don’t you just love goodbyes?

i know i’m not supposed to feel this way, jealousy is bad for my health, and regrets will get me nowhere.

but i can’t help feeling it right now, argh.

okay, to cut the drama short, i just saw some pics of my old workplace that i left last October to work at my current workplace. i mean, i knew then that they were going to have some renovation, but we didn’t know that the renovation includes the whole interior of the place. at least i didn’t. for all i knew, they were going to renew the pipes, and everything else that’s hidden under the floors and above the ceilings.

and now i just saw the pics of the newly renovated place… and it looks so good, i wanna cry! they changed practically all the interiors and have like a completely new concept which looks awesome! ESPECIALLY the department where i used to work at, dammit! i mean, i truly am happy for my ex co-workers there, but it’s kind of like this big joke that almost exactly after i moved out then they did something THAT nice. and not that i would go back there again anyway, but still! why?? why now??? why not, like, five years from now??? *scrapes the ground*

rumour has it that the renovation will also be done to all the other branches, and since i basically still work for the same company, it is bound to happen to my current workplace, too. but knowing my company and their ‘plans’, this would take a while. like, 5 years from now. isn’t it just grand?

don’t you just love goodbyes?

letting go, pt. 2

a few years ago, when i was happily living at our old apartment, working at a place right at the heart of the city, i thought i wouldn’t trade them for anything. i wasn’t that young anymore, after all, and it wasn’t easy to do what i do in my job in a foreign language (ie. Finnish language). and back in my home country, i was used to living & working in the bustling city of Jakarta. no, i thought, i wouldn’t give up any of those.

then i read a blog post of a friend of mine who was living somewhere in Germany at that moment. she wrote something about going out of your comfort zone, exploring new stuffs, being ready for new adventures. she was younger than me, so when i read it, i thought, well, that’s not for me. the thing was, she was an Indonesian living abroad, alone, and that, for her, was going out of her comfort zone. she was happy living in our home country, but decided to go abroad to study, etc. (i forgot if she in the end got a job there as well).

i thought i was already out of my comfort zone when i moved here, and i already was having a new adventure in a whole new country. but it is surprising how quickly that new environment becomes your new comfort zone.

i didn’t feel it when i was doing it, but eventually i felt like something was missing in my life. i missed the excitement, i missed the wonder of the new surroundings, i missed having a life other than my routine stuffs.

then came the news: we were moving to a new home. this place is further away from the heart of the city, and though it’s no countryside or anything, it’s less developed than our old place. our last apartment was in an area where there were plenty of tall office buildings and a big shopping mall where you can find almost everything (what would Jakartans be without their shopping malls…), whereas this one only has 2 supermarkets, a tiny shopping center and a few fast food restaurants.

but didn’t i ask for it? i asked for a new adventure, after all, so when we were offered this place, i said let’s go for it.

and then came the realization: my everyday commuting would take a much longer time. and indeed it did. an hour for each direction. that’s 2 hours of my daily life, on top of the 8-9 hours of work i do every day. when i go home, all i could do was prepare/eat dinner, take a shower, and hit the bed, and the next day it’s the same thing all over again. it’s doable, of course, but i couldn’t help thinking, is this really what i want in my life?

well, no. and there was also the fact that i missed some sort of excitement.

at the same time when we were offered this new home, i was offered a new workplace. same job, same company, but a new workplace that’s, coincidentally, closer to home. the downside is, if you can call it that, that this place is smaller than my current workplace, i won’t be the head of a department, and it’s not at the heart of the city. but otherwise, i get the same salary, if not slightly more, since i would also sometimes have to work on Sundays (double salary on Sundays!).

so after deciding to move to a new house, i again had to decide if i wanted to take this new job. was i ready to go out of my comfort zone? was i ready to start something again? was i ready to let go of my old life?

it was just a small voice at that moment, saying, “yes, i want this.” but as days went by, spending 2 hours for going to & from my old workplace in the heart of the city, the voice grew louder each day, until i was finally ready.

yesterday, i let it all go. after 5,5 years of working at my old workplace, it was time for me to go on with my life. i don’t know yet where it will lead me, i don’t even know if i made the right decision. maybe people would think i’m crazy for letting go a work life in the heart of the city for a small place in a small town, letting go of a quite good position for a normal position. but all i know is that i can’t ignore that loud voice in my heart, the one that’s telling me that i need this to make my life exciting again.

this was the longest time i’ve ever spent on working at one place, by the way. and it also happened to be my first workplace in Finland. there were so many good memories there, and i made more friends than i thought i ever would. but the stars are moving, the winds are blowing to a new direction, and so we are also moving to a new chapter in life.

now, the excitement of the new workplace awaits. 🙂

army of me

i’m a different person at work and at home. i don’t know if that’s normal, but to me it has always been like that. it’s something that’s got to do with what kind of work you do, i guess, and since i’m working in a sort of a customer service kind of job, at work i don’t show my true colours 100%.

at home, (or anywhere else when i’m with my closest circle of friends/family) i am quite impatient. i have a short fuse, and it really doesn’t take much to make me get angry, especially when i’ve just lost some sleep (which happens quite often). thankfully my husband understands this and stands by me. 😀

at work, i have to be the exact opposite kind of person. i have to be patient, listen to what the customers want, and serve & help them from start to finish, so when they leave they’ll feel satisfied with the service. i do this around 50 times (more or less) a day, 5 days a week. don’t ask me how i can stand it, i also never thought i’d be able to do it for this long.

it helps to remember how i would also like to be treated when i walk into a store or some other similar place where i expect to be served well, and that, i think, is how i always manage to hold down my impatience at work. i wouldn’t like it if i was greeted with a sour face, so i smile all the time at my customers. i wouldn’t like it if i was treated with any kind of prejudice, so i always treat all my customers the same way, young or old, any skin colour, etc.

some customers come in with expectations that when they look like they have more money than others, that means they should be treated better than those others who don’t. some come in with expectations that when they say they’re in a hurry, even if there are 3 or 4 other people waiting in line to be served before them, they should be served first and right away. some customers look at people like me as if we are their servants. some customers blame people like me if for some reason they don’t find what they’re looking for, even if it just so happens that our working place doesn’t have that product or service to begin with.

and through all that, i always keep my smile and hold down my impatience. because that is what working in this line of work means. dealing with these kinds of people (and more pleasant ones too, thankfully) is an everyday thing.

generally, i am open to critics too at work. i can accept negative feedbacks, as long as they are constructive and right in their places.

but not when the negative feedback is a full-stretched exaggeration of what actually happened to the point that i believe this person was delusional.

i can understand that when we are angry about something, we feel the need for the whole world to know that. but must we really add untruthful details just to get the whole world to agree on our side, or sympathize with us? and do we think of what that means to the person/s who’s the object of our anger, when we start adding these lies to our stories? how would that (adding lies) help get us what we wanted by giving a negative feedback? we’re letting out our negative energy to other people, and at the same time brewing up yet another new negative energy from the object of our anger by telling lies about them.

when this happened to me recently, i was fortunate that my everyday attitude at work for the past (almost) 6 years was clearly visible to my boss that she believed my side of the story. but the harm was already done, the wound had happened to my heart, that i would always remember this for the rest of my life, how someone is capable of saying such a lie for God knows what reason.

not long after that, it happened the other way around to me, that i experienced an unpleasant service from some other place. i was so angry, and right away i called my husband to rant about it. he calmly suggested that i give them a negative feedback. so i came home, took a glass of water, calmed myself down, and built myself a happy mood before finally going to the website of this place to write a negative feedback.

i wrote as clear & accurate as i could, not adding any lies or unnecessary things, and i specifically wrote that it was not this one person that i was disappointed at, but the way things were organized in this place. after clicking the ‘send feedback’ button, i felt light and my positivity recharged.

no longer than an hour later, i got a reply from the general manager of this place. i got everything i asked for: apology, explanation, and promise for a better service in the future. mission accomplished, without having to ignite any new pain.

wouldn’t it be nice if everyone else also does it this way? imagine all the hurt and pain we could avoid causing to other people, just for the sake of your own anger being let out & heard.

i for one will keep on doing it this way. it’s effective, and it doesn’t even make me feel bad afterwards. 🙂 to this person who told lies about me and my other co-workers, you do know that you’ll only reap what you sow, right? keep sending negativity towards other, and you’ll only get more negativity in return.

and if you complain once more, just like Björk once said, you’ll most likely meet an army of me.

warming up

oh my, 2 weeks had gone by since the last time i wrote here, eeek! and actually, it’s almost been that long too that i haven’t had the chance to read anyone else’s blog or stay that long on the internet….

right after the independence day holiday here, we went to my mum-in-law’s to make ginger bread cookies. yes, you read me right. this is the second time in my whole life that i participated in making these cookies (the first time was last year, LOL), and this time we decided to step it up a bit and make a complete ginger bread house, yay!!

isn’t it cute?? not bad for a first timer (=me)! 😀 my mum-in-law made the pieces of the house, and i decorated all of them except for the roof parts (they’re done by my mum-in-law). too bad my husband only took a picture of it from this side, i actually like the other side of the house better. :p oh, and the trees were made & decorated by my husband. 😀 i love how the house reminds me of the witch’s house in Hansel & Gretel’s story (or how i’ve always pictured it in my mind, at least). now this house is in our house (um… that doesn’t sound right, but that’s how it is!), and after Christmas we’re gonna eat it all, hnyuck hnyuck hnyuck!

at the same time that weekend, i was offered a project by one of my ex-colleagues from a women’s magazine i used to work at when i was in my home country. it was to make 12 illustrations for that magazine (both print version and online), and the deadline was in 7 days. at first i actually said no, since i didn’t think i’d have the time to finish it, what with my full time job and all. but she kept pushing me to please try to at least send them one example of my drawings, and they were going to decide the following Monday which illustrator would finally get to do the project. so i did it, right after we went home from making the ginger bread house, and finished colouring it by that night. just as a bonus, i decided to send in my old illustrations too, ones that were never published anywhere (and i actually only printed them to decorate our own house).

i was surprised when they sent me an email the next morning that they chose me, based on those old illustrations i sent them as a bonus. 😀 after negotiating the deadline (which was finally expanded to 10 days instead of 7), i finally said yes.

and that’s when the race with time began. apparently my nightmare before Christmas this year didn’t have to do with the Christmas itself at all, it was this project. so last week, every day after work, i would go work on these illustrations and since i only had Sunday as a day off last week, i really had to push myself to do most of the work that day. in the end, i managed to finish everything on time, and (at least they said) they’re really pleased with the results. now i’m just waiting for them to be published! double yay! (and i will surely post them here too when they’re out, LOL.)

it was last night that i sent them the final files of my illustrations, and it pleased me this morning to read an email from them saying that they really liked them. it set me off to a very good mood, especially since something else was coming tonight.

or actually, it was “someone” else.

she was one of my closest high school mates, and we haven’t seen each other ever since we graduated from high school. we actually lost contact for so many years, and were reunited thanks to Facebook (yeah, Facebook has some good side after all). she came to Finland for a personal reason, and i was so happy that she made time to meet me! it really put the cherry on top of every tiredness i went through for the past few weeks. 🙂

tomorrow will be my last day of work in 2012, and then my 2 week holiday starts! yippee!! all our Christmas presents are wrapped and put under our mini Christmas tree, so yes, i would say we’ve done our warming up for Christmas this year. though i personally won’t mind warming up some more, since it’s already -10C here (and the snow is as high as my tummy. yikes!).

in case i won’t be able to write again until after Christmas: HAVE A MERRY, JOLLY CHRISTMAS!! this goes  to all of you, even if you don’t celebrate Christmas… have a good one, anyway! 😀

photo credits: ginger bread house picture was taken by my husband, and the picture of me & my friend was taken by my friend’s boyfriend.

six years

yesterday marked my six years of living in Finland.

every year, on that day, i would think of where i was on November 2006. i would try to remember what i was feeling, what i was thinking. and i almost always came to the same conclusion: how quick time has gone, and how many things i’ve learned.

did it even occur to my mind back then when i was checking in to the plane that six years from then, i would be speaking Finnish on an everyday basis? no. that i would have a permanent job with monthly income (= not hourly)? no. well, i certainly hoped i would, but in reality, i knew my chances were rather slim.

prior to moving to Finland, i bought this small Learn How To Speak Finnish book (don’t remember if it was from Berlitz or Lonely Planet). it wasn’t the audio kind, just a written text book, and i had to figure out myself how to pronounce the ä, ö, and y (at first i thought the y is pronounced like the Indonesian ‘i’. my husband–then my boyfriend–laughed when he heard this. gee, thanks). i managed to learn numbers 1 to 10, but that was about it. when i found out that i was going to move permanently to this country, i decided to leave the book behind….

… because i would be handed to the professionals here. 🙂

i knew i had to learn the language, but on the other hand, i was impatient (have always been). having gotten used to the fact that finding a job in my home country is easy (= you don’t have to really study in the same field as the job you’re after or have a degree in it to land a certain job… as long as you really are good in what you do or what they expect you to do in that position, and also good in selling yourself to them, you’ll get it), right after i moved here, i tried to apply to various jobs, those that i clearly don’t have enough educations on but lots of experiences with. i tried applying for a visual merchandiser and fashion designer, even though my highest education was for advertising. needless to say, i never got any replies from them (who was i kidding?).

after i got the residence permit, we went straight away to register myself to the country’s employment office. that was when i found out that there are such things as free Finnish language courses. well, then, sign me up, please!

i got into one pretty quickly after that, and what do you know? not only was the language course free, i also got paid from the country to go to the course. how nice is that?

once i started learning Finnish for real, after about the first 3 months of the language course, i became impatient again. once again, i tried sending in my job applications, as a salesperson this time, in various places. i remember walking in to one of the most famous Finnish design stores after seeing a job opening announcement at the front door of their store, with all my strength and guts, i said, “i’d like to apply for the job, please.” when the manager of the store came to see me, and listened to my basic Finnish, she said, “unfortunately, the person we’re looking for has to be able to speak fluent Finnish.”

after that, i was so angry and ashamed. at myself, of course. how could i be so stupid to think that i would even have a chance to work at a store here in Finland without speaking fluent Finnish? i would have to serve customers, listen to what they want to get, etc. in Finnish, and with my minimum knowledge of the language back then, it’s a laugh that i even tried to talk to the manager of the store.

i continued learning the language at the course, but whenever i’m at home i’d complain to my husband how my brain was tired from thinking of the correct Finnish word for this and that, and because of that i’d always switch back to English. i began feeling sorry for myself, so sure that i would never be able to find a job with this language barrier. i could probably get a job that won’t require me talking to anyone in Finnish (in cleaning service, perhaps?), but i was a too untidy person myself to even think of applying for a job in cleaning service. i tried to seek friends in the same position as i was, and became pampered when i heard i wasn’t the only one thinking it’s ridiculous to learn Finnish when there are only about 5 million people in the whole fricken world who speaks the language. 5 million. that’s less than the population of my home city alone!

but when i told my husband all this, he reminded me of the other things i didn’t think about. how this country provided free language courses for people like me, and how this country even pays those people who goes to the language courses like me. other than those things, there are also about a dozen things this country has to offer for people like me that my home country, for example, doesn’t offer to expats/immigrants. so instead of complaining, shouldn’t i be thankful that i was given a chance to experience all this? and as a thank you, shouldn’t i give something back to this country?

even though it made sense, it took me a while to finally feel it from inside my heart. to feel: yes, i do want to contribute something to this country, rather than just saying it because it seemed right. at the end of my language course, which was about 10 months from the first day i walked into the class, i had to do an intern job. while i knew my written grammar, i felt way unprepared for the real world. spoken Finnish language is really something else, and i thought for sure it would take me some years until i could finally get a real job.

but God had other plans, it seemed. around 2 months after i finished my language course and the intern, the manager of the place i interned at gave me a call and asked if i was interested in working for them for real. remembering how pathetic i was when i interned there (according to myself), i couldn’t really believe that she was serious. but she was. and of course i was interested! are you kidding me??

i started out as a part-timer, doing a 10 hour job every week, and slowly moved on to 30 hours a week, until finally i got to my position right now.

i finally feel that i have done & given something back to this country, and i will keep doing so. looking back now, i can say that all it took was patience and persistence. and open mindedness.

so after six years, this is now where i am at. can’t wait to see where i will be in the next 10, 20 years. 🙂

please don’t look at me like that

i once read in Sophie Kinsella’s book (one of the Shopaholic series… yes, i do read chick lits, too) about how the main character, Becky, learned how to do ‘the sweeping look’, or something like that. in that book, it basically means how a person living in New York (and most likely a fashionista) would know how to quickly (like… in 1 or 2 seconds, i’d imagine) look at another person from head to toe, to know what that other person’s wearing. and of course, he/she would then judge you based on that sweeping look.

yes, you may roll your eyes. i did, too, when i read it. but what made me roll my eyes was that the truth is, there ARE people like that. and not just in New York.

i know this, because i’ve been a victim of this sweeping look for God knows how many times. i don’t usually mind it if it’s only people trying to see my weird sense of fashion a bit better, in fact, i’m used to it & take it as a compliment. 😀 but what bothers me sometimes is when i KNOW that it’s not my clothes that they’re looking at. it’s ME.

i am an Asian-looking woman, living in a Nordic country, so yes, i understand if i look out of place here, no matter how i dress up.

but when i’m already working in a place where i speak with customers in the local language on a daily basis, it does bother me that some people would still first try to do the sweeping look at me while i’m at work, and then scrutinize my name tag (we wear name tags at work, just like in any other store), and then they still ask, “do you work here?”

… why no, i just put on a fake name tag for fun, what do you think???

i even once had a customer who, after reading my name on my name tag, mumbled (out loud), “oh, not a Finnish name….” that did it already, but as a good salesperson, i had to keep calm and serve everyone just the same. i ended up cutting pieces of 30cm of fabrics for her, and she still wasn’t happy. probably because she didn’t get a Finnish service.

also, another one, this one was actually quite a young woman who happened to come to me right after i finished helping a customer who was a tourist, so of course i spoke English with this previous customer. when i greeted this young woman, she spoke to me in English as well, and asked, “do you speak Finnish?” ummm… i’m working in a store in Finland, am i not? honestly, how do people think i can get a job in the sales department if i don’t speak the local language?

today it happened again, with a somewhat old woman. first she said, (in Finnish) “excuse me….” and as soon as i turned around, she looked at my Asian face and did the sweeping look. lastly, she searched for my name tag. i don’t know what she’s expecting to see there, my job position, maybe? making sure that i’m not just an ‘intern’? when she finally asked the price of some piece of fabric, my eyes were almost ready to roll upwards again, but as always, i smiled and served her. she didn’t even say thanks afterwards, by the way. nice.

i’m ‘thisclose’ to saying (or thinking) that this is a small form of a prejudice, but by saying/thinking that, i know that i myself am doing the same thing to them, so let’s not go over there. but it’s hard to not feel that way when they don’t do the same thing to my other co-workers.

i sometimes have interns working as my ‘assistant’ for a few weeks, and they’re usually school girls. when there’s the two of us standing behind my department’s cutting table, half of the time customers would go first to the intern to ask for help, rather than to me. they don’t look at the intern in a sweeping look, they don’t even look for her name tag (which clearly says ‘intern’!!!). only when the intern started to look at me nervously do the customers realize the intern’s name tag, and yes, i always come to the rescue (for the intern).

let’s say it’s not a case of prejudice. it still bothers me, though, because it makes me feel like these people underestimate me just because of my look. and if there’s one thing i really dislike is to be thought of as stupid or incompetent. okay, i’m sure (or pretty sure) they don’t think that way when they do the sweeping look or see my name tag, but still.

i mean, come on. you don’t really think a store would hire someone to sell things when he/she can’t really speak their language and not know the products inside out, do you?

fortunately this doesn’t happen THAT often. sure, i just gave out numerous examples, but those happened in a period of more than 3 years that i’ve worked in this same place. and for some reason, to me it always happens with women. there was one or two old men who would, upon seeing my ‘foreigner’ face, first talk to me in clear Finnish (like the written kind, very, very proper). but then when i spoke to them in everyday Finnish (spoken language), then they would start talking back to me in the same manner, and in the end, they praised me on how i could speak good Finnish even though i’ve only lived here for (back then) 3 or 4 years.

and to be completely fair, i have had tons of women customers (of all ages) who told me how happy and satisfied they are with my service at my work. sometimes some of them even say that they rarely get the same kind of service from Finns. 😀 and though i know my Finnish is not that perfect, but these people appreciate the fact that i’m trying. Finnish language is, after all, one of the hardest languages in the world to learn (so they say).

i can never change my face, and i don’t want to change my name. i may not look like a native, but i’ve tried my best to integrate with this life here. i have learned to not get these kind of things get to me, but sorry, i can’t help writing about it in my own personal blog. :p

hello world, how are youuuu?

yes, i know, it’s been quite some time from the last time i wrote about something, ANYTHING, other than my sewing projects. let’s see, what else have i got? um…nothing?

truthfully, and sadly, other than work, i have no life. yes, i have to admit that now.
4 years after moving to a new country, you’d get caught up in whatever it is you’re busy doing, and you just can’t find time for anything else. at least, that’s my case.
as i’ve written some time ago, i got a small promotion at work earlier this year. by “work”, i mean the fabric store. and then, as if i wasn’t busy enough already, some other opportunity came to me out of the blue.
2 years ago, before i started working at the fabric store, i applied to hundreds of places. one of them was to this interpreter & translator center.
i went to the office, filled in some kind of form, and then they said they’ll let me know whenever they need me. so yeah, it’s basically kinda like a freelance thing.
and then, as luck may have it, i got a more “permanent” job at the fabric store, and i no longer remembered/cared about any other applications i’ve sent to other places.
at the fabric store, i learned basically from zero again, how to speak Finnish in spoken language, how to communicate with actual people rather than teachers or other students. it took me prolly another year to finally somewhat “ace” it.
when i went to Indonesia this summer with my mum-in-law, she would sometimes talk in Finnish to me, and i would translate it to Indonesian (or English) and vice versa. it was fun, and even though i know my Finnish isn’t as perfect as my Indonesian or English, it feels nice to know that she understood everything i said and actually helped her get through different kinds of situations. i also kept talking to her mostly in Finnish so that i won’t forget my Finnish when i got back here.
just when i wasn’t expecting anything more (if not at all), a phone call came at the end of October. surprise surprise, it was from that interpreter & translator center. after 2 years, they finally have a job for me.
my first instinct was to turn them down, since i now already have a full time job. but they begged and begged, that i finally gave in.
here’s the strangest thing: i did my first interpreting gig exactly 4 years after the day that i left Indonesia to move to Finland, November 1st 2006.
if you ask me 4 years ago, what would i be doing in the next 4 years, i wouldn’t even dream of having a side job as an interpreter. or maybe i would dream of it, but it sounded so ridiculous back then, knowing that Finnish language is one of the hardest languages in the world to learn.
4 years ago on that day, i was sitting on the plane, saying goodbye to images of my family and friends in my head, feeling like i’m about to enter a strange new world where i won’t even understand what people are saying. sure, i thought i would someday understand the language, enough to get by, but i thought it would prolly take 10 years of practice.
on November 1st 2010 though, i interpreted Finnish to Indonesian, and Indonesian to Finnish, with no dictionary at hand, only with a piece of paper and a pen.
it felt weird, surreal, and again, kinda nice that i’m actually helping some people.
to make things short, that first gig went well. well enough for them to ask me for a second time (which i unfortunately had to refuse since my full time job at the fabric store is still my number 1 priority). and also a third & fourth time.
yeah, i’m having a nice time. especially remembering how much they pay me for the interpretation work .
..but i can’t help missing my free time. well, you know what they say, you can’t have them all (in this case: money AND free time).
so i do what a human being can do in this kind of situation: thank God for these opportunities that have come my way, help those people in need as much as i can, and pray that maybe one day God will give me some free time to enjoy with my loved ones or do the things i love.