It has been about a week and a half in Uganda and one more to go. I’m already dreading leaving this country. The feeling of being alive is present constantly. When you’re still, you’re surrounded by chirping of the birds or the choir of grasshoppers. In the night you wake up to the barking of the dogs and in the haze of your sleep you get a thrill wondering whether someone is trying to come and disturb your sleep or is it just a passer-by or some animal the dogs are barking at. In the morning you wake up to the cuckoos of the many cocks in the neighborhood. When you’re in the car you constantly try to hold onto something so that you’re not thrown around like a bag of potatoes. (Seriously, the Finnish bumps on the road are a joke.) When it rains, it pours. When you look around you see a range of colors that identify with Africa. But meeting the people who have gone through challenges beyond the imagination of most and connecting with them, touches me deeper and deeper in my heart every single time.
Being here is a balancing act in many ways. The schedules and traffic regulations are more like guidelines rather than something that people stick to. You just need to adjust and react to things as they come along. Still somehow when everyone is playing the same symphony, this chaos works. The most challenging balancing act anyhow is not becoming too cynical. You see people in need everywhere. Especially in the slums that we have been visiting regularly, there are people surviving until tomorrow in every corner. You want to help every single one of them. But to function effectively you have to have a pragmatic approach. This is what I learned in Ethiopia already. For example, to help the beggars on the streets, you should not encourage them to beg by giving them money, even though it felt like the right thing to do. But many earned ten times the salary of someone who did honest work so they had no reason to get off the streets even though proper work would’ve been better for the society. So you have to fight against the instinct to try and help everyone, because that would be very short-term, and impossible.
I feel like, also because of my childhood time in Ethiopia, I have mastered the pragmatic approach already. I guess it all comes down to logic… Here, the most effective way to help is to empower communities. Teach the most vulnerable people to provide for themselves, educate them, and improve their skills so that they will be the ones providing for their communities in the future. This is the long-term approach and Caring Hands, the organization I’m working for here, is doing exactly this and it is amazing to see the effects of this work in communities. All this said, I hope, that I will never become blind to the individual struggles of the people. That when faced with extreme poverty all around, which could easily turn into a blur, I hope I will always have the compassion, respect and love for the individuals in front of me. And when there is acute need, I will provide for them according to my strength. Luckily I have met someone to look up to when it comes to this. She's the Caring Hands director, Milla, who is living proof that you can connect with individuals while caring for the community.
TIA - This is Africa.
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It’s been a few days since I landed in Entebbe airport. The moment I stepped out of the airplane I smelled a familiar scent. Hard to explain, but it seems like every airport in East Africa has the same smell. It’s a combination of humidity, zica (red dirt), heat and smoke. I think. The bumpy roads, the chaotic traffic and the darkness that’s different to Finland’s welcomed me back to Africa! Having been here a few days now I could actually write a book about the traffic. The roads belong to cars, vans, boda-bodas (motorbike taxis, no helmets), people, dogs, cats, goats, cows, poultry… Let’s just say that there is no space for checking your phone while driving.
Now that I’m here I feel like I’m at home. If you didn’t know, I lived with my family in Ethiopia when I was a kid. I also went back there as a voluntary worker in 2007 and have visited East Africa as often as I can. When I’m in Finland, I miss Africa every single day. Uganda, just like Ethiopia, holds so much beauty in its people, the nature, the culture. So many people have so little and live a life of a survival game, and still their souls are so full of hope. These people are fighters and just visiting here inspires me to work harder, every single day. My life is so blessed and I should be thankful for it every single day. And right now, the biggest blessing is that I get to be back in Africa.
There’s a saying, which I hear a lot: “This is Africa”. TIA. That phrase can be used in so many different circumstances, the good and the bad. Despite all the beauty, there has been a bit to worry about lately and some of my friends have been sending worried messages so that's why I want to address this. A few days before I got here there was a major robbery in our family friends’ house. The couple had been drugged and there had been stones all around the house so that they would’ve been stoned if they had woken up. Every single, even a bit valuable thing had been taken and many locals have been amazed that the couple is still alive. This has raised serious talks about the safety of the households here. It’s Christmas season and (violent) robberies are very common, because the stolen goods can be sold easily as Christmas presents. But, what I want to say here to all the friends who have sent the inquiries, please don’t worry. “This is Africa, if you’re afraid, you have to leave.” I feel like I’m in the right place now and I feel calm. If something was to happen, so be it. I knew the risks when I came here, but I wouldn't want to be anywhere else right now.
But to end on a happier note, there are already so many things that I have experienced since I got here! I’ve been an honorary guest at a primary school and held an inspirational speech there, I have met so many gorgeous women through the Caring Hands organization (the organization I'm working for here) and these people have stories that need to be told. I’ve also had talks with teenagers who don’t want to let their social status stand in the way of their dreams, I’ve laughed with them and I’ve danced traditional Ugandan dances with them. Btw, these kids know how to twerk! I’m in a very happy place now, being able to inspire and be inspired.
TIA, this is Africa – the people, the nature, the scents, the attitude, the inspiration, the smells, the colors, the electricity breaks, the traffic, the food, the beauty - even the risks.
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Lately, I mean for the past year, I have been reading a lot of material about our bodily functions and what we can do ourselves to help them in the long-term. There’s a lot of talk about the toxic and synthetic chemicals found in our food and in our environment. Throughout the months, little by little, I have made changes both in my diet and in my living conditions, intentionally decreasing the amount of synthetic chemicals that I am in contact with. This should help my liver from tiring out as it tries to detoxify my body.
I don’t stress about the changes (stress being one of the biggest causes for hormonal imbalance) and it’s been a very gradual process and will continue to be one, but I still find it necessary. While food is probably the most obvious one that delivers the good and the bad to the body, there is quite a lot of chemicals absorbing through our skin and breathing, too.
I have made some pretty big changes in the synthetic chemical-intake in my diet so I will talk about them later, too. But here are some of the products we use in our household to prevent the overload of toxic chemicals from our habitat.
Companies say that their products are completely safe and dermatologically tested, but over time, there is still quite a bit of synthetic materials brewing on your face and the build-up is unavoidable. My solution has been quality mineral make-up. Some (most) of the mineral make-up lines contain only a fraction of real minerals so be sure to find a line where most of the product consists of good ingredients. My absolute favorites are Jane Iredale and Reviderm mineral make-up. They both have very versatile product-ranges and offer clean produce to stick to your face. And the end-results are even better than with traditional make-up! Both of these lines are available in professional salons around Finland. Click here to find your closest Jane Iredale-reseller.
Body lotions and shower gels:
You probably realize that your skin absorbs the creams and gels you apply on it? Exactly. Absorbs. So you might not want to spread the most indulgent smelling chemical-cocktails on yourself the next time around. Weleda produces the best shower gels, body lotions and other body-care products that provide natural nutrients for the body. And the products smell awesome, too! They also have massage-oils that release tension in the muscles. Very actively used in our household. These products can be found at least in your closest Ruohonjuuri store, but I think they are sold in plenty of other places, too. As hand-wash, we use LV that can be found in grocery stores.
Our cleaning detergents have been biodegradable for years now, thanks to my mom who gave all her girls huge boxes of different L.O.C.-cleaning products as Christmas presents. But now we’ve also changed into organic dishwasher detergent by Ecover, and instead of basic liquid or powder for the washing machine, we use washing “balls” by Ecozone. They last for months and are extremely easy and kind on the environment, too.
Last, but definitely not THE last, change we’ve made is that we’ve started changing plastic bottles and containers into glass ones. This way the harmful chemicals off plastic don’t diffuse into our food and water and keeps them tasting a lot better, too! Me and Kristian even got his and hers-bottles of Lifefactory glass-bottles that you might see us carrying around when training or out about on the town. Yeah, sure, they’re a bit heavier, but it’s worth the taste and knowing that the water doesn’t get contaminated. I’ve found my glass containers in Ruohonjuuri.
This is how far we’ve gotten, and as I mentioned, we’re not extreme with this. I/we still use products that aren’t ecological, because there haven’t been good enough substitutes. I also realize that it’s not possible to shield from all the toxic chemicals around you, but at least it’s nice to know that your home is a little safer. Small changes will count in the long term.
Let me know what kind of changes you have made around your household, maybe I can get some hints there! JWrite comment (1 Comment)
Let me start by apologizing for my absence. Or actually no, I’m not sorry for not wirting for a while, because the fact that this is my first spare moment for a few months is actually a good thing. I’ve been working on projects that are important to me and even though it is a little tiring that I’ve had only one day off during the last 8 weeks (cannot recall the time before that, my brain capacity feels like it’s on constant overload) .
But now it is definitely time to get back to writing and updating my blog. And I’ll start that (this time for real) by telling a little what has been keeping me so busy. I guess this is a bit of therapeutic sensemaking for myself, too (if my thesis supervisor is reading this, he’ll be prud that I used that term here).
Project number 1. University courses. I have been honestly spending my every spare and not so spare waking hour in the car driving back and forth from Helsinki to Jyväskylä, just to attend a lecture or lectures and exams. They tell me I should’ve known that this was an on-campus program (international business and entrepreneurship in Jyvsäkylä School of Business and Economics) when I enrolled there, but the truth is they came up with the 80%-attendance rule only half way through my first year. But there have been so many people already trying to fight that and have failed and I don’t have time to tell my professors how to do their job so I’ll just drive and graduate in a million years. Luckily there are a few courses I can take from the States, too.
Project number 2. Master’s thesis. Working on it. Honestly am. Need to conduct a pilot interview on Janni Hussi. Keywords: Entertainment industry entrepreneurs and sensemaking.
Project number 3. Working my ass off to have some own money when moving to the States. Has been successful. Photo shoots, fashion shows, hostings, and presenting, to name a few. Have been lucky to have a lot of all of them.
Project number 4. Volunteering in Uganda for Caring Hands Organization. Included a lot of preparation before hand in Finland. Right now sitting on a plane to Uganda and writing this. Will continue this cooperation with them further into the future.
Project number 5. Girl like me vol. 2. It was a success and we’re already preparing for next year.
Project number 6. Moving to the States. How much paper work can there be?? And of course I’ve been scouting for some interesting things for me to do when I get there.
Project number 7. The wedding. Sometimes I remember that I’m getting married next June, usually when I’m reminded of one of my bridesmaids.There’s quite a bit of stuff I need to work and agree on before I move. Luckily I have my bridesmaids and Vanajanlinna as a venue. The people in Vanajanlinna have organized so many weddings before that I feel like half of the organizing has been already taken care of by them. Though there are a few pretty big pieces missing…
All this said, I’m happy that I haven’t had the time to miss Kristian. It’s been almost 7 weeks apart now, and only when I have the time to think about it, it’s difficult. Otherwise I’m enjoying everything that’s happening now. And btw, I’ve been booking some jobs here in Finland for January/February. I can’t wait to go and support Kristian, but I will never compromise my own work and commitments for his, becuase frankly, we both have to be free to do what we want. And in the end of the day I’ll support him and he’ll support me.Write comment (2 Comments)
As some of you might know, we're getting married next summer with Kristian (the previous blog post on our engagement party might have given some sort of a hint ;) ). So I had to decide who I'm going to recruit as my bridesmaids, considering that I'm going to be half of the year away in the U.S. so I'll be needing lots of help, both here in Finland and there in the States. Therefore I wanted to make the proposal a little more special and got my bridesmaids survival packages, or proposal gifts as you might want to call them. The products I included are ones I use and thought that they would make the duties of my bridesmaids a little more bearable... ;)
The kits contained:
- Wella SP's miniature hairspray and mousse. My bridesmaids will need these in their purses to do quick fixes while on the run.
- Sebastian's hair conditioner, miniature. Best prep for your hair and easy to take with you wherever you go! Especially for the bridesmaids who will be traveling around with me...
- Wella Professional's Enrich or Shimmer Delight. The other one is extra hair care, the other one gives some immediate sparkle, but both are perfect for extra radiance! Naomi decided to come and check them out, too :D
- Elo by Salon Klipsi (my hairdresser in Helsinki) has also said that they would be happy to help my bridesmaids to get their tresses in shape before the wedding! :)
- Dermalogica Antioxidant Hydramist, the best way to feel fresh while on the move! I even spray this on top of my make-up. It's got long term benefits too!
- Dermalogica Skin hydrating Masque. My go-to masque before a photo shoot. It gives instant radiance, but also is light enough to use multiple times a week. Extra hydration whenever you feel like it. Lots of my bridesmaids travel a lot so it's ok to "forget" this on your face, too, and when you take it off upon arrival, you will feel refreshed and pretty rather than dowdy.
- Dermalogica Skin Perfect Primer. Perfect primer to use under make up, but gives the wanted "blurr" if you want to go au naturel. Has also an SPF30. I'll get more of this for the girl for the big day, now they can test it before hand!
Naomi checking out the goods again :D
- Reviderm lipgloss in a nude pink shade. I wear this all the time. Looks great on both blondes and brunettes and many of the girls put it on immediately! And the styling of the package is cool... ;)
- Some chocolates from Kalpis. Of course you need to keep your blood sugar steady when shopping for a wedding dress or having a flower meeting or planning the program!
BTW, they all said YES!!
How did you or would you propose to your bridesmaids?
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