Thursday, May 12, 2011

Eurovision Song Contest 2011

Easter is over, Vappu is over and spring is debatably here. Weather here in Kouvola has reached up to 22C (71F) on some days and one has to search for snow piles left over from winter. Shorts, skirts and tees are the norm and in a city where you walk everywhere, even that can get hot. The birch trees are blooming green leaves, flowers show up here and there and the sun shines often. And long. Sun rise here is currently around 4:30am and sunset hits around 9:45pm. And night is dark blue and getting lighter. I'm starting to wonder if the birds here sleep at all as they can be heard chirping and tweeting at all hours of the night. Ah, Finland.

I should also mention that spring comes almost overnight here in Finland and that's not an exaggeration. One day birch trees are bare and the next day there are green buds on them starting to show and the next, it's like the entire country has exploded in green full leafed trees. Niko commented at one point that because summer is so short here it's almost like the grass and trees and everything grows as fast as it can to take advantage of the time. I think it's true.

The big adventure recently is that my glasses broke. :( They were 3 years old and plastic and split right across the nose piece. But a place in town managed to glue them back together until I could decide on a new pair. And after a long search to various optometrist shops in city center I found a fun pair of Etnia glasses called Atlantis that are really fun and just my size. They are actually more comfortable than my last pair, which kept sliding down my nose everytime I looked down to read or knit, no matter how often I tightened them or had them tightened in shops. I had an eye exam while I was there since my prescription was old and so now I can even see better, which is fantastic. The actual lenses are thinner than my old ones too and don't distort my face or eyes either. And because Finland is such a small country, they arrived from Helsinki the day after I ordered them.:)

It's exam time at LUT, so Niko and I have had many trips to Lappeenranta. I sit and read library books while he is in exams and we usually find food before or after either at a Turkish pizza place or gas station or the university cafeteria. I should explain that gas stations in Finland are much more posh than in America and contain cafes and fresh sandwiches or hot meals and tables to sit and eat. The other day I had some skyr. Most food in Finland comes from either Finland, Sweden or Germany, but skyr is a yogurt that comes from Iceland! I'd never had food from Iceland but it was fun. It even comes with it's own little spoon that unfolds to eat with it.

The latest adventure in legal affairs is my residence permit. After I got my new (name changed) passport back from Helsinki (US Embassy) we immediately filled in and submitted the paperwork for my residence permit, which will allow me to legally stay here for one year and then is renewable after that. It was something around 16 pages in forms plus the paperwork we attached with it and included an essay. We turned it into the police station and had a short meeting with their international people there and within a week they called us back and we have interviews scheduled for next week. We will be interviewed separately and have no idea what to expect but hopefully all will go well. Everyone there seemed really nice and helpful. After the interviews, which will take about an hour and a half, they send my application and their comments to the immigration office in Helsinki and they determine approval. As a ,tourist, you don't need a visa to come to Finland unless you are working or studying here, but the limit is 90 days. Luckily I am allowed to stay here while they process everything, even if it takes months. Wish us luck.

 In other news, tv season is ending and so all of the finale shows are airing AND it's VERY SOON Eurovision. Martti won Idols, which was a good choice.  (To play video of winning song, load link and video will open automatically). Linda won Muodin Huipulle (Finnish version of Project Runway), though I think Jussi should have won. There are also more imports from American tv such as Jon and Kate + 8, Oprah, 30 Days and Friendit (Friends). But the biggest event of the YEAR is this Saturday and that's EUROVISION SONG CONTEST. I first learned about Eurovision before my year study abroad in Germany.

For those that don't know how Eurovision works, almost all of the countries in Europe participate and each send one representative or group and they sing and put on a show and compete against all of the other countries. And anyone can vote by mobile phone or SMS but they can't vote for their own country. So everyone has a fair chance. Think of it like American Idol, only for an entire continent. And it's a huge show with lights and costumes and lots of parties. Finland this year has a super contestant, Paradise Oskar. The first semifinals were Tuesday and enough people voted for Finland so he will be in the finals! Tonight is the second semifinals and then Saturday is the big event. This is actually the first year I've seen Eurovision in Europe and on television. Previously I have only watched it in America online. I was surprised to find that Finland subtitles all of the songs sung. Most songs btw are sung in English or the country's native language.

But the fun in Eurovision is not to watch the quality, well made songs sung by talented performers. No, the fun in Eurovision is that so many countries each year put out the most ridiculous and absurd and opposite of talented musicians and songs. Frightening costumes, random acrobatics, rap combined with opera, green pants, random lyrics like ,boom boom chaka chaka,. And this year, like every other, is filled with them.

So if you are bored and have time, please feel free to suffer through these:
Iceland (actually very good!)

and the worst of them all...

Portugal   :O

Tonight's semifinal features Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovia, Denmark, Israel and Sweden among others. France, Spain, UK, Germany and Italy all get a ticket for free since they are the biggest countries and pay the most for the show. Germany won last year, which is why it's held in Germany this year. Will Eurovision come to Finland next year? Euroviisut 2012 Helsingissä? Anything could happen...
Paradise Oskar from Finland

T. Kati