keskiviikko 27. huhtikuuta 2011

Play that funky music

Greetings from sunny Venice - and belated greetings from Lisbon, Barcelona and Nice where I spent the last two weeks! In Iberia - and somewhat in Cote d'Azur and here in Venice as well - dog shit smells and peoples valuables get stolen. And of course in all honesty it's also very beautiful, the food is great and men have beards.

Eating out on terraces in early April isn't something Finns get to do that often and I really enjoy it. The only downside is the amount of street musicians who force themselves musically on people who are just trying to enjoy a meal or a drink. A "cheap" lunch can quickly become quite expensive when one accordionist or guitarrist after another is coming for your change.

My college friend Pietari was visiting his brother in Barcelona last week and we had lunch one day on this touristy square - which all squares everywhere seem to be. In about one hour we got three artists and two random passers-by come and ask us for money. Me and Pietari started thinking what are the circumstances when you have to pay them? If you accidentally start tapping your finger on the table or keeping the rhythm with your foot? If you make eye contact?

The miraculous thing was, though, that none of the artists came on the square at the same time OR played the same song. What are the odds that just one of them played La Bamba? These guys have to have a schedule. And a playlist. Otherwise what would happen if a guitarrist and an accordionist would stumble on the same square at the same time? Would they battle it out?

Here in Venice I also got some unwanted attention the other day when I was having an espresso at a terrace along Grand Canal. A Mexican looking (!) Venetian trio came to my table and started playing these grandiose love songs. And I was alone! I don't know if they were hallucinating and seeing a handsome man sitting next to me but I really didn't feel the love in the air. And I felt I had to pay them. They had cornered me by singing only to me. I gave them one euro and thought that would make them stop and go away - because it usually does - but not in romantic Venice. They start singing more! Even more enthusiastically than the first time. I almost panicked. I'm from Finland. I'm not used to men singing to me. These guys were very sweet though, after a while they moved along and found a nice older couple to sing to.

After tomorrow I won't have much fear of having romantic music sung to me. I'm heading for the Ice Hockey World Championships in Slovakia. Taking the night train from Venice to Vienna and then from Vienna to Bratislava. The next thing that'll be music to my ears is the goal horn sounding off for the Finnish team!

perjantai 8. huhtikuuta 2011

Life skills - you win some, you lose some

What has happened to hotel room mints! The ones on the pillow? They've disappeared like airplane peanuts. Nobody serves those anymore either. World, it is a-changing...

Hotel life is dangerous in the way that it's the only place an average person actually has a maid. You lose touch with your everyday chores. That's also one reason though why I don't understand what musicians are always complaining about with hotel life. You don't have to make your bed, your breakfast is always ready (although served way too early) and you always get stocked on toilet paper and soap before you run out of them. And if you don't throw your TV out the window, usually the channel selection is pretty good too.

Of course in all honesty I'm not living in hotels all the time since it would bankrupt me in less than a month, so what do I know, but most of this year will be spent in places where I don't do the organizing. Living in hotels, guesthouses and at friends' places won't probably make me the domestic goddess of 2011 since I've done the dishes only less than 10 times this year and cooked probably just as often. On the other hand I've fixed clothe-tears and fallen buttons and been a self-educated nerd with my electronic equipment, so not all life skills are completely lost.

If hotel rooms etc. have become the new home, maps and info desks everywhere are the new best friends. You know the first moments in a new country, when you're standing at the airport arrivals hall thinking where the heck you're supposed to go and where are the trains and which taxi won't screw you over? Never leave the airport without checking at the information desk first. Those guys won't generally jerk you around. And I love clearly marked floor plans and maps that tell you where you are. I actually got so used to looking for the red "You are here" dot, that in London I tried to look for one in a department store brochure. Mom looked at me silently for a while and said: "There isn't any because the map is in your hand."

Language skills are also being put to a test. In the past three months I've heard Chinese, German, British and pidgin English, twi and afrikaans. My accent will be so fucked up when I get back home. When you enter a new country you have to tune your ears again to a whole new tone. It's weird but sometimes I think I'm hearing Russian or French and it turns out to be afrikaans, Portuguese or Swedish.

I voted in the Finnish parliamentary election this week. Thank you, Embassy staff! There's a right wing political party with an unfortunately big support group raising it's ugly head. I voted Green because I want to be able to come back to a liberal and open-minded Finland. Here's to hoping the political map won't go as medieval on anyone's ass as the polls project!

sunnuntai 3. huhtikuuta 2011

T.I.A. - this is Africa

I'm still in love with South Africa - hence the long silence again - but one thing here is a bitch: the power sockets. I know people who travel are not allowed to complain under any circumstances "because you're traveling!" or "you went there, live with it", but not having electricity is sort of a problem. Both me and one of my German housemates, Verena, had bought these adapter towers that are supposed to have all the possible electrical adapters in the world. One even says Commonwealth (former British regions) and South Africa.

The so-called "universal adapter tower".

South African sonofabitch.
Well, whoever produced that "universal adapter tower", let me tell you, the South African version was NOT to be found. It's like an electrical 8th wonder of the world. There's nothing quite like it anywhere. So Verena went on and bought a local adapter and because I'm cheap I've been borrowing it from her when she's gone off to work to do her internship.

I've been really lucky with all my housemates at this guesthouse in Gardens. Verena, Susanne, Daniel, Miriam and Christian have all been so wonderful. And what do you know, they're all from Germany! Cape Town is FULL of Germans. Seriously. Even the Germans think so.

Home @ Gardens. Table Mountain in the back.

I even had to ask a local friend am I just imagining it, do I hear afrikaans as German? She said no, South Africa is the number one tourist destination for German people and you really hear it on the streets. Thank goodness. My friends in Berlin, Cologne and Hannover would have laughed their hearts out if my "Sixth Sense" would've been "I see German people".

Visiting Ghana and R.S.A. has also taught me the T.I.A. philosophy. This is Africa. It's a phrase commonly used here especially in situations like the power socket thing or my earlier experiences with the trotros. Kind of like the Spanish mañana attitude, meaning to say it's not serious, take it easy and juuuust relax. You have to adjust your expectations and understand not everything will work like at home when you're this far away.

By the way, did some inventory today and I've only lost two socks in three months! From different pairs, obviously, but no worries. I got some airplane socks on one of my flights so that basically covered it. I think I'm even doing better than at home where I've even lost a cup of tea once. Found it in my bookshelf two days later.