Dancing in a Broken World


About a week ago, on February 17th, we had the Wanhat dance at school. It was a performance of the dances that we had learned in dancing class over the past term. The dance is a tradition in Finnish high schools, going back to the 60s at least. (My host parents took part in it when they were young) It is somewhat similar to the Prom in the US, although this has more of a formal emphasis and isn’t so much a party. I have some pictures, courtesy of my host father:

Additional pictures can be found on the school’s Facebook page: https://tinyurl.com/Wanhat2017

There were about 120 couples in total. In Finnish, our dances were: Teinipoloneesi, Pas D’Espagne, Do-Sa-Do Mixer, Valse Mignon, Tango Jealousie, La Chaconne, Jiffy Mixer, Fireman’s Dance, Kahden Kiven Matka, Salty Dog Rag, Wienervalssi, and a dance created by the students. My favorite was the tango, although I liked all of them. I find formal dancing very enjoyable. I’m very happy I was able to take part in this performance. I think I shall remember it well.

I believe some people are working on making a video of the performance, although I do not know when it will be finished. If or when it is, I will put it up on the blog.

After the excitement from the dance, we had a couple days break with the weekend, then started back into school normally. Wednesday I became sick, and decided to stay home. I’ve been here since then. I’m in good spirits though; sickness doesn’t usually get me down.

I’ve had time to think as I’ve been home here.

For context, in the past years and months I have come to know those things of reality which carry weight, those things which parents protect their children from: the horror of war, the void of depression, the terrible, unspeakable sins people commit, the greater passage of time and our meaning in it, and so on. I feel them pressing down on me whenever I am at a large gathering of people, and in the greatest communal moments of life. I also feel them in the moments of peace, when everyone is resting. They make me value and wish to protect the good things in the world more.

Through various experiences and relationships, I have come to see that every thing that people look for pleasure or satisfaction in, in this world, is broken. People, parties, events, experiences, activities, food, relationships; it’s all cracked, like a mirror hit with a hammer. I have known this to an extent for a long time, but in the past week, the last things on Earth which I still believed to be capable of satisfying me were shown to be broken. I saw that there was nothing left in the world that I could hope to be satisfied by. The world seemed empty and dark, black and formless. For a tiny moment, I considered wanting to be in heaven. It seemed as though there was nothing to live for, all the good things were no longer perfect.

The feeling only lasted for a moment, then it was gone. I feel as though God wants me to keep on doing things here, for him. He has given me some spark in my heart which keeps me from depression. I need not despair because the world cannot satisfy me; God is my strength and my satisfaction.

So, I continue on in this world. I am happy to take small moments of joy, small reflections in the pieces of the cracked mirror, such as they are found, but I know that this world has nothing for me. I am only visiting here for a time; my final destination is heaven, my true home.


6 Months in Finland


It’s been a while! I’m doing well. I have to give much credit to God for this. I can say with confidence that I would not be doing as well if he were not helping me. Hardly a week goes by when he does not sustain me through problems.

School is going well. We just started the fourth out of five terms. I am taking Russian, color theory, and English. In addition, I am doing some school I brought from home, since there aren’t any other classes more pressing in the high school here. My dancing class from last term is ended now, and next week we take our new skills and participate in the school’s dance (comparable to the prom in the US). We are anticipating that the dance will be filmed, and the video will be put up on YouTube. I will post a link to it here on the blog for you to watch.

I was invited to present for some more classes in the local schools a few weeks ago. I happily accepted. I always like a change of scenery, even if for a day. The presentations went quite well; generally, I would introduce myself and explain a bit about why I’m here, then I would spend the rest of the time answering the students’ questions. They came up with some good questions for me. Common questions included my opinion of Finland and various aspects thereof; my favorites in different categories; what I liked to do in my free time; and what I thought of President Trump. In the end, I think everyone, myself included, had a good time and learned something. Those experiences made me realize how much I enjoy talking to people and teaching them things.

The days have been getting longer recently, and as a result I have been able to see the evening sky when I walk home from school, and I must say that it is gorgeous. It’s like the sky was painted with new colors. It’s a marvelous shade of Prussian/Midnight blue, fading into a pinkish orange at the horizon. I took some pictures to try to capture the effect; the colors of the sky are true to life.

The Sun Goes Down
Dusk Approaches
Dusk Arrived
2:30 PM

The last picture was taken on the way home from school. It’s snowed recently, and the trees have a pretty, white cover. The temperature has been around 10 degrees Fahrenheit or lower for the past bunch of days. At this point, if it’s above freezing temperature, I think it’s pretty warm 🙂 I like the winter though, so this is the place to be!

My Finnish has been improving. I understand a lot of what people are saying. I’m also getting a handle on the word choices Finns make when expressing things. It’s rather interesting.

Speaking of interesting, I find that a vast majority of things are interesting, if not fascinating. Everything from the unit of measure for clothing in Europe to the color of the night sky to the way Finnish people express things. It’s all very interesting. In Finnish, the word I’ve been using for it is jännä, which means “interesting”, as well as “neat” and “cool”. In a way, I can be a bit childlike: simple and peaceful in my comprehension of the complexity and beauty of God and the world.

Regarding my return to the US, my parents will be coming to visit Finland on May 18th, and we will all return on May 27. I look forward to my return, but I remain focused on the tasks at hand, here and now. God has me here for a reason, so why should I focus on leaving when I still have much to do?

Have a good day.