sunnuntai 20. elokuuta 2017

Times I Jumped To Conclusions Abroad

Misunderstandings abroad are inevitable and they happen for many reasons: cultural differences, prejudices, insufficient mastering of the language or simply misreading the situation. These moments can be hilarious, but also awake feelings of embarrassment, sadness and anger. I can name several situations where my misapprehension sparked negative feelings and either made the already charged circumstances worse or turned a completely harmless one into something hurtful in my mind. I have a vivid imagination which can very efficiently paint a distorted image of the reality.

Last time this morning I ruined a nice family outing for myself by stirring in my own bitter imaginations and misjudgements. We were at the flea market and I had been going through one vendor's scarf selection. The scarves were neatly folded and I had been unfolding them to get a better look at their colours and patterns. I was deeply focused when the vendor spoke to me and I heard her say, "Do you want to unfold them?" I was surprised and confused since I had been unfolding them under her nose already for a few minutes so I just replied, ", it's fine." I didn't look up, but heard a nervous burst of laughter. I associate that sound with disbelief when faced with something utterly and unexpectedly rude. Had I misunderstood the lady? She must have not said what I thought...Oh, shit. She probably told me to refold them! And I replied back like that...I was feeling confused, embarrassed and pissed off all at once. I thought she was mad at me for messing up her organization. And I was vexed because I would have folded them up nicely after I had finished and probably even bought something. Well, because of me misjudging the whole situation in the first place, I left her stand empty-handed and with mixed feelings. Only when we were finally home and I checked from dictionary the word she had used (déplier = unfold), I realised that I had made it all up in my head and the vendor had just tried to be helpful.

This little episode made me recall another time (in Japan) when my imagination magnified a totally harmless scene into a horrible betrayal. I happened to overhear my name in a conversation between my teacher and three classmates. I was about two meters away and didn't even hear anything else but my name and saw their serious faces. I thought they were all criticising me behind my back! I headed to the library to study japanese for a couple of hours, constantly wondering what I had done wrong and why they just didn't talk straight to me. Fired up, I decided to go face them and find out what they were talking about earlier. Well, it turned out that the teacher had been just trying to comfort my classmates since they were scared about their upcoming short exchange in Canada. And my teacher had used me as an example to give them more confidence! To be fair, my past encounters with the japanese behaviour of avoiding confontation had made me jumpy and paranoid about hearing my name in a conversation. 
These are just a few of the misunderstandings I have had during my time as an expat, but there are maaany more and probably some that I never even realised happened. Every once in a while there are just those situations when I reply to someone (in my opinion in a totally sensible, correct way) and I get back a blank face combined with a weak smile. There are some cases that will remain eternal mysteries...

Do you have a wild imagination like me? I would love to hear some of the times that you jumped to conclusions abroad!

perjantai 11. elokuuta 2017

Photo Diary // A Day In Arles & Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Yesterday we decided to spend some quality time with Q's mother and sister-in-law. We headed to explore the town of Arles following an afternoon at the beach in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.

Arles is a southern French city famous for its many roman time monuments and the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh who lived there from 1888 to 1889. The city is very beautiful although a bit too touristic to my taste. You can buy just about anything with one of Van Gogh's paintings imprinted on it.

A rule of thumb in France is that the further south you go, the less polite, law-abiding and angry people get. Things haven't really changed in the last 129 years as when the artist Gauguin, Van Gogh's friend and rival, visited the city he hated it for its disagreeable habitants. I had just told this story to my mother-in-law by a cup of coffee when she got yelled at by the waiter. The service is polite only as long as you don't dare to ask for the bill. Last year that sort of drama would have still shocked me, but I was pleased to notice that now it just genuinely amuses me. If you are planning to visit, try to avoid the most touristic-looking restaurants and bars to get more decent service. 

Our closest beach (about 1h 30 mins by car) is located in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, capital of the Camargue natural region. The town is famous for numerous reasons: its beaches, white horses, bulls, flamingos and a large regional parc.

We spent the afternoon enjoying the sea wind, swimming and tanning and then went to have a little stroll in the town. Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer survives mainly for its tourism so the downtown is everything you would expect from a beach resort: ice cream, souvenir shops and many bars and restaurants.

We returned home tired but happy, tanned and two kilos of sand in our hair, clothes and bags!

perjantai 4. elokuuta 2017

July Favorites

I know this is about the most cliché thing ever to say, but where the hell did last month go?? I wonder if it really has to do with age (they claim time feels faster the older you get) or I just need to focus more in the present moment. In any case, I will definitely remember last July as the hottest one I have ever experienced here in Provence. Bad news is that the goddamn heat has followed us all the way to August. Car trips make me recall what a badly heated sauna feels like (no AC and passenger side window is jammed) and to fall asleep we rely on wet towels on our naked bodies. Well, lets maybe be more positive and take a look at the things I actually loved in July! 

Eating Clean

As soon as my brother and his gf were on the plane back to Finland, Q and I stopped consuming wine, cheese and pastries as if it was 1999 and I'm so proud of the determination we have had ever since! It's definitely easier to stay on track when we are not hosting people nor constantly visiting Q's parents. Recently though my parents-in-law have been very supportive and they try not to tempt us. My father-in-law is also supposed to be on a strict diet for health issues so we can motivate and encourage each other. 

Q and I have both some kilos to shed, but our way of eating has so many more benefits than just weight loss. When I eat well I notice it also positively affecting my mood, hair and nail growth plus skin health! We eat lots and lots of fresh vegetables and fruits which are so easily accessible here. Quinoa, bulgur and whole wheat bread provide us carbs and turkey, chicken, fish and eggs protein. But I still have my one glass of good wine every sunday!

Lavender Honey

Just look at that! That right there was one kilo of lavender honey three weeks ago. Our lovestory with this specific sweet gold started already last summer, but it was in june that we made the one hour trip to Gordes to the producer in order to stock up big time. Hah, we thought this one kilo would last us at least three months. Such naivety. We have added it in our tea and natural yogurt daily and this is the result. It's super delicious with butter on a good baguette, too. I told Q that next time we will buy two or three kilos to be safe.


With the heatwave around it has been very easy to stick to our habit of heading to the pool at least 3 mornings per week. Our current routine is to swim 30 lengths which makes a total of 750 meters. The goal is to get to 1 kilometer with 40 lengths. After that it is just about improving strength, speed and technique. We have already come so far though as in the beginning we could only swim five lengths in a row and now ten!

At the pool it's funny to observe cultural differences. In Finland, for example, we are very fine with being naked even around strangers in swimming pool dressing rooms and showers. Here most often the women undress their bathing suit just until the hips when washing up. According to Q, the men are less concerned about showing their private parts though. Another difference is the amount of gadgets people have. It makes me smile when I think about what a basic Finnish guy would say about the french showing up with their palm and foot paddles, pull buoys (yeah, I had no idea that blue foam thing between the thighs was called that until I googled it), water resistant mp3-players, kick boards and nose pinchers. I haven't been to a pool for a while in Finland, but back then people barely had swim caps (and having one was a sign of a serious swimmer). 

Swimming is our sport of choice not only because it is too hot for anything else, but because for me it's doctor's orders. I have had some knee pains for months already and the conclusion was that I'm simply not overall muscular enough. My bad posture was also an indicator of muscle weakness. Quite shocking to be in such a bad shape at 26! Swimming is excellent for people like me who can easily injure themself with high impact sports; it's gentle on the joints while the whole body gets stronger. And lets not forget that it also burns major calories.

Moomin Shopping Bag

Like all Finns I'm a huge Moomin fan. I got this shopping bag at a grocery store in Finland last december, but it was just last month that I started consistently taking it with us to the food store. And I'm loving how it reminds me of Finland and all the funny (and some deep also) Moomin stories everytime I use it. 

Finnish Music

There's no denying it: Finland is the home to some of the most musical people in the world. There are so many new talented artists making their way to the charts all the time. Not many countries have their spotify top 50 filled with songs made by their own countrymen, in their native language. I'll list below some of my most listened Finnish songs in July.

I hope you had a great month of july (and well, if not, let's leave it behind us). Until next time!