Sunday, August 29, 2010

Last weekend of summer

This weekend is the last weekend of "summer" in Finland. Although school started two weeks ago, and it's like 7 degrees C here, most people celebrate this weekend, especially on the West coast.
Friday I went to a big party, a Finnish tradition, although i'm not sure if it's just for the area around Vasa, or if it's all over. Anyways I rode my bike with some boys from school to the bus stop, and from there it was about a 30 minute or so ride. Everyone was drinking something, even though they were all under 18, and they were drinking on the street waiting for the bus, on the bus, and of course when we got there. When we got to the place, everyone was drinking, despite the fact they were all 13,14,15,16, & 17. There were lots of adults around, but they weren't there to stop the drinking, just to clean up bottles, and possibly take kids to the "emergency room", a place were kids could take their friends if they have had too much to drink. At first I felt a little out of place, ( Like i was a foreigner?!) being the only one not drinking out of 100's of kids, but as the people got more drunk and were having more fun, so was I. I met people from my school I might not have met because they were in the national system, and they wanted to practice english and know more about me and America. Although some of their drunken questions were a bit silly, "Is there fast food everywhere, do people shoot people on the street a lot...etc", it was still pretty fun. The best part was when people finished drinking and we decided to go inside to dance! The music was a lot like dances at home, with a few swedish songs and such. It was so great to get to go to a dance party; the only dancing i'd done in a while was back in Wenatchee with my friend lainey out of the side of my car in a Jcpenny's parking lot!
Saturday I went with my mom, dad, and brother to my host mothers parents summer cottage.
We got many Finnish foods and also got to go in a smoke sauna, the traditional sauna. Later that night my parents took me to drive around and look at fireworks, which people do on their own only on this night, and new years. I saw a few, nothing like the big fourth of July ones in the states, but it was still nice to see the tradition.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Life in Finland

I feel like I need something to make my blog more interesting and exiting as this year is so far! Can't say what exactly, but once my mom's sends my photo uploader i forgot i'll be sure to put lots of pictures up. Last friday my host family took me to their summer cottage about 30 min from here. We had tea with the grandparents and then went in the sauna and lake. On saturday I went with my host sister to one of her friends 18th birthday at a summer cottage, just some friends and food and such. It was nice meeting more new people but I was just way too tired that night! School has been pretty good, i'm liking my classes, esp. 3 art courses! Yesterday some friends and I went out to lunch which was nice and we discussed tea party, which i will talk about more later on when i know more about it! I'm anxiously awaiting my longboard that i ordered (Loaded Dervish) so i can use it before more rain, and snow comes. Other than that I am enjoying the newness of this all, and biking to school!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

School in Finland

So I've had my first week of school, i'm liking the Finnish school system. It may be because of all my open blocks (Class time) compared to all my classmates, but one thing I really like is the diversity from month to month and day to day.
We have modules which are 7 weeks, with 5 blocks of classes each day. Blocks are about 1:15 min. School goes from 8:15-4 but it just depends on your day and classes when you go to school and get out of school. Here is an example of a school day for me, Monday: no class block 1, (first class 9:45) block 2 English, Block 3 an art course (I have 3 seprate art courses this module!), block 5 another art course, but also ecconomics, so some weeks i will go to art, some ecconomics, i have a couple blocks that are like this because I am in the IB program at school, but taking art classes in Swedish at the national level. My best day is wednesday, because i have one art class block one, then another block two, then i'm done at eleven!

So in all this module i'm taking english, pscology, ecconomics, and three art courses. And at home i'll get credits for all of them! It's not too many but it's enough and I don't exactly want to take clasess (LIKE MATH!) that i don't really need/get credits for. But I really like my classes this module. The one thing I dislike about the Finnish school system compared to USA (or at least Wenatchee High School) is they don't have such an extensive amount of elective courses like we do, granted it is a smaller school, but i think its the same in all schools. But Finlands school system is ranked like number one in the world i think. I haven't noticed yet since classes are just starting, but students really care about their studies!
This is a chart of the Finnish school system, they start at age 7.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I'm home!

Yesterday was the end of language camp and my first host family came and picked me up. My family consists of mom, leha, dad Juha, sister Juulia (18) and brothers Miika (20) and Samuel (16), and dog Pate. Juulia has just gotten home from exchange in Australia. The whole family speaks english very well, Finnish at home, and the kids speak Swedish at school but the whole family speaks Swedish as well. I hear it is hard for English speakers to catch on here because everyone speaks English so well, so i have to remind people to speak Finnish/Swedish with me. And i'm practicing Rosseta Stone every night.
Tomorrow I start school, In the IB program, I hear most classes will be in English, i'm not sure if this is good because maybe my credits will transfer, or bad because I won't have as much time to practice my languages. Last night Juulia and Samuel took me out on the families little boat around the water, which is in my backyard. I also met two of Juulias friends. Oh, did i mention their house has its own sauna, and is very nice, well it is. Both grandparents are very close, and they each have a summer cottage about 30 min from here the family goes to, with more saunas! Today I picked berries with Leha, we are going to make juice from them. I forget the names in Finnish, they don't know the English names and i've never had this type of berries before. They are very good! I'm exited for school, and biking there each day. The Finnish lifestyle is a lot healthier than that of many Americans, EVERYONE bikes here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

First week in Finland

I have safely landed in Finland a few days ago, on Sunday. Upon arrival a group of exchange students and I were taken by a charter bus to language camp a few hours from Helsinki, which is where i am now for the week. I am in between class time and lunch right now.
My class is a small group of six students who are learning swedish. The proportion of the six of us to the 100 or so students is relatively the proportion of Swedish Fins in Finland which i found interesting, but it makes sense.
My flight to Finland was for the most part good. I had a large "carry on" that baggage made me check, but with my Rotary jacket and smile, the man at baggage checked it for free instead of the $100+ additional cost! Also, while waiting at the gate, I got called up and moved to first class, there must have been an open seat or something. I was very lucky to get this for my seven hour flight, although i was not so lucky to be sitting by a couple of screaming babies!
I have a funny story my sisters will enjoy, while on my flight to Helsinki two sisters got to my seat where they started bickering in Finnish about who got the middle and isle. The mom said something, and in the end the baby sister ended up getting the isle. Sound familiar? HAHA.
Upon arrival in Helsinki, all was well until after I got my baggage where I had some trouble finding who was supposed to pick me up. It involved finding a phone, finding change, trying to use a non-touch screen comp. as a touch, calling a non english speaking fin accidently, Etc. Etc. Etc. When finally I spotted the rotarians and got on the bus to the language camp.
So that is where i am now, I have more lessons in a bit and tomorrow we get to go shopping in the city...I forget which city.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

It has hardly dawned on me until now, room halfway torn apart and cramming in as much time as i can to see friends and be with family that I will be leaving to Finland for a year. In TWO days! Rotary has given me along with many others such an amazing opportunity that I am extremely grateful for, not to sound all Hallmark or anything, but this really is going to be a life changing experience and I can't wait. I will be staying with the Nieminen family is Vaasa, with my mom, dad, two brothers, and sister, and their dog Pate! Upon arrival I will go to a week long language camp (I will be learning Finnish, and Swedish. My school speaks Swedish, while my family speaks Finnish!). After the language my family will pick me up and two days after that I start school. Can't wait!