Part 11 - 17.3.09

I think this week has been the one in which we have moved from that semi-sense of being on an extended holiday to living here. I guess that came mostly with the boys starting school. The first few days were quite eventful with morning bus journeys (and the lack of them on the bus timetable compared with reality) driving us round the twist! Well we have now settled on an apparently non-existant bus that gets them there in good time. Andy, however, working on the principal of 'if it isn't broken, mess with it anyway' went earlier this morning and caught a different bus. I hope he walks slowly at the other end! We have clearly arrived in the school at a busy time of year! We have parent teacher consultations next week, which look quite in depth. This Friday, the boys have a day off (sort of). It's how they do INSET days. The kids have to find work for the day, for which they get paid (12 euros for 6 hours work). Then they give that money to the school's chosen charity - in our case UNICEF. I think it's better than raffles and sponsored events, though a little expensive for us this year because our two didn't have time to find work, so they're working for me. We're aiming to produce a DVD about Finnish culture and how life here is adapted for the climate. We'll let you know when they are for sale! The boys also have the annual ski trip coming up. They have various options but would both love to learn to snowboard. We decided that one would have to be earned with some amazingly good behaviour! So the letters are hanging on the fridge door ready to be pointed at when a carrot is needed. Cruel, I know, but the lessons aren't cheap and we're both still unemployed!

Church has been a source of encouragement to us, proving that the Finns are really very friendly and welcoming. As well as the Sunday morning service, which is translated into English, we have been attending an English-speaking house group and have made some friends through that. We were invited to a Chinese lady's apartment for dinner on Saturday where we enjoyed some fantastic home-cooked Chinese food, but also lots of laughter and sharing of cultures. She taught Andy how to write his name and 'Jesus' in Chinese. He enthusiastically sat and practised all evening and can now manage Jesus from memory but struggles with his own name. Psychologists might have something to say on that one!

On Sunday, after church, we joined in a meeting about the International Work. In the group are a couple of guys who are from the refugee centre and we were discussing ways of drawing people from there into the church. Language courses were discussed and they were wondering about a teacher. Neil laughed and pointed out that if the language was English, I could do it. They were immediately keen on this idea and decided that as English is so important here for getting work, two language courses would be best - Finnish and English. So I am running an English course after Easter for 7 weeks and another chap is doing a parallel Finnish course. I did think that perhaps Neil should be rewarded in some way for expressing his faith in me without prior consultation, so I have enlisted him as my assistant. I think he could learn some new skills there!

Our days at the moment are quite uneventful. We are awaiting a vital piece of mail that will spark a new wave of frantic activity, but until that arrives (our residency certificate) we cannot do anything else. We did all the documentation and paid the admin fee a couple of weeks ago and they said it would take 2 to 3 weeks, so it must be on its way. Once that arrives, we can complete our entry in the population register and get the children's social security numbers. In much the same way as in England we have our National Insurance number, everybody here has a social security number and without it, it is difficult to do anything. So at the moment, we cannot register for health care, family allowance or seeking work through the employment system. Perhaps at the moment, our biggest prayer request is that they arrive soon. A close second though is for my interview (Fri 27th March) and that we both find work quickly.

There was some excitement yesterday as we almost finished the unpacking. We also spent some time looking at flight prices last night and discovered that Finnair are currently offering some amazing fares from Manchester to Oulu for Christmas and New Year... so if anybody (well, not anybody... but people who we know) fancies a Christmas holiday, you might want to get in touch and book flights quickly. I can't see them being so cheap for very long. We're not far from the airport and would obviously come and get you. We have wifi so if you need to, bring the work with you!

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