Last month my husband and I spent a couple of weeks in Finland and Germany visiting family (and one very fantastic and perfect dear friend). It was our second time in Germany and my second time in Finland.

This is how old I was the last time I visited Finland:

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So, it’s been a while.

I have Finnish citizenship, I’m learning the language, I vote in the elections, but I always felt like something important was missing from the bigger picture. So it was with a great deal of excitement and a little bit of nervousness that I went back for the first time in 31 years.

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On my last day there, on the train to the Helsinki airport, I emailed a friend and wrote, “Finland is so good. It’s how I thought it would be but also somehow better. It feels comfortable.” And it did. I was only there for nine days, but I felt such ease and relaxation (the sauna helped, let’s be honest). So many things made sense. Not just within the country, but about myself.

I don’t mean to make this sound so grandiose. I know Finland is a country with its faults like any other, and I have no plans to leave Canada for good anytime soon. Maybe I can put it another way: After I got my citizenship I felt a little uneasy about it – it seemed strange to me that I had a right to the country all of a sudden, that I could go there, buy a house, open a business, and it would be just fine. But now, that concept doesn’t seem so strange at all.

Though I still do feel a bit like Jason Bourne when I travel with two passports.

I’ve been clearing out some old photos from my computer, and while I wouldn’t call myself a data hoarder, I certainly did run across some photos I’d completely forgotten about. Like these ones I took in Northern New York, when my husband and I drove home from Burlington, VT in 2012.

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I photographed more than signs on that trip, but the signs are just wonderful, aren’t they?

I was also surprised at how I responded more to the New York state photos than the Vermont photos, considering how much I love Vermont.

I’ve made a new post about cooking a dish from my copy of Mrs Beeton’s Household Management, but I’ve blogged about it somewhere else.

History’s been a little hobby of mine for several years now, and recently I decided to start a blog where I can share little stories or facts I find interesting. I’m not a historian so it’s not academic and definitely not a place where I’m going to write with full authority on anything, but so far I’m having fun with it.

Anyway, if you’re interested, you can find it here! I’m still going to write in this blog, of course – the history thing is just on the side.

In 2008, my friend Suzen and I started making short video diaries as a way of keeping in touch across the country. I’m clearing out some files from my computer and I found the videos I’d made. Here are some text excerpts that prove no matter how much I think I’ve changed, I’m still very much the same in some ways:

Video 1:

I kind of am not sure yet if I hate the story I’m working on. I found an old draft, I think one of the first ones, and it was from 2003! That’s five years, for a story that’s under two thousand words. Part of me thinks it’s not worth it, but I mean, I started it, right? So it must have had some kind of merit for me at some point. Yeah, I don’t know what I’m going to do with that.

I have actually two that I’ve been writing for about that long, and I’ve never really started a third. I think I’m waiting to finish those two before I try another one, even though I’ve written little paragraphs of stuff that I’ve thought of here and there, but, I don’t know, those two for some reason are like an albatross around my neck. I can’t get rid of them and I have to. They’re weighing me down and I have to finish them. So I might do that. I wrote down an outline, which I don’t usually do, so that might be a good thing.

Video 2:

Right now we’re just hanging out and listening to music and going on our respective computers. Jason I think is buying Christmas presents or browsing for Christmas presents, and I am deleting every post on my blog!

Reading descriptions of food in books is maybe one of my favourite things. I often read the descriptions two or three times, imagining how the combinations work and comparing the food to what I’m already familiar with.

Recently I read a food description in Ethan Frome that was among the most unusual I’ve seen:

She set the lamp on the table, and he saw that it was carefully laid for supper, with fresh doughnuts, stewed blueberries and his favourite pickles in a dish of gay red glass.

I read this on the bus and put the book in my lap and looked out the window, thinking about it. Donuts, blueberries, and pickles. Yes, the donuts were plain cake or yeast donuts and not the glazed and sprinkled things we think of now, but it still sounds so odd.

And I kind of want to try it.

My friend Teri has an article in the latest Ricepaper, titled, as you can see, Between Representations: Filipinos in Canadian Literature. Teri’s one of my favourite writers so I am always eager to read anything she writes, but I was especially excited to read this.

She and I are both half-Filipino, and have talked in the past about how we express that in our writing. For my part, I’d say about half of my stories have either fully Filipino or half-Filipino characters in them, but for the most part they’re still pretty “Canadian,” which is a term that I personally find fairly fluid, depending on who’s using it.

In the article, Teri writes about the difficulty in finding portrayals of Filipinos in Canadian writing that go beyond the usual nanny or maid cliché, or address it in a deeper way. With my own characters, I wonder sometimes if having these first-generation Canadians of Filipino background is enough. Shouldn’t they be doing something more? And then I can’t think of what that could possibly be. Do I want to have the characters in there to teach the world about pancit, or maybe about the cultural repercussions of hundreds of years of Spanish rule followed by a shorter period of American influence? Or do I want to have them just there playing their parts in the story, being a little bit Filipino and a little bit other things, like me and all the other first-generation people I know? Maybe having them just there is enough, maybe it’s more than enough right now.

I don’t have an easy answer to these questions, but I do know that not having these characters in there at all seems weird and wrong to me, and I like having them, these little blips of a world that some people might not know too much about.

Anyway, I didn’t intend for this to be a huge post about myself. I highly recommend picking up a copy of Ricepaper and reading Teri’s article! You can order print and digital copies here if you can’t find any in your local bookstore.