Sunday, April 30, 2006

Hitting the sack....

(Cross-posted on Jacob's Blog.)

(Today's CHAFF meeting is at the usual time 13:00 hours at the usual place: Thai Pailin Restaurant, Kenttätie 9, Kasarmi Area. It is a farewell meeting for one of our regulars, Anais, who returns to France.)

I had a late night yesterday.

Annikki and I were invited by Ilari Sohlo's parents (Jorma & Heli) to attend the official engagement party of Ildikó to Ilari. Annikki could not come as someone had to stay at home to look after her mother.

I reached Prof. Sohlo's house at 17:00 hours. I was greeted by Ildi, and surprise, surprise, Ildi's mother (Juliska Hámos) who had come in from Hungary.

The bedroom door opened and out popped Ildi's dad (Árpád Hámos), who had flown in from Vienna, via Budapest.

Árpád greeted me as a long lost friend saying that my blog was extremely popular in his IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) circles in Vienna. I had never met either of Juliska and Árpád, but this blog had already sealed a relationship between us!

I guess I was surprised to see them there. The persons who were even more surprised and delighted were Ildi and Ilari. They had had no clue that Juliska and Árpád were coming for the party. The scheme had been plotted by Jorma & Heli.

They had arrived at 01:05 am that morning and had been whisked from the airport to Prof. Sohlo's home.

They had slept the night and got ready during the day. When Ildi walked in through the front door for the party, she received a phone call from Árpád who was apologising for not being there for the engagement, while calling from the closed bedroom.

But Ildi heard a familiar ring on the phone, which sounded surprisingly like the sound of her own mobile. She rushed into the closed bedroom to see Juliska and Árpád standing there.

Sorry, I do not have a photograph of that moment - I can only guess the explosive emotions that were there.

Clockwise starting at the top left: Árpád, Juliska, Heli, Ilari & Ildi, Jorma

Juliska is taller than Ildi and as graceful as her daughter. Árpád is an effervescent person, full of life and wanting to be a friend of everyone. Unfortunately, Ildi's brother could not be present.

The food was superb. There was all sort of Finnish delicacies, smoked salmon, smoked reindeer salad, and there was the Thai Pailin speciality - the Mini Flap (both vegetarian and noon-vegetarian).

There was loads of great coffee, beer, wine, Benedictine, etc.

I stuck to my water and tea.

It was a glorious evening. For a large part, till the sun went over the horion, we sat outside enjoying the company, the food, the drink and the spring sunshine warmth.

Juliska and Árpád had brought some great presents from Hungary including silver ear rings for Ildi and white metal cuff links and tie pin for Ilari. Also they gave them some unique ceramic from Hungary which is glazed with a superb metal finish.

Sketches of Jorma & Heli

The Ilari family home is one of the most unique that I have visited in recent times. Their love of art predominates and every wall is covered with paintings from well known, as well as not so well known artists.

Sohlo Siblings
Ilari is on the far right

When they stopped filling the walls with paintings, most unusually, you could see paintings affixed to the roof! :-)

The final touch was the Guest Book signing which was specially prepared and brought from Hungary.

There were three almost identical booklets, one for Jorma & Heli, one for Juliska and Árpád and one for Ilari & Ildi.

The last page of each featured a beautiful Transylvanian woodcut.

It was way past my bedtime when we left Jorma & Heli place.

I got home and briefed Annikki on the happenings and showed her the collection of photographs so she could feel as if she had been there. After checking and clearing my email, I took my computer headphones to listen to "Ring of Fire", a Talk Show hosted by Bobby Kennedy Jr. As I climbed into bed at 12:49 am, Bobby was just announcing that his next guest was going to be my good friend and best Talk Show Host in the world, Mike Malloy.

Great, I thought, what a surprise to get to hear Mike on a Saturday night.

My head hit the pillow at 12:50. I did not see 12:51 and missed Mike!

People say it is so difficult to get to sleep - not ME!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Democracy is just an IMAGE in Oulu

(Cross-posted on Jacob's Blog.)

I was busy all day today and did not have time to browse the Kaleva, our local nwewspaper, in much detail. When I returned from the physiotherapy session of our son, Mika, I settled down to watch one of the few TV programmes that I do watch, “Murder She Wrote”.

Annikki was busy attending to her mother. When she had given her mother her food, she joined me in the living room and asked whether I had seen a small news item in the newspaper about how the students in Oulu had been disallowed to carry out a public protest in Oulu or to set up a information tent or display banners as the Image of City of Oulu as an International City with the coming of summer would be “damaged”.

My blood boiled, just as much as Annikki’s, when I heard this.

I had just spoken to my good friend Ilari Sohlo who is in touch with the Student World, but he had not mentioned this protest. So I rang back, but he did not answer his mobile.

Then Ilari rang back. When I told him about this, he said he had missed this news item as he was busy with a seminar presentation. He immediately looked up the web and found the protest was to be between 12:00 noon and 16:15 in Rotuari, the central walking street of Oulu.

I looked at my watch, and it was just turning 16:05. I decided to make a dash to the city to see if I could catch up with some of the student leaders behind this protest.

On my way, Ilari sent me a text message giving me the name of the main Organiser, Milja Seppälä and her contact phone number.

When I reached the town centre, it was past 16:15. I noted that the protest was over and the students had packed up and gone home. So I rang Milja and had a word with her.

I asked her whether Oulu was becoming like the US where, if one needed to protest, then it had to be in “Free Speech Zones”.

Milja said she hoped that this was not so.

I then asked her for the rationale behind the City not giving the students the right to carry out a public protest. She told me that it was because it could damage the reputation of the City as an International City, especially with the onset of summer!

I was horrified.

I asked Milja whether she had any pictures of the protest for this blog entry. Sadly she did not have any and as she was just about to enter into a meeting, she had to end our interview.

I was really mad as I drove home. I told Annikki the outcome of the visit to the city and my conversation with Milja. She was just as mad as me and she immediately queried whether Democracy in Finland was going to be just an IMAGE?

I wonder whether this protest demonstration in London made that city less of an International City than Oulu?

Protest in London

Protest in London

Or did this protest in Paris make it less of an International City than Oulu?

Paris Student Protest
Paris Student Protest

Is it not strange that we were allowed to carry out a protest in Oulu against the Iraq War but students could not carry out a protest about their student grants?

Iraq War Protest in front of Oulu City Hall
Iraq War Protest in front of
Oulu City Hall, Picture by Jacob Matthan

This is not the first time we have come across this issue of safegaurding and polishing the “Image of Oulu” by corrupt Oulu bureaucrats.

In the forerunner to this Blog, our popular internet fortnightly FINDIANS BRIEFINGS Volume No: 05 Issue No. 01 - - 28th January 1998 had this item Analysis - Journalist Pimps

When we exposed the strategy of Oulu City bureaucracy to get favourable stories in International newspapers and magazines published by Journalist Pimps, we were called to the office of the Oulu Economic Affairs Office to try to convince us that Oulu was really a great city as had been reported by these "bribed" journalist.

We concluded then:

“To cut a long story short, our meeting with Mr. Seppo Mäki ended when we asked him that if he wanted to tell the truth or just to promote a set of half-truths about our city. We compliemented him on the great job he is doing but sadly what is being done is just polishing the Finnish image in public, while underneath it stinks to the high heaven.

Sadly, Mr. Mäki is very efficient in his job. The Finnish newspapers then feed the gulible Finns with a dose of their own city handouts routed through the gulible international press as if they emanated from these great journalists. These are not journalists, but in our opinion, but glorified pimps.”

The situation between 1998 and 2006 has not changed one bit. The City of Oulu is still run by a set of CORRUPT OFFICIALS.

Students in Oulu - Are you going to stand by your principles or be brow-beaten and your natural rights trampled by your “political masters”. If the latter, forget that you live in a democracy! If these people are your "political servants" as they should be as they are in your pay - then tell them exactly what you think of their actions.

The answer lies in your hands - not theirs!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Everyday gets more hectic

(Cross-posted on Jacob's Blog.)

Sunday was no exception.

I was already out of the house early to see my car mechanic, Reijo, to pay him for my tyres.

(Hot news:
For Sale:
Opel Kadett - 1987 Euro 700, MOT'd till August;
Volkswagen Passat - 2002 Euro 22,000 (about 120000 km on the clock;
Wanted: A good diesel 5 seater car in the price range of Euro 1000 - 1500.
Contact me for details.

I went to see the master Pizza "Taikina" Maker, Zambian Kamutaza Tembo, demonstrate his skills.

Kamu demonstrating making pizza

Kamu demonstrating making pizza "taikana" balls

Kamu can make 120 of these balls, from which the pizza base is rolled, in just 15 minutes!

Then I picked up some CHAFF participants. The CHAFF meeting was much larger this week than I had expected.

(It would be nice if you could call in to the Restaurant and tell them if you are coming so they can make the Thai / Chinese buffet suit your taste - especially if you are a vegetarian or have special dietary needs. The hosts know all present CHAFF participants who have taken part so far and know their tastes - spicy, mild, vegetarian, etc.!)

We had two newcomers brought by our regular Kenyan participant, David Okele. Business management students from Kenya, Cleo and Joel, are also sportsmen, one being a 5 km runner and the other a keen footballer.

New CHAFF participants from Kenya
New CHAFF participants from Kenya
Cleo and Joel with me

They showed us some superb Kenyan Bead Art in the form of bracelet.

Kenyan Bead Art
Kenyan Bead Art

For someone who takes almost half-an-hour to thread a needle, this was simply superb.

German speaking CHAFF participants,
Ildikó (Hungary), Pailin (Thailand) and Kerstin (Germany)

Michela (Slovakia), Anais (France), Ilari (Finland) and Ildikó (Hungary)
Michela (Slovakia), Anais (France), Ilari (Finland) and Ildikó (Hungary)

I introduced (orally) some of the more athletically minded CHAFF participants, including Kerstin (Germany), to the super-action sport of Thai Sepak Takraw (Kick Volleyball), a fast paced game requiring agility. Top international football stars hone their ball contol skills using this sport.

The court and net are of the same height and dimensions as in badminton. A team (Regu) consists of 3 members. Two regus compete by spiking a ball into the opponent's court. Most of the same rules apply as for volley ball, with the following main exceptions:

- players are prohibited from using their hands & arms;
- a player can touch the ball up to 3 times consecutively;
- the players' positions on the court need not be rotated;
- net serves (falling within the boundary) are accepted.

A rattan ball is served from the corner.

Takraw rattan ball
Takraw rattan ball

The striker kicks the ball over the net. You can use any part of your body except your arms and hands. If you're not used to playing and you strike the ball with your head it will hurt! It really helps if you are flexible. The back kick is the most exciting move when the strike spikes the ball while doing a back flip!!

A match is composed of 3 sets. The first regu to score 21 points wins a set. The first regu winning two sets wins the match. In either set, if both regus are tied, 20 - 20, play continues until one regu wins by 2 points, up to a ceiling of 25 points. If each regu wins one set out of the first two, then the third set is played and is called the "Tiebreak". The Tiebreak only goes up to 15 points, but again a regu must win by 2 points, up to a ceiling of 17.

Pailin was trying to say that takraw was unladylike! This picture sequence shows a lady in the process of serving in a Ladies Takraw tournament. Women probably play the game faster and better than men!

Women's Takraw - Service
Women's Takraw - Service

We have some very talented young Thai Takraw players here in Oulu. The Thai Pailin Restaurant is planning to launch a Takraw Club.

Women's Takraw game in progress
Women's Takraw game in progress

If you are interested contact the restaurant will organise for training sessions if sufficient number of people are interested.

Warning - Do not try this game unless you are intending to be really PHYSICALLY FIT.

As Pentti Paakki had to rush off for a GNLD Meeting, I dropped Matti Moisa home to Haukipudas. He stopped along the way to show me the oldest pine tree in Oulu - over 300 years old!

300 year old Salt Pine tree at Kaskila
300 year old Salt Pine tree at Kaskila

Two antiques of Oulu!
Two antiques of Oulu!

I then went to see Soda play football. His side won 2 -0 but Soda did not see much of the ball!

300 year old Salt Pine tree at Kaskila
Cold and windy evening football in Oulu

I returned to the Pailin Restaurant to pick up food for Annikki and Mika. I was pleasantly surprised to see an old friend from the University, Peruvian Manuel with his elder son, Daniel, having a pizza at the restaurant.

Peruvians in Oulu, Manuel and Daniel
Peruvians in Oulu, Manuel and Daniel

Manuel has been in Oulu for 21 years (I have been here 22 years) and he was a student in Oulu University in the Electrical Engineering Department when I was working in the Microelectronics Laboratory. Today, Manuel works in Oulu for a large US Corporation and is married to a girl from Peru. Besides Daniel, they have another baby boy, Miguel.

As I was finally driving home after this busy day, I had a panic call from Annikki. She had not seen me all day. I reassured her that good hot and spicy Thai / Chinese food was on the way home!

All was forgiven! :-)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Hectic Saturday

(Cross-posted on the Best Buy Blog and my Jacob's Blog.)

What a hectic day. The Saturday puzzle will appear tomorrow!

Here are some pictures that Joanna sent me today of Samuel and Daniel. The last one made me cry as Daniwel went down with gastroenteritis and it really shows in his face!

Daniel with flowers

Daniel with flowers

Merran, Daniel and Samuel
Samuel, Daniel and Merran

Daniel is poorly
Daniel is poorly

I left home at 6:30 am. I went to check out the discount at the SPAR Kaijonharju for my Best Buy Blog readers. When I arrived at 6:45 am, right across town, who should I see standing for the doors of the shop - Ilari and Ildikó.

They were a bit diasappointed as the discount was still only 30%, which is generally not good enough to merit a visit. Watch the Best Buy Blog so that you do not go on a wild goose chase. I do all the hard work for you!

The 50% discount at this shop will start at 7:00 am on Monday morning and by 8:00 am, the shop will be cleaned out. There will not be much to buy as most of the general goods are over already.

I went on to do my regular shopping, starting at Cassa in Rajakylä. I was there just before 8:00 am on saturday it opens at that time. (On weekdays Cassa opens at 7:00 am.)

Standing a few ten metres from me, as I waited for Cassa to open, there was a group of 4 men and they were drinking beer at that early hour.

Beer at 8:00 am
Beer at 8:00 am!

Was I surprised?

Not really, as this is quite common behaviour among certain sections of the local population in Finland.

On my way back from Cassa I passeed this Bus Stand at Toppila.

Vandalism - Smashed Bus Stand
Vandalism - Smashed Bus Stand

This is a degree of vandalism which is quite unusual for Oulu, Finland! Grafiti, yes; Smashing bus stands, No.

Today was such a beautiful day, I decided it was time to change from winter to summer tyres. I spent most of the morning cleaning the insides of the cars, vacuuming them and washing the carpets, etc,

Later in the evening I went to Reijo's Garage with the Kannan's SAAB. My back is too weak for me to attempt changing tyres.

Reijo changed the tyres and I had the car washed.

Reijo changes tyres on the SAAB
Reijo changes tyres on the SAAB

SAAB being washed
SAAB being washed

The best part of Reijo's work is that he even washes the tyres that he takes off, with high pressure water, making it easy to handle them at home without getting your hands or clothes dirty.

I then took the SAAB home and took the Ford Escort to change the tyres.

One look at my summer tyres meant that I had to change all of them. Reijo came to rescue and sold me 4 new radial tyres, for just Euro 215 for the set.

Fitting new tyres in the hub
Reijo fits my new tyres in the hub

Reijo fitted the new tyres in the hub and balanced all of them, changed the tyres, and then washed the Ford. Reijo's good friend, Jussi, washed the tyres of the Ford.

Jussi washes the Ford tyres

And all that work of changing tyres on two cars, fitting and balancing the new tyres in the hubs, washing the two cars and washing the tyres - all for just Euro 40 with a smiling face!

Could there be a better BEST BUY?

A tough and long day with me returning for a great dinner of curry and rice followed by a long talk with Samu in Newcastle about the Chelsea - Liverpool FA Cup semifinal game and an even longer talk about the World Cup.

Samu has got a fabulous book with all the details of players, fixtures, officials of the World Cup. I am going to have a great time watching the World Cup with Samu here in Finland. I can refer to the expert grandson to get all the details!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Location for Amnesty Meeting

I have been informed that the location for the First Meeting of the English Language Group of Amnesty International, Oulu, will meet on

Date: Wednesday 10th May 2006
Location: The Cafe at The International Activity Centre
Address: TOPPELIUS, Torikatu 16, 90100 Oulu
Time: 18:00 hours

Toppelius House

If you need more information, please contact:

Niina Kuokkanen
Amnesty Oulu Group
niina @
Mobile: 040 - 7387 587

Please support this group as they will be another link to the world in which we live and our responsibility to our fellow human beings.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Easter Monday CHAFF meeting

We had an interesting group of people at the CHAFF Meeting last Monday. We moved it to Monday as most people were having a private Easter Sunday with their families.

First to arrive were Siddarth Mazumdar and his 3 Polish friends who managed to reach Oulu after their 2500 km trip around North Finland, Sweden and Norway. They used Kannan's new SAAB car and said it was great and gave them no trouble whatsoever during their trip.

We had our French and Slovakian friends, Anais and Michella. David from Kenya was also present. Tingting from China brought a new friend, Veli-Matti, a really fine and nice Finn who travels frequently to both Thailand and China.

My daughter, Susanna, who was spending Easter in Oulu withus was also among the attendees.

Apologies were received from Ilari & Ildikó, Pentti (who was in Lapland), Bill who was studying, and Kerstin.

We discussed many new subjects. Although there was no Thai Buffet, as it was a meeting that started at 15:00 hours, most people enjoying the Thai Wraps and Flaps.

This week's meeting will be on Sunday 23rd April at the usual time of 13:00 hours. The Thai Buffet will be back on the table. Location at the Thai Pailin Raestaurant, Kenttätie 9, Kasarmi Area.

See you there.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy easter, Chinese style....

(Cross-posted on Jacob's Blog.)

I woke up late, not because it is Easter Sunday, but because, last night, we enjoyed a great Chinese meal, cooked by a dear friend, at home.

So, a belated Happy Easter to all of you.

Tingting is just 21 years old. She is a personality whom, once you meet, you will not forget. She has a brain which works like a computer - items get saved onto it like a hard disk and it churns away to get the right result.

I met Tingting about six months ago at a CHAFF meeting. We have become fast friends. She Skype's or Gizmo's me whenever she wants to discuss something to get a bit of information from my experience. And she processes the information she gets very wisely. As she says, she is an "old (Ed: mature) brain on a young frame"!

All this time she has been wanting to meet Annikki. She had brought her two lovely gifts from China, but yet she was unable to meet her.

So, yesterday, she Skyped me and said she wanted to cook us a Chinese meal. So, I went and picked her up in the morning and we chose the ingredients.

As Susaana and Asha are here with us, we had to observe some rules - no pork, prawns, dairy products, etc.

But that was no problem for Tingting - as her mind works like a register - it just processed that information and when we went shopping, it was so unique. She knew exactly what to buy. We were in and out of the shop in less than 15 minutes.

Asha and I picked up Tingting at exactly 18:30 in the evening. When she entered our home she brought a brightness which was so enthralling. Both Susanna and Annikki took to this young lady, who speaks everything from the heart. She tells it like it is and maybe, in time, she will have to learn that diplomacy may require her to keep some of her deepmost feelings hidden. But for Annikki and Susanna, who love people who speak the truth, this was quite an experience.

After a little chit-chat, including telling us how some Chinese eat monkey brains directly from a live monkey place in the centre of a table, a practice she thought repulsive, Tingting wanted to get to work.

Tingting cooks

Tingting cooks

It was amazing how this youngster took charge of the kitchen, where even the big boss of the JM family, Susanna, was reduced to being a kitchen helper. Annikki took care of producing the rice in the upstairs kitchen while Tingting worked with our limited cookware. Susanna was busy chopping vegetables and scrubbing pots and pans, while I laid the table with Chinese bowls and glasses, found the chopsticks, and before I knew it, I was moving the cooked food from the kitchen to the dining room.

Soup hits the table
Soup hits the table

Besides the rice, in a matter of a few minutes this wizard had produced a delicious Chinese soup, and four separate dishes - each one a masterpiuiece, and knowing that Asha could not take too much spice, each dish was tailored to the exact spice level that even Asha would be able to eat it.


More delicacies

When all the dishes were on the table, I was under the impression that we would have a buffet. But Tingting quickly pooh-poohed that idea. She had the dining table cleared of the chess set and other paraphenalia and said that when you have a Chinese meal, you have to eat it Chinese style, sitting around the table and helping yourself directly from the serving dishes placed in the centre of the table.

Tingting doles out her specialities

As I glanced around the table, I saw such faces that showed that all the participants, including Asha, were really enjoying the food as much as I was. And the talk around the table went from one topic to another, showing that Tingting was one of our family.

Tingting was amazed as to how we had brought up four children. She is a product of the Chinese one-child policy and could never imagine anyone having more than one offspring. She looked at Annikki in wonderment. I must say, as I was an errant father in India, as I was away almost two weeks on the road every month, I, too, am amazed how Annikki managed to raise our four kids in a strange country and manage it so well.

Tingting had already adopted me as one of her fatherly guides in Finland many months ago. Now, she won the hearts of all my family who sat around the table.

After such a superb meal, which ended with Annikki serving a portion for Mika, Tingting and Susanna chatted till it was time for Tingting to go home.

Susanna and Tingting with the cleaned out food plates!

Asha and I dropped her back to her flat and we thanked her.

This young girl had brought a different and meaningful Easter message to our home in her own quiet way - and for that we ever remain in her gratitude.

Remember tomorrow's CHAFF Meeting is at 15:00 hours at the Thai Pailin Restaurant - no buffet, but coffee and "pulla". Welcome.

Friday, April 14, 2006

A new culture becomes part of us in 2549

(Cross-posted in the CHAFF Blog.)

Yesterday, was the Thai New Year taking us into the year 2549.

Annikki, Susanna, Asha, along with me, were invited to dinner by Pailin, Unnop and Soda.

The occasion was not only an eye-opener in terms of culture, but Annikki and I now have two more beautiful children and two more wonderful grandchildren, except that one was sadly unable to be present on this occasion.

We were late, as Annikki and Asha had some shopping to do, and after that, Asha had to speak to her dad, Chris, in Billinghay, just to make sure that all was OK.

When we arrived, we saw a beautifully laid out table before us, with a decorative tray of carved fruit and a plate of delicious rice noodles.

Unnop is a master carver of fruits and vegetables. Annikki is certain that the Finns would flock around to learn this art from him.

The rice noodles are a Thai speciality. It is similar to the Idiappam that we have in Kerala. It is served with a fish sauce and can also also be eaten with a curry.

Soda eating rice noodles

Soda taught Susanna to eat rice noodles with spoon and fork

Soda was eating with us at the table. He guided us through the meal.

Although only 14, nearing 15, Soda is a not only a handsome and loving boy, but also a thorough gentleman. An outstanding footballer and a naturally talented musician, he has also picked up Finnish and speaks it fluently, in just 6 months. His English is excellent and he also reads and writes Thai. But he confessed he was having problems with his Maths!

That is of little consequence for a boy so gifted in so many ways and one who will be a wonderful personality and a true Ambassador of the rich Thai culture and heritage he has brought with him to Finland.

Looking at the picture above, I can see how he has become more powerful in his physique than when I met him 7 months ago. He is growing to be a very strong young man, whom I hope I will be very proud off, just as my four other children.

The rice noodles were eaten in the soup bowl with the fish sauce. Then we ate Satay Chicken roasted on sticks with a delicious and mildly spicy nut sauce. The Spring Rolls were eaten with Thai Sweet Chilli sauce. This was followed by Jasmine rice served with absolutely delicious green curry which is made with plenty of coconut milk.

Knowing that Annikki, Susanna and Asha have a few food restrictions, there were no pork, shrimps, and dairy products in the items served. Yet the meal was tasty and it was Pailin's cooking at its best. (Pailin is a double graduate from Thai Universities - in Home Science as well as Science Education.)

All of us gushed, not only at the quality of the food, but also the beautiful way it was served with both Pailin and Unnop in their Thai robes.

Pailin greets us with a great feeling using the Thai Namaste

Unnop, a wonderful personality

Asha started with the Spring Rolla and the Satay Chicken, which had been made by Pailin for the very first time, but found the fish sauce and the green curry a bit too spicy. Pailin rustled up Asha's favourite, fried rice with chicken and fresh vegetables. It was truly mouth-watering, and I stole a bit from Asha's plate to see what it was like. The taste was even better than what it looked like.

Asha amongst the tulips

We then attacked the fruit bowl, especially the grapes and the carved honey melon.

As the meal came to an end, there appeared a large empty bowl on the table and another bowl filled with fragrantly smelling water.

The time had come to partake of a bit of Thai culture.

We learnt that it is Thai custom to celebrate the New Year with Water. They spray each other with water - something Samu enjoys, as he usually chases Grandpa around the Kampitie garden with the garden spray gun.

But this time it was slightly different.

Washing of hands

First, Unnop washed my hands into the bowl and I wiped the cooling fragrant water over my face. I wished him all the best for the future. Then he washed Annikki's hands. This was followed by Pailin and Soda washing our hands. Asha and Susanna also washed our hands. We in turn wished them all future prosperity and happiness. (Silently, I also wished all our absent family members all the very best in the coming years.)

This custom is one that the Thai people show to the people they love and respect.

Annikki, the most wonderful daughter, wife,
mother and grandmother to many

Annikki and I were deeply touched. Pailin and Unnop told us they value us as their parents and love and honour us as such.

Susanna, the eldest, so far, of our brood

Annikki and I are proud to know this couple and their children. We, also, consider them as part of our family. As Pailin and Unnop, we have a few other friends who consider us and value us as their respected elders, but this was the first time we went through a ceremony which publicly stated the love and affection some people have for us.

It made us feel very humble that people can show their love and affection for us so outwardly.

Mika was unable to join this family occasion, so Pailin packed an enormous meal for him.

Our thanks to Pailin, Unnop, Soda and Sodium for becoming part of our family. I am sure those not here, Joanna and family (Samu already considers this to be his best French fries place, just as Asha considers this to be the very best Chicken Wrap place) and Jaakko, also welcome them into our family as loved members.

We wish them all prosperity in the coming years. We hope that Soda and Sodium will grow into being the same loving people as their parents.

Immigration and multicultural community in Oulu

I have just been informed by Ildikó of the next meeting on the Regional Policy Plan Development. The subject is Immigration and multicultural community in Oulu and it is going to be held in English, so you can follow it even if you do not understand Finnish.

As my daughter and granddaughter will leave for England that evening at 16:30, it is a meeting that I will not be able to attend.

May I suggest we hammer out a common viewpoint at the next CHAFF meeting which will NOT be on Sunday, as usual, but will take place on MONDAY 17th April 2006 at 15:00 hours at the Thai Pailin Restaurant, Kenttätie 9, Kasarmi Area.

(Daughter Susanna and granddaughter Asha will attend the CHAFF meeting. I am also expecting Siddarth and 3 Polish friends to arrive in time for the meeting from their trip to the Nordcap.)

This is a very important subject and instead of everyone going in with different viewpoints, maybe the appointment of a spokesperson who puts together a powerful and coherent point of view will get better attention than a series of uncordinated opinions and presentations.

Here is Ildikó's email invitation in both English and Finnish.

Hello all,

Thank you for having been around at the first meeting. Now I am happy to invite you to the next meeting, where Ilpo Tapaninen from the Regional Council will be around again and the meeting's topic will be "Immigration and multicultural community in Oulu". The meeting will be held in English, and I will help with interpreting should there need be. As SINNI's meeting room will be occupied at that time, I will let you know in time where we will congregate.

Date and time: Thursday, 20.4., 15.00

Please try to come, as now we will really be able to tackle and discuss the problems of employment, language and integration etc. and make direct claims and suggestions to really try and influence policy in the region.

So see you next week! Have a nice Easter holiday!



Hei kaikki,

kiitos läsnäolostasi ensimmäisessa tapamisessa. Nyt olen iloinen että saan kutsua sinut seuraavaan tapaamiseen, mihin Ilpo Tapaninen Pohjois-Pohjanmaan Liitosta tulee myös. Tapaamisen aihe on "Maahanmuutto ja monikulttuurinen yhteisö Oulussa". Tapaamista pidetään englannin kielessä ja minä autan kääntämisen kanssa tarvittaessa. Koska SINNIn neuvottelutilat ovat silloin muussa käytössä, ilmoitan teille paikan ajoissa ennen torstaita.

Päivämäärä ja aika: Torstai, 20.4., klo 15.00

Yritä mahdollisuutesi mukaan tulla tapamiseen, koska nyt meillä on todella tilaisuus keskustella ja tarttua ongelmiin kuten työllisyys, kieli, integraation yms. ja tehdä suoria vaatimuksia ja ehdotuksia että pystytään todella vaikuttaa maakunnan politiikkaan.

Tavataan ensi viikolla! Hyvää pääsiäisjuhlaa!


Welcome to the next CHAFF Meeting.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Stupendous News

(Cross-posted on Jacob's Blog.)

The CHAFF Meeting this Sunday was quite a small affair as most people were recovering from the all night party of last week. I heard that people were wandering home even as early as 5:30 am last Sunday!

However, we were given the most stupendous news at the tail end of the meeting.

Ildikó and Ilari arrived late and broke us the news which was like music to all assembled.

Ilari had proposed to Ildikó on Saturday! And Ildikó has accepted.

It took the form of the treasure hunt, treasure unknown to Ildikó, which led up to the final proposal being found posted on the side of a water filling station in a remote corner of Oulu!

Ildi and Ilari relax in an Iranian restaurant

Our favourite young CHAFF couple

Typically Ilari character. He loves to play games.

It is the first CHAFF announcement of marriage news in Finland. Everyone was thrilled.

All of us at CHAFF wish this popular couple all the very best.

If they have even half the success of my marriage to Annikki, they will have a great one!