Developments

Hello

It’s been hard for me to write a post recently. I’ve been busy with school and when I do get a chance, I never write anything I like enough to post. I’m not sure why.

A few weeks ago, I took a trip to Vaala, Finland for the day to give a number of presentations to the students at the school there. I talked about the Finnish community in the US where I’m from, and I discussed some other topics with students as they suggested them. In the end I presented for the whole school day. Overall, I think it went rather well. I was happy to talk with the students, and I hope they learned something. The teachers I talked with were quite interested in me and pleased I had come to speak (I had come by invitation). I thought it was interesting that people wanted to hear about the things I shared.

After giving all those presentations, I went to a hockey game in Oulu. It was interesting to watch. The players seemed to play more sloppily than I was used to, and the teams weren’t the best in the league, but they were evenly matched, which made for a interesting game.

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My Finnish is improving. I would say that there is a very noticeable difference from when I first arrived. Now, I’m able to follow basic conversations, random dialogue, questions, and I can guess the meanings of Finnish words with reasonable success. Last week I met a young woman who asked my host brother (who was with me at the time) if I could speak and understand Finnish, and I answered for him. It’s pretty cool. Learning Finnish was never at the top of my list of priorities, so it’s interesting to see how far I have come just by being here. Some people have advised that I push hard to learn and use the language, but I find that such effort isn’t necessary in the long term.

Speaking of priorities, my priority on this trip has always been to learn about as much as I can, because I feel that is one of the main reasons God has put me here. I think God put me here for other reasons as well, but I cannot know what they are, so I don’t focus on them so much. I just work on doing my best with whatever work is before me.

I have noticed that I no longer notice the differences between life here in Finland and life in the US. Everything is natural and normal. In a way, Finland has become another home to me. Here I have family, friends, work, routine, and everything I need for this part of my life. It’s fascinating, especially after only five months here. I have to credit God for this, he set it all up.

It’s interesting, how many things are interesting to me. I think it’s a good descriptor of things for me though. I think everything is interesting.

In the past while, I have been having trouble figuring out what to do or think about certain things or just in general. I think a lot, and it becomes difficult to keep track of what it right. To help with this problem, I’ve started a list to keep track of them. The list includes bits from the Bible that shed light on the subject, as well as some personal observations about how I work. I think it will be very helpful as time goes on. Whenever I wonder about something, I can read the list and remind myself of the things that I know.

One of the things I have noticed about myself over the past years is that I have a strong desire to love people I am near- to care for them, encourage them, help them, and so on. I think it’s great, but it is rarely reciprocated. This isn’t good, because people tend to want love reciprocated, and when it isn’t it can be depressing and/or frustrating. To try to solve this issue, I tried not loving the people I’m near to, but that puts me in a bad mood. I wonder if I had someone in particular that I could love and who would love me back would satisfy the desire…perhaps.

School is going rather well. I’m managing to do fairly well in all my classes. I’ve been learning how to use Photoshop and Illustrator in two of my classes, and that’s been exciting. I enjoy working with those sorts of programs. I’m getting pretty good at it too, in my opinion. Dancing is going well enough; we have been working on a waltz and a circle dance. I like it, but I wish it were more personal. (I have always seen dancing as more of a personal thing)

Christmas here in my home is a rather pleasant thing, in my opinion. We put up the tree this evening. People have been playing Christmas music now and then. We have a few decorations up around the house, here and there. There has been some variation in the food, which is nice. All the food tastes good.

My host family and I went to a singing of Christmas songs at church last Sunday evening. The idea was to sing Christmas songs and then donate to the charity that printed the lyric booklets used that evening. The event seemed to be rather popular, the church was full. I believe there were over a thousand people there. I think it’s interesting that so many people are interested in going to that event, but the normal Sunday service attendance is so much lower, at less than one hundred.

That’s all I have to say for now. Feel free to ask any questions, I’d love to help answer them for you. Have a great day ūüôā

 

 

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Finnish Independence Day

Hello

Today is Finland’s 99th Independence Day. It’s a national holiday, and there were some happenings in town. First, there was a church service. I was not able to attend. Next there was an outdoor military ceremony, which I was able to attend. Over one thousand troops from the Kainuu Brigade were in attendance. A general gave a speech, and another man did as well. The whole event took about half and hour, and was followed by pea soup for all. It was pretty cold, about -2 degrees Fahrenheit, and the soup did an excellent job at warming us up as well as tasting pretty good. After that, we walked a couple blocks to the street that runs through the downtown area and watched a military parade. We had the opportunity to see the troops again, and we also got to see a bunch of military vehicles, which ranged from motorcycles to tanks to tractors to artillery. Four jets flew overhead, in tight formation, followed by some other planes and a number of helicopters. It was all quite interesting. The parade lasted around an hour, perhaps a bit less. After the parade, there was a military demonstration, but I was too cold to stick around and see it so I went home with some of my family. I was so cold that I wasn’t able to take many pictures, and the pictures that I did take were not good enough to merit exhibition on the blog; however, the day’s activites have been documented by others, and you check out some pictures at the Finnish Defense Force’s Facebook page if you like: https://www.facebook.com//pg/puolustus/photos/?ref=page_internal

The amount of value people here seem to put on Finnish culture varies. I grew up in a community that seemed to think rather highly of Finnish culture, so this is interesting for me to see. The people I have talked to about this say that they see negative and more real parts of Finnish culture and life as well as the positive, and I believe that is why people here hold somewhat lower views of these things as compared to those in my home community. For example, Finnish high schools aren’t necessarily the learning utopia that some believe exists here, depression is a very real thing, and the neighboring Sweden is better than Finland in several areas. I suppose it would be similar to the international perception of the United States that gives the image of freedom and opportunity; it’s true in a way, but that’s hardly the whole story. An interesting thought for international perception of any country.

I have been doing alright. It’s been a tad rough in different areas in the past few weeks. I believe it’s because many things have been changing here recently, and I’m having to adjust for these new circumstances. I’m getting through it though, with God’s help.

Have a nice day!

 

God’s Love

Hello

I was looking back over the past months, I have come a long way from the person I was when I arrived. I have learned about responsibility, being mature, living in a new place, following God with no other devoted Christians around, handling work, running on a schedule, avoiding temptation, the Finnish way of life, and many other things I cannot remember at the moment. I would compare the experience to when you first move out of your parent’s house for the first time, and you have to make your way in the world. I can say that I have learned things on this trip that I could not have learned at home. I have God to thank for this, he was the one who made it possible for me to be here. I didn’t have to be here in Finland. God could have had me stay in my hometown, but he didn’t, he set everything up so that I could go on this trip. It’s wonderful. I think this is a great example of how God loves us and works things out for our good. Just think, if he can send me to Finland, what could he not do for those who love him?

If you think of me while I am here in Finland, think of God, who, out of his love and power, allowed me to be here. He is more worthy of your attention than I.

Praise be to God.

Changes

Hello

It has nearly been four months since I came here to Finland. 33% of my time here elapsed. I look back on what has transpired.

We arrived in the height of summer, when the sun shone warmest and the days were longest. We were naive then, joyful and adventurous, looking at every tree and blade of grass, in wonder of it all, and excited to see more of it. The sun was with us for those explorations, helping us see things not seen before, accenting some of those things. It was a wonderful time. After that the sun made ready to spend more time other lands. The leaves of the trees roared in a flame of color, in a great salute and farewell to the sun. Their voices slowly fell away, and the color of the world fell with them. We had seen the summer. The darkness introduced itself to us then, and we exchanged greetings. The days became a bit shorter, and the nights a bit longer. We stopped looking so much at the world around us, except on those days when the sun shone through the clouds to point something out. The cold came whisping through the air, testing the ground and our faces. We chuckled a bit and went inside to warm up. The days moved by at an easy pace. Then in the night, the cold left us a present on the ground. In the morning, we looked from out windows over the rims of cups holding warm drinks to see the world a bit whiter than it was the previous day. The sun was also there to see what the cold had brought, but it went away after seeing the sight. Now we sit here in the dark, keeping warm and thinking of many things. For us, the world is now a mirror that we look out at and see nothing but what is in our hearts. For some, it is a dark grey; for others, it is a lighter grey, and others, white. I call this season Thoughtfulness. What was once on the horizon has arrived.

For those who do not care for my musings or are interested in more specific information, winter has arrived here. I have been enjoying it a good deal; I consider it to be my favorite season. Daylight lasts between 8 am and 4 pm. I’m doing well. Things are a somewhat less interesting, now that I have been here for a while and have had the opportunity to see most it. School has been going well. I have made a few more friends there, and I am happy about that. The third of the five terms of school will start next week. Interesting to think that I am two fifths of the way done with the school year already. Thus far, everything seems to be going well. God is good!

Have a good day.

A Trip and Busy Weeks

Hello

Apologies for the delay in the post, I have been rather busy and unable to attend to the blog.

My host family, another family, and I all took a trip to Lisbon, Portugal. We left on October 22nd, drove down to Helsinki and flew from there to Munich, Germany, then on to Portugal. We arrived around 3:30 am Sunday morning. We spent the following week touring Lisbon, and returned on the next Saturday/Sunday.

On day one, we toured the Castelo de S. Jorge  (Castle of St. George), then walked down towards the water and had an afternoon meal in one of the many restaurants in the area.

On day two, we took a trip to Sintra, an outlying town, where we saw a couple castles and then the westernmost point in Europe. We stopped to eat at a restaurant in that area and I tried octopus, which was interesting. It was like untextured shrimp, and it tasted similar.

On day three, we visited an aquarium, Lisbon Oceanarium. It houses 450 different species, and 16,000 individual animals. Afterwards, we went shopping in a large shopping complex. I bought nothing.

On day four, we went up the coast a ways to see the town of Cascais. It is one of the richest municipalities in Portugal, and it was a great place to be. The other family with us on this trip left on this day to return home.

On day five, we crossed the Rio Tajo to walk the beach of Costa da Caparica. Then we headed back into Lisbon to shop around. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of this.

On day six, we returned to Cascais and went swimming, then had lunch, We walked around for a while, then we headed back to Lisbon. We stopped on the way to check out the Belém Tower.

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The Belem Tower

Overall, I thought Lisbon was a great place overall. The area is over 400 years old, I believe. The buildings in downtown Lisbon are all 4-6 story buildings, up to a couple hundred years old, although most are newer. The architecture is interesting, and the detailing is also worth taking a look at. The people are pleasant. There are interesting sights to see and things to do, most being rated 4 or five stars by Google. The food was good at every place we stopped at. Temperatures were comfortable, even in the late fall. It’s a very nice place to visit, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in seeing an interesting place.

You can check out a 3D view of the Lisbon area and any of the places I’ve mentioned by searching for¬†them on Google Maps, clicking the Earth box down in the left corner, then clicking “3D” on the right hand side bar, then, while holding down “Ctrl” on your keyboard, clicking, and holding, you can moving your perspective around the map. If you zoom in far enough, the detail of the map is pretty good, and you can check out the area.

As mentioned above, I have been pretty busy with things in the past few weeks. However, I have been in a great mood for the most part. Snow came on November 1st in the middle of the night, which made me pretty happy that morning. We recently had another bunch of snow come, so the amount standing is around 7 inches. Temperatures have been in the 10s and 20s (F) which isn’t terrible if there isn’t wind and you have good gear on. School continues to go well. I have made a few more acquaintances. We are nearing the end of the second period. (As you may recall, the Finnish school year is split into 5 periods of 6 weeks each) My understanding of Finnish is also improving. My host parents speak to me in it for a good part of the time. I’m definitely no expert, though. Overall, things are good, and I am well. I still do not suffer from any home sickness.

 

Answers to Questions, Part 3

This short post is a response to another series of questions I was asked.

Pesäpallo, or Finnish baseball, is the national sport of Finland, and is generally the favorite summertime sport. Ice hockey is very popular in the winter. Formula One racing is also popular. Besides those three, athletics, floorball, harness racing, soccer,  bandy (related to ice hockey), basketball, and skiing are also popular, although to a lesser degree. There are professional settings and/or teams for all of these sports.

The Finns are wary of Russia and its actions, but they continue to do business with them because it’s good for the economy. They see Russian invasion as a possibility, although things look okay at the moment.

I think for some people there is a slight thought of competition against Sweden, with whom Finland has had some rough interactions in the past. Beyond that, the Finns are generally receptive of the other countries in Europe and the world, from what I have seen and heard.