Monday, November 30, 2015

My thoughts about ballet

I went to see The Nutcracker yesterday with my Mum and sister. This was the first time I've ever seen a live ballet performance, and I must say that I'm impressed.

We discussed the experience afterwards, and we all agreed that a large part of the allure of ballet has to do with the impression of ease, lightness and grace of movement the dancers are able to create.

The truth, however, is something quite different. Ballet is a very demanding form of art, and there are numerous ballerinas and male dancers who have to give it up at some point, simply because the physical demands are just too high. I just read an article about a female ballerina who said that being a professional ballet dancer means that there is always pain, you just have to learn to live with it. The stories of bloody ballet slippers are not just urban legends, and quite often the dancers' feet ache so much that every step hurts.

 That is why I can easily understand how only the most dedicated and motivated dancers are the ones that remain in this form of art, and that in turn might have an effect on the competition between individual dancers. Theatre groups and dance companies may be wretched places to work, and back-stabbing is a trick of the trade. This of course applies also to other performing arts, where the leading characters and soloists get the most applause and fans' attention. This is another reason why I admire the physical and mental abilities top ballet dancers have; not everyone could endure  both the physical pain and psychological stress the way they do.I have one daughter, and if she told me she wanted to become a ballerina, I would probably have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand; if you can make it, it is a fine and elegant career, but on the other hand, there are many easier ways to make a living!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Turning forty


I had a special day last Sunday; I turned forty. I guess this age is a kind of a milestone for many people: you cannot really convince yourself  anymore that you're young, and you just have to accept the fact that your life is just about halfway through. This acceptance -thing is actually easier said than done, and I know many people my age who have been very distressed about this particular birthday.

I have to admit that I had mixed feelings about my upcoming birthday, and I didn't really know what to do with it. Somehow it was obvious that I didn't want a big celebration, but I knew that I wanted to do something special or to go somewhere special to celebrate this unique day. For a long time I was puzzled and couldn't figure out what that 'special something' would be. But then it hit me: maybe I could fulfil my dream and buy myself a painting from a renowned artist I've admired for a long time..?! First it seemed impossible: could I, would I, should I...? But the more I kept thinking about this idea, the more intriguing it became.

After having this notion, one thing led to another, and in short: now I am a proud owner of a Soile Yli-Mäyry original! I had an opportunity to visit a showroom filled with her works, and fortunately I was able to afford one that I particularly liked. Now I have to admit that it feels good; I was able to fulfil a dream, I have a long-lasting memory of my 40th birthday, and I don't feel nearly as bad as I did before that I turned forty!

A painting Jälkiä hiekassa by Soile Yli-Mäyry

Friday, August 14, 2015

Greetings from Tallinn!

My family and I visited Tallinn during our summer vacation. Many Finns go to Tallinn for a very spesific reason: to get their nails done, to go to a hairdresser or to buy a new pair of specs, just to mention a few. The reason for this is the fact that for instance these things and services are cheaper in Estonia than they are in Finland. Finns also have a questionable reputation for exporting huge quantities of cheap alcohol from Tallinn to Finland, which has caused queues and  traffic congestions in the port of Tallinn. The scale of this alcohol traffic is so large that the Finnish authorities have been trying to find ways to reduce it.

Anyhow, all of this has led to the unfortunate situation that many Finns don't really see Tallinn as a cultural capital that has a lot to offer. For instance, there are many fine restaurants in Tallinn, and different forms of arts and crafts have long traditions in Estonia. We for instance went for a coffee in
Maiasmokk (which means sweet tooth in English), which is the oldest operating café in Tallinn and entire Estonia. It has been open at the same location already since 1864. It offers a large variety of different kind of pies and cakes, and they also sell delicious handmade marzipan candy.

 According to Internet sources,  the origins of Tallinn date back to the 13th century, which makes Tallinn and its historic centre (or Old Town) genuinely old. There are beautiful, old buildings that have been restored, and some hotels are also located in very old buildings. For instance, the Three Sisters Hotel dates back to 1362. Originally there were three buildings owned by wealthy merchants, and later on they've been joined together and restored. Now the building functions as a five-star hotel.

The Three Sisters hotel in the Old Town of Tallinn.

All in all, we had a very nice time in Tallinn, and I can honestly recommend it to people who appreciate and look for more than cheap booze for their holiday. The Old Town is also small enough to manage on foot, which is why it is possible to wander around with children. In Finnish we have a saying "Matkailu avartaa", which means that travelling broadens your mind and gives you a new perspective to things. I have been to Tallinn a few times, and I must say that my view of this charming city has improved. Let's see when I will go there again!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Minna Canth's Day

Yesterday, on the 19th March, we celebrated Minna Canth's Day and the Day of Social Equality in Finland.

Minna Canth (born in 1884 - died in 1897) was a Finnish writer, a social activist, a journalist, an entrepreneur, a mother... and a tough cookie.

She addressed social issues in her works, and raised different problems into discussion. In her time, for instance, there was no law of the separation of property, which meant that a woman could not govern her own property. If she got married, her money would become his. Minna Canth wrote a play about this, and in Työmiehen vaimo the leading character Johanna's money is wasted by her drunken husband, and there is nothing she can do about it. The play caused a lot of stir when it premiered, but also quite soon afterwards the Finnish Parliament passed a new law concerning the separation of property.
Minna Canth was also a strong advocate for girls' right to education. In the 1800s it was quite common in Finland that even though girls were allowed to have some education, it often was of a 'lighter' sort than the education boys were given. Girls' curriculum quite often included a lot of handicraft, needlework etc., because it was thought that girls did not have the necessary abilities for more difficult subjects and higher education. Minna refused this idea, and was not afraid to speak her mind. Hence, she became a controversial figure in her own time, partly because her ideas differed from the public opinion, and also because she was not afraid to voice her concerns. It is also noteworthy that Minna Canth worked as an entrepreneur and raised seven children by herself after her husband's death in 1879.

I am proud to be named after Minna Canth. I think that this world still needs strong advocates to improve women's position. A lot has been done, and in many parts of the world it is good to be a woman, but still a lot needs to be done. We definitely need all the minnacanths we can get in order to make this world a better place in the future!

Monday, February 09, 2015

Valentine's Day just around the corner

I'm writing this on the 9th February, which means that Valentine's Day is only a few days away. Even though Valentine's Day is not a huge deal in Finland, we also celebrate it in some way. Actually, we send cards also to friends, not only to girl- or boyfriends or husbands and wives here, since the day is called Ystävänpäivä (Friend's Day). Therefore, I suppose the main idea for this day in our country is to remember to tell all the people you love that you love them and care about them.

The stereotypical Finn is a silent, introverted and reserved person who finds it difficult to talk about  feelings. An old anecdote or a joke tells about an old married couple where the wife complains to her husband that he never tells her that he loves her. He looks at her, surprised, and says: "I already told you I love you forty years ago. I promise I will let you know if things change." Although modern Finns are probably a lot more social and outgoing than the husband in the anecdore, Valentine's Day is something that Finns haven't exactly welcomed with open arms. It's often said that all that romantic fuss just doesn't suit us; we like to show our love and affection with actions or small things rather than with flowers or gifts.

Maybe so, but I find it hard to believe that any woman would mind a little pampering. There really is no harm in making someone feel good and happy, and the gesture doesn't always have to be anything grand. A foot massage, a good film, a delicious dinner... I can't think of anyone who wouldn't like to be thought of sometimes. But, having said that, let me be clear that I also don't mind surprises of a bit more grandiose nature...So if my husband decided to pamper me with diamonds instead of coffee and a kiss on Valentine's Day, I definitely would not mind...