torstai 31. joulukuuta 2015

The Stress free Christmas in Berlin

This Christmas we decided to relax: We met our relatives in longer period and left the Christmas days just for us two and headed for Berlin. Our program was very loose and I enjoyed the every moment no being in a hurry. 

We flew there on Christmas Eve and took a taxi to our hotel on Kastanie Alle. We have reserved our Christmas dinner at a restaurant near Friedrichsstrasse:  Sprout soup first and goose breast as a main course. It tasted delicious. There are some things in German cuisine I don’t like very much. One is the treating of potatoes: Why on earth should the potatoes be altered to sticky goo!? Another thing is the frequent usage of different cabbages: Four different ways in a dinner is just too much, however delicious the different dishes might be.

Me with my Chritmas goose breast

Berlin was really quiet as a big city and we walked through the almost empty streets in moonlight to our hotel.

                                                     At our hotel bar

The Christmas day was for two things: We visited Potsdam and met our Berlin sisters. So in the morning we took a S-Bahn to Potsdam. The weather was warm (about 10 degrees Celcius) and it has obviously been warm for a while. So many plants have made a false conclusion that the spring has already come. For example cherry trees, roses, and rhododendron bushes were blooming.

Potsdam is an old military and administrative town. The streets and houses along them told me a story about wealthy and organized life in 18th century. The blocks of flats from DDR period  behind the scene disturbed the illusion a bit.

We visited the interesting castle Sanssouci. It was the place where Frederick the Great (1712–86) lived his summer periods. He was known as a strict warrior king but at his summer palace he led his stress free life. He had many highly civilized long term guests, for example Voltaire and “servants” as Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and he played and composed music very skillfully. He didn’t live with his wife (which he was made to marry by his father) and had no children. The guests were only men what makes one wonder what was really  going on. On the other hand the royal problems with making babies seemed to be very common in these days, for example Swedish Gustaf III and French Louis XVI.

The Christmas day evening we took a S-Bahn to Nollendorf to Transsisters Berlin club. It was at a tiny gay bar. There were about ten sisters and some of their spouses. We had a nice chat with many of them. I’m rather lousy with German language but fortunately my wife speaks it like a native.

     With a Transsisters Maja in Nollendorf

In the Boxing Day morning we went to the Church in a suburb of Berlin to listen to the Choir where our friend sings. The music was a mass by a French baroque composer Marc Antoine Charpantier. It was made on basis of Christmas carols and made as such sounded more like hilarious court dance music than church music, composed by coeval Germans.

After the concert we had a long lasting lunch with lots of stories and sorts of German food. In the evening we wondered along the Berlin streets and Christmas markets. 

                                                 At the Berlin Alexandeplatz

The shops were closed so we really had time to spend again. We had our evening snack at a Rheinland style bar which had a name meaning it is an embassy of Rheinland. It is very popular among the federal administrative who moved from Bonn to Berlin when Berlin became the capital of Germany. And indeed, the relaxing atmosphere in the restaurant really is like in Cologne.

                                                No, the sausage is for us two....                              

                                                By the river Spree

On Sunday after Christmas the shops were mostly closed so our trip was sort of non-shopping trip. We travelled here and there in Berlin and finally took the bus to Berlin Tegel airport - without any hurry and stress.  

Holocaust memorial, Potsdammer Platz

                                               Someone undressing the Brandenburger Tor Christmas tree

keskiviikko 23. joulukuuta 2015

The rest before the Christmas

Now I’ve done everything I’ve decided to do before the Christmas – excluding packing for our Berlin Christmas. So it is a convenient time to report the rest of the fall.

In November I was constantly active. I took part in some TransHelsinki events. Our club, DreamWearClub organized a seminar on discrimination free sports. The main organizer and our president Minna-Maaria has done figure skating a couple of years and has had some difficulties in competing in male series and in female costume. She is very strong hearted person and has gradually made her point and the resistance has decreased very strongly. The only thing is the wrong costume takes some points from her score. Let’s see what happens when she goes to compete in Eastern European countries…

The other event I took part was the Transgender Day of Remembrance, the day to remember the transgendered people who had been murdered. In Finland I don’t know any case but in some countries, for example in US that kinds of sad stories are quite frequent. There was a candle light ceremony in the center of Helsinki. The member of the parliament Jaana Pelkonen gave a speech.

We also made an overnight trip to Tallinn. I had my wig box in my luggage but it turned out it was empty. To settle out the situation I hurried to the Kaubamaja hat department.

In the end of November I took part on Seta assembly. Seta is the Finnish national LGBTIQ organization and the DreamWearClub is a member of Seta. I met many old and some new friends there and we made some important plans how to implement the new laws concerning the equality and anti-discrimination of  LGBTIQ people.

In Finland December is time for numerous Pikkujoulus (“ the Little Christmas”). I took part in two. The DreamWearClub had its own with some Finnish Christmas cookies and Christmas carols.

Another one was a pop up ladies’ night in the centre of Helsinki. The audience were mostly young lesbians. The Father Santa visited there. As he said, he had his sacks full and he was mostly after the naughty girls. Well, he also found a single good girl and gave her rather naughty costume as a Christmas present to change her habit. I danced, played plays and laughed a lot with other girls.

The end of the belly dance season was a bit different because our regular coach Marinka had a baby in the beginning of December. For that reason we had her substitute Ulla who really made us sweat. For me the tempo was a bit fast to learn the new choreographies but on the other hand she was very demanding and strict which made me try my best. We also practiced our choreography for the Christmas show under her supervision though it was originally composed and started by Marinka. Taking into account these facts we made rather good performance. Unfortunately YouTube has removed the music but the rhythmical element of our dance can be still clearly seen.

So now I start to pack. Merry Christmas and happy New Year to everyone!

lauantai 14. marraskuuta 2015

Telling about the fall 2015 so far

My fall has been so busy I didn’t have energy to write blog earlier than now.

In September I did a lot of on line lecturing so I also had an opportunity to do it at home. There were definite advantages in doing so: I could skip 1,5 hours trip to work and back and I could be really the person I am.

In the beginning of October we had our traditional Hauho weekend. That was the last one I organized and I’m happy to give the task to the other people. Our organization DreamWearClub also changed its president, Kristiina Piippola became the successor of Minna-Maaria Lax. I had drafted the opinion survey of the DWC to the members and also to non-members. I presented the conclusions of the survey to the audience. The main message was the members were mostly satisfied with our activities except the web pages which really are in the need of total reconstruction.

                                         Kristiina and Minnna-Maaria

Two weeks after that I visited two places in Helsinki with my good friend Hanna-Maria. The first were bauty, health and fashion expo “I love me” in Pasila expo center. The economical depression didn’t show in any way, the place was crowded with ladies. There were so huge amounts of products and brands so we should have been much better prepared to get the useful information effectively. 
There were also department of all kind of mystical life style, (so called…) therapy and healing brands which we passed quickly although they however seemed to pay a lot of attention from the other women. 

For us the fashion department was the easiest one so we did some shopping there, including my brownish home dress. The fitting room facilities were rather rough and ready, we just had to go behind the exhibition screen. But what would we have had to hide from other ladies who tried their findings with us…?

                           Trying on and purchasing the dress

Our next main target was the new gay bar called GLounge Sky Bar. It is in the very center of Helsinki and it used to be a private club, partly owned by Jenni Dahlman, the former wife of Kimi Räikkönen. The entrance of the place is very discreet, just a staircase with a tiny sign behind the two lifts. The bar is in the eighth and ninth floor and the ninth floor is behind almost the all roofs of Helsinki. Also the eighth floor gives the wonderful view to the downhill direction.
It was about 2 p.m. on Saturday when we entered the bar. We were instantly warmly welcomed by the other customers, mostly young and middle aged gay men. I spite of the invitations we chose the silent corner and yet we had a constant flow of men wanting to chat with us. We also asked them to take pictures of us (we were doing a reportage to our magazine). One of men insisted to take pics from the angle of view where our legs would show best.

                      At the smoking balcony

                                                      At the 9th floor bar

After taking the first sip of the atmosphere of Sky Bar went for a snack to the other gay bar called Cavalier. Even there we were in the middle of the attention, one gentleman praising Hanna-Maria more beautiful than Gloria Swanson.    

We had a plan to see how the atmosphere at Sky Bar changed in the evening so we returned the place at 9 p.m. It seemed to be quite empty, the hilarious gentlemen had gone somewhere else. But in less than hour the situation changed:  The elevator doors opened and closed and the crowds of people, mostly hetero men and women entered the bar. Maybe they have caught the message of the slogan of the Sky Bar as a hetero friendly gay bar…  

In Finland we have quite old fashioned legislation concerning the transgender rights. For example to change ones official gender you must be castrated, a married trans person must divorce and hormone therapy is not allowed to trans persons under the age of 18. About a year ago the ministry of social and health services made a plan paper to change the legislation to this millennium. It wasn’t particularly radical, for example it didn’t contain the idea of self determination like it does in Maltese and Danish legislation. However, when our government changed and we got the ultra conservative and populist True Finns party in it the progress of legislation stopped. We still will have the law about the equal marriage and because of that also the trans law has to be altered, because there is no reason to force people divorce because of the gender change. But the True Finns refused to do any other changes to the bill.

That’s why Finnish human rights organizations decided to organize a demonstration for the better trans law. I was one of the organizers as a member of DWC and Seta (Finnish national LBGTI-organization) trans team. The main organizer was the Finnish office of Amnesty International.
The primus  motor of the demonstration, Pia Puu Oksanen

After the demonstration we went to the Ministry of the social and health services where we had arranged an appointment to minister Rehula. We had a 15 minutes meeting with him and we handed a petition for a better trans law. He replied he understand the sometimes almost unbearable situation of trans people but indicated he had very limited changes to do anything in this government with True Finns.

When we were at I love me –exhibition we got the invitation to beauty clinic called DeSheli. I had my appointment there the same day as the demonstration. I knew there would be about one and half hour session containing various treatments. DeSheli turned out to be a French Israeli brand, consisting mostly Israeli originated products. As a beauty clinic it was quite big, there were about twenty beautician rooms. Actually it was a part of global and rather aggressive selling campaign. First the beautician asked me if I had any allergies. To test it, she put a tiny drop of each stuff she would use to my arm while she had her introduction speech. The offer was a Aluminum suitcase containing 18 different care products for the whole year. The price was “only” 1800 euro “just today”… I gasped for breath a little but let her continue. First she made the different care procedures to the right side of my face. As she promised, the skin felt much smoother and even the wrinkles seemed to have got smaller. I asked if it was the “Cinderella effect” because of swelling of the tissue which she firmly refused. Before the left side the sales lady came in and introducing the “last offer” 1640 euro, containing some extra cares at the clinic. I said firmly no thanks and let the beautician finalize my face cares. When I went out, I met a lady who happened to go in the same elevator up and down. We both agreed the selling tactics was too aggressive for us Finns – and of course the price was too high. Also the fact that the products were not altered according to the skin type and that the beautician talked about the collagen going through the skin, were not very convincing. But anyway I had some ideas to care my face skin more intensively than I have used to do.
The last week of October we had a wig evening at the DWC club evening. The boys from Suomikallio wig store had a huge selection of wigs to show. Many of the visitors bought some. I had visited at their shop a while and chosen a little longer wig with curls. That one I intend to wear in special occasions.  

Hanna from behind

I had an idea to go to Halloween ball for the first time in my life. I knew my friend Tiga would be there. I told my idea at the wig club evening and invited to younger and maybe more shy girls to go there with me. One of them called Hanna took the challenge and said she might come… And after some persuasion she really did it – it was her first night out. We met at Seta office where we have our dressing room. After some preparation she was ready to meet the world. I had my car so we could drive near our destination, Don’t Tell Mama –night club. The theme was “Bloody drag” which was somewhat ambivalent thing to the transvestite who tries to live a normal life without any extra labels. But anyway, I dressed in red and tried to look a bit wilder than I do in normal cases. We met Tiga and many other old and new friends and had a lot of fun. And of course it was a huge experience especially for Hanna.
                                                      Ready for the Halloween

My regular belly dance teacher Marinka is pregnant and she stopped to have lessons in November.

                                Saying bye for a while and wishing good luck for Marinka

The substitute leader Ulla has a different style: She is sportier and the tempo during the lessons is much harder. It is a good thing, especially for my physical condition. Marinka had introduced us a choreography for the Christmas show and we practice it also with Ulla. I have to practice it at home too, I’m a slow learner.

                                               Doing homework in my new wig

maanantai 3. elokuuta 2015

Full moon trip to Rymättylä

July in Europe has been exceptionally hot but the heat has skipped Finland totally – it has been rainy and rather chilly here. At the end of July we decided to chase the rain from our friend’s cottage in Rymättylä and succeeded in that: The rain ended on our way after the Lohja ridge and started again when we came back in the same region two days later.

We had ordered the tickets to Röölä Meriteatteri. As in the last year, the story was about the people around the herring fishing between the years 1945-1974. The reason it ended was the Island decision to broaden their fishing area, which reduced the possibilities for Finns to fish there. Röölä, the tiny village in Rymättylä, was the head place for the Finnish herring fleet.

We didn’t manage to make the weather warmer though it stopped raining. So we preferred staying near the barbecue fire to stay warm.

Instead of herrings we ate a lot of barbecued salmon.

                                     There was a flaming sunset ....

                                                   …    and full moon after that.

The next day was a bit warmer so we decided to have a little exploration to the islands of Rymättylä. This time we used a car and a ferry for about ten cars to get to the outmost island. There we entered the harbor from where we could have crossed the sea area called Airisto to get to Nauvo.

                                                The ferry harbour

The islands are mostly covered by forests and here and there are some potato, wheat and barley fields. Nowadays Rymättylä is a very important potato producer. The highest points and the coastal line are mostly rocky.

We also climbed to the hill called Karhuvuori (Bear Mountain). 

Our “mountains” are quite honest compared with other countries but the view to the archipelago was really pleasant. There were a little observation tower, originally built for the aerial surveillance.

When we arrived to the cottage we heard the message that Finnish Nazis had had a demonstration in Jyväskylä town and after that they had beaten a left wing activist whom they happened to spot along their marching route. A week before that a member of parliament Olli Immonen (True Finns) had written a Facebook update that seemed oddly like an invitation to “the battle against the multiculturism”.  
The text was in English and resembled oddly the expressions of Norwegian mass murderer Breivik. The text waked attention enormously and there were about twenty thousand people in different parts of Finland demonstrating against his statements.  Later he denied he had meant any concrete battle and he claimed he do not know any Nazis – even though there are a plenty of evidence that he has taken part to some rituals with them and they share some organizations where his in leading position. Anyway some idiots took his message literally and acted.

The incident made us talk quite serious issues that night. Finland is still quite monocultural with rather small number of refugees and immigrants. If we do the things right we could manage to keep Finland warm and accepting and integrate the different ethnical groups in friendly and appreciating manner. And of course we must avoid the clashes between LGBTI-people and immigrants – the thing that Nazis try to provoke.

When we were leaving Rymättylä we still bought potatoes and some other organic vegetables in quite strange shop: Potatoes, garlic tomatoes, kale, a steelyard, a calculator, a notebook and a churn. No people. So we took what we wanted, weighed it, calculated the sum and put the money to the churn!! It seems it is the habit there, because we did it in same way in another place last summer. When we left the shop we dreamed of the world where everyone could trust to each other that way.