Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Suomi, Suomea, Suomessa

Moika! (Another of the many Finnish ways to say Hello!)

As you can see, my entire month of October was overrun with trips and class projects and finals week for the first quarter, which all ran into November and time just slipped away from me entirely! But here is finally an update on my fantastic adventure in Finland!!

First off, I am in a Finnish language course and it is awesome!...and awesomely confusing...Finnish is not like English really at all, save for a few similar words like "bussi" (bus), "taksi" (taxi), and "poliisi" (police). No articles and the prepositional phrases like "in the bus" or "by the car" are all rolled into one GINORMOUS word....hence why Finland is known for crazy words. But--it is probably the prettiest language to hear spoken, and I thoroughly enjoy sitting next to Finnish people having a conversation in a cafe or bus (although this is somewhat rare, as the Finns really do value their silence and prefer thoughtful, quiet conversations over long, loud conversing)

But enough on the language, what is really exciting about this trip so far are the people I've met and the activities I've been able to participate in. Since my last blog post, for example, I have been to countless social events held by the student union, Erasmus Student Network, and my group of friends here including a progressive dinner with typical Finnish food, and two ice hockey games for the local teams; I have been to Helsinki, Russia, and to Stockholm, with plans to visit Lapland in the works, not to mention a great visit from my parents, and visiting some of the coolest cafes in town! Additionally, I have learned my way around a Finnish grocery store, been able to have complete transactions in Finnish, and best of all (for my taste buds and stomach) how to prepare more than just pasta!

The progressive dinner was AMAZING. And single-handedly probably the best event (besides the traveling) here, because it allowed us to meet some new Finnish people and taste some Finnish food that we normally don't get to try since we're cooking for ourselves or going to the university cafes. We started off with a pretty typical potato soup of sorts, and the progressed to Reindeer meat toppings for baked potatoes and a berry-based dessert. You can pick berries and mushrooms from any Finnish forest, no matter who you are, and can take home whatever you find, so berries and mushrooms are SUPER common to see in Finnish dishes. As for Reindeer meat...Yes, I ate Rudolph...but reindeer is delicious!! It's also not super uncommon to see reindeer meat served in Finland I don't think, so it was only a matter of time before I had to try it out! The Finnish people we met were all students at the University of Turku, too, so it was a great time getting to know them for a little!

On the subject of Finnish people, I just have to highlight a very few interesting things that either amuse me or I have really come to enjoy here in Finland. First off, as I mentioned above, Finnish people really are as quiet as they are rumored to be. And they aren't arrogant, they'll be super nice if you need directions and really helpful if you can't find an English menu (which is actually pretty rare). They all just really value their words and aren't careless with conversation, it's quite wonderful. Secondly, and this is one of my favorite things, is that Finns can do ANYTHING while riding a bike. Nearly everyone is riding here and there on bikes (unless they're on the bus) be it rain or shine. And, not only are they cycling, they are multitasking! So here are a few of the amazing things I have learned you can do on a bike in Finland (provided you are Finnish and are great at not losing your balance):

  1. Most commonly I see: DRINKING COFFEE. It may not seem huge, but when you have a sloshing cup of burning liquid in one hand and are trying to navigate two wheels on a sidewalk full of other bikes with the other have some serious skill. Finland is the number one consumer of coffee per person (and I can attest to it just being a thing at all hours), they have to find time to drink it somewhere!
  2. Next, and this is because of the frequent rain, is HOLDING AN UMBRELLA. That is difficult! Particularly when it is very windy, as it very commonly is since we're near the coast here in Turku. Sometimes bikers look a bit stressed doing this one actually...I can only imagine!
  3. And this may be the best, TEXTING. Not calling, not just for a split second, no, we are talking "Look Ma--no hands!" Bike riding and head down texting. It's craziness to me, but hey, these people are talented.
I'm looking for the next talented thing Finnish people can do on a bike, so hopefully I can continue this list on a later blog post (Yes, really, I do plan on actually making more than just these two).

I have to say a little here about the hockey games we've attended in October and is the first time I have ever seen an aggressive Finnish person. They get so hyped up! It's a lot of fun to watch and everything is announced in Finnish, which I especially enjoy.

As for Helsinki, Russia, and Stockholm...I think these will require a separate post, as they each include their own stories and big events and photos...I have loved traveling to these places and in short, I can just say a few lines about each:
Helsinki-I've only seen small parts of it, but from what I have seen, it is the perfect sized city, everything looks so nice, and I really enjoyed the trip.
Russia-It is FULL of beautiful sights-particularly palaces and cathedrals, but it is a little stressful being there.
Stockholm-We mainly visited the Old Town, which is basically a town taken straight from the pages of a fairy tale, with it's narrow streets and quaint old buildings. Just really gorgeous all around!
I promise to have these pictures and full stories up soon!

MY PARENTS VISITED in the second week of October and it was really wonderful to see them :) They stayed for a few days and I was able to show them around the lovely Turku, including the Cathedral and my university and the City Market. We also ate at a seriously cool Viking themed restaurant called Harald's that served super delicious food! (Yes, reindeer meat here too) We also got to walk along the River Aura that flows through the center of town and I got to show them my usual daily walk. It was really awesome to see them, after being away two months at that point, and I'm super glad they got to see the place I'm spending this awesome semester abroad! I do wish my sister Emily could have come along with them! I would've loved to have shown her around here too! After their visit, my parents went on their way to Venice afterwards and it will be good to see them again when I return to the states in December :)

Finally, I have to put in a little note about my struggle with cooking and grocery shopping. For those of you who know me really well...I do NOT cook. That is, until now. I have graduated from the beginner's pasta salad (Shout out to Emily and Marji on this one) to chicken salad, to tacos, to my most recent accomplishment: Quesadillas!! This is after taking three weeks to discover where the chicken (broilerit) was located in Prisma (essentially a mix between WalMart and Target)...and my greatest things I have learned about cooking are:

  1. As long as you have chicken, you can make SOMETHING edible for dinner
  2. Yes, you should add salt to this chicken you are cooking
  3. Measuring the correct amount of pasta for one apparently requires some sort of sorcery...or else you can invite 800 of your closest friends to help you finish it off
  4. Bacon is always a good idea
  5. Resist the urge to buy ice cream whenever you grocery shop if you do not have a large freezer (we don't)
  6. You CAN actually survive without a microwave!
  7. Cooking is better when you have hot tea and awesome people with you :)
I think that basically sums up my adventures thus far, apart from the trips I've taken, which I will elaborate on soon! Finland is still super awesome, and not a day goes by that I am not so happy to have been placed in such a great country with such lovely friends :)

Puhua teille pian! (Talk to you soon!)


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