Sunday, April 28, 2013

Concentration Issues and Being Overly Social

I am not a researcher. I am not interested in doing research and I never want to be a researcher. Well, here's the problem (and I'm sure a lot of people can relate to this): studying at the university means that I will have to write a thesis to be able to graduate. I was always good in school. I am lucky enough to be one of those people who learns really easily, so I never had to study that much for exams or such. Just attending class and listening was enough. It was always quite easy for me to get good grades. Lucky me right? Well here's the problem. Not having to study that hard has resulted in me not knowing HOW to actually study. I have major concentration issues when I have to get something done and I have a way of always finding something "more important" to do, like cleaning, baking, laundry, sorting out my closet or arranging papers that have been lying around.

I had cleared out this weekend so that I'd have two whole days to work on my thesis. To do some reading and writing. How did that turn out? Well it's 2.45 pm on Sunday now, and I have read one page during the whole weekend. One page! Talk about lazy! I am ashamed of myself to tell you the truth. The problem isn't so much about getting things done, I am quite effective once I get started. It's the starting I have issues with.

The pile of books and papers that's waiting for me.

Then there's the other problem. In addition to having problems concentrating, I am overly social. This is where you might think that "that's not a problem". Well normally it wouldn't be, but currently it causes problems with my academic work. Like I said before, this weekend I was supposed to devote all my time to my dear, beloved thesis. Then on Friday morning I had recieved a couch request. I had already turned a few requests down for this weekend, but this one was a couple that looked for a host for one night. So I accepted, telling them that I would have time on Friday night, but that was busy on Saturday, so I wouldn't be able to show them around or hang out. A good plan so far, since I would be too tired to work on my thesis on Friday after work. Well somehow the evening got a bit out of hand. A couple of friends came over and we were cooking, drinking some wine and smoking shisha. Until 5.30 in the morning. Needless to say that really wasn't in the shape to work on my thesis on Saturday. I just don't know how to say no to a friend asking me to hang out! How pathetic is that?

Now the half of Sunday has past as well, and what have I done so far? Slept until 10, had breakfast, watched a couple of episodes of Gilmore Girls, did a couple of loads of laundry, sorted some papers, cleaned the toilet and washed the dishes. Yes, I got a lot done, but not the things I was supposed to. How to concentrate? Well, usually I prefer to go to work at the university library, because home chores won't distract me there. Yeah, that's what I need to do on thesis weekends from now on. And I should make the promise to catch up on my reading for at least one hour every day. Maybe that'll do it.

What's better than a nice big breakfast on the weekend?

How do you manage any problems with getting started? Do you have any good tips on how to concentrate?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The non-existant café culture

Living abroad gives you a new angle on your home country and its ways. When I moved to Finland, I mostly missed swedish food. When I lived in Germany I missed rye bread, the social security system and the fact that people would just visit each other by popping by, without calling beforehand. The thing is, when you live abroad for a while and then move back to your native country, you tend to have a culture shock. I experienced a really bad one when I came back to Finland six years ago almost to the day. I was quite depressed for more than six months, even though I had a lot of exciting things going for me. I still miss a lot of things. One of the biggest things is the food culture. Surely Germany isn't the most amazing country gastronomy-wise, I mean we have France, Italy and Spain. But Germany does have its ups considering food and the whole culture around it. Most people think about beer and sausages when they picture Germany, but there is so much more to it.

I miss this! (Photo borrowed.)
I really miss the café culture. I would go out with my friends - almost every day - to get a coffee and sit on the terrace just talking and enjoying. In Finland the café culture is slowly on its way, but like I said, SLOWLY. If you talk about going out to a terrace here in the summer, you're usually referring to going for a beer or a cidre. But it's not just about doing that because you're used to it. A big part of the non-existent café culture comes from the high prices. I Germany you can get a latte for 1,5-3 euros. In Finland you have to pay at least 4-6 euros for a latte. It makes a difference. If I go to the coffee shop nearby my house and I have a sandwich and a latte, I have to pay 7 euros. The same would cost 3-4 euros in Germany. There used to be this café on my way to work, where coffee and tea was half off from 8-10 in the morning. I used to go there several times a week, but then they closed down. Of course there are places in Germany where the prices are higher, but usually it's about choice. Not in Finland.

Breakfast in Finland for 7,90 euros.
Another thing that bugs me is eating out. You can't get a decent meal here in Finland for under 10 euros. Unless it's a lunch restaurant, where you're eating from a buffet. I'm missing the choice. In Germany I can go out and have a fantastic tomato soup for 3-4 euros, and go home stuffed for less than 10. I miss the mixed café culture, where places function as cafés in the daytime with food and coffee, and in the evening you go to that same place for cocktail happy hour. Cafés usually serve at least some food in addition to sandwiches and sweet things. And that for an affordable price!

A lovely street with cafés. (Photo borrowed.)

Dinner in Prague for less than 5 euros.
But it's not just that. Basically everything is more expensive here in the high north. Rent, food, hobbies, alcohol, going out. I guess the only thing that's cheap, is internet and cell phones. So what, are we encouraged to sit home and facebook all day long? I know I'm complaining, but I think we could learn a lot from central european countries when it comes to gastronomy. And yes, I almost think that the lack of café culture is reason enough to move to another country. Maybe I'll make it happen. Sooner or later. Until then I think I'll just stick to drinking tea at home.

Café crema in Sicily for a euro. Delicious!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Step out of your comfort zone!

I've had an exciting year. Both in good and bad. A lot of things have happened that have made me think about my life and existence. Last summer I had an epileptic seizure while traveling in Budapest. It was really scary. I woke up in the ambulance and nobody spoke English. Around the same time I started having some problems at home. Balancing my job, the uncertainty of the reasons behind the seizure, writing my thesis, starting my own company, the problems at home, not to mention my keeping up with friends and hobbies have been quite hard. But I managed it somehow and it is all looking better now.

I am quite the restless person. I like to be on the move and I'm not big on staying in one place for a very long time. Needless to say, I love traveling. A full-time job has restricted my traveling time quite the bit, but I've managed to get away a couple of times. Having a daily routine is a good thing for most people, and I can't say that I haven't enjoyed it (with free weekends and all), but at some point I noticed that I'm falling into a pattern. Waking up the same time every day, breakfast, the same route to work, working for 8-9 hours, going home, gym, sleep. Basically the same stuff every day. Which I don't like. How are you supposed to evolve and develop yourself if every day is the same? One small help might be to mix it up. Have something different for breakfast. Take another route to work. Look up on from your shoes, and take a look at your surroundings. I found this video, that inspired me a lot.

I was lucky enough not to be taught at home to "make sacrifices" or "accepting my fate". My mother always told me that I can do anything and I should always dare to dream! I always enjoyed leaving my comfort zone. I'm not usually scared of doing things differently. And I believe in the magic zone! Surely I have my moments, where I stay in the comfort zone, but I do try step out of it quite a lot. At least I'd like to think I do. The thing is, I am taking baby steps. I am longing for something more. As I bought my flight tickets to Australia for July, one of my collagues at work was impressed and horrified at the same time. "You are so brave, to travel so far away alone!". In her eyes the fact that I am going down under to visit my best friend, didn't lessen the being brave part. Do you dare to dream? Yes I do!

There are other things that I am working towards, where I am forcing myself to step outside of my comfort zone. Big time! I can't really talk about it yet, but I will, soon. I promise! A part of that step is finishing my thesis, which I have been working on for quite a while now. Well kind of. I was quite far along, when about a month ago I decided to change the subject for my research. It might not have been really well thought through, but I was slightly forced into it, since proceeding on my former subject became quite impossible. I have set a deadline this time, partly because I was semi-forced to do it. Mysterious, I know, but I'll reveal my secrets in time. Be patient! Anyways, the thesis must be done by September, and I really need to pull myself together for that. The fact that I am going to Australia for a month in July doesn't help. I guess I just have to get on it.

Quote by David Bowie

Today I heard a great quote. I was watching the Gilmore Girls, and in this one scene Luke says to Lorelai:
"You've just gotta jump in, be scared and stick with it until it gets fun."
I really liked this quote, because sure, change is scary. But if it's a part of going towards something you want to do, then it'll be worth it. And if not, then you'll at least be an experience richer. I've done some decisions in my life, that people consider brave. I'm not sure I see them that way, but I can agree on them being quite big decisions. For example moving to Finland for school when I was 15 and moving to Germany after high school with no plan whatsoever. And I have not once regretted those decisions. Sure, I have looked back and thought about what my life would've been like, if I'd made some other decisions. But I've always come to the conclusion, that I've made all the right decisions. For all those decisions have lead to me being the person I am now. And I wouldn't want to change that. So I will keep making life altering decisions, because I am sure that they will lead to great experiences. After all, like John Green said:

What are your biggest life-altering decisions? Have you made any big decisions you regret?