Friday, June 10, 2011

Residence Permit!!!

Today was a huge week because my residence permit was approved and I am now officially a legal resident of Finland. In case you've forgotten, this is good for one year and can be renewed each year. And after 4 or 5 years I am eligible to apply for citizenship, though most people wait much longer and just keep renewing their permits. 

On Tuesday we were just having a normal morning, doing things around the apartment when I get an sms on my phone. It reads ,You are kindly requested to deliver your passport to Kouvola police station,. Needless to say we immediately hopped in the car and drove over. And after a short meeting and some more form signing, I got an official stamp in my passport that says I am a legal resident. 

It is very surprising that it took such a short time. Luckily my case got handled solely within Kouvola and never had to get sent to the immigration office in Helsinki or anything. For most people, it takes 4, 5, 8 months to wait and wait and wait for the resident permit to even process. Mine took only 3-4 weeks from the time I turned the first forms in. 

 The next steps were to get Kela card (covers everything from social security, unemployment, health ,insurance, etc all in one system) and open a bank account. The Kela card is now in process and may take a few weeks but I now have a bank account (hello euros). 

Would you like to see what part of our city center looks like? There is a Kouvola webcam located on the top of a tall building that gets updated now and then and on one of our errands Niko had to go to the 10th floor of the building, so I took a photo while we were there.

 The tall building on the left is just apartments but there are shops in front of it. To the far left in the distance is the (now defunct) ski jump. And that cluster of buildings on the right is Hansa, our little shopping center that sells clothes, shoes and has some small food places in it, for example Arnolds, our donut place. 

As you can see the snow is now just a memory but I am reminded often that it will come back (how could I forget?), but for now and especially today, Finns are sweltering in excessive heat of 30C/86F. And may I remind you, here is no air conditioning. 

Here is part of the grilli menu
But wait, that's not entirely true. There is air conditioning in grilli! Grillis are like little kiosks where you just walk up and order food, usually burgers, sausages, french fries, standard greasy delicacies for a reasonable price. And then you can sit around outside at tables and eat or there can be a small inside section to eat in the cool air conditioning. The closest thing I can compare them to are those stands at pools or lakesides. The great thing about grillis for me is that every one I have seen thus far  has vegetarian options. All have veggie burgers and the one we went to yesterday while in city center had vegetarian pita, which was delicious. And what grilli food is complete without something to drink. I had orange juice with my pita and I really like the straws here that they use on these small juice boxes. They have two bends in them. Niko had milk in cute little cups. The fun part about milk here is the little cow on the front of the container. On these milk cups, the cow is riding a bike with a helmet on. But depending on what type  of milk (1.5%, fat free, whole) you buy, the cow is doing something different. Going fishing, rollerblading, all sorts of fun stuff. And the cow on the bike originally was riding without a helmet, the helmet got added later on. But the pictures and activities change on a regular basis so it's fun to see what the cow is doing next. This cow only exists on the Valio brand milk, the other brands just have basic cow or nothing at all.

It's ice cream season in Finland. Ice cream stands are open everywhere, ice cream shops opened their doors long ago and set out tables, and even the ice cream truck can be heard playing it's music driving down the street (at 9pm I might add). In supermarkets you can also buy individual ice creams and yesterday Niko and I got some on a trip out. There is one brand called Pingviini (penguin) and I have been seeing it's commercials on tv for some time for a popcorn ice cream. Intrigued, I had to try and I must say it was delicious.  It's vanilla ice cream with some yellow color mixed in that tastes like popcorn butter, in a sweet way. And then there is a caramel spot in the center that tastes like popcorn caramel. The cone is lined with chocolate and has that chunk of chocolate at the bottom. And at the top of the ice cream are little popcorn kernels, but they are soft and chewy like candy. Whoever created this deserves a medal.

T. Kati 

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