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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Welcome to the Towers

As some of you may know, almost as soon as I found out I got the EURIAS to come to Finland, I started worrying about accommodations, especially since I knew I'd bring Ted with me.  I spent hours going through rental websites--learning about Finnish/English translations while I was at it--and freaked out about the costs: ca. 1800-2000 Euro a month ($2500-3000) for a furnished, 1-bedroom apartment within 2 miles of work (I wanted to be relatively close to work because I wouldn't have a car to commute and I wanted to "experience" Helsinki, not live in the 'burbs, although admittedly that's an experience, too.  I didn't care about having anything big, though; a small 1-bedroom was all we needed.)  Life suddenly became much easier, and more affordable, when the Collegium (the research center) arranged for Ted and I to spend the year in university housing--classifying Ted as a "service dog" for the 2011-12 academic year in the process!

In 2010 the University of Helsinki developed the first of two high-rise apartment/dormitory blocks for international staff and scholars (generally ABD and up), and while most people stay up to a semester, it is possible to stay for the academic year--and about half the price of the open market!!  They're called the Töölön Tornit (Töölö Towers in English, which sounds some more like Duuhhluuhh) and are in what has turned out to be this great neighborhood all of about 1/2 a mile from the center of town and a little over a mile from the Collegium.

Sooo.... after a night where I learned that dogs CAN have jet lag--he woke me up at 1 am pacing and, trust me, he didn't need to go out--we managed to find a taxi that would accept Ted and with a lovely driver that helped me maneuver my crazy amounts of baggage to the front door.  There I was met by another helpful staff member who explained procedures--thank goodness, they were in writing in the room because I still wasn't entirely with it!--and helped me drag everything into the elevator to our room on the second floor  (Yes, me, Ted, the staff member, 2 suitcases, and 2 carry-ons equalled one incredibly full Euro-elevator!).  

Now brace yourself for a series of first-day photos!  Here's looking into our room from the entryway (note the massive stack of suitcases; I vastly overpacked, but that's for another blog):

Then there's the obligatory reverse shot.

  As you can see, Ted has already discovered his favorite room: the kitchen.

Looking from the living room into my bedroom and visa versa.

It didn't take long for Ted to explore the open shower area and to dive out in case I wanted to give him a bath!

After inspecting the premises, Ted finally collapsed.  Of course, that left me to do all the unpacking! :-)

By the end of the day, we'd started to make things a bit more homey: putting Ted's sheet on the bed in case he jumped up (which he did as soon as the sheet was unfolded), putting another sheet on the couch for the same reason (for some reason he's decided the couch is off limits, which is fine with me), and breaking out the dog toys and chews.

When I first moved in, I was a bit dismayed by the more institutional vibe; over the next few days, I came to realize that some of what I considered institutional was just a form of Scandinavian design.  Think Ikea.  Unfortunately, I'm not much of an Ikea kinda gal, but that can be fixed.  My plan over the next few weeks is to make the apartment more homey by adding some color to the place, and I'll post some images of the "new" apartment then!

More important, though, is the FABULOUS condition everything is in and how helpful the staff have been!  The mattresses are firm, the couch comfortable, and all of the appliances work really well.  The room is immaculate, and when I did have one, VERY minor issue, I had a repairman up in less than an hour (right after I got out of the shower, if the truth be told; I didn't expect anyone to move so fast!)

There are a series of other good things about the place, including the large, quadruple-glazed!, windows and the little balcony at the end of the hall.  At first you might not think the windows are so great, given that they look down onto a construction site. (The staff put us on the back side so that it would be quieter and on a lower level so that it would be easier for me to take Ted out--very thoughtful and, although I didn't realize it at first, a really good idea on many levels.)

It turns out that, by city ordinance, when you put in a certain number of residential units (like the Towers), you are required to build a certain amount of underground parking.  That strikes me as a very sensible law, but it's complicated by the fact that the city is built on granite!  I learned about that on day 2 when I was sitting at my dining table/desk and heard a sudden, high-pitched beep.  Imagine the sound a truck makes backing up but on steroids.  It got more and more frequent until there was sudden silence and an explosion that made the building shake!  After a second I realized that they were BLASTING right outside my window!  I suppose it's a good sign that I cracked up rather than panicked.  It turns out that the blasting happens about once every two days and it'll be over next week; then it's just ordinary construction noise from 9-6 M-F until April.  Since Ted's totally cool about everything and I'm at the Collegium most of the day, I'm just left wondering how the heck they'll build during Finnish winters.  This I've got to see!

Cool thing #2 is the "lounge" at the end of the hall.  In reality, it's a misnomer; it's a good, basic kitchen with two, 4-seater Ikeaesque dining tables and another area with 5 Ikeaesque lounge chairs.  That being said, those lounge chairs are darned comfortable, and I can open a set of floor-to-ceiling, quadruple-glazed doors (you can see that I find the quadruple glazing a bit of a mind-blower!) and sit out on this lovely balcony overlooking the front entrance and our local park.  Probably Ted and I spend about 2-3 hours a day out there, him watching and me doing my reading.  It's a good substitute for the screened porch.

Well, I was going to include images here of the highlight of Töölö Towers, but I seem to have seized up the Blogger photo loader.  Guess that means the viewing deck will be the next entry.

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