Friday, April 27

time flies when you're having fun

such a cliche, but it's definitely true.

I don't have anything in particular I want to talk about today, so let's just start.

I went to Sweden a few weeks ago for a day with my host family. That was really cool, and we did a lot of shopping, but unfortunately the weather was crappy.

I moved back to my first family last Sunday. And then I will be here for 6 weeks until I move back to my 2nd family again. People think it's weird and ask why I didn't just stay in my 2nd family longer so I only have to switch once, which is a good question, but I also have a good answer. Moving from my 1st family made me realize how much I appreciate them and everything they did for me. Not that my 2nd family was bad or anything, it was far from it! But all families are different, and it helped me to appreciate just the little things about them, and my relationships that I made with each member. I liked the fact that after gaining the appreciation for my 1st family that I got to move back in with them and show them how much I appreciated everything, and I wanted the same thing to happen with my 2nd. And it will. It hasn't even been a week yet and I miss them.

It's a weird thing. How you can live so close to your other family (literally like 2 blocks away), yet actually miss them. I could go see them whenever I want, but it's not the same as actually living with them and doing everything together. It seems that no matter who I'm living with, I will miss the other. But knowing that the other is so close gives me comfort, and really makes me wonder how I will be feeling when I'm on an entirely different continent than both of them.

Vappu (May Day, I guess?) is in a few days, and I am incredibly excited! It's a really big deal here, and we get the day off of school and there's a lot of things going on in the center of Turku. But since I really don't know what to expect, I guess I won't tell you much more about it until it happens.

Today is a "flag day", meaning that there are Finnish flags flying everywhere! I absolutely LOVE these days. It only happens on National Holidays or celebrations I think (the days important enough to be marked in my planner), and other days there are never any flags to be seen. So when the flags are flying, it hits me again that I am really in Finland, and it hits me with a great sense of pride to be able to live in this country and participate in everything Finnish and to be able to call this country my home.

The days are going by so quickly, and in no time I will be getting on a plane going back to America. It's crazy how close it feels, yet also like it will never actually happen. But, today I bought tickets to a music festival that I will be going to just 2 days before I leave. If I'm already planning that far ahead, then I guess it isn't really as far as it feels. Only about 70 days left for me in my fantastic year in Finland, but I never want it to end.

Monday, April 2

Venäjä... aka Russia!

Last weekend I went to St. Petersburg with Rotary, and it was AMAZING! It was by far the most beautiful city I have ever been in. I honestly don't even know how to describe it, so I will post some pictures (which definitely don't do the city any justice)
the view out my hotel window

the winter palace with my friend grayce

kunst kamera museum (description about this coming up)

a church (gorgeous... but no pictures of inside.. there was a service going on)

peter the great's first house in st. petersburg

an orthodox church

Anyways, here's a bit about what we did in Russia:
The first day was just driving there on the bus and going through customs and such. Funny story: one boy (the first one to try and go through customs) was held up for a long time and they wouldn't let him through because they thought he was the son of a wanted man. But, after about 40 minutes, they finally let him through. 
The next day, we went to some museums. We went to the Hermitage, which part of it is in the Winter Palace shown above. There, we got to see original works by Van Gogh, DaVinci, and Michelangelo. Pretty amazing! I still can't believe that I saw those. Then, we went to Kunst Kamera museum, which is considered the museum of oddities. Also, there are many things dealing with science. There was an observatory in the top of the building, and many different deformities in jars (such as babies with 2 heads, no limbs, and many other things like that). It was definitely interesting, and very strange. 
Then we went to a traditional song/dance show. There were people that sang, a band with traditional instruments, and many different dances and costumes. It was really interesting and very fun! The guys can really do all those kicks and such that you think of when you think of Russian men dancing. 

The next day, we had a tour of the city and just got out and took pictures. I swear every other building was previously a "palace" build to show off their wealth, or built for them to show someone's love for them or something. It was kind of ridiculous, but it meant that all of the buildings were very grand and gorgeous! 
Then we had free time in Nevsky Prospekt (the biggest shopping street in St. Petersburg). We went and ate blinis. (traditional Russian food... kind of like crepes, but folded in a square with stuff in them). Then we just walked around and took lots of pictures, not much shopping was done. That night, we went to a ballet. Two other people and I were in the worst box you could have.... so we didn't see much. But what we could see of it, it was very modern, with no elaborate costumes or anything, and it was strange. But still cool to see a Russian ballet. 

And then, all of a sudden, it was time to leave already. We left in the morning, and made a stop in Viborg, which used to belong to Finland, and was the 2nd largest city in Finland before it was taken away. It was strange to hear people speaking Finnish with a Russian accent. 

Russia (and all of Europe really, compared to the US especially) has so much history! It was great having a tour guide that knew all of it and told us as much as she could. It really interested me. 

Another cool thing, was that in the main part of St. Petersburg, there is (or maybe not anymore, but there used to be at least) a law where all of the buildings had to be bright colors since the weather is so grey all of the time. Because of this, all of the buildings were bright blues, teals, pinks, and yellows. I think that's what really made it be such a beautiful city. But it was definitely a great trip, and something I will never forget. I really hope I can get back there someday and have more time to explore all that it has to offer. 

Tuesday, March 13


I'm just over in Finland living the life. No big deal.
It's been over a month since I blogged, and I have done seriously so much, and in my mind it's not in any particular order anymore... just one big blob of good times.

I had those "old dances"..... kind of like prom... but not really. Read my previous blogs if you have no idea what I'm talking about... it's mentioned somewhere. But that week, we had practice a LOT for it, and then on Thursday evening we had the dances where everyone's family came and watched- and I did my speech :)
It was so much fun! Probably actually my favorite thing I've done in Finland. And I wasn't even nervous for my speech until like halfway through I realized what I was doing and kind of freaked out, but I managed to finish it, and did pretty well, I think.
(Sorry... no pictures, they're all on facebook. If you actually know me and you're reading this, then you're most likely my friend on facebook)
The next day we danced 3 more times, for different schools. It was fun, but the last time, everyone just wanted it to be over I think... it was a LOT of dancing for the week.

Then on Friday night Aunt Gail and Uncle Doug arrived in Finland! But actually before that, my english teacher had called me while I was on the bus to Turku to meet them, and said that the reporter from the dances really liked my speech and wanted me to e-mail it to him so he could quote it in the article! So, I was in a pretty good mood, if you can imagine. (There ended up being a picture of my dance partner and I on the front page of the newspaper with that article! Pretty awesome!)
With AG & UB that evening, we went to my host family's house, and ate some food and had a good time. The next day we went to my 1st host family's house, and did the same thing again! Then we ended up going to Lapland!
In Lapland we did so much awesome stuff! We stayed in a cabin which was pretty much right on the lake. The first night, we went xc skiing and as we were coming back to our cabin (we were skiing on the lake) we saw the NORTHERN LIGHTS!!! They weren't fabulous or nearly close to anything you see in pictures of them, but they were still there!
Then, we had rented out the sauna on the lake which had a path all lit up to a hole in the lake to dip in after sauna. It was so fun! Not nearly as cold as I thought it would be though, so that was nice. I ended up going I think 3 times. And one time I rolled in the snow... MUCH colder than going in the water. Plus, the snow was like a meter and a half deep, so I couldn't exactly get up quickly.
One day we went dog sledding! We each had our own team of 4 dogs and we went on the trails for almost about 6 hours. It was so beautiful in the woods! So much snow can stick to those damn trees, it's ridiculous... but makes for a very pretty setting!
Then another day we went xc skiing. I think it was about 17 km, and since the most I had ever done in my life in like the 3 times I've been skiing was much less than half of that... I was hurting the next day. But we skiied out to this cute cafe that had opened just a few days before and enjoyed some makkara (sausage) and warm juice.
That night, we went to the ice hotel! First we went to sauna, and then had dinner in the ice restaurant. It was so cool! Everything... the tables, walls, chairs... was made out of ice. They had to put your food and drinks on a piece of wood... otherwise it would slide off (which happened to uncle doug a few times). But we had some reindeer (of course!) and some cloudberry cheesecake and other various desserts between the three of us. Sleeping in the hotel was not nearly as cold as you would think. You don't just sleep on the ice.,.. they had actual beds, and then sleeping bags for everyone. Our room had trolls in it I think as decoration. Each room was decorated differently (meaning the ice of the walls was carved differently). It was such a neat experience though, and definitely something I will never forget! They had 29 rooms I think, and it only took them 3 weeks to finish building... and yes, they build it from scratch every year. It doesn't just "stay up" all year. They have summer in Lapland, too.

After that, we flew back down to Helsinki for a night, and ate dinner at "the tractor bar". Decorated with old tractors and such. The next day, we went to Lahti for the Finlandia ski race which Uncle Doug participated in. It was really cool to see all of the skiiers from everywhere around the world, all coming together just for their love of skiing.

Then, it was back to school for a week for me. Nothing out of the ordinary happened there. But on Friday, I met up with AG and UB again, but this time in Helsinki for the weekend. We just checked out the city, went to markets and of course did a little shopping. However, (and I think Aunt Gail would agree)... my favorite thing we bought was a pastry from the market hall. It was crunchy and sugary on the outside, and fluffy and chocolatey on the inside. I've actually been considering taking a trip to Helsinki just to get me some of those.
Our hotel in Helsinki though was cool. It was an old jail, renovated to be a hotel. But they kept one room just like the cells had been so you could see what it was like. It freaked me out a bit, haha. But I was really glad AG & UB got to visit Finland and see what it's like, and what my life is like here! (and hearing them try to pronounce things was pretty hilarious)

After that, it was back to school another week, and then cruise with everyone in my class to celebrate after the "prom". That was quite the experience... definitely Finnish... and definitely crazy. But nonetheless, it was fun!

That was the very short version of everything, but now you know!
Today I'm headed to a hockey game with some exchange student friends. It's the last game of the season.... and I have yet to check off "go to a hockey game" from my bucket list!

Tuesday, February 7


vittu. i have been in finland for exactly 6 months today.
i am such a mix of emotions.
i've been crying on and off like all day today. pretty much whenever i think about having to leave.
i don't want to leave all of the people i have met here. especially my families.
it kills me to think that when i go back, it could be a long time before i see them again.

Thursday, January 19


First off, sorry for the sentimental, motivational... whatever this is. I've just been thinking about things a lot lately, and I feel like I should share.

In only three days, I will be exactly halfway through my exchange....

This year is going by quicker than I could ever have imagined. And I've learned so much already: about myself, about the world, about everything! I've been learning some very important things: like not to worry so much. Things will happen however they're meant to happen, and you can only do so much to influence some things, that it's not worth wasting your time worrying about it- just live in the moment, because you might miss something great if you're worried about something beyond your control.
Never judge anyone until you get to know them. I am friends with some of the greatest people ever, and before, I probably never would've gotten to know them, and just sort of classified them in my mind by how I saw them acting or some things I'd heard them say. But until you truly spend time and talk and get to know people, you really don't know anything about them. So stop judging, and just sit down and talk, you never know what great friendships it could lead to.
Speaking about exchange (but it can also deal with pretty much everything in life) whether you have good experiences or bad experiences, it's still experience-try not to place it in either category of good or bad. Take it all to grow as a person and learn about yourself. That's what I've done, and boy have I learned a lot about myself!

While everyone always seems to be worried about what they're going to do with their life, and where they will be in 20 years, blah blah blah,....I thought of something yesterday on the bus (usually where I do ALL of my thinking....), that I don't want to plan out my life, because if I do, I'm not living in the moment, and most likely, things wouldn't even work out as planned. So instead, my life plan is to live life without a plan. All I know is that I want to experience the world and all that it has to offer, and I am going to do that however it comes to me, whatever way that is.

I've been inspired recently... by the guy on this website:
His experiences with people in the world, and his REASON for doing so is inspirational, and I would love to try to have some similar experiences, but we all know I'm not going to plan it all out or anything.
But trust me, if I had the money to travel, I would skip taking out all the student loans to go to school and just go experience the world. In just these short 6 months so far, I have learned far much more than I ever did in my entire four years of high school.

However, the rest of my time in Finland is quite planned out. I have so much to do and see, and experience, and being so busy will really make the time go by quickly. But if I'm doing things like what I have planned, then it will be time well spent!
Here's a look at my schedule for pretty much the rest of my time (things I have planned anyways)
January 25-go to Tampere to meet the new exchange students coming to Finland!
February 3-5- Oda  and her mom will be coming to Turku! :DDD
February 16- Wanhojen Tanssit (Old Dances)... where I will be giving my speech... IN FINNISH.
Febarury 17-March 3- Aunt Gail and Uncle Doug will be in Finland! (we will be going to Lapland, and Helsinki while they are here)
March 10- Cruise to Sweden with all of the people in my grade here
March 22-25- Go to St. Petersburg with Rotary
March 31-Finnish language test (6 hours... EEK)
April is pretty chill... nothing planned really
Same with May.... not much. (hopefully these months I will just be having fun, totally immersed in the culture, not even thinking about going home at all)
June 3-21- EUROTOUR!
Then only 3 weeks, and I will be coming home. :(

But speaking of home, when I'm on the bus (doing all my thinking), and I keep having these thoughts about going back home and what it will be like. And that I won't fit in because I'll be doing things like they're done in Finland, and the things I've grown up with won't seem "right" anymore. I'll give you some examples:
1) I go to pay for a candy bar or something at the gas station, and use a dollar bill, and start crying because it's not a coin like the 1 euro I would be handing over in Finland.
2) I go to flush the toilet, and put my hand on the back of the toilet where the button/lever would be, and it's not there, so I start crying in the bathroom, and my mom comes in, and I just tell her it's not right. I can't flush the toilet.
3) I go to the grocery store, and say "moi"(hi) and "kiitos"(thanks), and everyone just looks at me like I'm crazy.
4) Talk my dogs for a walk as soon as I get home (because I miss them like crazyyy) and speak to them in Finnish, and then they just look at me all confused.
And whenever I think about this kinda stuff, reality sets in that I will actually have to go back eventually, and these things most likely WILL happen. But I guess we will just see how things are going in 6 months....

Wednesday, January 11


Well, it's been almost a month since I last posted something, and SO much has happened. I'll spare the details this time, but here's a bit of what I've been up to lately.

Christmas happened. Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve, and you open presents in the evening, after Joulupukki (Santa Claus) has come to pass them out. It was hard for me at first for it to feel like Christmas without running downstairs and opening presents right away, but after family got here and we had dinner, it got much better. Christmas food is.... different. Rice porridge with cinnamon and sugar for breakfast was definitely my favorite thing I ate that day. And some of the most interesting were probably the carrot casserole, and the liver casserole. But, I did try everything that was offered, and the next day I went for dinner at my first host family's house, and ate a lot more there! Our first course was all sorts of fish... and I think everyone back home would be proud to know that I TRIED ALL OF IT. And.......... I actually LIKED most of it. Crazy, I know.
Oh, but about first day, Joulupukki was 45 minutes late. He went to the wrong house in another town. Walked in and asked where "the American" was, and found out there wasn't one. But, he still came, and it was great! After all.... Santa Claus does LIVE in Finland :)

On Christmas Day night, we lost power for about 4 days. That was interesting. I had some cool lamp thingy in my room, but it got pretty boring since the sun sets at 4. So, I slept a lot. Nothing wrong with that I didn't think.

Then, there was New Years, went out with exchange students after plans got changed, but still had a good night! One thing scary about New Years here though.... everyone is drunk.... and everyone has fireworks. In the middle of the city. I was a bit frightened, but luckily made it out unharmed. :)

For the rest of break, I hung out with exchange students a lot, and even had some plans with Finnish friends, which is always nice. I went out to lunch and played laser tag with some friends one day, went to the movies one day with another (saw Girl with the Dragon Tattoo... HIGHLY recommend it).

Then, somehow, it was back to school already. School started again on the 9th, and not much has happened. Everyone in Finland is getting hyped up about the Presidential debate happening soon. We even had a mock election at our school today. I also joined a basketball team, I think. I went to practice today, and it was so tough! I'm definitely out of shape, so it's a good thing I'm going to start playing again I think. I'm going again tomorrow (my host sister goes too). It was fun to play again, and I hope to stick with it for a while this year. Until springtime and Finnish baseball starts, that is.

Some exchange students "oldies" (they've been here since January, and so, they leave in January) have been leaving. One left already, and it was terribly sad. The other two leave on Friday. Having them leave really means that this year in Finland is almost halfway over, and it's scary how quickly it's going. I'm going to make the most out of the rest of my time here! 

OH, I also agreed to do a speech at the "old dances" in about a month.... in Finnish. I'm a bit worried, because I feel like my Finnish isn't good enough yet, but hopefully this will just help make it even better, and I know that once I do it, I will be much more confident with my Finnish.

Also.... my Norwegian sister (exchange student that lived with me last year) is coming to visit me in 23 days! Her mom is coming too, and I am so excited to meet her and see Oda again! It's going to be a wonderful weekend. I'm SO looking forward to it!

Hope all is well back home! Love you all!