28 June 2010

Being Happy!

The most wasted day of all is one in which we have not laughed.

25 June 2010

Midnight Walk

Renuka sure caught me by surprise by calling me at 10:00PM last Saturday night. Actually I should not use the word night…that's relevant in India…but not here! Saturday evening would be more appropriate. They were out on a walk and quite close to my house and wanted to know if I would like to join them.

Obviously yours truly wouldn’t refuse and within 5 minutes I was on the road. It was nice and bright and the sun was at the same level as around 5:00 PM on a Summer afternoon in India.

I thought it was quite late and we would probably walk for around 10 mins and then  return. But they seemed to have something else in mind. So we walked from my house towards Meritulli harbour, but not using the usual route from the main road. But some convoluted route from behind my house through some nice green area…full of the famous Finnish mosquitoes!

Yes…mosquitoes …sounds a bit odd. But it is true. The are zillions of mosquitoes here. Initially in March when someone mentioned mosquitoes in the coffee area in office, I thought they all were just pulling our legs…teasing us about the mosquitoes in India and joking around. Specially so because of the way he went on about how big the mosquitoes are. I couldn't believe him. But I guess not. In fact Shriram, an Indian friend I made here described it beautifully - ‘if you don't use mosquito repellent, they can carry you all the way from Tornio to Rovaniemi!!!’ But the nice thing is…they seem to like the outdoors only, and even though I leave my balcony windows and door open, they don’t enter the house. And more importantly you don't need to fear Malaria, Chikungunya…they are quite harmless.

By the time we reached the City Centre it was 11:30 PM and was the city alive? All these months I have never been out so late and till around 7:00-8:00 PM, the market can be quite dull and normal. In fact I had thought that the Finns aren't fond of Pubs the way they are in UK. The scene in the market square at 11:30 PM was what I had often seen in London when I left at 5:00 PM from office. Everyone hanging out on the roadside bars and cafes enjoying their drinks. I guess the late sun here makes the people start their evenings much much later!!

We just hung around at Renuka’s place till 00:30 (I like writing it like that…seems to give more emphasis on the time!) and then went down again so that we could walk back to my place. You would think that by now the city would have quietened up a bit and maybe darkened up. Well..no. They were still as many people in the market place and they don't lie when they say you can sit on the roadside and read a newspaper without any street lights at midnight here in Summer!!! It is absolutely TRUE.

24 June 2010

Crowded Buses and Long Queues

So I see this add on the Oulu city tourist website – “The world’s largest sailing ship SEDOV will arrive in Oulu at the Oritkari harbour” You could watch the ship’s arrival from several places including Nallikari. But that would be on a Friday afternoon, and with the way our UAT was going I had a strong feeling we wouldn't be able to get out for an hour or so in our lunch time to see the arrival. That was a bit of a disappointment, as I would have liked to see the sail ship with all its sails open.

But then there was this other option to visit the ship that weekend. The tickets which included the bus transport from and back to the City center and entrance to the ship’s public spaces was only 5€. That was a bit of a pleasant surprise since generally Finland is quite expensive and the minimum bus ticket fare (one way) is 2.90€. But what surprised me a lot was that they hoped (that's the word used on the brochure) that everyone will buy their tickets in advance. I was thinking…how many people are there in Oulu, that we need to get tickets in advance!!!

Was I shocked? U bet! When we approached the bus point we could see several people getting on to the bus. That was still OK. When I reached closer and entered the bus…IT WAS FULL AND PEOPLE WERE STANDING!!! Like a bus in India. Not Oulu!!! There were days when I got late at office and I would be the ONLY one on the bus.

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Bus on the way to Sedov Ship!!

Bus on a normal day!


Well…the shock didn't end there. When we reached the ship, I saw a queue of about 25 –30 people and I was like...oh no!what a long queue!!! IMG_5677After an hour on the ship, I just looked over and what I saw made me thank my stars that we came when we did. WOW...that was some queue!!! But the amazing part was, like in all other parts of Europe, how everyone including the small children were standing in an organized way and waiting so patiently for their turn. It looked as if the whole of Oulu was there. Later I read that 20000 people visited the ship that weekend! I couldn’t stop imagining if this was in India…there would definitely have been a stampede. This is one of THE things that I wish we could somehow enforce in India… no cutting queues!!! By the time we left the queue was some 250 people long at least and the waiting time would have been close to an hour. Even on the ship, people weren’t just roaming around at will, but moving slowly in a queue to take a complete round of the ship. so damn organized!!!

The ship itself was a beauty! Sedov, so named by the Russians when they acquired it after World War 2 after the Russian polar explorer George Sedov. IMG_5661The big modern cruise ships are no comparison to the traditional sailing ship. This one in use since 1921, holds several records…world’s largest sailing vessel still in use, also the longest training ship which is used to train the marine cadets since the Second World War when this vessel was used as a school ship in the Baltic Sea. And that’s why we saw young sailors  boys and girls on the ship. It can accommodate round 100 cadets being taught navigation and engineering. In its Cargo carrying days it used to take only 92 days to reach the Isle of Wight from Sydney.

As we left the ship, I couldn't help wishing that I too get a chance to sail on this beauty...It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning.

17 June 2010

O-India, Cycling, Indian Cultural Evening in Oulu!

I heard of an Oulu India group when I first came to Oulu. I tried to get in touch with one email id given on that site, but didn’t get any response and then just let go (I was told later that they don't entertain emails from official IDs. They want our personal IDs.). I nearly jumped out of my skin when about 3 months later, as Harsha and myself were window shopping at Rotuaari, we heard a loud, jolly voice asking us – are you Indians? It was Jacob Uncle and then he went on to explain to us about Indian community …the surprise being that there are nearly 200+ Indians in Oulu!!! and he was their patriarch! We were introduced to the term Findian – Indians staying in Finland. He gave us a quick rundown on how he had landed there etc. Told us to visit his blog and add ourselves to the Google group.

2 days later, I bumped into Renuka in the market square, a girl we had met at Nallikari when we first came to Oulu. She told us about some Cricket match that was happening and we decided to go with her…and who do we see there? Our very own Jacob Uncle!!!

What a day!!! Met several Indians and came to know what an active social life they keep…what with cricket matches, cultural programs and just general get togethers.

But the best part of the day was the Cycling! Wow…after nearly 20+ years I tried cycling again IMG_5580and in 2 mins I had overcome all apprehensions and doubts…it is true…YOU NEVER FORGET CYCLING!

Rubini had got her cycle along to practice, but between me and Harsha we didn’t want to return it to her. In fact we didn’t want to give anyone else a chance. Once she had it she didn’t want to give it to me and when I had it I didn’t want to give it to her! Rubini could have earned a few quick bucks if she decided to loan out her cycle for 30 mins!!!

After the match got over, we went to Jacob Uncle’s office just to hang around. There are 4 flats there that he rents out and loads of cycles. So while some played Badminton, some Carom, I got him to unlock a cycle for me and went off again!

It was awesome! I was so excited that I wanted to get myself a good second hand cycle and started asking all the people around if it is possible. Arun, from the university promised to help me and even tried. But unfortunately, the last week of May when many students return and decide to sell of their stuff, I had to go to India for urgent work and couldn’t get hold of a cycle. :-(. But the search continues!

After few days I heard that Oulu Indians are planning a Cultural evening on 12th June, what with a full toosh singing and dancing program. Went for one of their planning meetings and was amazed to see the enthu that these people had. They had booked a nice YMCA hall and had nice professional posters printed and put up everywhere…including my office.

ManpreetJMIt was an excellent program around the Seasons in India, with all of them doing nice Bollywood numbers that went well with each season. I guess for me the surprise package was Bala, which I did tell him. Rubini, his wife, I kinda expected would dance well as I had seen in her one of the initial meetings show everyone a sample. But Bala had this ‘kuch toh kar layngay’ approach – we’ll do something…like this..like that.  But he did dance very well!!!

I had invited my friend Sirpa for the evening and she looked beautiful in the Indian outfit I got for from India. Infact she was quite happy as someone mistook her for an Indian and she took this as a compliment!!!

Kudos to all who the O-Indians who organized the event so well and to all the participants who put up such a great show!

06 June 2010


Dear Lord,
So far today I've done all right. I haven't gossiped, haven't lost my temper, and haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish or overindulgent. I'm very thankful for that. But in a few minutes, God, I'm going to get out of bed. From then on, I'm going to need a lot more help.

05 June 2010

Pleasant Surprises

Tring Tring…my phone ringing on a Saturday morning…and that too an unrecognised Finland no. Was I surprised??? It was Sirpa, a lady I had chatted with for a couple of minutes in the office break out area. She had made the effort to call my manager to take my number from him.

She wanted to take us with her to a place called Koiteli, about 20 kms from Oulu where the Kiiminkijoki river runs.

I sure was pleasantly surprised! I asked her where should we reach…and she was like… we will come and pick you up. That was the 1st surprise of the day!

The second surprise was Koiteli itself. This was in early May and the river was so full of water because of all the snow that has just melted…lots of rapids with people river rafting, which actually bought back memories of another trip quite a few years back.

The place itself was very beautiful….a perfect picture postcard place. It had a freshness about it. Bright blue sky, white clouds, a rapidly flowing clear blue river, CLEAN river banks…

It was so peaceful…maybe some 10 – 15 people only. When we parked the car, there were some 3-4 other cars and one mini van and Marco, Sirpa’s husband was like…its quite busy here today!!!!

I couldnt help thinking of all the picnic spots in India where we have rivers and falls. On a weekend, easily one can see some 20-25 buses and uncountable cars…And all the kids and adults in the water, having a blast, making so much noise.

We walked around a a bit. It is like several small islands in the river.

And then it was time to leave. Again I suggested to Sirpa that Harsha and myself could take the bus back to Oulu, but she surprised me ONCE AGAIN. She invited us to her place for some snacks and tea. That is so so unlike Europeans. I thought that it is ONLY Indians, who will open their houses to everyone and even offer the master bedroom to house guests while they themselves  will take the couch. Only Indians who go overboard with cooking for guests!

But so was the case with Sirpa. She laid out a full table of snacks for us. I was so touched.

This just reiterates the point I have made in in several posts that the Finnish people are very warm and nice. Don't know why when I say this to any Finn he or she insists that they are surprised to hear that, as they are generally an unfriendly race!!!

03 June 2010


The way the seasons change here is amazing.

First it was the way the snow melted…2 days flat and it was mostly gone.

3rd May we had a team outing to HailuotoIsland and though it was a nice sunny day and so called Spring was here, there was this chill in the air and we had to have our jackets and mufflers on. I thought it should take another one month for the weather to improve.

Barely 10 days later, and I was sweating…13th May Ascension Day and a holiday here. Decided to walk via Pikkisari Island to Nallikari Beach.

When I went to pick up my friend she was like, its quite a warm day, don't think we need our jackets.  My advice to her…we are going near the beach, there may be wind and it may get chilly. In these places you never know about the weather so carry your jacket.

10 mins of walking and I was like…this woman must be cursing me. It was bloody warm. It seemed more like SUMMER than Spring. When I returned home I checked…the temp was +28!!!

I was just wondering…that it gets quite warm in May itself and these people always say July and August are warm…so it may get quite hot here at that time. Then I was told, this weather is unusual at this time of the year. Infact someone also said, there are only 6 –7 days in the year when temps are above +25…and they have come so soon!!!

On the way we noticed that the bare trees that we had seen barely 2 days back were now sprouting the leaves. And it took just 2 more days before they were nice green leafy trees.

Same street, in late Winter and in Spring…just 2 days after we saw the buds in the trees!

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It was a nice, long walk…about 3.5 kms all the way to the beach. The first ice cream trailer I saw and I was like…that is needed!!!! Those people were doing some business as every single person seemed to have an ice cream in their hands. It seemed that the whole of Oulu was out….walking and cycling. They were making the most of the 1st warm day of the year.

As we reached the beach, the only thing that I wanted to do was remove the warm socks that I was wearing and get into the water. Yikes…the water was COLD! Ok..agree, it was still Spring and not Summer!

Then me being myself…got all excited. I couldnt get over that this is the same place that I visited in Winter. I kept telling Harsh again and again that here na…there was all snow. Not a drop of water to be seen. And I wanted to take snaps…the then and now kinda snaps!

In the 1st snap, we are standing on a snow wall which is actually the row of stones that can be seen behind me in snap 3. Also the light house in the 2nd snap can also be seen way behind us in a bed of snow in snap 1.

37 Thats the beach behind us


In one of my previous posts on Spring, I had pictures of the same place in Winter and early Spring. Next in series is the same place in late Spring.


I may say Summer, but the Oulu people say, Summer is not here yet. It will come in July.  Lets see what the place looks like then.

There is JUST one reason for me to want to be here longer than August…and that is to capture this place in Autumn!