Norja, Lappi, and Springtime in Finland

Norja, Lappi, and Springtime in Finland

I have been so busy recently! I have been traveling, working on assignments for both my home and host schools, and getting over some sort of illness. Also one St. Patrick’s Day I saw the Northern Lights for the first time–right in from my front yard! Unfortunately my camera would focus on them, so I don’t have any great pictures of them. I just sort of stood on the front lawn at 10:00pm staring in awe at the night sky being lit up in green. A few weeks ago I went to Norway with exchange students studying in Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark and was only home for a night before traveling to Lapland with my host family. As each of those are going to be somewhat long winded, so without further ado: my last five weeks.

A few weeks I got to go to Norway! It was a really fun trip–there were students studying in Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark from Italy, Brazil, Australia, and the USA, among others. I flew out early on a Friday morning, arriving in Oslo with a few other of the Finland students around 8:00 in the morning. That day we were touring around Oslo. First we met for lunch and to get to know one another and the STS Norway people. After that we went by train to go and see the ski museum and the ski jump tower. It was a short train ride and just a few minutes in, I lost my voice. Earlier in the week my throat hurt quite a bit and I couldn’t talk for about half a day, but this was different. My throat didn’t hurt and hasn’t since then. The ski museum was really cool! It had skis form all throughout the years and we got to go to the top of the ski jump tower, which was really cool, despite my slight fear of heights. There was a short elevator ride, which was the worst part. It was on a sort of diagonal incline and right as we started moving one of my new friends said “what if-“, but no one got to hear the rest of her thought as I, calmly and rationally, asked her not to. The view was breathtaking. We took so many pictures. It was a bit of an overcast day and we were tall enough to practically touch the clouds. After that we walked to the Vigeland Park and observed the many statues. There is one particular statue of a child getting upset that apparently it is tradition for everyone to imitate and take a picture with, so as a group we did that. We sat for a little while and they gave us a treat of Kvikk Lunsj, a Norwegian candy bar that is a little bit like a Kit Kat, but with less of a crunch and creamier chocolate. It was really good. We went to dinner at an Italian restaurant where we met with another of the STS people who was American. I may have mentioned it in another post, but hearing an American accent is a bit unsettling now because I am so used to hearing other accents and only Americans on my computer or the occasional tv show. I’ve heard a few briefly in Helsinki on days I’ve gone, but not held a full conversation with anyone in person in quite some time*. After dinner we went to laser tag. We split in to two teams: red and blue and played two rounds. If I remember correctly, my team, Red, won both. As we were walking to the hostel for the night, my voice once again did weird things: this time being really deep and manly sounding, which was really odd, but I found rather entertaining to sing in. After the fact, singing with a hoarse voice probably worsened it. Oops.

In the morning we got breakfast at a little cafe and headed to the train station. We would meet the rest of the students on the train when it stopped at the airport. The train ride was about two hours from Oslo to Lillehammer and the views out the windows were beautiful. When we got to the hostel we had a brief meeting before getting to our rooms. I got to room with three of the other girls who went to the Oslo day and the room we were in was really cute! It was decorated in a manner that was reminiscent of a storybook. There was a little alcove in one corner with a bed that was most likely intended for a child and a shelf with a bunch of picture books, including a Moomin story book! We went for pizza for dinner and I met the other American student who was on the trip. After dinner we were planning to go to see a movie, but after walking around for about thirty minutes we couldn’t exactly find the movie theatre, so we decided to head back to the hostel. There was a common room that we all gathered in most evenings to play games and hang out. One game we played quite a bit was Heads Up. It was really funny to see everyone trying to act out or sing whatever the cue was and we found that one of the girls on the trip was really, really good at imitating animal noises.

The next day we went to rent our snowboards and skis. I decided to try snowboarding for the first time. In our group there were five people snowboarding, only one of whom had tried it before, but only once. There wasn’t a lesson available the until the second day we were there so we just went out and attempted to learn how ourselves. We took the gondola to the top of the slope and found a very short, blue hill. Unfortunately it had a really difficult ski lift to get up. It wasn’t one you sat on like usually but it just sort of pulled you up. I fell off of it many times and ended up getting a bad bruise on my leg which hurt really bad but had no discoloration for the first couple of days but turned really icky colors as the pain decreased. It was kind of weird. Once I finally got to the top with the lift I tried going down the slope. I got really good at falling and then good at getting up. By my third attempt I made it down without falling at all, even if I was going really slow and “braking” the whole time. The next day the weather got warmer and sunnier, so it wasn’t as nice, in my opinion, for snowboarding because it got a bit wet and icy. We were going down longer slopes, one with a lot of switchbacks that pretty much from the top of the mountain to the bottom. It went well a few times and each time I tried to brake/fall less and go straighter and faster. On our last descent I fell pretty bad–forward rather than backward and hit my head. I wasn’t feeling well later and I went to the doctor where we determined I had gotten a minor concussion. On our last day on the slopes, myself along with a few others didn’t ski or snowboard and hung out in the cafe at the top of the mountain enjoying the beautiful view. The trip was really fun and i met some really awesome people. The train ride and airport on the last day were sad because we had to say goodbye and part. The airplane ride is relatively short and once I got home I unpacked my suitcase so I could pack it the next day for our
Lapland, the northern most part of Finland, is about a ten or so hour drive from where I live. We left the day after I got back from Norway in the afternoon and arrived to the family friends’ we were staying with around midnight I believe. I think I was sleeping for at least a little bit of the trip. Due to how late it was I went to bed not too long after we got there, but it was still pretty late. I slept well until a little after 6am the next morning when I was abruptly woken when my littlest brother apparently confused me for a trampoline and jumped on me. That day we went to an Angry Birds themed playground that my little brothers were really excited about and spent time with the family friends who had two really cute dogs. In the evening we went to sauna. Their sauna was outdoor and had a wood burning stove and was really cool. The next day we went and made sausages at a fire outdoors in the snow around lunch and in the afternoon we went to Santa Clause Village. It was really Christmassy with Christmas carols playing and reindeer and snow and everything. We met Santa and didn’t have to wait in line too long. There was a live video feed online from the meeting Santa. I sent my mom a link to it so she got to see us meeting Santa. Santa even spoke with me in English and my Brazilian friend told me that he spoke with her in Portuguese. He seems to be very multilingual. The next day was Easter. In Finland, the children leave their hats under their beds the night before Easter and at night the kukko leaves chocolate eggs in their hats. We woke up to several Kinder and other chocolate eggs of that sort in our hats on Easter morning. We said our goodbyes and began the many hours’ trip back South. The sun was really bright and I felt rather car sick almost immediately, the two of those making it almost impossible for me to get a decent nap. It was a really fun trip and I’m really glad I got to go to Lapland. And I met Santa!!

After traveling, I got settled into the routine of my new school schedule. For the first time this year I start each day at the same time and I’ve been pretty good at waking up and getting to school in a timely manner. A few times I have walked with my little brother to school as well. The cooking class that he and I were taking has now ended. For the last class we cooked Finnish food. It was really cool because they chose foods that are typical from different parts of Finland so when we finished cooking they situated them all around a map of Finland, the dishes next to where they came from. We were cooking a dish from Western Finland that was a sort of sweet but also kind of sour buttermilk soup that I have very mixed feelings towards. Reindeer was also made and was, once again delicious. This past week my voice has been getting better which is good because I had an event for my Senior project that I spoke at via Skype on Thursday. Also this week the weather has been…odd. It has snowed a couple of times and rained and been really sunny with clear skies all in the same day. Today was just overcast and was really relaxed which has been nice, a chance to just breathe and not stress about anything.

*this may be an indicator of how greatly “reverse culture shock” may affect me…

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