Saturday, 31 May 2014

Summer Love

The last day of May. Schools are ending, the radio is playing talk show and some exciting music from the other side of the globe. My body yearns to see Cuba. The world is colourful. The taste of green tea lingers on my tongue. Outside it is not yet dark, even though it is soon closer to 11 than to 10.

It is Saturday.Any ordinary Saturday night. I am looking for pictures that could possibly describe - or even just hint at - the faboulness of the world. The world right now. As it is. There is nothing, nothing that catches the colours, the joie du vivre. Even though the raindrops keep falling and the tea is bitter.

iViva la vida! 

Some More Challenges

What motivates you?

In order to get my fitness regime going (again), I decided to embark upon a couple of fitness challenges circulating the Internet.

The 30-day ab challenge (see Facebook) targets the abs. The FB-challenge officially starts tomorrow, but my boyfriend and I started this challenge a couple of days ago. This far so good, even though I really don't like training my abs. Instead of going by the book, I try to beat my record every day. 

I decided to add some legs and shoulders to the above regime, so May Madness, here we come (albeit a bit late). 

On the third day I'm now feeling nicely sore all over. While the workouts don't require much time, I definitely feel that I have been doing something. An additional reason for satisfaction is the fact that I can stay in the plank position for a longer period of time each day. As I'm not doing the plan alone, I have someone checking my posture. This is something I recommend when doing all of these exercises because it is difficult to know if one is doing the exercises correctly. 

Friday, 30 May 2014

Salmon & Pesto Toast

Yesterday, when trying to decide what to do with the fresh salmon in the fridge, my boyfriend had a great idea. Salmon & pesto toast. Quick, simple and relatively low-risk (we were hungry).

Step 1. Prepare the salmon & pesto. The salmon was fried in some olive oil. After that we mixed it with some arugula pesto.

Step 2. Prepare the toast. Here we mixed some garlic and olive oil, before covering the toasts with the mix and putting them in the oven.

Step 3: once the bread is crispy enough, we just added the salmon & pesto mix. I had some extra feta cheese and garlic on mine. 

Moja ranná káva (SK: my morning coffee)


Ako sa máte? Tu je všetko dobré.

I'm currently visiting my parents, or to be more precise - their dog. My parents are off travelling this weekend and I am having a loooong weekend from work. In a while I'll also need to defend my thesis. Then, what?

I'm quite happy about having been able to work on my Slovak this week. SJ (the main train operator in Sweden) had quite a chaotic week, which gave me loads of time to study Slovak.

The material that I use for my Slovak adventure is a book called Slovak for You by Ada Bohmerova. It's not the most interesting textbook I have seen, but it serves its purpose. I'm also carrying around on the Little Prince (Malý princ), attempting to read it once in a while.

My problem when it comes to Slovak is that I understand it. Is that a problem? It sure is! Because I understand quite a bit, I don't make much of an effort to actually memorize the Slovak version of words and grammar. The other day I was trying to put together some sentences, which was very hard as I intuitively wanted to use the Polish alphabet instead of the Slovak one. Silly me!

I believe that one can learn a lot by analyzing words and sentences. So, let's analyze the "Ako sa máte?" 

Ako sa máte? How are you?

Ako = how (compare with jak in Polish and как in Russian)
sa - this is actually a reflexive formant, which belongs to the verb mat' (to have).
máte = they have.

Conjugation of mat' and nemát' 

Ja mám - ja nemám
Ty máš - ty nemáš
On, ona, ono má - on, ona, ono nemá

My máme - my nemáme
Vy máte - vy nemáte
Oni, ony majú - oni, ony nemajú

And how to reply...

  • Ďakujem, dost' dobre/celkom dobre. Quite well, thank you. 
  • Bohužiaľ, nie vel'mi dobre. Unfortunately, not too well. 
  • Dobre/ nie dobre. Well/ not well. 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

All Russians Love Birch Trees

You know how you sometimes find a book title that is absolutely compelling, calling your name?  All Russians Love Birch Trees is one such title. I saw the book (Ryssar är såna som gillar björkar in Swedish) and had to read it. My opinions about the book are somewhat mixed. It was a pleasant read, it touched upon topics very dear to me (like languages - I feel like I want to learn Arabic now), but at the same time I did not get the point of the rather confusing story and the ending was too abrupt for my taste.

This debut novel by Olga Grjasnowa deals with not fitting in and seeking escape in languages as a mode of detachment from reality. Masha is an interpreter residing in Frankfurt and seeking refuge in languages. Something from her childhood in Azerbaijan haunts her, she does not want to speak about it. When her boyfriend Elias dies, she escapes to Israel where she has a mental breakdown of sorts.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Multiple Language Experiment - Summer 2014

A while back I wrote about picking up some of my old languages.  I have given this some thought and have decided to do a little language project as I finally have the time to do so. I spend a total of 80 minutes on a train each working day, so why not spend the time efficiently.

3 languages. 5 days a week. 5 weeks for each language. 15 weeks.

The languages are Slovak, Polish and Russian. And this is how I'm going to do it:

  • Day 1: Read from a book or other text
  • Day 2: Read an article on current affairs
  • Day 3: Translate the article into English
  • Day 4: Translate a poem into English
  • Day 5: Write a short story
I will be starting with Slovak because it is the weakest of the three languages. The goal is to be able to produce something in the language, a written text.  We will see how it goes.

Go Vote!

Today the citizens of the European Union member states are electing their representatives to the Parliament for the next five years to come.

In previous years the participation has not been very high, with the turnout in 2009 being 43%. I personally find it quite interesting that Slovakia had the lowest turnout - a mere 19,6%.

Swedish media have given the elections much attention, and central Stockholm has been filled with political speeches and that special, jolly campaign atmosphere.

Some campaign posters in central Stockholm, May 2014
There are some hot topics that have dominated the discussion here in Sweden. Maybe a bit unexpectedly, a lot of attention has been given to pigs. Numbers show that Sweden is the EU-country that uses the least antibiotics in pig farming. The current debate revolves around banning the importation of pork from Denmark. Other issues include the rise of the extreme right in Europe and the free movement of people within the EU. The current issue with an increased number of beggars from Romania that are filling the streets of Stockholm and other Swedish cities.

I have heard people say that they will not vote because they don't believe in the European Union, because they do not want to be a part of it. Others feel that they don't have anything to say anyway, there is no way to influence EU politics. It is - excuse me for this - a lousy excuse. The moment we decide not to vote, we also lose our chance to influence who gets elected and who will make the decisions. 

Read more about....

...election statistics:
...immigration and the Nordic countries:
...Sweden, Romania & the Roma Issue:

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Elu on väärt elamist [notes on Estonian]

Elu on väärt elamist - Life is Worth Living
How much time have you spent thinking about Estonian? 

Let me tell you, Estonian is quite an amazing language. Funny and beautiful at the same time. My boyfriend thinks it's like a more cheerful version of Finnish :)

Finnish and Estonia belong to the same Finno-Ugric language group, but they are not mutually intelligible. As a Finnish-speaker I can understand some things, but most of the time I'm out in the blue, all puzzled about what is going on around me.

Take for instance the following sentences:

  • How are you? Estonian: kuidas sinul läheb? Finnish: Mitä sinulle kuuluu? 

  • I don't understand. Estonian: ma ei saa aru. Finnish: minä en ymmärrä. 
  • Thank you very much. Estonian: tänan väga. Finnish: kiitos paljon. 
  • Life is worth living. Estonian: elu on väärt elamist. Finnish: elämä on elämisen arvoinen. 

In general, I must admit that I know shamelessly little about both the Estonian language and culture. For a country that is so close, its history, culture, language and literature are surprisingly far away. I will definitely try to improve my knowledge in the area.

A tip for you who are unfamiliar with Finnish and Estonian literature: the Finnish writer Sofi Oksanen (her mother is Estonian) has written a couple of internationally acknowledged novels, which pay attention to issues relating to Estonia. 

utorok [SK: Tuesday]

Today I am... 

...drinking coffee.
...feeling excited.
...enjoying the sunshine.
...having my last day off (woo)
...going to the tax office and the bank. Wish me luck!
...going to cook something extra delicious for lunch.
...feeling inspired.

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn

How are you today?

Monday, 19 May 2014

Pravda [SK: Truth]

Pravda! -- Ja o nej poznám veľa.
Jej hlas mi vždy bol najdrahší.
Bohovia si ju nerozdelia
v hre pri hazardnom mariáši.

Jej trpezlivým slovom večným
kdekto sa lživo honosí.
No jej sú cudzie sladké slečny,
neznáša zlaté podnosy.

Pravda je ako voda v studni
-- čistá a prostá, hlboká.
Pravda je úsvit nezáludný,
ktorý ťa budí z obloka.

Je v tvrdých dlaniach zapísaná,
zasiata v brázdach našich čiel.
A nie je ťažká žiadna rana
na cestách, ak si za ňou šiel.

Ján Majerník,  Stalo sa, 1978

Truth! --- I know much about her .
Her voice was always the dearest to me.
May the Gods not break her
in the game of hazardous poker.

On her eternal voice of patience
many would falsely pride themselves.
Indeed, hers are strange sweet ladies,
 not carrying golden plates.

Truth is like water in a well
-- pure and simple, deep. 
Truth is the non-deceptive dawn
that awakes you from the window.

She is written in the hard palms,
planted in the furrows of our aims.
And on the roads no blow 
is heavy, if you'd gone for her yourself.

Ján Majerník,  Stalo sa, 1978 - translation mine

Doing It Right? Notes on Translation.

All of us are customers. We purchase items and services that come with a lot of information. We (or at least I) expect the information to be correct and understandable. Companies (big and small) need to think about cost-efficient solutions when creating the items and the services, as well as the information surrounding them. Logical, isn't it?

When it comes to translation, a lot of things can go wrong. If I hobby-translate some poem, my errors will (hopefully) not have a negative impact on anyone. I do not ask anyone to pay for my translation services or any other services that require translations to be correct. In other word, this criticism is not aimed at language-learning individuals. I question the behavior of companies that do not take these things seriously. However, in the role of customer I feel that I have the right to expect the service provider to provide me with correct information and correct translations. This past weekend I went to Estonia with an Estonian ferry company that provided all information in four languages: Estonian, Swedish, Russian and English. That is great, isn't it? But - and of course there is a but - why pay for a translator if nobody proofreads the text? My opinions continue after the examples. I have done a word-by-word translation of the Swedish texts.

Beauty salon Hera Salongid is for You who You love Yourself and value Your time. When You are always hurrying Yourself in Your hectic life and don't have time to go everywhere, help is sometimes closer than You think! We help You find the most important - Yourself. To again find inspiration within You and to move toward new experiences and challenges. Here with us Your face, Your Body, Your hands and feet can relax. 

The cleaning of the cabins starts well before the ship arrives to the harbor. I suite and Lyx cabins are cleaned during the cruise, other cruise cabins are emptied only trash bins. The passengers may store their baggage (misspelled) and their personal belongings in the cabin until the ferry arrives to the harbor. We kindly ask you to leave the cabin door open when the journey is reaching its end.  

Here we have a ball pit, slide, toys, pain tools the toilet and nursery for the children. During school holidays there is a play leader for children. NB! Parents are responsible for their children. 

The latest dance hits choose the DJ. Modern sound technology and impressing Light suits all who value the trendiest beats. 

These examples are harmless. Nobody will get hurt if it is the hits that choose the DJ rather than the opposite. But, how can I trust that information concerning more important things (what to do when the boat starts sinking) is correct? Can I be 100% that the staff will understand what I say if there is no intention to use the language correctly? (Here I would like to mention that staff with name tags indicating that they know Swedish rather spoke English). It would be fine with me that Swedish wouldn't be used at all - but if you are going to use it, do it properly! Am I a happy customer? Not really.

Weekend Trip: Tallinn

This weekend took us to to the lovely capital of Estonia - Tallinn. What can I say? It's a lovely city with a lot of historical buildings and it's the perfect place for a Sunday stroll in the sunshine. Tallinn is  a very popular destination for Finns and Swedes (might have something to do with the low alcohol prices) so getting there is fairly easy and inexpensive. We took the ferry over the Baltic sea. However, I felt that one day in the Estonian capital wasn't enough. I want to spend more time in the city and the country - it's amazing!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Time For A Language Project?

My dear friends, I have been thinking (miracles do happen from time to time). My fingers are itching for a new language project, but I do not know where to start. One thing is sure, I will not start a new language as I have more than one language that I could improve - I don't think that I need to know more languages.

Quality over quantity is the keyword this time. I do not need to impress anyone with the quantity of languages that I speak - I prefer to be able to show that I speak them well. 

So. Where do we stand at the moment? (obviously at some crazy place as I'm speaking of myself in the plural). Swedish, Finnish and English are OK. Of course they could be improved. I don't think that an effort put into mother tongues or advanced languages is ever wasted. But they are OK. Spanish, Russian, Polish. I know them well, but have forgotten a lot. They need to be improved. Hungarian, Slovak: need to be improved even more. And then there's French and Germany, languages that I learnt at school and would like to be able to read in. Or at least order coffee :)

So, now I need tips. 

How would you organize a project for improving your skills in 5-7 languages? There is no need to worry too much about grammar, so it is mainly the vocabulary that needs improvement.  

Raspberry Mango Twist

It's Smoothie-time again! This very delicious smoothie is made of frozen raspberries, frozen mango pieces and a banana. I also added skimmed milk to get the consistency right. So, what does it taste like? Well, let me tell you this - it's better than ice-cream on a hot summer day!

Friday, 16 May 2014

The Many Faces of Language Learning

As many of you know, I love learning foreign languages. There is nothing quite as wonderful as grasping the meaning of new, exotic sounds and words, writing that very first sentence.

In the past couple of month I have come across another type of language learning. It has been a learning process because the field is completely new to me. Quite frankly, it has been a great eye-opener.

In my Master's thesis I did a critical discourse analysis (CDA) on parts of the constitutions of Slovakia, Poland and Russia. According to Wikipedia, "Critical discourse analysis (CDA) is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of discourse that views language as a form of social practice and focuses on the ways social and political domination are reproduced in text and talk". 

The approach gave me a completely new view on language-learning. What do all those little words mean? What is their impact? What is the context of the whole story? Who is involved? 

When doing a critical discourse analysis, one may take one of several approaches. My work was inspired by the analysis process developed by Norman Fairclough. In essence my analysis focused on the relationship between language and norms within a complex and transformative context, including such factors as discursive events, meanings, representations and assumptions. 

I believe that a critical stance is needed in most aspects of life in order to understand the world around us - and a language nerd like me obviously loves it when language is thrown into the mix. 

Further reading; 
  • Fairclough, Norman (1989). Language and Power. London: Longman.
  • Teun A. Van Dijk. (2008). Discourse and Power. Houndsmills: Palgrave.
  • Wodak Ruth (ed). Critical Discourse Analysis. Available at

Buďte šťastní! [SK: Be Happy!]

This photo, in all its simplicity, makes me happy, reminding me that despite all, things flourish and bloom. 

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Lovely Scandinavia In May!

Ahoj! Stále žije!

Hi! I'm still alive.

I have survived computer crashes,
thesis writing, 
job interviews, 
spending too much time on a boat,
running a 5K-competition (that wasn't a competition!),
and getting a fringe. 

Today I'm celebrating with some Chilean wine and ice-hockey (Finland is playing against Belarus), I will be back with a lot of thoughts soon, so stay tuned.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Yesterday's Workout

Yesterday's pilates-inspired strength training consisted of a circle emphasizing the lower body, yet including the whole body. So now my body is completely sore. Actually, I would love to go to the gym but currently - with us jumping back and forth between two-three places - it's not really possible.

The workout: three times three circles, consisting of three exercises. A little bit of rest between each circle.

Circle 1: chest, bum/legs and core. 

  • Traditional push-ups x max
  • Goblet squat x 15-20
  • Kneeling arm and leg reach  x 15
Speaking of flexibility - I'd like to be able to do this :) Picture here

Circle 2: shoulders, bum/legs and core. 

  • Shoulder front raises with dumbbell x 15
  • Hip raises/the bridge x 20
  • "the V" x 10 (sloooowly)

Circle 3: triceps/biceps, calves and bum/legs

  • Lying triceps extensions (2 x 12) and hammer curls 2 x max
  • Double leg calf raise x max
  • Dumbbell swing (one arm at a time) x max/arm

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Smoothies Deluxe

Ahojte, milí priatelia!

In an attempt to be a bit more healthy, I have been (tried to) keeping track of my food intake. The tool I'm using ( - in Finnish) was telling me that I'm not getting enough fruits and veggies.

What better way to eat fruit and veggies, I thought, than in smoothies?

So. Smoothies it is. 

Tropical Smoothie

Ingredients (1 big glass)

  • ½ orange
  • 1 kiwi
  • 1/4 pineapple
  • 1 dl sour milk (strawberry-lemon flavored in this case)

Green + Red Smoothie

Ingredients (1 big glass)

  • 1 green apple
  • 1 avocado
  • 5 strawberries
  • some orange juice

International Workers' Day /Labour Day

Comment: work is a topic that I feel is important - maybe it is one of the main challenges society is facing today - that I want to write about, yet I do not know where to begin or how to formulate myself, so these thoughts will be scribbled down in some sort of order. Hopefully they will make some sense. 

Work. Work is the core of human activity, I don't think it's something we do just because of the money, but it is essential for the survival for most of us. When looking around us, there is so much work that needs to be done. A lot of the work is done well, some of it poorly. Some jobs, we ask, why do they even exist? And why do some professions (such as athletes) make so much money when their profession has no real importance for humankind? And then there are jobs that are extremely important, where people are expected to do their share, and the share of one more person, with lousy pay. 

Society looks very different than it did when Socialists and Communists fought for the improvement of the working and living conditions of the working class in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Nowadays we are faced with new challenges: jobs are transferred eastwards (it seems they always move east), globalization has multiplied the chances and ways of increasing the flows of money. While the welfare state manages to guarantee a set of rights and security for all people within its borders (who are there legally), international and global challenges are catching up. 

Most people without a job want to work. The point is that the requirements and structures sometimes make it very difficult. It makes me so angry to hear people speaking about unemployed people as "lazy", usually they are not lazy. Of course there are free-riders - there always are - but it's so easy to cast the blame on people who are under you on the ladder. There are so many factors that affect human behaviour and their perception of things. For instance, how long will a young person who doesn't get "chosen" for any of the jobs s/he applies stay motivated? Where will s/he find the motivation? Will the motivation increase if people spit on him/her, calling him/her a free-rider?

As a tax-payer I have certain expectations on the state. The state and I (the tax-payer, existing within the larger context of community) are in a relationship that we cannot get out of (unless one of us - and that would be me - decides to move), the state has a set of expectations on me, as well. However, I sometimes ask myself if I really get what I pay for? Does reality really match my expectations? See, I am more than glad to work and pay taxes. However, some of the things that are not OK include corruption, unproportionally high salaries for people employed by the state (just because they are employed by the state), the state and regional authorities encouraging solutions that worsen the work conditions for citizens as well as the spending of money on "ridiculous" things. NB: Ridiculous is a perception. I find it ridiculous that states spend billions on weapons, someone else thinks it's ridiculous to spend money on foreign aid.  

There are forces in Sweden that would like to introduce a 6-hour working day in order to guarantee more jobs. I actually haven't read too much about the topic, so maybe I should be quiet about it. However, my instinctive reaction is no. This would mean that people in jobs with low salaries would earn even less. With the risk of generalizing, I think that those people who could actually afford working only 6 hours a day work a lot more than the normal 37,5/week anyway and that those are jobs that cannot be shared or divided. And. If everyone is trying to save money now - what's the likelihood of them paying more (which two persons instead of one would entail) in salaries?

What to do, then? Unemployment is increasing, it seems. I fear that when unemployment rises (and the welfare state fails) the risk of societal unrest increases as well. I do not understand actors, whose main motivation is to make as much money as possible. Without an understanding of economics, I get that companies should make money. Of course, I do. But why as much as possible if it worsens the situation for people? Where are they planning to sell their goods if nobody can afford buying them? At the same time, it is not only the responsibility of companies to keep employment high. But - a high employment with decent salaries - that's a good thing, isn't it?

Summary: I probably need to take a class or two in economics. 

Summer Beginnings!

Good morning from a cloudy Sweden! 

Yesterday we celebrated Walpurgis Night here in the north - it's party-time, big time! both in Finland and Sweden with students celebrating, bonfires being lit and most people having a good time. J and I had a nice dinner at home. We both like cooking and exploring new recipes so it was the ideal evening for us. 

Today is also when the summer starts. At least in my world. I am very much of a project thinker and self-challenger. If I don't challenge myself, I don't get anything done. So, I have been thinking about ways to entertain myself and challenged to create. 

Here are some of the things I would like to focus on (so nothing new under the sun): 

  • Fitness
  • Food
  • Flexibility
  • Creativity
So, three F's and one C. 

Fitness to me is concept that includes a lot of things -  it means fitness in the traditional sense (to look fit) but it also includes feeling fit, eg energetic, well and healthy. Looking + feeling = being fit is key to being happy, I think. Mind you, it's not about satisfying and becoming a part of a norm (to look good), rather, physical activity breeds energy. An energy makes us happier. How to be fit, then, is the question? It is my belief that what works for me is to have a challenge and a plan. Surely there are some forms of exercise which should ALWAYS be present in any lifestyle (long walks, for instance),but my thought is that a mix of strength, cardio and stretching is the best. This opinion is not based on any scientific evidence - it is what feels good. So, the plan is to do strength training 2-3 times a week, running 3-4 a week and yoga as often as possible. The goal is to run 15K by the end of the summer (31 August) and run a half-marathon in the autumn. 

½ orange, 1/4 pineapple, 1 kiwi + some flavoured sour milk (not pictured)

Food is always important! Apart from the obvious reasons (we need to eat in order to live), it is also a lot of fun. I love looking for recipes and exploring in the kitchen, looking for ways to combine healthy and tasty. Now this isn't really a challenge, but I do want to learn as much as possible about nutrition and the world cuisine. I will however try to eat healthily :)

Delicious tropical smoothie

Flexibility. As with fitness, flexibility comes in two forms: physical flexibility and mental flexibility. The physical form of flexibility can be trained through various forms of exercise, for instance yoga. Mental flexibility is as important but more difficult to grasp. It is about avoiding being static and rigid; it's about curiosity, finding ways and paths; it is also about flow and trust; about letting go of perfectionism and the need to control life. I believe this mental flexibility may be achieved through meditation and being without trying to control, learning without ever being fully-taught and listening without intervening.

The last of the four points is creativity. Creativity comes in many forms, depending on how one defines it and what meaning it bears. In my life, creativity is language; creativity is colour, and it is also joy. So, for me to fulfill my yearning for creativity, it can be in the form of planning projects (like this one) or learning a language, or by the use of words. And this is what I shall do. I have no specific goal to achieve, other than the goal of spending at least 30 minutes a day in writing or translating.