March 22, 2005

The world is full of wonders waiting to be discovered


Last weekend we were exploring the bicycle side of Leijonakaupunki. Believe it or not, but behind the glittering facade of shopping malls, all the bling bling and superfast highways, there still ARE things to discover!!!


We found an old pre-war Chinese cemetary some 15 min away from our home!!! It is a HUGE piece of land, or should I say forest, full of old, some abandoned, graves and tombstones.


We never found it before, because, we tend to stick to the main roads and highways if we take public transportation and you can't walk more than some 20 min before you want to get to some air-conditioned place (at least you would never venture off the "beaten track" if you're not completely sure that its worth it). Bicycles opened up oportunities to access quiet residential neighbourhoods and huge areas of unexplored undeveloped land for us! I'm sure it will take quite some time before we exhaust those possibilities to wander around... Bicycles is one of the best things that happened for us here!.. :)


This doesn't look like Leijonakaupunki, now does it? I'd say more like Bali? As we were cycling around in the graveyard we saw strange people that looked as if they were living in the cemetary. On some roads there was a lot of garbage and these people were dragging plastic bags full of stuff. They had bicycles too and some kind of shelter above their heads. We immediately started fantacising that they must be some outlaws that don't belong to the society and are doomed to live in the cemetary. It was quite thrilling otherwise too, it wasn't the kind of place where I'd go alone or after dark. People are very superstitious here and it is contagious. Almost everybody would have a story to tell about a ghost in the movie theater or a skeleton in an MRT train.. This place felt weird for me. As I was taking pictures, I felt that I am interupting, taking something out from the place, stealing something? Brrrrrr... Rest in Peace, people...

Posted by gkligyte at 07:19 PM | Comments (1)

March 19, 2005

And the winner is...


Guess, who won the 2nd prize in the TP Cross Country Women's Open race?


3_best.jpg Yeeeaaah! Yeeeaaah! Its me! I was the 2nd!!! Of course, I shouldn't mention that there were only 4 women running in my category.. He he... But still, it was great to win, I really got adrenalin kicks as I was running, running much faster (and longer! 5.5km!!!) than I ever did before! Other 2 girls that won were Jacqueline and Susan, I met them while running around the reservoir and they became my "kind of" running mates. So its great that all 3 of us won the prizes!!! Jacqueline is really fast, no wonder that she came first. It was the first time that I participated in an event like that and definitely the first cup that I ever received from anywhere for anything!!! Our Design School was sluggish (or should I say "reserved"), as usual, when it comes to "participation", "volunteering", etc.. There were only 4 of us running. I guess, we're the most "opinionated", "individualist", "cool" of all the schools in TP. Here we all are:


Otherwise, Taku came and went to the new Zealand already. Kaj was so busy at work that we hardly had time to hang out together. Hopefully Taku will stay couple more days on her way back to Finland.


I hanged out with Taku on Thursday half a day. We went to this great Yogi organic vegetarian food place in Chinatown that Fity suggested few months ago and guess what?!? Fity herself came to have lunch in there too!!! This is surprising! Although Leijonakaupunki is quite small, for some reason, I don't often meet poeple that I know... Fity said that she discovered my blog googling for something about Desaru!! So now my fan circle is expanding in here too.. He he.. Oups, can't say anything bad about the guys anymore.. Unless in Finnish or Lithuanian :P

Taku studies Traditional Chinese Medicine (called TCM in here :) in Finland and she went super excited about all the herb shops in Chinatown. She's also cooking in a vegetarian restaurant in Helsinki, so at the end she whipped up this amazing salad for us with Kaj (would you like a recipe? I managed to capture and document it by now..:). Once again, it was so great to have someone visiting! Not only because of rye bread and lakritsi that people bring.. They also bring memories of life outside Leijonakaupunki, weird ways of thinking (he he.. because all our friends are hippies:) and it feels so refreshing...


Next weekend (the Easter weekend) we're going to Taman Negara nature reserve (in Malaysia) by "jungle train". I spent the whole day hunting for good deals and trips to anywhere and finally got tickets in Tanjong Pagar railway station. Funnily enough, this station, as well as the rails belong to Malaysia, although physically it is located in the Leijonakaupunki. There is some kind of unspoken/unwritten consensus about it between the countries, but it is a painful spot in their relations. Malaysia wants to upgrade it, but Leijonakaupunki takes the strategy of silent "non-coopearation".. Interesting..

Btw, yesterday we watched the "Ghandi" movie. I saw it many years ago with my mother (actually we were still in Soviet Union at that time, I think. It was shown in the movie theaters, because it depicted British colonialists as very evil + it was about the leader that was very close to the people. Few things that struck me then - how the British soldiers couldn't enter the crowd with their horses, because the horses wouldn't stump on the people, I remembered this so clearly for some reason (maybe because animals showed more "heart" than the humans?). Anyway, the movie struck me again, the power of the "non-violence" and the influence that one single man had on the masses, shielded just by overwhelming humanism of his heart. If you can, I would really recommend to watch that movie. It is healthy. Makes you a better person, I think.

Posted by gkligyte at 05:55 PM | Comments (4)

March 14, 2005

Lordess of the Rings and Bikes


This Sunday we went to Desaru again. The surfer guys expected waves, but the sea was very messy and the waves were not good at all. So we just swam. However I managed to loose my wedding ring in the ocean!! Man! How stupid I am! People go for 50 years together having the same ring, and I lost mine after 7 months!.. My hands were greasy with sun screen, so it just slipped off!!! And the sea was so murky and wavy that there was no chance to find it at all! Now I just have to expect that some fish swallowed it and somehow it will travel back to me..

bicycle_giedre.gif bicycle_kaj.gif

Of the good things that happened to us - we bought bikes on Saturday! The coolest bike that I ever had. It has everything - disk brakes, and stuff.. Kaj's colleagues are bicycle freaks (they are not only surfers..)


So we asked them to come along to the bike shop and help us choose. We got really good bikes for almost half the price that these bikes would cost in Finland.. But it is just a beginning... We already got helmets and locks.. Today Kaj got flashing lights for the back, then we need lights at the front, then eventually mud protectors, I would like to change my seat, maybe.. This is just one more way to keep spending our money.. The problem with Leijonakaupunki is that it is quite dangerous to drive bicycles on the roads. Cars cost so much that once you got one, you feel like the king of the road, especially if you drive a Mercedes ("Mers", they call them here). People take bikes somewhere nice and then they ride them, it is not a mode of transportation like in Finland. But we'll have a chance to explore the bike side of Leijonakaupunki on the weekend.


These are my cubicle neighbours, Lynette and Sharon. Both very nice and cool. So far it has been really great to hang out with people at my work. Can you believe that Lynette (the smaller of the girls) has 2 kids and is 32 years old already?!?! When I first met her, I thought she could be 15... Getting worried about these wrinkly looks of mine...

For some reason I became an athlete sports freak since I came here. First I started running 4.8km around the water reservoir after work once in a while, then i joined yoga and some kind of stretching class and look at me now - this Friday I will be running a Cross-country race!.. Weird indeed.. At TP they encourage people to take up some healthy hobbies, for example, they give some financial incentive if you run 100km in 60 days. But everything has to be measurable and quantifyable. For example, you take body fat analysis before you take up running and after. So in 3 months I have dropped one kilo of fat (I have only 13kg of fat now, imagine - a whole bucket! yoek...), but gained weight (presumably muscle.. he he..). The same goes for other areas of development. Every year you make a "Learning Needs Analysis". Meaning that you identify the areas that you feel that you need to improve on. Then you can go for training (have to collect 100h of training and human development a year!) and then you raise your ranks a little bit. So in that way you're "improving" yourself little by little. Its great that TP invests so much into human development, but for me its crazy that they require to quantify everything. It feels that they just need these numbers to fill their nice statistics tables.. The same quantifyable results are expected from the students (so tests and exams prevail).


Even when talking about the need to preserve mature trees and green areas in the city, they talk about measuring "economical benefits". So you need to prove (in numbers) that having a piece of land covered by trees and grass instead of another shopping mall is economically sensible. Hard evidence needed! No wonder that there's less and less green stuff around.. The same goes for the casino debate. The oponents claim that the "social costs" will be higher than "economical benefits".. Its all about cost, making profit, economical benefits. If you can't argue in these terms, you lost the battle already. I'm still wondering amazed and learning..

Posted by gkligyte at 10:22 PM | Comments (3)

March 05, 2005

Movies, performance, expectations and where next?


Food is great here. That's without any question. Anything else equally great? Read through this blog.. he he..

ok, my previous post needs some explanations. Just tried to read it and it seems very hasty, it was difficult to make sense of it even for me. This is because Kaj had been watching The Team America movie and I wanted to catch up with him, so I tried to finish my blogging as quick as possible. My apologies for missing coherence, did you managed to make anything out of it anyway? (Andrea says she learned something about history and threatened to send bugs.. Great.. :) I saw only the end of the movie, so I wasn't overly impressed. The fun part was the subtitles (epaviraliseilla DVD versioilla Malaysiasta tai Indonesiasta on aina hauskat tekstitykset. neoficialiose DVD kopijose ish Malaizijos ar Indonezijos visada buna juokingi subtitrai): "but he was killed by those gorillas!" I enjoyed even more watching Sideways. The characters in the movie throw in quite a bit of wine related terms (apparently not too familiar in our lattitudes), so its so amusing to see how "give me more of this Shiraz" turns into "give me more of this Syrup" or "we're not drinking any of Merlot!" becomes "we're not drinking any of Mellow!". Sometimes "I could't get hold of him" turns to "Its getting cold here".. So.. Some extra entertainment...


However beautiful some things are here, I am starting to miss Europe and other "vapaa maailmaa"- "laisvo pasaulio"... It hit me just few minutes ago when I was reading Katja's blog. She's in the "new world", but it seems that one can find the best of the "old world" in there too. I'm not terribly impressed with what's happening in Europe right now (the weather, the cold snap, I mean. I don't miss the cold at all, no no no!), but it will get better very soon.. What starts getting on my nerves here is that the day and night are equally long (or should I say short?). I get up with dawn (before 7am) and when I get back from work it is dark again (7pm). I miss long summer evenings, miss doing something else before going back to bed. In the future I would like to live slightly more above or slightly more below the equator, so that there would be seasons (long days, especially) + reasonably warm. The down under (aussit, australija) could be an option worth trying?


Kaj sanoo etta hanta enaa ei kiinosta edes matkustaminen taassa Aasiassa - kaikki muistutta hanen kokemukseista toissa, taalla on niin paljon "oppression" kaikkialla.. Yksi hanen parhoista kavereista toissa sai potkut eilen, koska silla oli "attitude problem".. Kaitsu on jo kypsa.. Toi termi mika se anta ennen kun halua lahtea pois lyhene joka paiva.. :) Ennen oli kesan lopun, nyt kesan asti.. ha ha.. Kaitsu sako, kad jis nebenori netgi keliauti chionais azijoj, nes viskas primena, kokios nesamones vyksta jo darbe.. chia tiek daug priespaudos ir neteisybes. Viena ish geriausiu Kaitsu draugu ishmete ish darbo vakar, nes jis turejo per daug stipria nuomone.. Kaitsu vis trumpina termina, kada jis nori ish chia pradingti. Ankschiau buvo vasaros pabaiga, dabar vasaros pradzhia..


Ha ha, how do you like the slogan for a construction company? This construction site is on the way from our home to the Botanical gardens.

Currently the Parlament is sitting in and discussing the budget for the next year. As far as I understand, the budget is quite generous for everybody (people wonder if it is "an election budget" - the political system here is similar to British, the elections can be called at any time convenient for the ruling party. So you can prepare well - wait till economy is doing well, give some "goodies" for the people and win the election again.) However, it seems that "the welfare" is a swear word here - the prime minister said that "we try to help people that are going through hard times to get back on their feet, but we don't want to create the "entitlement" mentality in the country". It means that you have to earn everything yourself. If you work, you create wealthy life for yourself and your family, but you are not entitled to anything if you can't make it. You have to earn that. There's no safety net if you fall. You kind of have to plan from the very begining and create security for yourself. So the prime minister said that they will not help people that don't work (as other parliament members were worried that there's "structural unemployment" and "underclass"forming in the country).


If you noticed, this time images have nothing to do with what I'm talking about. On the left I'm folding origami cranes before Christmas (some of you have received those, right?). Its Saturday now, Kaj is at work (surprise surprise) and I don't feel like going out (so hot!). So I have time for blogging, but nothing to take pictures of... Here, I continue...

Life is very tough for the locals here. Leijonakaupunki is a meritocracy (you're rewarded based on your achievements), so the competition starts from very early age - students are streamed into 3 flows: express, normal and technical, at the age of 10. Express students are studying much more complex stuff, they go for "scholar career" and can expect to get lots of grants and scholarships. They are groomed for academic/civil servant/high position jobs. Students from normal stream are aften successful in business (lots of stories of self-made people in the papers), they're the ones that come to polytechnics - practical, "no-bullshit" type of guys. The students from technical stream go for technical careers, they may become air-con technicians, tailors, bakers, anything like that.. And this is decided at the age of 10!!! There are stories of people who successfully cross the boundaries, but they're exceptions from the rule, as it is worth writing stories about them in THE paper..

We're now taking in new students for the next year in TP, many come with their mothers who do the talking and questioning. Students just sit quite abstract. But it is tough for them. They will have to perform for the rest of their lives, because the society needs productive and enterprising individuals. A "valivuosi" after graduating from secondary school? Forget about it.. No time.. Need to perform..

Posted by gkligyte at 12:24 PM | Comments (7)

March 03, 2005

Punks and other vices of Leijonakaupunki


We saw some Leijonakaupunki "underground" culture last week. On Saturday we accidentally discovered a teenage hangout place, brightly lit and air conditioned, not far from popular shopping malls, but underground (in fact it was 1 level under ground indeed, as it was on the way from MRT tunnel). Guys were doing some breakdance moves and there were kids with bicycles. No skateboards as it is banned from non-designated places. It looked so innocent, clean and orderly. And on Tuesday we went to the Blondie concert (yeah!). There were 2 warm-up bands (fortunately we missed the first one) from local undergound music scene. We saw only Zircon Gov. Pawn Starz. It was sad. Seriously sad and bad (don't know if they only can't perform live or was their sound engineer asleep..). It seems that saying the "f" word in public is still such a big deal for them that you could barely make anything else out of their ranting. Oh yeah, something about "media whore.. do your job.. for mediacorp.. (that is THE media company here)".. he he.. so disobedient...


Seeing Blondie after that felt so fresh and rebelious.. Debbie Harry is still such an adorable punker in her (almost) 60s, I didn't expect that she could rock such a big time during the concert. I expected a "mama", but she was a true sexy "punker". She learned some moves since 70s, but in fact didn't seem to have changed a lot since then. She really has a strong and beautiful voice and although I thought that she looks like Patsy Stone from Ab Fab, Kaj said "noooo..." So I believe him.

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On the weekend I went to the Asian Civilizations museum and it was an amazing discovery - up until now Leijonakaupunki was kind of hanging in the air, not in any context, not related to anything that I know. Going through (only a very small!) part of the exhibit I got to know a vast amount of things about Leijonakaupunki. I also learned a lot about the history of Asian civilizations alltogether. I was suprised once again to see that crafts look very similar all around the world. This jewelry is from Northern Thailand, but it could easily be an archeological item from around Baltic sea, lets say Lithuania. Hand-made clothes are colorful and pixelated (similar to Sami handcrafts or to the Peruvian people's crafts), red and other bright colors are used liberally, etc.

Some historical facts about Leijoanakaupunki - it was a sleepy village unwanted and unclaimed by anybody until the British colonizer Raffles got his foot on this ground in 1819. He basically built the city from scratch around the Leijonakaupunki river mouth. Soon Leijonakaupunki became an important trade and logistical node in the global trade. Immigrants and foreign workers from China, India, everywhere started flooding here. The main business here was loading, unloading, moving and storing stuff from biger ships that couldn't enter the river. Aparently most of the workers that came to work here were very low skilled and uneducated. As the work conditions were very harsh and Chinese believed that its not good to have women on board while sailing long journeys through the seas, for a long time the city was inhabited by men mostly. So, of course, brothels, gambling and secret societies flourished here. at the beginning of the 20th century 1/3 of the inhabitants were opium addicts (in fact British colonizers and business people were heavily investing in the opium industry). It becomes slightly clearer why the laws are so strange here when you see what was the starting point to build the place. It is pretty amazing that Leijonakaupunki became so successful and made it so far..


It kind of resonates with the current debate about opening and not opening a casino in here. The mojority of citizens (according to the polls) is against that, religious organizations are against, but the goverment is already asking for proposals from different casino developers globally, as they want to lure tourist money+keep the rich people's money in the country (currently they're spending their spare money in the casinos in Bintan (Indonesia) and Macau (China)). Although there's some debate, it already feels that it is a "lost case". Somebody raised an idea to organize a "free" vote about that in the parlament, but it was not accepted. The decision will be made using Party Whip. "The Whips ensure that there are always sufficient party members in the Chamber to support the party's position and that MPs vote according to the party's line. Occasionally, he may "lift the whip" and allow MPs to vote according to their conscience." It means that the vote will be unanimous from all the 98% parlament members that belong to the ruling party (depending on what the party heads will decide about loosening gambling restrictions or not). Although the economical argument is pushed very strongly, people say that it is not only about loss of revenues if the casino is banned from the country. In a way it is a question of values, if the gambling rules are being loosened up, then why not allowing porn (at least nudity) and other vices of the outside (rotten) world?


Other things are happening here too, its still hot and humid, Kaj likes to play Tarzan-Jesus in the forest + they're streamlining operations and productivity at my workplace. That is maybe worth a whole another story. All the public sector organizations (TP included) are going through Best Sourcing exercise (that is basically outsourcing and cutting on "non-core" operations of organzations), some 20% of (mostly administrative) staff wil go (or will be re-deployed, haha). This was a slight surprise - when we heard that the director of HR will talk to us, we feared that they will cut our leave (currently we have 42 days!! imagine that!!) A funny new insight - they introduced a concept of "in-sourcing" (when the skills and know-how is shared within the organization), so lets say in the engineering department there's a guy who knows things about air-cons, he could be asked to help out if the air-cons get broken elsewhere in the TP. I believe this is a humorous interpretation of "in-sourcing", but if it becomes a reality.. hmmm...

Posted by gkligyte at 07:30 PM | Comments (1)