With Rage I Shall Burst

”With rage I shall burst”, sings a young man – a rising opera star – with dramatic devotion. I can’t help wondering whether he, too, has just moved countries, and now his devices won’t hook into the wall.

Behind the singer there’s an enormous window, birch trees and a kayak gliding silently across the bay. It’s late May and we are in Helsinki. Things are starting up. We feel hopeful and new. It’s a chance for reinvention and first encounters. All this light, our endlessly stretching days!

Hungry Cats

This move came up quite quickly. But we jumped at it like hungry street cats onto a fishing boat. Helsinki! Finland! Nightless nights! Carelian pie! Digitalised services!

I left my car in Cyprus, packed my kids and cats. Left hubs in charge of the rest. Shed my face mask and started buying garb for my post-pandemic size. It’s time to really, finally crawl out of my cave and meet some people! To travel to Estonia, go to live performances, picnics and gatherings. With Excitement I Shall Burst now to greet officials, consuls, guides, artesans, MP’s and school parents. All kinds of quickly changing circumstances, and other opportunities to appear foolish and commit epic social gaffes.

Farewell Card

On my dresser I still have a card from a small farewell lunch in Nicosia. I don’t really read it because I know what it says, but I want it to sit there. Because some days really, really don’t go as hoped or planned.

Some days we are back to invisible ghosts no-one knows, nor cares to. Some days we visit the school and see a young kid sitting alone at a large table, and the kid is ours.

Some days I need a reminder that we are not strangers everywhere. That first encounters led to second and fifteenth encounters, and things will turn out well for every member of this frigging traveling circus. Even the cat who won’t come from under the bed. She will be fine. Everyone will be okay, of course.

We are just a work in progress!

Drunken Weekday Song

“What was the song about the wine drinking on Sundays?” I ask the opera singer after his encore.

“It sounded very intense, but then everybody sort of laughed at the end.”

“Ah! That was about what he does on every day of the week”, the singer explains.  

“A bit of a drunken song”, the pianist chips in.

“Oh, it sounded very intense”, I ponder. “But it was basically a drunkard’s weekdays song?”

“Yes!”

Moral Choices

How does everyday diplomacy happen in a continent torn up by murderous appetites?

“Please stay a while after the performance”, pleads our hostess tonight of the small crowd. “Let’s keep talking. I feel it’s so, so important.”

We stay. Behind large, locked gates, others hide.

Oof

* Suomenkielinen versio kuvan jälkeen *

Written mid-February 2022

Covid got to our family finally. So everyone went to their own rooms and life proceeded very quietly.

Except for the night-time earthquake, which sent our fourth-floor apartment energetically sliding back and forth in the dark, like on a slippery oil spill.

My husband rushed to the living room to simultaneously tug at all the cords of all the window blinds. Apparently to know if the city was still standing, but he had never learned which cord brings the blinds up and which one down. I was going from one kid’s door to the other with my hair standing up, saying parently things like ‘It’s an earthquake’, wondering when the heck it would stop, wasn’t it a bit long and a bit strong, should we all go under the boys’ ridiculous Ikea desks, and what was my husband was doing in the big window in his underwear.

But of course we were all fine here in Cyprus. We were.

Around the time of the earthquake and the covid infection, political tectonic plates here in Cyprus shifted too. And so it seems we will be out of here soon. The idea itself is exciting – very, very exciting (details soon when confirmed). But tidying up after our just completed quarantine today, I am wondering what I’m supposed to pack from this stint. Cats and dresses and guitars alright, but which life lessons?

If I’m honest this so-called home posting felt a bit like a punch in the face. Hair pulling. Something rude for sure. It started fine with friends and family and sea and sun and all, but something big was on its way. The turning point was ironically an actual picnic in the park with friends, after which life was never the same again. That is really weighing on me right now. That we didn’t get back to things being fine again, but off we go.

So I am excited and down at the same time, regretting and imagining and trying to get it through to myself the covid pandemic isn’t entirely my fault. And that maybe we weren’t the only ones who didn’t live the last two years to the maxxx. Or were we? Was everyone else making incredible memories all this time and we just weren’t there?

Leaving France back in 2009

 

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Covid tunki lopulta kotiimme. Linnouttauduimme kaikki huoneisiimme, ja elämä soljui hetken hyvin rauhallisesti.

Paitsi yöllisen maanjäristyksen aikana. Se liikutti viidennen kerroksen kämppäämme energisesti edestakaisin pimeässä kuin liukkaalla öljypinnalla. Mies säntäsi olohuoneeseen kiskomaan samanaikaisesti kaikkien kaihtimien naruja. Kuulema hän halusi tietää, oliko kaupunki vielä pystyssä, muttei koskaan ollut oppinut mistä narusta kaihtimet nousevat ylös ja mistä laskeutuvat alas. Itse hypin lastenhuoneen ovelta toiselle hiukset pystyssä jakaen vanhemmallisia viisauksia kuten ‘Tämä on maanjäristys’.

Milloin tää loppuu? mietin samalla unisilla aivoillani. Eiks tää oo kestäny jo aika pitkään? Ja eiks tää oo aika voimakaskin? Pitääks meidän suojautua poikien työpöytien alle? Nehän on Ikeasta hitto soikoon! Ja mitä mies tekee isossa ikkunassa kalsarisillaan – tällaisella hetkellä?

Jäimme sitten kuitenkin henkiin. Meillä täällä Kyproksella on kaikki hyvin.

Covid-tartunnan ja maanjäristyksen aikoihin Kyproksella siirtyivät myös poliittiset mannerlaatat, minkä seurauksena olemme todennäköisesti muuttamassa täältä pian. Ajatus sinänsä on tosi tosi kiva ja jännä (lisätietoja pian kun asia varmistuu). Silti tänään juuri päättyneen karanteenimme jälkiä siivoillessamme en oikein tiedä, mitä pakata tältä reissulta mukaan. Kissat ja mekot ja kitarat jes, mutta että niinkuin elämänoppeja?

Jos nyt ihan rehellisiksi heittäydytään, niin tämä niin kutsuttu kotiposti tuntui vähän niinkuin pieniltä turpakäräjiltä. Hiustenvedolta. Joltain aika röyhkeältä tosiaan. Hyvin tämä alkoi kun oli kavereita ja Kyproksen-sukua ja merta ja aurinkoa ja kaikkea, mutta jotain isoahan oli kulman takana. Käännöskohta tapahtui ironisesti aurinkoisella puistopiknikillä kavereiden kesken. Sen jälkeen elämä ei palautunut enää koskaan ennalleen. Se tässä painaa juuri nyt. Ei ehditty palata siihen missä kaksi vuotta sitten oltiin, ja nyt pitää jo lähteä.

Nyt juuri olen siis valtavan innostunut ja samaan aikaan alamaissa. Kadun ja kuvittelen, ja yritän takoa päähäni, ettei tämä koronapandemia varmaan ihan täysin mun syytäni ole. Ja että ehkei me oltu ainoat, jotka ei elänyt ihan täysiä viimeisen kahden vuoden aikana. Vai oltiinko? Oliko kaikki muut isoissa yhteisissä fantastissa juhlissa, joihin meitä ei kutsuttu?

Cardboard City Prayers

Friday

The movers brought in 250 boxes and left. What a shock! Whose is all this stuff? We want to return it! But the truck has already rumbled off. Panic is rising.

Apparently, we’ve been in this exact situation no less than six times in the last 16 years. I can’t remember much about the previous times though. Maybe moving is like childbirth? You forget what it’s like because if you did remember, no-one would do it. And then there would definitely be no diplomats. Nor their spouses. And the latter would surely be very bad.

Saturday & Sunday

Sorting my books by colour.

(Yes, that is indeed Gone With the Wind. I heard it’s coming back to fashion this autumn. In the hipster circles of Berlin everybody is ordering crinolines.)

(Okay, they’re not! But it’s yellow, okay? That’s a very rare colour actually in the grown-up books section! So it’s staying!)

Monday

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Sleds

My husband is back at work at the ministry. I’m opening boxes and guffawing tearfully at what we brought. It’s great. I recommend it. Summer in Cardboard City!

My child is hooked onto his gaming system. He is very happy. The other one has been abolished to the mountains. (Not my himself. The grandparents were with him last time we checked in with him.) He’s happy too.

My husband isn’t very happy. He has called upon the Holy Mother of Christ so many times I’m becoming socially very anxious. What if she gets tired of it, appears right here among our boxes and says ‘What is it my children, I heard your cries’, or something kind like that.

Then what? We ask her if she could please flatten some empty boxes? Take them to the garage? Men just don’t think things through sometimes!

Tuesday

But there is progress!

The first night I went to bed with an enormous yellow vacuum cleaner staring at me right next to my bed. I couldn’t unplug the beast from the wall for love nor money. So I rolled around fretting ‘What does it want? What does it want?” until finally hubs showed up.

I was all damsel in distress. He was all valiant, vacuum cleaner taming youth (cough) whom I would now self-evidently marry if I hadn’t already. Romance in Cardboard City! Can’t beat it!

But I was writing about progress – we just found power socket adaptors! They were in nr. 130, Cardboard Row. Now I can plug in and out anything I want. Although then, the microwave won’t switch on. I love how all countries have their own plug and socket shapes. So exciting to discover! (Cries)

Wednesday

Today is a national holiday for the Holy Virgin. (She’s very popular in Cyprus.) So we had our first lunch guests over. Nothing fancy, just takeaway and bakery sweets for some close family members. During lunch, both kids had a fit of some kind. My food got very cold. All in all, it was an excellent idea. Excellent! I should have ideas more often. (Not! Must stop this instant.)

Thursday

The kids are to start school in less than two weeks. Problem is, they don’t actually, officially have a school to start at. Optimistic, I ordered supplies anyway according to the school’s list. 100 items. That took hours. Meanwhile, hubby was slaving away behind the window, on the balcony. It’s very hot out there in the afternoon. I hope the boys will be really excited and grateful for their school supplies. They were really hard to order.

Friday

After the Holy Virgin Day lunch disaster, I took a break from the home-making for a couple of days. Just felt like I needed to. (Procrastinating, you could say. Pre-emptive mental health care, I’d say!) Despite of that (surely not because of that?!) it’s starting to look nice here and there.

After dark the kids and I climbed the stairs to the roof terrace. There was a night breeze and a wonderful view of city lights and the starry sky. To top it all off, they spotted a shooting star. Underneath, aquarium was no more. Neither was Cardboard City. Just a valiant and exhausted man saying Holy Mother of Christ it’s Friday, how will we ever make it through the weekend?

But at least he was saying it in something slowly starting to resemble our home again!

What Else Is There?

Ohh.

Everyone’s out.

The sun shines in through the blinds. I am so sleep deprived but so relieved too.

On the screen, two boys in uniforms pose in front of the school’s lemon trees.

A little ray of raw happiness seeps in with the sunshine.

They seem to be okay.

Now, what else is there I wonder?

I Love the Food!

Hi, I am an introvert.

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I don’t think out loud. (Except here!)

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At a Finnish family party, in the garden of a hundred-year-old fishing lodge

If you want to know how I am and I don’t know because I’m in the middle of something, like a move, I might tell you that. Or I might freeze, or I might wonder if you would perhaps like a very light and cheerful answer – and I can give that a little go.

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‘How do you feel about moving to Cyprus?’ everyone kindly enquires and I am grateful.

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But I don’t know.

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How could I when I don’t know what life there will be like this time? So many things I look forward to yet others are still so vague it’s hard to picture our everyday lives just yet.

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So it’s a fun raffle of ‘Great!’ and ‘I don’t know?’ and ‘It’s really hot there’, as answers to the question. They are all true, of course!

As is ‘I love the food.’

Because I really, really do love everything to do with Cyprus cuisine. Perhaps I should refrain from overthinking for once in my life, just announce ‘I love the food!!!’ and get on with my social life?

Worth ruminating for hours about, definitely!

Farewell

This is my farewell. Brought to you from my sweaty bed where I’m trying to shake off a little fever, so I could go see some motorised dinosaurs on my last day in Geneva. Fingers crossed!

On a more romantic note, I remember our first evening in Geneva like a lovely, fragrant painting. A peaceful family painting that I was in myself!

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(It could be of course, that the reality was more like Tom & Jerry’s  craziest than a Monet painting. After all, my kids were there! But this is my memory and I’d like to keep it please – thank you!)

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From our hotel we crossed the street into the park, with the little one in his stroller. I still remember the ghostly shape of the Jet d’Eau fountain towering on Lake Geneva. (It just doesn’t show in the darn pictures. So maybe it wasn’t there that night. But I reserve the right to my memory!)

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We were four years fresher than today.

The city was an exciting stranger. Someone to be curious about. To get to know slowly.

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That night we didn’t know a soul but each other.

Then one by one, day by day, month by month, people showed up.

And this post is about them. People from volunteer meetings, schools, stables, playgrounds and from right here in our own neighbourhood. Everywhere where we felt like outsiders to begin with.

Until someone reached out a hand and a couple of kind words.

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For those words, for those people, I will always remain grateful.

For what is life if it isn’t shared?

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As expats, we live removed from our home tribes and our home territories and our collective memories. At worst, it can be such a lonely experience.

So to recognise a thought in someone else’s words, and to receive a little smile as recognition of ours, there’s no gift like it!

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I think it’s human nature needing to share.

Parenting kids whose childhoods are so different from ours.

Struggling to learn something difficult. Like living in a foreign environment.

Things that we feel, love, fear or can’t get enough of – most of these fill with meaning when shared.

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Views, country roads, hot summers, little boats on the waves of the lake – and you. All the former strangers I was happy to call friends.

My favourite memories! (Maybe to be joined by some robot dinosaurs this Sunday?)

Thank you.

Others

This morning was the first weekday morning in long time with nothing at all on my work to-do list. It was also the second last school morning in Geneva for my little suitcase kids. A beautiful, bright day in between.

Here’s the thought of the day:

Life here will continue precisely as before. Only I will not be here.

Soon, my home won’t be mine anymore. Someone else will be carrying their stuff up all exhausted and excited.

New kids will take my kids’ places in recess games.

Others will make memories where ours were made.

Others will pack everything a family needs for a day on the beach.

Spot airplanes climbing higher and higher overhead.

These pictures I nicked from my Finnish blog from June 2015 and June 2017. This June I don’t go around with a camera. I go around with way too much stuff for recycling.

(I am never buying anything again..!)

My Midsummer Night’s Dream

To the Swiss, midsummer doesn’t mean much. That’s because over here, summer is warm and long and not urgent and panicky and brief. Like back home in the north.

The height of the international Nordic panic is at midsummer when all Finns, Swedes and Norwegians simultaneously realise that summer is actually half way gone and they kinda did nothing to live it to the fullest. So they cancel their Netflix in a regretful haze, rush off to their seaside cottages and lakeside cottages and start posting about living summer to the fullest.

The ultimate Scandi Noir tragedy nobody posts about of course is, that when you try to go outside to enjoy the fleeting summer to the fullest, you barge straight back in again terrified, chased by a fierce regiment of organised mosquitos. No pictures of that on Instagram that I’ve seen!

And I’m not saying this because I’m jealous of all my social media buddies posting pictures from seaside cottages. Nope! No jetties, barbecues or rowboats for me please. Ditto birch branches tied together on the doorsteps of old saunas. Yucks. Brrr.

If anyone asks, I am NOT interested in drinking cider on the cliffs by the shore, thanks very much. Watching the sun set into the island opposite while quietly dipping into the lake would be my definition of a wasted evening. Same goes for sleeping in old boats gently rocked by the lovely little waves of the white night while water birds coo.

Aye.

That would be most undesirable indeed!

I much prefer to go to my storage room and cry looking at all the things I have to sort and haven’t!

So, happy midsummer, Switzerland.

I’m so excited to be living my summer here to the fullest!

Ps. It turns out I am going to a brunch tomorrow to mark the occasion. Not that I would want to! No, it’s solely for representational purposes. And I’ll be back in my storage room midsummer night’s dream before you can say ‘Hyvää juhannusta!’

Time Tunnel

Last weekend I was traipsing around some palaces.

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Indulging in decorative lunches on islands not so very unappealing.

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Sharing rooms with my beau and only him.

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Getting carried away by history and white peacocks, statues and such.

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Sampling the beverage of gods.

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This weekend I am sitting in the storage room underground.

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In a big cloud of dust.

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Who bought all this stuff that’s filling up my storage room?

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I am lunching on McDonald’s. Sipping the divine beverage of Coke Zero.

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I’m sharing my storage room with no-one actually cause no-one would want to come down here.

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Nor would they spot me from inside this massive cloud of dust anyway!

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I’m so sweaty.

So dusty.

So dirty.

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Maybe there’s a time tunnel down here somewhere?

One Thousand Mornings

We send them to school in their little beige shorts and their little white polo shirts, red jumpers still on in the morning.

By midday it often starts to rain big, sparkly drops of summer so that they have no choice but to run from class to class.

When I fetch them it’s sunny again, but the mood is changing. By the end of the afternoon it’s pouring.

Anyone who’s out then will feel the unsettling heat of the electric storm circling Alpine villages in the distance.

The thunder sounds especially eerie in the night. It echoes from one mountain range into the other as we lay in bed in between.

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The next morning again into the red uniforms. Rain or shine, summer through winter, those smart little shirts and trousers. Red white, khaki, look alive please, please put your arm through here cause Daddy’s a good man and needs to keep his job, too!

One thousand school mornings like this.

One thousand mornings of these colours and this rush and now all that remains are fifteen.

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