The Final Post

Hello

This is the final post regarding my trip to Finland. I may post on here again, when I travel in the future. Until then, this is the last I will be here.

I returned to the US about a week ago. Leaving Kajaani wasn’t difficult for me. I had a wonderful time there, but now I have work to do in the US. My parents came to get me, and we visited a number of relatives on the way back to Helsinki. After spending a day in Helsinki, we flew from there through Iceland to Toronto. From Toronto, we drove to my mother’s parents’ house and stayed there for a few days before driving back home to the UP.

I had a wonderful time in Finland, and I would definitely recommend other people to study abroad if they have the opportunity. I learned a good deal about another culture, and made some great friends too. Perhaps I shall return someday. I wouldn’t mind living there.

If you are interested in more pictures of Finland, I highly recommend Sartenada’s blog. In his own words: “the aim of my blog is to present my Finland thru my photos. Every post tells a story thru the set of photos with related text”. In my opinion, he does this very well. He is an interesting man, and his work is just as interesting, and definitely worth looking into. You can find his blog here: https://sartenada.wordpress.com/


An enormous thank you:

To my host family, the Kolehmainens, for housing me for my stay. I had a wonderful time.

To everyone that was welcoming, friendly, or kind toward me while I was in Finland, whether from Finland or the US, in person or online. Every positive experience with a person meant a lot to me.

To my parents for helping me arrange this experience.  Without you, I would not have  been able to go on this trip.

To God for making this trip a possibility, and taking care of me during it’s course.


For those interested in statistics,  in the year that this blog has been up, it has seen:

30 posts
6252 views
836 viewers

The average/most popular day and time to read the blog was on Tuesdays at 2 PM.

The most popular month was September of 2016, with 1800 views. This was about a third of all views the blog had. This was my second month in Finland.

This blog had 14 followers, either by email or through the website.

The most liked blog post was “Dancing in a Broken World”, with 5 likes.

The most viewed blog post was “Autumn in Kajaani” with 90 views. (The way I organized my blog was such that you normally wouldn’t have to click the post to read it, you could read it from the homepage. Because of this, other posts may have been read more, but it would only count as homepage traffic.)

The most commented-on blog posts were “Christmas and the New Year in Finland” and “Last Weeks in Finland”, each with 6 comments.

 


I hope this blog has served to inform you a bit about my experience in Finland. Thank you for reading, and have a good day!

Sincerely,

Benjamin

 

Last Weeks in Finland

When I arrived I was alone
Now I have friends and a home
This is a place I’m not sad to leave
But I’ll miss it, as I breathe
I look into faces and I see
A world here across the sea
I’ve learned good lessons which will endure
And become more kind and mature
I am changed, it is clear
That is why God put me here

 

I’ve come to the last few weeks of my time here in Finland. My parents will be arriving next week Friday to visit then take me home.

What’s left to do is wrapping things up, getting ready to return to the US. Next Saturday my host mother wants to throw me a going-away party. I’m happy I’ll get to see everyone at least one last time before I leave. Next Monday I will travel to Sotkamo to give another presentation to a number of students about my experience here. Next week I also need to collect my art projects from school, and start to pack too.

I will likely post a few more times, to thank everyone involved in my trip and recount some interesting data.

Have a great day!

 

Holiday in Ylläs and Looking Ahead

Hello!

A few weeks ago, my host family and I, as well as a couple other families went to Ylläs in Lapland for our winter holiday. Ylläs is one of the few places in the world that has fells, known as “tunturi” in Finnish. They are larger than hills, but smaller than mountains. I thought they were very cool. We were gone for a week. We skied and hiked for the most part. At the cabin, we played games, make sausages, and socialized. Here are some pictures:

One of the main reasons I wanted to come to Finland was to see what it was like. This line of thought directed and inspired my actions here for many months. However, as we returned from Lapland, I realized that I have seen most of what there is to see in my current position here in Kajaani. I have essentially done what I came here to do. Since this is the case, I have decided to switch my focus from learning, and focus more on just living here for my last months. I have a number of things I can work on. Perhaps most interesting for me at the moment is designing things. It’s rather fun. Now, although I will take my focus off of learning, that is not to say that I will stop taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves in the next few months. I am looking for some good and productive last few months here.

Have a great day!

Dancing in a Broken World

Hello!

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

Hello!

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.

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The Sun Goes Down
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Dusk Approaches
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Dusk Arrived
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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.

 

Christmas and the New Year in Finland

There are some typical foods and drinks consumed in the Christmas season; they are listed here in Finnish and English:

kinkku – ham
porkkanalaatikko – carrot casserole
lanttulaatikko – swede casserole
perunalaatikko – potato casserole
perunat – potatoes
erilaiset kalat – different fish prepared as desired, usually salmon and/or herring.
rosolli – salad that includes radish and apple
jouluolut – Christmas beer
glögi – juice based Christmas drink
suklaakonvehdit – assorted Christmas chocolates
riisipuuro, sokeri ja kaneli – rice porridge, sugar and cinnamon

 

Christmas trees are popular, as they are in the US. Our tree does not have lots of fancy ornaments but it still looks nice. There are a few of the presents under the tree at the moment.

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Our Christmas Tree

Christmas decorations are put up according to the desire of the individual.

Christmas lights are occasionally put up outside, but I have only seen white strands; inflatable lawn ornaments and flashing, multicolored outdoor Christmas decorations are rare.

Remembering the deceased is an important part of Christmas for many people. It is common to go to the cemetery on Christmas Eve and light candles, which are left around the gravestone.

Going to Sauna on Christmas day is very common.

There are usually many opportunities to go and sing Christmas songs somewhere or listen to Christmas concerts. Many people attend at least one of these.

Going to church on Christmas Eve is as common here as in the US.

Visiting and having visitors in the days around and on Christmas is typical. My host family has visited or been visited by coworkers, cousins, family, and friends.

Santa, who lives in Lapland, comes in the evening on Christmas Eve. He enters using the front door, like a normal person.

Gift giving is common. It is, perhaps, less of a big deal than it is in the US because it is customary to bring a gift whenever you go to visit someone. The presents under the tree are usually opened in the evening on Christmas Eve.

On New Year’s Day, fireworks are set off. Many people either get some for themselves, watch those set off by others, or both.

Thank you to my host brother for helping me compile this list.

I hope that you would have a blessed Christmas and a pleasant New Year!