Status Report

I feel that I have now, to a great extent, mastered the basic details of my surroundings and also completed my acculturation into the Finnish lifestyle. There are still some issues, to be sure, but I feel those will resolve themselves in time with diligence. Overall, I no longer have any issues with the change in living conditions. Also, I don’t get homesick, so that helps too.

As a result of a variety of situations, I’ve been wondering why I am here and what I should be doing, and I have reached a few conclusions based on what’s happened so far and what I know of God.

First, God put me here to grow in different ways. I have an enormous amount of control over most aspects of my life here, and as a result I have to decide how I feel about each aspect and how I will respond to it. In a way it’s a lot like I have moved out of the house after college for work and no one is around to make sure I do anything. The emphasis on me is more overbearing than many small things would be, but it’s okay, I’m going to make it. In fact, this sort of personal growth is exactly the sort of thing I wanted from this trip. God is good!

Second, God put me here to be a witness to the people around me. There is definitely a need. My approach to this is to just live my life in the way God finds pleasing and let it rub off on the people around me. I have sufficient time to warrant the use of this plan. I see no need to be overbearing, and indeed, I think it would damage relations here.

Both of these things I will take as I can, in stride. As my dad has emphasized, I don’t need to get it all worked out now. It will come in good time, on it’s own.

My mother and I feel that God is preparing me for something. My family and I have not done much to get this trip going and it’s going extremely well so far. The conditions are perfect and inducive of learning and personal growth, such that I know God is responsible. Personally I think it’s very cool to see how God has everything set up for his glory. I do not know what God’s plan is, but I know I will do whatever I can with the gifts and abilities he has given me. If you find anything about my trip remarkable or interesting, give all the credit to God. It’s all him.

If you would like to pray for me, I would appreciate it.

Advertisements

School

Today and yesterday have been my first time in a public school since the end of first grade.

Here are my thoughts and observations:
-The organizational structure of the school works well for connecting the students with their different classes and teachers. Between the sensible structure and my host brother guiding me, I had no trouble finding where I needed to go or getting to classes on time. Also, you are free to move about as you wish. You should be in class on time, but if you don’t have classes for a while you’re free to go home and come back later.
-The teachers are pleasant, welcoming, and I get the sense that they care for all of their students based on how they interact with us. One teacher even expressed interest in learning a little about my life in the US; I thought that was very thoughtful. Their teaching style is well based and sensible for their classes. In Art, we are designing jewelry to commemorate Finland’s Centennial birthday, which is coming up soon.
-The students are also pleasant and welcoming if introduced to me. I think they are all good people for the most part, and I would be happy to spend time with any of them. I think that I will have friends by the end of the year 🙂 Currently, there are 800 students enrolled in the school but I believe that more are coming sometime during the year. Potentially as many as 1000 people may be in the school at some point.
-My textbooks are in Finnish. I have an old phone that I am using to translate, but it’s not perfect. I’m working with my teachers to determine a the best thing to do based on the situation. I think it’s working out nicely.
-The lessons are all in Finnish, but some teachers know enough English to give me a rundown after telling the rest of the class the information. Again, I think it’s working out nicely.
-Lunch is included in the enrollment. They had a buffet-style double row set up. Lunch was salad, bread and sausage patties which was fine. I believe there is some menu variation. When it’s your time to eat you head downstairs to the cafeteria and start serving yourself. It’s a clean and efficient process. If you have time, you can go to your home for lunch.
-Homework doesn’t seem too crazy from what I’ve seen. It’s been pleasant to do for the most part. We’ll see what happens in the future.

So far, so good! Praise God!

 

 

Week One Complete

Today marks the first week of my time here in Finland. I’ve made some observations and had some thoughts beyond what I’ve mentioned in past posts, so I will detail them here.

People don’t look at you when you’re walking about the town. I’ve heard of this before, and my host brother said that it’s very normal; people just don’t want to bother you. It’s definitely a different experience from the US, where passersby are much more likely to look at you. I attribute this lack of visual contact to confidence with self and the feeling that the other should not be bothered without reason.

Indeed people do keep to themselves here for the most part. Interactions are brief, direct, and friendly, but that is the extent of them. Excellent conditions for people who like to keep to themselves.

There are also fewer boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, from what I’ve heard and observed. For example, I have been told that the majority of people in high school are single.

The emotional atmosphere here seems more relaxed than in the US. I suspect that domestic conflict is low. (My host brother believes this is true) The behavior of drunkards has been the only conflict I have seen thus far. (My host host brother confirms that this is the case) I also feel safe here, more so than I would walking in a town in the US. This is likely due to the lack of eye contact, among other things.

The language is still hard to understand, but I continue to do my best to pick out the words I know. By the end of my time here I suspect I will be reasonably capable with the language.

This trip has been wonderful so far, and I attribute this fact entirely to God’s goodness. He is wonderful, and through his awesomeness, inspires me to love him more each day. I pray that he inspires the same in you, no matter where you are.

 

 

Settling In

I’ve been in Finland for a few days now, and my impressions have been good. I feel comfortable here, and do not suffer from any anxiety. It’s hard to definite exactly, but things seem steady and reliable. My hosts have been exemplary. Everyone has been very helpful and receptive of me.

There is a distinct European and Finnish texture to everything. Some examples:
-Light switches are 3″,3″ teeter-totter-based units.
-Outlets have 2 prongs, and you do not have to plug into them in a certain way.
-Bed sheets do not have elastic to keep them on the mattress which makes them easy to put on and remove, but they may come off if you are tossing and turning too much. The pillowcases do not have zippers, just a flap that you fold over the exposed end of the pillow.
-Meals (in this house) are at 3 pm and 10 pm. The food is basically sandwiches and yogurt, with minor deviations. Of course, the food is Finnish and therefore a bit different than what we have in the US.
-Gas is very expensive. By my calculations, it’s about 6 USD/gal, (It’s about €1,3/L for gas )(In Europe they use a comma where we use a period to mark a decimal point) As a result, everyone drives small cars.
-Things are generally expensive here in Finland. Here in Finland, a Hotwheels car is ~4 USD, as compared with 0.9 USD in the US.
-There are half-pipe trenches on the sides of roads, etc. for moving water away.
-There is some English media. It’s primarily Finnish but you can find English on occasion. It is not enough to operate on, but it’s around. For example, Mythbusters and James Bond are on TV with Finnish subtitles.
-Many people speak some English. I estimate that a young person of about 16 has a vocabulary of 8000 common words, give or take. Older Finns have a smaller vocabulary and take longer to form sentences on occasion. I find myself generally speaking slower so that I am more clearly understood. Vocabulary size seems to be the most limiting factor for English speakers here.

While things are different here in Finland, I would not say that they are necessarily better or worse than what we have in the US. Both are the results of different histories and influences. That’s how I view this experience as a whole: different.

Thank you to those of you who are praying for me, I appreciate it greatly. God has been very good to me. If you wish to continue to pray for me, then please pray that I would be able to do God’s will here to the best of my ability.

The possibility exists that I might fail to mention an aspect of my trip in one of these blog posts. This blog exists to keep you updated on my experience, therefore, do not hesitate to ask me questions.

Departure, Arrival, and Initial Experience

I left for the Toronto, Canada at 6 am on July 31st. We arrived at the airport around 11 am. There was an issue with my bag weight but it was resolved. I said goodbye to my parents and headed through security around 1 pm. I boarded an Icelandair 757 around 2 pm and we took off at 3 pm. The flight lasted 5 hours. It was uncomfortable, although perhaps all flights are like this. I attempted to sleep, but instead had an experience similar to delirium. We landed in Reykjavik, Iceland  and had a 10 minute layover. We boarded boarded another Icelandair 757 and were soon flying to Helsinki. The flight lasted 5 hours. The experience was roughly the same as the previous flight. We landed in Helsinki at 7 am, Helsinki time. I met my host family at ~8 am after attempting to reclaim my baggage. One bag was lost, but I alerted the airport and they will get it back to me when they find it. My host family and I immediately went to their hotel room to have breakfast, then drove to Kajaani.  I did fit in their car.

Their house is small, nice, comfortable and functional. I have been given a room upstairs. I do fit on the bed surprisingly well.

The US and Finland are similar overall. There are some differences in the way things work and are done, but these are minor. It is enough to separate Finland from the US. Things here are generally smaller than they are in the US. Cars, meal portions, utensils, doorways (ouch), etc. It’s pleasant, though- I do not mind. Driving is more aggressive here, but it seen as being normal. It’s not scary, really. This is due to the fact that everyone drives a small European car which is much more maneuverable and the drivers seem more alert and conscientious of pedestrians. I am not used to it yet, but I imagine I will be soon. Finns seem to speak slower and may take a bit longer to understand spoken English. I find I am automatically adapting my speech to accommodate for this. I give everyone here full marks for effort though.

I find that I am able to understand a bit of Finnish spoken by others- already I can pick up on the basics of a conversation if it uses words I know. This is encouraging, especially after only my first full day. If I work on expanding my vocabulary I expect to be able to understand most conversations by the end of my time here.

Thus far I have been mostly comfortable and happy in this new location. I do not feel terribly homesick yet. Unfortunately I am actually sick with a fever, which has prevented me from being as helpful as I would like.

My host family has been very hospitable and pleasant. Kalle (the son and the older of the two children in the family) introduced me to his friends Anti (sp?) and Hans (sp?). They are nice to be around.

The time difference has not been hard to process. The light outside helps. Speaking of which, the shadows cast by the sun are noticeably longer here.

Overall, Finland has been great.

I shall continue to update the blog as I am able. At this point, I have only occasional access to the blog and my email. Feel free to send me emails, etc.