the Whole World in a Day

img_5849

“Look at the camera and say: I wish I was in…” I’m standing in a photo booth surrounded by rolling hills and snowy trees. I chose that landscape from the selection. “Whenever you are ready.” In this photo booth I can wish I were anywhere in Finland. But today I can wish I were anywhere in the world really. And if I’m not careful, I might soon find myself from a plane to Turkey or Tanzania.

Annual Travel Fair has invaded Messukeskus, the Fair Center in Pasila, Finland. The whole world is visiting. There is Finnish archipelago, small stands form a network of islands in the corner, there is Sweden with neatly organised stands, and somewhere behind Qatar and Thailand, there is a selection of African countries all decorated with impressive pictures of wildlife. 80 different countries all over the world are represented at the fair. Travel organisations, airlines and travel destinations advertise, give guidance and sell their products to the visitors who meander around the massive hall. Over 60 000 visitors come each year, mostly from Finland but also from the other side of the border.

“I wish I was in the Northern Finland, skiing on the hills, surrounded by snow and nature.” I think I just gave my permission to use that wish for marketing purposes. I grab my free I wish I was in Finland canvas bag and dive into the crowd. My aim is to find out more about Australia and New Zealand. But how can I find anything from the labyrinth of the stands?

Cheap flights, luxurious travel packages, exotic destinations… Free candy, free leaflets and free raffles. I write my name and (thrash) email address on raffle tickets featuring prizes such as bicycles and Le Cordon Bleu cooking classes in Paris. All the other 60 000 will take part in the same raffles so the chances to win are minimal. But why not? Among the stands, there are few stages where talks and interviews, as well as music performances from Moomin children’s songs to Sami rap, engage the audience.

I do find the Australia stand. Unfortunately, there is only one small stand, Australian Tours, for the whole continent. I pick up the leaflets featuring New Zealand and Australia and flip them through. I have to wait 10 minutes before I get a chance to chat with the people at the stand, but at last I get some answers and tips. “The rainforest is another must see in Cairns. Can’t go without a guide, though. There are day trips where you take a small mini-bus-like-car and you serpentine in the thicket alongside the river. It’s really good”. Well, maybe I’ll check out the rainforest. Next week I’ll take off to NZ and then to Australia.

img_5862

I Love Visitors

IMG_2304
Stirling Bridge and Castle

“I’m going to spend the summer working in Maryland. And when the work ends I’ll go to Los Angeles then Ecuador and Bahamas!” “I’m travelling to Cambodia” “I’m going to France next week”… Sometimes it is difficult to listen your friends’ travel plans, when you know that you won’t be going anywhere for a while. But sometimes I truly am happy for others when they get to travel. Like when they travel to me!

This Easter I got to host my brother and his girlfriend (Alpi and Ella) when they took few days off and flew to Scotland. I might have been more excited about the long weekend than they were. It was their first time in Scotland and I got to be their guide.

If you have ever been in a similar situation, you know that being a tourist in your home town is quite different than being a local. I had to really think what we could do here. Usually I spent my time going to lectures, dance classes, gym, grocery store and watching movies. Obviously that is not what my guests expected to do when they decided to visit a new country. So what special do we have in this little town, in Stirling?

The area is pretty and there are nice walks you can take if the weather is nice. However, this is Scotland and the sky was dark and sad most of the time. I had told them to take waterproofs with them, so we tried to ignore the rain. We walked around the town, to the castle and over the old Stirling bridge. Victorian style houses, grey stone churches and little chimneys on top of every building. I showed them around campus and the view points nearby Wallace monument. Even though it was wet and clouds hid beautiful mountains in the horizon and the highland cattle was not out, Alpi and Ella enjoyed their time and quite liked seeing something that they were not used to at home.

We have nice little cafes and cosy pubs here in Stirling as well. I have my favourites which I wanted to show to my guests. I had told them that they can not leave without having proper afternoon tea in Britain, so I took them to the Bluebell Tearoom. It is an adorable, tiny cafe in the town. White furniture and mismatched old teapots and cups, delicious food and old locals coming in for lunch or afternoon tea. Lovely. Another place I would recommend everyone visiting Stirling to check out is Allanwater Brewhouse. It’s the only Brewery in Stirling and located in Bridge of Allan. If you like beer or cider and relaxed atmosphere, this is a place to be. You might find strange specialities like banoffee beer or pineapple cider if the time is right. We spent several hours there drinking tasty beer and playing Yahtzee while two guys played guitars and sang.

Alpi and Ella spent two days in Stirling. That is enough time to check out the attractions and get to know the town, so I sent them to Edinburgh for one day and Glasgow for another. Those cities are both great in their own ways. They are very different so visiting both gives a good sight of what Scotland is.

“Scotland is like England… with a very strange accent” Alpi concluded when they were leaving.

.

To the Other Side

globe-1130840_1920.jpg

When I was young someone told me that if you drill a deep enough whole on the ground, you’ll reach China. That was a lie. China is not even near to Finland’s antipode. Closest country would be New Zeland and then Australia.

So if I say that I will be going to the other side of the world while talking about Australia, it is almost correct. So I will say that now: I will be going to the other side of the world.

I have been accepted into our University’s exchange programme for next spring. University of Sydney will take me in for a semester to study. What a change! Sydney University is a pretty well regarded university, so that alone is exciting. But if I am going to fly to the other side of the globe I am going to take everything out of it. I will be a good girl and study, because it is interesting and reason why I go there in the first place, but I will make sure that I get to explore the continent and travel as much as possible.

The university emailed me their exchange information packet by accident already, which is why I am researching everything already. Courses at the university, accommodation, the buildings… the city of Sydney, the Outback, diving sights… Pretty much everything.

The Great Barrier reef has been on my bucket list ever since I started scuba diving. I have to see it before it destroyed. Not only human activity threaten it but also natural phenomena; right now El Nino is speeding up the bleaching http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/parts-of-great-barrier-reef-face-permanent-destruction-due-to-el-nino/article28994091/. Corals, ocean, diving and surfing are things to look forward to but I am interested in dryer conditions as well. I want to go to Outback and camp out in the red rock desert. The whole island is full of interesting things even though right now I only know of the famous tourist attractions. I have to do lot more research to learn of other, less known places and adventures.

And since I will be on that side of the world I might as well visit New Zeland as well. Hike a bit and find more out about the culture and history. Too greedy? Big plans and even bigger dreams. It just means I will have to start saving now.

It is a quite while before I will actually get there, but I am excited. Planning is part of the journey, right?10409731_10205385758273048_195660637261113530_n

Hiya y’all!

dictionary-390055_1280

Every now and then people ask me: How do you like Scotland? What is Scotland like?

Those are a difficult questions. I have now lived a year and a half in Scotland but I am no where near local here. I like it here, usually at least, but I do not yet feel like I belong to here. Scotland is not dramatically different from Finland, there are lots of similarities since both are Northern European countries. But then there are also lots of little differences.

One of the biggest differences if of course the language. We are taught english at school in Finland, but we speak Finnish everywhere (expect in some parts where people speak Swedish or Sami). English is a convenient language but the cool thing with it is that there are so many different english accents. Unfortunately at school we are mostly taught British english and from media Finns pick up american standard english. Scottish accent is quite different from those with its rolling R’s and own vocabulary.

Scots greet by saying “Hiya!” That sounds so very cheerful, but indeed Scots are quite cheerful. When you open a door to someone they thank you by saying “Cheers”. That nice “Cheers” replaces “Thank you” also when locals exit the bus or order a drink at the pub. When you bump into someone on the street purring “Soory” apologises the accident. Everything small is “wee”. “Wee lassie”, “wee drink”, “wee wee”… “Dina cash yersel” means don’t get annoyed and when you do not know what on earth the other is talking about you can say: “I dinne ken whit ye mean”. Or just say “Ehm?”

I like Scottish accent a lot. I find it hilarious. At first it was difficult to understand people when they were talking with a thick Scottish accent, but I got used to it quite quickly. People here claim that Glaswegian accent is the worst one, but I have no opinion on that. People I have talked to in Glasgow have been no more confusing than all the other Scots and their accents. Also, some Northern England accents are just as or even more difficult to understand than Scottish ones. My previous english flatmate had an accent that I could not understand at all at first.

Here is an extract imitating the way locals in Edinburgh speak. This is from Irvine Welsh’s novel Train spotting (1993).

-No, ah sais.

-Aye, Spud sais at the same time. We turn aroond n look at each other.  Aw the time we spent gitting oor story right n it takes the doss cunt two minutes tae blow it.

In my ear Scottish accent sounds friendly and even a little innocent. It might be difficult to take it seriously even when the issue is serious. How about news in Scottish? No matter what, it just sounds funny and informal next to traditional so called Oxford English. That is obviously a terrible thing to say. Accent racism. There are many regional accents in Great Britain but only few are considered as high-prestige accents. Why are some types of accents still related to educated people and serious businesses and others to working class dummies?

I shouldn’t categorise accents into serious and ridiculous ones, after all I have my own messed up accent. My English is a mix of Finnish, British, Scottish, and American accents. How it sounds depends on the day and who I’m talking with as I pick up the accent from the others during the conversation. At the university the lectures are taught by Scottish, Irish, British, French, Portuguese, Afghans… After being exposed to variety of accents I’ve got used to them. My world is no longer limited to British and American English. Despite my now so experienced ear, Scottish accent still makes me smile.

Here is a wee video clip demonstrating wonderful Scottish accent. This is a scene from Outlander, a fine TV- and book series that takes place in Scotland. At least the first part of it.

Youtube video by Television Fanatic (Footage: Outlander (STARZ), Copyright: All rights go to Sony Pictures).

Travel explore and experience

IMG_4366You can travel to the end of the world and still not fall off. The world just keeps stretching further. I suppose that even those who have visited every single country in this world can not say that they know this world. You will discover new wonders when you revisit the places you have already explored. Even your home town has corners and doors that you might never have noticed before. And then there is the constant flow of changes taking place in wherever you go. New buildings are being built, old ones blown up, small trees grow to tall trees and winter melts to spring.

I have a need to travel to discover more and try to get a grasp of what is going on on this planet. Well, to put it down in a plain way: I want to see and experience as much as possible of the things that I read from books, see on movies and hear from friends.

As much as I want to travel around the world, I also have to be reasonable. I am a full time university student and planning to graduate on time, which means that I do not have time to just take off and disappear into the maze of the countries. I have to study, I have to work. However, that does not mean that I have to give up the desire to travel. I can go for a holiday every now and then and spent the time in between dreaming and planning the trip. Who does not love to skim through travel magazines, look at the pretty pictures and wish that someday they will get there?

Traveling is not necessary equated with going far away. Surely visiting a nearby village or a summer day at the seashore count as a trip as well.

I live in a foreign country and although I am not on a holiday here it is not quite as being home. Physically I travel between my home country Finland and my Scotland, where I study, few times a year. On a non-physical level I travel between these two countries all the time. I communicate with my friends and family in Finland via internet and mail while I chat with my other friends and listen to the lecturers here in Scotland. I try not to do all those at the same time though. For that reason it is difficult to say where I live right now, when I am home and when I’m traveling. Every time I come back to Scotland it looks at me with a familiar face and I walk the familiar streets to home, but when I go back to Finland I can feel that I’m home.

IMG_2937_2

In a way it doesn’t matter where my home is because I can travel to and from and in any country. I can check out new places and choose different paths to walk everywhere I happen to be.