sunnuntai 29. joulukuuta 2013

Amazing Bagan

My life is a dream or a novel. I'm out of words. I don't know, who's the main character of my very own story – is it me, could it be, how could it, if everything that matters is the scenery and the people I'm honored to meet – no one can be a story by themselves, so no; it's not me, I'm not the conductor of my story, I'm not the main character. 
Bagan is just unbelievable.
I'm just visiting my story from the beginning till the end, not knowing, what there will be behind the next corner. Who cares, what I'm up to in my life, in this story, in this dream, even I don't care; its the places visited, the people meeting people, the sounds and the taste and the smell of life, its the feelings being felt, its the words being said, its the actions being taken and done. I'm lucky enough to live in an interesting dream. It has its ups and downs, but what makes it fascinating, is the coincidences. The situations where I end up, mostly without expecting any of them, or the tickets that I buy, the journey itself. It's the places where I find myself. It's just amazing. I don't ever want to wake up. 

I thought it's going to be fantastic here in Bagan, I knew it's going to be fascinating, fabulous, wonderful, unbelievable but I couldn't possibly imagine, HOW great it in the end will turn out to be. It's so very beautiful, that I have difficulties closing my eyes; I want to keep them open all the time to suck in all the scenery, all the landscape, all the temples, all the dusty air – just about everything that is possible to sense here!

I could spend days after days only here in Bagan, driving around with an e-bike or riding a bike (those people, who rent a taxi or a van and go from temple to temple in an air conditioned car are just missing most of the experience!) in sandy, dusty roads, getting lost in middle of dry fields, sweating, visiting temples after temples after temples. Sitting on top of them, breathing, writing down thoughts or sentences, that pop up in my mind, watching other people passing by, watching the world from its beautiful sides and at the same time remembering the not-so-beautiful views of it.

This morning I woke up at 5, it was as dark as it can possibly be, and went jogging in the sandy roads and fields; my feet just took me to places. I love running in the morning, and now I was the only person in the middle of the fields, visiting quiet, empty and dark pagodas (yep, at times I was scared, it was like being in a crime story and I wasn't sure, if I was the criminal there in the sacred temples), breathing the crispy air (when its dark, it is very cold here now in the winter time), waiting for the sun to finally raise up, since that's what I wanted to see, and finally it was there; the dim light of the new day, and I was amazed as nowadays of every day, every minute, every second, and I made a video of it, talking out the moment, but can't post it, the internet connection is too slow or gone, but it would be cool to do something like that. I never tried. And I should practice, since in January I've got to give an interview LIVE in a morning tv show in Finland, and that would help, to chit chat in a video. Make it public. Make the sunrise in Bagan and the beauty of it public. It's unfair, that not everybody can see it. If you ever have a chance, please come here. Bagan is one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited.

Yesterday I had an accident. First of all, I got lost all the time (don't ask me how, it's in theory impossible, but I at least felt lost in the deserted ”roads” quite often), and while being kind of lost, the back tire of my e-bike (I rented an e-bike yesterday, after getting my bottom totally sore from biking about 20 km the first day here) got broken. Great. I was in the middle of – hmm. Sand. But luckily not far from a village and very nice family fixing bikes. 

They helped me – without expecting any payment. I sat there half an hour watching the men do the work and feeling helpless (don't give me any tools, I hardly know how to use them – you are more than welcome to visit me in Munich and see all the holes on the walls...), BUT in the end they had to call the bike renting person to come and fix it himself, since the tire was totally out of service. So, I ended up waiting there for 1,5 hours.

The nice people offered me tea and some nuts and tealeaves to chew – politely I tasted everything, even though I had to use a spoon that was being used by each of us. Us meaning the local men (they were a family without a mother, who passed away some time ago) and me. There would be no problem, using a spoon used by others, but you should see the teeth of the people here. They're in a very bad and RED shape, since the men chew some red stuff and spit everywhere, all the time. That's ok, that's their culture, but well....I had to close my eyes and put the spoon in my mouth and smile and chew and swallow and try not to think of any teeth or used spoons with dirt on them or anything; I was grateful for the help and very grateful for the hospitality of the family, and it tasted surprisingly good, and in the evening, when I noticed that nothing happened, I didn't get sick or get any stomach problems, I was being angry at myself. WHY to always be such a ”princess”. WHY to always think, that everything dirty is nothing but dirty. Sometimes it's like this: the dirtier it is, the cleaner it has to be.

The family was being so very nice, that not only tasting their tea and nuts, I got to see a temple from inside and the view from its tower, that no other tourists get to see! It was of course exciting, but also very beautiful, AND scary. I had to climb up the tower roof. Oh shaky legs of mine. Good that they didn't decide to slip or take a false step – otherwise I'd be an angel or a ghost by now. The old man, the ”head of the family” gave me such an introduction to everything, that I almost hugged him. He was such a sweetheart. I missed my grandfather while talking to him. He was just like him; a man full of stories and a good heart.

Today I went to see Mount Popa, that is an hour drive from Bagan. Yesterday at one quite lonely, quiet pagoda I met two traveling guys; one from Germany, one from China. The German one wanted to go to Mt. Popa, and me too, and even though we live in different villages, we ended up using the same taxi service (with some other people) and got up there. The mountain and the pagoda on top of it was nice to see, but Bagan with its thousands of pagodas is far more interesting. At Mt. Popa there are lot of funny monkeys. 

The trip took only some hours, and now I'm back at the hotel, but instead of going to see the amazing pagodas, I'm at the hotel, writing stuff down. My blog is very important to me normally, when I write in Finnish, but surprisingly I need to update it also now almost as often as I do it in Finnish. It's kind of an organizer to me. After this I'll continue writing my script. And after that I have a sunset date with the guys that I met. If they ever make it to my hotel. I'm happy to have some company. But can't stay up late, have to leave tomorrow morning at around 6 am to the airport and fly to Mandalay. Where I'll spend the New Year's Eve. Which is by the way as meaningless this time to me, as Xmas was, and will probably be just another day in the deep, deep world.

Hope you all will have a nice day, I don't even know, which day it is. Tuesday? Thursday? Friday? Sunday? I only know the date. And that just because I have a flight to catch up. Which by the way is stupid. I don't want to fly. I want to travel by train, by bus or by hitch-hiking. There is NO need to book your flights nor your hotels in advance in Myanmar. You will find it all here and cheaper, than booking all in advance. I was stupid enough to contact a local travel agency..or scared enough; I didn't know, how it's going to be. But next time I'm definitely not booking anything in advance, and for sure I'll just raise my thumb and hop on a car stopping by. It's very safe here. I'm so lame to have been influenced by people warning me, how difficult it might be in Myanmar. But in a way I just think, that ok, two weeks in this country is a very short time. At least I save time by having it all so easy. And at least I save money by eating at street "restaurants" etc.

Now me stops, finally, have got the whole world to write down to the next top novel of mine. Cheerio!

torstai 26. joulukuuta 2013

Myanmar!

I made it to Myanmar easily. Had no problems, didn't forget anything, and got my visa on arrival (and can highly recommend everybody to get rather a visa on arrival than running after it in embassies!) just like that (just that I had to send some weeks ago copies of my passport, photos, etc. to a travel agency). Then I got into a taxi (taxis charge too much from the airport to the city, so remember to bargain, if you end up in Yangon one day) and to the hotel. Which is located 10 kilometers away from the city center - and that is perfect: I'm again in a neighborhood, where are no other tourists and where I can see and observe how the locals live. It takes just cheap 15 minutes by taxi to get to downtown from here.


Actually I have a feeling, that I'm the only foreigner in this hotel. So in a way I'm all alone; there's no one to talk to (people don't really speak English around here), but then again I'm not feeling lonely at all. People here are like Philippians; they smile friendly as if I was a sister or a friend, and they make me feel very safe and welcome. So safe, that I've been walking along dark, narrow alleys (last night after arriving) as well as big, busy streets without any worries. I read somewhere, that Yangon is the most safest city in the world, and I totally agree with that. I tested it last night by walking on streets, that I wouldn't dare to step into alone at night somewhere else. Might sound crazy, that I test something like that, but believe me it's not. It's more than safe here. And I need some experiences to my texts. I need to win my fears - one of them is dark, narrow alleys at the night time - in a secure place.


Nice thing is, that the local men are not shouting anything after me (in comparison to, for example, Greek men - Myanmar is a heaven for a woman, who wants to be left alone and who feels angry, when people whistle or say something stupid when she walks past) and everybody is just welcoming all the visitors with a warm smile - kids, women, men, old, young, middle-aged. In my opinion all should once in a lifetime travel to countries like Philippines or Myanmar to learn some habits and right way of smiling. It makes such a big difference. I've been walking around this city with a real, deep smile on my face just because the locals make me feel so comfy and just because they throw such warm smiles at people passing by. 


I'm, by the way, totally exhausted. Couldn't sleep well last night, because there's a temple or a mosque or something next to the hotel, and someone decided to have a mess all night long. Via loudspeakers. But that's now perfect; tonite I'll go early to bed. Have to wake up at 4 AM to catch my flight to Bagan, where I'll explore the most beautiful temples I've ever seen. Or at least that's what I'm expecting. Have seen Angkor Wat in Cambodia already, and it was breathtaking, but Bagan might be even more.

I like the way the houses are painted here. Soft colors, everything is pretty worn out, some houses are painted half with light green half with pink. Some with blue, some are white, some are just colorless or grey.
Today I saw the great, golden, amazing Scwedagon Pagoda. Wow. It was so bright and beautiful, that I spent more than an hour there with my mouth open. Staring at things like a fish. Sitting down once in a while to stare some more.

After that I walked down to the Kan Daw Gyi Lake, drank a papaya shake (and observed really rude Russian tourist, who was treating the waitress in such a rude way, that I wanted to go and shake that woman!!), walked like crazy and thought about my script. It's been great to walk around. And think.

Then I took a taxi to the downtown, walked and walked and walked and walked around, checked the "great" market area (it was huge and the good thing is, that no one was forcing me to buy anything nor was it too much to bare, actually it was nice to walk around and look what they've got to sell), ate some stuff from the streets (for example an avocado shake, which I actually ate rather than drank and which I had to throw away in the end..it was tasty, I love avocado, but I happened to see how the person making it made it; with totally dirty fingers, which she dipped into my shake to taste it, and then dipped them again in it, and just to be polite I drank one third of it almost throwing up, and I don't want to get sick from avocado, because avocado is all I need, I love avocado ALMOST more than myself!).

You can walk almost everywhere here, but sometimes it's good watch your step.
All together I was up on my feet on the streets from 9 AM till 17 PM. Wow. After getting back to the hotel I went once more out to get some dinner. And found myself at somekind of a buddhist festival, where locals were having fun, and where I could find so so much to eat, that I'm now exploding. Bought this and that from quite many stands, brought them to the hotel, and ate them here. Luckily everything was vegetarian - had to kind of close my eyes and just guess, what I was buying. I got myself stuffed for less than 1 euro. Earlier today the same thing. Food is cheap and good here as long as you look somewhere else, when they're cooking it. I can eat everything if I don't know, how dirty the hands of the cook are. At work I wash my hands all the time, as well as on my holidays, so I kind of care about how the hands touching my food (or me!) are..anyhow I'm not sick and hopefully won't be, and will in any case buy stuff from the street stands.

They sell lot of meat here, but luckily also veggies. Didn't touch that stuff. Don't even know, what that is.
Two days in Myanmar are gone now, and 12 more are to go. I'm very tired, and will work now for couple of hours. Have to write. I have so much good stuff coming out that I could scream. It seems to develop into a totally new novel, which is exciting and inspiring. Am looking forward to Bagan, Mandalay, Inle Lake and some days at the beach in the southern Myanmar - hopefully will get lot of scenes and ideas and stuff to my script. And hopefully I'll meet some people. Alone is ok, but what do I do, if I have to spend too many days without really talking to anyone?! Here in Myanmar I'm forced to stay in hotels, which is boring. In hostels there's always people to get familiar with. So far I've seen (honeymoon) couples and big groups of older tourists in downtown area. I'm not complaining, everything is close to perfect, but if it goes on like this, I might have to start talking to myself. LOUD. Or I have to start talking to myself in secret. So that no one would think that I'm now a crazy bunny and not just a bunny. I mean, funny. I'm not a bunny. Except maybe an Easter bunny when the time comes.

Now me starts working. It's going to be the next super novel. Just wait and see!

Going towards the festival zone.
P. S. My camera, that I bought in Singapore, is not my friend. I don't like it. It doesn't do what I want it to do, and its just annoying. I told it today, that if it keeps on being like that, I'll give it to charity. To a random person on the street, for example, or to a street dog.


tiistai 24. joulukuuta 2013

Day by the pool or in the moon or...?

Merry Xmas to you all. Greetings from Thailand. I'm in Bangkok and don't have any plans. Nor do I have any special Christmas feelings. Just chilling out as if it was June or July. I've been to Bangkok a few times, so I don't even think of going sightseeing or anything. Or who knows. I've been ending up in surprising situations lately, even in the last 24 hours, so it wouldn't surprise me, if I found myself somewhere else than where I picture myself.
I just went to drop off my laundry (haven't got ANY clean clothes anymore!) and print out my documents for a visa on arrival, that I got for Myanmar. I'm flying there tomorrow afternoon, and am pretty excited. All that there is left to do today, is to find new shoes (why is it, that my favorite flipflops got broken in Tacloban and my favorite sandals here in Bangkok just by walking!?) and I have to write. A bit, at least. Have got some good stuff. Need to pour it out of me, otherwise I can't really relax, and this time I swear to you, it is good stuff. I would even say as good stuff as in my third book! I'm right now by the pool with my laptop, so now would be the perfect moment to write. But at the same time I'm lazy...

I also want to go to the gym and do sports today. Haven't moved my body for 3 weeks now, and that's a long time without sports for a girl who is used to do it daily. Anyhow and in any case I'm having and will have a cool, my very own 24th of December (which is in Finland an important Xmas celebration day). I'm not even lonely. At all. It is, as it seems, impossible to end up being lonely, when you have pictured yourself being alone.

Singapore, where I spent the weekend, was nice, by the way, but nothing really mind blowing special. It's a city for those, who love shopping (you can find a mall in every corner!) and good food. I hate shopping, but still I ended up buying myself a camera (just a small and cheap one – was about to buy just drinking water and ended up coming out of the store with a camera in my hand) and an Indian dress, but that's about it. I did find stuff for my friends though. The only thing is, that I lost some of the presents. Don't ask me why or how.

I also went to Singapore Art Museum, which was interesting. It consisted more of installations than pictures, which is not my ”cup of art”, but there were some installations that I particularly liked, like one in a dark room with spooky 3D creatures moving around and many mirrors, which made an effect of being in a never-ending-space. The Botanic Garden was impressive. Me liked. Especially the orchid part of that park.

I also enjoyed the food in Singapore. Oh, I love Indian and Chinese food (but not in Europe, there Chinese doesn't taste good at all), and enjoy spicy stuff. Which is interesting, cause back at home I can't eat as spicy food as I do here. I met my friend, poet Toh Hsien Min for dinner on Sunday (thank you again for the very nice evening and for the poetry collections!!), and he also showed me the city from a rooftop bar in the evening and the national library building, which was huge and looked nice. The cocktails, by the way, are very expensive in Singapore. I had the most expensive drink I've ever had up there. At least it tasted good!

Yesterday was kind of an interesting day. In Singapore I couldn't use my credit cards at the airport. It made me a bit afraid – how would I travel without any cash, especially when I go to Myanmar, where I'd need cash. Luckily, at the airport in Bangkok, my credit card was working perfectly well, BUT believe it or not; I FORGOT my card in the ATM. After panicking a bit, thanks to the airport staff, I got my card back. I was so so so grateful, that it didn't get stolen. 

So, now, birdies, I'm off to the pool and later to gym and buying new shoes. I'm off to spend my day the way I like it the most; without any rush or stress. I'm off to enjoy the not-too-hot-weather of Bangkok. Hopefully I'd be hungry in the evening (after the delicious days in Singapore I wasn't yet hungry at all!); would be perfect to eat thai. Now that I happen to be in Thailand. 

Wish you all all the best, nice holidays with the ones you love, and lots of cheerful thoughts! Be there and be round (not square, this time, please). Very special greetings I'm sending to my family. I love you mum, I love you dad, I love you my sister and you two brothers of mine, and I love all of your kids (super special greetings to Lorenzo and Sofia!!) and I hope you all have as nice a Christmas as it normally is!

perjantai 20. joulukuuta 2013

Tired empty nut!

I'm alive. But exhausted. And in need of holidays!!

The last days in Tacloban were nice. I miss the people there - wish you all the best and send you lots of virtual hugs! - and the atmosphere. And oh, what a nice "last evening" we had there. First, the children of SOS village and the people there, organized a party and a dinner with dance shows and speeches to all the guest, that were visiting the village by that time, me including, and then the other volunteers went for farewell dinner with my new friend Nata (SOS worker from Indonesia) and me, and oh. Thank you all for that!!


Was kind of hard to say goodbye, especially to the kids, and those volunteers/co-workers, with whom I was spending most of the time. But life is sometimes coming and going. I've been coming and going, going and coming, leaving leaving and leaving so many times and years so far, that it doesn't break me, but every time it hurts. Makes me feel empty.

That's how I feel right now. Empty, in a bad, nasty way. Don't like the feeling at all. Especially now, when I'm tired and tired and tired. But I did enjoy taking a SHOWER yesterday, I enjoyed it today as well, and will enjoy it every time I take a shower.

Right now, all I want, is to get this emptiness out of me. Singapore will hopefully be way too busy, sizzling city. Hopefully it makes me think of everything and at the same time nothing. Am looking forward to art museums and fresh fruit shakes and foooood. Will eat Indian stuff, will eat Chinese, will eat and eat and eat and, instead of flying to Bangkok from Singapore, I will roll over there. Like a sweet, girly meatball.


P. S. I have been eating meat. Didn't want to say no to anything, that was offered to me at SOS Village, since food is something not to be picky about, when there's not much. I ate meat also in Cebu before going to Tacloban. Naughty me. But in a way, every time I travel, I also want to try local delicacies. Also if it's meat. I don't feel good about it, though. But well. When ever I get back to basics and to my normal, extra ordinary life, I'll fill myself up with stuff that I love. Vegetables. Avocado. Nuts. If I don't go nuts before that.

Have a nice weekend people. I guess most of you are excited about Xmas. Let it be so. Be excited and decorate your homes and your hearts and your socks. Me goes to bed now. Good night, sleep tight, sweet dreams, happy jeans. (No, I don't know what I mean by that. Jeans could be happy, though, or?)


Once more P. S. - My flight from Tacloban to Cebu was delayed because of heavy rain. It was such a weird feeling to sit at the airport, that had no walls, and the roof was damaged, some people got a bit wet. And it was hard to look down from the plane and see, how it all looks there. There were so many broken houses, so many "refugee tents", so many trucks IN the sea. Also the way to the airport from the city by car was sad. Not because of leaving, but because of seeing so so so many broken buildings - even though I saw them every day the last two weeks. From the bottom of my heart I hope Tacloban will recover soon. Though it takes years, unfortunately. And no wonder; it's probably very hard to know/decide, where to start the re-building and cleaning, when everything is so very damaged.

(Pictures taken by my trusted and new friend Bobby)

maanantai 16. joulukuuta 2013

Some pictures, some feelings

This weekend I was working. And also eating some fresh stuff. Like fish. We went to Ormoc on Sunday (instead of me going there on Saturday), and the car ride was bumpy. Ormoc was a busy city, since everybody seems to go there to buy groceries etc. It is hard to find big amounts of snacks to the SOS kids even from there. And even in Ormoc the electricity is off. Yolanda hit that city pretty hard, too, but Ormoc didn't suffer from floating water like this part of the Leyte island.

Anyhow it's picture time, if possible, just to show a bit how things are. There's a thunder storm over the city - I'm scared of lightning and thunder storms, when they are right above me, and this time it really was there just a short time, bang bang bang it said, and my skin was totally freaking out! - and I'm sad. It's Monday evening. There's only 3 more days to go. Or two whole days, one quarter. I so much enjoy working with these people here, that it will be hard to say goodbye.

Story telling.
But then again I'm also very tired. And I know, that I need to travel as a tourist, too, otherwise I can't take it anymore in the normal life in Munich, when I eventually go back there in January. Because there's a traveller living in my soul and only by seeing beautiful scenery I can relax. I have seen some beautiful scenery here, too, but most of the surroundings is just very broken and therefore sad to see.

So I'm soon about to move on, go away, go where my "long nose" (some kids said today or was it yesterday, that I have a long nose, which is funny, cause it actually is not that long, it's more like a ski-jump-ramp-nose as my little brother used to tease me) points at. The problem, quite often, is, that it points sometimes into too many directions, which makes me confused or emotional. Maybe that's why I can't really settle down.

But then again, do I even have to. Maybe some of us are made to live like that. I'm happy, if my long nose decides to point more often to volunteering directions. Will definitely, absolutely do this again. Here, there, anywhere. If there is a chance to do something good, then why not just do it rather than talk about doing it, right? I'm a single woman, not tied up to any place or any person in the world. Which means, that I have all the chances in the world to act. Even if one day I would somehow end up married with kids (yes, sometimes I do think that could be possible) or something like that, I think I would anyhow go for it. For this.

All the kids are so cute here. A couple of babies have been scared of me. Since I look like a foreigner.
So let's see. How it all goes. The life and everything. I am happy and lucky to have met so nice, warm people so far - not only here, but also back there at home. I'm blessed to have had a chance to help and volunteer here. What I now really, really appreciate more than anything in my life, is the people that I've met, the people that I have, and the people I love. And believe me, there are lots of those people.

Which means, that I'm one of the richest people in the world. I don't have a hunger of becoming richer than that, but it would not be a bad thing. To become richer in that way; getting to know people like there are already in my life, people that just cheer other people up without them even knowing how much joy they bring. That's what's important. Nothing else matters.

The sea shore and the beach boulevard of Tacloban.

Everything got hit here.
Our SOS volunteer team from last week. I'm the only foreigner, except that there are two SOS workers from Indonesia.
Nothing, really, else can matter as much as the people in everybodys life. I sometimes get stressed about small, stupid things. Have to forget about that. It doesn't matter, if I don't always look pretty (here I've felt sometimes so very ugly without make-up and with the sticky, sweaty skin - especially standing next to gorgeous, beautiful, smiling people over here) or if I'm penniless couple of days before the next salary. Or if I have too much work to do, or if there's a deadline of a text to be written and I haven't even started working on it. Or if I lose my wallet or break something "important". No, no, no. All that matters, is that there is people to be happy with. To be sad with. To share the joys of life, to share the pain, to share the meals with, to laugh with, to cry with, to dance with. I could get totally drunk just from the amount of people, who are important to me. And not only that, but from the amount of smiles that I've lately seen. Oh my. I sound like an emotional freak, I guess. But maybe that's what I am. And will be. It's not always a bad thing, is it...?

Take good care, all of you! Hugs and greets and lots of warm (hot!! it's hot!!!) thoughts from Tacloban City.

P. S. I found and drank COLD 7Up and COLD water yesterday! And just a moment ago I ate fresh, juicy mango, and I love mango.

perjantai 13. joulukuuta 2013

Where is government, where is government - here you're not, here you're not!

It seems, that there is, after all, quite a few chances to update my blog, since there is a clever invention called portable wi-fi. The connection is at times not really working, but I'm surprised and happy, that there is a connection, because the last couple of days I was very eager to go online. On Wednesday the nomination of my book was in the news in Finland. I'm so very excited, but don't dare to dream about winning the prize, because all the other nominated writers are so brilliant, but already the nomination is a huge honour and joy for me. Have to think of a way to celebrate it here with my new friends. Maybe I can find somewhere cold Coke and something delicious. Let's see what the days bring. Tomorrow I'm planning to go with some others to Omroc to buy first of all supplies and snacks for SOS, and then something sweet. Or salty. To be shared with the friends.

I've been writing a lot in my diary, which is the best way to think for me. Have created a very ”juicy” idea of a new novel, or better said, a short story collection. The thing would be to raise up some topics, that I've seen happening here and that concern me. By writing them ”out” I could hopefully open some closed eyes. Heal the world, in a way, if that ever is possible by writing, and I think it is. At least a good way to affect on some opinions. I think my third, now nominated novel, did the same thing, as it is kind of a speech against violence.

This part of the world is healing quite slowly, too slowly to be honest. I don't know, what foreign newspapers write or have been writing (or do they even write anymore?) about the situation here, but it's NOT at all okay. The unbelievable amount of garbage on the streets (the main streets are cleared as if to pretend that everything is taken care of), broken houses, still-no-electricity (the downtown is pretty spooky, when it's dark, like a zombie land or something) and contaminated water – this all is not at all taken care of. People are waiting for the government to do its responsibilities. Many countries have helped the government of Philippines after Yolanda with a lot of money, but what does the government: doesn't bring the money to places, where it's supposed to go. It's very corrupted. So the money is now, hmm, where excactly? In the pockets of the authorities?

People are upset, and no wonder. Tacloban smells (at least in the parts of the city where I daily work or drive trough) rotten (except when the big piles of rotten stuff are not being burnt, and if it is, the air is blue of smoke – not fresh at all – which is of course better than breathing the rotten air). Sometimes it's hard to hold myself from throwing up. Just because of the smell. Imagine how it is; very very hot and humid weather and all this crap lying on the streets. Yuh. Imagine how many diseases hide in those piles. Imagine, how fast it all could be clean, if the government would actually bring the money in its place.

For the people it's not so easy to find food or clothes or material for building up their damaged homes. Only organisations like Red Cross, Unicef, SOS etc. are actually doing something. A Chinese organisation (called something like ”money for work”) offers a nice amount of money to those, who volunteer to clean up the streets. The government – hmm. Let me see, where is it? Nowhere to be seen. At least nowhere with efficient amount of money and help.

Without the foreign organizations the people would propably starve to death or turn into desperate people. As they were during the first week after the storm. They went to supermarkets and stole food and goods, because the government didn't react fast enough (and is still not reacting), and they really didn't have anything to eat. I would have done the same. According to the news, the citizens of Tacloban were by that time (and some think they still are) violent and rebellious. But that's not true. After Yolanda, they were simply shocked, traumatized, thirsty, hungry, desperate. I mean, what would you do, if just like that your home, your belongings, your food, your drinking water, your money and everything is washed away – and if the help doesn't arrive on time? 

What else does the government right now? Well. It should bring food to the people, fix the electricity, do something with the water situation. But I've seen with my own eyes, with what kind of food it provides the citizens: rotten sardines and other canned, expired food. The cans are rusty and if you open them, you might ”meet up” with totally out-of-date, bubbly ”stuff”, that you would not put into your mouth even if you were the hungriest person in the world. (Unfortunately I can't post pictures yet, but will do it later to show you, how it is.)

When it comes to the children, without SOS there would be no track of who is still alive and who takes cares of them, to check that they're not homeless or without an adult. Unicef and Red Cross are co-operating, by providing teaching materials and health checks, injections etc. SOS organizes daily activities with children in different parts of the city, and a so called ”Children Friendly Space” to bring some security among the kids, since the schools are closed, and provides them with snacks twice a day. The goal is to offer also a warm meal every day, but so far it's not possible. Already finding the snacks here, in Tacloban, is very difficult. Luckily, there are other towns, where things could be found and bought, but therefore a long car ride is needed. Like tomorrow. We plan to leave at 3 AM.

There are lots of volunteers here working for SOS (most of them teachers themselves, from local schools, and all of them so warm and nice people, that I'd love to either move here to work some more months or years, or pack them in my backbag and take them to Germany and work with them – together with my lovely colleagues in Munich, greetz to you girls! – for the rest of my life), and together we all do a lot. It's very important what is done here, I have to say. I wouldn't like to leave next week, not yet. This project here takes propably couple of years. And help is needed. Would love to help longer – and if there is a chance somewhen next year, I will come back.

One more thing I have to say: can't, of course, speak Philippenean, but I've learnt some words, like how to say good morning, water, no, yes, eyes, hips and bottom. The Philippinean kids understand quite a lot of English, which makes it easier to volunteer here. Anyways it's nice to learn new languages. Philippinean is so funny with double words or names (like dabi dabi, iloilo etc.), that why not learning it more. Maybe the language itself is one reason for the people being so happy, smiling, warm and helpful.

I have only one week left here. It will be sad and tough to leave this all behind. But for sure, I will not forget this place and these people. Actually I'm planning to donate a part of my book sale income here next year. It is worth to donate money to an organization. I think all the other countries, the governments I mean, should rather put the money in the accounts of organizations than the authorities of Philippines.

P. S. The donations that I took from Germany with me, are now on the SOS Emergency Fund account, or what ever they call it. So basically the money stays here in Tacloban, where help is the most needed. A big thank you from SOS to all of you, who took part in this donation ”project”.

keskiviikko 11. joulukuuta 2013

Romaanini on Runeberg-palkintoehdokas!!

Hiphei ja hurraa! Vihdoin voin ja saan kertoa kaikille asian, jonka sain kotvanen sitten tietää: Pintanaarmuja, rakas rakas rakas vuosien työni on Runeberg-palkintoehdokkaana! Ja voi missä seurassa. Ihan mielettömässä. Olen niin otettu, liikuttunut ja iloinen, että voi hirmuiset taivaat!!

Terveisiä Taclobanista, missä kuuta ympäröi tällä hetkellä laaja, kummallisen kaunis pilvireunus. Kuu iloitsee kanssani siis. Ilo pursuaa. Eikä vähiten palkintoehdokkuuden, vaan myös sen vuoksi, että vapaaehtoistyö täällä on niin antoisaa ja koko ihmiskunta täällä niin mielettömän toiveikasta.

Onnitteluni muillekin ehdokkaille. Harmi, että en päässyt julkistamistilaisuuteen onnittelemaan henkilökohtaisesti. Tulen muutes, hurraa sillekin, tammikuussa Suomeen erääseen haastatteluun, josta kerron sitten enemmän. Muikeaa loppuvuotta, loput postaukset tulee lupausten mukaan englanniksi, ja ostakaapas Pintanaarmuja joululahjaksi. Lahjoitan joululahjamyydyistä kirjoista osan hyväntekeväisyyteen, mitä luultavimmin tänne, missä nyt olen.

sunnuntai 8. joulukuuta 2013

Breathe baby, breathe!!

I arrived on this island of Leyte on Thursday morning, scared, since according to the news and people Leyte was supposed to be a dangerous place to be, hopped off the ferry in Ormoc, got into a car from SOS Children's Village, and was taken to Tacloban City through almost totally destroyed, but still lively surroundings. The car ride took us about 2 hours, and along the way I saw so very sad looking houses and villages, that no words or pictures will help me discribe, what I saw. Pictures I didn't even take. Have no camera (except on my phone) and don't want to take photos of other peoples misery. Today I did, but will post them later, since the internet connection is slow - and since I'm using other people's connection.

Anyhow it's NOT dangerous to be on this island. It's slowly, slowly recovering. There are no dead bodies on the streets, the roads are cleared from the taifuun damages, and all the carbage is being pushed aside the lanes or in big piles in crossings. There are no people walking like zombies or running around with guns and threatening others.

Actually most of the people are smiling. They are waving their hands, they are greeting. That's the most touching thing here: the people have lost almost it all – except hope. They still smile, cause they are alive; they survived. And life has to be lived further, so what's the point in falling into the waves of depression. So I'm not totally devastated. It's horrible to see the damages, broken houses, fallen trees, loads and loads of carbage and waste next to the streets, but the people live.

They even joke about the storm. They enjoy the fact, that they still breathe. Because only then you can say, you lost it all, when you lost your life. Of course there are people, who lost their loved ones, and it will take long long time to recover, but I just honour these lovely, warm, friendly people here. They know, what is important and what is not, and they don't complain about small things. I think I will never do that again, either. Really. I've never, ever experienced something like this before. Seeing so so so so so much of misery but at the same time happiness and relief.

And this SOS Children's Village of Tacloban is like a huge family. Full of cute kids and friendly adults and life – even though it got hit by the Yolanda, too. Mornings (except on Saturdays & Sundays) I'm working in a kindergarten across the street. In the afternoons I travel with the other volunteers (mostly local school teachers) by a van to the edge of the city, to ”rural” areas, where probably not so many foreigners ever went. Next week I'll do my afternoon work quite close to the SOS Village, in a very poor area, where quite many people live in houses made of ”stuff that can be found” just like in the "rural" areas. 

I've been a bit depressed some evenings. I guess all the surroundings and what I've seen, have had a huge affection on how I feel. I've also had time to think, since there's some free time. What I've been thinking about, is my past. All the things I've done in my private life. Here, just in these 4 days, I have learnt what in life is important and what is not – which may sound stupid, since I've lived already 31 years. But now I think some of my thoughts and opinions are changing. I will never ever hurt anyone again, for example.

So when I go back to normal life from this volunteering life without electricity and running water (and latest info: from the middle of dengue fever danger!!!!), I think I won't be the same in some ways. In many ways yes, but a person can always develop. In good. In bad, unfortunately, too. One thing is, that I will smile. Much much more. Smiling I can already do, but not as well as these people here. These, who have nothing left or who just are so very nice in general.

It's at times rough and tough to be here. Really. I'm tired. I'm dirty. I'm full of mosquito bites. I miss home, I miss my past and my future. Here, all I have, is me and myself – even though I'm here to help and surrounded by countless people. By happy people – I still am impressed of the way, how these Philippineans smile and have fun in the middle of difficult times. And how warm and welcoming they are. How much they laugh. For example our rides to the spots, where we teach kids, are full of jokes – even though the local volunteers have lost quite a lot as well as most of the citizens.

I wake up in the mornings latest at 6 am. Because I'm staying in a house, which is full of life, and which wakes up already before 6. People clean up the house, children play outside, traffic rolls on the street next to the SOS village. There are almost no quiet moments at all – except during the night, and not even then, since the electricity generator is on through the whole night.

The tiredness has a lot to do with how I feel as well as feeling dirty. Even going to the toilet is difficult. There's no paper. And flushing is a hand job (tonite some of us had dinner in downtown, in the only pizzeria that is open - and full of foreigners - and it was such a luxury to actually be able to flush the toilet and wash hands under running water!!) as well as washing laundry. Ever since the day 1 I've washed me and my hair using just a bucket of water. I really do appreciate everything I have at home, and the possibility to drink as much as I can. Here I drink a bit less water than I should. Because somehow I don't want to drink the water of others...I know I could and it would be no problem, but well, I just don't dare to. And that saves me of course from going to the toilet too often. I try avoid that somehow.

The smoke, that surrounds every corner of this city and which is going to the eyes and throat and everywhere, is tough to bear. Yesterday was the worst of all. So smoggy air, that it was hard to see far. And the scenery. Miserable scenery. Every time I see it, I have to wonder, how could something like this happen and how will it be totally taken care of. Everything is broken, everything is in small pieces or in muddy piles. The taifuun itself didn't make it. It was the tsunami that came after the taifuun. The water flushed everything away.

This weekend has been, though, somehow very nice and right now I'm on a very hilarious mood. Feel like I've done a lot. Not only that, I we went to see the bridge, that connects Leyte to the island nearby and that used to be the longest one in Philippines. We also took a walk in downtown. I bought fruits (oooo how I miss fruits and vegetables, did I mention that already!?Will swim in bowls of fruit when I get home!!) and new flip flops and two t-shirts, since I sweat here so much, that my few t-shirts are not at all enough. We also saw the sea front – and how destroyed it is. Oh my heaven. So much waste piled up on the shore. Much much more than anywhere else.

Our SOS Village is located at the edge of Tacloban – in the middle of ”not the richest” people. Real life, again, just like in Cebu City. So much I have seen and only one week I've been gone from home. I stepped the first plane from Munich to Hong Kong a week ago, and it feels like I've traveled months. And one thing has happened...

I am seriously considering taking a year off from everything. Even from writing (except that's not possible, I can't breathe without writing!!). And working for an organization like SOS. Helping out somewhere, bringing my knowledge and experience as an educator and a pedagogic to the places, where it would be needed. Let's see, what the future brings. Until that I'll live the moment. Meaning, that I will concentrate on the life and volunteering here. And on the people. Since the world is built up for us AND it's made by us. And that's what we have to take care of.

P. S. I had two cold beers today! There's COLD beer in the city!!! It's hard to find but when you find it...awwwww....so very refreshing! How wonderful is it, that small, tiny things can make a person happy! Please enjoy the small joys of life, promise me that, and smile, smile, smile. Don't be so serious. Don't fall into depression even at difficult times. Laugh all the sorrows away and breathe, will you!!

keskiviikko 4. joulukuuta 2013

Moving to Tacloban tomorrow

So dear all. I've sweat like a wet t-shirt. And therefore, of course, I've got a wet t-shirt. No, two wet t-shirts. It's hot, it's foggy because of all the traffic and grilled food. I somehow haven't had time to do anything today and still I've organized everything.

First of all, don't get now worried about me: I'm leaving tomorrow morning from Cebu City with a ferry to Leyte. Yes. The most damaged island. The most chaotic place in Philippines. Because the Children's Village is located right there. I tried to book a flight directly to the city, but couldn't – the next available one would have been on Sunday. So I have to take a ferry to Ormoc and from Ormoc a van to Tablocan City. The latest, relieving info is, that I'll be after all picked up from Ormoc. Earlier today I was scared, because I should have taken a random van and find my way to the SOS Children's Village. Anyhow, Tacloban is and will be a dangerous city.

Sorry mum, that I'm after all the promises not to go there, going there anyway. But I'll be okay. Nothing will happen. Even here, in Cebu City, one can see guards and police men carrying weapons in every corner, and in front of all the markets and restaurants and banks and stations - which brings a secure feeling - even in front of the hostel there is a guard. The hostel is located by the way quite far from downtown – I'm in the middle of ”real” life. It's dangerous to walk around all alone, especially at night. During the day time I've done that today the whole day long. Nothing happened. Nothing but people greeting me with a smile on their face.Yesterday I went to see some sights with 3 other girls staying in the hostel. It's all worn out and poor, but somehow the feeling around here, the atmosphere, is just warm. Not only because of the heat.

I just met the cousin of my friend (greetz, Conny!), and had a nice Cebuan dinner. He showed us (a girl from the hostel and me) a bit around to get a picture of the neighborhood, where we were dining. People here are by the way so very friendly. All of them smiling, all of them helping, if you need advice or are lost (as if I once again was lost – NOT). It's so amazing, how in poor countries and surroundings the people have more warmth in their smiles and hearts than in ”rich” countries, and how they are ready to help.

Right now I'm sitting on the rooftop terrace of the hostel (can't stay long, have to wake up at 5.30 latest, and its already 10 pm). Earlier I could here people singing on the street, the grills were and are still on, it smells like smoke, there's life around here even though I can see, that the life is full of hunger. When we were taking a walk just a moment ago, my heart was bleeding. So many children sleeping on a piece of paper without any adults around, without any shelter. The taifuun didn't hit Cebu City, but obviously there are too many people in need here, too. So so so heartbreaking many.

Today, other than organizing my trip to the orphanage, I bought toys for the kids in the village. They don't have many left and they can't get any from Tacloban City. From Ormoc I'll buy food and stuff. If it's for some reason not possible, the donations of all of you will end up in the orphanage and the hungry people in Tacloban.

Propably the next two weeks you won't hear much from me. I won't have any connection to mobile network, and can't therefore let you know, if I made it all the way, but please (especially mum!) trust me; I will take care of myself. If it's, for some reason, too much, I'll turn around and return to Cebu City. But at the orphanage it should all be alright and safe, and my main thing is, as planned, to help, help, help. 
San Antonio church.

So, once more; here it's as heartbreaking as everywhere else. So so many poor people on the streets, so so many homeless kids, so so much hunger. It hurts me to see that. I guess most of you think, that Philippines is just a paradise with white sand beaches and crystal clear water, BUT. It's awful not to be able to help all of the people. Normally I feel awful seeing poor animal suffer, which one can easily find here, too, but now it's just too many poor people around to feel sorry for the animals. It's nice to have met people, who help here, too, and not all the help is going to the most critical areas.

Yesterday one of the girls that I met here at the hostel, and I, were planning to go today to a nice beach or something just to relax a bit, but I was busy organizing, and in the end didn't even want to go anywhere. I still can't imagine spending a normal holiday here. No, not now. Therefore I'm planning to stay the rest of my Philippean time helping and volunteering. But hopefully in the future I could come back for holidays, too. Philippines IS a beautiful country with all its islands, and the people that are so warm. And oh...I don't want children of my own, at least so far, but I think one day, if possible, I will adopt a child. Maybe from Philippines. To give love and home and shelter to one of those, who have no future. Who have just the streets. Who are hungry, and who need a home. 
The "homestreet" from the terrace point of view.
If there's internet connection, I will let you all know, how it's going in Tacloban. Would be nice to at least inform you, if I land in the destination safely. If I can't, remember, mum and friends and all of you, that I'm not made of glass that would break down easily, and that I'm not stupid, either. It will all be good. And hopefully my help will bring something to someone. Greetings to everyone and take care. Me takes care of me too. And she goes to pack her bag, and then the bed is calling, because yes, sometimes beds can talk, like: "Hey babes, come on, I'm ready!".

XXXX
Maaria

maanantai 2. joulukuuta 2013

Tired in Hong Kong

I'm exhausted. Have literally been walking today around the city for 8 (!?) hours stopping just twice to eat something and getting chili in my eye. Yes. Yesterday's little disaster was getting lost in the city just after stepping out from the airport (I took the wrong bus AND fell asleep on it - had been until that more than 24h awake, so please save me from thinking that I'm a brainless chicken!), and today's Big Action was to eat at a sidewalk restaurant, where all the other customers were locals and were I had to point other peoples plates to tell them what I wanted to have, and then, just when the (really delicious) fishball, noodle, lettuce soup appeared in front of me, and as soon as I threw a bit of chili sauce in it, and just as I slurped the first stick full in my mouth, I got a drop of the soup in my eye, and hell yes, it was a drop full of chili, and hell yes, it hurt. Let's SEE if an eye infection decides to hit me..

Went up the hill with the old tram. But didn't go up up to a skyterrace. You can see the view also without paying extra and going with all the tourist masses on a roof top terrace and take pictures from people taking pictures because it'd be too crowded to take pictures without others in the backround.

So two things I recommend NOT to do in Hong Kong: 1) don't step on a wrong bus when you're so tired you hardly can keep your eyes open and 2) don't slurp your food in your mouth like the locals do, cause you just can't do it without getting either your clothes or your face all messy.

But then again, I do recommend to GET LOST. It's a safe, easy city. Today, after a stupid "let's-wake-up-at-3-am-and-roll-in-the-bed-for-over-an-hour-and-then-fall-asleep-again-and-then-wake-up-to-the-sounds-of-roommates-waking-up-at-7-am-and-then-fall-asleep-again-and-then-feeling-all-sick-night" I started my day by getting up, getting out of the hostel and getting to the Hong Kong island by a ferry (I'm staying on the Kowloon-side of the city, exactly at Tsim Sha Tsui station) WITH a map in my hands, but then the map got all aggressive. Really. So I got angry at it. It was all the time slapping in my face, and when I made it smaller, it was like a big pile of fluffy crap in my feast, so I just threw it away. I mean, it's SAFE in Hong Kong to get lost. And impossible as well. There are people everywhere; you can always ask for help, or you can just jump on the next tram or train or bus and travel somewhere and then see how you get to a point, that you are familiar with. And all the signs tell you where to go and what you can find and where.


So today I WANTED to get lost, but I didn't. Really. At all. I was all the time on the map even without a map. And I saw so many things. So so many. I went to two art museums (oh, if I'd be an artist, I'd right away move to Hong Kong - and as a novelist I'd do it too for couple of months, but not for more; this is a really inspiring city from artist point of view - oh, so, if I manage to get a bigger grand for writing next year than this year, I'll probably take a couple of writing months over here!) and I liked them, I went to two parks and I liked them (except that they were so small, that they were cute instead of super or amazing), I walked along so many small streets, that I just smiled, and I saw so so delicious looking fruits and vegetables on the street markets, that I decided NOT to ever again buy for example fresh ginger in Germany (and even less in Finland) without thinking, that in Hong Kong it would be BEAUTIFUL. So beautiful, that you could take it in your arms and kiss it and dance with it before chopping it into pieces and throwing it in your cooking.

Modern art is pretty colourful around here.
So in general I really, really like Hong Kong, and don't wonder anymore, why so many people have said it's great and gorgeous. Cause it is. I normally don't find the praised cities (like London or Berlin or New York or Paris - no offence!) as interesting as the people who praise them, but this time I feel like home here. Weird. Cause I remember almost hating Shanghai, when I went there some years ago - and in many ways Hong Kong is the same. But then again I love chaotic cities like Moscow. Hong Kong is something between Shanghai and Moscow. It's big but not too big; in fact, it's pretty small or at least managable. And it's clean. Really clean. And it's not as chaotic as it could be. It's very easy to orientate (WHEN YOU'RE NOT TIRED), and the people are nice. There's a lot to see, lot to do, lot to eat and just lot lot lot.

I really am impressed by the architecture. The skyscrapers are funny - making a much more interesting few than the skyline in New York or in Shanghai. I love it how old, crappy houses stand next to modern "shiny" houses. I love the way people live in small square-like spaces between each other, on top of each other, behind, under, next to each other. All of these people here; packed like a can of sardines. But still with a friendly atmosphere. With colorful, not too crowded mood. And the cleanliness of the city makes it comfortable. Much nicer to walk here than for example in Bangkok. Plus this city is made for walkers. Unlike Kuala Lumpur, where there are almost no pedestrian ways. Here you just hop on the streets and go with the flow.


What I don't like at all - or better said what I HATE - is the shopping malls and mania. I hate shopping. I mean I love shoes and skirts and dresses, but I hardly ever go SHOPPING. No, I rather just buy something if I see something, or go to shops that are far away from big crowds and sell unique stuff. But here everywhere you go you see shopping malls or markets and design stores etc. etc. etc. Some places it's impossible to run away and hide from them. I hate it, when, for example some men or women try to make an impression on me by showing off with design clothes. Yuuuuh. I respect other stuff more. With all the respect to those, who find shopping important and glorious. To those I recommend Hong Kong. Go, it's your shopping heaven and kind of a hell to us, who care about "other stuff".

So, might be, that one day I sell my apartment in Helsinki and buy an apartment in Hong Kong. NOT. No, that impressed I'm not, yet. But I could think of writing here couple of months. It's very inspiring here. That's why I again wrote too long a post. Sorry to those of you who don't care about reading. But then again, you don't have to. Read me.

Tomorrow morning I'm off to Philippines. I'm too tired to be scared. And I think there is no reason to being scared. I rather should just be excited and take it as it comes. Wish you all fun fun fun. I'm resting my feet now a bit and then hit the night. Have to find something cool for dinner. Naturally, in a small, creepy street restaurant. That's where the best tastes are hiding! Oh and uuh. I like the weather. It's not too hot and not at all cold. Except in the buildings or in the shade. So in a way it's no wonder that I have a slight cold.

P. S. I'm writing this in the lobby of the hostel and am pretty sure 2 Finnish boys just passed me. But because it's noisy and sometimes Chinese sounds like weird Finnish to me, I didn't get what they said. Anyways they were not talking to me. Today I haven't talked almost at all. Which is perfectly fine with me. Have had time to do what I want and clear my mind. Sometimes no talking at all makes the day. But then again poor person, who happens to be the next one to talk with...might have to close his/her ears after a while...