torstaina, joulukuuta 19

update for iskä

I feel bad about having let this blog shuffle off into the dust and die. just for you, iskä, here's an attempt to make up for lost time. if I were to recount everything that happened since my last blogpost, that would include:

a trip to Stockholm, by boat...
we went through both Turku's and Stockholm's archapelagos.

the sunset melded seamlessly into sunrise.


the Vasa, a fantastic old viking ship.

...and one to St. Petersberg...

we took a boat-tour through the rainy canals of the city.

view from our hotel room. they've got regal palaces for playthings.

the most incredible white-marble-and-chandeliers metro.
I can't believe this is the only photo I have of it. 

muistatko tätä kuvaa, iskä? (:

practicing Cyrillic skills with familiar words.

Vyborg is a chillingly abandoned city of incredible former grandeur.

on the boat to Russia (which went through the Lappeenranta canal),
we had the playroom all to ourselves. (great for getting some quiet time away
from the group of American bachelor partiers who followed us the entire trip...)
...plenty of time at the kesämökki, where I've left part of my heart...

nightless nights over the lake.

Juhannus spent half on a friend's island...

never without my most prized possessions.

...and half back at the village to watch the bonfire.

I had to get a picture of my head on fire (thanks to Essi for taking this).
...the most magical last night in Finland...
äiti helped me light the candles i had gotten as a gift in the beginning of the year.

 ...the love of my life....
...tea and pastries during a layover in London...

...and then suddenly being back in the US of A.

I took a walk in the woods with my little
brother on my first day home and we came across this.
I thought it was the perfect "welcome to America" shot.

...and lots and lots of other things of which I don't seem to have photos, including midnight swims, spontaneous weddings, the most nerve-wracking speech, and the most surreal goodbyes. it wasn't until I was on the plane from London to New York, encased in the exact center of a monstrously huge airplane with the huge ocean beneath me that I started to realize all that I was leaving behind.

life here since I got back has been... life-ish. sometimes, Finland feels like less than a dream. sometimes I am surprised to wake up here rather then there. when I am asleep, the two homes still blend together in my dreams, but slowly I have gotten more and more used to the idea that even if I am home, there is no way for me not to be a little homesick for my other home. I have gotten used to the beauty of that.

there is too much to say, too much to show. so here is a photograph of me, now, home. and far away from home.
I have given up on that whole matching socks thing.

sunnuntaina, toukokuuta 26

another springly update

I shall now shed a bit of light on some things that have happened since my last blogpost.

one was the WildCamp.

this was a four day camping trip near Hyvinkää. it's organized by a lovely hostfamily (really, amazing people. I wish I'd gotten to know them better) with access to some lovely woods. this is only the second year they've held it, and if it continues in future years, I highly recommend it to future Finland exchangers! not only do you get to spend several days straight in the newly-thawed mud of the springtime Finnish woods without showers or electricity, but you get to do so with a truly awesome group of people from all over the world, knowing all the while that this may be the last time you are all together as a group. it was magical.

we slept in Swedish army tents (anything that went wrong in them was, of course, Sweden's fault. this out of focus and terrible picture represents the atmosphere. imagine twenty girls sleeping pinwheeled around a woodstove (staying up in shifts during the night to keep the fire alight) with warm feet and muddy heads, snoring in all the languages of the world. this is what it looked like from the outside.
the campsite. behind me are the four Swedish army tents and the teepee (in which the volunteers slept).
chores included chopping firewood and planting daffodils.

waist-length hair isn't very practical in a muddy, showerless environment. so we cut mine with a puukko and kitchen scissors and tossed it into the campfire. it was a good thing I had so much hair to start out with because quite a few people wanted to try their hands at hairdressing. amazed and thankful props to Megan for skillfully overseeing this all!

another recent happening was the departure orientation. I don't like to talk about that because the very name terrifies me. we were at Polvijärvi, about a half an hour out of Joensuu. it was the same group as was at our arrival orienation, and it was bittersweetly lovely to compare thoughts and impressions and memories.

photoed is the dock from which we swam after saunaing. it was cold, but o have I missed lakeswimming! I stayed in the water perhaps longer than I should have (though it was hard to convince ourselves that it was actually getting late because the sky didn't really get dark). that was also the weekend that Finland didn't medal in either Eurovision or the Hockey championship. poor Finland.

this weekend I went with my host sister Tuuli to Helsinki to stay with her godmother Tarja. this trip is something that we have all been talking about since I came, but autumn went by so speedily that we didn't fit it in and decided to wait until after the snow melted. finally, this weekend was the weekend.

when we arrived on Friday, Tarja took us to Porvoo. Tuuli photographed me under the scrumptious greenness of an obliging tree. 
we walked along the river and ate icecream as afternoonevening turned to eveningevening.
on Saturday, my brotherdear Jacob arrived from Estonia and Tuuli, he, and I explored Helsinki. that day was happening a Maailma Kylässä  ('World in a Village') festivalfairevent. we wandered the tents and some scientists from Saint Petersburg included us in a psychological experiment (in Russian-accented Finnish). and, it just so happened that PMMP (a very popular Finnish band) was performing right after we happened across a stage. so, you know, we stuck around for that too.
it took us a while to leave the park, due to poor navigation skills and distractions and the like. in our wanderings, we saw the most beautiful greenhouse.

we tried to make it back to Suomenlinna (where I was last time I was in Helsinki, but I was there in the night). but due to the aforementioned level of our navigation skills, we ended up somewhere completely different. but it was also an island, and it was absolutely gorgeous.

today, Sunday, we visited Ainola (Jean Sibelius's house, now a museum). it was a profoundly beautiful place. we also visited Heureka (science museum) and saw the exhibit of bodies there. a good day.

other than the muchnesses pictured/described in this post, much has been happening here since my last blogpost. snows have melted, trees have greened (there is nothing like the sound of a birch forest in the wind), and nighttime (and with it the motivation to sleep) is slowly disappearing. dandelions are gloriously prolific, and you know what? Finns appreciate dandelions. I never understood why people back stateside feel the need to humiliate dandelions to the point that they sometimes seem to lose their flowership. but no such bigotry here.

today I have exactly one month left here.

happy spring to you all!

lauantaina, huhtikuuta 13


I suppose I could apologize for not blogging in a while. life here has continued to continue in its lovely little way here, still as full of surprises and potentially blog-worthy adventures, I suppose, but it really just feels like life. this isn't an excuse for not blogging, because I know there are people who blog about everyday life, but I'm not one of those people and blogging hasn't occurred to me lately.

for the beginning of Pääsiäisloma (Easter vacation), I made my way to Helsinki to which Brother Dear Bub came from Estonia. we spent a morning and afternoon wandering the sun-thawing city and talking of this and that and a late afternoon and evening wandering a darkening city with Jula (an exchange student from Argentina, and a lovely young man) as a guide.

as soon as Jula met us, he took us to the 'best place in Helsinki', a tiny coffeehouse on the sea. an unreal little red wooden cottage. a few people have been wondering how I managed to survive in a Nordic country for seven months without drinking coffee... and to them I have to say: I wonder too, now. I'm still not a coffee addict, but sitting there the sun, outside the impossible red cottage on a frozen inlet of the Baltic Sea, how could I take hot cocoa or tea with the mustikkapiirakka slice we shared? right, I couldn't. I have no idea if that coffee was good or not, but the two cups that I drank there shall remain in my mind forever as the epitome of coffees.
Bub and Jula afront the legendary red cottage.

coffees and mustikkapiirakka.
on the ice next to the sublime little red cottage was a potkukelkka ride. I have slowly fallen in love with potkukelkkas while here (our relationship started out rather bumpily but I shall miss them terribly). Brother Dear and I went for twirls.
it was magical.
just up the hill from this was the Sibelius Monument which was lovely to visit live after seeing so many photos of it ja silleen.
would have been nice to be there on a windy day, I hear.
we climbed to the top of Helsinki to catch the sunset. I took a picture of the women's bathroom there, but I find my photo only partially catches the allure and, as it would also be something of a spoiler, I shall refrain from posting it. but ladies, if you are ever in Helsinki during sunset, go powder your nose at Hotel Torni. (it's free for the public).
our original plan to witness sunset at Suomenlinna was slightly delayed, so we explored the island fort in the dark. recalls George's Island. a bit. it was magical in the fresh darkness (stars were only just sprouting), and I would like to revisit it in the day.

the last of the light as we ferried islandwards.
I spent the night at Jula's host family's place. his hostmother speaks Finnish and his hostfather Swedish. they speak Finnish to eachother and their mothertongues to the kids. everyone speaks English to Jula, and Jula speaks Spanish on the phone with his Argentinian friends in Helsinki. the English tv program was muted so one had to read the Danish subtitles. it was incredible.

 the next day we met up with Kate (Alaska) and Alexandra (Italy, my roommate from Lapland, whose sister and friends were visiting from Italy) and wandered the city some more before heading home.

Helsinki's tuning fork of a subway. isn't it adorable?
at home, on Easter Sunday, I tried mämmi. for those of you not familiar with the stuff, it is a traditional Finnish Easter food made of malted rye and molasses and infamous for its excremental looks. having been taunted and prepared for this experience since I arrived, I have to say I was expecting something far more unbearable. I wouldn't want to have to subsist on it, but with milk and sugar (there seems to be a large debate about what kinds of sweet dairy products to smother it with) it was actually quite edible.

since then, spring's hesitant approach towards Finland has accelerated remarkably. this week rain started coming. o, how I have missed the rain! there's nothing quite like coming out of school one day and smelling rain after a long winter... when everyone talks about looking forward to summer I can't help but nod and smile and wonder if that mixture of dread and longing that I feel about leaving here and going home can be called 'looking forward'.

a few days ago I got an email from AFS with my return flight information. looking at the date of my departure caused a sort of numb panic that (probably) had nothing to do with the fact that it is the day AFTER my visa expires.