Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Toto...We're Definitely Not in Kansas Anymore...

Hello again!
So I haven’t written in a while even though I said I was going to. Shame on me. Anyhow, as you can imagine a lot has happened since then. From going to a genuine Finnish sauna to having my first class!
The sauna was amazing. It was located beside a big lake, and so we would sit in the sauna, then go jump into the ice cold water of the lake, then get out and run back into the sauna. It felt so nice! (P.S. The lake really was freezing almost – it was too cold to swim in.) Afterwards my skin felt nice, and I was really relaxed. It was awesome.
I went to my first night club – and it was so fun! I loooooved dancing there! All you American girls who’ve never been, you’d love it too! They played the good American music, but they also played really good foreign songs I’d never heard before!!! It was so fun…and so interesting to see how all the people dance. They said I was a good dancer which made me laugh, because I know I’m not that great at it, but I think our culture is more into dancing than some others. When Viki and I went to go home at about 2:30am, we got lost. Of course. So we ended up looking at a bus route map for 20mins, not understanding a thing. There were no street signs posted anywhere around us. Finally we crossed the street and looked at a map, realized we were at the university, then knew how to get home. Oh the joys of being in a foreign place…it is funny looking back on it though.
I have met a couple girls from Iran now, and it is really neat talking with them. Their culture is so different from ours, and our governments disagree on a lot, but the girls are nice. It’s really eye opening to talk with all the different people here. When all the cultures get together, people get so shocked at things that are normal to other cultures. Me included. I think it’s good that I’m experiencing it this way.
I finally broke down and got a bike. It was 65 Euro, but it has gears that work, nice tires, and a light. So all I need is a helmet before I go offroading. ;) It is very convenient to have, and I don’t regret buying it, so I guess it’s worth it!
I also discovered my favourite restaurant here. It’s Pizzaria Maria’s. If you ever get a chance to go there, order their Amore pizza. It has chicken, pineapple, and blue cheese on it. If that doesn’t sound good to you, you’re crazy. I’m pretty sure you see heaven when you take your first bite.
At one point, Viki, Satu and I went to go to a small party with Victor. When we knocked on his door he wasn’t  there, but we heard noise coming from the floor below, so we went down to see what was going on there. I stuck my head in the door and mentioned that I was trying to find a friend but couldn’t, and then I asked what they had happening there. They told me I should come in and find out…and that’s when I met the Costa Ricans. They were some of the nicest guys I’ve ever met! We ended up having a great time. Later, Victor with came in with group of people and he was playing a guitar alongside another guy. That’s when we discovered that “La Bamba” is an international song. Everybody there sang it. This was also the first time that I actually got to spend time with Jesús, my Mexican friend I found here.
I figured out that I was homesick on Sunday, the 12th. I didn’t know that I was, till I heard hymns in Mass that were ones I knew, then I realized I was crying without noticing it and that’s when I realized I might miss home a little bit. It’s difficult to explain how different everything is here, but when people say that the Catholic mass is the same everywhere…it’s true. Some of the daily differences are that the birds look and sound different when you wake up in the morning, you get dressed and put a plastic sack in your bag for just in case it rains, because that means you’ll have to cover your bike seat to keep it dry. Then, you ride your bike (not a car) to school that is about 1.5 km (not miles) away. I get to the library, and study all day long, because half my classes don’t meet in a classroom, but rather I have to read the material and study on my own, and then take the test in English in the middle of October. Around lunch time, I go to a student cafeteria (there are nine to choose from) and pay 2.6 Euro (not dollars) to eat food that I don’t always know what it is. Then I go back and study for a while. I stop by the store to buy a liter (not quart) of milk, then I give in and make an impulse buy of fudge. When I open the package, I realize I’ve been lied to, because here, fudge and toffee mean caramel and they don’t even use the word caramel here. I get home and eat real Italian food with my Italian friends, then I come home and go to bed. The routine varies a bit – but nothing is ever the same. Even the toilets are deeper. The shower heads are all detachable. The kitchen…well…we’re not going to go there. It’s way different. I ‘m usually ok, but sometimes I get frustrated and can’t understand why everything is so different here when it looks similar. Then I sit down and listen to some music and I’m fine again. :)
I signed up for the Friendship Family Programme too, so I got assigned a Finnish family I get to spend time with! I got to meet them on the 12, and they are very nice people. Riita is the mom, Lauri is the 16 year old son, and Vilma is the 15 year old daughter. Matti is the father, but I didn’t get to meet him because it’s bird hunting season here. (I guess hunting season is a big deal everywhere!) They drove me around town to show me the basic layout, and then took me to their house. It was a pretty house, and it was nice to be in a house for the first time in half a month. We spoke for a while, and then they fed me dinner! We ate porridge with lingonberries (it is served cold and was bright pink), and rye bread with butter cheese and a salami-like meat. Afterwards, we had coffee and ice cream. It was truly nice to get to spend time with a family for the first time in forever.  The only thing that surprised me was how many stereotypes they had about the US. It’s almost like they thought I was from New York…and it was very difficult to convince them that we didn’t have large stores in my town, and that people didn’t eat hamburgers for dinner every night. The certainly have a different diet than the people in the US, but that doesn’t mean we have McDonalds everyday! On Friday the 17 Vilma is going to take me to see the Central Museum of Finland. I’m excited to go with her! She’s a sweetheart and full of questions!
My first class was Intro to Finnish History. My teacher is a very intelligent Finnish man, who studied for seven years in England getting his PhD. Unfortunately, his British accent is so incredibly heavy that I have problems understanding him. The class only lasted two hours, but he went so fast that by the time it was over my hand was killing me, and my brain was spinning! The people in my class seem very nice though!
The other day all my roommates and me hung out together – just us – for the first time ever. It was fun. They asked me and my roommate about drinking games. We told them a few, and now they want to try them out. We will have to! But safely  and quietly– and it won’t be a ton of people because I don’t think the family living in the apartment next to us would appreciate that. :P We also all want to have a heel party! We live so far from the bars, that nobody actually wears heels to the bars. So…we want to have a party at our flat where our friends that live in Kortepohja can wear their heels and feel pretty for a night!
Today I studied in the library for nine hours, with an hour long lunch break around one.  I read my Historia y Cultura book and take notes, then read and translate a Financial Accounting book. It says it’s written in English, but sometimes I think that’s a lie because I don’t understand any of it.
One of the events I have coming up is my second class of the year- it’s tomorrow, and it is a Women’s Studies class. I’m looking forward to it, because Finland is one of the most gender equal countries in the world. It probably won’t bash men as much as the one at Pitt seemed to! Also it will be nice to be in a classroom with other people. If anybody thinks classes are boring – try studying all on your own with nobody else studying the same thing. It kinda sucks. The Cultural Stereotype Stammtisch is also tomorrow, it’s where you bring something that your country is stereotyped for, and carry it around the bar with you so people know where you’re from. I’m eating dinner with friends before that. I don’t know what I’m going to bring to the party. I was thinking maybe a McDonald’s bag, but I don’t know if that will make my country look bad! Another upcoming event is Victor’s 20th birthday party on Saturday the 18th. We’re going to meet at his apartment, then probably go to the bars.
Another thing is that I think Bergen and I are going to show Marika and Satu what an American pancake is. A Finnish pancake is more of a cake that’s in a pan. It has a lot more eggs in it, and it is baked in the oven. You put marmalade on top and eat it, and it tasted really good-salty and sweet at the same time! However, we want to show them our pancake so they can see why we were so surprised at theirs.
I’d really like to go to a sauna again. I think I might try to go tomorrow this weekend maybe. It’s hard to find spare time in between all the incessant studying and hanging out with friends! Anyhow, I have to go do some self-prescribed accounting homework now, but I really am going to try to blog more so the future ones aren’t this long!!!

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