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.