Tuesday, 28 October 2014

[Language Tip] Reading Signs

Tip of the day: one good way to learn a lot about a foreign language is to read the signs. This simple exercise will open your eyes to know words, grammar, quotes and whatnot.

Quote from Paulo Coelho

Francisco Goya


Monday, 27 October 2014


Butternut squash, one garlic clove and some spinach in mixed and fried in butter

Adding some red lentils boiled with 1/4 an onion

Adding some feta cheese

The final touch: pomegranate seeds

Final verdict: satisfying and delicious.

Source of inspiration: http://www.dn.se/mat-dryck/recept/pytt-med-pumpa-och-linser/

[Photo Diary] Spain Streetlife

Slightly exhausted after holidays and a chaotic first day of work. Below some snapshots from (mainly) Zaragoza. 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

[500 Days/ Day 5*] Shadows

Walking in the shadows. 
Shadow is a beautiful word. 
In the shadows is where everything happens. 
The dreams and the adventures that nobody talks about. 
The whispers, the secrets, 
the desires. 
In the shadows nobody sees you clearly, so you can be yourself.
And what you wish to be. 
It's a place located near our conscience, it's almost tangible,
but not quite.
It's a place for secrets, for silence. 
A twisted distortion, but reality nonetheless. 
Imperfection, accepted. 

Shadow. Skugga. Varjo. Árnyék. Sombra. Tieň. Cień**. Tень. 

*These days seem to come in no specific order
** Interesting how it rhymes.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

[Photo Diary] Colourful Inspiration Now

Colours of Autumn

Finnish Rye Bread: Also Available in Sweden 

New Life 

Always In the Baltic Countries: Looking for Russian Language Resources. And Cake. 

Travel & Coffee @ Vilnius Airport

Fitness At Home

Friday, 17 October 2014

el café de siempre

En el café de siempre. Estoy sentanda en el café de siempre, en un rincón. Hay tanto jaleo, no me puedo relajar. Es viernes por la tarde. La gente viene y se va. El café está lleno de padres con sus hijos. Pero me gusta el silencio. Y me gustan los cafés. La dulzura del masala chai juega sobre mi lengua. Las especias se mezclan de una manera sabrosa. El vaso se vacia con demasiada rapidez. Estoy intentando escribir. La historia. No sé si es buena o no. Tal vez. Quizás. Tengo unos quince minutos. Mejor empezar ya. 

[500 Days/ Day 7] La vida es bella

2nd day of holidays. It's been a while since the last time. It's quite nice to just sit here in my pajamas and philosophize. Actually I should be cleaning since we will be moving to a new flat the weekend after we return from Spain. Oh well.

Last night before falling asleep, while I was lying under my warm blanket, I thought about pain, death, loss. And fear. I did feel something close to fear then. All my life I have been living by the rule that everything is OK because it is up to me. I decide about my own attitudes, about my life. Even during those moments that I hide from the world within my shell, taking the role of an observer, I can snap myself out of it. Everything I feel is just a perception of reality. I can think like that because I'm never ill, I don't know what real pain feels like. What if something truly horrible happened, how would I cope with that?

We - or I - watch the news and see all these horrible things - illnesses, wars, conflicts, repression - going on in the world, yet we - or I - remain unaffected. That could never happen to me. It's an attitude that I despise but it is difficult to get rid of it.

I also watched a TV program last night. Oh yay, I'm being so creative during my holiday. Some Swedes were in New York, cooking. The program itself is of no importance. But there was once sentence, only one sentence, that caught my attention. If you have a dream, you have to go for it. You have to. Sorry, my bad, that's two sentences. We live in a world where everyone is chasing a dream. Or multiple dreams. I like life, and I like exploring the world. Planning is fun, too. But this constant chasing of dreams and goals. Does it make us happy? Does it really? Those two sentences left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Good Books

What makes a good book? Yesterday I finished reading a wonderful book. It was disturbing, controversial, confusing, but very well written. That's what makes a good book: that need it creates to be introspective, to question oneself, to think. 

I must admit that despite having lived in Spain, my knowledge of Spanish literature is poor. So, I made a good choice when I bought this particular book in Slovakia (for 3€)(of all places). What attracted me? The cover and the title - la muchacha de las bragas de oro (the Girl With Golden Panties). Who would not want to read a book about golden panties? For this curiosity I was awarded a tremendous book and an introduction to one of Spain's most famous contemporary writers. Who would have thought.

Reading this book I realized that I am a prude. What a nice observation about oneself :)

The second book in this picture is also an interesting one, Its English title is Mindful Eating and it was written by Jan Chozen Bays. Again I was intrigued by the cover as I love chickpeas (and thus probably proving every publisher in the world right about the importance of a good cover). I think this book has a lot of useful things to say about food and about eating. 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

[Photo Diary][Valokuvatorstai] Az ősz [HU: The Autumn)

Szeretem az őszt.

Valokuvatorstain tämän viikon haaste (#340) perustuu Antti Kokkosen ottamaan syyskuvaan, Minulla on itselläni kova syysinspis päällä. Jotenkin tämä vuodenaika tuo mieleen rakastamani Unkarin ja Keski-Euroopan. Kuvat on tosiaan otettu ihan vain Tukholman alueelta.

Syksyn parhaisiin kuuluu värien ja sen tietyn synkeyden symbioosi. Vuosi kulkee kohti loppuaan ja samalla luonto menee unten maille, kuitenkin maailma on täynnä hiljaista toivoa.

Just Another Day at the Office Or the Day That Putin Made My Day

I think it was Tuesday this week , October 14 to be more precise. 

That typical day at the office will be remembered for two things. Armed robbery and bomb threat in Stockholm again. That's the third time there was a bomb threat in Stockholm since I started working there in May. Those days it's not so fun to work right in the centre of the city, because where do you think the bomb threats are?

And then there was that fabulous piece of news that Putin owns land in the Åland Islands. Firstly, there is something called Hembygdsrätt on the islands, which means that it is very difficult for non-Åland citizens (and therefore Finnish citizens) to own land on the island. Secondly, after reading these very exciting reports, it turned out that it wasn't actually Vladimir Putin who owns the land. No, it is the Russian Federation. Since 1947. In 2009 the ownership was transferred from the Russian Foreign Ministry to the President's Office. That's something entirely different.

Three things came to my mind after this fabulous story: 

  1. Why, in the case of Russia, is it so easy to blur the lines (in this case between the state and a the president as a private person)? I don't think that this error would be made with any other country. Somehow it feels like Russia has become a kind of entertainment news (a bit like North Korea), people are fascinated by the speculation. 
  2. The current situation between Europe and Russia concerns me.  Both Finland and Sweden seem to consider Russia to be an enemy of huge proportions. And the media is playing along. People have opinions that are rarely based on any facts at all. Instead, it seems like Russia is an easy target for fear. Now voices are being raised about a new Cold War. Really? 
  3.  Point 3 is a continuation of Point 2: why now? That piece of land has belonged to Russia since 1947. There must be something behind this great revelation - and this "something" probably has something to do with point 2. 
Sources in Finnish & Swedish + a lot of funny photos of Putin. 

  • DN (Dagens Nyheter): http://www.dn.se/nyheter/varlden/putin-har-sjotomt-pa-aland/
  • Expressen: http://www.expressen.se/nyheter/darfor-ager-vladimir-putin-en-tomt-pa-aland/
  • Hufvudstadsbladet:http://hbl.fi/nyheter/2014-10-14/668186/keskisuomalainen-putin-ager-strandtomt-pa-aland
  • Ålandstidningen: http://www.alandstidningen.ax/nyheter/putin-ager-strandtomt-pa-aland
  • Iltalehti: http://www.iltalehti.fi/ulkomaat/2014101418744063_ul.shtml
  • Helsingin Sanomat: http://www.hs.fi/kotimaa/a1413252574970
  • And the original article, Keskisuomalainen: http://www.ksml.fi/uutiset/kotimaa/maanmittauslaitoksen-entinen-paajohtaja-putin-omistaa-rantatontin-ahvenanmaalla/1913789

Monday, 13 October 2014

Dnes je skvelý deň! [Days 2 and 3/500]

Dnes je skvelý deň, today is a beautiful day. Monday, pondelok. Sometimes - quite often - I think about Slovakia, niekedy mi chýba Slovensko.

Good morning, Monday.

It's raining outside. And it's dark.
Yet the world is beautiful. 
My holiday starts on Thursday and I'm already longing for the sun.
Maybe it is not Slovakia as such that I miss, rather, I'd say it's the sense of adventure. Oh, well. if adventure doesn't come to you, you go seek adventure. In the little things. 

That sounds like a plan.

It is crazy. I am one of those people who need routine. Yet, I am one of those people who needs adventures. Or maybe just a certain degree of cosmopolitanism in my life.

Good morning, World. 

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The New Week Begins Now

As I promised to go to work for a few hours a day and because my holiday starts on Thursday, this officially feels like Monday. This means that it might also be a good moment to talk about work - rather, about the difference between working in Slovakia and in Sweden. Please note that these are mere observations based on subjective experiences. In Slovakia I only worked for one company, so these experiences come from there. As I am writing this in a hurry, sources and other material will follow in another post. 

In summary, I would say that working in Scandinavia is easier and it is also more pleasant than working in a lot of other countries. I can also see why some companies outsource - after all, much about pleasantness of work (as I see it) directly relates to how the company treats its employees, often requiring a fair amount of money. An example, in Slovakia our manager would sometimes (once every two months) arrange a common breakfast for our department. Any AW-activities we had, we had to pay for ourselves. At my current job, the entire company gathers every Friday for a "fika" (coffee and cake), we have fresh fruit brought in daily, the coffee is free :). The company pays for any AW-activities. In other words, there is a completely different approach to including employees. 

I have also experienced that the style of leadership and management is very different. In general, Scandinavian managers seem to be more down-to-earth. It is not a shame to listen to what employees have to say and the information flow seems to be greater. Everybody doesn't need to know everything. sure - but I do think everyone benefits from knowing the things that directly affects their work. As an example, in my former job in Slovakia, our closest manager (who had the title team leader) would not inform the team if one of the members would be exempted from certain tasks, the rest of the team or parts of the team would need to do these tasks on the top of their own with no explanation! The team leader did also not participate in the daily work, which is not the case in my current team. In Sweden and in my current job, there have been cases when the information has not gone all the way down to everyone, but there is one essential difference. When people here feel excluded, they feel that they can talk about this to their management. And that's exactly what they do. And usually the management listens and tries to find a solution with the whole group. 

As I'll soon be off to work for some overtime, the topic of overtime will be my last point. As an employee, I am prepared to work for my employer for 40 hours a week for my normal salary. Outside work, I have a life. The company is aware of this, so it compensates anything above 40 hours to me. I think this sounds like a fair deal. That was not the case in Slovakia. I remember reading an article about Slovakia in one flight magazine for Austrian Airlines. Apparently Slovakia is so attractive because it offers a low-cost and high-skilled work force. Yes, low-cost- What does low-cost mean? Among other things, it means that you are expected to work more than 40 hours for free. I would not have worked on a Sunday in Slovakia, but as my salary will double today, I do not mind doing it here in Sweden.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

500 Days: Day 1

500 days from today it will February 23, 2016. 

I wonder what will happen in 500 days. What places will I have been to by then? What will I have seen? What will I have done?

Today, on October 11, I am sitting under a blanket in our living room. I am drinking a lemon-flavoured energy tea, feeling quite satisfied with myself and life. My boyfriend is sitting at the kitchen table, studying. The sun is shining outside and I'm getting ready for the things I want to do today: clean the bathroom, dry some chilies and feel inspired. 

Lately I have been thinking a lot about appreciation, inspiration, gratefulness, thankfulness. I have read about Ayurveda, schema therapy, mindful eating, the importance of narratives, Spanish grammar. I have started to practice tai chi. I have enjoyed the colours of autumn and visited my brother's baby daughter.

The world around me is wonderful. 

But I think we need more simplicity. And goodness. The other day there was a drunk man on the train. There was something so innocently sincere about him when he cheerfully talked to the people around him. All the sober ones looked dreadfully bored. The most beautiful thing was when he thanked the couple he had been conversing with: thanking them for their time and the half hour well spent on a good conversation. 

One of the highlights of any weekday morning is my morning walk. Fifteen minutes from the train station, through the city centre. As long as my feet don't get wet, it's a time that I cherish. A time for collecting thoughts.

After work

Before work

[Photo Diary] Lovely, Lovely Vilnius!