Monday, August 13, 2007

Back in Jyväskylä

Degrees, graduations and jobs come and go, but procrastination is forever.

I've now started in my new job in Jyväskylä, where I'm supposed to brainwash educate students and do research. My student times are therefore over, although there is still the minor detail of finishing and submitting the t*****, before I can properly move on.

The blog will live on, as it would be wrong to think that just because someone starts to pay you for doing research, it would actually get done without the same frustrations, problems, and even deliberate procrastination that occupy a sizeable chunk of every graduate students' research projects.

Back in Jyväskylä, how about that? This is my original alma mater, where I did my first degree, go entangled with student unions and all sorts of activities; where I got into my current research, was employed for a while in the central administration (planning) and then graduated and moved to Cambridge. I told people that I'd like to come back one day, but perhaps not yet, not at this stage.

I wanted to avoid the idea that I'm now coming back after a few years spent "elsewhere". That would somehow feel like having given up on something, almost like a cyclist who breaks away from the peloton only to be caught a few miles later. A PROPER way to advance your career is to go around, be mobile, never to set foot to previously marked squares, not to mention returning to square one. (It is only allowed when taking a professorship in your old uni, when you want to get some more time for your grandchildren.)

But, things have changed here so much that it feels all new. All the new facilities, new people, new projects, new systems... And our research group's future as a Finnish Centre of Excellence (as of beginning of 2008) means that this is now the place to be, and this is also the time to be here. While I've been learning new things and educating myself in Cambridge, this department has been busy as well. It's almost like the whole department had gone and done a graduate degree somewhere.

The town has changed as well. The students will be back in two weeks time, but as school starts this week, the town is taken over by teenagers. I generally don't like teenagers, which is probably because in these more peripheral towns they have nothing much to do but drink and hang out (or whatever the term is nowadays, "chill"? See, I'm completely out of these loops...) in shopping centres. Our flat is overlooking a park, and unsurprisingly there was a bunch of teenagers there in the evening. And today, another bunch, a proper crowd, actually, occupied a corner in the fast food restraurant. Views everyone has seen ad nauseam.

But something was different. The first group wasn't drinking cider or cheap white wine, they were training parcour moves. The group was very mixed, boys and girls, big and small. Bouncing, jumping, hanging, climbing... and having a great time. The second crowd had gathered around a dancing game, there were two guys having a match. They were phenomenal, amazingly fast, amazingly accurate. Also, looking at the crowd, the first thing I noticed was that a number of girls had school uniforms. Those sailor-like dresses that Japanese girls are made to wear. According to yesterdays paper, these girls probably are "lolitas", which is a youth subculture that I didn't expect to see here. And there were a couple of other groups, the names of which I can only guess, and what amazed me was the attention to detail and the extent to which these people had styled themselves to make the statement they were making.

Although I live next to the campus and only have a short walking distance to work (even shorter now that I've decided to work at home this week, to avoid the construction work and moving hassles at the dept), I need to get my bike here. I have an old road bike that needs some TLC to be roadworthy. Luckily, in the building next door, there's a bike shop that is run by a somali guy, who at least according to what his (probably middle-eastern) friend told to a girl who was bringing her bike in, can fix ALL problems, not to worry.

So has the sleepy town in central Finland, so proud of its roots as the home of Finnish education, grown to be a positively multicultural town with vibrant and varied youth culture? It must have been to uni as well? If that's the case, good. Very good.

(Pic: view from our balcony)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Welcome back to Finland!