New host sisters and I at our summer cabin together :)
New Family, School Break, and..Spring!?
Hi everyone! It feels like ages since I have written last..I think its because when I don’t have school I am even more lazy than usual and blogging never really crosses my mind. But as (winter..spring? idk) break draws to a close, I feel like I should write down everything that has happened in these past few weeks so that I don’t forget.
So rewind to the Sunday after Wanhat, which was the 16 of February. That was when I switched into my third family. I really just can’t believe it—I am already 7 months into my exchange!! In this one, I have two sisters, Lotta (12) and Viivi (16), a mom, and a step “dad” who is with us a lot but doesn’t live in my house. And I love them all! Saying goodbye to my second family was really difficult because I had become so close with my host mom and I was just so happy living with them..but I am really happy to have moved here now too. I have been SO fortunate with my host families. I know a lot of kids in Finland who don’t have very good situations with their families here and I know I have gotten so so lucky to have had no problems at all in that area. Lotta, Viivi and I get along really, really well. We are with each other almost every night hanging out, watching movies and sometimes cooking. I know we have a lot of fun times ahead of us! My host mom is so sweet and generous, and we have already become such good friends despite the fact that neither one of us can really speak the other’s language. There are lots of smiles and charades being thrown around in this house:) and when we are alone together without a translator it can get pretty comedic. My host dad is great and always nice to talk to, and he speaks English really well. His son went to New Zealand a really long time ago through Rotary too!
By the first day in my new family I already felt like I was at home. The next week was pretty relaxing and uneventful. I was driven to school because I didn’t know the bike route, but normally I’ll bike I think. Its kind of far away—but not too bad—a little under 20 minutes. I am so so so so so so grateful that it has been such a warm winter here though, because biking in the snow and ice is definitely not my thing and it takes way longer. After school, my sisters and I would hang out together, and I even managed to drag them to the gym a few times with me! :) That next Friday, school break started. After my school and gym, I met up with Viivi and some of her friends who were celebrating one of their birthdays. I was kind of nervous that it would be awkward like it usually is meeting new people, but they were all soo nice and friendly! We had such a good time together. There was like 5 of us and they bought lots of good food and we just watched movies and talked all night. 2 guys came for a few hours, but I didn’t even see them because they refused to go into the same room as me in fear of having to speak English, which I am not going to lie, was super annoying (especially because I am totally willing to use my awful Finnish if it makes a stranger here more comfortable). But oh well, unfortunately, I am used to it. The next morning, I woke up and rubbed my eyes, only to find this disgusting slimy goop stick on to my fingers. I didn’t even need to go look in the mirror—I knew that I had caught pink eye. This stupid guy at my school came last week with it and like 20 others got it too, and I was one of them:( Luckily, my host mom is a doctor and was on top of it the second I came home. I had it for a few days, but it wasn’t really that bad—the sore throat that accompanied it was worse!
That weekend, my family and I went to Kotka, where my host dad lives. Because I was pretty sick, we didn’t do much, but we still had a good time together. We watched movies, baked, and just relaxed and also saw Finland absolutely demolish the US in hockey for the Olympics bronze medal 5-0. That was kind of embarrassing, but Finland totally deserved it. The entire country is full of hockey fanatics—they know soo much more about the NHL than I do! (which isn’t saying much because I know absolutely nothing..but still, it’s an American league and I am American, so..)
On Tuesday morning, I woke up, went to the gym with my 2nd host mom, and then she took me to the dentist to get wisdom teeth x rays. I decided I want to get some of my wisdom teeth out here, because it’s free and I can easily miss a few days of school without having to worry about it, unlike at home. I may complain a lot about Finland, but let me just say—their free dental and medical care is absolutely incredible. I walked in, told them my name and age, got my x rays, and I was out in like 8 minutes! The United States seriously needs to take some notes on Finland’s healthcare system. After that, Viivi, Lotta and I took a bus to Helsinki to visit their uncle Antti for the rest of Tuesday and Wednesday. He was really cool! On Tuesday night, we ate at Vappiano, a really good Italian restaurant in Helsinki, and walked around and then went back to his apartment. The next day, everyone kind of went out and did their own thing. I met up with one of my best friends, Chris, who is an exchange student here from Canada. We walked around pretty much all of Helsinki together and had some snacks and just caught up. It was so nice to see him! I think I’ll go visit again later this month.
On Thursday, I didn’t do much all day but I tried out a new run to the town center and back from my house. It was really good! At around 6, I was with my friends Alma, Janika, and Makyla. We had so much fun just hanging out. Makyla told me that Alma had a “jacuzzi” at her house, which I assumed was a hot tub. So I brought my bathing suit only to find out that by “jacuzzi” she really meant bath tub..which I guess is as close as you can get here in Finland (even bath tubs here are super rare). Anyways, we still went and all four of us took a bubble bath together and sauna’d afterwards. If I was back home in the US I think I’d find that really strange but here now it’s totally normal to me! After we got out of sauna, we watched Harry Potter and then went to bed. I woke up the next morning around 830 because I am not a very late sleeper, and I literally had to just sit there and wait 4 hours for the rest of them to wake up -_-. I will never understand why most teenagers can sleep for so long. Maybe it’s because they don’t nap during the day like I do :3
On Friday, after I got home from Alma’s house, I napped for a few hours and then met them and some other friends at the train station. We all went to Myllykoski to our friend Matias’ house, where our normal group of friends from school just hung out and watched a movie. There was like 12 of us or so. It was fun but we were tired and it’s still exhausting for me to try to keep up with Finnish conversations. I still usually can’t :’(. At around 12, we got back to Kouvola and my friend Elina’s dad drove me home. The next day, I went to the gym and then baked chocolate chip cookies for my friend janette’s 18th birthday that night. I went over to her house around 7 and stayed there until around 12, when her and all the others over 18 went to the bar. Most of her friends are third years, who all left the school a few weeks ago. It was really nice to see them again because they were all such good friends to me this year and I miss them! I remember we got into a conversation about me leaving and it was really sad for all of us. I have grown to truly love my friends here and I can’t even believe I have such little time left. Even my friend Alma, who is a pretty cold person (but super warm and gushy inside I’ve come to learn), had tears in her eyes, and I’ve never seen her cry before. I guess these next few months I really have to appreciate and have as much fun as I can!
And finally, my last and most important piece of news: SPRING IS HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not to say that it’s t-shirt and flip flops weather quite yet—but for Finland, it’s pretty close! I never thought that walking outside to -1 degree and a shining sun would bring me so much happiness, but it does. Yesterday when I saw it, I won’t lie, I actually cried. So I hope this isn’t some cruel joke. The snow better not be back, or else..
So here it is—Wanhat’s own special post. The day has finally come and gone, and although I am so disappointed that it is over, it was one of the best days I have had on exchange! And not just one of the best days—the whole experience itself since November has been so so much fun, and I am so happy to have been able to do it.
On Thursday night, I was not able to sleep more than a few hours—I was so excited (and I also took a really long nap in the middle of the day which messed up my sleeping schedule too). The next morning, I woke up much too early at 630 to go get my hair and make up done for the dance at Alma’s house. Then I went home, got my dress on, and arrived at school around 1030. When I got there, I was so amazed! All the girls really did look so beautiful in their dresses, and the boys looked so handsome in their suits. I had a red dress and Emil had a matching red bow tie and sash around his waist, and I think we looked so cute because we were one of the only matching couples. At around 11 we were served an early lunch in the dining hall by the first year students, and then the dance started at 12. There are two dances during the day, one in the afternoon for the other students and the other in the evening for the families. When Emil and I went out in front of everyone, we were both soo nervous. There were tons of people and both of us didn’t know the dances as well as we probably should have. However, we still had so much fun and just laughed whenever we made little mistakes. Nothing went too wrong except that in the middle of the dance his sash fell off but it didn’t really matter. Also, Emil was so hot in his suit that he was literally dripping in sweat—poor guy!! And poor me…he kept having to wipe his hand over his face and then grab mine to dance with. Gross. But other than that it was really great and we didn’t embarrass ourselves which was our main goal. After the dance, Emil, Oskari and I hung out at this tiny mall by the school where some of our other friends were dancing again (it was optional and Emil and I didn’t want to do it a third time). Once they were done, a big group of us went back to Lassi’s house just to hang out, eat and take pictures and stuff until the next dance. At 5 we went back to school and the second dance went perfectly. Emil and I were a lot less nervous and did really well, and we had so much fun dancing together! I am so lucky to have been able to meet 2 such awesome guys to dance with for Wanhat! Once we were done, most of the kids who danced went to a restaurant in Kouvola for dinner. It was really nice and the food was pretty good. After our meal, we went home, changed our clothes, and went to a place about 30 minutes away for our after party. We had tons of fun that night and I really enjoyed being with my friends and meeting new people too.
It was the perfect day, I wish it didn’t have to end :)
Some of the best posters that don’t really need much explaining. And these are the nice ones :))
Our superbowl set up :))
Superbowl, Food and Halloween
It feels like I haven’t written in forever and I think that’s because I’ve been waiting for all these big events to pile up for me to write about so I can actually create an interesting blog post for the first time in a while. I could wait even longer to write this, as Wanhojen Tanssit is actually tomorrow—but I am impatient and I’m pretty sure after all this Wanhat talk it deserves its own post :)
Anyways, let’s start with February 4th, a SUPER great night accompanied by a not-so-super Superbowl. On Sunday night, Makyla, Emil, Eetu and I all went over to Oskari’s house to have an American Superbowl party. None of them knew anything about American Football besides that it’s “a bunch of fat guys just pushing each other around and trying to get some ball into a goal” (which is only partially true ;) ) and that watching it also meant they could eat good food. We all came over around 9, and the game started at 130 in the morning. While we were waiting for it, we watched an NBA basketball game and played an pretty competitive ping pong tournament as well. My last match was a tough loss against Emil, (who, in my defense, plays tennis)..third set 11-9. Pity. The game got off to a ridiculously terrible start and it didn’t pick up at all from there. It was truly the worst Superbowl game I’ve ever seen in my life, and it is a shame, because it was the first one all of these Finnish guys have seen (and probably now will ever see).I am pretty sure my local middle school football team at home could have performed better than the Broncos did. And on top of everything, we didn’t see the best part, the commercials! But anyways, not one person fell asleep, which brings me great pride :’). One of the best parts of the night was the food (per usual). Oskari’s parents are the best!! I think that his mom bought every thing she could find in the supermarket labeled as “American.” And his dad is great too simply because of the fact that he owns both the Kouvola tennis hall AND the Kouvola amusement park.
Literally the second the game ended, I fell asleep on the couch at 5 in the morning. Does it still count as an all nighter? Makyla fell asleep in another room and the guys stayed up and had an NHL hockey video game tournament. Falling asleep on the couch wasn’t a great idea because I was woken up every time someone scored a goal, but oh well, I wasn’t expecting much sleep that night anyways. At 7 I woke up and everyone got ready for school. Yes, did I mention that it was exam week? :D Everyone was dropped off at school to take their exams, except for me. I went straight home because I didn’t need to take any of my tests (the glory of being an exchange student, mwuahahaa). From 9-5 I was dead asleep, and then I dragged myself to the gym and was up until like 3 the next morning. My sleeping schedule here now is STILL off to this very day.
The next week wasn’t very eventful except for the fact that we had a German girl staying with us at my host family’s house. She was SO sweet and Ella and I really enjoyed spending time with her. We did a lot of fun things together—we played cards, cooked, watched movies, and attempted to ice skate. The ice skating part wasn’t that fun actually. I really took for granted the railing and the optional chairs back at my own home ice arena. Last week I realized that skating without a railing is like bowling without bumpers—impossible. The little 5 year old kids were doing circles around me as I just stood there focusing all of my energy on not falling down. On Friday I succeeded in something a little bit more my style in an indoor gym. I was the second person ever to do all 3 classes of Body Pump, Body Combat, and Crossfit in a row, each an hour long. I was so proud of myself! One of my favorite teachers there taught them all and he awarded me with a free protein drink at the end of it too :’) I was honored. And the next day I couldn’t walk but it was definitely worth it!
On Saturday, Lotta and Makyla came over and we made paleo zucchini noodles with pesto. It was pretty good, but let’s face it—no matter how much you want zucchini noodles to taste like noodles, they never really do. Our dish screamed mediocrity, but it doesn’t matter because that night I had one of the best meals of my life! I am so excited to tell you all (all 4 of you who probably read this blog) about it. Here in Kouvola, I didn’t believe there was such a thing as a good restaurant. But low and behold, for the right amount of money, anything is possible right? For a sort of “goodbye” dinner, my host family took me out to a Spanish restaurant in town that I’ve always wanted to go to. Besides making me totally wish I was in Spain, the restaurant was total bliss, and there was no holding back. We started off with a plate of tapas with garlic mushrooms, shrimp, sundried tomatoes, meat, parmesan cheese, olives, garlic aoli, and garlic bread. Along with the tapas plate came this bread basket which made just going to that restaurant worth it in itself. It was so soft and lightly salted and each bite was just a little piece of heaven. I was completely satisfied after the first twenty minutes of our meal, but we kept going and I ate the best steak I’ve ever had. After dessert, I could not breathe. And I guess I am a bit ashamed to so thoroughly describe my meal with such excitement, but I had to write about it because it was just so good. Come to Kouvola and I swear you’ll understand me.
On Sunday, I went over to Alma’s to practice more for my wanhat hair and we also watched the Olympics together. Her sister tried all these fancy braids and worked soo hard and I feel awful because after all of that I decided I just wanted a half pony tail hahaha. I think she hates me now, but she was being a good sport.
This week at school is a special week because there are some big events leading up to the Wanhat dance. Last Thursday was the last day of school for the seniors (“abit” in Finnish), because now they have a few months off to study for their final exams for university. On Wednesday night at school, there was an event where the second years showed funny video impersonations of the third years and also made skits and other things about them. It was Western themed, so everyone dressed up too. It was a lot of fun, and it was hilarious (from what I could understand).
Today was Penkkarit, which is the absolute best and the absolute worst day ever. I personally think it’s so cruel, but it’s also too funny to not appreciate. On Penkkarit day, the Seniors come back to school to wreak total havoc. They drape the halls in toilet paper and saran wrap, and put up awful posters making fun of other kids in school. They also draw on the first and second years’ faces with lipstick (which is a bitch to get off), dump glitter all in their hair, and throw thousands of hard candies at us. (which isn’t as fun as one might think. Hard candies are painful!!). And this is all done in the best, cutest costumes I have ever seen. After morning class, we all went into the gym and saw a video that the seniors made for us, made up of funny jokes about school and embarrassing videos of drunken things that the younger kids did. The posters were SO great, even though every year some of the victims get really angry. A lot of posters were making fun of people for all their selfies and how they look the same in every picture which I thought was hilarious and soo true for Finns! Other posters were making fun of school couples, desperate guys who try to talk to every girl on facebook, weird habits, too much make up, and ugly pictures the third years had of their friends. Some of my best friends are abit and I was so nervous about my poster! They told me it was going to be terrible and made me feel so scared, but when I found it I was totally relieved. They wrote this huge really nice message and only made fun of me for my long facebook posts and one weird picture from when I was 12 haha. It could have been way worse. I was frankly a little disappointed ;)
In the middle of the day, all the seniors go and parade around the center of town in their costumes and celebrate and throw more candies. Penkkarit is basically Halloween but 10000X better. We all had such a great time!
Tomorrow is the dance, and on Sunday I am moving host families! :) Wish me luck!