27 August 2007

26 August 2007 – Departures and return journeys

We were up early to ensure that Amanda and the children were at the airport for their 5:45am check in. After a week together, it was sad to see them go through the security and leave us on our own. The last three days although filled with travel had included some great times of having fun together.

We set out on our 5+ hour journey back to Joensuu with a somewhat emptier vehicle. By now Errol had become quite used to driving on the right hand side of the road but Marilyn drove part of this journey too. We called in briefly to the Valamo Monastery again since it was on our route and we needed the break from driving.

Back at the apartment, it seemed quite empty and quiet without the children. Tomorrow will be back to the work routine and getting back on track with the thesis.

25 August 2007

25 August 2007 – Wedding party

Today saw us up and travelling early since we needed to be in Masku by 2 pm. We did stop at a glass works and craft centre at Nuutajärvi. The glass works village was established in 1793. Again Errol kept the children busy in a playground while Marilyn and Amanda viewed one of the galleries. Some of the craft work was quite outstanding. Unfortunately not many of the crafts people were working while we were there. A small group of Ittalia glass blowers were at work in one plant.

The reason for coming to Masku (near Turku) was to attend a celebration of Tomi and Yue’s (Jenny) wedding. They were married in China about six weeks ago and this celebration was for the Finnish relatives and invited guests. We felt privileged to be part of the celebrations and enjoyed the Finnish hospitality.

Because Amanda and the children had an early flight in the morning, we had to travel to Helsinki in the evening.

24 August 2007

24 August 2007 – Jyväskylä

Marilyn and Amanda wanted to visit the National Craft Museum and the National Costume Centre so Errol minded the children in a playground by the centre of town.

Marilyn and Amanda report that the museums were well worth the visit and they could have done with more time. There was opportunity to experiment with all types of crafts in a specially designed workshop but they didn’t have time and couldn’t read the Finnish instructions.

Errol enjoyed his time with the children. The children really played well together and were prepared to tackle even some of the more challenging equipment. Both Matthew and Kathryn climbed up a rope ladder to a platform just beyond Errol’s reach. When they got tired of playing they walked down the street to meet Amanda and Marilyn for lunch.

After lunch, there was a visit to the Finnish Air Force Museum. It was packed with aircraft that the Finnish air force had used during its history. One of the interesting stories was about the swastika. The Finnish air force used a blue one up until 1945. Its early history had none of the evil connotations now associated with it.

From here it was a drive to Tampere where we had two rooms booked which were our most cramped accommodation on the trip.

23 August 2007

23 August 2007 – Olavinlinna Castle

With another beautiful sunny day, we went exploring the castle. Errol took the guided tour up into the towers while Marilyn and Amanda explored the free public areas and entertained the children. The castle is used for opera concerts in July and they were dismantling the stage in the main courtyard while we were there. The castle is a magnificent structure built on a small island in a channel between the upper and lower lakes. Savonlinna is really an island town as well.

At one stage this castle was part of a disputed eastern border between the Nordic state (Sweden, Denmark, and Norway) and Russia. The castle began to be built in the 1480s and is the best example of a medieval castle in Finland. The castle has been altered an extended by different occupiers over its history and had parts destroyed by fire in 1860s.

In the afternoon, we travelled to Jyväskylä. Here the apartment was smaller although the staff were friendlier and had our booking. They had even set up the second room with a third bed.

22 August 2007

22 August 2007 – Savonlinna

Errol spent the morning working on analysis of for his thesis and then in a research group meeting. We then packed the rental car and headed off on our longest exploration in Finland, a four day trip through the centre of Finland to Turku and then down to Helsinki.

The first stop was Savonlinna and the Olavinlinna Castle. We arrived in a thunderstorm and heavy rain so decided not to visit the castle today. Instead we went through some tourist shops and after checking in to our hotel went walking to look for raincoats as none of us had any and the children ended up playing splashing in a puddle.

We stayed in what are called summer hotels, which are really student apartments being rented out over the summer break. This one had two bedrooms, and a kitchen dinning area. It was quite pleasant although fairly plain.

21 August 2007

21 August 2007 – Amanda, Matthew, and Kathryn

Amanda arrived here on Sunday at about 1 pm after a flight to Kuopio and then a taxi from there to Joensuu (130+ km). It was good to see them although both children were quite tired and went to bed very early especially against British time.

Trying to fit in time with Amanda and the children has proved difficult for Errol as he needs to maintain progress on his research work. However, after working solidly through this morning, we all went to the Valamo Orthodox Monastery. This was originally established on an island in Lake Ladoga which is now part of Russia. Its icons and treasures were brought to Finland when that part of Karelia was ceded to Russia.

It was a really beautiful and quite peaceful, full of icons of all designs. Many showed a Russian influence.

18 August 2007

18 August 2007 – Busy but not exciting

There are no photos for this time period. The focus has really been on work and endeavouring to make progress although that was frustrated when the attempt to allow Errol to use the Joensuu network saw him unable to log into the computer for a few days. It has also meant time was spent rebuilding his working environment on the machine rather than doing analysis or writing.

Even with those frustrations, Errol did manage to do some analysis and wrote a section of the research methods chapter of his thesis. He has also learnt of a tool (Atlas.ti) that will help him with his analysis and tracking relevant quotes and references when developing his argument in his thesis. This tool was recommended to him by the South African woman, Adele, who now shares his office. She has been using it for some time to help prepare papers.

We decided last Sunday to attend a church service at the main Lutheran church. The service was in Finnish and turned out to be the confirmation service. It was interesting to see the formality and yet spontaneity with friends and family taking photos of the ceremonies.

On Monday, Errol presented a seminar on his research to the Educational Technology group of the Computer Science department. Marilyn came to provide moral support to both Errol and Adele but also found it interesting to hear of the interesting research that is happening. There was interest shown in what Errol had to say about variation theory and its application in teaching. At the lunch break, he talked with a physics lecturer about its application. Other discussions have flowed on from that.

After work on Tuesday, we were invited to go orienteering. On the way, we had to pick up our friend’s son from day care and we were invited to have a look through which was interesting. Errol entered the short distance event (2.5km) and completed the course. He was pleased that he managed to complete the course primarily on map reading although it took an initial bit of backtracking to get his bearings at the first mark. He realised just how much fitness he has lost.

Marilyn was asked to do an English language review of the professor’s wife’s doctoral thesis. The review took a couple of days and we, along with Adele, have also helped check and organise the references. It is good to work in these supportive communities.

An international Bible study is held every Friday night at the professor’s home. We decided to join them last night. The group included two Tanzanians, a Finn, two Kiwis, and a South African. It was an interesting experience and we look forward to participating again.

We were expecting to have Amanda and our grandchildren with us tonight but due to their flight being an hour and a half late from into Helsinki from London, they missed the only flight to Joensuu tonight. Amanda’s enjoying an unexpected night in Helsinki at the airline’s expense. We are looking forward to seeing them tomorrow. We did manage to find the Joensuu airport but it would have been better had we come back with them and not on our own.

08 August 2007

8 August 2007 – Unexpected trip

On Sunday evening we went to the home of the professor who had invited Errol to Joensuu. There we met a student from South Africa and an exchange international relations staff member from China. This led to an international trip to Koli yesterday with the professor and ourselves going on to Aholansaari. Overall a very interesting experience and with possibly some good outcomes for Errol’s research.

The group included a South African, a Chinese, a Maltese, an Iraqi, two Kiwis, one Finn, and the family we met up with had adopted an Estonian child. Our first stop was at a summer house on the edge of a lake where sauna, swimming and rowing had priority as well as a shared meal. From there we visited an original house that was being restored by a descendant of the original owner and a cave called the Devil’s church. It is one of the few caves in Finland.

From there it was to the top of Koli which is the highest point in the area. Up there the temperature was reported in the visitors centre as 33 degrees C. Even standing out on the rocky peak (340 metres), we were perspiring and looking for shade. We were told that before a glacial period this peak was more like our mountains in height. During winter this peak is used as a ski resort and people get to it by driving across the frozen lake. Certainly no chance of either of those happening yesterday. The car ferry was operating from Lieksa to Koli.

We had a brief stop at the professor’s summer house, where the rest of the group was dropped off, before heading on to Aholansaari. This turned out to be an island in the middle of another lake. Our arrival time at the lake edge was 10 pm and we took a boat trip in an outboard powered dingy to the island. Errol and the professor had a sauna and swim in the lake before bedtime. At the sauna and lake edge they met a group of men there for a theological meeting so the professor and the men had a theological discussion.

Aholansaari was established by the leader of one of the revival movement here in Finland and is used for Lutheran confirmation camps and other retreats. There was a big open sided auditorium that seated 700.

We were at Aholansaari because two of the local universities are planning to work together more and Errol was to share some of the experiences from Massey. After Errol had shared with them, we explored a small part of the island (the island is 150 hectares). Errol managed to do some analysis work in the afternoon and Marilyn did some letter writing although the heat was making it difficult to concentrate.

On the way back, the professor organised for another staff member to travel with us and we had a discussion about Errol’s thesis and how this staff member might be able to assist for much of the journey. This sounds quite promising.

05 August 2007

5 August 2007 – Sunsets and architecture

After writing our last blog entry, we went out to see whether we could catch a sunset over the Pyhäselkä lake by which Joensuu has been built. Joensuu means, according to the dictionary that we brought, river delta and Suu means mouth of the river. A river flows through near the centre of the city and into the lake. We arrived at the lake’s edge about 8:30pm to a clear view of the setting sun and left after the sun had set around 11pm. As we watched the sun moved almost more along the horizon than it dropped in the sky. Some of our photo sequences show a time lapse effect as the sun sets.

Although the days are still long, we have noticed that by 10:30pm, the sky to the south is considerably darker than it was two weeks ago when we arrived. Looking north, the sky is still extremely light.

Our apartment is shown by the arrow in the photo. We have two south facing rooms. The bedroom has a deck which captures the sun and warmth during the day. Finnish architecture is regarded as functional rather than ornate. This shows in the sharp angles and clean lines of the buildings. This doesn’t mean they lack in character. One feature that is very obvious is that they are constructed to keep out the cold. We are told that it can get to -40 degrees C here in winter. The windows are triple glazed the outer pane on our apartment windows can swing independently of the double glazed inner pane. Even with doors and windows open the apartment stays extremely warm at this time of year.

In our first week here, we had seen a group of canoes on the river. These take fourteen oarsmen and a coxswain. Today, we discovered five of these parked in a pond area in an island in the centre of the river. We understand that they may race these canoes.

02 August 2007

2 August – Routine taking over

There hasn’t been as much exploring of the local area over the last few days. Our only excursion was to hear another brass concert at the main Lutheran Church here in Joensuu on Sunday evening. It was a ten piece band that included seven brass players and a guest trumpeter as well as two percussionists. We were seated in the second row from the front so experienced the full impact of the music.

Errol’s focus is now moving to his work and he is trying to establish a regular routine to ensure that constant progress on analysing the interviews and writing for the thesis is occurring. Marilyn is focussing on her stitching tasks and keeping the household tasks running. She is also planning for Amanda’s visit in a couple of weeks.

The university is quiet at the moment as the Finnish Summer holidays are just coming to an end. We expect this to change over the next two weeks as they begin to prepare for the beginning of their next academic year.