Saturday, December 29, 2018

Last post of the year!

One year has already gone if we do not take into account the three days left to say goodbye to 2018 and welcome 2019.

For almost each of us, this is the time when we look back at what we have done during this year, where we have succeeded and where we have instead failed. Also, it is a time to understand where we want to go from here. Are there some goals we want to set? Are there some errors we need absolutely to remember not to repeat?
What are the lessons this last year has taught us?
Sometimes it is important to recall day after day, and maybe, since my memory might be a little short, I think it would be wiser to make some written notes to self, on what I am not supposed to repeat.
Sure there have been lessons during the last year that I will remember for my whole life, but there are many others that I might forget with the time. So, if there is anything I will write down next year, this won't be any propositions, instead writing down all the success and achievement in order to repeat them again and again but also to write down all the mistakes and fails to avoid repeating them.
I am sure that at the end of the next year I will have an entire book filled with all the mistakes I will have to avoid in the future, but if this will be a way to really improve myself, then I guess I might give it a shot.

This year the Wandering Writer has been quite a lot on the road, although those wanderings were mostly work related and they brought nothing else but stress instead of the richness I am looking after every travel I make.
Unfortunately, I cannot say that next year things will go better as I cannot forecast how it will go, but at least for what concern my personal travels we have already a plan.
So be prepared to hear something more about West Africa, because we are going back to my favorite continent.

The Wandering Writer will bring you on a road trip from Nigeria to Ghana passing through Togo and Benin.
Be prepared for savoring the heart of African Voodoo tradition, which will also give me precious material for the new novel I started to conceive a couple of months ago. It will be a sort of paranormal thriller based on the voodoo rituals in Africa.
I plan to bring you more places around Italy and also insight about Portugal. It will be a year full of adventures.
The main adventure that I forecast is the acquisition of all the necessary visas, but for this, and for hints about the best way to get them, (if ever you might be interested in travelling to the same countries) you need to wait until next time, as we are just thinking about them.
So now the countdown has started and the excitement is at the stars. I wish you all a prosperous new year full of great news.
Stay Tuned!!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

When holiday stress adds to working stress.

This last period was crazy as hell, at least for me.
If we count that after the last holiday in September I came back to work straight, knowing that after a couple of days, I had to take once again the flight to northern Finland following field work on a construction site on a ten-hours shift to keep up with the schedule. As the week was over, I had one day back to the office before leaving for Ohio for the Author Academy Awards. As soon as I came back, I had only two days at the office before leaving once again for northern Finland. 

December was the craziest of all and finally yesterday the fiscal year at my company ended with my team and me, stretching for 14:30 hours of continuous work without taking a lunch break.

Now, I have almost three weeks of deserved holiday, but the ghost of this Christmas is still haunting my rest. You know we still have to wrap our gifts, prepare the dinner for the family, and the most horrifying task of all, going for grocery.

Honestly, now I remember why I generally escape the Christmas being on holiday for this period and I am regretting the decision of being with the family instead than being far away to a place where nobody knows it is Christmas and there is no hurry.

I have been during this week to the shop just to buy small everyday items, and I felt lucky that I was going by foot, instead of having a car, because the traffic was the craziest thing I have ever seen around here.
Helsinki, besides being the capital of Finland, is not very densely populated, so the city itself, road and junction are thought and planned accordingly. Something they didn't expect was the craziness that the traffic can reach during this period, and everything looked like stuck.
But what's happened on the road is just a foretaste of what is going on in the shop. Finnish people are (thankfully) calm and do not give up on stressful behavior, but when they are all in one shop... I give up to stress.
There is a song that came to my mind recently during my brief visits to the market, "sometimes I feel like screaming" of Deep Purple. Indeed I felt like exploding inside myself, wishing only to be far away on the small, dark, lonely path that leads home, where the only beings I might come across are the wild hares or squirrels and birds.

I am not the only one to deal with the dinner, the gifts, the preparations, the decorations, being also able to follow your own life, that one that goes on regardless of the season.
The only suggestion I can give you all is trying to simplify the process and focus only on enjoying each other's company, feeling blessed for another year we have been given to spend together. Nobody expects a Michelin star restaurant experience, so let's take it easy and make sure to be ready to spend a great evening with your beloved ones.
To you all, I wish a great holiday as next time we are going to talk about New Year's resolutions and goals to be achieved during the next year.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Escaping the Christmas?

For those who remember the movie "Christmas with the Kranks," a brilliant comedy about the stresses that Christmas involves and a plan to escape them even if only for one year, maybe this is the time to make some serious considerations about it.

My husband and I are generally escaping it like in the movie, but we are luckier, and we get really to leave (LOL).
The fact is not escaping the dinners, the relatives, and the feelings. It is mostly connected with the melancholic mood that Finnish Christmas is bringing along.
The week before Christmas the streets are a real explosion of lights, happy faces, hurrying people, sounds and joy.
This lasts until the 23rd of December.
After that, Finland transforms that happiness into a dystopian nightmare.
Totally deserted streets that still keep their lights on. Restaurants are almost empty if not closed for the season. Like humanity has been wiped out from the planet.

This lasts until the 26th. After that, with the starting back of the working life, the streets become once again busy and jolly, getting ready for the New Year's Eve celebrations.

Jokes and sarcasm apart, the fact is that Christmas in Finland is meant to be spent only with the family. We use to spend our time indoors taking the time to talk and enjoy each other company, which during the rest of the year might become more complicated due to the different schedules, work, and other issues that seem to keep people apart.

Our escape is not an escape from
the family gatherings, it is instead an escape from the depression that grabs our hearts when going for a walk in the city.

The solution that puts together the family celebrations and the escape plan?
Easy peasy!
Spend Christmas Eve with the family, and the morning after, fly away to a far away holiday until the New Year. Since Finnish people celebrate mostly the Eves than the real days of holiday, this seems to be the best solution for all.

Now another little suggestion to lighten the stress.
The gifts!

What to give nowadays to people, when we have all that we desire if not too much of it?
The answer is to keep it simple!
What is the thing that people need and appreciate is something that doesn't cram the shelves or storages, so what about something that fills the bellies?
Yes, I am talking about food.
We are generally preparing for the whole family cookies, mustard, jams, liver pate and similar. All, of course, homemade, nothing bought ready.
You might think that it takes time, but what about the time you spend thinking about the right gift to buy, the run to the shops hoping they still have the item you are looking for?
Isn't it better just do the grocery and stay calmly at home preparing the food packets?
However, this year, we are not planning to travel anywhere, just take it easy and spend the time in the family, planning the next trip.
Sometimes it is good not to have any plan and enjoy your holidays day after day without overthinking about any program.

With this, I wish you a great weekend and a fantastic holiday season to you all!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

When the day of holiday is not enough. The Finns and the Eves

Today, I am going to tell you about a characteristic of the Finnish people that I haven't mentioned before.
That is the sort of obsession of Finnish people not just with the holidays but with the day before the holiday itself; the Eve.
The Eve is everything, it means anticipation, excitement, celebration; the holiday itself is feeling sometimes like devoided of any meaning because you know the following day you need to go back to work.
It's just like the feeling of the Friday and Saturday compared with the dullness and bitterness of the Sundays. Nothing cool happens on Sundays, because you know already what is going to happen the following day.
Back to work, back to the usual routine, with the usual projects or worse with a project you seem to be stuck into without any way out.

But if you have never met a Finn, I can tell you that they bring the Eves to a brand new level. So you have the Christmas Eve, the New Year's Eve the Labor Day's Eve, the Midsummer fest's Eve.
Nevertheless, this is sometimes not enough.
Think about it, the whole world is celebrating Christmas and New Year's Eve, so what do they invent? The Eve's Eve.
This means celebrating not only the day before but two days in advance the official day for the holiday.
Those who can, they will take a day off to celebrate Eve's Eve, those who can't, well they try at least to have a shorter day at work.

After 14 years of living in Finland, this seems to me something reasonable and every January, I try to see where I can put my holiday so to keep also Eve's Eves free.
This seems reasonable also since the government decided that there are some holidays which can be moved to the Saturdays/Sundays, so to avoid that workers have too much of free time on their own. Not all, of course, but those minor holidays like All Saint's day is celebrated on the last Saturday of the month, whether it is the 2nd of November or not. Likewise, MidSummer is celebrated the second to last Saturday/Sunday of June (although it should be the 21st of June celebrating the solstice).

This decision doesn't seem to stop Finns from having their days off, so in case those holidays are scheduled on Sundays, they also celebrate on Friday, as the Eve's Eve. It does make sense doesn't it?
It makes us feel like rebels.
 Finnish people are quiet and calm, they do not make any riot, they calml think about the way to fool the rule, so that everybody is happy.
And so I wish you all a great weekend!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Columbus, a city you couldn't guess

This is a funny story about my trip to Columbus, Ohio. I have told so far that I have been there for the Author Academy Awards, but today I would like to linger a bit on a city that deserves a special mention.
On my flight to Columbus I had a stopover in Chicago, and since I arrived at the International terminal, I needed to go through the passport control to reach the Domestic one.
This is what happened with the Border Officer:

Me: 'Morning!
Officer: Good morning, is Chicago your final destination?
Me: No, I am going to Columbus.
Officer: Ohio? (with a confused expression)
Me: Yes - brightly smiling -
Officer: Going for business?
Me: No, just leisure.
At this point, you should have seen his expression. It was like I said that I was going to visit some friends from Mars, who were going to have a party.
Officer: Do you have any friends there?
Me: No - and I started to enjoy his confused expression -
Officer: Why? I mean Why then going there?
Me: Oh, but if you haven't visited it yet, you need to! There is the German, Italian and Victorian villages that are a must see. Not to mention the old town. -At this point, I felt like a tour operator trying to sell a holiday package-
Officer: -His eyes got wide open- Really?

Sometimes we are so much caught into what are the most common holiday destination that we miss what we have just under our noses. Sometimes the least beaten path means discovering something genuinely amazing.
Now, besides this, I have something to show you that will surely put you in the Ohio mood,
Meanwhile, the downtown might not offer what you are looking for concerning excitement, you might walk (or take a ride, depending on your mood) to the south, and get the vibes of the German Village
To the north and decide to have a walk to the Victorian or Italian Village:
Or choose to go east and get to know the Old Town. Whatever your mood, you will find plenty of exciting spots, lovely cafeterias, beautiful parks to spend your days on holiday.

I think I fell in love...

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