Saturday, December 15, 2007

Latest published articles

Posted on ALL our major blogs - my Jacob's Blog, the Oulu CHAFF Blog, the Mumbai Cathedralites Seventh Heaven Blog and the Delhi Stephanians Kooler Talk Blog.

Annikki was Chairperson of The English Club of Oulu almost 2 decades ago. We were also the first Life members of the Club. The Finn-Brits Magazine is the publication of The Federation of Finnish-British Societies under which English Clubs function all around Finland to promote the English Language and the cultures associated with English speakers.

Cover of Autumn 2007 edition.

The magazine decided to do a special feature about Oulu in the Autumn 2007 edition and they asked us for a couple of articles.

The first was an article about the Chamber of Assistance for Finns and Foreigners which was founded by Jacob and a few friends a couple of years ago. The article was authored by the present CHAFF Monitor, Ildikó Hámos-Sohlo, along with Jacob.

The second, a highly controversial one was authored by Annikki and Jacob about the lack of Free Speech in Oulu.

Hope you enjoy them!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Online Spice Shop from Oulu

Posted on Oulu Best Buy, Oulu Chaff and Jacob's Blog.

About six months ago a long standing Indian resident of Oulu, Atul, informed me that he was planning a Spice Centre in Oulu. There were a couple of physical Spice Centres in Oulu in the late eighties and early nineties, but Indian food was not so popular then and there were just a handful of clients as us.

Sadly, Atul did not let me know about the progress.

Findian couple Helena and Atul, who are behind

Last night, when we had a meeting to set up a new Indian Group in Oulu, Atul mentioned that his Spice Centre was up and running and that it was on the internet.

The online shopping experience, which is offered in both Finnish and English, is simple as Atul has the alternate option of using a post or bank account besides a credit card.

I, for one, do not use credit cards, so this means I can happily shop online using my direct online banking facility.

The pages are clean and neat and quite unusual in the way the spices are offered. Atul is also attempting to promote Indian cooking as he has started a recipe page, but at the moment there are only two recipes online.

I tried to log in, but found all buttons related to this process inactive. But it is not necessary to log in to shop!

Hope you have a great shopping experience in

Let us wish Helena and Atul all the very best in this venture.

Am I a pastor?

Posted on the Oulu Chaff Blog and on Jacob's Blog.

I was returning home yesterday from a meeting at about 10 pm, when, quite close to my residence I saw an African man standing at the pedestrian crossing, map in hand, in a biting blizzard, obviously trying to find some address.

I pulled up the car and asked him where he wanted to go.

His hand and the map were shaking in the bitterly cold wind making it impossible to understand where he wanted to reach. I asked him to jump into that car.

The X on the map was too large to tell what the exact address was, so I asked him whether he had the phone number of his friend. He pulled out a phone and found the number - but as he had no credit in his phone account, he could not dial. So I asked him for the number and dialed.

The house was not more that a few hundred metres from where we were.

I dropped him off and handed him over to his friend who had come down to greet him.

In the process, I asked this young man where he came from - which was Ghana, and his name - which was Peter!

He in turn had only one question for me - which had me in splits of laughter - Was I a pastor?

I assured him that I was not, but I was a participant of CHAFF, which is where common folk in Oulu help one another!

What did this act of kindness cost me? 5 minutes of my time and one phone call charge!

Was it worth it? In my humble opinion - Certainly!

Have you done your good deed for today? :-)

Our last meeting on Sunday concentrated on problems of newcomers to Oulu, especially education and housing. I have some excellent flats at Puolivälikangas for rent, so contact me if you are interested - and fast!

Remember to inform Ildikó (or me) if you will be attending the dinner at the Ravintola Marrakech the coming Thursday (13th December) at 18:30 hours. Registration is imperative.

Also do remember the English Language Christmas Carol Service at the Oulu Cathedral, this Saturday, 8th December at 16:00 hours. All are welcome.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Noodle House Opens

Posted on the Oulu Best Buy Blog and the Oulu CHAFF Blog.

At the stroke of midnight heralding a new December, NOODLE HOUSE opened its doors to the public. They did brisk business right until the last customer left at 04:30 am.

Not being a night bird, I visited the fast food counter an hour before they opened this Saturday afternoon. I was fortunate not to be swallowed up in the rush as I tasted their premium dish.

I then took 3 of their 8 selections for the family to get a taste of this new Chinese cuisine centre. Their take away boxes can be used directly in the microwave oven. Unusual containers with an interesting colour combination - red and black!

In my earlier blog entry I was wrong with the prices. It is € 8 for the meal with 2 vegetable spring rolls, a Chinese salad and a drink of Pepsi. Without the drink, the cost is € 7.50.

The common level of spice is medium. But they add a very spicy chilli fish oil concoction if you want the dish spiced up. Portion size is medium.

Remember, the ingredients are not listed on their board, so if you do not eat octopus, prawns or pork, please tell them when you are ordering!

Verdict: Good food and very courteous service - vital ingredients for success!

Other CHAFF News:
Saturday 1st December till Saturday 14th December: Exhibition of stones from the collection of Matti Moisa at the Haukipudas Library.
Sunday 2nd December: 13:00 to 15:00 hours: CHAFF Meeting at The Coffee House
Thursday 6th December: Last date for registering for CHAFF dinner at Ravintola Marrakech on 13th December.
Saturday 8th December 16:00 to 17:00 hours: English Carol Service in the Oulu Cathedral. ALL welcome
Thursday 13th December 18:30 . 20:30 hours: CHAFF dinner at Restaurant Marrakech.
Sunday 15th December 13:00 to 15:00 hours: CHAFF Meeting at The Coffee House.
Sunday 22nd December 13:00 to 15:00 hours: CHAFF Meeting at The Coffee House.
Sunday 29th December 13:00 to 15:00 hours: CHAFF Meeting at The Coffee House.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Are you a Noodle Fan?

Posted on the Oulu Best Buy Blog and the Oulu CHAFF Blog.

Starting on Friday is a small Chinese fast food restaurant called NOODLE HOUSE. It is located at Kauppurienkatu 5 (on the right hand side when you walk from Stockmann down to the Kauppahalli fat Policeman statue) and has a selection of 8 noodle dishes - made from either wheat or rice noodle. There is one vegetarian noodle selection.

The price including two vegetable spring rolls, salad and a drink will be € 8.50. The dish by itself will cost € 8.

If you are a noodle fan and also a fan of good Chinese noodle preparations, this is going to be a favourite haunt. On Friday night and Saturday night the place will remain open between midnight and 5 am!

And do not forget to tell Sally that Jacob sent you!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Oulu is full of life -Welcome

Posted on the Findians Group site, Jacob's Blog and the Oulu CHAFF Blog.

As Christmas season dawns on us, Christmas shopping has already arrived with the major shops all open on Sundays.

Last Sunday, we had an great CHAFF Lunch at the Göreme Kebab and Pizzeria where Hasim and Kasim made a speacial Turkish meal for us last Sunday. About 30 lunches were served and our crowd included Chinese, Finns, Hungarians, Indians, Nigerians, Slovenians, and Zambians.

After the lunch we were shown the Leather shop of Goreme, and I got myself a wonderful leather jacket at a very special CHAFF price!

Three of the CHAFF Founders, Kamutaza Tembo from Zambia, Bill Zhang from China and myself, were present at this meeting. It has been a long time since the 3 of us were present together. (The 4th Founder, Saikou Marong has moved to Helsinki.)

On Sunday evening I went to a prize giving ceremony where the young footballer that several CHAFF members have been supporting once again got the best player award. Soda, who is just 16, has maintained his position as the leading young player in Oulu and if he keeps to his true self, we will see an international develop. Congrats Soda.

There are lots of interesting events going on in Oulu during the last part of November till mid December.

The next two Sundays, the 25th of November and the 2nd of December will be the usual informal gathering at The Coffee Shop on Isokatu (inside the Arina Hotel) between 13:00 hours and 15:00 hours.

The meeting on the 25th November is very important as I have a special meeting with a representative of the City of Oulu on November 30th to discuss the problems being faced by those who come from outside to work and study here.

The list of issues is already long - accommodation, transport, banking, police, registration, sports facilities, internet connection, family reunification, schooling, health care, insurance, taxes, language, etc.

But your inputs are very important as, unlike many, when Annikki and I speak in Oulu we can do it without fear of recrimination. We are not here to build an image for Oulu but to raise the issues which will make Oulu a better place for all of us to live in.

Chaff participant Matti Moisa is an avid stone collector and the first two weeks of December will see an exhibition of his stones at the Haukipudas Library. That will be well worth a visit.

Finnish Independence Day is a holiday, 6th December. Being a Thursday, if any of you want something special organised, please do let me know (as Ildikó will be away in the US) as there will be no CHAFF get together on Sunday 9th December.

Reason, on 8th December we have the famous English Language Carol Service at the Oulu Cathedral starting at 16:00 hours.
This is an event which is well attended by most foreigners in Oulu who love to hear and take part in carol singing. People from all faiths join in unison that day and you are most welcome to attend.

Many of you would have received the email about the CHAFF Meeting on Thursday 13th December at 18:30 at the Restaurant Marrakech. For those that did not, here is the copy:

Dear CHAFF-members!

I am happy to invite you to a special occasion to close this year´s CHAFF activities: a gorgeous Christmas dinner at the Restaurant Marrakech, where a Christmas buffet will be made just for us! The date is Thursday, December 13 at 18.30 at Marrakech, Kirkkokatu 55. Note that this is during the week, not a Sunday! The price per person is 30 euros, dress nicely and be prepared for a beautiful end to a year of CHAFF friendship.

Please let me know by December 6 if you can come.

Until and after then, every Sunday, whoever is able and willing is welcome to Coffee House at 13.00 for a chat and coffee.

Best regards


Please inform Ildikó by the 6th as seating is strictly limited. It will be a great event and Ildikó will unveil the plans for CHAFF the next year.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Kudos to Aruna and Mahesh

Posted on my Jacob's Blog, the CHAFF Blog and also on the Findians Google Group Pages.

Yesterday, Annikki and I were able to attend the Diwali Celebrations in Oulu organised by Aruna and Mahesh Somani.

It was held in a lecture hall in Oulu University, thanks to the kindness of Professor Pentti Karjalainen of the Materials Science Department of the Technical Faculty. (Mahesh works with Prof. Karjalainen as a senior researcher.)

Lord Ganesha sat in one corner and blessed the celebrations. The sandalwood armies of Ram and Sita sat on a chessboard in the corner. Colourful lights twinkled around the room.

Prof. Karjalainen and his wife graced the occasion. To me it was a great occasion to meet up with him again as he was the very first contact I had with the University of Oulu in May 1984 - and I had my diary to prove it.

Entry on May 29th 1984 is phone call to Prof. Karjalainen.
Entry on May 30th 1984 records my meeting with him!

We had arrived in Oulu on 29th April 1984. I had attended the Scanplast Exhibition in Gotherburg, Sweden. Immediately on my return I had found the Materials Science Department at the University of Oulu. I had spoken to the then Associate Professor Karjalainen on May 29th and met him on May 30th.

We had common friends in Prof. Gunter Mennig from the German Plastics Institute in Darmstadt, West Germany. Prof. Mennig had previously been the Professor of Polymer Science at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras. I had shared many common scientific research interests with him. Prof Mennig had been in Oulu in June 1983 and had given the keynote address at the Third Scandinavian Symposium in Materials Science which had been organised by Prof. Karjalainen.

I did not take an assignment at his department as I was able to join the Microelectronics Laboratory, which was just one floor above the Materials Science Department. Although I did not work with Prof. Karjalainen, I did edit several scientific papers written by staff and students of Prof. Karjalainen as well as a few by Prof. Karjalainen, himself!

It was through the kindness of Prof. Karjalainen that Mahesh was able to get the use of lecture room to hold the Diwali celebrations.

Aruna and Mahesh truly did a great job of organising this event. The number invited had to be restricted to just 50 because of the size of the lecture hall. But well over 70 people turned out.

Little Hannah with her engineer mother, Nisha,
from Kerala, watch the lively proceedings.

There were men, women and children from every part of the sub-continent who joined to celebrate what is a global festival today. From the tip of Sri Lanka, Kerala and Tamilnadu to the very north in Nepal, Lahore and Delhi, from the West in Bombay to the East in Meghalaya and Bangladesh, Findians of all ages, shapes and sizes thronged to the University.

Aruna and Mahesh had organised a full programme of song and dance from classical karnatic music to the latest from Bollywood. A superb slide presentation of Glimpses of all faces of India was as highlight.

There were outstanding performances by many participants, among them, Prasad and Vamsi, Feroz, Prabhu, the Sri Lankans, the Nepalese, and in fact finally, almost all those with the youthful heart and soul that only Diwali can bring out in people.

Food had been brought by the participants. There was so much of totally vegetarian dishes that almost 50% was taken back, even after everyone had had their fill. There were delicacies from all corners of India prepared by the Findians, almost 6 different rice preparations, plenty of spicy dal and channa preparations, wonderful dishes of peas and potatoes and a wide variety of Indian sweets - from halva to cakes. The Indian Pickles and the Mango Juice that Annikki and I had brought for the occasion were greatly relished. (We discovered the delicious Mango Juice from Nisha and Sunni and it is on our daily diet sheet now!)

The audience was not lacking in Finns or people from around the globe. Besides dear wife Annikki and son-in-law Tony, among the international guests were Prof. Karjalainen and his wife, Lisa Viren, Project Manager of the Oulu Setlementti Friendship Organisation (where Aruna works) which works on integration of Foreigners in Oulu, and her husband, Iranian Shahnaz Mikkonen, who heads the Ville Victor International Centre in Oulu, and her Finnish husband, Yrjö, Gisela Tauriainen, wife of the late Associate Prof. Antti Tauriainen with whom I had the pleasure to work with till his untimely demise in the late eighties, there were a few more dear friends.

A section of the Findians audience.

But it was the people of the sub-continent that dominated the proceedings. There were Indian engineers, scientists, teachers, architects, researchers, students, husbands, wives, children, babies and everyone, besides enjoying the scrumptious spread, had a great evening.

And there were two retired participants - Annikki and me!

Both Annikki and I were deeply touched by the generous (totally undeserved in our opinion) praise showered on us as the oldest residents of this community in Oulu. We have been blessed with so many friends who show us so much respect that it is truly embarrassing.

(The last event we had organised in the University was the wonderful dancing of International Star Shovana Narayan, accompanied by her sister, Ranjana Narayan, Supreme Court lawyer, and their dance and music troupe maybe in 1990!)

But we are immensely happy that Aruna and Mahesh have taken over the responsibility that Annikki and I once enjoyed as being the Ambassadors of our wonderful Indian Culture amongst the citizens of Oulu. Aruna is fluent in Finnish and her work at the Oulu Setlementti has been not only amongst Indians but women of all nationalities in Oulu.

Mahesh's Mac PowerBook (yes, he is wisely also a Mac User like me) contained songs from every era, videos of all major Indian superstars. It had the audience roaring, laughing, dancing and singing. The excitement was contagious as people of all age groups joined this wonderful festivities in the true spirit of Diwali, our festival of Light and happiness and the beginning of a great new year ahead.

Truly this had been Diwali, the Festival of Lights and Friendship, for all of us, so far from our homeland and brought together to feel that we were not alone or forgotten in this near Arctic location.

The wonderful warmth of our motherland, Mother India, embrace was there for all to feel and enjoy.

Thank you dearest Aruna and Mahesh.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The quiet German girl gets....

Posted on the Oulu CHAFF Blog and my Jacob's Blog.

Almost two years ago, I picked up a very shy German girl at Oulu Airport. She had never travelled out of her home state. I took her to our daughter's home as she had signed to be a tenant. Then I took her for first meal in Oulu at the Pailin Restaurant, as Pornpailin Weber, spoke fluent German. Kerstin was "at home" within a few hours of arrival in this big bad world of Oulu!

Kerstin was clutching a little book in her hand. At the next CHAFF meeting I introduced her to the authors of that book, Ildikó amd Ilari, who had written "Culture Shock Finland" in German! Was she surprised!

From then, Kerstin became a dedicated CHAFF participant, attending many meetings and taking part in all the major CHAFF events in the spirit of all our CHAFF participants.

Kerstin became a great friend of our grandson, Samuel, as they could discuss "Football". They watched several World Cup matches together, each rooting for their own teams.

When she finished her stint at Oulu University, where she was working for her German employer, we were all very sad to see her leave, as it has been with many other CHAFF Participants from around the world.

This evening when I opened my email INBOX, there was an email with the subject line:

"We did it!"

Dear Friends,

Yes! From now on I am Ms Mike also known as Ms Birkner!!

Mike and I got married on October 27th and we returned from our honeymoon in Vienna last Tuesday.

The wedding was fabulous! - We had a great and long party with family and friends.

Unfortunately until now I have only a few wedding pictures of groom & bride together, snapshots taken from my little brother. As soon as I receive the other pictures I will email them to you.

For the beginning I send you a few snapshots...

And now...there is another news...Mike and I are pleased to announce that our small family will grow next year (end of April)...I am pregnant and we are happy!!!

Love from grey and moistly Germany,


Kerstin with her Grandma.

Groom Mike with Best Woman and husband of Best Woman.
First time I am hearing of a Best Woman!

Kerstin dancing with her kid brother.

Bride and Groom.

All at CHAFF are immensely pleased at this news. I share the photographs that Kerstin sent with all of you.

I hope Kerstin and Mike will accept the congratulations and best wishes from all their dear friends from Oulu and hope the "family" will visit us here in the not too distant future.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


The CHAFF meeting on Sunday 4th November was a small affair with Ildikó, Ilari, Burcu, a group of Indians and myself overlapping time between 12:30 and 15:00 hours at The Coffee House.

The CHAFF Meeting next week (11th November 2007) will be at The Coffee House at 13:00 hours next Sunday. As many have committed late night programmes on 10th November, Rotary International, Diwali Celebrations, it may be a rather stunted meeting. But the regulars will be there - rest assured of that.

Ildikó thought it may be nice to have the meeting on Sunday 18th November at the Goreme Restaurant in the Ranta-Kastelli Shopping Centre. Time, as usual. will be 13:00 hours.

I spoke with Hasim and Kasim, the owners, and they are excited to have us there. It is the very best Pizzeria and Kebab Restaurant in Finland and they have excellent fresh bread and great garlic butter.

I will try to persuade Hasim and Kasim to offer us the traditional Turkish Group Meze. (Remember that registration is mandatory.) I will ask them to cap the price at € 7 per head and € 3.50 for children between 5 and 12.)

Watch out here for more news on this.

You can be sure we will be greeted with great enthusiasm as Hasim, Kasim and Mehmet are ardent supporters of CHAFF but their life style has made it impossible for them to attend meetings.

If you have a problem to reach the location, please let Ildikó or me know and we can organise transport to the restaurant. Hasim even said that he can organise a bus to get us there!

It will be a great lunch meeting - that I can assure you.

I hope you do make it to the exhibition of Turkish Glass at the City Library. Although it is a very small showing, and as I was informed by very knowledgeable Turks, not very representative, it was certainly eye-opening to see such wonderful pieces of Art Glass on display.

Annikki and I are lovers of Art Glass and we certainly appreciated the quality of the pieces on display at this exhibition.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bombay Mix in Oulu

Posted on Jacob's Blog, the Oulu Best Buy Blog and the Oulu CHAFF Blog.

Last Sunday, after our CHAFF get.together at the Coffee House, I dropped in to see Indu, Ashesh and little Karthik. Indu served me two varieties of Bombay Mix, one that she had brought from India and the other that Ashesh had picked up from London.

I have a great love for Bombay Mix and I had located that the Secondhand Shop on Isokatu (next to the Hai Long Chinese Restaurant) has a wide selection of nuts and other delicacies, including Bombay Mix at € 7.50 per kg, Pecan Nuts at € 25 per kg and Brazil Nuts at € 20 per kg. Annikki loves all the three, while I confine myself to the Bombay Mix.

Another shop which also has this great selection of nuts is Herkku Rosa next to the Oriental Shop on Rautatienkatu (the road on which the Oulu Railway Station is located). However, prices here are higher here. They have two types of Bombay Mix, spiced and normal, both at € 9,90 per kg, Pecan Nuts is € 29.90 per kg and Brazil Nuts at € 19.90 per kg.

Do remember that at the Secondhand Shop that whenever you buy € 15 at one time, you can get a stamp on the Customer Card so that on the 10th time you get € 15 back, an effective 10% discount on every € 150 of purchase.

As this is also being posted on the Oulu Best Buy Blog, the best buys of today are at the Tokmanni shop, one of which is at Kaijonharju Shopping Centre (near the University) and at Jukkolankuja on the south side of Oulu. Oranges are €0.89 per kg, Bravo ice cream is just € 0,50 per litre when you buy 2 packets, and Beef Mince is € 1.99 for 400 gm which works out at less than € 5 per kg.

Pornpailin Weber with Annikki and me at the Loykrathong Festival.

On a sad note I have to inform CHAFF participants that the Pailin Restaurant where we used to meet with the wonderful cooking of authentic Thai food by Pornpailin Weber, has finally closed its doors on the 25th of October. We will all miss the wonderful friendship of Pornpailin and also her superb cooking.

The next CHAFF meeting will be on Sunday at 13:00 hours at the Coffee House with entrances on both Isokatu and also the Rotuari Square. Last week the bulk of the meeting was about "Arctic Syndrome" which I had written about on the blog.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Indian contingent due in Oulu

Posted on Jacob's Blog and the Oulu CHAFF Blog.

November 2007 will see a large increase of the Indian engineer population in Oulu. There is a contingent of 20 Indians some with wives and children due to arrive in Oulu during the month.

The first group of 5 are already scheduled to arrive on the 1st of November. The others are waiting for their visas and other papers to arrive.

They are looking for houses, furnished if possible, to rent.

If any of you have any offers to make, please get in touch with me and let me know, as I can put you in direct touch with those arriving.

If they are unable to get furnished appartments, they may need furniture and other household equipment. If you have any, please let me know as I am compiling a list of stuff required against what is available.

Kamu just informed me that he has a good dining table with 4 chairs available for under € 100. We were able to provide a tv, coffee maker, toaster to a young student last week from our existing stock. We still have lots of cups, saucers, glasses, from the summer flea market remains.

This week's CHAFF meeting will be at the Coffee Shop, entrance on Isokatu as well as from the Rotuari Square. Those attending will probably be there after 13:00 hours.

One of the questions that we may discuss this week is the setting up of a Kindergarten, especially for the children who may have to go back to the Indian Education System, which can never be from a Finnish run Play Schools.

This is an enormous social issue and one which needs to be taken very seriously. If there are enough people interested, then we should take it up with the companies, especially the Indian companies, who are deputing their personnel to Oulu.

My recent discussion with the Oulu City Manager for International Affairs was rather disappointing on this front concerning one child, who, because of the pressure we put, will now get admission into an English Platy School by January 2008, after having had to languish in a Finnush language Play School for over a year.

Let it be understood that Oulu, although it claims to be an International City, is far from being International, and the City Authorities neither have the resources or the will to help out those who need their help. They may write nice letters, but that is just not enough!

As was so correctly put by one family (to the City Manager of Oulu International Affairs) which has gone through misery and from pillar to post:

"Thanks you for your understanding.

Teachers in xxxxxxxx Kindergarten asked us to give an application to the yyyyyyyyyy kindergarten.  We gave the application. It was in fact the same application which my wife gave to yyyyyyyyyy in Nov 2006.

They told us that there may be openings in 2008 only.

I think this is too late for us.

We have severe problems with Language issues already now.

Since our native language is not Finnish and our stay in Finland is not confirmed to be permanent, we want to pursue our daughter's studies in English. We are unable to help her with her simple questions due to the language issue. This is getting worse day by day.

May you please expedite this matter and help us in getting some place in yyyyyyyyyy sooner than 2008.

Thanks again for your time."
To solve these problems, yet to be able to meet the requirements of a short stay in Finland, it is imperative that the Indian Style Kindergarten has to be started in Oulu. Annikki and I are willing to help, but the onus must lie on the Indian Companies who are deputing their staff to live and work in Oulu. Expect nothing but lip service and a lot of red tape from local authorities who are just not in the know of what an international environment demands!

Blogged with Flock

Monday, October 22, 2007

Invitation: Finnish UN Association of Oulu

Message inviting Oulu CHAFF participants to an UN Event:

"The Finnish UN Association of Oulu (Osyky) celebrates its 30th anniversary on Wednesday 24th of October at 6 pm in Restaurant Tervasoihtu. (Oulu Marketplace Salt House 24)

We will have coffee and cake and talk a little about the history, present & future of our association.

Everybody is welcome to celebrate with us and to get to know Osyky!"

"Oulun seudun YK-yhdistys täyttää tänä vuonna kunnioitettavat 30 vuotta.
Juhlimme kolmekymppistä yhdistystämme YK:n päivänä keskiviikkona 24.10. klo 18 alkaen Ravintola Tervasoihdussa, Torinrannassa.

Ohjelmassa kakkukahvit ja historian siipien havinaa. Kyseessä on hyvin vapaamuotoinen tilaisuus (lähinnä kahvittelun ja
vapaamuotoisen seurustelun merkeissä) ja kiinnostuneilla on mahdollisuus
kysellä OSYKY:stä sekä tulla mukaan yhdistyksen toimintaan.


Osyky:n puolesta
Päivi Hirvonen

Blogged with Flock

Sunday, October 21, 2007

CHAFF - plenty of new faces

The CHAFF meeting this week was at the Ravintola Marrakesh which dished up some nice interesting food.

This week we had some of new faces.

I had three guests - Jijo from Kerala, Vivek from UP and Suresh from Andhra, three engineers in Oulu from Nokia, Bangalore.

Ildikó's aunt from Hungary, Marita, was another new face.

Lauri, Sunil and Nisha, Mervi and Brent, Ildikó and Ilari and another half a dozen older faces made up the crowd, along with me.

Next week will be the more informal meeting at the Coffee Shop at 13:00 hours.

Blogged with Flock

Sunday, October 07, 2007

First CHAFF Coffee Shop Meeting

Ildikó's new style Coffee Shop Sunday afternoon CHAFF Meeting at Pakkahuonekatu 16 (entrance on Isokatu) started with a nice group - Ildikó and Ilari, Pekka and Maritta Keränen and their son, a newcomer from Turkey, P. Burcu Guner, who has attended a CHAFF meeting when she was a visitor to Oulu last year and has now come to study in Oulu University, and myself. It was great to have David, our Irish friend, behind the counter.

I had to leave early as Annikki and I were off to Liminka to see a newly opened Antique Shop (see the Oulu Best Buy Blog on Tuesday for a report on this). Annikki found something she liked there.

Also Ildikó and Ilari were off to collect linganberries somewhere in the marshes around Oulu.

The Coffee Shop is large and spacious. It should be an ideal meeting place for our non-luncheon CHAFF meetings. We are not intruding on anyone's space and one has a great deal of freedom.

Next Sunday, Sunil and Nisha are moving home. They have no heavy furniture. We need about four people to help make the move. Those who want to help, please contact me for the time and so that I can pick them up. Should take an hour or so if we have four people, two at the loading end and two at the unloading end. Probably two trailer loads. From Saristonkatu in the City to Kuivastie in Tuira.

We could time it so that we can do the move and then be at the Coffee Shop by 13:00 hours!

I am excited as the refurbished Rabbit is ready to get on the road again. Nassar has done an outstanding job! The Rabbit will be on rescue missions again this winter! So stay tuned for its exploits.

Have a great week.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

CHAFF Meetings - New Schedule

I just had this email from Ildikó.

Dear CHAFFists,

Thank you to all those who enriched our first gathering of the new era CHAFF last Sunday at the Restaurant Marrakech. We had a good time getting to know each other, having good food and enjoying each other´s company. We also agreed on the following schedule for the coming CHAFF-meetings:

Our CHAFF-meetings will be held at the known time, Sunday 1 pm.

Once a month we will gather for a full lunch at Restaurant Marrakech, Kirkkokatu 55. I´ll let you know the next date for our Sunday lunch there in time. For these lunches, I ask you to always sign up in advance by sending me an email, so that Miriam and Said will know for how many of us to prepare their delicious food. The details about the next lunch will reach you soon.

Otherwise, we will meet every Sunday at 1 pm. (apart from those we spend at Marrakech of course) at Coffee House, Pakkahuoneenkatu 16. There is no signing up necessary for these coffee meetings, as there is always enough space at that time and day of the week to fit us in. You can consume whatever you wish, there won´t be any pre-ordered meal or drinks in these coffee-meetings.

So, until further notice, we will meet this and the coming Sundays at 1 pm at Coffee House. Please do not rely on me and my husband Ilari always being at the coffee meetings, we are both busy sometimes and not always in town.

Remember: CHAFF does not need me to be CHAFF. The meetings can be held without any problem and lots of fun and helpful hints and tips even with me or Jacob not being around. The lunch meetings will be organised by me personally, so for those I´ll be around always.

Have a nice week, don´t fuss about the rain - see the beautifully coloured leaves instead ;-)!

Take care

Ildikó Hámos

What I would like to add is thatyou should look at this Oulu CHAFF Blog for any announcements, requests for assistance, offers to help, items for sale, etc.

You can send me details and I will ensure that they go up olinr as soon as possible.

If you need anything special and would like to meet up with a set of people, let me know, and between Ildikó and myself, we shall try to organise the private meeting.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ildikó relaunches CHAFF new package

I was able to attend the CHAFF meeting organised by Ildikó Hámos at the Ravintola Marrakech, Oulu. We had attendees from every continent.

We had to limit attendance due to the restrictions in seating available. The meeting room was packed to the brim as Ilari, his aunt, uncle and myself, had to be content to sit out in the main restaurant area.

We had several new attendees, The Joels, Nisha, Sunil and their daughter, Hannah, Sagar Shinde, Janie, Gabor and their daughter, and many more. Several old timers were also present to show their support for the new format CHAFF. The Suomis, Fumi, Ville and little Mari were present, as also Pekka ansd Maritta Keränen and their son It was nice to see Lauri Gardner, Vamsi and Aruna Paluguru, Barbel Fink, Andi Moreno, Benjamin Hayes and friend, Sanna.

The new location for this meeting, Ravintola Marrakech, outdid themselves by serving up a great fare. On our table for four we had a serving of Couscous, a vegetarian curry, a lamb curry and chicken and lamb sishkebab sticks, Moroccan style. There was so much food that we had to struggle to finish it. But Ilari and I did it justice!

The vegetarians got a special fare which was well appreciated!

The restaurant certainly lived up to its name of the great Marrakech market, as the group were humming with excitement and enjoying the delicious fare and company.

Our hostess and host, Miriam and Said, and their staff were great. This was their first exposure to CHAFF.

The ball now rests in YOUR court as Ildikó has raised the question as to how you want the CHAFF social gatherings to continue - once a month, every fortnight or weekly, a full meal, a brunch, on the weekend or a weekday?

Ildikó took the step of asking each one present to make a short introduction as there were so many new faces. In my short introduction and summary talk I thanked Ildikó for accepting this awesome responsibility.

CHAFF is not just these social gatherings but the help we render, quietly, to those in need.

It is, therefore, important to let Ildikó know what form of help you can offer and in what circumstances - physical, knowledge base, or any other, as she can then direct any queries to you.

As you would have noted in an earlier blog entry, very simple help last year helped one CHAFF attendee to save € 1600 in his income tax. It is important to have a meeting devoted to help newcomers to Finland, especially Oulu, to understand the complex tax laws.

I had to rush off early as Annikki needed assistance at home with her mother. I apologise to many whom I could not stand and talk with.

But I greatly valued the resounding support you have shown to Ildikó and I hope you will help continue this tradition of CHAFF in the spirit that Bill Zhang (China), Kamutaza Tembo (Zambia), Saikou Marong ((Gambia) and myself (India) started this in a most humble manner over three years ago!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Events and Meetings in Week 39 and 40

Remember the Japanese Evening on Thursday 27th September at 18:00 hours at Friendship House in Tuira.

Ildikó, despite her own hectic schedule, is slowly but surely getting the CHAFF Movement up and running again. She has organised the restart meeting at the Ravintola Marrakech next Sunday, September 30th, at 13:00 hours.

Ravintola Marrakech is next to the Greek Restaurant on Kirkkokatu as you proceed from Rotuari to Heinäpää.

The food will cost € 8 per head.

If you have been reading my blog, recently Tony, Isaac and I had a wonderful meal there.

Please send an RSVP to Ildikó as this is the first time Said and Miriam are holding one of our CHAFF Meetings. They want to make sure everything is just right.

I will be bringing as my guests, 4 lovely young Indian newcomers to Oulu, a couple who have a lovely 4 year old and a young bachelor. All are from the beautiful state of Kerala!

I hope you will welcome them as they have been so without contact with the real world of Oulu during their time here.

See you there.

An Indian couple is looking for an apartment in the city, so if you have any clues, please do contact me.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

When -300 can equal +1300

Posted on my Jacob's Blog and the Oulu CHAFF Blog.

This is yet another mathematical puzzle which is solved very easily for your benefit.

Kannan and me.

When Kannan approached me with his tax return, there was a demand for tax to be paid of around € 300.

I had asked him to maintain detail personal accounts, as is specified in the book "Handbook for Survival in Finland" that Annikki and I had written and published in 1994. The logic of our advice was that only if you know your outflow, can you budget your life.

Kannan had kept meticulous accounts. Using the Google Docs facility, he sent me his accounts and also his tax return forms, from Rauma, over the internet.

I studied them carefully based on all the tax laws that I am still aware of. I am certainly not up-to-date, as for many years, maybe 10, Annikki and I have not had to fill in any tax returns.

Kannan was quite unbelieving that what I claimed for him would pass the scrutiny of the tax office. He was worried that he would be caught for some form of offence of over claiming (tax evasion) his legitimate tax deductible expenses (tax avoidance).

Yesterday evening, I had an excited call from Kannan. He had just received his final tax return statement. Even with his limited knowledge of Finnish, he could read a line at the end of the statement that said he was receiving € 1300 + as his tax return in December of this year!

A turn around of € 1600 +.

But I was not happy, as my target for Kannan at the beginning of last year had been € 5000 as pension savings and € 2700 as his tax return! A net of € 7700.

Well, hopefully he will follow my advice this year and generate that sort of savings this year.

Those at CHAFF will remember that I held a session on filing of tax returns at one of our meetings. I wonder how many of you followed the advice given and how many of you achieved this level of tax refunds?

Do let me know your successes as your stories can motivate others to a financial discipline which helps beat the horrendous inflation that is occurring here in Finland.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

CHAFF Meeting; Japanese Evening

There will be no CHAFF get together this weekend as we are still working out something which will be of interest to everyone. Do stay tuned here as we bring you glad tidings shortly.

The Oulu Setlementti is organising a Japanese Evening on Thursday 27th September at 6 pm at the Friendship House, Kaarretie 14 in Tuira. There will be a talk about Japan, a dance performance and Japanese food on offer.

The poster about the event in Finnish and Japanese is shown above.

All of you are welcome. The Host for the evening will be Chie Petrelius.

We must thank Hilmi Oral for informing us about this event.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Taste of Morocco in Oulu

Posted on my Jacob's Blog and the Oulu CHAFF Blog.

When Isaac Sundarajen, CEO of Codenomicon Oy, let me know he was over in Oulu for a very short trip, we agreed to meet over the weekend to have a meal together.

Tony demoing a computer game. Photo Copyeight: Jarmo Kontiainen, Kaleva, 8th September 2007.

I asked son-in-law, Tony, also to join us to get him away from his gruelling schedule of launching his new company, Ludocroft OY. (His new book on the approach to creating games, was also released last week.)

On Saturday evening Tony suggested we go to the Marrakech restaurant, the new Moroccan one opened by an old friend, Sayeed. Tony had been there with Joanna in the summer and he vouched for the food. I had visited the restaurant a couple of times before it was opened and had found the simple decor really appealing.

When we arrived, at just past 6 pm, we found the place packed to the brim. Luckily Sayeed was there when we arrived and he quickly cleared a table for us in the far corner, so that we could eat and talk in peace.

I was quite amazed that in a very short time the restaurant has become extremely popular. The decor is tasteful. There is a real feeling of a north African flavour. The waiters are dressed perfectly in Moroccan clothes. It was obvious that all the customers there were really enjoying their food.

We were each offered a very neatly done menu book (English and Finnish separately). Each of us ordered based on level of hunger.

The service was very friendly, the food arrived quickly and was piping hot and served on crockery suited to the cuisine. I had the choice of having either rice or freshly baked bread with chicken with olives and lemon. I chose rice, but the Chef sent me BOTH!

We were able to eat slowly, each of us enjoying well prepared food, talk at length about many many issues and finally enjoy a pot of piping mint tea served in a siler teapot, a slightly sweetish African version. We even got a refill - free!

We spent a good 3+ hours in this very comfortable atmosphere. When we were leaving, we noticed that Sayeed was still busy with a large group in an ante-room. As he saw us leave from the corner of the eye, he was outside in a flash to bid us goodbye.

From this first experience here, there is no doubt that this restaurant is going to be an outstanding success. It is no wonder that Ildikó would like to have our CHAFF meetings here. I have no hesitation in recommending this suggestion.

Please get a move on and tell Ildikó which day and time you would prefer so that we can get CHAFF meetings restarted!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Ilari and Ildikó wed in Hungary

Posted on the Oulu CHAFF Blog and my Jacob's Blog.

Ilari has been a family friend for over a decade. He first came into our life as a classmate of Joanna at Oulu University. Later he and our son, Jaakko, became friends. Ilari then became a close friend of Annikki and me, and when Ildikó entered his life, she also became a good friend of the two of us.

We had planned that at least one member of our family should be present at their wedding in Hungary. The first choice was Jaakko and his partner, Joy. But due to circumstances beyond their control, their attendance was not possible. So it fell on Annikki and me to try to attend.

Annikki has no passport as she has not travelled for over 7 years. And I needed a visa for Hungary. Both these proved a great hurdle as the time available to organise them was just not enough.

On top of that we had a call from Joanna that she was not well, and she had got permission from the University to sit her exams in Medical School in mid August, so she was returning to Finland from Newcastle with immediate effect. This was on the condition that Annikki and I would take charge of the two grandchildren, Samuel and daniel, so that she could study.

On top of this we had a visitor from India, who planned to reach here just at the time of the Hungarian wedding!

So the plans to proceed to Hungary were just not on.

However, we kept abreast of what went on at this double wedding of Ildikó and her brother.

I present here the report of a grand occasion which was well attended by many CHAFF Participants.

The photographs have been provided by Ilari and Ildikó and also by Benjamin, who was able to be there for the occasion.



Arpad and Ildikó arrive at church.

Juliska Hámos

Ilari and Ildikó

Heli and Jorma Sohlo.

Ildikó and Ilari.

Brides and grooms and their parents.

Guests at the wedding. See many CHAFF faces here?

Juliska and Arpad speak.

Mona and Kerstin with others.

Andy and Benjamin.

Mona, Andy, Kerstin and Mike.

Ildikó and Benjamin.

And some snaps from their honeymoon in Central America.

Ildikó in Livingstone.

Ilari in Livingstone.

Honeymoon climbers - Ildikó and Ilari.

Here is wishing Ildikó and Ilari a great wedded life from the Matthan family as well as all their CHAFF friends around the world.

2 YEARS - What has CHAFF done?

Posted on my Jacob's Blog and the Oulu CHAFF Blog.

Many of you have addressed me as to what exactly CHAFF (Chamber for assistance of Finns and Foreigners) Participants have been doing during the past two years. You may be in the dark as many of our participants have not asked for publicity. Also we have wished to not violate the privacy of those who have received some form of assistance from CHAFF Participants.

At this point of time it is important for me to tell you some of what we have done so that you know what has been happening over the last two years and also to understand how Ildikó Hámos-Sohlo and her team have their work cut out to help people and communities in different problematic situations.

Kasia Mazur was a trainee teacher from Poland who spent some time here in Oulu. When she needed help with her work of teaching children in a Finnish school, several CHAFF Participants stretched out their helping hands.

I had this very emotional COMMENT from our Kasia , who is now back in Poland after her short stint in Oulu, on the CHAFF Blog:

Dear Jacob,

It's Kasia.

I have just read about the last chaff sunday and although I'm not in Finland any more and I don't take part in the meetings, this is one of the saddest infos recently.

I can not imagine my stay in Finalnd without CHAFF, without help I received from all of the participants and great friends.

I kept on entering your blog site almost every week here in Poland because even if I'm not with you there, I still think about all the good times back in Finland.

Hopefully your great idea of connecting people and all the good things that came with it will be continued, and as far as I know Ildi, CHAFF is in good hands :)

So now again I want to say thank you to all my CHAFF friends and hopefully when I visit Oulu some day again, CHAFF will be still there.

With all my love,


Is this is what Kasia remembers of a very regular CHAFF meeting?

The photograph shows some of our younger CHAFF participants: Benjamin from Australia, Andy for Venezuela, Pailin from Thailand, Kasia from Poland, Ulf from Germany, Tingting from China and Kerstin from Germany.

Or was it this of the Indian Evening organised by CHAFF participants:

Here we have Kasia, Mona's Finnish friend from Helsinki, Mona from Finland, Benjamin, Andy, and Ildikó from Hungary dressed in Indian clothes brought to the evening by the Indian members of our community.

Dressing in national coustunes was great fun for the ladies as was when they dressed and danced with Thai costumes.

Here we see Kerstin and Kasia in Thai clothes with Pailin and Mona.

But CHAFF was not just about social events like these.

Kazutaza Temboa graphic designer from Zambia, one of the founding members of CHAFF, designed the award winning posters for the International Anti Racism Week in which CHAFF joined the Oulu Divisions of United Nations, Finnish Red Cross, Amnesty International and the Oulu International School as a major organiser of this event.

The main poster designed by Kamu was symbolic and was designed to show the importance of integration.

But CHAFF Participants were not just active on the sidelines in organising the events. Ildikó and Lauri Gardner, along with Anne Rännäli, International Affairs Manager of the City of Oulu, were part of the panel chaired by Markku Heikkinen, a senior editor of the local newspaper, Kaleva, which discussed the issues of racism faced by foreigners in Oulu.

Among the participants who attended CHAFF meetings were many people of note, some famous and some not so famous, from various parts of the world.

Here, one of our regular Finnish Participants, Pentti Paakki, bids farewell to Subramaniam Paneer, from Tamilnadu, India, who had worked tireless moving the dead bodies along the Tamil Coast after the devasting tsunami.

We had Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Arpad Hámos, attending our meeting. He said that many in the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Association) in Austria were regular readers of the CHAFF Blog.

Unnop Khungrai, Ilari Sohlo, Arpad Hámos, Ildikó Hámos-Sohlo, Julista Hámos and Pailin at our CHAFF meeting.

But the reach of CHAFF has stretched far beyond the Finnish shores.

When CHAFF Participant Kannan Balaram asked me to help a group of Rotarians who were visiting India, we extended our helping hand to them to meet our friends and relatives there and organise things which were outside of their normal programme.

Kannan Balaram with another CHAFF Founding Member, Saikou Marong from Gambia.

Here Ville Suomi (second from right) and fellow Rotarians from the Oulu Region with my cousin, Satish Abraham (far left), at the Sailing Club in Kottayam, India.

Our CHAFF population grew as, for example, Ville's Japanese wife, Fumi, a biochemist researcher in Oulu University, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Mari. CHAFF participants were there to greet a new addition to our CHAFF Culture.

None of the work has been done for either profit, personal recognition or reward of any form. These have all been acts of self-giving. Some people have misunderstood that someone has been trying to gain publicity or monetary benefit in executing these tasks. Nothing could be further from the truth. All acts of assistance have had no ulterior motives.

I have to say to most of the 300 or more people who have been active in CHAFF, that some amazing things, some mundane things and some very responsible things, have been done by them.

As I do not wish to violate the privacy of many people who have been helped by CHAFF, I can only outline a FEW of the things done in the most general terms.

1. CHAFF Participants have been visiting foreigners and Finns in psychiatric institutions in Oulu to help them find themselves. This has included attending meetings with psychiatrists and the staff in rehabilitation centres.
2. CHAFF Participants have been rescuing helpless persons (especially foreigners) who have been violated by their partners and ensuring that they are guided to the appropriate shelters and, if necessary, legal help organised.
3. CHAFF Participants have been helping persons who have been stranded without a roof over their head and providing the temporary relief while they rebuild their status and lives.
4, CHAFF Participants have been helping persons who have been cheated by unscrupulous businessmen either in violation of contracts or in their inability to collect their legal dues.
5. CHAFF Participants have been helping those who have language difficulties during their settling period in Finland.
6. CHAFF Participants have been helping persons with accountancy and other business services.
7. CHAFF Participants have been helping those who have alcohol related problems.
8. CHAFF Participants have been helping those not to enter into job contracts where they could be exploited.
9. CHAFF Participants have been helping people move their business or residence premises.
10. CHAFF Participants have been helping people move their furniture between homes or to the rubbish dump.
11. CHAFF Participants have been helping people to start small businesses.
12. CHAFF Participants have been providing counselling to people with severe illnesses.
13. CHAFF Participants have been helping to organise cultural events.
14. CHAFF Participants have been helping to organise events related to removing discrimination.
15. CHAFF Participants have been providing short term financial help in emergency situations.
16. CHAFF Participants have been helping people with transport in difficult circumstances.
17. CHAFF Participants have been helping to organise cultural groups and associations.
18. CHAFF Participants have been introducing newcomers to Oulu to the life in this city.
19. CHAFF Participants have been sponsoring young sportsmen from ethnic minorities.
20. CHAFF Participants have been sponsoring young musicians and artists for ethnic minorities.

It was a proud moment for CHAFF Participants when a young sportsman sponsored by CHAFF, in his very first year in Finland won gold medals for both football and basketball. Here Soda proudly shows off one of his medals.

What I have shown above is nowhere near an exhaustive list of things we have done.

Some of the events were large public ones.

CHAFF helped the Oulu Divisions of the United Nations, Amnesty International and the Finnish Red Cross to organise the week long Anti Discrimination events in Oulu.
CHAFF has helped the Thai Association and Thai Community in Northern Finland to organise several exciting cultural events and also organise educational and cultural classes in Oulu. (eg., Thai Water Festival. Thai Mother's Day, Thai King's Birthday, International Festival featuring Thai culture, Thai dance Classes, Thai Cooking Classes, Thai Language Classes.)
CHAFF helped organise a wonderful Indian evening in Oulu.
CHAFF helped in organising the International Day for ethnic minorities organised by the Youth Centre in Oulu.

Bill Zhang, a brilliant Chinese Engineer was one of the Founding Members of CHAFF.

Me, another founding member, with two young CHAFF Participants, Kwan from Thailand and Veikka from Raahe, Finland.

The number of nationalities who have taken part in CHAFF activities is well over 40.

It started with just four people - Bill, a Chinese engineer, Saikou, a business man from Gambia, Kamu, a Zambian graphic designer and me, Jacob, a retired Indian living a life of leisure here in Oulu.

Some of the nationalities that I can remember, besides Finns, that passed through the portals of CHAFF during the last two years included Americans, Australians, Austrians, Bangladeshis, Canadians, Chinese, Dutch, English, French, Gambians, Germans, Ghanaians, Greeks, Hungarians, Indians, Iranians, Iraqis, Irish, Italians, Ivorians, Japanese, Kenyans, Liberians, Malaysians, Nicaraguans, Nigerians, Pakistanis, Poland, Peruvians, Portuguese, Russians, Sierra Leonians, Slovakians, South Africans, Spaniards, Sri Lankans, Sudanese, Thais, Turks, Vietnamese, Zambians. (Sorry if I have missed any nationalities!)

Isaac Sundarajan, CEO of Codenomicon OY with Tingting from China.

Indian researchers who were attendees of an International Conference on Microelectronics were happy to meet with CHAFF Participants.

We have had several notable personalities, besides the Nobel Prize winner, including several professors (eg., Fulbright lecturer, the professor from Washington D. C., Kenneth Kolson), and senior researchers from the US, India, Russia, etc., CEO's from small, medium and large Finnish and international companies, attending and taking part in the CHAFF Meetings.

But CHAFF is not about the rich and famous. It is for the humble, poor and weak, the lonely and disraught.

In this, may I ask you all to extend your hand of help to Ildikó to run CHAFF in a manner which we have done together for the last few years.

As I have said, time and time again, CHAFF is not ME or any particular individual, but it is YOU. It is not Ildikó, but it is YOU.

Without YOUR participation, CHAFF ceases to exist. It is your camaraderie and hand of friendship which is needed for CHAFF to continue in it glorious path helping especially those in desperate need.