Waiting room antiques

Unexpectedly transported to another time

Unexpectedly transported to another time

Finland has a most impressive national healthcare system universally available to all residents. In terms of efficiency against quality, Finland ranks 23rd in the world. Touch wood, we’ve been fortunate to remain relatively healthy during our stay here and have enjoyed precious little in the way of waiting times, received excellent services in English and been generally impressed with the level of service and quality of equipment, facilities and medicines (when necessary).

There are moments, however, when we feel as though we’ve stepped into a time machine and been transplanted into the 1950s or so. From the architecture to the fixtures coupled with the design and decor including the furniture in the lobbies, it’s an incredibly surreal experience.

This particular waiting room is situated in the radiology department in one of the local hospital complexes in Helsinki. It’s a gorgeous location not far from our neighbourhood and not far from the very centre of the city. As with much of Helsinki, it is surrounded by a lovely park, and much of the hospital complex seems far too historically significant to house the modern diagnostic tools necessary for a top-notch healthcare system. Yet, it does.

When we returned a few days ago to this particular waiting room for a routine part of a check up, we once again marveled at the furnishings. These particular chairs and the very long bench/sofas which matched them could be equally appropriate for the set of Mad Men or in an episode of The Jetsons.

What made the experience all the more surreal was the film which was showing on the gigantic flat screen on the wall. Nevermind that the flat screen was a complete mismatch with the rest of the decor. The film playing on it was absolutely perfect. We’ve no idea what the film was nor what was really happening other than what appeared to be a lot of silliness. A Finnish film from most likely the same time period during which the furniture we sat on was manufactured, it perfectly matched the era of the room whilst allowing for a little comedic relief for the nervous patients awaiting their various scans. We watched completely perplexed as various Finnish actors from days gone by paraded around the black-and-white set in a series of dance moves which, quite frankly, made no sense at all. It was fantastic. Utterly and totally fantastic.

What a way to spend a bit of time. The scan went well and all is as it should be in terms of our health and well-being. Many thanks to the fantastic folks in the Finnish healthcare system who not only provide great care, but who also might just have a hidden sense of humour which comes through in the most unlikeliest of places.

Lost and potentially found, part 2

Another day, another lost (and found) mitten

Another day, another lost (and found) mitten

On Sunday evening, I spied the above mitten draped on a branch close to one of the bicycle trails traversing through our neighbourhood. The next morning, it was still there and looking lovelier than ever in the bright yet dappled sunlight, as if it were expectantly awaiting the hand to which it belongs.

Every time I stumble across one of these lost and found although not-yet-reunited items, it gives me hope for humanity. They brighten my day and remind of how even the simplest random acts of kindness and charity can mean the world to another individual. Having lost things myself at one time or another, I understand the joy and relief that accompanies that moment of realisation when finding something I thought was gone forever.

It’d be easy for whoever discovered this mitten to have just left it where it lay. It would have been just as easy to have picked it up and thrown it away. Yet, they didn’t. That someone took the time to pick it up and hang it in a place where it could be easily spotted.

So simple. So easy. And, yet, so selfless. And, dare I say, hopeful. Hopeful that its rightful owner would travel that same route again and discover what they had misplaced, dropped and possibly considered long gone.

A few lines from Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene have been running through my mind since seeing this particular mitten, words which are cued whenever I think of items lost and searched for:

For whatsoever from one place doth fall,
Is with the tide unto an other brought:
For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought.

I’d love to hang out near one of these objects sought to witness the instant when it is found once again.

Lost, but will be found…? (Day 68: Proekt 365)

Day 68: Proekt 365 Lost, and to be found?

Day 68: Proekt 365
Lost, and to be found?

Evidently, Helsinki is the most honest city on the planet. There are signs of this simple truth all around if you just know what to look for.

Today, I spied this lovely little mitten which someone had placed very visibly along one of the paths near our flat. Hopefully, its owner will find it soon enough. It’s lovely and bright in an otherwise colourless landscape and far too beautiful to be without its mate.

Yesterday, I found one of my own gloves which I’d dropped a little closer to home. As we left yesterday afternoon to run a few errands, I notice one of my gloves on the windowsill in our stairwell. Honestly, I didn’t even know I’d lost it! (Thanks to the person who found it!)

You’d be amazed at the items you spot along paths and routes all over the place. We’ve seen reading glasses, scarves, pacifiers, gloves and mittens (obviously) along with a number of different types and styles of hats. Sometimes, they remain there for ages. Others disappear, hopefully after finding their way home.

The general rule seems to be to place the item so that it is roughly at eye level. This can be a challenge given the range of heights for most folks in Helsinki. But, you want to situate the item such that it is obviously waiting to be found. Trees are the most common place lost things are hung so that they may be discovered. Bus stops and benches are also likely spots for the unclaimed and forgotten stuff unintentionally left behind.

It’s nice seeing these little reminders of compassion amongst fellow residents. And, hopefully, all those items which were lost will be found if not by their owners then at least by someone who will appreciate them.

Phenomenal Women (Day 66: Proekt 365)

Day 66: Proekt 365 International Women's Day

Day 66: Proekt 365
International Women’s Day

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day. During my time in Russia, it was a time of year when all of the men and most women celebrated the ladies in their lives. Men showered women with flowers and raised their glasses to toast the fabulousness that is women. Women, much like every other day, celebrated and supported one another, but with just a bit more sense of sisterhood and infinitely more booze.

As a woman and as a feminist, I’d rather not just have one day when the work, worth, beauty and burdens faced by all women are given the spotlight. I’d rather we applaud ourselves and are celebrated every day. I’d rather we were equally rewarded, equally valued and equally represented in all aspects of life and in every corner. I’d rather we worked towards righting the injustices and eliminating the gender-specific barriers which make life more difficult for women every single day until they were a distant memory.

Still, the fact that I’m admittedly privileged is not lost on me—my husband is a feminist (and at times more so than I am!), I live in a society which places great value on the work of women domestically and beyond the home and I am afforded specific protections which prohibit discrimination against me based solely on my private parts. These are all great things, and for them I am grateful.

That isn’t the case for all women. Far, far too many women. And, not just those who live in lesser developed places, but also women who live in my own society. Whether it is allowing women and girls to attend school, work outside the home, drive, vote, voice their opinions, marry whom they love / wish, choose when and under what conditions to have children or when and with whom to have sex, every day should be an opportunity to make gender equity and justice a reality. For all women. Because all women are of value. All women are beautiful. And, all women should be celebrated. In all our diversity.

On this International Women’s Day, the words of the brilliant Maya Angelou come to mind. Whilst recognising and grieving for the difficulties and outright horrific conditions in which some women are forced to live, I am mindful today (and everyday) of just how amazing women are. Here’s to all of the truly phenomenal women in the world, particularly those who have enriched my life so, so much.

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Maya Angelou, ‘Phenomenal Woman’ from And Still I Rise. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Used by permission of Random House, Inc.

Day 65: Proekt 365 (Lost in translation…)

Day 65: Proekt 365 Lost in Translation

Day 65: Proekt 365
Lost in Translation

Life took over and threw a few curve balls. The busy-ness of work and a few days of unfortunate news resulted in a short hiatus from the posts which are Proekt 365. Despite a lack of posts, I have been taking time out each day to revel in the little bits of goodness around me. And, there are many even on the gloomiest of days.

Today, though, provided a bit of comedic relief. I’ve recently returned to the life of gym bunnies and joined a local fitness centre. It’s a great, no frills sort of place, with a dedicated women’s only section. No classes, no annoyingly cheerful and well-toned (if not ridiculously young) staff watching to make you feel even more self-conscious—just a bunch of equipment and locker rooms and 24/7 access. And, others hoping to get fit and stay in shape.

In addition to being generally impressed with how low-maintenance the whole process has been thus far, many of the signs hung throughout are written not just in Finnish, of which I understand nothing, but also feature English. I greatly appreciate this bi-lingual attention. But, it also provides a bit of insight as my friend pointed out in just how different English and Finnish are to one another.

Case in point, the picture above. The upper portion of the sign in the Finnish seems a little less cumbersome and wordy in English. The information in both languages, according to my friend whose Finnish is amazing, is the same. It just takes a bit more work to convey the same message in Finnish, evidently.

Oh, Finland. With signs like this, my hope of ever learning any of your native language is once again dashed. Ah well.

It just makes me all the more appreciative of how incredibly awesome Finns’ English is. In another moment from today, I had to phone my bank. The first person who answered the phone told me in absolutely perfect English that, no, she did not speak English. But, if I could hold the line, she would get someone else who did. (I swear, her accent was absolutely perfect and her language skills were flawless!)

Lost in translation, indeed.