Saturday, 29 March 2008

3 Nights of Cooking

27 March 2008:
Cooking at home: well, Marcos doesn't cook all the time, i decided to try my cooking skill at some chicken [i guess it was somewhat Chinese-styled] came out really good [not to brag] but well seasoned, healthy, etc. :)

28 March 2008:
Biryani: Indian-Pakistani-style [kris, merie, wasiq, salman]. Tingting and I just watched :). Biryani is a family of primarily South Asian dishes made from a mixture of spices, rice (usually basmati), meat/vegetables and yogurt. It was fun, delicious and exciting and was done in our apartment, since our room mate is now gone :). The stove was hell to clean after, though.

assignments, and theAnd finally, IMMIT just had to have another Bar-B-Que, in the midst of exams, and ending of spring with snow still on the ground and temperatures bordering zero, we decided once again to do what we want. [in the third picture you can see Ken attempting Chinese Style BBQ with chop sticks] :|

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Finnish Reggae

So, i found myself tonight at Klubi, at a Finnish Reggae concert, yes: Finnish people singing Reggae in Finnish. We went with the two best Finnish girls that we know, Anniina and Marianne. It was a bit strange, seeing these "white" people with their long blond rasta hair, doing something that was more common to "black" people [no racial connotations implied]. In the end it was an awesome show, they really pulled it off, and the guy can sing really well. Their style was utterly unique, with a slight hint of the Finnish rock culture in there.

It's just a bit odd for me, that i actually enjoyed it, knowing that i never had any particular liking toward reggae before. This European Erasmus journey really redefines you as a person, and allows you to open up and accept various cultures, music, and people.

Friday, 21 March 2008

French Misconceptions

It's strange that we know and grew up hearing things and phrases such as "French fries", "French vanilla", "French toast", "French manicure" and "French maid". Yet, in France, NONE of these were apparent. It's almost as if the entire world is fed a lie, a misconception of the definitions of France.

If you ask a French person what is French vanilla, they have no idea what you are talking about, they drink cafe au lait. [Strange that this was my favorite caffeinated drink as a teenager and i ended up in France]. It's like asking the question what do cows drink, the answer of course is not milk but water. As for French fries [called pommes de terre frites in French or simply frites], they were invented in Belgium; I have not seen a French maid to this day in France; nor a French girl with a French manicure.

The best is French toast, the French people don't even eat breakfast, they eat what is called "petite dejourner" which is breakfast but does not contain any of the traditional "English breakfast" salt items, such as eggs and French toast, what they have is the "French breakfast" which consists of sweet items, such as pain au chocolat [croissant with chocolate :S].

Who came up with these things? We think that it's so "French" and the French don't even know what it is or don't use it themselves. These lies about France. It just goes to show that the world is still quite segregated and cultures are unknown to many and misunderstood by masses due to commercialism, tourism, and modern Television lies, rumors, and urban legends. All these were wrong, I did, however, experience the real "French kiss", and that i can assure you is the same as or better than traditionally portrayed. ;)

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Pieni ja ihmeellinen: Small and Wonderful

On our trip to Lapland, we had an awesome sound track made by Salman, 3 CDs played for over 30 hours repeatedly, we know them by heart now. But in the interims, where we played radio, a beautiful Finnish song was repeated constantly. After having recorded piece of the song on my camera, listening to parts of words over and over and extensive searching, i asked a Finnish speaking friend and he identified the lyrics, which i Googled and found the song name which I then YouTubed :).

here it is:

Pieni ja ihmeellinen [by band: Retropop]: it means "small and marvelous/wonderful" and some parts of the song are about "our planet is so amazing, we call it earth". Hahahaaha.

Lapland [Laponia]: Home of Santa Claus

How can we go to Finland and not visit Lapland, with its capital, Rovaniemi, having continuous settlement since the Stone Age, and its lowest temperature ever recorded was -47.5 °C, recorded on January 28, 1999! It is the home town of Santa Claus, Reindeer and lots of Snow.

We decided to conduct this trip via car rental, since other means were limited, expensive, and not as flexible. The Finnish Road trip was awesome, with us guys in one car, stopping when we want, [pit-stops] at gas stations, meeting random people, speaking what little Finnish we knew [combining our knowledge and speaking and understanding as one!]. We practically drove through the entire Finland driving 1500 km, and over 30 hours [of course not non stop].

Here are the major stops:
Turku [Home]>Tampere [Nothing]>Jyväskylä [Frozen Lake]>Kinnula [First Cottage: Left]>Kalajoki [Frozen Sea & Sledging]>Oulu [Technology City]>Kemi [Pit stop]>Rovaniemi [Lapland's Capital]>Napapiiri [Santa's Village & Arctic Circle Border]>Kemijärvi [Pit Stop]>Posio [Second Cottage: Right]>Kuusamo [Pit Stop]>Suomussalmi [Pit Stop]>Kajaani [near Vuokatti - Hanna's Village]> Jyväskylä [Pit Stop]>Turku [Home].

Ole Hyvä!
[There you go!]

So, we did what we had to do, things that people in have never done in their lives[pictures are in order]: walked on a frozen lake, walked on the frozen sea [actually who knew that the sea could freeze for miles?], sledged down a hill on a mattress belonging to people we don't know, did sauna and then rolled in the snow naked [in minus 15 degree temperatures], Crossed the ARCTIC CIRCLE [come on we're almost to the north pole, on top of the world! I have a certificate to prove it].

After all that, we still managed to see the REAL Santa Claus [who is Finnish] and his office/workshop two minutes before it closed! [oh, Santa's elves are certainly hott & Finnish]. Semi-magical, with Christmas music playing all the time everywhere, and semi-super-commercialized and touristic and stupid, Santa Claus is so cheap he did not even give us a piece of candy.

In the north here, it's much easier, convenient and practical for people to own either reindeer or huskies [snow dogs] neither of which we have seen, or snow mobiles as means of common transport. It's amazing the further north we got, the less roads and cars, and the more snow mobiles we saw, it was so cool, no limits, no roads, just pure snow and snow mobiles! Could you imagine such power and such freedom and such speed? Unfortunately we didn't get the chance to rent any since the places were closed. :(. It's very very weird, you see a lot of people [what little people you see], like this lady, walking around the small towns with these sleds, it's almost like a storybook. A lot of skiing as well, but in the end too expensive for us, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

We saw the Aurora Borealis [Northern lights] briefly but not in its full glory, which was a bit of a disappointment [as was the lack of reindeer], but it was good enough for us. We even passed by the Lumberjack's Candle Bridge [a.k.a.: The Kemijoki Bridge] in Rovaniemi, which is the one printed on the back of the 500 Euro bill! We saw a famous bridge ok! In the end, we were on a driving spree, rushing to get back home to catch some sleep before class the next morning. However, no class was going to stop us from seeing our Finnish friend whom we met in Aix-en-Provence, France! Hanna, the tallest girl i know, and really fun. We Stopped off in Kajaani to see her, then headed on back home, blasting music, talking life, playing poker, winding down the glass in minus 26 degree temperature, and just having fun to keep awake...

Until our next road trip...Biljana, Jose, Ken, Marcos, Mark, Merie, Tingting, Salman, Waziq, & meeee of course!

For more pictures see:

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

The Languages of Europe

Europe is quite diverse, and so are it's people, cultures and especially Languages. In each country we visit, we are bombarded by strange and exotic new languages, words, and signs. It's strange that I say exotic, because to me it is, but to them, they consider our languages and cultures exotic. It's almost as similar to how surprised the Finnish people reacted when they found out that a Caribbean guy [me] listened to Finnish metal, when in reality a lot of Finnish people listen to reggae and salsa. Anyway, the language is so different everywhere you go, and suddenly apparent [as it wasn't before] that it makes you wonder how is it possible to have so many languages in this world. I even got into the habit of researching a bit about the language, and learning various survival phrases in the language before i visit the country. Thank you is a universally essential word to know. Kiitos [Finnish], Merci [French], Paldies [Latvian] and Tänan [Estonian] :) [source].

Anyways here are some pictures of very strange words in various places, i'll leave the meaning up to you.

Above: Cassis, France [Pussy sweets: "la gourmandise est naturelle": meaning "Greed is natural"]

Above: Stockholm, Sweden [Slottsbacken: meaning "castle hill"]

Above: Stockholm, Sweden [Street Sign Nemesis: unknown meaning]

Above: Tallin, Estonia [Kiek in de Kok: meaning "See into the kitchen". Canon tower of the city]

Above: Turku, Finland [Megapussi: meaning "mega bag"]

Above: Turku, Finland [Minipussi: meaning "mini bag"]

Above: Turku, Finland [Pantti: meaning "deposit fund, paid for recycling"]

Sun-deficient Sundays: The sun is trying to kill me.

Bar-B-Que and Poker: When one is immersed in the cold tundra-like atmosphere of Finland, it often leads to unimaginable or drastic reactions. It was on the 2 of march 2008, core winter, that this insane group of IMMIT Erasmus Mundus students decided to have a Bar-B-Que - in the snow! We were so missing the days of France where the weather was warm and you can do these activities without worry. Plus, we had a BBQ shed here made just for us [facilities which weren't available to us in France], so we decided to test it out!

After having gone in search of coals to several stores, groceries, and supermarkets, and being rejected, met with faces of utter amazement, and comments that "are you crazy to have a BBQ in winter, we don't have coals, and Finnish people don't BBQ in winter.", Wasiq finally found some wood that we could use as fuel. So we set out to do what no Finn has done before; we are IMMIT and we do what we want, when we want, after all "without dissent there can be no democracy". So there we were, Wasiq, Jose, and I, trying to spark up a flame in minus 5 degrees weather ;), but in the end it was a success, the fire kept the food [and us] warm, the snow kept the beers cold, and we kept the party going. After the BBQ, the guys gathered in the common room to play some very addictive poker, we even have the "chips". [more pictures of Sun-deficient Sundays: IMMIT BBQ].

Caribia: Two days after, on the 4th of March 2008, longing and craving even more for the SUN, and FUN, and the warm beaches of the Caribbean, being sun-deficient as were were, and stressed from the partying, i mean studying life, we decided to go to Caribia. "Holiday Club Turku is a spa hotel near the center of Turku. It is built around a pool area with a genuine Caribbean atmosphere - no wonder the spa hotel is also called the Caribia. The exciting pool section and pampering spa treatments guarantee that both children and adults have a memorable holiday." [source].
  • eight pools
  • three water slides
  • warm outdoor pool with caves
  • junior pool and children's pool with small water slide
  • 16.7 metres (55 ft.) fitness pool
  • cold pool beside the warm outdoor pool
Now that's a resort! Of course it wasn't really the REAL Caribbean, it was just a touristic stereotype, but none-the-less, it was an enjoyable time, since this is the closest [8618 km away] you can get to warm home in this cold country. The Finnish really treat their people right, offering services and facilities such as these so we don't get depressed and kill ourselves. So we had a fun, relaxing, afternoon in this spa [which Trinidadian goes to a spa man!?], for just 8 euros [quite cheap for all this]! Also interesting was the signs they had with the various Caribbean island and the distance and direction from Turku, it's always amazing to see something about Trinidad in Europe, since most people don't know that it exists. There was even an out door [heated pool] and a freezing one, where you can run out dive into the freezing one and come back to the warm one...Finnish and their traditions...I'd say, this craving and desire for the sun is going to kill me... The sunsets here, however, do get to be quite beautiful sometimes. [more pictures of Sun-deficient Sundays: Caribia].

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Erasmus Mundus: The Experience of Experiences.

In the summer of 2007, my life changed dramatically. I was accepted to pursue a program, which was more diverse, more adventurous, and more incredible than I could ever have imagined. A few months before, I resigned from my job in order to gain more time to research and source universities for my post-graduate studies and thus, further my education. I would advise anyone that it is a long and difficult process. There are many forms requesting mundane information, application fees which need to be paid, and rejections that need to be faced; but in the end I assure you it is all worth the time and effort.

I was selected and offered an Erasmus Mundus scholarship of €42,000 [Euros] to study in France, Finland, and The Netherlands for 2 years to do an International Masters in Management and Information Technology [IMMIT], spending a semester in each country. An intercultural explosion of 21 people from 13 different nations [including Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, India, Malaysia, Mexico, The Netherlands, Pakistan, Portugal, Serbia, Trinidad, Vietnam, Zimbabwe], we were assembled in the beautiful Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France for the first pilot semester. The core focus of the program was to enhance international relations and cultural appreciation and promote strong global networking so that we could work better in the growing world of globalization.

IMMIT: I must say they have succeeded in this mission, since the members of my program are now so well bonded in friendship and well versed in each others cultures that we sometimes refer to ourselves as the IMMIT Family. The Erasmus student life is definitely not strictly about study – it’s about cultural explorations, parties [promoting networking and socializing], traveling, friendship, love [as I experienced in France], and discovering yourself in dynamic and different environments.

Culture: Europe is quite different from Trinidad, the Caribbean and the rest of the world including the USA. Intertwined in its old architecture, arts and people are rich and extensive histories and cultures that eagerly wait to be unfolded by any Erasmus student. We have not only the opportunity to bask in each others traditions and lifestyles but also those of each of the countries we visit, thus equipping us with an ultimate Euro-global culture portfolio. Our diverse and exciting journey through French culinary delights, cheese, wines, language, people, warmth, laid-back lifestyle [much like the Caribbean], and sitting at outdoor cafés watching the world pass-by, brought us to fall deeply in love with the country and its people. My semester on the French Riviera also revealed to me the incredible extent to which the French culture and language is embedded in that of Trinidadians’.

Travel: The obvious accessibility to the other ‘Club-Med’ countries [Spain, Italy, and Portugal] from France was also a heavenly gift of travel adventure possibilities. It is easier for anyone to travel and explore the vast continent because of the breaking down of legal barriers of travel in Europe, the ease of access between countries and growing number of low cost airlines. As students, eager and young, we did not let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity pass us by.

Finland: At the end of the semester, however, we had to bid farewell to our beloved France and were immersed in the contrasting environment of the ‘North Pole’: Finland [for our second semester]. One of the coldest places on earth [or at least to me it is; where the temperature drops to -30 degrees Celsius in core winter, the sea freezes over and one may drive a car on it!] Finland: famous for Sauna [they invented the word], vodka, and Santa Claus. The Finnish culture is much more structured, direct and depressing than the French. It is not as bad as the rumours claim however. Although the sun is masked almost perpetually by grey clouds, and there is darkness [to the north the sun doesn’t rise sometimes for weeks] and cold, the facilities and services offered are to the utmost best. They utilize the highest technologies to deliver efficient services [we pay to do our laundry by cell phone text messaging]. Additionally, the student life is excellent, and well organized, with several cheap trips, parties and events, and an ingenious array of social programs [such as a language friend, a Finnish friend, and a tutor: to help you get settled in]. We are now nearing the end of this semester and are growing to like this Finnish lifestyle, hopefully in summer the affection will be amplified [by the sun].

Open the mind: This experience in fact opens the mind and expands the perspectives of any person. There becomes a growing international awareness, and concern is emergent for global issues that were once ignored. Take for instance the Serbia and Kosovo issue which affected our Serbian classmates deeply, and all of us were equally concerned. Most people in the western world may not even know where Serbia is. With regards to the course content, my point of view that a master’s degree required excessive studying was changed. The program is setup in such a way that no IMMIT student is forced to ‘cram’ for large exams. Conversely, group work is promoted, and the process is more about shaping the students mind, and changing their global thinking habits to that of an organizational and group-oriented manager. It is not about forcing ideas and theories into memory but about encouraging us to think differently and like managers. This thinking process will be embedded in us and allow us to make quicker managerial decisions in the future naturally.

Life Management: I believe that I have already matured significantly into a better person as a result of the entire experience and the first year is not even over yet. The Erasmus Mundus journey certainly builds the character, experience and abilities of any person. Not only regarding education, but also respecting life: living on your own, living with people, working with people, time management, travel management, event management [for parties], people management and conflict management. A student is offered comfort, leisure, friendships, love and high quality of life, and still emerges with an exceptional education. If all else fails, at least we have free accommodation offered by friends from all over the world.