Thursday, 24 November 2011

Christmas is almost here!

It's official. I am going to Finland for Christmas and New year. The downside is that Skywalker can't afford to come with me. To be honest the only way I can afford it is because my parents are paying for the flights.

Last year I had my first London Christmas since moving to London permanently. It was very different to the way my family spend Christmas. Not bad, just very different. I think I had a bit of a culture shock. We stayed at the flat that Skywalker shares with his dad. The biggest difference between a British Christmas and a Finnish Christmas is which day is celebrated as the most important one i.e when the presents are opened! By Finnish standards Christmas eve is climax of Christmas. All preparations are finished by Christmas eve. The perferably real, carefully decorated Christmas tree sits in a central spot in the living room as the central visual point to be seen by all. Our family follows quite a traditional christmas eve routine. Christmas Eve morning is filled with anticipation as the hours are counted until the presents can be opened. Some people will be still frantically running around shopping centres trying to find the last presents. In our home it is a laidback affair. Everything is done by the night before orchastrated by my mother, the master of organization. The traditional Finnish stuff doesn't begin until lunch time when you have the option of going to the sauna before having rice porridge with sugar and cinnamon. The tv might be on but we usually turn it off on this holiday and listen to seasonal radio and all the cheesy songs that usually make our teeth grind. After lunch some of us might scamper to our rooms to finish off packing gifts. We usually put on our sunday best and I love to make an effort and put on a lovely dress. The main event is Christmas eve dinner. The table is set with the traditional Christmas oven baked ham covered in mustard, boiled potatoes, beetroot salad, gravlax and casseroles with carrots, sweetened potato.  Me being a vegetarian I don't partake in consuming all of the traditional food but everyone else seems to love it. Mulled wine with raisins is a big treat for me. We eat and socialize in candle light for hours and enjoy the snowy view from our dining room window.

Around nine pm we move into the living room absolutely stuffed towards the chocolate trays and the presents that have usually "magically" appeared into a sack in front of the christmas tree. I will post some photos while I'm in Finland to give you a first person view into a Finnish Christmas.

Now my friends I am sorry but I will have to leave you to go back to learn my lines for the pantomime that I'm performing before I can enjoy wintery Finland.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Name as identity

I have two names. Yes you heard correctly, I have two names. There are two names in my passport, driving license and all other papers. Also I need to clarify I don't mean two names as in a first name and a surname.  I have two given names which is a common practice in my culture but to add confusion to non-Finns I go by my second name. I have never been called Emma by my parents even though it appears first in my name in all my ID. Sometimes when I'm sitting in a doctor's waiting room in Finland I actually have to remind myself that Emma is a part of my name. In Finland it's easy, they read out your name at school and you put up your hand and ask to be called by your second name and the teacher will make a little note without flinching and move on. Easy. Uncomplicated and most of all normal. But change the location of this little episode into the UK and this seems incomprehensible to people. The thing that gets to me most is that people actually argue with me on what my name is, even after I explain it's common in Finland to be called by your second name. I think I know what my name is thanks.

My name has proved to cause so much headache in the last couple of years that I am seriously considering going to deed pole and changing it permanently. This is the conversation I have almost every time I meet new people. Other indicates new person I have met. This is your basic name calling situation that happens at new jobs or schools.

Other: "Emma?"
Me: "Actually could you call me Annina?"
Other:"Oh do we have your name wrong?"
Me: "Well not really I just go by Annina"
Other: "...."
Me: "I have two names. It's a cultural thing."
Other: "So Annina is your nickname?"
Me: "No, it's my second name."
Other: "Your surname?"
Me: "No my name is Emma Annina"
Other:"Is it a double-barreled name?"
Me: "No"
Other: "..."
"So really your name is Emma."
Me: "Yes, but could you call me Annina please."
Other: "But that's not your name."
Me: "Yes it is, I have two."
Other: "So, EMMA"

I do see the comedy in these exchanges but am also tired by years of having to defend my identity. For years people have tried to tell me who I am and what I should be by arguing over my name. A person's name is a major part of their identity and the fact that I have had to fight for mine has undoubtedly affected my identity and self image. Sometimes in these situations I can't help but be frustrated since I have gone through them a million times before. So I get labelled as a troublemaker or uppity. "Don't call her Emma, she'll go mental!"

The people who I end up making a connection with are the people who don't ask questions about my name or doubt me, they just accept. The relief I feel when I meet someone and I don't have to prove myself is almost overwhelming and breaks downs the barrier I build for other people. I will never stop feeling grateful when I meet those people. Skywalker was one of  them. That's not his real name either.

Just let me be Annina and I will have endless respect for you.

I'm Annina. Who are you?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Hello again my noonday demon.

When setbacks hit me, they hit me hard. Nothing major has happened, just a collection of small annoiyances and worries that have escalated into a big pit of darkness. I will pick myself up tomorrow but for now let me wallow in peace. I have noticed my tolerance for stress is much lower than the average non-depressed person's. That's why I'm here now: under the duvet on the couch in the flat Skywalker shares with his father drinking cider to drown my sorrows. My shift was cancelled for today and I'm glad. I had my weekly group therapy session and this unveiled all the stress and worry I had burried underneath. I cried for a good hour and even had a fight with Skywalker which I am not proud of at all and now I am exhausted physically and mentally. I don't even have the concentration of watching tv. I have not been like this for a while. Even my doctor suggested lowering my antidepressant dosage recently. If she saw me now she would probably change her mind. So what is wrong you ask?

Constant worry about money and paying the rent.
Exhausting day job I do not enjoy i.e hospitality and waitressing
My mobile nail technician business hasn't set off as I would have liked and I don't have the money to advertise it at the moment.
I don't have the time or money for hobbies or enjoyable activities.
All my efforts to make more money and get out of my situation seem to fail.

Here's some examples of the latter. I joined The Body Shop at Home in hopes of earning more money doing parties and direct selling. It turns out I'm not a sales person. I get calls every other day by my manager asking why I haven't filled my sales quota. Of course they don't tell you about the sales quota when you join. They just concentrate how flexible they allow you to be. My ass. I have a day job and an acting career to consider. I don't have time to make the sales some of the other people do and I'm made to feel inadequate that I'm not reaching this quota. Also an interesting fashion internship I applied for turns out to be an unpaid position and although I love fashion and would love a job in it, I'm not sure I have the time and money to commit to that at this moment in my life.

To top it all of Google adsense disabled my account because of invalid click activity. I have not been clicking my own adds or violating the terms and conditions and I hear this is a lifetime ban. Oh joy. That was the final straw that broke the camel's back. The world seems cold and harsh today and I'm dreading going to work tomorrow. There are not enough hours in the day to complete my to do-list.

I will be fine. I have gone through this many times. I don't need pep talk or cliched phares about silver linings. I need some respite and improvement in my life. It's a good thing Finns are resilient and persistent. Tomorrow I will have the energy to wrestle my demon back into his cage but he has won todays battle. See you when the thunder clears.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The Joker and Harleyquinn unleashed!

Sorry everyone for the delay in posting about October MCM Expo 2011. Life as usual has gotten in the way of fun. I have been doing crazy shifts to try and tide me over till the pantomime in December. Anyway on to the more important things: our experience at Expo. Skywalker and I could only attend the event on the Saturday. Money issues prevented us from doing a whole weekender, we were even thinking of booking a hotel for the weekend but alas.

Our day started with a 6am wake up call for make up and hair. Doing Skywalker's hair and make up takes a good 2 hours and about half an hour for my own. We are perfectionists in our cosplays. We use professional theatre make up and a good professional tip for making scars is using liquid latex with tissue paper. In London the best make up resource for theatre make up is Charles Fox's. I can spend a fortune there in a heartbeat. So take caution if you do go.

Around 8am we were fully clothed and ready to go. Being a weekend London transport was useless as usual, another reason we woke up at such an inhumane hour. The top tip for making the most out of MCM Expo is to buy the early bird tickets and arriving early. You do not want to arrive around midday without a ticket; the size of the queue will make even hardened Brits want to take their own life.

Traveling to a convention in costume is definitely half the fun of cosplaying. Since the October Expo falls on Halloween weekend our appearance on the streets of London is less shocking than in the May Expo but nonetheless we received loads of quizzical and shocked looks, honks from cars and compliments. The bouncing of my Harleyquinn hat as I walked had us in permanent giggles. Skywalker managed to scare some children on the way. We met some anime cosplayers on the way and shared the rest of the journey with them. We arrived at the Excel centre around 11am and the area was already swarming with cosplayers. To my disappointment we heard we were sharing the Excel centre with a fashion show of some sort. Don't get me wrong I love fashion but with the volume of people who attend MCM Expo and growing each year putting another event on at the same time is surely counterproductive. I also had to stifle my laughter in as some fashionistas decided the queue with the most cosplayers must be the queue to enter the fashion show. No this isn't a Harleyquinn costume I am wearing but the latest trend from Paris!!

 After the long journey we headed straight for refreshments at Cybercandy which sells confectionary from all over the world. I bought Fanta grape soda which I haven't drunk since I was seven years old when we lived in the US! Ah nostalgia!

MCM Expo is a haven for collectors. I bought this adorable Catbus plushtoy from one of my favourite Anime films "Totoro" by Studio Ghibli! Come to think of it every time I've been to Expo I've bought a plushie. I might be starting a tradition.
The Batman: Arkham City video game was being promoted so our costumes were very apt for the situation. We met some other great Batman cosplayers. Here we are with a great Catwoman. I keep seeing so many great Catwomans that I'm tempted to cosplay as her myself in the future. Before that I have at least 3 other cosplays that come first and one currently in progress. Posing for photos is definitely a big part of the cosplay culture and refusing is considered ridiculously rude. Why dress up if you don't want to pose? Being asked for a photo is also a big compliment for cosplayers. It means your work is considered of a good standard. Cosplaying is not a hobby for the camera-shy. The first time we cosplayed as Harleyquinn and Joker we could hardly take one step without being asked to pose for a photo.
I borrowed this great foam mallet from another (male) Harleyquinn. I need to build a mallet. Right now! (I wish my bag wasn't in the photo.)

         2 sides of the same character: Arkham Asylum Harleyquinn meets comic book Harley.

                                           Should I be concerned? He's MY Mister J!

The first Arkham Asylum Scarecrow I have ever seen. I'm impressed. Apparently the claw is made from a Pringles tube, syringes and tubing. A Pringles tube?!

Two-face and Poison Ivy. Poison Ivy is a very popular cosplay but this one was my favourite. I wonder how he made those scars?

It's not all about Batman. Here was a wonderfully whimsical Tonberry (I bought the plushie last year!) from the Final Fantasy game series. I especially love that he/she has a person dedicated to hold the speech bubble! Skywalker loves posing too much to just hold my speech bubbles.

I am constantly impressed by cosplayers' imagination and creativity. I have seen excellent cosplays of things I would never even think of like this Pac-man group. They made my day!

This is a remote controlled R2D2, yes you heard me a remote controlled R2D2. With beeps and lights and everything. I found out there's a whole internet community for R2D2 builders. If I had the skills I would make one for Skywalker. That would possibly be the only present I would ever have to give him.


                                             Retro cosplay: Banana1 from Bananas in Pyjamas.

                                       A fantastic female Madhatter equipped with china teacups.

I had an admirer too, in a white suit. I resisted temptation but had a sneaky cuddle!

That's enough for me for now. I don't want to clog up my blog with all the photos I took. If people like this post I am considering posting more about cosplaying. Please leave comments. It was a fun day as always. Anyone geeky who loves dressing up should definitely give it a try. Warning it is very addicting activity. I am hoping my elaborate Lulu cosplay will be finished for May's MCM Expo. I have all the fabrics but need to buy boning for the corset top. I have never made a corset before, fingers crossed it turns out ok.