maanantai 27. toukokuuta 2013

The Art of Farewell

Time is a peculiar measure. So often we picture it as a line, but at least for me time seldom is linear. On the contary, it feels more like a matter that suddenly expands or quickly shortens as it will and I can do absolutely nothing about it. And why to wonder this now? Well, it is just so strange how it feels like last week since I posted my previous blog, but actually months have passed and many things, both minor and major have happened inbetween. One of the majors is that I have completed my thesis and given my final diplom recital; within few weeks I will be graduating as Master of Arts. But this also means, that my time here in Slovakia is coming into the end - the time that feels both long and short, wide and thin. And so, the time of farewell is at hand.

During these two years of my studies I have travelled so much that at times it has been almost exhausting. I have travelled by planes, by trains, by busses... and mostly alone. Travelling alone has made me feel strong and independent, not least because it seems women travelling alone are such a rare resource of nature. But most importantly, travelling alone has offered me a box seat for observing my surroundings (and things happening inside my head as well!). How many farewells I have witnessed during this time it's impossible to count. Some of them have been silent, some of them filled with tears, some cold, some passionate... and some of them have been, ofcourse, my own...

But is there really any right way to say goodbye? Does it ever actually feel good, not to mention easy? No matter how many farewells I have seen or experienced, it still feels like an art hard to master. Maybe the key would be to remember, the moment of goodbye is not an enemy. Farewells are close relatives with Endings: though inevitable, though sometimes hard, they always bring something new along. And like an ending gives a promise of a new beginning, a farewell gives a promise too - a promise of reunion. And yes, in case of Slovakia and me it is this promise I will count on! Moreover, for me saying goodbye to Slovakia means also a reunion with my home and beloved family. So there are mixed feelings of sadness and joy involved in this farewell. But how to say goodbye in a proper way to lovely Bratislava, the place that has won me over and become my hometown? My last week here is beginning and I'm helpless: how to make most of it, how to make my "tribute" to this town, especially as my other foot is already on its way back to Finland?

The main problem might be that it hasn't hit me yet that this era of my life is really, really ending. But I am increasingly given hints about it: my big suitcase is open on the sofa waiting to be filled, my apartment is dusty waiting for the final cleaning, and a bunch of things that will not fit in my suitcase is telling me to start to sort it out. And there is a certain feeling in the air filling me with restlessness. Yes, the period of  giving up has begun. Should I feel panic? One week is certainly not enough to eat in all of my favourite restaurants, to visit all of my favourite cafes, to walk all my favourite streets or run all my favourite routes... And even if I would have the time, it simply does not change the fact that I'm leaving and in the end forced to say goodbye. But wait a minute! Isn't the essence of the time I've spent here, formed by the fact that I have actually found all these places? That I've been given a chance to feel like home, a chance to experience so many great moments with great people in great surroundings? These moments are now wonderful spots on my not so linear timeline. They cannot be repeated, but can be cherished. So, instead of panicking, maybe the best way to say farewell is to walk little bit slower this week, to take a little bit closer look at things around me - and just take a deep breath of Slovakian air.

keskiviikko 13. helmikuuta 2013

About creative thinking (the avocado case)

First I would like to underline how I cherish all the experiences Slovakia and Bratislava have given me the past one and half years. I love living here, though it has ment being separated from my husband, family and friends leading lives in Finland. I'm positive I will yet be telling many stories about the incidents and observations I have made in here. But for too long the subject of creative thinking (and how it relates with living here) has tickeled on my tongue.
    During the time I have lived and studied in Slovakia, I have come to notice that the major differences between our cultures might well be found from the area of creative thinking. One might now ask, what actually is creative thinking? Shortly put, for me it means especially the ability to come up with quick and useful solutions in situations where the anwers cannot be found from ready-made formulas or patterns used before. When inspecting it from this angle, I think it is not wrong to say we Finns are rather skilled in creative thinking. And why do I want to bring up this subject now? - Because I never realised it until it wasn't around me anymore. The most apt example how I came to notice the absence of creative thinking is the story including avocados...
    For days me and my friend had been trying to find eatable avocados we could use in our salad. In the end of our grocery shopping one day, it was like a beam of light would have come down from the heaven upon the two lonely avocados - delicious, perfectly ripe avocados. With haste we added them into our shopping cart. We were so happy, already tasting them in our minds. In this food market all the veggies and fruits are weighed in the cash desks. The time for weighing the avocados came and somehow, the cashier couldn't find the code of the avocados from her list of fruits and vegetables. She went through the lists again and again, without trying to communicate with us in any way (probably she was intimidated byt foreign young women not speaking fluent slovak). After a while, she finally called some colleague to help. They went the lists through again, together. There was a code for green avocados, we could see it, but obviously the avocados we were trying to buy were not green but black. After ten minutes of talking amongst themselves and shrugging shoulders they decided they will not sell the avocados for us. Devastated, we were forced to move on from the cash desks, taking the final glimpse of the perfect avocados that stayed alone on the desk...
    I couldn't believe it actually happened. Why couldn't they come up with some solution in selling them to us? Somehow I'm sure a similar situation in Finland would have ended up in us walking out WITH the avocados. A little touch of creative thiking would have saved our day.
    I will not further analyze why is "thinking outside the box" so often such a rare phenomenon in Slovakia. I'm sure it has lot to do with cultural and historical background, but I leave those investigations for anthropologists. I also don't mean to say that creative thinking wouldn't exist here at all, ofcourse this is not the case. Instead I cannot help but asking, how could things change in Slovakia with active supporting and encouraging of creative thinking? Would people be generally more satisfied in everyday life? Would working communities become more dynamic? Would economic level start rising? I can only guess. Meantime, I suggest we Finnish people started valuing more our skills in creative thinking and nourishing them consciously in all fields of life.