Wednesday, December 29, 2010
It started with a LONG drive to Niinisalo, the very same place I did my basic training. The travel time was possibly the biggest low-light of the week. Without adequate heating the two stops, and meager packed lunches were not nearly enough to keep me warm, and mixed with the low ceiling and limited leg room, I was not a happy camper by the end of the trip.
Things picked up, or rather plateau'd once we got to the first camp site. We walked around, located our positions, walked around, found back up positions, walked around, looked at the other teams' positions. Then, as soon as it was dark enough we built our tent and went to sleep.
I don't really remember any specifics for the rest of our time there, and can't say I'm overly keen on pushing myself to recall.
After four nights it was almost over. I had dug my last foxhole, built my last tent, packed my last tent. My last march and equipment cleaning, however, was yet to come.
After another long, uncomfortable, and cold (the heating was actually broken (only-7)) drive we were back in Helsinki, and ready(?) to start the last march. With only 12km and the frozen urban-scape between me and indoor plumbing I was pretty eager to get going, but the closer I got the worse I felt, and by the time that we were crossing the barrier between civilian and military land I was aching, and a little feverish.
We waited in the cold. We stood, we listened, we had our bags, vests, and rifles checked for rogue ammunition, and one by one we were released.
I hurriedly ''packed'' my gear and made for the warmth and electric glow. I dumped everything, washed my hands, and lay in my bed...
Monday, December 6, 2010
I am though (just not during service time!).
Winter has come, quite early it seems, leaving me with no doubt of a white Christmas. So far Seasonal Affective Disorder has not taken hold of me, except during service time, though that might be because of a few other factors... I have been walking, sledding, and building snow people every chance I get. The excitement of finding it's snowing still hasn't worn off either, and is usually followed by the proclamation, 'it's snowing'.
Note: regressing to childlike state of mind while surounded by snow will keep you so warm you won't realise that it's -20 until you colapse from exaustion. This is not necessarily a suggestion.
An example of the above behavior..
Not soon enough, however.
Starting in the summer months with clement weather and a more positive attitude it seems as though things have been going down hill recently. Enjoyment, or at least the ability to willfully ignor the less than agreeable circumstances has been ebbing. As time passes and the weather gets colder the end of this six month stint in the Defence Forces cannot hurry along quick enough.
But, before the end can pass, there is still about four weeks and one five day war simulation to traverse.
Judging from my experience in the last three camps It will not be a cake walk. All three camps have taken place in below 0 temperatures with a bonus of either rain, snow, or both. The most recently conquered camp took place in a consistant 20-30cm of light fluffy snow, which I have since learned is like walking on dry sand. At first it is deceptively easy to trudge through it, it weighs next to nothing and weilds to a snow boot easilly. But try keep pace up a shallow slope, or a grainite hill and the constant slipping makes you feel as though you are moving two steps forward one step back. Mixed with the already heavy equipment, the inability for our 'snow suit' to resist waster, GIANT winter gumboots, and the snow getting inside your rifle melting, refreezing and jamming the machinery everytime you have to dive onto the ground and you will understand that the snow is not your friend.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Carrying a 20kg bag of plaster has never been a particular strain, however, I have never before ventured to walk, sometimes run, for 10+ km with a bag of plaster. Esentially that is what the march was, though I think 30-5 kgs would be a more accurate guess as to the weight of the combined equipment.
It started much the same way that the camp did, pulling on complete combat equipment before reporting outside to make sure our ballistics vest is fitted with front and rear bullet proof plates. Then on to the basement to collect equipment, and then take it up to be be checked and counted.
Our group has been picked to take four landmines and two camoflage sheets. We pack the equipment into the amphibious Armoured Personal Carriers, then we are off. We are dropped off somwhere and then have to get back to the garrison.
It didn't take long before my back was aching. My spine felt very compressed and my XL ballistics vest was all too apparently too big for me. We marched and marched, with a 5 or 10 break every now and then.
Relief finally came in the form of a familiar landmark, and while I knew how far we still had to walk, knowing your way is enough to shine some light on the end.
After making it bake to base we had about 5 minutes to get changed for lunch, which turned out to be dinner as well.
Altogether a rather lousy weekend!
We spent most of the day moving equipment around the forrest in a bid to find a good vantage point to defend from. It seemed kind of stupid (read: stupid) to constantly change locations, things should be considered more so an educated decission is made without the need for great physical exersion. Needless to say I understand this is defence force training, and all the nonsence is for the sake of teaching discipline or somthing. Still, it is difficult to do somthing when another way makes more sense.
After finally finding our position, and with twilight quickly turning to night we spent a few hours digging fox holes. They must be knee deep. Every time I push my spade into the ground I hit a rock. I was not having fun.
At this point in the day I was tired, frustrated and just wanted to be warm.
We hauled the euipment to the campsite our leader had found us and with as little cooperation a seemingly possible attempted to errect the tent in complete darkness. I was not having fun.
The tent constructed we left to fetch our packs from the truck. With no moonlight and a muddy, often flooded road to contend with I'm suprised I managed not falling, gotta catch a break somewhere I guess.
A sleepless night of fire guarding and foxhole lookout ended with a 6 oclock wake up, pack up, and return to the trucks for repacking, regrouping, breakfast (rice porridge can be the best thing about a day), and changing locations.
As with all the small joys to be had while camping; food, rest, personal time, ways are found to impact on them to such an extent that it would be better you hadn't had them at all. Usually this is achieved by reducing the time you have to enjoy them. 3 minutes is not enough time to finish most of your breakfast, clean and pack your eating utensils and put all your gear back on. Fun was a concept, far far from reach.
The second day progressed slowly, much in the way of the first day, though perhaps easier.
Same lugging of equipment (though not as far, or as much), same shifting of positions (not so many times), same digging of foxholes (though they were already mostly made by previous training camps). The real show that things were on an up-swing was the building of the tent in broad daylight, things hit a notch when we were told to move the almost completed tent 50 metres to acomodate secondary defence positions, then another notch when we were told that our team would be sleeping in another tent, because, well I don't really know.
After filling the day with repeated exercises and uninteligible lectures the night was finally falling in again. I was told my partner and I were first up to sit in the freezing foxholes and give the silent alert if there were signs of movement or danger. We waited in silence, minutes passed slowly and became hours, no sign of movement. Then the crack of gunfire and my partner ran off to base to make the slent alarm. I waited for my team, no one came. I finally learned from another team that it was over and that it was safe to remove hearing protection. I stalked off to my camp wondering what happend, what possible reason was there for me to be waiting by myself in the cold for so long. Turns out my partner got lost on the way back to the camp.
Another sleepless night was made slightly better by the understanding that we would not be moving the next day. The next day would also bring free time and the mobile soldiers-home van, the idea of coffee and doughnuts is a powerful restorative.
The third day was once again more of the same, and once more easier than the day before. After lunch things when down hill, though the incline wasn't too steep. We had to do formation marching through the wilderness for most of the afternoon. Then it was over, free time had begun. I changed all my clothes, organised my equipment, then it was time for dinner, and then coffee and doughnuts. A lot of positivity can come from such small things and the leaders would do well to keep that in mind.
On the last day we had a 5am wakeup, and once again packed everthing up and carried it to the trucks. We were not leaving yet however, we had a war game first. It might sound like fun to go sneaking around, shooting wooden bullets, and it is, but not for long. Soon it becomes routine, then it becomes a chore. Nobody likes chores. Still, when the war games were done, ifwe still had rounds left we were given permission to empty our magazines. Fully automatic.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
The day started as usual at around 6am with a call for men up, lights on, and good morning! We were told to get our holiday gear on and to get ready to leave for breakfast. The idea of eating porridge in good clothes with all the coordination that a hastey wake up affords made me a little nervous, however, on it came. Boots recieved a pollish, trousers were tucked into military blousers (used instead of tucking trousers into boots, uncomfortable but much easier to get uniform blousing on both trouser legs (Because that's important!)), zips all zipped closed, beret rolled and stuffed into left breast pocket (with the lion emblem facing out), velcro name tag afixed, collar coweled.
After breakfast, which was a good time to gage the increasing chill (between 10-15 degrees), I went back to the dormatory to wait for 8am, which was when we would be heading to Sastamala where the ceremony would take place.
8am came slowly, slower still was the wait to get on the busses outside in the light but cold drizzle.
Sitting and dozzing on the bus for an estimated 1 hour brought us in to the town center where we deboarded and lined up to drop off our bags for the duration of the 'festivities'. Then back into formation, this time in height order, and a final adjustment of berets, gloves, zips, laces, and repositioning of rifles.
Then came the call for attention, heels snap together, a moment passes before we are ordered to march, left foot swings forward while the left arm swings back. The goal of marching is to move as one, a goal we had almost always failed to achieve in practices. However, for some unknown reason, possibly the fear of humiliation infront of the numerous onlookers, family and friends, we marched well enough to recieve a 'you did good' from our senior liutenant.
We marched down a street and into a park and then onto a football field where the oath was to take place. Once all the battalions had been arranged in rows and at right angles to each other, forming a three sided rectangle, the Tykistöprikaati flags were brought in.
This is one of them.
It's the same symbol that I wear on my holiday uniform, right under the Finnish flag (See VLV post).
Next we were addressed by the colonel, then by the chaplain. Finally, standing at attention we simultaneously removed our berets with our right hand and placed it in our left (with elbow at 9o degrees), then removed our right glove and held our hand up with index and middle fingers raised and the other fingers suppressed by the thumb, we were given the oath from a veteran soldier. Repeating after him the begining and the end of the oath (rather clumsily by me I think). The colonal then gave a speach, thanking the people who deserved thanks, and telling us that we we no longer recruits, but TYKKIMIES!
The parade proceeded afterwards. Marching through the town center to the beat of a drum and the rest of the military band came as a relief to my back, legs, and feet which had begun to ache after an hour and a half of standing without being able to shift my feet, also helping to shake the slight but noticable chill gained from lack of movement.
The parade over, the end in sight, all that was left was to drop off our guns before we could go and greet our spectators, and possibly more important, drink some hot coffee, eat sausages with mustard, sugar doughnuts and hot pea and ham soup.
The day ended with the collection of our bags, one final formation where we were told to have a good weekend, and a comfy bus ride back to the garrison, and my car.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
A little while ago I visited the Eero Hiironen Gallery. Located about 5 minutes walk off the main street in Ähtäri, the gallery is primarily and exhibition space for a collection of Eero Hiironen's often metalic, sculptural works.
The gallery also boasts a small but impressive private collection of prints from the 1950-70s. Among the artists are Picasso, Miro, and Dali.
On another trip through Ähtäri I found a painting from the 70s for 5€ in a fleamarket store
At the announcement of '3 Minutes' one person from each room must stand against the door at ease, while the rest of the occupants must sit on their stools (also at ease)
Come the '2 minute' mark everyone, standing or sitting, must now be doing so at attention. Feet together, hands in fists, and if you are sitting your arms must be streched out straight with your fists on your knees.
Then at one minute, lights are turned off and everyone is in a line at the door in asento (attention).
My hunting began on a trip to the family summer cottage. I was wondering around with little to do when I spotted a little red near a hedge, careful not to lose sight of it I moved closer to find it was a very small, very red strawberry. I picked it and ate it and proceeded to do nothing else until I had eaten all in sight.
Similar to the wild strawberries than I've found in my backyard back home in shape and size, they are as dissimilar in flavour as possibly comprehensable. Perhaps a bit of a statement, however, while the ones back home are bland and watery, the ones I've found here are so rich with strawberry flavour that the smell carries metres. FACT. While walking to the soldiers home (sotko) a couple weeks ago I smelt strawberries, and couldn't think why until I spotted a few growing on the side of the path, only the restraint of my dignity kept me from diving head long into the middle of them.
Later I discovered blueberries growing like weeds while in the forrest training to plant mines, throw grenades etc. Suffice to say my purple stained fingers quickly betrayed my ill attention. On another occasion in the same forrest we were asked (read: told) to help retrieve a missing hand grenade, solid metal, not live... It took the time of a very cursory search before I changed my attentions to a more profitable and delicious end.
Weekend leave about two weeks back brought with it the opportunity of picking raspberries, On arrival the prospect of finding any looked fairly bleak. However, once you get started, and put on your raspberry eyes you can't stop seeing them. I ate as much as I collected and still ended up with about a litre or two. My berry picking partner, more fastidious and much more restrained, came away with about 3 times as much as I did.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
(essentially it means weekend leave. Viikon-the weeks, loppu- end/finish, vapaa-holiday. Or at least that's how I understand it)
To be able to leave for the weekend we must be clean shaven, hair (on our head) must not touch our ears, and our boots must pollished to the highest shine they are capable of reaching.
When we are on leave and travelling to or from the base in our uniform we must wear is correctly, no matter how hot or cold the climate. While outside we wear a berret with the lion mark over the left eye so that there is three fingerspaces of head visable over the left ear, two fingerspaces of forhead visable over the left eye, one over the right and the right ear is almost completely covered.
We must also wear our leave uniform, consisting of pants tucked into black leather boots and a jacket with the zip done up to the top, the snaps all snapped closed, the collar folded down, and the waist sinched. On the left arm we have the Finnish flag, and the gold on red Tykistöprikaati lion mark. On the right chest we have our last name. All our personal luggage is packed inside a standard issue army green duffel bag.
(It was suggested to me that officers school might be a good option as I am fluent in English. The suggestion came despite my almost complete lack of fluency in the Finnish language. However, let us see how basic training goes)
After driving for two hours from my current home in Töysä to the military base in Niinisalo I walked through the gates, showing my conscription form to security I passed into what I didn't really realise was land that not just anyone can walk onto. It might have felt like a privilage, however, It didn't. It felt like a mixture of waiting in line at airport security and the first day of a new school, both experiences which leave me feeling nervous despite being sensible as to what I should expect. Walking through those gates left me with the positive aspects of airport security and first days of school too, and while I felt completly alone I also had a stubborn determination to stay calm, suck it up, and act like an adult!
After checking myself in, and attempting to drink a cup of steaming hot, sour black coffee I was sorted (in a somewhat less magical way than at Hogwarts) into a batteri, jaos, and tuppa (battery, unit, room (I think)).
Then off we went to the supply store room to get our first batch of military equipment; 5 tee shirts, 5 pairs of socks and underwear, 2 pairs of training jackets and 2 pairs of pants, leather boots, shower sandels, running shoes, gumboots, speedos, black shorts, track suit, 2 towels, a cap, a beret, a big back pack, a drink bottle, fork-spoon combo, food canteen, and, a sack known as sipuli sakki (onion sack). Lugging all this equipment back to our room we ran a check to make sure everyone had everything, then we organised all our gear into what had originally seemed to be quite a large locker. Having folded everthing as neatly as I could space was quite tight by the end of the day, still, the three empty clothes hangers fortold of more to come.
Changing into a pair of cammo cargo pants, an army green tee and running shoes we headed for the dining hall, in amateur formation, then back to the sleeping quarters to put on our shower gear and make a hasty dash to the showers. I think we went to bed after that (10pm bed time), though I get a little fuzzy on recollections after lunch time.
Waking up, or rather getting woken up at 6am the next day was surprisingly easy, despite having slept in till about eleven the previous day. Once again we applied bathroom gear, made a dash to brush our teeth, make buisness, and then rush back to get dressed for breakfast.
Things have not been too dissimilar since...
Friday, July 9, 2010
The building in the previous post 'Yes Shop', is another example of sorts, it doesn't look much like a castle beyond the facade. The same goes for the red, farm house-ish building.
Have a look...
I'm on to you...
Here is their description-
Bros. Keskinen Ltd. / VillageShopThe wild Statue of Liberty of Finnish commerce – Brothers Keskinen Ltd., the biggest VillageShop in Finland, the Legend of the plains, the Pearl of Ostrobothnia, the miraculous Department Store in the backwoods - a beloved child has many names - rises at the gate of Southern Ostrobothnia, in the middle of nowhere. It is very difficult to describe this department store of the new generation with words; it must be experienced personally.
Welcome to Tuuri!
While a tad boastful, I think they are right, it must be experienced personally.
For me, it is a place of infinite 'why the hell not' fighting against mass crassness. While the internal look is simply that of any other mall/modern department store (with the exception of stuffed wild life perched on logs bolted to the stucture), the external aesthetic is part disneyland,and part 100 year old scandinavian village/farm. These two aesthetics don't have to compete, they are seperated by a large butter yellow concrete wall, spanning a third of the available parking area.
I think it's great. Ridiculous, maybe. Excessive, perhaps. Crass, questionable, illogical.., of course. But that shouldn't sugest that it's not wonderful.
Here are some pictures. Excuse the cars, people and other things blocking the veiw, I tried to avoid them but there was a fair going on nearby...
The Lucky Horseshoe monument, 3rd ugliest monument in the world as rated by Reuters. It has a wishing well located under the the arch of the horseshoe, possibly the reason why the horse shoe is upside down, so the luck falls into the well...The entrance to the department store.
The castle.../supermarket (on the ground floor)/hotel(other floors). The ground floor also houses a cafeteria, fast food resturant, alcohol shop, hotel check in, gambling machines (legal age for which is 15), and a large foyer area decorated with buildings at 1/2 scale at above door height.
Imagine waking to the sight of a giant carpark from your hotel room... The supermarket would be handy though!
The splendor of the owner's palacial estate. There are seven fountains, seven unicorn statues, I also counted seven tables on the deck area and seven topiaries in identical planters. Coincidently the owner's lucky number is also said to be...
The fair, I think there was an age limit of 16. I did't want to go anyway.
As a related side note, this Saturday the shopping center grounds will hold the Miljoona Rock concert featuring Finland's own The Rasmus, and last years eurovision song contest winner, Alexander Rybak, among others... Where will I be this weekend you ask? Sitting outside, because it costs €50 to get in.
Ariving in Jyväskylä after a short 30-40 minutes travel time I heaved my 20+ kg suitcase down the three steps onto the platform, and took a look at the arivals/departures. Feeling a bit nervous about catching the right train I waited. About 10 minutes later, a train arrived at the platform I had just come from. I didn't think it was my connection because it was 10 minutes early, luckily however I checked the train number, which was the same as on my ticket. Lugging all my luggage back up three steep narrow steps (and catching my shin rather badly on one of them), I swore inwardly while looking for a seat.
You know you are heading for the country when you board a diesel train, and the continuous rail system dissapears, leaving you with the clickity click clickity click of segmented rail. However, after a very satisfactory rest accompanied by the never ending playlist of my Mp3 player I was in Ähtäri, a mere 10-15 minutes from Töysä.
Ähtäri Train Station
Fazer has a 33 euro-cent range that includes the following,
Geisha original. Milk chocolate with a soft hazelnut filling.
Verdict: Delicious, but nothing amazing, reminds me of Nutella and Ferrero Rocher.
Geisha Dreamy Caramel. Milk chocolate with truffle crisp filling.
Verdict: Good, but uninspired rehash of the caramel chocolate combo.
Fazerina original. Milk chocolate with orange flavoured truffel.
Verdict: Orange and chocolate is a, some-times food.
Fazerina Caramel. Milk chocolate with truffel filling.
Verdict: same as Geisha Caramel.
JIM. Milk chocolate with fruit foam filling.
Verdict: If at first you don't agree, try, try again. Peculiar and addictive.
Da-Capo. Dark chocolate with dark chocolate truffel filling.
Verdict: Super rich, make sure you have a glass of milk on hand to tackle this diminutive beast.
Susu. Milk chocolate with rice crisps and caramel.
Verdict: Possibly the best of the three caramel and chocolate excursions on the list.
Pätkis. Mint truffel covered with milk chocolate.
Verdict: This is and always has been my favourite, so I am a little biased.., I bought 6 times as many of them in the same transaction. The soft mint truffel is almost refreshing until you get to the last bite, then you need more.
For the paltry sum of...
Which equates to NZ$12.3567 per 400g
or NZ$30.8890 per Kg
I also found these. I don't know how well they would survive such a long journey...
Or NZ$2.6705 per 430g
NZ$6.2196 per Kg
One might think that it would be better to have a little less choice with things like these. Grow your own sheep Finland, and New Zealand, how about expanding your exports outside of agriculture...
Monday, July 5, 2010
I hope she won't mind me posting a few photos of her work.
Award winning Finnish nature Photographer Antti Leinonen also had an exhibit. I hope he doesn't mind me posting photos either...
On the same day I also visited Poleeni, The Pieksämäki Cultural Centre.
Designed by Kristian Gullichsen in the 1980s, the more modern culture centre houses a library, theatre, cafe, and exhibition spaces. The current exhibition, with works by three artists; Seppo Kalliokoski, Matti Kurkela, and Kari Kärkkäinen, had a wood working theme.
Many of the works had the names of the artists carved into them, which I found questionable and distracting... However, that's just my opinion