We packed our bags and got on a plane and here we are

Hey. Sorry it’s been a bit quiet here lately. I’m in New York. And it’s sunny and warm and lovely. We’re living in a small flat in Greenwhich Village and have spent our days walking around the city taking hundreds of photos for Gerry’s up-and-coming series of New York prints (more about that at a later stage). We’ve also spent quite a lot of money buying fancy cheese and nice beer.

We’ve sat in parks in the evening, surprised at how relaxed everyone is, how the edginess of London isn’t anywhere to be found, watching some university kids play american football with a group of homeless men, some hippies practising their drumming, kids running around a dried up fountain, people talking and laughing and hardly anyone drinking alcohol. We’ve gone to a private view in Brooklyn and Gerry has found a print he really, really loves. We’ve talked about art over brunch, read thick newspapers, sat on the fire-escape and looked out over the street below. I’ve had strange vivid dreams and I feel my life changing a little bit. This is what I hoped New York would be like. I’m trying to restrain myself from figuring out how to stay longer. New cities are dangerous with their undiscovered neighbourhoods, interesting people and rules yet to be figured out.

It’s been a strange week as well, with the tragedies in Boston and Texas. We’ve been following the news, some of the commentary has been insightful, some of it has been insane.

Autumn in Orkney – the land of the vikings (sort of)

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For our honeymoon Gerry and I went to the Orkney islands north of Scotland. I’ve dreamed about travelling there since I was a teenager. There is something fascinating about these far-away islands. They belonged to Norway for a longer period of time than they’ve belonged to the UK. And the islands are full of magical little clues that ancient people left behind, old burial mounds, runes, stone circles and stone age settlements.

Being there was amazing. We spent our days walking and exploring and taking many, many photos of sea-birds. Sometimes I miss the smell of clean sea air, the sound of waves and sea-gulls outside the window. I start looking up houses to rent on Orkney and dream about writing in a little room in a house on one of the tiny streets in Stromness, wrapped up in many layers of sweaters and looking out over the harbour. Stromness with its cats in every corner and many little art galleries. Gerry could have a studio with lots of fantastic light. We could live cheaply and happily. Then I shake myself awake and remember how far away these islands are and how difficult it would be to live there. How the only way to get anywhere is either by taking a small and expensive bumpy flight or a slow ferry that takes you to the middle of nowhere in northern Scotland. Family would be far away, the food would be expensive because everything has to be shipped in and all the real Orcadians might not warm to new-comers straight away. The holiday glow would slowly fade and real life would face us on Orkney as well.

Yet. I read about Swedish photographer Gunnie Moberg who created a life for herself on Orkney and I day-dream.

First snow of the winter… sort of

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It’s been snowing the whole day. Tireless clouds have kept on spewing out tiny flakes over London since Gerry left for work this morning (around seven thirty). The flakes might not look very big, but there have been lots of them and the ground is cold enough for them to stay put. The city kids and their parents have taken advantage of the situation and every time I’ve looked out the window another snowman has popped up on the green or in the yard outside the house.

I’ve stayed indoors for most of the day, hooked on a Swedish detective novel which wasn’t actually gripping enough to warrant a five-hour readathon. But I’m looking at it as research. When I finally made it out it was dark and quiet in a way London is never quiet. No wonder the snow has this silencer effect on the city since there is so much of it left, on the ground, on people’s cars, on the roads. Not even London traffic has managed to turn it into a wet sludge.

During my short walk to the Turkish corner shop (to buy feta and salad, exciting) I quickly regretted not going out sooner, not talking my laptop and sitting down in some café where I could have had soy hot chocolate and looked out at the ever increasing masses of snow. There were a few people out and about, slipping around on the pavements, huddling close together outside the bars, smoking with red fingertips. A man (a dad) was pulling his child along the pavement in a sledge. The child looked happy in that rosy cheeked, but completely drenched way you only get from playing in the snow. I remember it, the feeling of being soaked, warm and freezing at the same time, of snow that always managed to sneak into your socks or past the gloves and down your arms. Sometimes being a kid is great.

I sort of missed the first proper snow of the year. I didn’t make much of an event out of it, although at least I’m marking it with a blog post. But as I walked back home with my feta and my salad I stopped to look around and I felt so happy about it being winter, about the snow, about memories of building snowmen and the snow running down my arms and melting. Tomorrow it might all be gone, but at least London is enjoying it tonight.

Finland, Finland, Finland…

I feel good after my trip to Finland. I have more energy, I feel happier, more like myself. I feel better and it makes me realise how important it is to go back and recharge my Finnish batteries. How important it is to be able to see my family and to speak my language.

Speaking a foreign language for 80 percent of the time gets to you after a while. Some thoughts are more difficult to think, some feelings come up in different ways, some things get muddled and some things stay on the surface because English will always be the second language.

There has been some research done into the emotional impact of speaking a foreign language. Apparently it makes the speaker more rational (which will only be a good thing for me) and making financial decisions is supposedly easier. Also…

For many multilinguals, swearing in a foreign language doesn’t evoke the same anxiety (or bring the same emotional release) as using a native language. Decreased emotionality in a foreign language spans the gamut of emotions, from saying “I love you,” to hearing childhood reprimands, to uttering morally grave lies, or being influenced by persuasive messages in advertising, writes the Smithsonian.

I find it a lot easier to swear in English than in Swedish. I actually tend to swear in English when I speak Swedish, I find it equally difficult to lie in both languages though. According to the research quoted in the blog, people answer surveys differently depending on language.

Chinese international students studying in North America agreed with traditional Chinese values more when answering a survey in Chinese; they had higher self-esteem scores when completing a self-esteem questionnaire in English. The full extent of these effects of languages on responses are still being investigated.

Talking Swedish for a while, with my family who speak Swedish in the same way I do, means I get to relax, there are no barriers. It means recharging, properly. I wonder if everyone who has moved abroad feels the same way.

I spent most of my teenage years and early 20s dreaming about leaving Finland and going abroad. Now that I’m here, in a foreign country I can never fully understand or integrate into, I find myself missing home. It’s natural, but I didn’t expect it to be such a physical thing.

London is a very accepting place and there are many people like me here, but I still find myself needing my own culture every now and then. It’s not about idolising the home country, what I miss doesn’t even necessarily have anything to do with the actual place. And I don’t miss many specific things, only my family, friends, the summerhouse and, of course, the rye bread. I still don’t know if I want to move back, I love living in the UK, this is where my home is and where work is, but I need to go back.

I wonder how the people who emigrated from Finland in the 1800s and early 1900s felt. How did they manage to hold on to their sense of identity, knowing that they would probably never go home again? How did they deal with the homesickness, waking up on a muggy winter morning and missing real cold. Did their bodies ache for long summer nights when the sun never sets? It’s funny how some things just seem to be programmed into you from a young age, this is your language, this is what weather is supposed to be like, this is how the air is supposed to smell. You don’t really realise it’s there until you start missing it.

Image via Visit Finland.