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Finland Storytelling

Tote Bag and Other Thoughts

The tote bag was printed with the words, “All this will end well.”

In the corner of a tiny, grey elevator stood an old man who half-smiled like he had something to hide. He was holding a tote bag tightly. The bag was printed with the words, “All this will end well.” And I wondered if I was hallucinating, because the bag seemed to be reading my mind.

Waiting for Russia’s “military surprise” like a sitting duck, these were exactly the words I needed to see printed anywhere and everywhere. I might need to order a t-shirt with this print, possibly in mirror writing, so I could read it myself while wearing it.

It’s a crazy world right now and it’s hard to see a happy ending to all this. If I suddenly disappeared from this blog, the most probable option is no longer that I started an exciting phase of life fulfilling my dream of moving permanently to a tropical island with my kids.

But I wouldn’t hold it against you if that’s what you preferred to think. (Maybe the island has no wifi? She’ll be back.)

It’s hard not to think about the state of reality. You can only close your eyes and hum theme songs for so long. This is the local vibe right now: will they invade? When? Some don’t want to talk about it, and some do. The chilly weather seems to be a reflection of the chills running up our spines.

You need to be here to understand it. It doesn’t mean we are being self-centered in Ukraine’s time of need: indeed, we are offering help both as individuals and as a state in as many ways as we can. It just means that the facts of our existence have been shaken.

There’s a Youtube mix that I like to listen to on repeat, where someone deejayed a whole 90’s salsa album I love into 12 minutes. The album itself holds a great deal of nostalgia for me, since I was originally introduced to it by my dance teacher as a teenager. I went to a record store and ordered a copy of it from abroad, which was very exciting back then.

This newer Youtube mix somehow manages to bring the best bits together in an uplifting (but also loyal) way. In my very favourite part, they sing something about “las palabras de Mamá.” Without understanding the entire context, it makes me think of large Latin families and the feminine figures looking out for all the young ones. Listen to Mother’s words, and you’ll stay safe.

It feels like something I need to hear right now.

Most of the music I listen to is in Spanish, so I don’t find it the slightest bit odd that I only understand parts of it. It gives my brain the liberty to interpret the rest as it wishes. So many things in life are a matter of interpretation.

I was actually thinking about the nature of Finns a while ago as I sold some of the kids’ old things on a Facebook flea market. They are very popular over here. And not only the nature of Finns, but the culture of being so very trusting.

A woman I had never met paid me 90€ in advance for our used double stroller, without ever having seen more than an iPhone photo. And I didn’t even ask for advance payment!

She and her kid travelled 3 hours by train to retrieve it, arrived at the agreed-upon time, picked it up, and left for their long journey back. Her sincerity, however, left me feeling nervous in case she felt disappointed afterwards, even though I had duly noted in my ad that the stroller was no longer in perfect condition.

The whole transaction amazed me, starting from the fact that someone even bought a used stroller on social media for such an amount without any kind of bargaining. I had been expecting to have to lower the price.

For all she knew, I could have been a troll. Maybe there was no stroller? What if I didn’t show up?

This encounter sums up Finns so well. Trusting, sincere, forthright.

It might not be the combination of traits that signals survival in this cruel world right now. But it offers me comfort.

On a brighter note, I’m currently reading A Three Dog Problem by S.J. Bennett, which delightfully features the Queen of England as the murder-mystery-solving protagonist. I’m loving it so far! And I just watched The Space Between Us on Netflix, a movie for which I had no expectations. I thought it was cute, lovely, and sad, and completely worth watching.

The photos in this post are from my favourite building in Helsinki, which now houses the Amos Rex Museum.

Day by day, that’s the answer. Stay safe!

52 replies on “Tote Bag and Other Thoughts”

One day at a time is my motto.

The way you describe Finns as trusting warms my heart. The world would be so much better if people were just good and they didn’t have to worry about being abused by ‘the bad.’

Your comment about not understanding all of the lyrics and having to assume the meaning reminded me of when my mom would ask me how I could sing songs I didn’t know what they said. You just make up your own story. It’s quite cool.

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I’m amazed by your story of the sale of the stroller. Like you, I’d have thought there’d be some negotiation about the price. I have to admire a culture like the Finns. I’d like to experience more trust and forthrightness in my everyday life.

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There’s at least China, Brazil, Belarus, Hungary (?), India (?) and others that align with Russia and this list involves most of the planet’s head count. It’s depressing how the human race has not learned anything at all. But thanks, Sandy. If Finland is attacked, it’ll possibly be the start of the Third World War, so I hope we don’t come to that.

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I feel for you and your fellow country(wo)men because of the threat of war. Over here we knod approvingly when reading that Sweden and Finland decided to join Nato, but we don’t want to bother to much about the question what that for you people might mean. I understand the fear and anxiety, however I do hope that it won’t bring you all into a depression. The world sucks once in a while, but when there are still ladies left that trustingly buy strollers on the internet not all is lost. I wish you strenght and good luck and if you decide to move to that tropical island, let it be one with WIFI, because I would not want to miss you posts. Especially when larded with such truly wonderful pictures as in this one.

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Thanks, Peter! I really love the aesthetics of this functionalist building, as well as the neon signs and decor.
I support our joining Nato, there’s no other choice now. We realised how naive we had been in thinking that Russia had moved on from the 2nd World War. What a shock to realise they are still stuck there, like time had stood still. Just incredible. We can’t naively keep trusting them.

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I am so terribly sorry to hear that you have to endure daily life with the spectre of an invasion from so hostile a neighbour looming over you. It would be a terrible burden to bear. We have been lulled into taking security for granted and no more so than for Aussies who are so far away from the action, the only threat is China becoming more friendly with the Pacific islanders due to a lazy, insular government ( who was removed from office last night!). I will keep a room free here for you should you need a refuge if the worst comes to happen. Just grab a bag, kids and hubby and head for the airport or a ferry bound for Australia.
Agree about Finns and their purchases. Trusting that people will do the right thing. Sadly the world is no longer that kind of place.

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I really wish the world was still that kind of place. And I honestly thought we would be fighting climate change in 2022 and not planning evacuation because a deluded group of people want to destroy everything in arm’s reach.
This would be a good moment to pack up and fly over there, but unfortunately there’s the small matter of visas and work. Also, hubby isn’t very adventurous. So we’ll just stay here and wait… hopefully some kind of miracle will happen and the world will return to normal, whatever that is… 🙃 I sound more glum than intended! It’s sunny today (though only 15C) and the sun feels lovely.

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When you become a Mum, you want the world to be kind, to be a kind safe place for them to grow up in. It is not always so.
Visas are expensive and time consuming but did you not live here for some time? Would that not count in some way? But yes you definitely need a job to go to, here. Visas and jobs, we can have some influence over, the unadventurous hubby less so.

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😆🤣Hahah! True!
I actually looked into the visa thing as an adult, some ten years ago perhaps, and apparently, had I renewed it as a teen, I would have permanent residency. There was a deadline, but it was a very lenient and long one. Only problem is, I didn’t know. I was just a teen and there was no internet then, so I had no clue.

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You post could be titled ‘When day to day life collides with the world around it.’ It must be weird to be living on the front lines of the current dysfunctionality that seems to be the norm these days. I keep thinking there must be people in Russia who realize how Putin has gone off the rails, but then I see how many of the world’s ‘big’ powers are in the same situation, led by people who are delusional at best.
I wish you well and, like you, hope it all turns out all right. Oh, and by the way, your take on it and the photos you use to illustrate it are perfect, as always. I wish you all the best in these difficult times.

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Another title idea: “When politicians ruin the planet and you try to keep calm!” …Or: “After the pandemic, just before mass destruction”… or something along those lines. Maybe the tote bag one was a less depressing option, after all! Anyway, thanks for the encouragement, as always!

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Strange and unsettling times we are living now and I feel for you. We’re so far away we have this notion it won’t affect us more than it has already but who knows… Your post and photos are an insight into how in reality it means to be so close to such a threat and I thank you for sharing your experience with us.

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Beautifully written and emoted (is this a word?), especially coupled with your salsa album that I’m now listening. It is amazing how we have reached the point when entire nations, such as yours, are waiting what will happen and the rest of us can do nothing about it but wait along with you and hope for the best. It is beautiful how you illustrate the nation’s spirit with your anecdote. Good people. I wish you well.

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The last couple of years have been so shocking. First Corona and now Russia invading Ukraine.
I look at my kids at times and feel really nervous about what their future entails.
Countries should be pulling together right now, working on climate change, world hunger and poverty but instead Putin invaded Ukraine and we are all now sitting of the edge of the abyss.
Generally, I would describe myself as an optimist. But my optimism is currently overshadowed by the fact that Putin is so unpredictable and unfathomable that all logic has flown out of the window.
I don’t understand how any country can support his actions in Ukraine. OK, that’s not completely true, Belarus, I get, their government is just a puppet government of Russia, but the rest? Especially Hungry!
But even here in Germany we have constant demonstrations from anti corona policy activists, which have now been reduced down to a hard core group (around 200 people in our small city) who are now wearing pro Russia badges and clothing.
A couple of weeks ago there was an incident whereby a member of the public criticised the group and pointed out the hypocrisy of it all, ie, could they freely demonstrate in Russia? He was then stopped by police, had to show his ID card and was made to leave the area. What???
But that’s another story for another day… My point is, the delicate balance we all depend on has been upturned, and it seems to me from all different angles.
I am welcoming of Finland and Sweden joining NATO. I don’t know what the consequences will be. The only thing I do know is that once you are in, we are all in this together. We all need to stand up to Putin, who is nothing more than a very powerful bully.
I wish you well, stay safe.

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Thanks for your thoughtful comment, everything you mention is something I could have said myself. Totally agree. And we too had a pro-Russia demonstration which was unfathomable! Freedom of speech gives them the right to say what they want but who wants the place you live to be destroyed to dust? Why are they living here if they want war to happen?!
Also, the degree to which the Russian public lives under propaganda and disinformation is alarming and also completely incomprehensible in this day and age.
As for Nato, Turkey doesn’t want Finland because they say we are a haven for terrorists (wtf?!?!?!?!) and meanwhile today the news reports said Turkey launched a military operation into Syria! What?!?!
How do all these uncivilized macho men get to keep their places in power? We just accept it.
Anyway… stay safe!

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You also have pro Russia demonstrations? The mind boggles. Ha! I keep saying that too!! Go and live in Russia then, we’re not stopping you!! In fact, we’d gladly pack your bags and help you on a one way train.
I agree, the Russian public are being so brainwashed with fake news, it’s frightening.
Turkey is a huge problem. Erdogan is horrendous.
I also can’t understand the macho men phenomenon – especially, how can women vote for them? How would they ever understand women’s issues at all? And then, when they do meet with other powerful people, they just have to go and butt heads.
I do like Mr Scholz – he’s been heavily criticized by some in Germany for not being bold enough against Putin, but I think that he tries the diplomatic route until it’s clear it’s failing and then he changes tactics. It’s easy to criticize when that policy fails. It makes him a bit of a sitting target. But I value his measured, well thought through approach. If the other world leaders behaved in such a decent way, the war in Ukraine wouldn’t have started in the first place.
The Finnish prime minister seems pretty reasonable and level-headed from when I’ve seen her in interviews. Is that your impression too?

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I know, the mind boggles!! Do the demonstrators even understand what they are demonstrating for?
The world keeps disappointing me: today I read about a new school shooting in the US where 19 children were killed 😭😭😭😭 That’s just absolutely terrifying. Imagine sending your kid to school each morning and fearing for their life. We need to stop giving people guns and weapons of mass destruction. Their manufacturing should be against the law everywhere. But I guess then the maniacs (sorry, they always seem to be men who do this type of thing) would turn to swords I guess? I’m so done with all this violence!
Oh, that’s true that a diplomatic approach might look weak in the eyes of these dictators. But it’s still a better approach.
Yes, I’m quite happy with our PM and our President, too. In general, I think our nation supports them. Polls have shown that around 70% of Finns are pro Nato now, after February. I think it’s reassuring that they are taking the situation seriously and doing something about it.

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I share both your fears and your optimism, and I love the message on the shirt, too. If only …

Meanwhile, we do what we can do, trying to trust and tolerate and live day-to-day as well as we can. Your proximity to tangible evil is indeed scary, and I feel like our place here amid inexplicably radical social and political changes is, too. My tiny goal each day is to just be nice to as many people as I can (even the ones I totally disagree with), which sounds futile and worthless but keeps me feeling like I have a tiny bit of power to affect the negativity around us.

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That’s a really good goal and I should focus on that, too! And it’s true that what I wrote about isn’t the only scary and inexplicable thing happening. Well, inexplicable to a degree: it’s always about money, in the end, whatever the issue. But inexplicable in that humans would rather destroy everything in their path than make the world a nicer place for everyone. Anyway, focusing on tiny good things within our reach is probable all most of us can do.

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It goes to show that one newscast does not cover this. I was listening to NPR while I was out Thursday and it was discussing the return home of many Ukrainians who had fled to Poland. I was just re-listening to that story to see if I misunderstood it, but no, it has a positive outlook. There’s a feeling, at least among the Ukrainians interviewed that they are less panicked now and are trying to return to home and their lives there. Yet, now I am reading of how Finland and Sweden are being cut off of Russian oil by Putin because they’ve applied to become part of NATO. And then I find out Russian forces are active in other former Soviet republics – where I guess I thought that was in the past.

What I’m saying is that the world is confusing and complex. And so much of it feels so far away. I’m so sorry for that. I’m sorry that you are afraid and have reason to be afraid. I’m sorry that you and your friends and neighbors and family are at risk of this crazy man. I’m sorry that our former president probably helped create some of the crazy with his support of Putin, although I rather think he was used by a crazy person who was smarter than himself.

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Thanks for such a lovely comment! And I agree with you on it all.
It seems it’s not just Putin but generations of Russians have been taught WWII aged ideas at school and “history” that has been altered, resulting in Putin’s followers who support him, the regular folk. The scholars and academics are either silenced by fear, as they don’t have freedom of speech, or they’ve fled the country.I have been so surprised to learn all of this, because I thought they were living in 2022 like the rest of us.
Finland decided to join the early sanctions and most companies immediately cut off all business with Russia if they could (some, however, were blackmailed into staying). So we cut off most usage of Russian energy way before they cut us off, we aren’t dependent on it, and this will just speed up our plans of switching entirely to renewable energy. These plans were already on their way.
It’s a sad world where people return home to a country bombed for no real reason. I wonder where we would flee if we were bombed. We only have a border with Russia and Sweden. If Sweden was under attack, too, we’d be stuck here. Who knows. I just hope my kids’ future will be brighter than all this.

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts and fears. My heart has been broken and many prayers sent up for those in Ukraine, and surrounding countries. Thank you to you and your country for the help you all provide. Here in the USA I feel so helpless. This is so wrong. I have found some trustworthy organizations I can assist. I watch the news because I want to understand what people are going through. I don’t want to be in a bubble. And not to say we don’t have our own issues over here (a conversation for another day). I want to learn and connect with people around the world. I want to understand. I want you to know I care. 🤗😢 It’s a scary world sometimes.

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It is so hard for me to imagine that the Russians don’t understand. I know it’s true, I had a friend tell me about a conversation she had with a Russian here in the US that still didn’t get it. Heart breaking.

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I saw the headline the other day. Finland and Swedan confirmed the intention to join NATO and I immediately thought of you. The response from Russia sends a chill up my spine and I can’t imagine what you are going through right now. The uncertainty of what will happen and what the future holds. This is not what the world should be fighting, it should be a bigger issue to fight like climate change. Humanity at its worse!

I really hope all will be well for you, your family and your beautiful country. Miracle does happen and I wish it will for you. Sending you all the sunshine from tropics! 34 degree today!

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Exactly! We should be saving the planet, not destroying it! And even the mere fact that these macho men are fighting over pieces of land like children argueing in a sand pit just makes me think, what are countries really but lines drawn on a map by men who came before us and also wanted to own everything. In the end, we are all citizens of this planet and we are focusing on the wrong things now. Additionally, humans have always been nomads so fighting over country borders is even more silly, because we all have mixed ancestors who came from here and there. Who cares about a line on a map?! Just start climate measures! If anything good comes of this, it might be that Europe stops using Russia’s fossile energy and hopefully that’ll mean European countries switch to renewable energy. We are already doing that in Finland. But you are right: this really is humanity at its worst!!!

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Your perspective on border lines is an eye opener. Nothing but man-made lines like the fence at our individual house. They are all fighting the wrong fight. Yes! We should be already start to switch to renewable energy and Scandinavian countries are a leader in this. In Sarawak, the government is pushing toward green hydrogen energy. We’ll see if it is just all talk or not.

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I’m back, Snow! 🙂 And what a clever title you’ve got there. To answer one of your questions, “I hope never.” I hope they’d never cross your borders hayy. Anyway, 3 hours by train to get your stroller. I hope she had a wonderful time on the train on her way to you and back, passing some colourful spring flowers along the way. 🙂

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Hey! Oh I’m asking myself that too? What have I really been doing these last 2 years? Still wanting to find a job but never really getting to updating my CV. Ah but I’ve finished a few online courses 🙂 From two pots, my garden now has a number of them. And yeah the family has been doing lots of forest walks these days. 🙂

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Day by day indeed. I am always shocked at the distance there is between your genuine concern and the total “insouciance” of the French. I don’t recognize my country anymore. You are right to be concerned, but I suggest Russia will end up defeated. Sooner or later. They don’t have the resources, nor the “mentality” other peoples have. Trust for Finn (and bravery for many many years) or the incredible courage of the Ukrainians. They will be defeated… Trust the old man and his bag.

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True. Though I suspect the Finns are very conscious of the situation. And are taking steps to face the situation. Then it’s okay to take it one day at a time. France is ignoring the issue totally. Not a word or action on hwat we should do on the military front. We have 200 tanks left! That’ about what was destroyed in the first month of the war. We have about ten days of ammunition. hahaha! We have absolutely no plan…

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I agree. I spent 12 months in the military. Serious sh.t. More than half the year in manoeuvers… We learned to handle just about any weapon under a 155mm cannon. Bullets that can go though a concrete wall! People have no idea the damage weapons can do. And yes, gangs are printing guns in 3D… Sigh.

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