Saturday, 15 November 2014

Summer Work on a Grave Yard

A cemetery in Thessaloniki, Greece

One day I went on a walk here in Thessaloniki, and ended up walking on a cemetery. I was actually planning on exploring cemeteries here because I was sure Greek cemeteries would be different compared to the Finnish ones. I was rather surprised when I saw how they looked like - everything was so white and they surely don't have any gardeners working there. Also the way of burying people was different, as the ''coffins'' were on top of the ground compared to Finland, where the graves are underground with only a grave stone seen on the top. There is one exception, however, which is very old graves, which may be covered with sand and small decorative rocks. 

However, this made me think of my previous summer job on a grave yard. I want to share this story, who knows maybe some Finn finds him or herself reading this text while considering a job on a grave yard next summer. 

My great-grandmother's grave

My summer job search was long and tiring, I already started to feel I wouldn't get any job for the summer. Then I was called for an interview, which ended up me signing a work contract for Hämeenlinnan seurakuntayhtymä = congregation of Hämeenlinna, which consists of congregations of Hauho, Hämeenlinna-Vanaja, Kalvola, Lammi and Tuulos. I worked on the grave yard of Kalvola, which is situated in Iittala, a smaller part of Hämeenlinna. It is an old grave yard, where the oldest grave stones have been replaced or even stolen. The grave yard has older and newer parts, and also a specific burial place for war heroes.

My job started on May 5th, 2014 on the grave yard in Kalvola and continued till July 31st. I worked every week day, work starting at 7 am. Every week I worked for 38 hours and 15 minutes. In the first place it was a bit difficult to wake up so early, but I got used to it. Besides a big plus for work starting so early, was also getting home rather early. It meant there was time for other things in the evenings, not that I would have actually done much. 

A grave yard of Kalvola, Finland

The job that I was conducting there was mainly related to gardening. In May we took care of the overall look of the grave yard before starting to do the maintenance of the flowerbeds and fertilizing. After the flowers were planted for those, who paid the service, the job was mainly about taking care of the flowers, watering, cutting the grass and doing some things to make the grave yard look appealing. 

One of the job tasks was to do customer service, every time that someone came to me for some help, I tried to help him or her with the best possible way I could. It also is a nice touch to greed people, who visit the grave yard – it makes them feel welcome even though grave yard can be such a miserable place. It was also important to remember the emotional bonds that a person can have, when visiting a grave yard. One extra duty for us was to open the door to the church and switch the lights on before a volunteer came there to work as a guide.

The work taught me a whole lot about gardening as I have never been such a green finger before. While working I understood how much the quality of our work had to do with the amount of customers that pay for gardening services. Grave yards would not look as good as they do now if people did not pay taxes to the churches and if people did not buy the services. 

A grave yard in Hamina, Finland

I was able to enhance my team work skills as the job was almost always done in pairs or in a bigger group. The age difference between the youngest and the oldest worker was 40 years, which naturally taught me to work better with older people. I was lucky to have such great co-workers, with whom I got along very well and we sure laughed a lot. 

Working at the congregation of Hämeenlinna, on a grave yard, was great and I truly enjoyed my time there. I was lucky to work with such amazing people, with whom I got along very well. After finishing my work on the grave yard of Kalvola, I worked two more weeks on a different grave yard in Hämeenlinna. 

For anyone thinking of a work on a grave yard, you should be ready to: 
- wake up early every morning 
- be ready to work in any weather condition 
- believe the work is physically more demanding than you may think 

But over all if you like to be outside, this job would suit you very well, so go for it!

A cemetery in Thessaloniki, Greece

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