Friday, 30 May 2014

The Man Without a Past/ Paha Vaanii

Have a happy weekend!  Off to meet my brother, his wife and my niece and nephew in Helsinki xx

Living the Dream! in the Helsinki Times

I wrote this column for the Helsinki Times which was published today.  The headline is hilarious and I would just like to add that the paper added this on!  The photo is deadly also as they cropped out Malik, Ameenah and my instead there is a close up of me with a helmet on.  aaahhhh.

This was the original picture.

Anyway here is a link to the story xx

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Trip with ARX to Doghill (Koiramaki) Tampere

Yesterday was my last day at Nipsula, the preventative social work day centre I've been working at at HAMK University, Hameenlinna.  There were lots of tears and Malika was really upset to say goodbye to her new Finnish friends.  The children made us a beautiful card with their wee fingerprints inside which was so sweet.  They also gave us a beautiful Mauri Kunnas Finnish-English dictionary which the girls love.
I had never heard of Mauri Kunnas until Tuesday when we went on a day trip to Koiramaki (Dog Hill) in Tampere which is a wee theme park based around his chidrens books.  I was a big Tove Jannson fan before I came to Finland and of course her fabulous Moomins books are really popular in the UK, but Mauri was a new discovery.
He is actually Finland's most popular children's author and has sold over 7 million books worldwide.  Here is a link to his website: :
The card the Nipsula kids made for us...
 so sweet

This is such a great way to teach the girls more Finnish...

How strange that we had learnt of Mauri Kunnas at his theme park the day before the children presented us with the lovely book.  We went with ARX, the open day centre my daughters have been attending; ARX has closed now for the summer so this was a farewell trip for the children. 
The Sarkanniemi Doghill is a charming theme park based on the stories of the Finnish writer Mauri Kunnas.  This park has an atmosphere of late 19th Century, and it has real houses and farmyards, the farm and the town.  Real animals also live at Doghill.

dog shaped donut

beautiful café with so many Kunnas illustrations

the girls loved the toy dogs

we had to take shelter inside - the temperature dropped on Tuesday from 29 degrees to five degrees!  Just like Scotland!

Malika and her favourite teacher Jenna, who is from Oulu, in North Finalnd

another rare picture of me and the girls...

the park also has a lot of animals - ponies, ducks, rabbits, chickens and the girls favourite, a huge hairy pig!

loved this huge wall mural

I felt so sorry for this lady

Monday, 26 May 2014

Taj Mahal - Fishin' Blues: Fishing Trip in Finland

Annual fishing trip and gathering of the Viisari and Virvelinranta clans.  Exhausted from the festival weekend but still managed to catch six fish!  And cycled there singing Taj Mahal Fishin' Blues.  Thanks everyone - wonderful day in Hameenlinna, Finland x

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Multicultural Village Festival - Helsinki

Back from an absolutely fantastic weekend at the Multicultural village festival in Helsinki; 30 degrees all weekend, 80,000 people, and Finland's largest free festival.

We were all reeling from the news about UKIP before we left and have just heard that the far-right National Front took 25% of the vote in France in the European Elections.  It is not surprising but bloody depressing news plus I have just found a report on the Helsinki Times that far-right parties are making massive headway with Finnish young people...

It was great to escape all of this at the weekend and hang out with 80,000 people who felt a world away from all the doom and gloom  of the EU and local elections.

Malika and Ameenah loved it, my mum came back and starting looking up the festival programme for the rest of the summer in Finland (Patti Smith is playing at the West Coast Pori Jazz fest - we're going!) and I had a wonderful time with my family.

As always these days I missed a lot of the bands and spent a lot of time in the kids area which was fab...I also saw some really amazing talks; disability rights in Kenya and Finland, a Moroccan TV host talking about life post-Arab spring, community media in Finland and Tanzania and an absolutely inspiring talk by the Mexican Zapatista movement....

I will post some of the transcripts from the talks in the next few days...It's one in the morning now and I'm off fishing in the morning  xx

Monday evening and I'm just back from a fantastic day fishing in Hameenlinna....what a bloody dreadful but unsurprising day for Europe in the aftermath of the EU election results; we must stay positive and keep hope not hate at the forefront of the political agenda for Europe and our kids.

The themes of the multicultural village festival in Helsinki this year were climate change and South America; no-one knows with certainty how climate change will affect Finland but of course climate change is already impacting on vulnerable developing countries some of which are in South America.  The festival questioned how would it feel to arrive to the Railway Square and Kaisaniemi Park, Helsinki by rubber boat instead of a bike?

The main organiser of the festival is Kepa, an umbrella organisation of 300 NGO's; Kepa's work is financed by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Still in love with Finnish trains

And reading the fantastic selection of books on the trains

Savannah Stage

Fabulous Toukka book van in the kids corner...

Desperate to get on stage

Capoeira workshop

Malika and her village friends

Loved the craft corner in the Kid's corner and the simple log seats

Necklace making

Talk on Equality Made Reality: Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Kenya and Finland at the Mekong Stage

Samuel Kabue, Kenyan spokesperson and advocate for disability rights and Finnish parliamentarian Outi Alanko-Kahiluoto (Green Party)

Samuel: The notion that persons with disabilities should "receive help" needs to stop.  What we need is to understand that disability is often a small part of a person and that shouldn't stop them contributing to development.  Good intentions can no longer suffice.  How can basic human rights be observed when there are social, theological and physical barriers?

IN Kenya we want to see services mainstreamed.  We are not in the days of charity, we are in the days of rights.  We don't need separate services.

Outi Alanko-Kahiluoto: In Finland the question is how to deal with the cost of removing physical barriers?  It is fairly important that Finland catches up soon but I can't say how the budget cuts will effect this.

Samuel: People still need greater capacity to advocate for themselves.  In Kenya this began in the 80's when we stated, "Nothing about us, without us" and these words have now spread to governments worldwide.

Flamenco workshop - Kid's Park

Barbro from Children Crossing Cultures Workshop.  Lovely lady who runs art and creativity workshops for children in Sierra Leone.

pictures taken by Malika of her new friends
Interview with the brilliant Spanish singer Amparo Sanchez

Talk on Morocco after the Arab Spring with TV and Radio Host Dr Samoud

Very optimistic talk on the evolution and abolution of various aspects of law in Morocco post-Arab Spring.  I'm sure my Moroccan teacher friends who have had their salaries frozen for months on end with no explanation would not agree with his optimism.  Deserved heckle by a fellow Moroccan at the end of talk.

Not the best choice of legwear

more photos by Malika
Samba workshop in the Kid's Corner

Talk by KEPA on mentoring as a way to support integration

Ameenah at the Latin Atlantis Climate Installation

Sandro's Moroccan pop-up!

Ameenah freaked out by the massive Greenpeace Seal
Wished my brother Connor was here with me at this talk x 

A look at Zapatista Autonomy - Alternative to Alternatives

Xochitl Leyva: Mexican critical anthropologist and long-term Zapatist network activist and Finnish researcher, Helsinki University Eija Ranta

The public journey of the Mexican Zapatista movement has lasted twenty years.  What kind of political alternative does the movement offer?  What does the new era look like for the Mayans in the midst of their struggle for justice?

Xochitl: We are now thinking about the autonomous spaces in front of academia, politics, in places that are surrounded by capitalism and how autonomy can be built up in concrete spaces.  The concept of democracy right now has been manipulated by so many forces so we are thinking about autonomous spaces within capitalism.

For decades men dealt with the political issues in the Zapatista movement but now women are taking part in the armed movement and have really high roles as commanders.  Now we are focussed on the rights for women and children and it is really important in the Zapatista movement for children to have a voice.  In Finland to support us you can join local groups, protest against paramilitary action outside the embassy and think about solidarity beyond charity. 

Be informed and act.

Who is thinking about humanity now?  The corporations?  Academia?  Do something where you are.  DO not come to us for revolutionary tourism; we are really busy building this autonomy!

The importance of belonging in a community for well-being is something we can really learn from Finland.  When I heard about this talk in Finland I thought oh no, more jet-set!  But then I heard Finland was really different and I saw that when I met my anarchist and feminist comrades in Tampere.  I'm working really hard here, I'm not just staying in a nice hotel, although yesterday I was dancing! 

We are really against the jet set academic system as of course this is part of the capitalist system.  Don't surround yourself anytime by anything that smells of capitalism - lets keep in our hearts the message of the Zapatista movement.

AN adventure through South America: one hour of South American song and dance, Kid's Corner

rare picture of me and the girls

Climate Installation: Latin Atlantis: The Latin Atlantis installation dives into the effects of climate change in Latin America in the year 2114 with the assumption that climate change progresses at its current rate and that the use of fossil fuels is not limited.  THe installation uses lights and colours to show where access to fresh water is hindered the most. 

IN the Andes of South America the disappearance of glaciers further hinders access to fresh water.  As glaciers shrink the flows of rivers grows weaker and the amount of energy generated by hydroelectric plants suffers, forcing some countries to readjust and rebuild their supply of power.  Lesser water flow also has a vast drying effect on the vast Amazonas region.

Talk on Community Media: Giving a Voice to the Voiceless in Tanzania and Finland

really brilliant talk and so interesting as I set up a small community magazine in rural North-East Scotland....Denmark has a lot more statutory community media than Finland so there is still a way to go...

Ameenah was wide awake during this talk so I didn't get a chance to take many notes!

Yes!  Morocco balloon which lasted about 2 minutes

 Back to our Hameenlinna forest home which is covered in wild Lily of the Valley xx