Thanksgiving, November 28
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Even though every year I have so much to be thankful for, this year I can say I especially do. I am so lucky to have spent these past four months in such a beautiful, new and exciting place. Sometimes life here can be very challenging, but all the memories I have made, people I have met, and things I have learned make it all worth it. Kiitos paljon to everyone here in Finland who has made my exchange so great, and thank you to everyone back home for supporting me so much. Now, I not only have 1 family to be grateful for—I have 5. And I have so many friends spread out around the entire globe too, that really do mean the world to me. I can’t be happier with my life now, and I can’t wait to see what more my year abroad has in store. I hope everyone had as happy and delicious of a day as I did! Eat lots of food and dont regret a bite of it! ;-)
Rakastan Suomiiiii! <3
So yesterday was my favorite holiday, and I figured that just because I’m not in a country that celebrates Thanksgiving doesn’t mean I have to miss out! So I decided to go all out this thanksgiving —turkey and all! The problem was, each previous thanksgiving I was always the “chopper”—you know—the one who no one really trusts to actually cook anything. But I didn’t let my previous chef status stop me from doing a full blown thanksgiving meal for my first two host families, my inbound counselor and her daughter, and of course, Makyla and Jemima. It was quiteee the mission.
The process of Thanksgiving started about a week and a half ago, when I made the menu and went shopping with my host mom for ingredients. Let me tell you something—shopping in Finland is not a fun task. I realize how spoiled in California I am—I didn’t know back home that celery actually doesn’t have to be green to be sold in a store and it’s totally acceptable to have wilted vegetables and herbs sold there too. Finland is not exactly known for it’s fresh produce..
Anyways, we got nearly all the ingredients we needed for the meal, having to improvise a bit for only a few things. It was also soo sweet that my host parents found like the one place in Kouvola that sells turkey and specially ordered one to be picked up on Wednesday. When we got the turkey, I was a little nervous. Because..well um..ew. Needless to say, that when the neck had to be taken out there were definitely some tears. But I got it done with the help from my fearless host dad! :D I felt quite accomplished! I had followed a recipe from the New York Times and stuffed the turkey with herbs and garlic and salt and put it in the fridge until the next day. It was scary but totally worth it in the end..even though I’m definitely looking forward to not making the turkey next year.
On Thanksgiving morning, I woke up to the pleasant sound of Samu, my host dog, howling at absolutely nothing. (-_-) I figured that was a sign for me to wake up and get started. I worked all day from 8-18:00, and Jemima, Makyla and Helka came to join me around 12:30. It was very hard work and I am proud to say I only had a few minor meltdowns and survived the day with just two small injuries!
Helpful thanksgiving tips I learned the hard way:
-when moving a rack with a turkey on it freshly out of the oven, you should probably use mits.
-when cleaning a fucking 4 blade hand held food processor (that is made to purée vegetables), make sure it’s unplugged. Because it has no problem puréeing your finger as well—trust me.
Anyways, after 10 hours of hard work, the perfect Thanksgiving meal was created. I had made sour cream and chive mashed potatoes, yams, an (amazing!!!!) turkey, chocolate chip cookies, buns, sautéed broccoli, mushrooms, and onions, pumpkin pie, and apple pie. Jemima made a great cranberry sauce and helped us out in the kitchen with everything, and makyla had made such a tasty stuffing and gravy as well! I couldn’t have done it without them! It was completely worth it—not one thing was bad. I couldn’t be prouder. However—I don’t think I will be cooking a thanksgiving meal any time in the near future. I’ve exhausted myself out for the next like 4 years (sorry mom and dad, you’re on your own).
We all enjoyed each other’s company so much last night. I am so lucky to have these people in my life here. Thanksgiving is supposed to be spent with family, and I did just that! I hope everyone enjoyed their thanksgiving as much as we did!! <3
Today I start my trip to Lapland, in the Arctic circle. I couldn’t be more excited:) updates to come!
Kiss an exchange student day—Helsinki! Bésame! Baciami! Pussaa mua!
Pikkujoulu: Decorando galletas con mis guapas y mirando películas con mis Brasileños!
Kotka hiking with exchange students :))
My attempt at a reindeer cookie during Pikkujoulu with the Kurittu’s and our final products :-)
November 12-17th: Friends and Pikkujoulu
This week was really fun. It was pretty normal except I came home to a different house and family of course. However, I am already starting to become really comfortable here and I feel so accepted by my new host family:) If I had to leave the Kurittus, I am so happy that it was to come here!
On Tuesday, after our school and before Wanhat, Makyla and I came back to my house (which is only 45 seconds by bike away), to hang out during our hour of free time. It was really relaxing until tragedy struck when we were leaving. We both hopped on my bike to go to school, and right as we were biking away, Samu (my host dog), sprinted right past us. He couldn’t just be let out of the house because he would run away, and Makyla had accidentally left the gate open. I stopped the bike and both of us attempted to catch him..but every time we ran one way he would run the other. He is probably the fastest dog I have ever seen—he just bounded right past us like he was having so much fun while we miserably tried multiple techniques to get him inside. He started a fight with another dog too, which was so awkward for us because our Finnish abilities simply aren’t at the level where we can profusely apologize and sound sincere. All we could say was “anteeksi” and now I think my new neighbors probably hate me. Then, after that little incident, a little boy on a bike was riding fast down the hill and Samu decided it was a good idea to follow him. The dog almost made him fall off his bike and kept following him until the boy stopped for us. Our Finnish skills pretty much failed us this second time with the boy but by the time we could begin to apologize Samu decided to run down yet another street. Makyla finally got him, annoyed and growling, and returned him to the house.
And this was all in the wind, cold, and pouring rain.
Samu seriously needs to work on his first impression skills.
My host dog is truly beloved in my family. He is so sweet and I want to love him too, but sometimes it’s so hard. He randomly barks all the time (especially when I nap..I swear it’s on purpose), and he is just so wild and jumpy. He takes my clothes and pillows out of my room and leaves them around the house, and hangs on me whenever I eat. When he starts howling at nothing I get so fucking distressed for some reason and I don’t want my family to see me like that, so I just have to breathe and try to get him to stop without yelling back in frustration. Things could be so much worse, and it is such a minuscule problem—I know in a few days I’ll get used to it and it’ll be fine. He’s actually really sweet. But I kind of miss my old dog, Minni. All she did was lie around and eat and I didn’t appreciate her much at the Kurittu’s, but now she seems like such an angel!
Wow I just spent two paragraphs on my dog. That’s an all time low for my blog.
Anyways, on Wednesday, I had a really great day. I went back to Kuusankoski to spend the night with the Kurittus, where we had Pikkujoulu and Helka and I had a movie night like we used to. Hannu, my first host dad, picked me up from my Finnish lesson at 8:40 to drive me back to my house. When I came out of school, he got out of the car and ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug—lifting me up and twirling me around and everything. There were tears in both of our eyes and it was a really nice car ride home, just to be with him again. When I got home, I was greeted by Minni and more hugs from my host mom and Helka, and I just felt so warm and happy to be back. We made Christmas cookies and drank Glögi and talked a lot. Pikkujoulu is basically just an early Christmas celebration any day you want in November and December here. Lights are already coming up and everything, because the Finns don’t have to worry about Thanksgiving coming before Christmas. After our Pikkujoulu, Helka and I snuggled and watched movies and just hung out. We didn’t go to sleep until really late because we had so much to catch up on the past few days and we were having too much fun. Not like it mattered anyways—the only class I had the next day was Art (tough life of an exchange student). I really enjoyed my time there, and Helka and I are hoping to make that a weekly tradition. I can’t wait until this next Wednesday :)
The rest of the school week nothing much happened. On Friday, Makyla and Jemima came over after my gym. It’s so nice to be with them—we truly are the perfect three together and we always manage to have so much fun just hanging out in my room. Makyla slept over and we watched funny (and extremeeellyyy relevant) youtube videos from this kid on exchange in Italy. Not the craziest Friday night but still a good one.
Early Saturday morning, we headed to the train station to catch a train to Kotka. I love that my city is a place where most trains go through, so in our car with us, we had exchange students from other cities heading to Kotka as well. Jemima, Makyla and I sat with our friends Noah (Canada), Nicholas (Argentina), and Flavia (Brasil). When we arrived in Kotka, we were picked up and driven to the house that all the kids from my district would sleep in that night. Most people were already there and it was so nice to see them all again. We all sat and hung out for an hour just in the big living room and caught up. I was with all the South Americans (from Chile, Argentina and Brasil) and we all spoke in mostly Spanish. It was sooo nice to speak it with them because I feel like I am losing mine so badly here since I don’t take any classes and have no one to practice with. The whole day most of the time I forced them to only speak Spanish to me because I’m dying to stimulate my brain a little bit, haha. I think I learned more Spanish from yesterday than I have Finnish this entire month. It’s a sad fact—how much easier and more fun it is to learn languages with a Latin base.
After a little over an hour, we all set out to the forest for a short hike. We walked a few kilometers to a small cabin with a fire and we cooked makkara (Finnish sausage) and just spent some more time together outside. It was beautiful and thankfulllyyyyy not raining. We were there for a while, and then we walked back to another cabin and made lettu (Finnish crepes). They figured out that the way they can make us go on a hike in the cold without hearing too much complaining is to lure us everywhere we go with food.
When we got back from the hike around 5, we all hung out a little more and then Flavia, Fernanda and I all made their favorite Brazilian dessert, Brigadeiro. You literally could not make anything more fattening than Brigadeiro. It’s made with a ton of condensed milk, butter and sweetened cocoa powder. So of course it’s amazing. Then we had dinner, which was spaghetti and meatsauce. It was sooo nice to have good food like that! Once we all ate, the Pikkujoulu part of the weekend started and we all made and decorated Christmas cookies. It was so much fun despite my lack of cookie decorating skills. I mostly just sat their and supported everyone else while I ate the ugly ones.
Exhausted from the hard work of cookie cutting and decorating, we then all packed in the living room to watch Scary Movie 5. Not the most quality movie—as proven by me falling asleep about halfway through. When it finished, Santa came for a visit and each one of us got to meet him and receive some candy (not like all of us rapidly-gaining weight exchange students needed it). When he called up our names one by one, I went up for Jemima and Jemima went up for me. Santa was a fraud!! He didn’t even know that we weren’t the people we said we were. What a disappointment. Oh well, I guess we will get over it some day :-(
Once Santa left, we all just hung out some more and winded down. The next morning, we ate breakfast and all went to the train station around 10. On the way back to Kouvola, I sat with Jemima, Noah and Henrique (Brasil). It was sad to say our goodbyes, but we will all be seeing each other in just twelve days for our trip to the Arctic Circle!
My host parents picked me up from the train around 11 and my host mom greeted me with a really good hug. Hugs here are rare and definitely one of Anu’s best strengths—they are top notch! My host parents and I then walked to this little market in the town center together and looked around. When we were there though, it was SO windy! Signs were falling down everywhere and it was totally chaotic. For lunch, my host dad got us a thing of little fried fish to share. So. Unappetizing. The idea of eating an entire little fish totally grossed me out. They tasted pretty good though, because nothing so fried and salted can be THAT bad…but I still couldn’t really get the thought out of my head. My dad told me to close my eyes, but it didn’t help much.
When I got home, I went directly to bed, exhausted from my weekend. Around 3 though I had to wake up, because our Finnish friend Nea had invited Makyla and I to watch a hockey game with her. We are both soo grateful for Nea..she is one of the sweetest Finns we have met and she really wants to be our friend. Which, again…is really rare here. The hockey game was great, even though we lost. There was some fights though, which made it all worth it! :D After the game, I dragged myself to the gym and went home for a Sauna. A pretty Finnish day! Not so bad ;-)
Pictures to come tomorrow! Heippa :)
Today Makyla surprised me with a picnic lunch (soo much better than the school’s!) as a late birthday gift with Annie’s mac n cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and dark chocolate. It was so sweet and thoughtful! No guilt;) well..maybe a little..