Hyvästi Helsinki.

The last day of the project week is also my last proper day in Helsinki: Tomorrow, I will be travelling to Tallinn and then leave Scandinavia on Sunday. To celebrate an exciting, fun, and informative week, I had a drink in a pub which name might become my new motto for life, and then took a stroll down to the harbour, watching the sunset. Helsinki certainly knew how to bow out in style.

Der letzte Tag der Projektwoche ist auch mein letzter “richtiger” Tag in Helsinki: Morgen geht es nach Tallinn und am Sonntag verlasse ich Skandinavien wieder. Um diese aufregende, lustige und informative Woche angemessen ausklingen zu lassen, habe ich mir ein Cider in einer Bar gegönnt, deren Name mein neues Lebensmotto werden könnte, und ging dann runter zum Hafen, um den Sonnenuntergang zu genießen. Helsinki hat noch einmal alle Register gezogen, um sich eindrucksvoll zu verabschieden.

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High up in Espoo.

As quite a few of my fellow lecturers are already flying out on Friday afternoon/evening, Thursday was our last evening together; Anna-Mari and the other organisers had hence invited us to a farewell dinner in an old water tower in Espoo, about 30 minutes by car from Helsinki.

The initial impression was that of a massive spaceship (think Star Wars meets Nazi architecture), but the inside was surprisingly cozy – and the views were amazing.

Da einige meiner Mitstreiter Helsinki bereits am Freitag nachmittag/abend verlassen werden, war Donnerstag unser letzter gemeinsamer Abend; Anna-Mari und die anderen Organisatoren hatten uns daher zu einem Abschiedsessen in einem alten Wasserspeicher in Espoo eingeladen, ca. 30 Minuten Autofahrt von Helsinki entfernt.

Der erste Eindruck war der eines gewaltigen Raumschiffs (irgendwas zwischen Star Wars und Nazi-Architektur), aber das Innere war erstaunlich gemütlich – und die Aussicht war fantastisch.

After good food, lots of laughter, and a bit of spirit intake, we managed to exit the spaceship without any major injuries, drove back to Helsinki and, as we could not get enough of great views, went to a sky bar in the city centre, enjoying the sunset with a couple of drinks.

Nach einem richtig guten Essen, viel Gelächter und ein wenig Alkoholzufuhr schafften wir es, das Raumschiff ohne größere Verletzungen zu verlassen und fuhren zurück nach Helsinki. Da wir immer noch nicht genug von tollen Aussichten hatten, gingen wir zu einer Sky-Bar in der Innenstadt, wo wir den Sonnenuntergang bei ein paar Getränken genossen.

Suomenlinna.

For Tuesday afternoon, the university had organised a trip to Suomenlinna, a former sea fortress built on a couple of islands just off the Helsinki harbour. With – again – perfect weather, 12 of us took the ferry to the islands and walked around for about 2 hours, peering into old houses and bulwarks, climbed walls and crossed bridges, all the time marvelling at the beautiful landscape.

There are around 900 people who live permanently on the islands, but I would be hard-pressed to tell where; most of the building were museums or (former) military installations, so maybe the inhabited part was sealed off to the public. It was nevertheless a truly magnificent experience, finished off with yet another dinner together at a local restaurant.

Für den Dienstag nachmittag hatte die Uni einen Ausflug nach Suomenlinna organisiert, eine alte Seefestung, die auf ein paar Inseln direkt vor Helsinki’s Hafeneinfahrt gebaut wurde. Bei – wieder einmal – perfektem Wetter fuhren zwölf von uns mit der Fähre rüber und wanderten zwei Stunden lang über die Hauptinseln: Wir guckten uns alte Häuser und Bollwerke an, kletterten über Mauern und überquerten Brücken, und waren alle völlig begeistert von der wunderschönen Landschaft.

Es gibt ca. 900 Menschen, die dauerhaft auf den Inseln wohnen, aber ich könnte nicht sagen, wo; die meisten der Gebäude waren entweder Museen oder (ehemalige) Militäranlagen, von daher war der bewohnte Bereich wohl abgesperrt für den Publikumsverkehr. Es war dennoch ein ganz fantastischer Ausflug, den wir mit einem weiteren gemeinsamen Abendessen in einem örtlichen Restaurant Revue passieren ließen.

Tervetuloa Helsinkiin.

After arriving in Helsinki on Sunday, I decided to focus on work first; there were some things I still had to prepare for Monday’s initial lesson, so I skipped the sightseeing and just went to the corner shop for the necessities.

The first day of the international project week at our partner university was slightly exhausting, but very interesting: With 17 international lecturers, there was a lot of professional exchange, but it become apparent soon enough that some of these guys would also be fun to hang out with. Another thing I learned on the first day was that Finnish people apparently have a thing for names with gemination: The class was full of students called Santtu, Mikko, Pekka, Eetu, Milla, Eliina, IIkka, Jaakko – or something ending with -i (Oskari, Torsti, Pauli, Sami).

In the afternoon, two young ladies from the organising committee took us lecturers for a city walk, providing excellent (and individual) commentary on the architecture and sights in the city centre; I really liked that this was done not by a professional tour guide, but from people who “worked” for the project week and hence had a personal connection to us. We finished the tour on the sky deck overlooking the harbour, with a glass of wine each (10 Euros/glass!); some of us continued with a rather entertaining evening in an Italian restaurant.

Nachdem ich am Sonntag in Helsinki angekommen war, habe ich mich erstmal auf die Arbeit konzentriert; da ich noch einige Dinge für den ersten Unterrichtstag vorbereiten musste, habe ich mir die Stadtbesichtigung gespart und nur das Notwendigste im Supermarkt um die Ecke gekauft.

Der erste Tag der internationalen Projektwoche an unserer Partner-Uni war zwar erschöpfend, aber auch sehr interessant: 17 Dozenten aus 10 verschiedenen Ländern sorgen dafür, dass man sich viel über die Arbeit ausgetauscht hat, aber gleichzeitig wurde schnell klar, dass man mit einigen von ihnen sicherlich auch hervorragend feiern gehen kann. Außerdem habe ich am ersten Tag gelernt, dass Finnen offenbar einen Hang zu Namen mit Gemination haben: Die Klasse war voller Studenten mit Namen wie Santtu, Mikko, Pekka, Eetu, Milla, Eliina, IIkka, Jaakko – oder irgendwas mit einem -i am Ende (Oskari, Torsti, Pauli, Sami).

Am Nachmittag haben uns zwei der Mädels vom Organisationskomitee durch die Stadt geführt und dabei sehr kundig und individuell Auskunft über Helsinki’s Architektur und Sehenswürdigkeiten gegeben. Ich fand es wirklich gut, dass wir keinen “professionellen”Stadtführer hatten, sondern jemanden, die für die Projektwoche tätig waren und daher auch einen persönlichen Bezug zu uns hatten. Wir beendeten die Tour auf der Aussichtsterrasse am Hafen mit einem Glas Wein (10 Euro/Glass!); ein paar von uns hatten dann noch einen sehr vergnüglichen Abend in einem italienischen Restaurant.

Hej till Skandinavien.

My work has many perks I cherish: Flexible working hours, being able to choose what you want to teach, more than 4 months of paid “holidays”, being surrounded by lovely colleagues and students, getting paid for a full-time job while only doing 20 hours a week, … yes, it could be worse.

This year’s highlight, however, was the possibility to teach at one of our partner universities. I was sent an invitation last December, and after checking with the Dean and the International Office, I was given permission to go – with all expenses covered. So I was off to a week in Helsinki, but first …

Mein Job hat sehr viele Vorteile, die ich durchaus zu schätzen weiß: Flexible Arbeitszeiten, freie Wahl bei den Unterrichtsthemen, mehr als vier Monate bezahlten “Urlaub” im Jahr, mit netten Kollegen und Studierenden arbeiten, für einen Vollzeit-Job bezahlt zu werden, wenn man faktisch nur 20 Stunden unterrichtet, … ja, es könnte schlimmer sein.

Das diesjährige Highlight war aber die Chance, an einer unserer Partner-Universitäten zu unterrichten. Ich erhielt die Einladung im Dezember, und nachdem der Dekan und das Internationale Office konsultiert worden waren, durfte ich los – bei voller Kostenübernahme seitens der Uni. Also ging es für eine Woche nach Helsinki, aber erst …

STOCKHOLM!

It is always easier to fall in love with a city when the sun is shining, the people are friendly, and a common language is spoken. But I am pretty sure Stockholm would be lovable even when heavy rain is falling; two days were not enough to explore the city, so there is a strong motivation to come back. The only things I found questionable are the prices for food and drinks and the amount of Hare Krishna groups chanting their way through Gamla Stan.

Es ist immer einfach, sich in eine Stadt zu verlieben, wenn die Sonne scheint, die Menschen freundlich sind, und man eine gemeinsame Sprache spricht. Ich bin mir aber ziemlich sicher, dass Stockholm auch liebenswert wäre, wenn eine Sintflut niederkommen würde; zwei Tage waren nicht annähernd genug, um die Stadt zu erkunden, also gibt es gute Gründe, wieder zu Besuch zu kommen. Die einzigen Dinge, die ich fragwürdig fand, waren die Lebensmittelpreise und die Unmengen an Hare Krishna-Gruppen, die singend und klatschend durch die Innenstadt zogen.

Preparation is Everything.

There will be some travelling going on this year, something I will detail in a future post. What I can reveal already is that one of these trips will take me to Ireland again, but not on my own: I will teach one of my Bachelor courses in Limerick this summer, taking 17 students from our uni with me.

The course is designed to start here and then conclude in Ireland; after the first lessons, I was getting a bit worried about the bunch of students I had picked to come along, as they were rather quiet during the lessons. Very quiet. So to get to know each other a bit better and see whether they were actually able to relax (and hence survive in Ireland), I took them out to my local for a Guinness or two.

I shouldn’t have worried: We spent 5 hours at The James, emptying their supply of ciders (I am not kidding) and entertaining all the other guests with our stories. After a quick stop at a kebab shop with six of them, I decided to call it a day at 2.30 am, while they wandered on to a club to dance the night away.

Looks like Ireland is going to be fun after all.

Klootscheeten.

As mentioned before, I do some teaching at a company in the northwest from January to March, usually going up for a full day on Tuesday and half a day on Wednesdays. It is some nice extra cash on the side, although the fact that the finance authority taxes me heavily on the money, taking away roughly 50%, makes me sometimes wonder whether it is actually worth doing.

But then, I really like the people I teach (and I use the word “teach” in the widest sense here, as we mostly drink tea, eat sweets, and talk about our respective private lives); in the seven years I have been doing this course, a lot of them have become acquaintances, if not friends. So when it was time for the lab department to have their annual Klootscheeten (which is basically an excuse to first get drunk during a walk and then get drunk inside a party tent), it was a no-brainer for them that I was to be part of the team.

As I had to work until 2 pm, I was a bit late and hence “forced” to catch up on booze; even though they had just started the tour an hour earlier, some of the ladies were already dangerously imbalanced when I arrived. Give them a little metal ball to throw, and you have an almost deadly combination; it still surprises me nobody was seriously injured, although we came quite close once – thankfully, even after 5 beers Jan still had fast reflexes and managed to duck.

If there is one thing I can count on during these kind of parties is that after a while, men tend to flock towards me; the drunker they are, the more they seem to have the need to discuss private matters with me … including guys I have never met before. We hadn’t even reached our destination yet when a young bloke from another team started asking me whether he should continue studying or instead find a job to support his girlfriend who wanted to have a baby. Rather startled, I told him that given his age (he looked about 19 to me), they shouldn’t really aim to have a baby yet, to which he replied, “My girlfriend is 30”. And then, giving me a meaningful look, “I like older women”. Oh dear.

Whilst slowly backing away, I bumped into Daniel (one of “my” people) who wanted to discuss his relationship issues with me; after I had patched him up, Robin was going on about his relationship and whether I could help him make a decision (short answer: No.). I finally made it to the dance floor and just stayed there for the next couple of hours to be out of harm’s way, even though the music was mostly shite (something we all agreed on, and yet everybody was dancing. The miraculous powers of alcohol …).

I had booked a hotel room to be more independent when it came to partying the night away; it was a wise decision, as I was (as usual) one of the last to leave at about 3 am – but not after arranging another meet-up in about three weeks’ time.