Frances Bell

home at last – for all the mes


Four women on a train – one of many possible stories

This story is dedicated to Heli Nurmi whom I have known since we worked together on the CCK08 MOOC in 2008. Heli blogs about open learning, and regularly participates in MOOCs. She has extensive experience of research and practice in education, brings much insight to discussions at blogs and on forums.

I have visited Finland twice- the first time in 1999 was to meet up with educators using digital technologies and the second time was to attend a conference in Turku in 2004.

View of lake at Repovesi

Repovesi by CC BY-NC 2.0)

On the first trip, with a colleague I travelled by train from Helsinki to a college in Kouvola, then on to the University of Tampere and back to Helsinki. Train journeys are a great way to see a country and I remember the landscape of lakes and forest we saw, though checking the map reveals how little of Finland I saw.

On one of our train journeys, we sat in a pair of seats facing two women, one old, one young. The older woman was very keen to speak to us though she spoke no English and we spoke no Finnish. She soon established that the younger Finnish woman spoke English and so she persuaded her to translate. We struck up a conversation about where we were going and where we came from.  The translator seemed to become increasingly bored and uncomfortable until the older lady launched into an animated story that lasted about 5 minutes. Our translator turned to us, shrugged her shoulders, and said “Shit happens”. We smiled and got off the train at the station where we needed to change trains.

In writing this story, I struggled to remember details (apart from the memorable ending) and it occurs to me if either of the other women remembered the meeting they would very likely tell the story differently, as would my colleague.

Finland. Heli Nurmimemoryresearchstory

francesbell • April 4, 2015

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  1. helinur April 4, 2015 - 1:32 pm Reply

    What a honour to receive a to-me-dedicated post. So that is the story u promised to tell. It is true that we Finnish people sometimes hate to speak English. Why don’t you speak as you write: so we do in Finland. Sit and shit may be the same to us, but why she said “shit happens” is not easy to follow. When I was a schoolgirl I have met situations like that you told and didn’t like those/ or them?.
    I have been to London many times and I have studied English language two weeks living in a family and I still hate to use this f***ing language. But I am forced to because you can’t use Finnish. English was at school always my weakest language (7/10), Latin best (10) and Swedish + German better (8-9). I like logical languages more than English which is simultaneously simple and complex. It is not suitable for my brain.
    Finnish TV shows all Harry Potter movies during this Easter time, isn’t it marvellous?

  2. francesbell April 4, 2015 - 3:18 pm Reply

    I am embarrassed not to know more languages than English, French and Latin (probably forgotten through lack of use). We English tend to be lazy about learning other languages.
    What made me smile in the story was that the more animated the older woman became, the more bored young women became, and I thought her way of wrapping up the conversation where she was doing the most work was very neat.
    Regarding the meaning, I think of it as a sort of philosophical statement and wikipedia tells me I could substitute the phrase ‘C’est la vie’.
    I nearly used this image in the post
    Happy Easter Heli, if you celebrate it – happy weekend if not.

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