Holidays, Fireworks, and Traveling in Finland

Holidays, Fireworks, and Traveling in Finland

Hey. It has been quite a while since we’ve spoken. How are y’all doing? How have you been? I hope you’ve had a nice holiday season. I’ve been rather busy since I last posted, what with all of the excitement surrounding the holidays and then getting back on schedule with school after a relatively long holiday break. Christmas was fun. I really enjoyed spending time with my host family and experiencing all of their traditions (which I described in my last blog post). On the morning of December 24, we woke and ate the Christmas ride porridge–and I got the almond! We then went to sauna and readied ourselves for the day. We ate Christmas dinner and everything was delicious! The table was filled with various sorts of fish and casseroles and the Christmas ham, which I didn’t partake of, but everyone else seemed to enjoy. The smoked salmon we had was delicious. Throughout the day it was snowing and for the first time in a long time I had a truly white Christmas. We went out to play in the snow and to do the snow work and my host mom told me I was acting like the four- and nine-year olds with how I was playing in the snow. In my defense, snow is still a thing of wonder to me and I’m pretty sure that was the most snow I had ever seen. I went in for a minute to get my camera and take pictures of everyone and of the snow. Just a few minutes after I got back outside, we heard sleigh bells jingling and moments later, Joulupukki came on a horse-pulled sleigh. In Finland, something that is very different from the traditions in the United States is that Santa brings the present and the children see him. And the presents come on December 24 and are opened that evening, rather than on the morning of the 25th.

One week later we celebrated New Years Eve. We were with some family friends and had a nice evening. We had Finnish potato salad and sausage, mine being soy and everyone eating the more traditional pork sausage. On New Years Eve in Finland, it is legal from a certain time in the evening to some point in the morning on New Years Day to set off fireworks. Where I am from the only fireworks are ones that are done by cities. Here, there were fireworks being set off all the time by people all around.

I would like to take a moment here to write about something I don’t like talking about: homesickness. I don’t like the concept of homesickness. I think it a bit silly to spend my time thinking about and missing a place (and people) I know I am definitely going to see again, especially when the time I have here is relatively short. I don’t want to not fully experience everything here because I am thinking about where I am from, so usually I completely push thoughts of homesickness from my mind. Holidays can be a bit difficult and I think I may have been homesick over them, but my problem is that I didn’t want to label it as “homesickness”. I was being more quiet and reserved than usual and spending too much time by myself in my room, which is exactly the opposite of what one is supposed to do when homesick, I’ve been told. One evening I sat down with my host parents and we had a talk that made me realize that maybe, just maybe I was homesick. Maybe. And since then Its been better, for the most part.

Having a “real” winter has many advantages and many opportunities for me to try various winter sports. Over Christmas, we went sledding, which I didn’t particularly enjoy, but everyone else seemed to enjoy thoroughly. I don’t think I’ve ever much enjoyed sledding. When I was really little, I would fall asleep in the sled as my parents were pulling me around in it. Growing up, my favorite part about going sledding was that my mom would usually make yummy hot chocolate to drink and I think the excitement of snow, as it was a rare occurrence, outweighed my not really liking sledding. Also, it was -25 out when we went sledding, so it was a bit chilly for me. We also went kicksledding, which is something I had never done before. It was fun, but a bit taxing as I was not used to any level of activity out in such cold weather. Recently we went iceskating. As long as I can remember, I have only been iceskating indoors, mostly because it is much too warm where I come from for there to be ice outside usually. Here we went outside. It was different in that the ice wasn’t entirely even in all places and that it was snowing, so there was snow on the ice as well. It was super fun and I hope we go again!

Since Christmas break, I have been busy with a lot of school-related things. I had a few projects for various classes, including a group presentation for religion class and a portfolio for English class. I also went to the two of the eighth grade English classes at my school to talk to them about the US and where I am from. They were a bit shy, but eventually asked me questions. One of the things they seemed very interested in was my thoughts on Finnish food, particularly the rye bread and salmiakki. I also had final deadlines for college applications in mid January. I was very stressed about them, but it was very satisfying to submit the final one.

Last weekend we had a dinner for all of the international students at my school and our host families, as there are now three of us. Each of the students made a dish from their country to bring for dinner. I made fried chicken, once again embracing the Southerner I am, and one of my favorite appetizers–spinach dip! The boy from Australia, who has been here for about two weeks now, made a beer and beef casserole with rice. The boy from France made crêpes for dessert and brought a few jams, both from Finland and from France. Everything was very good and we had great conversation throughout the evening about many different things.

On Sunday last, I went to visit my host granny and their family. I enjoyed my visit with them very much! In the afternoon on Sunday, we went shopping as I needed to get shoes for dancing. In December, my host mom and I went and found the perfect dress for me, which I got earlier this month as it had needed some tailoring to fit me right. Two weeks ago I went shopping with a friend of mine and one of her friends, trying to find shoes that would go with our dresses. She found a pair, but I did not. I found a pair that I really liked, but at two different stores, I could not find my size. Last Sunday when shopping with my host granny I found the shoes I adored once again and this time I (finally) found them in my size! On Monday, I visited my host mom’s little sister’s class and talked to them about my country, similar to how I talked with the eighth graders at my school. Unlike the eighth graders, though they were much younger, they were not too shy to ask me questions. They asked about my hobbies, pets, favorite foods, and about where I had travelled before. I had to get back to my school on Monday for dance practice, where I learned I could, in fact, dance in the shoes I had gotten, which is fantastic.

I may try something new in the coming weeks in an attempt to update my blog more regularly…we will see how that works. Until next time!

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