checking out Czech

well, okay, Prague to be exact.

neither my husband nor i have ever been there, so this was our first time ever. and my verdict is: love the city, hate the tourists! 😀 (i guess that includes us, LOL!)

i’m too tired to put descriptions in the pics, so here’s the short(er) story of the whole trip.

upon arriving, i immediately noticed something in the air that was quite familiar. it was very hot and damp that night, so that already brought me back to Indonesia, but the air was filled with incense scent. and i mean like everywhere! this of course brought my mind back to Bali, where they have incense-scented offerings everywhere on the street. i had no idea why there was an abundant smell of incense in the whole city, but when i heard church bells near our hotel, then i thought maybe the reason was that there is plenty of these churches in Prague, and perhaps they use incense in there? i didn’t hang around in churches to find out, so i guess i’ll never know.

if you are an honest and naive tourist like me, you might want to be extra careful where you buy your groceries. :p i learned it the hard way there when on our first night, since it was hot and we were tired, we only managed to go to a nearby mini-mart to get some water bottles. we had a small idea of how tourist stores ( = any store in a tourist-y area) mark up their prices, but it wasn’t until we got back to our hotel that we found out how badly ripped off we were. 11€ for 2 big bottles and 1 small bottle of water is NOT normal, i can tell u that. 😀 the next day we found a bigger mini-mart and paid 1,50€ for 2 small bottles of water. go figure.

if you’re an anti-tourist like me, avoid Charles bridge at all cost! LOL. i put a picture i took from there just to show you how many people there were at that time… and remember, this was not even a peak season yet, and the temperature was somewhere between 30-32C degrees. it was blazing hot, and tourists with their selfie sticks were just taking pictures upon pictures with every effin’ step they made, people walking behind them would just have to wait patiently because, well, the crowds were everywhere…. unbelievable.

there are soooo many castles in Prague, and soooooooo many beautiful gardens to come with those castles. so they said. we tried to see just the gardens (because, well, the castles would be filled with tourists… again), and since we’re so used to free gardens in Finland, we were taken aback with the fact that we had to pay tickets to view the gardens of the castles in Prague. 😀 and since apparently they really don’t want to let people view it for free, they had to make walls around the gardens as well. no castles and no gardens, then! 😀

we did go to the Alphonse Mucha museum, for my sake. it was small and non air-conditioned, but whatever. i’m glad it wasn’t as famous and hence full of tourists, so that was nice! no pictures are allowed in there, that’s why i don’t have any.

i got this tip from a colleague of mine, and apparently it’s true: you can only buy stamps in Prague in the post office. 😀 in Finland (and i think even in Indonesia) you can buy stamps from kiosks and mini-marts, but when i asked a souvenir store in Prague if they sell stamps… their answer is: no, but the post office is right there on the main street. so off i went there, took a queue number from the machine (in case you’re wondering, it’s “other services>selling stamps and other products”!) and went to the cashier just to get 1 stamp for a postcard! wow. and then there’s the matter of figuring out how to work out the mailbox. there are plenty of them around the city, but the instructions (or whatever they are) are all in Czech. hmm. i hope my postcard arrives to where i’m sending it to! 😀

you will find many places offering Trdelnik aka chimney cake, for various prices. however, after the water bottle incident, i was quite careful about spending money there. i remember seeing a place selling traditional Trdelnik for as cheap as 20 Kr, but since it was far away and i was too tired to go back there, i decided to go to the one nearest to our hotel that offered it for 50 Kr. i tried the cinnamon one, and boy, was it good! i wish i had tried the one filled with ice cream, but maybe i’ll do it some other time!

another thing worth mentioning is the dogs of Prague. i can’t tell for sure if they are local or tourist dogs, but i found many dogs were let loose in Prague (as in, not bound on a leash) and yet they didn’t run away! ❀ the first one i saw was a cute dachshund on the loose and i had to fight back the urge not to pick it up and bring it home! 😀 another one i saw was inside a small souvenir shop, with no leash of course, just looking out of the store as if it’s the owner of the store, looking for new customers. i managed to take a candid picture of 1 dog i saw that was just sooooo sooooo sweet, i couldn’t resist it…. if you’re the owner of that dog, i’m sorry i had to steal a picture of your doggy! good thing you put a leash on it! 😀

lastly, just a few pics of the hotel we stayed at, called Blue Oak.

it was such a lovely place! we were looking for a place with air conditioning (not all hotels in Prague have them, we knew there would be this heatwave coming when we were looking for the place) and possibly a microwave. and wow, we didn’t even expect the room to be so big, but it was! on the last day of our trip, there was a big thunderstorm with lots of hail and we got to view it from our bedroom window. just like in a tropical place, it only lasted for a short time, and made the weather much more bearable afterwards.

and there you have it, Prague from my very small & short point of view! 😀 i highly recommend it if you appreciate architecture… and beer, obviously, LOL. but if the larger-than-life tourist thing bothers you, you might want to go there when it’s really a very low peak season instead. 😉

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a memory and a hope

“i would like to sing for the suppressed people

living in the wild with bereft souls…”

our minds work in a funny way, don’t you agree? one second i was looking at the snow, feeling the cold, the next second i was thinking of my old hometown and how i used to take the sun’s heat for granted. and next i thought about what my friend said one day, how most Indonesian people do take it for granted–including herself, as well–and usually say to foreigners how great life must be in the foreigner’s country, not thinking of how hard life might be there in some other aspects (going to the supermarket on foot in winter is i’m sure something that rarely crosses their minds). and then the next second, i thought about the people in Jakarta, living under the bridges & flyovers, thanking their stars for not having to suffer through winter, especially being homeless and shirtless.

and then the next second, my mind arrived to an old acquaintance i had when i was going to the university, back in my old hometown.

it arrived there, because he was one of those homeless people. how i became acquainted to him was something i don’t think i ever mentioned to anyone before.

i used to live in the south part of Jakarta, and my university was just outside of Jakarta, in Depok. my everyday commuting life back then was taking 2 bus rides, which took about 1,5 hour in total, for one direction (that made 3 hours of commuting daily). it wasn’t that it was so far away (well, it was far, but that’s not the reason it took so long), but it’s because my transfer from one bus to the other took place in one of the busiest traditional marketplace in South Jakarta, called Pasar Minggu. the buses went through the small gaps, woven between the abundance of marketplace sellers & their tarmacs full of fresh produces, and since we’re talking about Jakarta that had no clear traffic system, there were always at least dozens of different buses queuing in this area at the same time before they could finally be ‘free’ to go to their own routes. so, you can probably imagine the length of time i spent waiting and frying inside these buses everyday (my buses weren’t air conditioned, of course).

every day, as i waited in the bus, there would be street singers hopping on and off my bus. when i had extra coin or small bank note, i would give them what i could, but most of the time my budget was just enough for the day, so i couldn’t help them even if i wanted to. some of them sang just so that their bosses could see that they were ‘working’, some of them actually sang with their hearts. usually, i would wait until i found those that sang with their hearts to give what small amount of money i could to them instead of the other group.

among these street singers, one of them was a man, probably around the same age as i was back then, maybe slightly older. he was probably the only one easy for me to remember, because of his appearance. he had very dark skin, big eyes, long curly hair which was always ‘half’ bleached no matter what time of the year it was, so that it was deep black from the roots to halfway the total length and very blonde from then on to the ends. he always carried a guitar and was one of those who sang with his heart.

the first couple of times i ‘met’ him in my bus, i was running short on my money that i couldn’t give anything to him. but, he always smiled. some time after that, i finally did have extra, so i was already planning to give it to him the next time i saw him. when that time finally came, and he finished singing and started walking around the bus to collect the money in the aluminum foil bag he was holding, i was putting my money to the bag when he suddenly said to me, “hep, no, no, that’s okay, miss!” and i was baffled. he didn’t want my money.

after he completed his round, he came to sit next to me, which happened to be empty. and i, as somebody who had always disliked talking to strangers even before moving to Finland, was wary of this. oh dear, i thought, he did not want my money but wanted my company? darn it. usually if some stranger who sat next to me in the bus started to talk to me, i would pretend not to hear what they’re saying (yes, i was cruel). but i couldn’t see my way out of this one because i would still be stuck there in my transfer point for a while.

and so, he started, “are you going to school, miss?” i said, shortly, “yes”. he asked where i went to school, and i told him my university name (and cursed myself why i had to be so honest. what if he was a stalker?). he was amazed by my answer, i guess it’s because my university name does bear good quality. then he started talking about himself, mostly, i guess because he could see i was being careful and only gave him short answers. he told me that he, too, wished he could go to the university, but could only sing in buses so far. the first time he sang, he did not even have a guitar, so he had to go with others who had musical instruments, saved money until he could buy a guitar, and finally, now, he could sing alone.

the bus began to move forward and he quickly bid his goodbye, but before he left, he asked my name. i told him a fake name, because my brain was still telling me to be cautious, and that was the end of our first conversation.

that happened during my first year of college. i still had 2 more years, so you can imagine how many more times i met him in my bus. it wasn’t daily, but there were a lot of times. i gradually saw that he didn’t mean anything bad, and if he was a stalker i would already be stalked by then. i started having quite ‘okay’ conversations with him, but most of the time, just like the first time, it was him who did the talking. he told me that he was now saving up for new shoes, and showed me that the only pair of shoes he had had holes in them. and every time i offered him what little money i could, he never took it. i think at one point i told him that i had shoes i didn’t use, and if he would like them. he asked my shoe size and when he heard it, he laughed because my shoe size was a lot bigger than his! he even joked that i must be one of the ‘mountain people’, who genetically have big feet. needless to say, my offer was turned down.

sometimes he did the singing with a group of his other friends, and when his friends came near to me to collect money, he would tell them, “no, not her! she’s my friend.” pretty soon, even his friends would recognize me when he wasn’t around, and also did not want my money.

one day, i went to the university as usual and i was the one who spotted him first before i got on to my bus. i tapped his shoulder (because even then, after many of our conversations, i still didn’t know his name) and said hi. he was friendly as usual, but i told him my news: this was my last time going through this route, because i had graduated. he was so happy for me, congratulated me, and told me good luck with my life. i wished him the same, and we parted.

that really was the last time i saw him, even though i still lived in Jakarta for many years afterwards. never once did he cross my mind, until now.

i wonder if he is still around, and again, thank the heavens that he never has to feel the bitter cold of winter in his old & hole-y shoes. i wish i could have helped him more, and hope that he is doing okay. i hope he knows, that even when it may not seem so, he was actually blessed in his life, to have what he had.

remembering him makes me want to listen to this song, a song so popular among street singers in Jakarta. maybe it’s because it’s about them, the suppressed people, living in Jakarta. maybe it’s to tell each other, the street singers and beggars, to not lose hope, stay strong and be thankful for life as it is.

Serenade by Iwan Fals and KPJ (Street Singer Group), 1985, sung in Keroncong style.

roughly translated lyrics:

i would like to sing for the suppressed people

living in the wild with bereft souls

why be afraid of the sun, make a fist and block its heat

why be afraid of the night, light a fire in the heart, shoo away the darkness

i would like to sing for the rejected clans

losing their fighting spirits

complacent in a long dream in the midst of uncertain life

on the streets’ alleys of alleys

under the underside of bridges

on the street vendors’ feet

under the tower

you still cradle the suffering

i would like to sing a song without poverty and hypocrisy

without tears and misery

so we could see the heavens

 

a Singaporean summer, part 3 of 3

here it is, the last post of our trip to Singapore. phew!

Singapore Art Museum and Bras Basah Complex

i ran out of ideas on what else to do that doesn’t cost anything (not even an MRT ticket), so i finally gave in and went along with my family to the Singapore Art Museum near the City Hall and Bras Basah area.

the ticket is 10 SGD for an adult (and half price for kids and seniors), which is i guess normal and around the same as for museums here in Finland. the museum consists of 2 separate buildings, and you would have to exit the first building & cross the street to get to the other one. i suppose this is okay on a normal day, but for some reason it made me so tired that day. i couldn’t see all the exhibitions due to my fatigue & headache, so in the end i sat down and waited for my family to finish looking around.

after resting and drinking something sweet, i felt a bit better and we continued to Bras Basah Complex, where there are plenty of bookstores (selling old and new books & magazines) and art stores. however, i again got painful ache on my leg, so i didn’t get around much nor did i take any pictures. (the pics i put here are from my sister’s camera.) i only made a point to visit Art Friend and Basheer Graphic Books. in Art Friend, you can get any art supplies you had ever dreamed of, but for example when i saw what i would have wanted (copic markers) they cost around the same as in Finland. Basheer is a bookstore that also sells all kinds of fashion & design magazines. i found lots of back issues of Lula magazine, sold for 10 SGD, and was so tempted to get one… but decided not to in the end, because i figured that for fashion stuffs i can still pretty much browse the internet from time to time. (i feel so proud of myself for being able to say no so many times to my temptations there! :D)

tip #1: if you’re an art enthusiast, the museum is worth a visit. most museums, including this one, close down at 6 or 7 pm, so don’t go there too late!

tip #2: if you love books, i definitely recommend going to Bras Basah Complex for the whole day. you can immerse yourself in all the lovely books they have there, and even buy or sell some old ones. i’m sorry i didn’t get to spend more time there as i only went on my last day in Singapore, but hopefully i can come back again next time.

Our Apartment

as you probably might have guessed, during our 9 day trip we also had some days where we just rested inside the apartment. 😀 here are a few pics of our apartment and the nearby mall where we spent our times.

tip #1: there are plenty of options for apartments in Singapore that you can book through Airbnb. our criteria was that we had our own bathrooms for each of our bedroom so that nobody would have to wait too long in case of emergency. 😀 the apartment we got did not have any ‘living room’, but that was easily fixed with spending time together at one of the rooms’ balconies, or in one of the rooms, or even the swimming pool area. there was also no TV in the apartment, but a very strong Wi-Fi connection, so if you have to, you can watch something instead from your own tablets or laptops. another thing we wanted was an apartment that has a strategic location. luckily the one we got was right in the middle of everything, so even on a resting day we could easily go to the nearby mall to grab our lunches/dinners. decide what is most important to you that the apartment must have, and go search for the right one from there.

tip #2: we actually booked another apartment before landing on this one, but the owner cancelled it due to some new rule there that the apartment may not be rented to a 3rd party via Airbnb. always be prepared for something like this to happen, as Singapore generally tends to have strict rules.

Changi Airport and Crowne Plaza Hotel

the moment was finally there when we had to depart and say goodbye to each other. we spent the last few hours together at the airport, and before catching our own flight at midnight we had a few hours of good rest at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

tip: if your flight is late at night and you already need to check out from your hotel/apartment way before that, the bad news is you can’t wait inside the passengers terminal at the airport until like 3 hours before your flight. Singapore airport has weird policy on that, which i don’t really care to elaborate here. luckily for us there’s a last minute resort, though it is quite pricey but it was worth the few hours of sleep/rest before a long flight. so be sure to have a late check-out time at your hotel or be prepared to do what we did. :p

yay, i finally finished this super long post! no more editing pictures/writing for a while, i need a rest from my jetlag and all that. 😀

but before i wrap this up, there are still a few general tips for visiting Singapore as a whole:

-while it is very handy to get from the airport to your hotel/apartment by the MRT (they have very clear maps, you can’t get lost), i wouldn’t advise it to be done in the rush hour (around 5-7 pm). we did this, of course, and let me just say that it was not a nice experience.

-depending on how long your stay is in Singapore, you might not want to rush into getting a Singaporean phone sim card. we were offered a standard set at the airport, but decided to wait until getting downtown for better options. and it WAS better to get it from downtown, as it was not only cheaper, but we got more data than the one offered at the airport, unlimited local SMS and unlimited local calls.

-even at shopping malls and restaurants, for some reason most of the shops/food stalls do not accept payment with cards. the only places i could use my card was at the airport, 7-Elevens, Mahaco Silk store, and supermarkets. oh, and taxis! so prepare enough cash for your whole trip, or if you don’t mind going to the ATMs from now and then this can also be a good option as they seem to have ATMs everywhere and anywhere.

that’s pretty much it. feel free to add if you have any other tip, but otherwise it was pretty easy to get around & enjoy Singapore.

hope you like the posts & pics, and thanks for reading! 🙂

a Singaporean summer, part 2 of 3

continued from my previous post! 🙂 go and read the first part if you haven’t already.

Marina Bay Sands

we came here twice. the first time was after visiting the Merlion Park, just to eat dinner and rest our feet while cooling down in the nice AC. the second time was because it was right next across the street from Gardens by the Bay, so we again ate our dinners there.

the place itself at first was overwhelming. i mean… the 3-towers building, a casino, and shops that bear high fashion brands (LV, Prada, and the likes) can be a little over the top to some people (= me). but the place was quite strategic, so we went in anyway. and again, i was in for a nice surprise.

on our first trip there, we saw the Rain Oculus from downstairs, and it was dry, as if it wasn’t even turned on. i only heard stories from my sister that it is some kind of water vortex, that when it’s on, from upstairs you can see the water spinning around and around while it pours down to the floor downstairs.

so the second time we went there, i made sure to catch it on action. when we were there (upstairs), we heard people saying that it only went on every hour. as it was already past 9 pm at that time, i was almost certain that we already missed it. but something told me to wait until at least 9.30, in case it started then anyway. and suddenly, when it was nearing 9.30, we started hearing some Middle Eastern music, loud enough for the whole Marina Bay area to hear. and we had noticed that people were sitting down on the steps in front of the river. was something going to happen?

and something did happen: light and water fountain show! as the show started, we were still standing near the Rain Oculus, and at 9.30, i turned around… and saw that the Rain Oculus was also starting! ❀ so in the end, we got to be treated by 2 shows. okay, so it was still overwhelming to see them in front of some shopping center building, but still it was wonderful!

tip #1: even if you can’t really buy anything from this shopping center, i recommend the food court, Rasapura Masters. i don’t remember the name of this specific food stall, but it sells Korean foods, and their Spicy Kimchi soup was just marvelous. i ordered them twice and they never disappoint.

tip #2: if you want to catch the Rain Oculus and the light & water show, the best time would be either 8 pm or 9.30 pm every night. yes, every night!

Little India

this one was originally my mum’s request. since our apartment was really close to this area, we decided it would be great to see it together.

we started at Mustafa Centre, a 24-hr department store where everything is supposedly very cheap. the products they sell are not necessarily Indian things, so don’t be fooled by its name or location. we actually ended up going here twice or 3 times due to its convenient location.

on my first trip there, something immediately caught my eyes on the 1st basement floor: FABRICS!! that was a nice surprise, as the name didn’t come out when i was looking for places to buy fabrics from Singapore. anyway, they mostly sell Indian fabrics, but there are thousands of ‘normal’ fabrics as well. the ones that i fell in love with, though, were exactly the Indian ones. because where else can i get them, here in Finland? some fabrics are sold by meters, but most of the Indian fabrics are sold per ‘saree’, which means 5-6 meters. at first i only saw that the gorgeous ones costed around 46 to 129 SGD per saree, so i was like, pffttt… i guess i’m only here to look around. but then i suddenly (naturally) found a shelf where there were saree fabrics that costed 17 SGD. that’s less than 3 dollars per meter!! of course i ended up getting one of them, what did you expect? :p

from there we went to eat at a nearby South Indian restaurant that serves vegetarian foods, called MTR. my husband insisted that we went there to try it. and it was a good thing that we did, because the food was fantastic! we loved it so much, we went there the next day, and the next day after that! 😀

then we went on to see Tekka Centre, where there are again dozens of shops that sell Indian clothes and jewelries. by this time i felt like i had bought too many things i couldn’t possibly fit them in my small bag anymore, so i only ended up with a pair of earrings. though my eyes were treated with such nice colours and shapes, it was worth the trip. again, there are no pics from this place because i was too busy window shopping!

the same thing happened when we got to Little India Arcade. there were really nice things here and there, but i couldn’t think of how to bring them back to Finland nor where to put them. we did get something small for our little nephew, A. at least this should still fit in our bags!

tip #1: Mustafa Centre consists of 2 different buildings, the other one is called Serangoon Plaza. they’re both essentially the same and connected by a bridge that you can use from inside each of the building. prices are fixed, so no bargaining here. one thing i learned was that for some reason they do not accept payment by card, even when they have major credit card logos around their cashiers. i suppose there is some minimum amount of payment if you want to use cards, but i failed to find out what is the minimum. it’s best to bring cash.

tip #2: although it is believed that the things in Mustafa Centre are cheaper than in any other place, if you’re looking for generic souvenirs or foods, i suggest you do some research first before deciding to get them there. there are better looking and cheaper generic souvenirs in Chinatown and i saw plenty of the same kind of foods sold for cheaper prices in regular supermarkets.

tip #3: in Tekka Centre and Little India Arcade, again be prepared with cash. whenever the price is not written down, go ahead and bargain… a lot!

Chinatown

we came here straight after scouring Little India. it was fun, seeing the different culture backgrounds back to back.

this was the other place that was on my list, because i had read that there is a place where there are only shops that sell fabrics, and haberdasheries/sewing notions. i was looking forward to seeing the buttons and bias tapes etc., which was why we decided to go anyway even when i had bought enough fabrics. however, after following the instructions on how to get there, we got lost somehow, and didn’t find the building at all.

so in the end we just walked around the area, and stumbled upon the Pagoda street… which was buzzing with people and dozens of shops offering cheap souvenirs!

we also found the Tintin Shop here, which sadly again was left unphotographed. if you’re a fan of Tintin, and have never had the chance to visit any other Tintin shops (we are fortunate enough to have one in Helsinki and had been to the Stockholm one as well), it is worth the visit. the shopkeeper is of course an enthusiast, and a very patient man, so you can ask him anything about the products.

tip: as i already said before in “Little India” tips, Chinatown is the place if you want to get some generic souvenirs like ‘I ❀ SG’ bags, t-shirts, keychains, magnets, etc. they mostly only accept cash, as usual, but then again most of them only cost 2 SGD at the most. it’s the best way to spend your coins.

alright, so that’s it for the second part. one more post to go (and hundreds of pics to edit!), so stay ‘tuned’! 🙂

a Singaporean summer, part 1 of 3

at some point during my time in Indonesia, traveling to Singapore became something ‘ordinary’. perhaps it was the time budget airlines started to pop up here and there, making it so easy and cheap for Indonesians to go there.

but now as a Finn, i can tell you that having a holiday in Singapore is somewhat luxurious. i mean, even the ticket already costs a lot!

for me & my husband, though, it was worth it. because the main thing about this holiday was to meet up my parents & sister & her daughter, yay!

to maximize our time together, we decided to rent an apartment instead of staying at a hotel. airbnb helped a lot! our place was just perfect, right in the middle of everywhere & it was so easy to get around with the MRT.

i have to admit that prior to coming to Singapore, i only had 2 places on my list, both of them for the same obvious reason: to look for fabrics! but i ended up doing much more and going to many other places, getting positively surprised by the things we saw & experienced.

Arab Street

this is one of the places originally on my list. i saw from the internet that it’s a recommended place for buying fabrics, and one of the best stores is called Mahaco Silk. to save my energy (and my companion’s–my mum and my husband), we went straight there first. i found what i was looking for and something else, but i’m not gonna post pics of them yet until i’ve sewn them. 😀 i actually didn’t have time to take any pictures as i was gorging on the views of lovely fabrics, so these pics were taken by my husband. apologies for not having any pics of the Mahaco Silk store, but it should be easy for you to Google it.

tip #1: you can always try to bargain at the stores here. chances are you will get a discount or then the salesperson will offer you another product that has almost the same quality but with less price.

tip#2: it’s always good to prepare cash (and this actually goes for the whole Singapore, not just this street), but surprisingly the Mahaco store accepts most major credit cards. they even have a website and ship fabrics internationally, though they say the prices are in USD. (i haven’t checked it myself, since i’ve really overdosed on fabric-buying.)

Merlion Park

if it weren’t for my sister promising her daughter that we would go there, i don’t think i would’ve even gone there. 😀 it is of course the iconic thing from Singapore, so i suppose it’s okay to go there once in my lifetime.

tip: do NOT attempt to go there on a hot sunny Saturday between 12-4 pm! you would get sunburns, lots of sweat, and there are just really too, too much people/tourists in the park. but we had to do it, just for my niece. so while we were there, we just had to make the most of it, aka take lots of pictures! (i only posted a few to spare you all from boredom.)

Gardens by the Bay

not originally on my list, but my sister’s friend and my cousin’s wife, both living in Singapore, highly recommended it. since we were already in the neighbourhood, my parents and i decided to give it a try. it turned out to be one of the best days of the whole trip, i texted my husband to come along for fun. we all enjoyed it to the max!

in case you didn’t know, it’s completely free to enter the outdoor gardens. what’s not free is if you decide to take the shuttle bus, go up the Supertree Grove, or enter the domes (Flower Dome & Cloud Forest). at first i only wanted to see the free ones, but after seeing the magnificently built Supertree Grove, we finally decided to go up. the time limit is 15 minutes, but it was well worth it!

tip #1: just like the Merlion Park, it’s best to come here after 4 pm. we were lucky that it was cloudy & even drizzling a bit, so we didn’t get any sunburns. however, since there are plenty of mosquitoes–some carry dengue fever–i would advise you to put on mosquito repellent when coming here. even if it wasn’t dengue fever, it would save you from having itchy mosquito bites!

tip #2: my sister came here after us and she stayed until it got dark. she & her daughter got to see the grove trees light up and change colours, and she said it was quite awesome. so if you have the time, try staying there until the lights go up.

before this becomes a much too long post, i’d better stop it here. hopefully i’ll be able to post the ‘sequels’ very soon!

let’s talk about prejudice

i think i can say that i don’t easily get offended by comments from other people that has to do with how i look (= Asian, among Caucasians). since i’m not yet familiar with the Finnish slang words, i doubt i would even understand it if anyone were to offend me with any racist words. 😀 it’s useful to be deaf sometimes.

but i must admit that there are times when the “hidden” meanings annoy me even more than plain racist comments. and here are some that i’ve encountered more than once, and not just towards me here in Finland, but also towards my husband in Indonesia (again, as a reminder, prejudice/racism/discrimination does not only happen in the western world; it happens everywhere).

–“you must like working here!” said some stranger to me while i was at work. at first i didn’t think much of it, and just said something like, “sure, it’s a nice place to work at.” but then she went on to say how it’s great that “somebody like me” can have a job, because she was sure that i would not have the same opportunity in my home country. this was said before she even asked where i came from, and we were talking in the same language. i wondered then if my Finnish was just so bad that i immediately seem ‘foreign’ to her, but then i quickly remembered that i talk the same way to other strangers and they never react the same way as this person. so, i figured, the problem was not with my Finnish, it’s with this particular stranger i was talking with.

and then, as usual, the conversation would went on to this other person asking me if i live here with my family, which would usually mean my parents, my siblings, etc. to which of course i said, no. first of all, it’s really none of anyone’s business who i live with. second of all, upon seeing someone with different skin colour and different eye shapes, of course she would automatically think that i came here with my whole family for a better living. bring the whole neighbourhood to this rich country, steal the native people’s workplace & live happily ever after!

because–and this is an even worse thought–if i had married a Finn, i can’t possibly be working, right? i must be just a stay-at-home mum or shopping-all-the-time wife. the fact that i “like working here” when i wouldn’t otherwise have a job in my home country surely indicates that my whole Asian family is here and i have to work hard to make money for them.

this is just one example, though, and it incidentally happened here in Finland. but rest assured that i’ve seen and heard it many times as well in Indonesia, the ‘locals’ or ‘natives’ being defensive towards ‘foreigners’, thinking that they only want to steal their jobs, steal their land (still traumatized by colonial times, maybe?), etc. and in both countries, people can make these thoughts or beliefs hidden in seemingly polite words.

–a stranger starts talking to you in the assumed ‘native’ language. some (Caucasian) people have tried talking to me in: Thai, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Indian, Chinese. if they were genuinely thinking that i came from one of those countries and wanted to make some kind of conversation to me, i can still laugh about it… though for the life of me, i can’t understand why they did it before asking where i come from. i mean, what if i was born in Finland and have grown up only knowing Finnish language?

anyway, what annoys me is when somebody just say, “ni hao!” or “konnichiwa!” or whatever else just as a way to ‘greet’ me when we pass by each other on the street.

also, making a stereotypical-rhetorical comment/question towards somebody who looks like he/she might come from a specific country falls into the same category. i once sat down next to a guy i didn’t know at the cafetaria of my language course. he wasn’t originally Finnish, and was also a student, just like me. i was being polite and asked if i could sit there since there was nowhere else to sit, and he said yes. and then the next thing he said, before anything else (asking my name or where i was from), upon seeing my lunch for the day (rice), was, “why do Chinese like to eat rice?”

and it wasn’t meant to be a joke, either. i think i only replied, “i don’t know, why don’t you ask a Chinese if you want to know?” with as cold of a tone as possible and ate my lunch as quickly as possible to get the hell away from him.

–“i’m not a racist, because i work with people from all around the world, of all kinds of skin colour, etc.” making a point of saying it to somebody who looks like a ‘foreigner’ does NOT make it sound genuine. i mean, honestly, why bring up the subject in the first place if you really are NOT a racist?

believe it or not, this came out from the same stranger as the one i mentioned at point #1. 😀 i felt like laughing inside when she suddenly said that. of course, when you spell it out like that, it must be really true.

rather than saying it, it would be much more believable if you would act it. talk to me without seeing my skin colour or my eye shape. 90% of the other strangers i meet everyday can do this, so why can’t you?

and to be honest, if you are just curious, i would feel a lot better if you just plainly ask. i never get hurt if someone asks me where i’m originally from, how long i’ve been here, and sometimes even why i came here. straight-forward questions like those are much better than prejudiced statements.

selvisin!

at first i was afraid, i was petrified…

se alkoi kun saimme liput yhteen teatteritapahtumaan mun mieheni isoisĂ€ltĂ€. hĂ€n sanoi samalla, “nyt (minĂ€) voit samalla harjoitella suomen kieltĂ€!”. aivan, teatteriesitys onkin kokonaan suomen kielellĂ€.

rakastan kaikkea teatteri-, ooppera-, musikaali-, tanssiesitystÀ. mutta en ollut koskaan aikaisemmin kÀynyt missÀÀn teatterissa tÀÀllÀ Suomessa, missÀ esitetÀÀn suomen kielellÀ. mun suurin pelko on se, ettÀ en ymmÀrtÀisi mitÀ ne puhuvat, enkÀ nauraisi vitsejÀ. nÀin on mennyt 9,5 vuotta elÀmÀni tÀÀllÀ. ehkÀ nyt olisi aika.

menin sinne mieheni kanssa ja kun saapuimme, musta tuntuu ettĂ€ kaikki silmĂ€t katsoivat minua kohti (varmaankin vain kuvittelin niin, mutta…). ensinnĂ€kin olimme luultavasti ainoa “nuori” pariskunta kun kaikki muut olivat n. +60v. 😀 ja se ettĂ€ en nĂ€ytĂ€ perinteiseltĂ€ suomalaiselta oli varmaan toinen syy. voin melkein kuulla mitĂ€ he ajattelivat: onko hĂ€n (= minĂ€) vÀÀrĂ€ssĂ€ paikassa? miten hĂ€n voisi nauttia tĂ€stĂ€ esityksestĂ€ kun ei ymmĂ€rtĂ€isi suomea? kyllĂ€ jĂ€nnitti. mutta, the show must go on!

kun esitys alkoi… hei, minĂ€hĂ€n ymmĂ€rsin mitĂ€ tuo sanoi. ja tuo, ja hĂ€n, ja se. ja hei, se oli hauskaa! hahaha, ja nauroinkin vitsejĂ€, vaikka ne olivat kaikki suomen kielellĂ€! enkĂ€ teeskennellyt, vaan oikeasti ymmĂ€rsin kaiken! yes, i did it! selvisin sen! aivan mahtava fiilis tuli sen jĂ€lkeen! 🙂

kyse oli siis komedia esitys, jonka nimi on Kaktuksen Kukka (perustuu 60-luvun samannimiseen ranskalaiskomediaan, Cactus Flower / Fleur de cactus). siinĂ€ esiintyy mm. Santeri Kinnunen, Satu Silvo, ja Eija Vilpas. Silvo oli mun suosikki, hĂ€n on niin hyvĂ€ nĂ€yttelijĂ€! rooli sopii hĂ€nelle tĂ€ydellisesti. tykkĂ€sin myös Vilpaksen toiminta (vinkki: jos olet menossa katsomaan tĂ€tĂ€, etsipĂ€s hĂ€nen 2 muuta ‘salaroolia’ siinĂ€).

venue oli Areena, ‘pieni’ teatterisali Hakaniemen kauppahallin edessĂ€. se muistuttaa mua erÀÀn teatterisaliin Jakartassa joka veikkaan on yhtĂ€ vanhaa ja pientĂ€ (mutta just sopiva koko). lavaste ja rekvisiitta oli tosi hyvĂ€ ja toimiva, sillĂ€ kun kohtaus vaihtuu nekin vaihtuvat samalla nopeasti ja vaihto oli saumaton.

suosittelen tĂ€mĂ€ esitys lĂ€mpimĂ€sti kaikille joka haluaa hyvÀÀ fiilistĂ€, varsinkin kun ulkona on nĂ€in kylmÀÀ ja muutenkin masentavaa. huomasin vain yksi juttu kun olin lĂ€hdössĂ€ pois teatterilta silloin: kaikilla oli rento, kukaan ei lĂ€htenyt huonolla mielellĂ€ vaan jokaisessa kasvoissa oli vĂ€hintÀÀn iso hymy. jopa miehenikin sanoi ettĂ€ se oli hauskaa, eikĂ€ hĂ€n muistanut milloin hĂ€nellĂ€ oli niin paljon hauskaa missÀÀn esityksessĂ€ tĂ€tĂ€ ennen. olen samaa mieltĂ€. 🙂

lue lisÀÀ esityksestÀ tÀssÀ.

in short: for the first time ever in my life, i went to see a comedy play which was performed completely in Finnish. and i understood everything! i even laughed at the jokes, yay! thanks to my husband’s granddad who gave us the tickets and hinted that this would be the perfect way to brush up my Finnish. he was right, and i had so much fun! (hence i felt compelled to write the story in Finnish.)

PS. i know there must be plenty of mistakes in my Finnish writings, anteeksi vaan. well, practice makes perfect! 😉