Monday, 28 December 2009

A few goals for next year

The year is coming to an end and that usually makes me reflect on my life and how I would like to live it. Some things you can't control, but other things are up to you. I have a great life as it is, but there are still things I want to do more of during 2010:

  1. Positive thinking (I have to stop catastrophizing!)
  2. Live in the moment (Yes, it's a cliché, but really, what else can you do? And still it's so hard ...)
  3. Write
  4. Read books by authors from Finland
  5. Socialize (Facebook doesn't count)
  6. Travel
  7. Spend time with loved ones
  8. Cook new things (And not just in the microwave!)
  9. Find a way to keep home and mind organized (Yeah right ...)
  10. Keep an open mind

Do you have any hopes or goals for next year?

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Stars and Hearts (yum)

Christmas wouldn't be christmas without some traditional ginger bread baking. We've done it as long as I can remember.
We usually make angels and people and animals too, but this year we just couldn't find the real cookie cutters! These plastic ones had to make do. And the cookies still tasted great, nothing wins my mom´s recipe.


I can finally use my UTS hoody. In Australia it was way too hot.


They still need to be decorated. That's my dad's speciality.


The rest of the day we spent cleaning, wrapping gifts and listening to christmas music. Music is for me an important part of getting into the christmas spirit, but when you start listening to the lyrics of a lot of the songs, you realise how depressing they actually are. Still, the melody brings back memories and feelings which give you that special calm.

Tomorrow is christmas eve! Bring on the chocolate. :P

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Arctic shopping

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,

Christmas is well on its way. Yesterday I went shopping and it was so nice to be down town again after such a long time. We got traditional christmas flowers that smell lovely (well not this red one, but some others.) And today we did three trips to the grocery store near by and got all the food we need for the upcoming five days.

The weather started out nice but during our second trip it began snowing hard. Here's a little picture story to illustrate:

My dad's walking towards the store. The snow isn't too bad yet and it's pleasantly -6 degrees cold. I really enjoy winter right now!


Soon the snow gets a bit more intense and the ploughs are working non stop trying to clear the tram tracks. It's nice for them to have enough work for once. Usually we don't have this much snow around christmas.


Okay, so the snow is cramping my style a bit. Maybe I should have put on a hat after all, but it wasn't this bad when we left the house!


Home sweet home. Not a second too soon because it's snowing so hard you can barely see anything on the other side of the window.


Funnily enough we had sun and blue skies just moments after this and the third trip was a nice brisk walk in something you could almost call daylight.

Hopefully it will be almost okay tomorrow although the weather man has predicted much more snow and warned everyone to stay of the roads. But that's a bit hard since a lot of people are driving to their christmas destinations tomorrow evening. I wish them patience and a safe journey where ever they are going.

Only two nights left and then it's christmas! :)

Sunday, 20 December 2009

The Finn has landed (and she's full of christmas spirit)

Hello again,

I'm back in Finland. The trip home went well, although being awake almost 35 hours non stop did take its toll. But now I've rested and feel one with the Finnish rythm again.

Here at my parents house christmas is already spreading joy. Today we baked "christmas stars" (?) and got a christmas tree! For the first time in my life we bought one and my childish christmas spirit was afraid that we would get a dodgy one, but it turned out quite nice. It is smaller than previous years, but then again, we usually have monster trees that take up half the living room. This one is a bit more traditional and civilized you could say. :)

My dad put on alot of egg so they look a bit over tanned.


Oh christmas tree, oh christmas tree.


Tomorrow I need to go downtown for the last presents and some wrapping materials, and also to buy christmas flowers. Hopefully it won't be too cold or windy. The weather so far has been great, I just love the chill and the snow. It's not too often we have snow at christmas time here in Helsinki.

I hope you all find peace and happiness in your own way. Christmas is an important time for me and the biggest gift this year is that I can be here with my entire family. Nothing can top that.

See you later!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Countdown

Well my Australian era is soon coming to an end. On Wednesday afternoon QF5 is leaving Sydney airport and hopefully I'm going to be on that plane towards Frankfurt and then Helsinki.

Yes, I am sad to leave Sydney. But yes, I am also very very happy to go back home and spend christmas with my family.
So much is happening right now and I feel I need and want to be closer to the people in my life that matter the most. And I can always come back to Australia and see the parts I missed this time, and meet the people (here or back in Europe) that have become so important to me during these five months.

Here's a few things I've been doing since I came back from Alice Springs. A lot of the time I've been looking for christmas presents and other nice things ... You can really walk kilometers and kilometers while shopping in Sydney (especially when you, like me, don't plan the shopping route and run around like a dizzy hen).

Me and Eva went to Bondi Market one weekend and Glebe Market the next. I really will miss the markets that are so common and popular here in Sydney. There's always so many nice, and often unecessary things, to buy.

Eva in Glebe hunting for gifts for her family.


We also had a look at one of the attractions in Sydney I still hadn't visited , the Sydney Tower in the CBD. The views were really nice. You could see so much of the city and out over the ocean. Having lived here for months now, Eva and I enjoyed looking for our own houses and uni and other places important to us.

Somewhere over there is my house.


Yes, it's hard to take a good pic against a window. And typical me forgot that my camera has a special function to make those situations easier. But at least it's not purple which alot of my pics are at the moment. Or green. (But look! There's the tiny bridge behind me.)


This one is just here to show you the UTS (University of Technology Sydney) tower. Lost in central Sydney? Look for the tower and you'll find your way. (Or at least end up in a class discussing why the current NSW government is the worst ever ...)


While running around the city I've been saying good bye to all the nicest places. Bye bye view of the bridge. Bye bye The Rocks. Bye bye Botanical Garden. While waiting to meet a friend I got to know on the Alice Springs tour and who is now in Sydney, I took the opportunity to sit on the Opera house steps one last time. And for once I wish I had longer arms. Or that the opera would be a tiny bit smaller, but at least here's my face, a piece of darkened glass, some tourists and the rear of a large ship.

(Yes, it's always windy here ...)


So, bye bye Sydney and Australia. Now it's just the crazy science of packing and cleaning left and then trying to get a taxi for the airport.
No, now I'm actually lying because tomorrow morning I'm going to the cinema with Eva one final time. We're seing the Christmas Carol, in 3D! I've never seen a 3D movie before so it's a bit exciting. I just hope I don't get motion sickness ...

Anyway, I will continue bloging when I get home. The pics and adventures might not always be as exciting in the future, but it's my life, take it or leave it.

So see you soon in Finland! Au Revoir!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Great Ocean Road etc.

Okay, here we go. The final big trip entry. I can promise water and rocks and more water and rocks. And most of all; rocks in water.

From Melbourne (see previous entry) I got on a new Adventure Tours bus and started, via some beaches, towards the famous, 243km long Great Ocean Road. The coastal road was built by returned soldiers from the first world war and it is famous for its great views and rock formations.


Can anyone say BLUE?


Before reaching perhaps the most famous rocks, the Twelve Apostles, we took a small detour to the Otway National Park and did a tree top walk in the rainforest. We walked 25 meter up in the air which gave us a new perspective on nature.


On the ground there was also a "Prehistoric Path". Scattered along the track there were, not life sized, but large rubber dinosaurs. Not too scary but rather funny. Me and Rhiannon couldn't give up the opportunity to have a little dino-race ...


The high light of our first day was sunset at the 12 apostals. The name is a bit misleading since there actually aren't 12 apostles. Errosion has "eaten" and keeps eating away on the limestone rocks so hurry up if you want to see them. ;)


Day two was a "get out of the bus", "take a picture", and "get into the bus" day as we passed one famous rock after the other and were told stories about ship wrecks and brave survivors.

This one is called London Bridge, or London Arch, as the first part of the bridge collapsed just a few years ago. A man and his mistress got stuck on the outer edge of the bridge and a channel 7 helicopter broadcasted their distress live on the news (not knowing that the man had lied to both spouse and work boss to be there). Needless to say he lost both his wife and job.


When the road ended we headed towards the Grampians national park. No more comfy bus ride, it was time for a proper hike up to the Pinnacle. Have I mentioned before that I do a great "Asthma impression"? We had to wait a couple of hours before we could do the climb since Victoria had a heath wave going and climbing mountains in 37 degrees isn't very clever. So we did it in "only" 27 degrees instead.

Madicken, the Hulk. I really should get an Oscar for looking that perky half way up the track.


And guess what! We actually made it! Again, me and Rhiannon, again trying to look like we moments before hadn't thought we were going to die and get eaten by wild kangaroos.

Our crazy Swiss friend didn't feel he needed a railing to keep him safe on the edge of the cliff.


We stayed in cabins in Gaps Hall, a small mountain town. It was nice, although the competition for the too few showers was fierce.

Day three began as day two ended, with a hike, this one in Hollow Mountain. It was also quite hard but more adventurous and fun so it didn't feel as though (even though it was about 40 degrees by now ...).


We did a few other things as well during the trip but I think this will do for now. I'll just end by mentioning that it was 88 degrees in the bus when we got down from the mountain. It did cool down when we got the AC going but then as we drove towards Adelaide, our final stop, the engine started overheating so we actually had to drive with the heaters on to try to cool it down. That my friends is insane. And sitting just behind the overheating engine doesn't make it any nicer ...

I was happy getting off in Murray Bridge, a town by Murray River about 80km before Adelaide. I stayed there for a few days with family friends. Then it was back to Sydney again. Many experiences richer.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Melbourne

Between my two tours in the southern parts of Australia I spent 3 days in Melbourne. I did some sight seeing and met up with Hanna, a friend from my uni in Helsinki. She did the same GEJI exchange as I did but in Melbourne.

My first day I just walked around the CBD. For an overview of the city I went up in the Ereka tower.


I also visited an art gallery in Federation Square, Victoria market and other typical must see places.

The next day Hanna and I did a day tour to Philip Island. The main attraction was the small penguins that come out of the water every evening in the same place. There can be hundreds of them and they are sooo cute.

On the way to the beach however we also did some nice stops, for example at a small chocolate factory with a chocolate railway and chocolate art.

My kind of guy. (Yes, he is ALL chocolate.)


Tju Tju! Coming up: Chocolate heaven!


Next stop was a koala sanctuary on the island. I had seen koalas close up before but it was the first time I saw a baby koala and it was adorable. (It hadn't realised yet that it should sit still and sleep 22 hours a day.)


After the Koalas we had dinner in a small sea side town and then drove out to a rugged look out point. The cliff walls and grassy slopes were full of nesting sea gulls but they weren't agressive at all. Nothing like the sea gulls in Helsinki harbour.

Hanna and our quite slow but very yummy pasta.


Yes, I know. There aren't loads of sea gulls in this picture but they were there. I promise!



Finally we took the bus down to the beach where the penguins were supposed to show up. It really is a big business and a bit overwhelming. Hundreds of people browsed the gift shops and cafés before competing for the best seats at the beach. Hanna and I found a nice spot and although it was rather cold we waited patiently for the sun to go down and the penguins to carefully waddle out of the water. Many of them had chicks waiting on land so it was important for them so make it to the nests and feed the right chick.
Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures (because of the flashes) but it really was a nice experience.

My last day in Melbourne I did some shopping before meeting up with Hanna again in the evening. She had the greatest treat for me; tickets to be in the audience for the 7pm project, a humoristic current affairs tv program.
I had so much fun! Even cheering on command was funny. And boy did some women cheer since the guest of the evening was young Canadian jazz singer Michael Buble. He's apparently a very big deal here.
And yes, he was quite cute and charming and I didn't mind getting his autograph afterwards. The audience isn't shown in the program but who knows, you might hear my laughter if you listen very carefully. Or not.

Anyway, my stay in Melbourne was short but sweet. Must go back some day when I have more time. But that will have to wait for a while for guess what; I'm coming home next week! Yup, on Thursday the 17th, if everything goes as planned, I should land in Finland. I just hope the Finnair strike ends soon, but more about that later.

Good night!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Famous rocks in hot desert

Hi!

Back fróm my final trip in Australia. Sad and kind of nice as well. Packing and re-packing is tiresome in the long run. (Especially when the airline forgets to load your luggage on the plane and you have to panic buy everything anyway ... But enough about that.)

Had a great time in Alice Springs and in the desert though. A friend from my Finnish uni had chosen the exact same tour for the exact same time, without knowing that I would be there, and meeting up was fun. I also met three of her European friends who had studied with her in Perth.

Anyway, the 3 day tour down to Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta and Uluru was the main agenda for the trip. I wanted to see the most famous things in central Australia, not just the coast.

I was picked up at 6am from my hostel in Alice Spring by a small bus and off we went. As always I have mountains of pictures, eventhough the camera kept acting up, but I'll stick to some key moments during the trip.

Here we go:

Sight number one, one of many many wild camels in the area. Yes, there are plenty of camels in Australia thanks to some fools who imported them. Now they are some what of a problem.


After ca 4 hours in the bus with only short brakes, we arrived at Kings Canyon, a canyon with 300 meter high walls, and did a 6 km walk along the top of the canyon. This ment we first had to climb up to the top, and the first part did deserve the nick name "Heart Attack Hill". Once again I sounded more than a bit astmathic. But the rest of the walk was very nice with lovely views and interesting rock formations.


Me pretending to look cool and unaffected by the initial climb. Yeah right.


Some views out over the semi-desert.

After the 3 hour walk, during which we had to drink at least 3 liters of water each because of the heath and drought, it was already evening and we drove to a huge cattle station where we set up camp. It was a classic camp with an open fire in the middle and us in our swags around it, sleeping under the stars. This was the part I was most nervous about, because of my fear of spiders, but nothing happened and it was actually really really nice.


My swag next to Johanna. She was eager to go "bed" after a long day.


Day two we got up a bit after 5am so that we could do our 7 km walk at Kata Tjuta (The Olgas in English). I was a bit worried since I had twisted my foot the day before and it despite ice and painkillers was a bit unpleaseant to walk on. But I didn't want to be left out and kept walking and it did get a bit better after a while.

Kata Tjuta is a large rock formation with 36 "domes". They are of big importance to the Aboriginal people and therefore it was important that we kept to the designated tracks and avoided certain places. It was a really interesting and beautiful place. And despite it only being early morning, it was still very hot. And hard to get good pictures of.


Our tour guide Jason explaining how the domes came about millions of years ago.


After Kata Tjuta it was time for maybe the most famous rock, Uluru (Ayers Rock). Most people have seen a picture or two of the large block of rock in the middle of no where. We had both dinner and breakfast at a fab lookout point over the rock, watching sunset and sunrise. Cameras were going off big time.


Look! I jump higher than Uluru ... Or not. But we just had to do some jumping pics. You cannot not do them at a place like this.


And a few group shots too.
Kirstin, Johanna, Tina, Chris and Me:

The second night we also slept outside, but on a camp site close to Uluru where there were real bathrooms and stuff close by. After two days in the red dust it was sooo nice with a real shower.

The third day we started with a 8km walk around the base of Uluru. The climb up to Uluru was closed because of strong winds and most of us wouldn't have climbed anyway because of the Aboriginal peoples wishes. For them it is a very sacred site and they hope that people will respect that by not climbing.

On pictures Uluru looks very cymetrical but it is actually not and it has many weird holes and formations in it.
After the walk we started back towards Alice Springs with a few stops for lunch etc. We also did a short stop for a quick camel ride. Since I had never been on a camel before I took the chance. It was fun! When it walked it was kind of bumpy and a longer ride would probably have made me sick, but when it started running it was actually quite smooth.

(What is the girl behind me doing? Crying? Praying?)

We came back to Alice Springs in the evening and had dinner together before everyone said goodbye and went their own way towards new adventures. I had one day left in Alice Springs and I spent it walking around, shopping and visiting the Royal Flying Doctor Service and a reptile center where I got to hold a couple of lizards and an olive python.
Do I look scared?


At least this guy was laughing at me ...