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Part 12 - 26.3.09

Oh my! What a week! In some ways, we have entered normal life. We have a routine. We've worked out which supermarkets sell what at the best prices and that bread must be some kind of gold-plated delicacy that only the rich and famous can afford. Thus, I have embarked on a daily baking session to keep Neil and the boys in bread and toast. Of course, it would be a waste of electricity to turn the oven on just for bread, so we have also had scones, fruit crumbles, buns and peppermint slice. We have discovered the website which lists the school dinners menu for each week. Of course they are entirely in Finnish, so we now have a weekly session armed with the dictionary to find out which days are really no-go days for the boys. We've decided to let them choose two days when lunch really doesn't appeal, when we'll have both a cooked breakfast and cooked dinner. The other days, they have to try to eat their main meal at school. It's all so different for them though!

In other ways, it feels like we've been on a rollercoaster. We have maintained our daily ice-skate (not intentionally, but our drive is now only ice) to the post box, in the hope that our residency certificates would be there. Yesterday, after three weeks of this, we went back to the poliisi station to find out what the delay might be. That was when my world temporarily collapsed! The lady told us that our application had not been approved and that it would be better if we had found jobs. This is where it is encouraging to know that all foreigners have the same battle with different departments telling you that you have to have something else ready before they can help you. You can't register with the employment agency or the tax office until you have a residency certificate but you can't have that until you have a job. It's virtually impossible to get a job without a residency certificate or tax card... and so the cycle goes on. We had thought that being self-sufficient was our trump card but apparently not! We tried to explain (again) our situation, only to be told that her boss, who makes the decision, is a very busy man and that she would call us when she had spoken to him. I didn't hold out much hope.

So we returned home, a little defeated. Neil emailed the embassy for advice, quoting the appropriate EU article. It wasn't long before they got back to us, basically saying that we posed a potential burden on the country and we should seriously consider whether we could afford to risk staying longer than three months, as we would begin to lose UK social security and wouldn't be eligible under the Finnish system. It would be fair to say that I wasn't at all happy and didn't expect a favourable outcome.

This morning, at 9 a.m. my phone rang. I knew by the fact that it was an unrecognised number, that it was our lady and I prepared myself for the news. She has a very quiet voice which doesn't vary in tone at all. She calmly informed me that our residency certificates were ready and would I like them posting or was I going to collect them in person? I thought we'd better go straight there in case somebody changed their minds. We prepared all the other documentation that we would need to be included on the population register and get in at the employment office and off we went. We accidentally popped in next door for coffee and fruit pie on the way out and then collected the long-awaited and extremely precious pieces of paper. The visit to Maistraatti (the register office) was relatively straight forward and uneventful, providing us with proof of our existence! We also got an email from the Commonwealth Office this afternoon, telling us that the boys' apostillised birth certificates have been posted, so very soon they will exist too!

Although I am ecstatic that we are definitely allowed to stay here, my emotions have been completely rung out this week! I feel like I could now sleep for a week but we have way too much to do! By the time we got to the employment office today, it had closed, so that's tomorrow's job, along with tax, Kela and an appointment to see the special needs teacher at the boys' schoool. No, they don't have special needs - their special need is being new. She wants to meet with us to check that all is going well. We had the spring parent/teacher consultation yesterday morning as well and both their teachers spoke positively about how well they have settled. Josh's teacher was a little concerned that his classmates were talking Finnish too much in their social time (instead of speaking English so Josh is included) but maybe that is why he keeps coming out with surprising little nuggets of Finnish that make us raise our eyebrows!

No niin! (Well, the Finns seem to start every sentences with this apparently meaningless phrase, so I shall too!) I think you are now up-to-date again. I'd better go and bake my bread before we go to house group. Missing you all!

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