Saturday, December 30, 2006

Busy day, yet...

(Cross-posted on Jacob's Blog.)

I had a very busy schedule yesterday. Even so, just before noon, I had a sudden urge to ring Ilari and Ildiko.

I chose Ildi's number. She answered immediately, her voice bubbling with excitement.

She told me that she and Ilari were waiting outside the Oulu Magistrate's Court room so that they could be married according to Finnish Civil Law. Her family from Hungary and Ilari's family from Oulu were present at this very private occasion.

I conveyed all the best from Annikki and me.

Later in the evening Ildi rang me to tell me all the details. Both Annikki and I were so happy that they have tied that knot which says the union is "for better or for worse" and "till death do them part". We wish them a happy comfortable journey.

Both Ildi and Ilari have become a loved part of our famiy. They are respected members of CHAFF. Ildi, in particular, has taken a large part of my load in helping Finns and foreigners in Oulu.

We will restart of CHAFF meetings on January 7th 2007 as most of the participants who have gone out for Christmas will be back.

This meeting is a special one asd it will be attended by Ildi's family, including her Nobel Peace Prize winning father - a wonderful personality, and her truly beautiful mother.

I am sure that many of you will want to attend to meet this wonderful couple who have raised such a fine character as Ildi.

Let me know, by return, if you are attending. The Pailin Restaurant may be too small for this event.

We may have to organise the location as soon as I know exactly how many of you intend to join us for the restart of CHAFF next Sunday, 7th January 2007 at 13:00 hours.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas to all our friends

(Cross-posted on the Jacob's Blog.)

It is Christmas morn. Annikki and my email Inboxes are filled with greetings from all corners of the globe.

63er Stephanian Ajay called me on a Skype video link from his farmhouse in Lund, Sweden. (I was able to see him, but as I am still having a problem finding an economic web camera for my Apple Mac, he could not see me!)

Chaff participant Kannan, who is taking his mother on a pilgrimage called us from Kashi, Varnasi, India.

Chaff participant Tingting checked in from her home town in Northeast China where she reported all the shops were open and brimming with customers.

63er Stephanian Aftab Seth (the twin brother of Roshan Seth who acted as Nehru in the movie "Gandhi") from Japan, 66er NCRTer Christie Robert from Malaysia, 60er Cathedralite Mehfooz Ahmed from Saudi Arabia, 62er Ranko Ivancevic from Cerbia, 95er Oulu University Ramesh Devu from Silicone Valley, California, USA; from India - 57er Cathedralite and 61er Stephanian Ashok (Tony) Jaitly (retired Chief Commissioner in Kashmir) from New Delhi, Cathedralite 59ers Viney Sethi and Vijay Shivdasani from Mumbai, cousin Satish Abraham from Kerala, Catheralites 43er Naval and 54er Armaity Patel from Mysore, etc...., from Finland Rotarian Ville Suomi, Women's Empowerist Ildiko Hamos, Chaff participant Pekka Keranen and family, on and on.... were among those who shared their greetings with both Annikki and me.

This made us feel profoundly humble that so many hundreds of you, of every age group, took the time to share your thoughts of the season with us.

On our part, we have made it a tradition to ask a couple of young foreigners who have no family here in Oulu, to join us for our very simple Christmas meal.

Year-before-last it was a young Tanzanian lady, Christine. Last year it was Kannan. This year we called two youngsters, Benjamen Hayes and Kanchan Gupta.

Benjamin is from Australia. He has been here for a few months. He is all what I call Australian, friendly, outgoing, understanding and a lovely human being.

We have a rule in our home that no gifts are exchanged at Christmas. For us, the time for giving is not one day, but the whole year.

Despite this, Benjamin brought me a CD which he cut of some of really best jazz tunes he has collected. Even as I write this I am listening to the CD "Jazz for Jacob". Forever-lasting melodiies, oldies rendered by many great artistes, as George Benson (Eternally) and Diana Krall's "Cry Me A River".

There is beautiful message on the back cover:

"And promise will come
To those whose kindness,
Leaves you without debt,
And bends the shape
Of things to come,
That haven't happened yet."

These are words of the New Zealand pop star Neil Finn, whose career from 1976 till today has been an inspiration to many, including me.

We had also asked Indian newcomer to Oulu, Bihari Kanchan Gupta, to join us. Unfortunately, he went for a walk on the previous day, fell and hurt his hand. He obviously consumed an overdose of pain-killers, which put him to sleep.

When I rang his doorbell to pick him up, and also rang his mobile several times during the course of the evening, he was in deep sleep and dead to the world.

He woke up after our meal was over, just about midnight, telephoned us, apologetic, but sadly, he missed a feast!

Annikki's mother, now 86, was also in a festive mood wearing the elf's hat, as she enjoyed what delicacies that were on offer.

I prepared the turkey. As I was thinking what filling to make, Annikki, as usual, came up with a most humourous and unusal suggestion. We had a box of chicken wings on the shelf. She suggested I stuff the turkey with that.

We laughed our guts out.

I had fun making a new Christmas dish, roast turkey stuffed with chicken wings beautifully flavoured with herbs and light spices carried in plenty of onions!

The meal was fully traditional Finnish in other ways.

The menu: Apple juice and orange juice to accompany Christmas brown bread made with a trace of molasses syrup, pickled herring, salted salmon slices, freshly tossed salad, potato salad, mushroom salad, turnip casserole, carrot casserole, roast potatoes, and, of course, the roast turkey stuffed with chicken wings! Afters were whipped cream with chocolate swiss roll and Annikki's own Christmas cake, full of all the rich dry fruits. Coffee to end the evening.

Mika, had his fill as well. Annikki's brother, who lives as a hermit in the forest, also landed up on the doorstep. Annikki put him to sleep in the cellar. He slept through the meal but enjoyed it later!

It was a true Christmas spirit as Benjamin had a tour around Annikki's garden and enjoyed the humour and simplistic creativity and beauty of what makes us so happy, day-in and day-out!

We finally thanked our Creator and Maker for all the simple things in life which make us so happy.

But, this year we dearly missed our grandchildren, Daniel, Asha and Samuel, who are holidaying in Florida with their parents!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

We go unofficial for winter

The farewell meeting for Kerstin was a blast. It was well attended and those who could not come sent their best wishes to a very popular member of CHAFF.

CHAFF Farewell meeting for Kerstin in progress.

Pailin turned out a beautiful buffet and top of the charts was Kerstin's favourite dish - a spicy glass noodle salad. I saw her taking the secret recipe from Pailin at the end of the do.

Kerstin's favourite - Spicy Glass Noodle Salad.

Kerstin made a lot of friends during her short stay in Finland. Among them was this lively beauty from Poland, Kasia, who now graces our meetings.

Kerstin and Kasia.

We had a new participant at Chaff, a lovely Finnish student, Mona, who is Kasia's room-mate.

Mona and Kasia.

As a special part of the program, Pailin led Kerstin, Kasia and Mona in a graceful Thai dance performance for us Chaff participants. A truly great spectacle which is why our CHAFF meetings are so popular.

Kerstin, Kasia, Pailin and Mona.

It was suggested that the regular CHAFF meetings would not be held from now till mid-January as most of our group are pushing off for holidays around the world.

There were cries of despair when this was announced, so we decided that the Sunday get-togethers would continue for those who are still in Oulu. But, we would not have the regular Thai buffet UNLESS we were expecting MORE THAN 10 people. So do let me know if you are planning to come so I can organise the menu accordingly.

This Sunday is going to have some new and also some important participants. If you are still in Oulu, do get there.

Pailin Ravintola, Kenttätie 9, 13:00 hours, Sunday 3rd December 2006.

As a final farewell to Kerstin, I picked her up at 4.45 am today morning and dropped her off at the airport to catch her flight home to Germany. Kerstin was happy to be going back home. She said to me, finally, it ends as it started when I picked her up from the airport way back in March (?) 2006.

I have been driving the SAAB for a couple of days. I am getting very attached to it. I am seriously considering selling of the "RABBIT", which today has been the best car that I have ever owned. With new pistons, new gasket, new heating system, new this, new that, etc. etc. this 1985 car is really a gem. In the 5 years that I have used this car it has never given me any trouble whatsoever. Last year this little RABBIT came to the rescue of a Volvo, a SAAB, a Ford Modeo, a Toyota, a BMW.... . And the rescue work this year has already begun.

When I mentioned this news to grandson Samuel in Newcastle this evening, he was aghast. He finally reconciled to the idea that maybe the bigger car would be a little more useful to slow me down.

If someone wants this FORD, which is a great one - but is not concerned with "looks" or age, call me and make a reasonable offer.

Here is another really good car on offer - Tony's car, which is on reasonable terms. The 2 year old car has less than 35000 km on the clock. That is because both Joanna and Tony have been in England for most of the time and only used the car during summertime.

You can find the details on NettiAuto. Tony left for England yesterday, but call me if you feel that this is of interest to you. (Euro 18000 range with easy payment terms Just 241 Euro per month!)

A really good Volvo Diesel belonging to Petri is also on offer, so contact me if you feel that car is of interest. (Euro 15000 range.)

The story about the fungus infested houses in Intiö is sweeping around Oulu and Helsinki. A large picture of our CHAFF hostess, Pailin, was plastered across Kaleva.

Another story is due out shortly. If any of the areas of the story remain uncovered, I will blast the lid of the corruption behind this story. So stay tuned as we at CHAFF fight for justice for those poor people affected - Finns and Foreigners alike.

See you on Sunday.