Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Christmas Moon

(For English, scroll down) 
Tämä blogikirjoitus on minun ensimmäinen kerta kiroittaa suomeksi. En ole kirjoittaa paljon, mutta haluan kokeilla...Myös mul on Google Translate, sitten, jos et ymmärrä, tuo on miksi...ja en ole hyvin suomi kanssa...
No, niin, on Joulu tänään. On minun ensimmäinen joulu pois kotista. Ja oli hyvä. Ei on kuin minun normaali Joulu, ja tuo on miksi oli hyvä. Alkaa marraskuussa. Mä kuulen joulu laulut. Ja mä lauluin joulu laulut lapsille ja vanha ihmiset. Oli kiva, mä menein yliopisto vaihto-oppilas kanssa, ja me laulumme paljon erilainen kielissä. Me laulumme Petteri Punakuono japaniksi. Meidän oli vain yksi japanilainen oppilas, niin me olimme oikea huono japani kieli kanssa. 
Myös, menein Joulu puoluet. Ja olivät kiva. Puoluessat me vaihtomme lahjat. Saain teeta, ja suomen elokuva niminsa “Napapiirin Sankarit” En katso ennen, mut kaikki sanoi että on paras elokuva. Olen jännittynyt katsoa se! Myös katsoin joulu elokuvat, paljon on amerikalainen elokuva, mutta katsoin yksi joulu elokuva suomeksi! Ei kanssa englanti sanat! Kastoin elokuva “Rare Exports” on tosi erilainen...en ymmärrä paljon koska paljon oli suomeksi, mutta katsoin se, niin ymmärrän jotain! 
Saaimme joulupuu kaksi päivä sitten, tuo on toinen asia miksi ei näytta silta kuin joulu, koska, USA:ssa, me saamme meidän joulupuu alku joulukuu, ja meidän puu talossa kaikki joulukuu. On ihana, mutta on kiva saada puu nyt myös, mutta se tunte lisää joulu puu kanssa kaikki kuukauta. 

No niin, kun kijoittan suomeksi, saan paljon aika, tämä oli lähellä kaks tuntea....haha mutta olin myös katsoin Leijonakuningas (suomeksi) sitten olin katsoin tuo ja kirjoittaa. Tiedän paljon suomen ystäväni lue tämä, niin nyt tiedät että ymmärrän jotain! Haha! 
Ja nyt...on to english...
Apologies to all those who do not speak finnish, that last part was merely me trying to see if I could do a blog post in finnish...haha, and I hope that it isn’t as bad as I know that it is! Writing in english is sooo much easier!!! Mostly because of a much wider range of vocabulary!!! Even though nowadays I cannot speak english worth crap! Every time I open my mouth I stutter, can’t express myself, and utterly end up looking so incredibly stupid! For my all my readers who have not experienced their native language deteriorating before their eyes, it is like having a “brain fart” every 5 seconds, every single day of your life. It is quite an unpleasant feeling. In my own head I can not express myself, so it starts to get seriously painful sometimes..
But anyways...
This blog post’s name is a reference to the finnish word for December, which literally translates to Christmas Moon. So, as you guessed it, this post is about Christmas, and all the christmas things that I have been doing lately. 
So, in the US, the Christmas season starts after right after thanksgiving, and here it starts at about the same time. Mostly it officially starts the last weekend in November. In The Us, we have thanksgiving, and that is a point that marks when you can start decorating for christmas, and nobody dares decorating before then, but here they don’t have thanksgiving so they don’t really have a point that people can decorate for christmas and still be socially excepted, so you could notice christmas trees springing up mid november, but still nobody really decorates until December. And their “decorating is really nothing is comparison to the american version of decorating. In the US we always go around the neighborhoods looking at different christmas lights that the neighbors have, and then there is always a couple houses that don’t really put out a whole bunch, maybe one bush decorated, well that is probably the average here, many people don’t really have a lot of lights at all, and I haven’t seen anyone who really lights up their yard like an american. 
Another thing that is really different is that here they get their christmas tree really close to Christmas, which I don’t like as much because it is really nice to have the christmas tree in the house much earlier. It really makes Christmas a lot longer. 

Our Christmas Tree

Turku is the Christmas capital of Finland. Though many residents of Turku say that it really isn’t anything special. As much as I love this city,  I must take the side of the many residents. The lights that they do have are really beautiful, but they don’t have very much at all, in my opinion. But they do have this Christmas market that starts in the last weekend in November and then is every weekend of December up until Christmas. I went three times. It is a really nice market, in the old town square right next to the big cathedral. Many people with hand-made crafts come there and sell their stuff. Much of it is not something that I would buy, but it is still nice to go and see. 

The first time I went to the christmas market was in the end of november and I went for the lighting of the town’s christmas tree. Which actually a very huge tree, but they put it right in front of the cathedral, which is the tallest building in Turku, so it looks pretty pathetic. But it is still very nice. When we went we looked around in the market and we saw these people dressed as presents and some tent with a troll/elf head on it, do some weird dance. It was among the weirdest things that I have ever been seen performed.....

Another Christmas tradition that the finns have is to make Joulutortu and drink Glögi. This is a very scandinavian thing, though I have never seen it before, so I have come to the conclusion that it isn’t common in Norway or it is just something that my norwegian family has never had for tradition. 

Joulutortu are flakey pastries shaped like stars with plum jam in the middle. They are very good, but are had to eat without getting flakes everywhere. Glögi is a Christmas drink that you buy in cartons and then heat up on the stove. Then you pour it in cups and some people put almond slices and raisins in, but I think that they are just annoying, particularly the almond slices because they don’t sink so you might accidentally swallow one when you are drinking and that is never good. 

Making JouluTortu

End results 

Something else that I did was go Christmas caroling with some University exchange students and we sang in many different languages. It was really fun, but those languages which I haven’t studied before, so I don’t know how to pronounce anything, like German and Japanese, it was hard to sing in. They were only a couple of us, three exchange students and then a couple finns. We went to a local primary school where we saw the children, who were so cute, and then we went to and Retirement home and sang to them. It was really fun. We sang in English, Finnish, French, Spanish, Swedish, German, Japanese, and one that I don’t know what it was... I think the most weird part of the experience was singing Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer in Japanese...

Christmas Caroling group 

I was expecting to get and love all the christmas carols in finnish, but honestly have found that even though it is nice to hear them in another language, I have grown up with them in english and when it is something from your childhood, you like to be able to sing along and have it the same as it always has been. So it is nice to hear them in finnish, but for me christmas carols will always be best in english. 
I usually always go to church on Christmas eve, and so I thought that I was going to miss that this year. But I did get two chances to go to church. Back in mid december, when it was Santa Lucia day, a swedish holiday that finland has taken up because of it’s Swedish speaking population where girls get voted to be Lucia and then walk through schools,churches, ect. singing. And I went to church last Thursday morning for the school, we all were able to go to our school’s christmas church service, which was in the main cathedral in town. It was nice. It was a classic christmas church service, except it was student’s from the school singing. And many of the people in the church were from the school. 

Santa Lucia day 

The Cathedral after our school's service 

Anyways, In Finland they celebrate Christmas on Christmas eve, so yesterday was all the excitement and today is just a relaxing day. But that is a bit annoying because always when I was little, after opening all my presents, I knew that there was 365 days until the next christmas, and that always made me sad, but celebrating it a day earlier is just a rip off, because now for the first time ever, I have 366 days until the next christmas.... -.-....But later today I will skype with my family, and online a lot of people have been saying that skyping with their family’s on Christmas brings on the tears....great.....

Christmas food was definitely different 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Lapland Part Two

On Monday after skiing we went to a local high school in the town of Muonio. Here we had a talent show where many of the different countries did patriotic or just funny acts, and some of the local high schoolers played some music and there were even some who even had did this fire twirling thing, which was really awesome. It was a pretty fun time there. We all enjoyed the acts that many of the countries did, and everyone wanted to go to Brazil afterwards since they did such a good act. That night also founded the tour’s theme song, a brazilian song called Ai Se Eu Te Pego. Everyone was singing it for the rest of the tour and a lot of time afterwards. 

On Tuesday, which was our busiest day. We did several different things. It started early in the morning and all the busses took off for different things. Our bus went first to a place where we saw a slideshow about Lapland (the music of the show was hard to listen to so early in the morning and keep your eyelids open) and then we were in some place with information on different types of wildlife in Lapland. I was surprised to learn that ptarmigans live in Lapland. I didn’t know that ptarmigans would live on other continents than North America. 

After that we all took group pictures from our bus. It was fun. An interesting thing about Lapland, that was noticeable today especially is that they don’t really have the sun, but they do have daylight, and in the daylight, everything turns a blueish twinge. Which was seriously cool. It made everything soooo pretty! 
Then after that place we went and met a reindeer herder, and she told us about the traditions of reindeer herding. And showed us some of the clothes that they wore, and showed us pictures from herding and showed us some of the tools that they used and all that. The reindeer herders have this “sport” where they get behind reindeers with skis and then the reindeer pull them on a track, and it seems really crazy. And then the reindeer “princess” a girl in traditional clothes, awards the cup to the winner. Tuesday was one of my oldies’ (from Australia) birthday so everyone made her dress up like the reindeer princess. It was quite interesting to see all the very old and traditional clothes that the people wore, and still wear (when herding reindeer) today. 

So then before we went back to the hotel for lunch we had a little extra time. The town we were in was Muonio, which is right next to the swedish border. There is river that separates the two countries and our hotel was actually right on the river. So you could see Sweden right on the other side. And so since we had some extra time we actually went to Sweden for a few minutes. We went to the bridge that separates the two countries and we all ran around on the bridge for a few minutes, and then went back to the hotel for lunch. 
Sweden, From the hotel 


The sign that separates Finland on one side and then Sweden on the other side.

After lunch we went snowshoeing to a reindeer farm. I didn’t snowshoe because I had messed up my knee yesterday, so I got a ride on a snowmobile, and then I got to drink Glögi (traditional Christmas drink, you’ll hear more about it in my next post) and wait for the rest to come to the farm. 

So then while at the farm we were put into groups of three’s and then three groups at a time we went on Reindeer sleigh rides. They were really short (and we were right behind the reindeer, so the smell wasn’t great) but it was really cool. And then everyone got a chance to go on a ride, and then after all the rides we were able to take pictures with the reindeer. 

After the reindeer rides, we went back to the resort and then we went to the dog sledding part of the resort, where they had over 100 huskies that pulled dog sleds. We went on dog sled rides, which were also short, but the dogs went so much faster than the reindeer! They went so fast it hurt my eyes to be open and watching. It was also another really cool thing. 

After the dog sled ride we looked around the dog sledding place. There were so many dogs!! They were so cute!! And there were puppies! I loved the puppies so much!!! I wanted one so badly!!

Then we went back to the hotel and had dinner. Tuesday was Finland’s independence day. But Finns don’t celebrate their independence really big at all, they really just act respectfully and light candles, and if we were in our host family’s houses, they would probably be watching the independence day dance that the president hosts (my host father has made it quite clear to me how much he hates that dance). But we really didn’t do anything special. 

That night we also all gathered and had a “party” where we had a reindeer herder that came and sang songs, and the oldies all gave out gifts to their favorite newbies, and then some people had some skits and it was all pretty fun. 

Then next day we got up early and went on the busses and drove three hours south to Roveniemi. Which is right on the arctic circle, and boast being the home of Santa Claus.  We went to “Santa’s village” which was actually just a bazillion gift shops, and some reindeer, and there was also his office where you could take a picture with him and pay a lot of money, but I didn’t get a chance to meet him. But I did some shopping there. And that was fun. 

A Post in Roveniemi that said how far to different places all over the world

Santa's office

Then we went to lunch and we had to say goodbye, which was super sad because there were some people there that I would never see again. Which was sad. But we managed it, because all the people that I was closer with I would see again this year. 
Then we had the grueling 14 hour bus ride in front of us, which was passed by sleeping (only a little) and the TV show friends. And then we arrived back home in the south at 5 am the next day. Fun!
But Lapland was a really great time and it was soooo short and that is what is so sad about it!! 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rotary Tour of Lapland Part One

Rotary offers three tours for all of the inbound exchange students a year. They are really great because we get to see people from the other districts in Finland. On is the Lapland tour that is in the beginning of December. This one is the only one that all of the students go, because it is free, and the other trips cost a lot of money. But this one is paid for by Rotary. 
The trip starts out with a 15 hour bus ride. Fun! I got on the bus in Turku at 7 pm on Saturday and we arrived at around 10 am the next day. Though the bus ride was pretty fun. There were lots of people that got on the bus as we went north. And I don’t see them as often so it was nice to see them. Plus we all tried to get some sleep on the bus ride. I didn’t really get that much, maybe a max of 4 hours sleep. And we had stops. One was great because another Rotary bus was stopped at the same spot and my good friend from Colorado, Monica (whose blog you can see the link to on the side of the page) and it was really great to see her because I hadn’t seen her in four months. And a bunch of my other exchange friends that I haven’t seen in several months that I met at language camp. And it was really great to see them again. 

Eventually we all got there. We stayed at a hotel. There were four buses that came from all over Finland with 145 exchange students. Most of them were at language camp with us and then there were about 20 who were mostly Australian and have been in Finland since January and will be leaving Finland in about a month. It was nice to see all of the same people that were at language camp in August. 

The Ski Hill 

This was taken on the lift 

The first and second days we went skiing. Which was really nice. Of course, everyone was telling me that I shouldn't expect anything big, because the “mountains” in Lapland are really nothing compared to the skiing in Colorado. But it was better than I thought it would be. The hills were bigger than I thought they would be, though my expectations were very low, which is why I was impressed. 

Skiing in Lapland is much different than in Colorado. So it is harder to compare the two places. The snow is much better in Colorado, I have to say. At the ski hill we went to, it took maybe 25 seconds to go down, in Colorado, it takes....much longer, depending on the hill, conditions and skill. 


Danielle (from California) 

Vinny (from Brazil) 

Good to be back on skis...

Monica and I stuck together a bit when we were skiing. It was nice to be with her because she was also another experienced skier, while others who went with us had never even seen snow before. Though I did spend a lot of time with others. Most of the time that I was skiing I just stuck to the main slope. But a couple times I ventured out of bounds with some of the others and it was more advanced skiing. And the ski area really only took care of it’s one run, so there was a lot of powder and deep snow out of bounds, which made it more fun. 

The lifts were so different from the ones that I am used to though. I am used to huge ski resorts, so they only really have chairlifts, but these were lifts where you held onto this T-bar and then it pulls you up the hill. Many people (especially those snowboarding) fell off the lift several times because it was difficult to hold onto. I fell once or twice because I was trying to get onto it with someone else. Though once I fell down halfway up and then I was dragged up the rest of the way on my butt because I didn’t want to let go. 

My bus 

And another thing that happened to me was that once I was standing in line for the lift and then out of nowhere this completely out of control Brazilian comes and totally plows right into me. And totally knocks me on my butt. I haven’t been knocked over like that on a ski hill since I was four....and I got a big bruise on my butt that I discovered later that week.
Anyways, to avoid making really long posts I will post about this tour in two parts, and I will post the next one in a few days, so stay tuned.....