Thursday, March 20, 2014

The following week the university had a scheduled sports day where students could either do snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, or hiking in Koli National park.  I had Climate Change law and policy class during this time so I was unable to attend any of these events unfortunately.  I was however able to make it to the after-party later that night at, once again, Kerubi the same place where I saw Stamina.  To my surprise the bouncers at the club remembered me from the weekend and apparently found me to be very funny because they started smiling and laughing once they saw me (I don't even want to know).  Before the event at Kerubi I met up with several girls who are also exchange students at Marx Rock Bar for a few half priced beers!  We were a very diverse group representing a variety of nationalities.  Aly Wright and I representing the US of A, Maja and Mairake representing Germany, Giulia from Italy, Becky and Katrina from the UK, and Daniela from Portugal.  It was quite a fun time dancing with all these gals even if we were nearly the only people on the dance floor (well us and two Finnish boys from our school who showed us up by doing the moonwalk and other such classic moves).

Significant events following sledding and poker included the Biathlon dinner which consisted of a free meal followed by a PowerPoint presentation describing the activities surrounding volunteer work at the Biathlon stadium.  These included cross-country skiing (looks way harder than downhill skiing) and target practice using these environmentally friendly lazier guns.  I did not give cross-country skiing a try but I did however get to practice my shooting with the lazar gun and my aiming skills were surprisingly above average!

That weekend it was Valentines Day and I had plans to go to a valentines party with my flat mate Tuula and several of her friends.  There we played games ate snacks and drank this really delicious punch involving Malibu rum.  One of the games we played consisted of two people competing against another pair of people where one partner is blindfolded and has to clip the greatest number of close pins onto his/her partner.  Me and my partner ended up winning with me as the blindfolded one and him as the unlucky subject getting close pins clipped directly to his skin.  Shortly after my triumph, it was time for me and Tuula to head out and make our way to the music venue, Kerubi, to see her favorite band in the world, Stamina.  Stamina is a Finnish metal band and although I generally appreciate this genre of music, I didn't know how much i was going to enjoy it given the fact that I do not speak Finnish.  To my surprise, this made absolutely no difference because they are extremely talented musicians and I could not help dancing the entire time.  after the show me and Tulla went to wait by the T-shirt stand to get a souvenir and meet the band.  I met all of the members and they were very friendly and chill and invited me and Tuula to come sing karioki with them at popular club in Joensuu, club Ilona.  Honestly at the time i was more interested in getting a burger than going to sing Karaoke in a language still unknown to me with a band I had never heard of. However, I ended up giving it a shot and I am very glad that i did because it turned out to be a very fun time! We got to sit in a private room with free drinks and our own private karaoke machine.  Also the room was sound proof so there was no risk of me being heard by anyone besides Tuula and the band!  They sang a number of Finnish songs (I attempted to sing along) and after my struggling efforts they asked me to pick a song in english. At the time I could think of no better song than Phil Collins, "In The Air Tonight" which, all of them knew the words to!   All and all it turned out to be an exceptional valentines day and probably unlike any other that I will ever experience! 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Polar Bear Sauna: the greatest thing ever! Incase you didn't know already, the Sauna is very important here in Finland.  nearly every apartment complex has one (including mine).  I can only assume that this is because someone decided a sauna would be the most delightful and relaxing way to thaw out after being outside in Finish winter (who ever decided this was right).  in addition to being readily available to the public, saunas in finland have been incorporated into various other activities such as yoga (haven't tried this) and swimming.  which brings me to one of my new favorite hobbies, going to the polar bear sauna.  Basically what you do is change into a bikini in a dressing room located 10 feet from the hottest sauna on the planet, sprint to it (because its -20C outside), and sit in it for 20 minutes.  once you are sweating from every single area on your body and feel as if you could breath fire, you casually walk out to the icy lake with a hole drilled in it and plunge yourself into the hole.  you repeat this process about 3 or four times and after doing so you feel more refreshed and cleansed than you ever have before!! I have done it twice already and plan to do it either every sunday or every other sunday from now on!!

Poker: not much to say about this activity because i am sure that most people are familiar with texas holdem but thought that I would mention it because it was a lot of  fun playing w 5 of my friends at the bar while watching the hokey game (hokey is really popular here).  Held my own for 2 and 1/2 hours until it was down to me and my German friend Phillip who ended up kicking my butt!!

International Music Night: later that week I went to a free event that was organized by the exchange student org.  Various exchange students from the university (and a few Finish students) performed music from both their own countries and other countries as well.  a few people sang, some played piano, others played guitar.  It was a very cultural experience and I am glad I went.

Sledding:  Haven't done this in years, and when approaching the hill with my friend's Aly and Mattiss, I felt slightly reluctant to partake in the activity since we were the only people there above the age of 5.  however once i went down the hill I was glad that I did.  And actually after about an hour of being there more people that were our age showed up so I felt less creepy! after nearly 3 hours of sledding, me and Aly went to meet our German friends Maja and Marekie for coffee and cake at this adorable coffee/pastry shop here (will add an image of coffee shop after my next visit)!

Monday, January 20, 2014

So Sunday, the next day, I met my wonderful tutor Johanna, who took me into town to buy more groceries and dropped me off at the hotel where my American friend Aly was staying... I decided to stay with her the next two days so I could experience what it was like to not have to walk three miles into civilization.  Me and Aly were shown around the town and the campus the following day by my tutor with her other tutees Phillip (from Germany) kate and peter (from Czech Republic) Dominika (Czechoslovakia) Mattis (Latvia), and Anna (Spain).  the following day, Jan 7th, we experienced the first of three days of exchange student orientation which, I will skip over because all it was was a bunch of redundant information about things that I had already discovered for myself by simply living in the town for four days.  Actually I take that back, the finial day of orientation, thursday, I heard the lecture given by the head of the law department and since this is my area of study I found it to be intriguing.  But the most joyous part of Thursday the 9th, was that evening when all of the exchange students met at a karaoke bar in town to drink beer and sing karaoke.  It was fun to witness the Spanish kids sing "The Macarena" and the French kids sing "Lady Marmalade".  However I don't know how fun it was to witness me and my friends sing "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey but the video of us doing it was pretty fun-ny.  that weekend I was looking forward to seeing a Finish rock band called Santa Cruz with my flat mate Tuula and my friend Aly.  I enjoyed watching their long Finnish hair fly around in a very retro way.... I enjoyed it so much in fact, that I apparently felt the need to sneak backstage and asked to hang out with them for a bit (they were surprisingly cool with it).  after about 15 mins of conversation, Tuula came to tell me that it was last call and time to head home.  Oh and here is the band :o)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

So day three all I did was walk around and made a much needed trip to the grocery store and made the very comforting discovery that my Netflix account works here!! day 4 I had the pleasure of meeting my awesome flat mate Tuula, who is from Finland and who invited me to go with her and her friends to the bar.  It was then that i discovered that it was not only a 50min trek to school but also to any other location that I should desire to go but hey exercise is good! when we got to town she took me to two finnish bars ( the bars have student discounts hells yeah!)  so here i got to meet a lot of the local color including one drunken Fin who intercepted mine and Tuula's conversation to inform me that he was very disappointed with his trip to America where he was repulsed by seeing large people in the supermarkets getting around by way of scooters... I shook my head politely and agreed with him to avoid potential confrontation (after all he made a valid point).  But aside from that dude, most everyone else seemed to be both intrigued and excited by the fact that I was American and they were eager to know why I chose Finland as my study away location.  The second bar we went to was a rock bar named Marxx which was my favorite bar I have been to yet! its in the basement of a building and is covered in music posters and graffiti it reminded me a lot of places I have seen in NYC.  The DJ would only play rock music and in attempts to be in the spirit I requested some Nirvana (smells like teen spirt) which was well received.  by the end of the night (4am) I was starving and was introduced to a very cheap very good food stand where I scarfed down the best jalapeno burger I have ever had! by the time i trekked back to my flat it was 6am and i anticipated the next days events which included meeting my tutor and her other tutees.
So it has been 16 days since my arrival in Joensuu, Finland and I have postponed my blogging until now and for that I apologize.  So I shall do my best to get you up to speed on my experiences in Finland thus far and will try to include all major plot points! Also to maintain consistency, I am thinking that a post every two weeks should suffice since it has been this span of time that has actually motivated me to finally sit down and do this so here goes.....  upon arriving in Helsikini the appearance of nearly every Finnish person i encountered lived up to my expectation, very tall very blonde, very Aryan. However once i arrived in Joensuu, i found there to be a great deal more variety as far as appearance goes.  This is largely due to the fact that Joensuu is a town mostly occupied by students from Finland as well as many other European, African, and Asian nations.  In fact the nation i have found to be the least represented amongst the student body is the United States, from where i have met only 3 others (two from Ohio 1 from Montana).  But let me back up to day one the most crucial day of all where i met nearly no-one except for the bus driver (who spoke no english and left me on the side of the road with 2, 50lb suitcases), 2 very kind American Mormon boys ( helped me with bags and navigation, and the very bland lady at the housing office (bland).  I got off the plane in Joensuu and was told by my study abroad tutor to take a bus into town as opposed to a cab which I did gladly.  however i did not anticipate being left at the bus stop on the side of the road with my two big-ass suite cases by a bus driver whose english could not even point me in the direction of the taxi office. so with no phone at this point except my American phone (which my mom would kill me if i were to use it) it was up to me and my two fun-sized hands to find the housing office.... during my pathetic shlep-age towards the housing office whose address was unknown to me... i flag down two nice looking boys for directions who happened to be Mormon and American ( I could hardly contain my excitement).  they each took a bag and walked me to the office.  once they got me there we said our goodbyes and i received an invite to their church (which i considered for a very brief moment given their generosity).  at this point all had left to do was get my key from the lady at housing and catch a cab to my flat (50 min walk from town).  once i got there i found that the last tenant who was an Austrian student left me nearly everything that i needed to make my flat a home including pots pans, internet modem, blankets pillows, and even so decor.  set everything up made some tea and looked out my cute little window in amazement that i had finally gotten here! after my pensive window moment i crashed hard in attempts to readjust to Finnish time.... and that concludes day one.... ps day two is a snooze (literally i slept the entire sec

ond day) so the next entry will feature roughly the 3rd and 4th day where actual events did occur so stay tuned! oh and here are so pics of my flat!