Helena Hautamäki almost made the trip to Nuuksio

What a wonderful day to pick lingonberries in Nuuksio! The sun is sure to be shining on the autumn heath by the Suomen Latu cottage in Vaakkoi.

On the other hand, a return bus ride to Nuuksio costs 20 euros, compared to 19 for a carton of lingonberries from the Hakaniemi market. I decided to pick my lingonberries at the market and enjoy the sun shining down on the Kahvisiskot marquee. Next time, I’ll try the rice porridge instead of blueberry pie. Luckily, it’s on offer every day.

From here there is a good view of the first place I called home in Helsinki, Merihaka, to which I moved in ’91. From a lakeside town, I moved into a seventh-floor corner flat – with a fantastic view – in a 15-floor tower block. I fell in love with the place. My son used to say, “Mum, you don’t have to tell us every time a boat sails off.”

Helsinki has always been a city of contrasts. When I lived in Puu-Vallila, for a change of scene all I had to do was take a tram to the Merihaka tower and enjoy the view. The gorgeous, orange-red, ornamental cherry tree under the window of my new home in Pikku-Huopalahti and the multicultural mix of local residents was like a flashback to my time abroad.

When living in Bangladesh, I pushed my children around in the only pram in the neighbourhood. Around 30 children would run behind me, teaching me to count to five in Bengali. In their turn, they would chant the Finnish numbers in unison. The village women would playfully ask what colour of caste mark I wanted and they used kohl to daub a mark on my forehead.

As an employee of the City of Helsinki, I’ve looked after children and elderly people on numberless occasions. I’ve organised groups of various kinds in community centres, where guests have created poems and art. I’ve also done some cleaning in my time. I have a masters degree in the social sciences.

Nowadays, I love spending time with my three grandchildren. I would also like to help the residents of refugee reception centres, particularly illiterate and innumerate mothers. They too need to be taken by the hand and shown how to get by on an everyday basis in a completely new culture.

Text and picture: Riikka Lahdensuo