In other words … our family is visiting China currently!
We are currently in China visiting the family here. We have planned this trip for a long time and we especially wanted to ensure that it would be best possible for Nooa. So many new things for Nooa, first flight ever, first stay in the hotel and meeting many of the people first time.
Due to the quite large amount of luggages, we decided to take a bus to Helsinki airport since it is rather convient way to go there - after all, the bus goes from front of our house and ends up to the front of terminal with minimal transfers (we chose the one which had only one transfer, a quick one along the route to airport connection). Well, plans didn’t work out so well. We were approaching Tampere when bus driver was announcing that there is a tehnical problem with the bus and everyone needs to change buses in Tampere. My travel luck apparently also affects buses. The friendly bus drivers were helping us with the luggage and soon we were again on board a new bus on our way towards Helsinki aiport. And rest of the bus trip went smoothly. Nooa was happy to sleep in his basket and basically slept the whole trip.
We arrived to Helsinki airport and proceeded with our check-in, or basically just leaving our luggage and buggies to luggage drop-off desk. In the security check it looks like you are treated a bit differently when you are traveling with a baby, just my feeling but of course we were also occupying the whole belt with our stuff and it took a long time to pass the security since we were traveling with such a large amount of stuff which you need to take out from your carry-on luggage (all the computers, liquids, baby food and so on).
Nooa was excited to look around in the airport, lots of people and new things to see and hear. Most of the time he was awake and enjoying, he took a short nap in the lounge (first lounge visit for him :-) ) and it really looked good for our travel that he can take it very easy.
We got on board the airplane among the first ones and started to get settled down for our seats. We noted that there will be two other babies in the flight as well so there was naturally real possibility for the “chain reaction” when one baby decides to cry, other two will join.
The whole flight went rather smoothly since Nooa happily enjoyed his bassinet and slept most of the trip. The amazing part was that he didn’t participate too much the crying games other two babies were doing to each other and Nooa basically announced his dissatisfaction only when something was truly needing attention. Flight was uneventful and rather smooth.
We arrived to Beijing and managed to find all of our luggages and just when we were wondering where they would deliver the buggies, they were pushed in a cart to us. Just outside of customs we had our Hertz rental car agent waiting for us informing us that our rental car with a driver is waiting ready to transport us to our hotel. We did last minute reservation for this one when it became obvious that Beijing taxi wouldn’t cope with our amount of luggage and it was just easier to have a bigger car ready for us.
We arrived to Grand Hyatt Beijing and it was obvious that the weather is rather bad in Beijing. According to the weather forecast, it was getting a bit better but you weren’t seeing too much far away and the air smelled weird so all the news about smog were true. Oh well, we were any way going to stay in Beijing only for one night so it didn’t matter so much. In the hotel reception they delighted my attention to details by welcoming me back to the Grand Hyatt (I know it is something they get from their computers but it is a nice detail) but the real surprise was the next sentence: “We noted that you are traveling with your family today so we upgraded you to a bigger room to accommodate you better”. Okay, very suprised and very much welcomed gesture. And our eyes were really large when we saw the room, two bedrooms, living room, office work desk, kitchen and two bathrooms. We were going to have enough space for ourselves.
For the evening we had planned to visit one new hot topic for Beijing - new modernized style of Peking Duck. According to the reviews, really good service and surprisingly modernized version of the typical duck meal in Beijing. And it was definitely worth the visit, the food was extremely good and service was truly a example of it’s own.
Our next day plan was to fly from Beijing to Qingdao and once again we got really nice service at the airport. At the check-in we had to walk around a bit since we were actually directed to the special service desk since we were traveling with an infant but when we found it, everything started to move smoothly. We got to keep our buggies until the gate which was a nice surprise and helped naturally our way inside the airport. At the security check we were directed to the special line and it was good call since once again it took some extra time to pass. A quick visit to the lounge and then to our gate where we once again boarded among the first ones after leaving our buggies behind.
After the smooth flight to Qingdao, we arrived and collected all of our luggages and proceeded to meet Da Jie who was already waiting for us with the car. We managed to load all of our stuff to the car and started our drive towards Jiaonan area. Just recently they combined some of the surrounding areas and nowadays Jiaonan is officially part of Qingdao so the naming topic is a hot topic for the area and people living here. Along our route, we passed the longest bridge over water, Jiaozhou Bay Bridge which was now open and fully in use (last time we were in Qingdao area, it was still under finishing and not opened).
We arrived to our hotel, this time we had chosen the new less than one month open first Western hotel in Jiaonan, Four Points by Sheraton because we wanted to see how it is. I remember when they started to build it and we saw the first signs promoting the hotel and we decided to stay there one day. And now it was that time. The hotel opened in 18th of December, 2012 and we were really happy to see such a new hotel and experience how this type hotel arrives to Jiaonan. In the previous trips we have stayed in the Detai hotel since there wasn’t exactly any other choice but now the situation has changed and it also shows how the area is getting development because also some other new hotels are currently being built nearby.
We entered the hotel and there was a services manager waiting in the lobby for us. Immediately after we got inside, he approached us and introduced himself. Quite a first impression, being addressed by name by a manager, something typically happening in more expensive hotels only. All the paperwork was done and then we got the next news from services manager, we got upgraded to a nice room on the 18th floor. We got into our room, very nice seaview from our room and really large room with very nice decoration and modern style layout.
So far, the hotel has been really magnificient. Different managers come to greet me which of course makes me really happy and Fangfang thinks it is funny how I like the attention. Everyone also likes Nooa and comes to see him when we are walking inside the hotel. I really hope the hotel can keep this kind of friendliness and service also in the future. How hotel is now presenting itself, it is definitely the place to stay when in this area. Excellent hotel and located in really nice location, especially in summer time it is going to be really good to see the ocean and the beach right next to the hotel.
So, here we are in China and everything is going really smoothly. Nooa is happy just like any time at home and enjoying his time in China. I think he is understanding that this isn’t home but he is curious about the surroundings and really happy to have all the different people to play with him.
I had an opportunity to finish this year’s travel by travelling to Japan. Completely new country for me, a new culture and something I have wanted to see for some time already.
The travel was naturally business related so I actually couldn’t see much but I had some opportunities to explore Japanese culture, one needs to eat anyway every day so at least I was able to see some food related culture.
Revolving sushi (Conveyor belt sushi) became quite familiar by multiple visits, Shabu-shabu was a good experience while nothing so much different compared to Chinese hot pot and I was also able to experience some Japanese style grilled chicken called Yakitori. From all of these, Yakitori was definitely the best since it presented the typical situation which I like: you end up to the restaurant where maybe only one person speaks some English, the menus do not have any English and no pictures and you just end up trying everything in blind. And this is the way you end up to taste some very delicious things.
After the birth, it was time to make the last preparations at home before our son was coming home. So, I started to put together the baby bed for him.
And today it was finally the day when I was able to drive to hospital and not come back home alone. So it was the first car trip for him and he slept the whole trip. Such a good and peaceful traveller! Being at home, it is now new time for all of us, we need to get used to the new life and new schedules. I guess, it won’t be alarm clock any longer alone mandating when to wake up and when to sleep, he will have his own schedule and let’s see how much he wants to sleep.
This week has been an exciting one. Fangfang started to get real contractions in early Monday morning (03:00) and we knew that the birth is going to happen sometime in the future. I was guessing that already on Monday evening there would be birth so I stayed home waiting and being ready. While we live in the countryside, it takes about 45 minutes to get to the hospital so I decided that it wouldn’t be good idea to be in the office when time to go is happening.
Well, we didn’t get into the hospital on Monday but things were moving on so there was hope. On Tuesday morning I decided to stay still at home because situation seemed to be going forward on quite good speed. On Tuesday evening we were in quite good speed already but not just there yet so we decided to go to sleep if it would be possible. We finally started sleeping at midnight but I was suspecting that it wouldn’t be very much possible for Fangfang to sleep since contractions were coming quite close to each other and pain was already quite high.
On Wednesday morning, Fangfang woke me up at 02:00 and told me that she is ready to go. Apparently she didn’t sleep at all while I got couple of hours sleep which was really useful considering how long day we would be having ahead of us. We finally left to the hospital at 03:00 and they started the preparations when we got there.
Then something interesting happened, the hospital is the biggest one in this area and sometimes get surprising amount of mothers and few times per year it is possible that there are too many actually. It is rather rare and doesn’t happen very often but it happened now. We had to wait until we were able to get into the birth room and it was a long three hours. Finally at 07:00 we were given a birth room where we then spent the next hours … very long hours.
Things were moving on but rather slowly so we spent in the birth room totally 14.5 hours before birth. But healthy baby boy was born for us at 21:20 on the evening of Wednesday 15th of August. It was a long way and I am really proud of Fangfang how well she was able to take this very long and difficult path.
Our boy was rather big one, 3.805 kilograms and 52 centimeters tall. Healthy and currently has very thick black hair, which of course can change to something else in near future but at least now everyone in the hospital is admiring his hair. So far he seems to be quite patient and peaceful, wondering the world around him and especially that weird looking person who is supposed to be called father. I am not completely sure but I think he is laughing everytime he sees me so I must look quite funny for him. And yes, I know, babies of this age do not actually laugh but I like to think that he finds me funny.
I came across with the article describing how Europe starts from the other side of Baltic Sea. And how Finland is rather weird, boring and ugly place to live. According to the article, Finns typically do not talk to anyone and are quiet and different places do not look very inviting.
Part of me of course wants to say this isn’t true, and part of me says it is true. Of course you naturally think that this kind of writing is wrong and people who say something like this do not know the truth. But at the same time it is partially true.
Finnish people are rather quiet people and big cities have become less and less Finnish. You see international brands everywhere and cities aren’t any longer what they used to be. They have also become a bit more unsafe, at least feeling like that.
But it isn’t a complete truth. This is now second time I am living in Hämeenkyrö and it is feeling different than during the first time. I just walked out today from the grocery shop and I was thinking that I should write something about this and then I came across with this article describing how Finland isn’t exactly European. When we moved to Hämeenkyrö, I was more like a city person. At least I consider myself like that. I didn’t want to have unnecessary discussions with people and I was feeling hurry all the time. Certainly the office life is now even more busy than it was back then but I have noticed that when I come to Hämeenkyrö, I can tolerate slower life much easier than before. I have noticed that I have time to have long discussions with people in the grocery shop and I have time to wait.
There are lots of small things around me what has made me thinking that certain kind of slow motion living and old fashion living is returning to Finland. The traditional countryside peace of mind where you don’t worry too much about the busy life and you appreciate small things.
Some time ago I needed to renew my passport. I tried to do it in Tampere but the queue was impossible and would have taken over half a day, reserving the time would have pushed me to wait for two weeks. At that moment I remembered that we have a police station in the nearby city. I drove there in the morning and without any kind of queue I submitted my passport application and I was ready. Most of the time actually was spent when I was just chitchatting. And another topic drew my attention, there were some teenagers bicycling across the street and all the cars stopped - this doesn’t happen in big cities but surprisingly in this small city (which doesn’t have any traffic lights), car drivers actually gave way for bicyclers. Nobody seemed to be in hurry. I have been trying to do the same in Tampere and usually it just creates the situation where other car drivers around me try to create dangerous situations where they don’t stop while I have and pedestrians cannot know if they can trust car drivers.
And lately, I have noticed that I am waiting patiently when people are chitchatting in the grocery shop line and when it is my turn, I do the same. A person who moved from big city and never talked, is now chitchatting! I have found myself looking something to buy in the grocery shop and one of the members of the staff has told me that I shouldn’t buy this particular fish because Fangfang already bought that earlier the same day. First of all, they know me, and second, they know Fangfang. And they remember what she bought. I consider it amazing and something I never would experience in the big busy city.
What happened today what made me think to write this article? I picked up some basic groceries and one of the members of the staff in the grocery shop once again asked how is Fangfang and if we have already news about the baby. Apparently the whole shop is waiting for our news about the baby. And they are excited about it.
Some people might say, well, it is a small countryside town and people are bored and of course everyone knows everyone. But that is the point, this kind of friendliness and social life is important and I feel it is coming back to Finland. Maybe only to countryside towns, which are badly suffering from lack of services and people moving away. But maybe some of us are moving back because we want to go back to simpler life and where we don’t have to worry about unsafe big cities or maybe we are tired that the local hypermarket doesn’t have anyone working there who would even remember us.
Friendly Finland exists, it is just hidden.
Some time ago I spent five weeks travelling. The schedule was pretty much same all the weeks, I always returned back home for the weekends and spent most of the time my workdays somewhere outside of Finland. During the five weeks, I visited Dallas, Rome, Munich, Singapore and Dubai.
I did some statistics about over all of those days, I spent 91 hours 55 minutes in the airplane and 35 hours 18 minutes in the different airports. Totally 127 hours and 13 minutes for travelling from one place to another. Quite many hours in the airplanes and still what is amazing is that I didn’t and still don’t feel bored with the airplanes while I spent so many hours inside them.
During these weeks, I saw couple of new places, Singapore and Dubai, and one new airline for me during these trips was Singapore Airlines. I spent quite many times some time in London Heathrow because many of my flights were connecting there.
Some of the highlights from my trip; it was rather hot in all of the places. It was unusually hot in Rome and Munich and I think it was ordinary temperature in Singapore and Dubai but very hot for me. :-) In Dubai, it was practically impossible to walk from hotel to the office (a short few hundred meters) in the day time because it was so hot. In the evening it was almost possible and we did it couple of times. In Singapore we found really nice Chinese restaurant near our hotel where I was able to try my Mandarin skills once again.
Here are some pictures from different places from my trips.