I'm going to start wearing my Arkansas shirts every time we fly.  I get so excited to meet Arkansans even in Chicago, much less in the airport in Frankfurt, Germany.  Go Hogs!

MO family... and Grammie.  Don't mind my armpit sweat.  It's pretty much a constant with me. 

Anyway, we got to the usa (did I mention I'm calling it that now?) Saturday night and headed out to surprise Matt's family (I guess they're my family too, now... from here on they will be known as the Missouri family... even though they're not all from MO.  I'll stick with that until I can come up with something better) in Missouri, without anyone knowing of our intentions. Yes, we are THAT clever.  So clever, in fact, that because no one knew we were coming, no one was home when we showed up at noon to surprise them.  We had to break in to the house and wait around for about an hour until they showed up.  They were sufficiently surprised which made us feel pretty good about our devious plotting.  I'm glad it paid off... maybe now they'll get over that little April Fool's incident?  Even though we missed the graduation... and the party... and the champagne brunch for Laura's 21st birthday, we still had a great three days hanging out.  We got to see Geoff's last baseball game of his high school career, and even though they lost, he was easily the star of the game with two home runs AND two RBIs.  Also, I got a nice little farmer's tan, which is always impressive.  Also, I got to take lots of pictures, which as you are all aware is my main source of entertainment in any situation.  I even got to play professional photographer and took some pictures of Little Geoff with all his cool high school gear.  I'm going to doctor them up on photoshop and "make them look real sharp" as Matt keeps saying.  Not knowing exactly when we're headed to India (or how long we'll be there.... forever), we are so happy we got such a fun visit in before we head back... not like those un-fun visits we usually have!  Only kidding, only kidding.
Laura, Geoff and Winston (the dog).  Aunt Bit is also under there, not that you can tell. Laura didn't want to participate in the picture taking, and this is the only one I got.  As her punishment, I'm posting it for the world to see... because you know my blog is world famous.  

Matt went into the office today for the first time in a couple months, and I'm hoping he'll get some tangible info from his managers about this upcoming job... ie it has been pushed back indefinitely and we are going somewhere else instead!  While that is an unbelievable stretch, a girl can dream, right?  I'll keep everyone posted as we get any news.  Probably I'll be heading alone to Arkansas around the end of May beginning of June as was the original plan.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

He Works Hard for the Money

Lutheran Church. It's the most photographed site in Finland. I'm just doing my part.

Since my last post, Matt has started working (finally, the bum) and is feeling much better about finishing the assignment now that it's actually started.  So far he's worked one 12 hour day, followed by one 26 hour shift for sulfiding, and then he went in this morning around 11:00 to "finish up".  Or so we thought.  Apparently shortly after he left work yesterday the plant shut down because they had a leak.  Matt went in to inspect it today and he said there is a "huge hole" in one of the pipes, which he can't believe they didn't see during turnaround.  Ahh, such is refinery life.  I asked him if he has ever encountered a refinery that does everything perfectly all the time... he laughed in my face.  

This boat is from Porvoo.  I read it on the back. 

Anyway, nothing much doing for me here.  I've been shopping but not buying, reading but not writing, and exploring without actually finding anything new in town.  I knew this 2 weeks of no work was gonna bite me in the ass!  Matt and I already did everything together, which leaves me with nothing to do on my own!  Don't worry; I'm resilient and I can entertain myself... kind of.  Sunday I went to two different malls to go shopping and get groceries, not realizing it was Mother's Day and EVERYTHING in the city was closed... with the exception of supermarkets, restaurants and flower shops, of course.  Never fear - I window-shopped instead and mapped out my plan of attack for Monday when things were open.  Monday I went back to the same two malls and browsed my little heart out, my favorite store being one with all imported goods from (wait for it:) India!  I never said they didn't have cool stuff in India... though I may have said I didn't want to go back to find it all (and if I haven't said that before, I'm saying it now).  Though I didn't buy anything at Indiska (that might just be the Finnish word for India... it's not.  I just looked it up.) it did give me a much-needed enthusiasm boost to return to India to shop.  After all, if Matt's working hard for his money, he probably doesn't have time to spend it... I can remedy that for him.  

I don't know who this is, but he's on top of the Lutheran Church, so he's probably important.  I'm really just trying to showcase the power of my zoom lens.  

After two days of shopping (kind of) I needed a cultural boost and set off to find the Helsinki City Museum, one of the few free museums in the area.  While I did find the building, and while the sign on the door did say "Open" (in three different languages), when I tried the door it wouldn't budge.  I pushed and pulled for a few minutes, but a few minutes shaking and yelling at a door is all it took for me to get embarrassed, and so I moved on.  That museum is probably lame anyway.  From there I went across the street to the Lutheran Church, and this time I actually went inside!  Apart from the pretty amazing domes on the inside and the huge organ, it was pretty plain, and thus I took no pictures inside (also, I'm nervous to take pictures inside a church... you may have been noticing this pattern for some time.  I've been yelled at a lot for not seeing the "no pictures" signs so now I'm pretty cautious.).  I did take some other pictures around town, though, which I will scatter at random throughout this post, as is my custom.  

Everyone was taking a picture at this intersection, so, not to be outdone, I did too.

 I walked around some more and then settled on sitting on a park bench to read.  (Side note: we finally got a mail packet yesterday with about a month's worth of mail, including but not limited to four People Magazines which Matt's Grammie got me a subscription to for Christmas.  Amazing.) I was deeply engrossed in a Justin Bieber article (don't worry, I didn't know who he was either) when this guy walks up and asks if he can sit on the bench I was currently occupying.  Why, sure, stranger!  I honestly (and yes, naively) thought he just wanted a place to sit and wouldn't bother me.  After all, I had a People Magazine!  You don't mess with that. Apparently Finnish people don't know that, however, for the young gentleman proceeded to try to start up a conversation by telling me his name, to which I responded (without giving him my own name) "Nice to meet you".  To which he responded "Thanks," which I found kind of odd.  Then he asked if I was waiting for someone, and I said no, but I had to go get my husband soon.  He said "You have a husband?" Affirmative.  After this little exchange he decided to try his luck with "Well, I saw you before and I had to come talk to you."  I hit him back with an "Oh okay.  Um, I have to go get my husband now.  Nice meeting you." And then I left.  What is the world coming to when a girl can't sit outside on a blustery day in a weak shaft of sunlight reading an article about a teen heartthrob and not get harassed?  Also, I was wearing this silly little dress/pants combo (it's the warmest thing I have here) and I was feeling kind of self-conscious about how stupid I looked, and he made it worse.  Thanks, guy.  On to today: the weather has been really nice all day, so I took my second of four Peoples and set out for a nice long walk.  I was sitting by a large pond/small lake reading when I was approached by some older lady shoving a Finnish magazine in my hands.  What is up with interrupting someone while they're reading celebrity gossip?  It's a sacred time.  Anyway, after I explained to the lady I only speak English, she laughed in my face and then walked off.  Another successful day. 
Uspenski Cathedral.  It's up on a hill so I didn't bother going in.

That about wraps up my week (so far) in review.  I don't know when Matt will finish with work, nor do I know if we'll be coming back to the usa (I've taken to calling it usa, pronounced like you-sa, these days.  Don't worry, it'll catch on.) between assignments or not.  Well, I know I will be coming back, but I can't speak for my little engineer.   More on my Finnish journey later.  I'll try to do something more interesting before I blog again... but I make no promises.
The Art Deco Helsinki train station. I really love these guys on the sides.  Look at their pecs.  

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Pop Quiz

Today is Saturday, which can only mean one thing: it's our two week Finland anniversary!  In celebration, I thought I would do a little pop quiz... because we all know we need more of those in our lives.  

The following statements are either True or False.  Please circle the T if you believe the statement to be True, or the F if you believe the statement is False.  

1.  Matt has started working.  T/F

2.  Matt will never start working.  T/F

3. We visited the zoo and saw lots of animals.  T/F

4. The lynx had a big problem with Matt. T/F

5.  Lynx (plural) can smell fear.  T/F

Answers: 1. False.  Matt has not, and will probably never start working here.  I'm of the opinion that we will be here for the remainder of our lives.  We'll get an apartment, but nothing too fancy because of the cost.  We will also lose 20 pounds of fat and muscle due to the lack of nutrients we are receiving in our daily meals because we can't afford to eat anything besides fast food and pasta.  (On a related note, I think I've discovered why everyone here is so skinny.)
2. I think we've established that the answer to number 2 is most decidedly True.  He is starting to feel like a bum.  If I could only leave him alone for a few days, then he would really know what roadwifery is all about.  
3.  True.  We did go to the zoo.  The answer to 4 is also True.  The lynx was pacing around behind the flimsy wire fence giving Matt the evil eye.  Every time he tried to move, the lynx jumped in the same direction.  
5. I actually don't know if lynx can smell fear, but it seems like a logical explanation for the aforementioned events.  

The Helsinki zoo is a pretty good one, all things considered.  It's on an island just outside of the city center, and it's really cold and windy there, but it has some nice displays.  Much better than a Chinese zoo.  You can get really close to the cages, and lots of them, like the big cats and the bears, have glass barriers so you can stand right next to them. 
Black bear.  False.  It's something else.  Grizzly or Brown.  Or Panda.

The reindeer seems like a funny animal for a zoo, especially one in Finland because they eat reindeer here... mostly just those northerners, though.  We all know how crazy northerners can be.  I had a reindeer salad when we first got in, and I must say, it was pretty tasty.  Matt said it tastes like "steak-sandwich steak", but I wouldn't know anything about that, having never had a steak sandwich.  
Reindeer.  I ate you.
Zoo bird

All in all, everything is fine here.  We have been doing almost nothing this whole week. We actually went to the zoo last week, and I wasn't even going to blog about it, thinking it not very noteworthy at the time, but in my present state it seems like all I've got.  Everything for Matt's work has been going on a day to day basis, so we haven't really been able to leave the city in case he gets called in.  My biggest regret is that we didn't get our Russian visas as soon as we got here.  Apparently it takes a couple days to get them, and we thought we wouldn't have time.  Ahh, hindsight is 20/20.  Not to worry - we'll probably get sent there some day.  

In other news, we started a puzzle.  It is extremely hard and I keep giving up on it, only to come back later when I realize I have nothing else to do because it's too cold to go outside.  I have seen the "Incredible India" commercial on CNN a total of 8 times this morning.  I think it's a sign.  

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Europarty on the Lutheran church steps.
So I guess the May festival that I 
spoke of earlier is actually celebrated internationally as Labor Day everywhere except America.  Surely you all knew this already, but someone could have told me.  I thought it was just for the Finns.  Man, they do it up pretty big in Helsinki, though, and probably all the rest of Finland, as well.  The celebration here starts Friday afternoon and goes until around midnight on Saturday night. Apparently in other parts of Europe people use this festival as a platform for staging riots and protests and spouting out political/religious drivel. Not so, here. 
Coveralls and white hats.  It's an epidemic. 
The college students have pretty much taken it over in Helsinki, and in true college kid fashion, they like to party.  They all wear these coveralls of varying colors with different company patches on them.  I never really figured them out, but man did I want some of those.   Give me those coveralls and some new white-blonde hair, and I'll look about as Finnish as they come... with just a touch of something else to keep them guessing.  In addition to the coveralls, the students (and just about everyone else, it seems) wear these ridiculous white hats.  And if you're not wearing a white hat and coveralls, you're dressed in some sort of costume, usually of the super-slutty variety (only for girls, of course).  And if you're not dressed up in any way at all, you're a foreigner and you don't belong, so take your big camera and go back to where you came from.  Nah, everyone was pretty friendly to us, probably because they were so drunk.  Matt and I spent most of our time just walking around staring at people, while weaving around those who looked like they were ready to puke.  In case you haven't heard, one of my biggest fears is being hit with vomit.  That and snakes are my two bugaboos.
I'm trying to get Matt to grow his hair out like this.

Saturday, May 1st, was the picnic day, where everyone goes out and (you guessed it) picnics all day.  We heard people get out super early in the morning and stake out a spot for the rest of the day.  Some people take it a step further and set up big tents with buffets and do it up fine dining style.  Everyone drinks - a lot, it appears - and people bring their boom boxes; sometimes even choreographed dancing ensues.  The party was surprisingly crazy considering there were no alcohol vendors and no live bands performing... and that all the partiers were Finnish.  And it was a mere 38 degrees, which would drive most people indoors, but not the hearty Scandinavians... They live for the cold.  Matt and I kept pointing out how different a party like that would be in the States... I think we'll bring it back home with us for next year.  I'll be taking orders now for the college-student coveralls.  Sizes S-XXL.
Picnics in the park.

In other news, go team U.S.A for stopping the alleged "bomb plotter" at the airport before he flew away to the relative safety of his homeland.  In light of the recent economic crisis coupled with that "minor" oil spill, I'd say we needed that win.  On a related note, CNN beats these three stories to death every day, all day.  Yesterday the "breaking news" for the entire day was that they caught the bombing suspect.  I feel it stops being breaking news when it hits the 12 hour mark.

On the local front, Matt still hasn't started working yet, and the refinery is about three days behind... maybe they shouldn't have taken three days off for May Day and they wouldn't be in this predicament.  Matt is pretty bummed out because this means he will probably have to miss his little brother Geoff's high school graduation (I think he's mostly sad about missing the party.  I believe he was promised some good home cooking and Pennsylvania beer... come to think of it, I'm pretty sad about that, too).  Ahh, but there will be other graduations.  Assuming either Laura or Geoff finishes college, and they'd better.  They've got to keep that Correnti family name intact.  Believe me, there's a lot of pressure there.  I'm doing my part.

In spite of the sun dance I do to the gods every morning, the weather seems to be getting colder here.  It snowed and rained all day yesterday, though nothing stuck.  We went for a long walk yesterday anyway, and were soaked through by the end of it.  It wasn't all a loss, however, as we found a Finnish thrift shop and Matt got a great t-shirt that says "Murra Myytteja" on it (in case you didn't know, that means "break myths", at least according to Google's translator).  We looked up the website on the back and it turns out it's actually advertising a civil engineering firm.  What with Matt's disdain for anything and everything civil engineering related, I don't know that he'll be wearing it much.  Maybe he'll give it to Nick.
Matt looking short.

And now for the real news: Matt got re-assigned to the same job in India.  We knew it was coming, but dammit, it still doesn't feel good.  In my effort to appear well-adjusted and mature, I think I glossed over just how bad India is when we were there last time.  I'll save it for later, but for now, just know that it's worse than you can imagine, and we have to go back.  Forever.  It's scheduled for May 15th, so either it gets pushed back (cross your fingers) or Matt will probably have to go from here to there.  No one wants that.  No one.