Reconnecting, part II

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Another advanced election week only a month after the previous. Another 70 hours of work requiring constant alertness squeezed into seven days. Another week of stressful sleep that leaves me dizzy when the alarm clock goes off at 6.30 AM.

You could call this post Reconnecting, part II.

Why do I do the work? A good question – especially when you consider all the negative aspects of the whole thing. Why would anyone want to put oneself through that?

For the democracy?

To show my respect towards the fact that we are able to vote and it’s a great honor?

Because of the voters? The atmosphere? The politics?

Unfortunately, no.

I do it for the the money.

(Side note: I also do it for the great company – we have an awesome crew at the place where I work so I’ve had fun times as well, but money is the main reason I put myself through the week.)

I am graduating in just a few weeks – if my thesis is accepted, which I’m pretty sure will happen – and after that I am taking a break from the ordinary, day-to-day life of this work-driven society.  To be able to do that, I need money.

(I’ll tell more about my plans later.)

So, here I am: tired both physically and mentally, taking a few days break from more or less everything before diving into new projects.

Despite of that, I’m kind of happy I did this week of election work, too.

My bank account is happy and my mind a bit more free when it doesn’t have to think too much about economical things.

But most of all, the good thing about the 70 hours of work in a week is that as I haven’t been able to write during those days, my mind has still been actively thinking. Right now, my brain is filled with ideas for blog posts, fan fiction short stories and revisions on Yellow Tails and I can’t wait to get to dive into all these things.

However, right now, this is all the text I can manage to produce today. I’ll be back next week with some new thoughts on life, the future and the past. See you on Thursday!

 

 

Reconnecting

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The past seven days have gone by in a whiff. I’ve done the hours of two work weeks in just one, which means that I’m quite tired and, most of all, out of sensible things to say.

In Finland, whenever there’s an election, the actual voting day is preceded by an advanced voting which lasts a week. During that time, one can vote anywhere in Finland. This year, up to 36,1 percent of all entitled voters decided to vote in advance – and I was there to register their votes during those seven days.

(Not all of them, of course, but several thousand of them)

So, at the moment, after doing 12-hour days many days in a row, I’m just trying to rebuild my thoughts and return to my own daily routines of writing and working on my thesis. I’m reconnecting to my usual life, so to speak. That means that today, I don’t have that much to share, except maybe this one thought:

When there’s a line of voters waiting to put a number on a ballot, and that line goes on for 11 hours straight, the person registering all those votes slowly realizes how everything loses its value.

A vote so precious for the ideals of democracy becomes just a folded paper with a number on it.

The number written on that ballot, the one so precious for the candidate because it means someone is supporting him or her, becomes only a compilation of straight and curved lines, meaningless in its simplified existence.

And a signature, so valued and influential throughout history, becomes a scribble, only blue ink on paper without a beginning or an ending, meaning nothing (especially because most of the people don’t even know why they are signing the paper).

In summary: when an act is repeated over and over again, it loses its symbolic value. This holds for not only elections but anything that bears a symbolic value – from a signature to an act of kindness to a single word such as thank you.

But how to preserve that symbolic value?

See you next Thursday, readers, with some new thoughts and a reconnected, refreshed mind.

DVD Roulette

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Last Friday after lunch, neither me or my partner felt like staying at home and doing ordinary Friday afternoon activities (which for me would’ve been transcribing thesis interviews from that week). We decided to do something else, something out of the ordinary: visit a flea market.

A few kilometers outside the city center is this huge hall where anyone can rent a booth for a week or longer and sell their possessions. The place is filled with so many odd, fascinating and sentimental objects that have become someone’s trash and are now sitting on those shelves, waiting to turn into someone’s treasure.

So, instead of transcribing and watching videos on Youtube we took my grandparent’s retro car (that still has a cassette tape player) and drove to the flea market.

Like Very Modern Museums

Walking through the long corridors and observing everything around oneself is quite interesting. The items tell so much about their previous owners – but seeing what people are selling also tells a great deal about the world around us.

The objects that no longer serve the need of their former household tell the tale about trends that once were but aren’t anymore. For instance, a year ago, the flea market booths were filled with Angry Birds brand products and other knickknacks. This year, it is all about the first models of VR headsets meant for private use and tv-series, films and books related to vampires people seem to be ready to let go of.

(We also found a Pippi Longstocking wig – apparently in some households even the most legendary children’s book characters grow old)

In a way, flea markets are like very modern museums where the collections are constantly updated. What were people interested in a year ago, two years ago? What were the trends five years ago but that have now had their peak moment and are starting to fade away, becoming a part of the past? And on the other end, what old things are people interested in, what objects are they looking for?

Flea markets show another side of the society that cannot be seen in the shopping malls: instead of always buying something new and shiny, on flea markets it’s all about respect and curiosity for old things; about new value found in second-hand products.

Many people visit flea markets because they are searching for second-hand clothes, decorative items, books to read or spare parts for some project they are working on. However, for us, flea markets have a different meaning.

Searching for Something Odd

As you know, we’ve been moving around a lot for the past three years. This has led to the point where we only own things we use often and buy only the things we really need. Therefore, when we visit a flea market, we aren’t searching for clothes, lamps, stereos or other things sold in those booths. Instead, we are on a specified mission: something we call DVD Roulette.

The idea is simple: we wander around the hall and search for DVDs people are selling. However, our search is restricted by some criteria: 1) we try to find a DVD we haven’t heard about before, 2) that is not a mainstream movie, and 3) that sounds interesting but a bit odd – something we probably wouldn’t choose if we were in the store and would have to pay full price for the movie. As these DVDs tend to cost somewhere between 50 cents and two euros, it doesn’t matter that much if the movie’s good or not. Therefore, the odds for finding a suitable movie are extremely good.

We have played the DVD Roulette twice before. Funny enough, we have never done it in the same flea market or even in the same city twice, and we’ve noticed that the selection varies greatly depending on the city.

The first time we played DVD Roulette was in a small city in a very odd flea market. We ended up picking a pretty lousy movie, a romantic comedy. But already on the second time we had better luck ( this time in a very small town and a very small flea market) and found an interesting sci-fi movie.

The third round was on Friday, and we found a film called Wonder Boys from year 2000. It was almost too mainstream to be chosen as it had famous actors in it, an Oscar-nomination for best screenplay, and the film reviews promised a ”fun, fantastic movie”. But because the flea markets today are mainly filled with mainstream movies (for instance, we found four (4) Devil Wears Prada and probably three sets of the Twilight trilogy), finding a film odd enough has become more challenging. Therefore, Wonder Boys was probably one of the best we could find, and as neither of us had heard about the film before, it felt like a good choice for this round of roulette.

Freeing the World From Objects

You might wonder why we do this sort of activity. Wouldn’t it be easier to just pick a movie online or on Netflix and skip all the searching? Well, let me explain, because there are many reasons why we enjoy the game of DVD Roulette:

First of all, we get to see a film we’ve never seen before and, as I mentioned, probably never would see if not for this activity.

Second, it is great entertainment to both search for the movie and to watch it later.

The third benefit of the game is the feeling we get: when we purchase a DVD someone doesn’t want to own anymore, we both feel like we are liberating the world from yet another semi useless object. This is because one of the rules of the DVD Roulette is that after seeing that movie we throw it away. We don’t keep it, we don’t give it to anyone or put it away into a box of things we tend to sell later. We simply discard the DVD.

Some might think it’s a questionable act, and maybe it is.

But this is how we play the game.

(I recommend you to try it the next time you’re visiting a flea market, and if you do, come back and tell me how you found the experience.)

The Banana Peel and Other Observations

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The Unfortunate Notions From An Almost-Monthly Commute

1 One Angry Man

It’s Monday, 9.50 AM. I stand in the white snow waiting for the bus that will take me to another city further up North.

I hear a yell. It’s an angry, loud yell that turns into a furious, on-going rant. The person ranting is a middle-aged man with a hanging belly, built slowly during the years of heavy drinking. He’s mad at everyone and everything he sees and hears and most of all, he is angry at the world and the way the world has decided to organize itself.

I turn away and try to let his voice blend into the monotonous sounds of the traffic.

2 One Banana Peel

Fifteen minutes later, at 10.05 AM, I have taken my seat on the bus and begun my five-hour journey along the coast to a town I used to live in. Twenty-or-so minutes in, I notice a banana peel squeezed between the window and the seat in front of me. I’m amused and appalled at the same time. I wonder if it’s my duty to do something about the sad yellow thing that is categorized as bio waste: should I pick it up and take it to the trash can a few seats away from me? Or should I let it be but mention the peel to driver when I leave the bus?

Then I get curious and wonder why the banana peel is there in the first place. In my mind, I can see the chain of actions that led to this particular moment right here. How the previous passenger got hungry, ate the banana and then wondered where to put the peel. And how it clearly wasn’t a very rational thought to put it there, in-between the window and the seat where the driver wouldn’t find it and instead, it would stay there until it would begin to decompose and stink. Simply because a trash can wasn’t at the previous passenger’s arms reach.

I sigh. I sigh because of the stupidity of people, the laziness, the thoughtlessness of a human mind. And I think that it isn’t up to me to pick up the banana peel and throw it in the trash. I’m done pleasing other people, tired of being the doormat or the wallflower who does the chores no one else wants to do.

I consider myself lucky that the banana peel still seems to be pretty fresh and was  left there earlier today or yesterday.

3 One Visit to the Toilet

One-and-a-half hours into the ride and I need to pee. I stand up from my seat, walk down the stairs to the tiny toilet and do my business. After I’m finished I look around me. There’s no disinfectant to apply on my hands and neither does the water run so that I could wash my hands.

A few seconds of quick thinking and then: what else can a girl do than suck it up and be okay with germs for the rest of the ride?

I walk back up and return to my seat. During the next twenty minutes, I notice two others using the bathroom as well. As I observe them returning to their seats, I can’t help but think that I know for a fact that they haven’t washed their hands or applied any disinfectant. And because I know and I know that they know about this issue with germs, it’s as if we’re all in on the same, uncomfortable secret. Riding this bus isn’t the same anymore.

I wonder how long I should wait before finding the apple I have in my bag. I’m starting to get hungry. But the germs in my hands will then transfer to that apple which I will take a bite of and then the germs will get inside me.

Well. Maybe that’ll help me build up a better immune system?

Let’s hope for that.

4 Two Thoughts on Food

With 193 kilometers or 2 hours and 23 minutes left of my journey, I finally eat my apple, already forgetting about the germs. Funny, how priorities reorganize my mind. The sun is shining, finally, and the whiteness of the snow reflects the light back in a way that makes the world seem fresh.

In my own ears, the crunchy but juicy bites I take from my apple sound loud. But I know this to be an illusion: it is only I who thinks it’s loud but to the outside, it’s just the normal sound of chewing. A few years back, the fear of loud unboxing of sandwiches and noisy chewing kept me from eating while commuting but today I know better and don’t care anymore. Not after I realized that everyone else eats just as loudly as I do and I never hear them. So that’s that, and I reach to grab my sandwich packed in a noisy plastic wrapper.

I notice the man sitting in front of me. He’s eating a banana. It would be funny if he would try the same hiding trick as the previous passenger did and hide the peel in the same spot. Slowly but surely, a banana peel pile would have been created.

(By the way, try saying banana peel pile many times in a row. It’s fun and not at all difficult and might make you smile.)

5 Some End Notes

Suddenly, there’s only less than an hour left of the journey. Fifty minutes, to be precise. As we’ve moved more up the North, the clouds have taken over the sky and a grey heavy upper atmosphere promises snow for the night.

The good thing with this oh-so-long journey is that I’ve progressed in my reading. I listened to a few chapters of The Fountainhead, which was a pleasure, and continued to read The Secret History for an hour, digging myself deep into the crime-solving scenes of the second half of the book. I even listened to an episode of a podcast, which was an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert. Her bestseller Eat, Pray, Love never made a lasting impression on me, but after listening to that episode I was really impressed by her positive attitude to life and how she devotes herself to every book that she writes.

The journey is coming to its end. I still have 49 minutes for my thoughts, a few moments to look out from the window and let my mind wander. I notice the amount of snow: there’s more here than in the South which isn’t really surprising. I wonder if the people who live here actually like living here, the long dark winters and the short Summers with almost never-ending sunshine. I would like to know what these people do and what they believe in.

Because, although I lived in this city for a year I wouldn’t want to move back. The city is too isolated, the winter too dark and cold, and the place in all its hopefulness doesn’t offer enough alternatives for me.

In this city I feel caged in with only a limited amount of possibilities. And I don’t like that.

Luckily, I will be sitting in this bus again tomorrow, now riding it in the reversed direction. I’m already looking forward to getting home.