#metoo

Here in rural Chile, I’ve had lots of time to relax my mind, sit in midst of nature and think. For the entirety of yesterday, my head was occupied by thoughts stirred by #metoo. I have so much to say about this topic, but let this post focus on what I know best: my own story.

Upon seeing the hashtag, the first thought that crossed my mind was “Have I ever been sexually harassed?”

Took a long walk down the memory lane and alarmingly many incidences came to mind – few of the most powerful being from the time I was just a child of 12-14.

A drunken man was repeatedly shouting for “the girl with the mini skirt” to come sit with him at the back of the bus, while other passengers giggled at him slurring the words. He was perhaps 30, I made sure not to look directly into his rolling eyes. I asked my friend if we could get off the next stop to wait for another bus, I was very uncomfortable and scared. At 13, you don’t know what a drunken man will actually do to you. My friend and I got off, laughed about it, but I felt bad to have made us wait for the next bus. I felt ashamed to be wearing that mini skirt, and never wore it again.

Overall, I’ve had my fair share of gross cat-callers, creepos groping at night clubs, a girl pulling up my dress because according to her “that’s what you get for dancing on tables”, inappropriate comments from a variety of people including former bosses and sports coaches, and this one I’m secretly proud of: at bars, I’ve had bouncers throw out a couple of men who just wouldn’t take my no as an answer.

The fact that all these events had slipped my immediate memory shows that I have been rather unaffected by harassment. Considering that my most powerful memories of sexual harassment are from the time I was younger shows that I have gradually gotten used to harassment. Today I am not bothered by the occasional groper or cat-caller. Apart from the few men I made the bouncer throw out of bars and the girl who pulled up my dress, I have never even thought it to be worth the trouble to confront my harassers. I have grown to go about living life being OK with harassment.

Furthermore, my indifference to harassment is only strengthened by responses from male and female friend alike when I’ve shared my experiences of unwanted attention and unwelcome touching. “Welcome to South America, it’ll happen all the time” when I tell a friend that someone just grabbed my ass at a club or “The best you can do is ignore it” when a car in central Tallinn is honking at me, with two older men staring with their hungry eyes, sticking out their tongues between two fingers.

Both of my friends definitely meant well and that is how I perceived their comments in the moment. They tried to tell me that it’s not my fault, those people were crazy, it’s not personal, I shouldn’t waste a minute worrying about it, let’s forget it. Although I appreciated my friends’ words of comfort, I have come to realize that they were perfect representations of how skewed our attitude towards harassment is.

Words that we both genuinely intend and perceive as comfort are actually telling us that groping and cat-calling are not “that bad”, that we shouldn’t care because it’s neither the first nor the last time for it to happen, and that we should just ignore and endure it.

Like many on social media have already said, this should not be the case. I shouldn’t think that I am subjecting my body to groping when I go dancing. I shouldn’t think it’s an inevitable part of life to feel embarrassed when my sheer presence makes two men create an elaborate scene on Narva manatee. I shouldn’t have had my adult co-passengers giggle me out of the bus when I was harassed at 13.

Change is slow, but it does take place. I believe #metoo is raising awareness of sexual harassment in people. Thinking about the topic for a full day at least made me realize how I have been numbing memories of shame and freight. Hopefully this campaign is a beginning to the end of our ignorance of the problem, because we surely have a long way to go.

I’ve seen many people share personal stories about harassment, which is good because it gives concrete examples that the problem really exists. The stories are touching and reach people’s emotion, which is more effective than a copy-paste status that escapes the eye. This is why I also felt the need to share my story, and I encourage everyone to do the same. The more perspectives we are exposed to, the better we’ll understand the magnitude of the problem.

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Back on the Blog from a Familiar Hood

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I published my last post three months ago, when I was in Barcelona. Since then, I visited Pamplona and San Sebastián, spent a few days in Bilbao with my mother, walked 636.6 km from Bilbao to Santiago de Compostela, had a long weekend in Porto, visited some friends in Sweden, came back to Finland, and finally, I ended up getting a job in Tallinn.

Ühesõnaga, I have been living in Tallinn for about a month now. It’s been wonderful being back, although I’ve also found it hard readjusting to city life and an office job after a year of teaching in Chuuk and 4 months of backpacking and vacationing mostly in rural areas.

That being said, this readjustment process has provided me with inspiration for writing. My head is bubbling – I have so many thoughts I want to express and share.

When I lived in Tallinn during 2012-2015, I was actively updating my blog Annina in Tallinna. I’m not sure if I’d like to have a similar blog again, but as I said, I have plenty of other ideas in mind for now. Let’s see how these ideas will shape this blog! Hope there’ll be some people tagging along to follow the upcoming blog transformation. 😉

Carretera de les Aigües


The last time I was in Barcelona three years ago, and I fell in love. The shopping, the pub crawls, the beaches, the sangria… I vowed to come back one day.

Here I am, loving it again. This time around the best of Barcelona has been in a hiking trail named Carretera de les Aigües. I think you’ll experience less than half of the good this city has to offer if you don’t leave the hustle and bustle of Rambla to breathe in some desert air of the mountains overlooking the city and sea, having wild berries for lunch and drinking spring water, getting lost among cacti and dust, hearing nothing but the steady buzz of grasshoppers and getting cheerful “holas” from local mountain bikers.

Latvian National Museum of Art

If you are in Riga and like museums and art, don’t miss the Latvian National Museum of Art.

The museum is a quick review of Latvian art history and as culture and history go hand in hand, you’ll get a nice refresher of Latvian history after reading all the mandatory guide books before your trip.

The basic collection is divided into four rooms, each focusing on an era of Latvian art. Here are my favorite pieces from each room.


Johans Valters, 1904: “Lonely Walker”

Professional art in Latvia developed later compared to Western Europe, and the art scene was first dominated by the Baltic Germans.

This painting caught my attention as I thought how I’d soon be the lonely walker of the painting, in the Spanish forests, on my way to Santiago de Compostela.

Jānis Tīdemanis, 1930: “Girl in a Folk Costume”

During the National Awakening, Latvian artists and Latvian themes in art were praised more than ever before.

I love how the Baltic people wear their national costumes with pride, gather thousands of people together to sing their national sons and how they value their traditions… It seems to be the case in all ages, from small children to pensioners. The three small Baltic countries are truly unique. This painting reminded me reminded me of that.


Edgars Iltners, 1982: “My Latvia”

Artists were greatly restricted in their work during the Soviet occupation in Latvia. However, they came up with creative ways to express themselves through symbols and other hidden motifs.

Then there were those who plainly rebelled and got in trouble for it. The heros. I fell in love with this painting with its unicorns and rainbows. Hope and small miracles in desperate times.


Edgars Vērpe, 1989: “Refugee”

My friend in Riga told me that it is a crazy place to live at this time… There aren’t any age-old, well-established ways to spend your freetime and people are open to any ideas and willing to try and create new forms of entertainment. He said there’s something new and exciting always happening and coming up in Riga, and you can definitely notice this even as just a visitor. In the museum, I got the impression that pretty much the same goes for Latvian contemporary art.

I stood in front of this painting for a long time, wondering what the artist wanted to say about refugees. Exceptionally long, leaping legs, naked, no face to be seen, the color of coal and fire… I couldn’t quite make it out, but I’m grateful that I stumbled upon this painting and was able to get lost in my thoughts for a while with it. That’s exactly why I like visiting art museums anyway.

After checking out the exhibitions, I climbed to the roof top terrace of the museum that provides visitors with a stunning view of Riga. I had a great afternoon well worth the 6€. Can’t wait to see what the city has to offer on my next visit.

Getting Ready for Blisters

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I first acknowledged El Camino de Santiago when somebody I knew walked the Portuguese Way in 2014. He pointed out that Paulo Coelho (one of my favourite authors) writes about the Camino in just about all of his books. Last year one of my best friends walked the way to Santiago around the same time as one of my favorite Finnish bloggers. The Camino has been haunting my mind every now and again after hearing stories from four people I look up to very much. Now, I decided it is my turn to conquer the north of Spain.

The internet bursts of all sorts of blog posts, YouTube videos, articles, packing lists and such of the Camino. After reading and watching hundreds of them, I still do not feel fully prepared. The information found from different sources is often contradicting, yet all of them have one idea in common. That the Camino is a personal journey, everyone makes their own mistakes, and each experience of the Camino is unique.

I love walking. I love being by myself, especially when there’s a lot to think about. I love meeting new people from all around the world, especially if they are in a similar place in their life as I. I have a backpack of 7 kg and I’m heading off to Tallinn early tomorrow morning. I will be flying to Barcelona from Riga on the weekend, and don’t know when I’ll return. Let’s hope I stay healthy during this hike of hundreds of kilometers.

Blind to Vision

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Two of my best Estonian friends sent me 365 rolled-up quotes along with candy and tiny booze bottles to Chuuk. I used to open a rolled-up quote every morning in Chuuk, but as the package arrived well into my year, I am still left with about 60. Sadly the tiny booze bottles weren’t as lasting.

Today’s quote was by Helen Keller:

The only worse thing than being blind is having sight but no vision.

Perhaps to shame myself right now, I admit that I didn’t recognize the name Helen Keller. Since my life here in Finland is similar to my life in Chuuk in the sense that I literally have nothing but time, and differs in the sense that I have high-speed internet available at all times, I looked the name up.

Helen Keller, born in Alabama in 1880. The first sight and hearing impaired person in America to have completed a Bachelor’s Degree. Impressive. Completing my Bachelor’s was tough enough even if I’m completely healthy, fit as a fiddle. How do some people do that?

Navigated to YouTube, and despite extremely poor quality, I decided to watch this video. Now, if you have nothing better to do in the next hour, this would be the only low-resolution video I’d recommend you to watch. It’s about Helen Keller’s childhood. She was born to a prestigious family, who, collectively and despite the mother’s unconditional love for her daughter, didn’t quite understand Helen, which lead to her getting her way in every issue she had with her parents and, on top of that, being rewarded for bad behavior in the form of a piece of candy.

How did she transform from a young, misunderstood sugar-addict to one of the biggest miracles of her time? The answer is Anne Sullivan.

Anne Sullivan taught Helen Keller a way to communicate, she gave her language. In the 18-1900s, this was not usual. According to the video, Helen’s family did not believe she could learn anything, and were ready to wave Ms. Sullivan goodbye as soon as Helen’s behavior had only experienced minor improvements. But Anne Sullivan saw Helen’s potential when nobody else did. She had to fight back an influential family to make them realize their daughter’s needs and convince them that tiny signs of learning were huge steps in Helen’s learning. With the focus always on Helen’s needs, Anne Sullivan became Helen’s savior and life-long teacher. She lead Helen to be the first sight and hearing impaired degree-holder in America, and like any great teacher, she’s taken almost no credit for this achievement.

I have been suffering of what they call an identity crisis since Chuuk. My ‘crisis’ has made me take up hobbies such as journaling, meditation, long walks by myself, soul-searching, coloring, and what not. It’s been all about me, me, me, and how to make my life better. This morning with Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan got me thinking. What if instead of being entirely focused on bettering myself I’d take that time and energy to think how I could better other people, or something else in this world… Instead of thinking what the corporate world has to offer to me, I’d think what I have to offer to the world… Anne Sullivan’s goals were admirably selfless and entirely focused on another person, however hard she needed to struggle and put her own needs aside… Not many people in the Western World are willing to do the same. Like I said, I’ve been entirely focused on myself lately, as if a year in a community and family based society of the extreme sort helped nothing to counterattack my Western egotism. However… Is it possible that we all have a little Anne Sullivan somewhere deep inside of us? What if we all let that little Anne Sullivan flourish in our bodies and take over the main focus points in our minds? What kind of a place would the world then be?

Homecoming

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I last posted a month ago, when I was still in Chuuk. Since then, I have traveled half across the globe and reached my home country Finland.

We had a very enjoyable road trip around the US: listening to street music and wandering among the colorful wooden houses of New Orleans, petting dogs and laughing at a cat food related incident at Austin’s Zilker park, cruising in a brand new Mustang across the entire state of Texas, devouring green chilli enchiladas in New Mexico, cruising in the Mustang some more, having a strawberry pique-nique on the edge of the Grand Canyon, roaming around The Strip in Las Vegas with yard drinks and fooling around in an adult playground, singing Spice Girls, ABBA, and Back Street Boys in karaoke, meeting one of my dearest friends from Estonia in her new home – Washington DC – and making use of the free museums there, and finally reaching the Big Apple where I met up with most of my house mates from Chuuk.

My return home was delayed by a couple of days and instead of flying from JFK to Helsinki-Vantaa, I took a plane straight to Copenhagen to celebrate my brother’s graduation from Lund University. It was great to see family after a long time, and I got a whole dose of Nordic foods that have been much missed.

Upon my return, lots of thoughts have been racing through my head. Those will have to wait for another post though – right now I am not sure how I’d express them, black on white. Now, I am just telling myself that it’s good to be in place for a while before the next chapter.