Why I will visit Yellowstone again

Yellowstone is probably the most famous national park in the USA.  I visited it in the early summer in 2014.  Every time I think about Yellowstone, I tell myself that I will definitely go there again.  Why?

I want to stay inside of the park.  Two reasons: (1) I want to be waken up by the sound of forest, not by alarm;  (2) I do not want to spend at least two hours a day on the road going in and out of the park.  The lodging inside of Yellowstone is so popular that it has to be secured several months in advance.  I would love to stay in the Lake Lodge!  Last time when we passed the Lake, I really wanted to just sit there for some time…

yellowstone lake
Yellowstone Lake

I want to look for those secret spots for amazing photos.  Or,  just have more time to take photos…  Meanwhile, I also want to have more time for my eyes to enjoy.  Yellowstone’s beauty is everywhere; it varies in different parts of the park; it changes over time within a day.

yellowstone cistern spring in Norris Geyser Basin
Yellowstone Cistern Spring in Norris Geyser Basin
beartooth highway
Beartooth Highway
yellowstone grass land
Flatlands and River

I want to meet with more animals.  Yellowstone is home for many species.  I was lucky to see a white mountain goat in somebody’s binoculars (wish I could take a photo).  And … I was excited to come across with a bear family, while I was thinking I would never see a bear in Yellowstone…

yellowstone animals three bear
Three bears

Yes, Yellowstone is full of surprises.




Baby in Finland – Nursing while shopping

We have been living in Espoo for almost three months.  Now I know a little bit more about those shopping centers, especially how to take the baby to shopping!

First of all, traveling with a baby in pram/stroller is free on buses (and other HSL public transportation).  So, just board the bus through the middle door.  Those large shopping centers are well served by public transportation 🙂

Secondly, look for the door open button to make life easier:

Door Open Button
Door Open Button

Now while you are inside of the shopping center, look for the nursing room when it’s necessary.  Be confident that there is a nursing room!  Just ask for directions.  Here I will show you the nursing rooms in these shopping centers: ISO Omena, Sello, AINOA/Stockmann, IKEA Espoo, and Kamppi (Helsinki).

ISO Omena probably has the best nursing room.  It is located on the first floor, close to the children’s clothing shops, right beside the children’s playground.  Push the button to open the door, and you will see a very big room.  There are stroller parking, lockers, table and chairs (for bigger kids), a big sofa (for breastfeeding), and kids’ restrooms.  The nursing room is always occupied, almost constantly being used.  In fact, the playground outside is also one of the best, and is very popular!

Sello is another popular shopping center in Espoo.  The nursing room is also on the first floor, and in the children’s area (see photos).  This nursing room is not big, although it’s quite popular.  You can do everything you need to, but the room itself is not as fancy as the one in ISO Omena.  For example, there’s no sofa.

AINOA/Stockmann is in Tapiola.  It’s supposed to have two nursing rooms, but we could only find the one in AINOA side.  It’s a bit tricky to find the nursing room.  The tip is to find the children’s playground, which is beside the second floor of H&M.  The playground, or rather the rest area, is huge and fabulous!   We saw fathers were taking care of kids (while mothers were shopping?).  Then, follow the signs to the nursing room, on the fourth floor.  The room is warmly decorated.   Although there is no sofa either, the chairs there are very comfortable for breastfeeding.

Then, IKEA Espoo.  After you enter the building, take a right.  And you will see the information desk and the small playground.  The nursing room is on the opposite side of the playground.  The room is not big, but it’s lovely and very IKEA (my feeling).  The red box on the wall is a changing station (diapers available).  The pretty IKEA chair is perfect for breastfeeding!   There’s no kids’ restroom.

Nursing room in IKEA
Nursing room in IKEA

Lastly, the Kamppi center in Helsinki.  We have used the nursing room there several times, because we often transfer at Kamppi bus terminal.  The nursing room is on the third floor, where you find children’s clothing shops.  Different from nursing rooms in other shopping centers, the nursing room in Kamppi is located inside of a store!  So look for the sign on the window, go into the store, and you can find the nursing room.  It is a small room, but “luxurily” decorated.  There are diapers, towels, and even baby cream/lotion.  Outside of the nursing room, there are two love seats and breastfeeding pillows!  How thoughtful!

I am not afraid of taking my baby to shopping any more, because I know I can care for him just like at home.





Baby in Finland – Healthcare – Private Hospital

Since our baby does not have a KELA card, we had to look for a private hospital for his vaccination.  We found Mehilainen located in Toolo (Bus/Tram stop Apolonkatu).

Mehilainen in Toolo

Children’s healthcare is on the second floor.  The waiting area is nicely decorated.  There are sofa, stroller parking, lockers, and many toys.

Mehilainen waiting area stroller
Mehilainen waiting area stroller parking
Mehilainen waiting area locker
Mehilainen waiting area lockers
Mehilainen registration
Mehilainen registration

Firstly, we went to the registration so that they can put in all the information.  The ID number is required.  Then, they told us the room number where we would go later.  We just needed to wait in the hallway, and the nurse would come find us.  There is another waiting area if you walk down the hallway – it’s on your right side.  There is one chair that I really like!  While feeding, the baby is less likely to be distracted.

Mehilainen nursing chair
Mehilainen nursing chair

Meeting the nurse

Soon the nurse came out, and invited us into the room.  She also has a lot of toys.  Our baby immediately liked her.  She checked the strength of neck, and measured weight and height.  Since it’s our first visit, we chatted a lot about how we were taking care of our baby.  Then she went out to see if the doctor was ready.

Mehilainen nurse room 2
Mehilainen nurse room

Meeting the doctor

We moved to another room to see the doctor.  Basically we discussed about the vaccination plan.  Since we don’t have a plan to go out of  Europe this year, we decided to just follow the Finnish program.  The doctor then further checked his heart, eye, etc.


Lastly, we went back to the nurse for vaccination: PCV13, Infanrix Hib Polio, and Rota.  The first two are injections.  Rota is oral.  After the vaccination, we were asked to wait for ~15 min to see if there was allergy.

About the payment

We just found out yesterday when we did the second Rota.  For the two visits, the total bill is over 500 euro!    That explains why it’s so easy to make an appointment – no waiting line at all.

Here’s the price list: Doctor 30 min – 125 euro.  Nurse – ~50 euro.  Registration – 19.5 euro.  Rota – 73 euro.  Infanrix polio + hib – 26.5 euro.  PCV13 – 91.7 euro.

The doctor gave a bill right away, but the nurse’s bill would come in mail.  The bills can be paid at the registration, or through IBAN (additional fees may be required).






Baby in Finland – Vaccination – What if No KELA Card

Kela Card needed for service at the public neuvola

When we moved from France to Finland, our baby was only six weeks old.  When we realized that it’s time for vaccination, he was almost ten weeks.  In Finland, the vaccination program includes a Rotavirus vaccine at two months.  Therefore, I went to the close-by health station to figure out how to get the vaccine.  I was told to call a number, later I realized the number was for making an appointment at the public neuvola.  After I made the phone call, actually several calls, I found a big issue – our son can not use the public neuvola without the KELA card!  It seems that they also called the KELA office to find out my husband’s situation to determine whether our son has the right to use the public neuvola.  And the answer was, unfortunately, NO.

Finnish ID needed even for private hospitals

They suggested me to look for private hospitals.  I called one (Terveystalo) that is not very far from our home.  I found another issue – they require ID number!  Our son only had a Japanese passport at that time.  We planned to apply for the residence permit (which has the ID number) for him in Finland.  Somehow I thought that he did not need a residence permit, that we just needed to register him at the Population Register Centre (Maistraatti).  I was WRONG!  He needs a residence permit!  Unlike in Paris, the queue is very long.  The earliest appointment we could get is six weeks after.  (So, if you want to apply for a residence permit in Finland, you’d better plan early!)

To get the Finnish ID without residence permit

Anyway, can we register our son, in other words, get the ID number without a residence permit?  Yes, but they require a legalized birth certificate – Apostille stamped birth certificate.  We did Apostille before, for the Japanese family book.  Since the language is Japanese, it was done in Japan.  And it’s very expensive!  The Apostille itself costed about $300, not to say the shipping and waiting. Unfortunately, that family book was done before our son was born 🙁   Should we do the Apostille in the same way again?  If so, we have to translate the French birth certificate into Japanese first…  Long waiting, and another $300!  Why don’t we get Apostille from France?  Our friends in France helped us to ask the local office, and told us how to get the Apostille, for free!  It was actually very simple.  We just had to request the Apostille from the Hotel de Ville where we got the birth certificate.  They won’t charge anything, and they would even mail the Apostille to us.  Sounds terrific!  So we did it.  After just one week we got the letter from the French office.  Without checking carefully, we immediately went to the Maistraatti in Helsinki.  Who would know that the French office forgot to stamp the Apostille?!  What a surprise!  But… emmm… probably not that surprising considering who they are.  They often make me speechless.  Luckily, our friends in France also requested Apostille for us, and he got it right!  So he mailed the correct copy to us.  Another week passed by, and the Apostille stamped birth certificate was finally in my hand.

Got the Finnish ID without waiting for three weeks

Again, we immediately took the Apostille to the Maistraatti.  This time, we could register our son (finally!).  The problem was it would take about three weeks for us to get the ID number.  In that case, our son would miss the first a few vaccinations.   I wrote a short note explaining why we needed the ID number as quick as possible.  The clerk said she would ask the manager.  With hope, we left.  While I was feeding my son in Kamppi Center, they called me! I was very excited.  Yes!  They processed my son’s application right away, so the registration paper (which has the ID number) was ready to be picked up! Yeah!  After I got the ID number, I called the private hospital, but it’s already too late.  OK, tomorrow then.

Not every private hospital has the vaccines for babies

The next day, I called the private hospital again, with the ID number at hand.  I thought everything was ok now.  However, the nurse answering my call was not sure whether they had the vaccine.  After serval phone calls, they and I were clear that they could not do vaccination for little babies!  I wish I found this out earlier.

So foreigners’ babies can not get vaccines in Finland?  I don’t believe that. Obviously I was not alone.  Somebody out there also came across with this issue before.  Finally, I found Mehilainen.  Their site in Toolo can do the vaccination!  I will describe our visit in another post.


If your baby needs vaccines, make sure s/he has the ID number.  If s/he does not have the KELA card, try Mehilainen.




Feel Finland – Weekend on an island

Finland is known for its thousands of islands, which are ideal places to escape from modern city life.  Finnish people, or finns, are known for their coolness.  I don’t think they are cold.  They are simply cool – do not bother others, and do not want to be bothered.  Chinese people often say: The unique features of a local environment always give special characteristics to its inhabitants.  I think finns are part of the Finnish nature.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.  Fortunately, we had the opportunity to enjoy a typical Finnish weekend.

Around 8:50 am, two friends (one of which is Finn) and we met at the Kinvenlahti pier (in Espoo).  The 9 am ferry was already there.  We purchased the tickets (5 euro each), and boarded the ferry.  The ferry has two floors.  The top floor is open air.  The bottom floor is inside.  The ferry stops at many islands.  Our target was Gasgrund!  It took about 90 min.  Although 90 min sounds a bit long, it’s actually a pleasant journey.  After all, we came out to enjoy our time.  This particular ferry does not have coffee, but some other ferries do.  I do not know how many islands we passed by, but almost every island has one or more houses.  What a life it is to own a vacation house on an island!  In some aspects, I feel I will enjoy Finnish life – I don’t mind to be isolated at all.

Espoo ferry
Espoo ferry
Espoo ferry inside
Espoo ferry inside

Soon we arrived at our destination – Gasgrund Island.  Nothing extraordinary, but who asked for it?  The point is: we are on an island; we are surrounded by trees and water.  The wood storage is right in front of us, and the shelter is only 20 meter away.  The shelter is well equipped for BBQ.  Actually, it looked like somebody just used the fire place.  So our friend just needed to add wood to it.  While the wood was burning, we took the time to walk around the coast.  So peaceful!


fire place in shelter
fire place in shelter

After we came back from a short walk, we started to prepare food.  Our friend is clearly professional!  Look at her BBQ!  We prepared chicken and asparagus, which are also tasty 🙂  The dessert was chocolate banana!  It’s really delicious.

BBQ dessert
BBQ dessert

Different from the BBQ in US, it’s much quieter and natural in Finland!  I liked that the wood was used for BBQ.  Before we left the island, our friend threw in a few more wood to keep the fire.  Finns do not talk much, but they are very considerate.  Everything is in good and unspoken order.