Two weeks ago, I finally had the courage to have my hair cut really short, after gradually getting shorter and shorter. The first 2 days or so were weird, I felt strange with so short hair but I got used to it quite fast. Today I am going to write about my Wednesday morning coffee last week with a Finnish friend, a long-time short hair advocate (I think), the owner of my favourite dog in the world and another Creative Sustainability student (soon-to-graduate), Johanna.
Johanna and I really tried to meet for a few times to do this morning session. First I was sick, then she was busy with her thesis, then I cannot remember if we postponed one more time, but it felt like we tried forever! And finally last week we met in Johan & Nyström in Katajanokka, and had a long and lovely chat with this platinum haired girl.
Yes, Johanna is studying in Creative Sustainability (CS) master’s degree programme in Aalto University, the program that I graduated from. She is now on the way to graduation, working and working and working on her thesis, and she is so much looking forward to getting her life back from her thesis! We never took any course together as she started studying 2 years later than me, and when I think of how we got to be friends, I keep on going back to having lunch together with a few other CS students, in Ravintola Arabianranta of school, and especially sitting on the high tables in the middle of the restaurant. Eating together the gooey student food eventually turned into a good friendship.
Since her life consists of her thesis nowadays, the first thing we talked about was naturally her topic. She has been working on facilitating pro-active citizen participation in urban planning, which is a quite complex process in Helsinki. Due to this complexity, distance between city officials and residents, and the lack of sufficient inclusion of the public in urban planning processes, residents of Helsinki generally think that they cannot affect the planning decisions. Johanna, with her thesis project, has been working on the ways to encourage and include them in the process using her creative designer skills.
But actually, Helsinki is a new city for Johanna too. She is originally from Parikkala in South Carelia region of Finland, a small town at Russian border. Before studying design, she spent a few years working on an exciting and highly different field – she studied agriculture and horses in a vocational school and then worked in France, Ireland and Yorkshire, grooming horses. She says that at that time her dream job was to become a blacksmith but later on she chose design as a profession. I remember my dream job when I was a kid: I wanted to work in trains and become an engine driver.
While we were sipping our latte and cappuccino with heart-shaped cream on top of each, I asked her why she chose to meet Johan & Nyström. I had only been there once before, I think it was 2 years ago. I thought of going there again ever since but even though I love Katajanokka, I do not go there often as it is never on my way and I need a special occasion to go. Johanna likes this cafe a lot since coffee is really good and it has a nice view outside. During our 2 hours conversation, I really got to see how much she loves coffee really. But it is not just any coffee, she wants to drink good quality coffee as a real coffee addict! Apart from this place, recently she has chosen cafes on the basis of their writing facilities, again because of thesis. One of these places is the container style cafe, Köket in Hakaniemi by the sea. Another cafe that she likes is Kahvila Kampela in Uutila National Park in Vuosaari, Eastern Helsinki. She says that coffee is terrible there but the view and environment are so good that she still likes going there anyway.
Johanna is a vegetarian, eating also fish occasionally. She has been a vegetarian since she was about 14-15 years old, for ethical reasons. As it is very expensive for a student’s budget to eat out in Helsinki, she generally cooks herself and eats home, but she also likes cooking for and with friends. She generally makes mixed salads, using her favourite ingredients such as marinated olives, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, and herbs that she grows herself. And of course, let us not forget bread: as a proper Finn, she likes a good rye bread, made from a good starter. Even though she does not eat out much, Johanna thinks that food diversity is increasing in Helsinki, and there are many places where you can find vegetarian food.
As a coffee addict, Johanna says that coffee in Helsinki improved a lot over the last few years. But her general complaint related to eating out is, as I wrote above, the extreme prices. She also sees that street food scene is improving as well, but then again, the prices should improve too, so that everyone can benefit from this diversity.
As I am sitting in Korjaamo at the moment and writing this blog post, I am thinking what a friend of mine said to me a few days ago: “You know, according to the common knowledge, the Native Americans consider that cutting of hair is a sign of grief.” Yes, I probably started cutting my hair because of grief but nowadays I am doing better.. Looking at Johanna, though, I don’t see a grieving woman, but I see a strong, down-to-earth woman and this is very inspiring. I am sure she will get a very good result from her thesis work and I hope she can continue her topic in the professional level as well.
And Katajanokka? Well, of course I promised to myself to go there more often again, but I am pretty sure I won’t! I am so lazy sometimes!