Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

This week has flown by, and I can’t believe I have already been in Finland for two weeks. This past weekend we were able to go dancing, which is a popular activity in the summer. The place we went to was very crowded and it was so neat to see all the different dances and different people. As for myself, I am not the best dancer and I wish I had learned some formal¬†dances growing up, but maybe I will be able to learn some while here. My host mom on the other hand is a great dancer and it was just as much fun avoiding the men asking me to dance and watching her and the other great dancers on the floor instead ūüėČ

One sunny day we borrowed some kayaks from a generous friend and took them out on the lake. It was a little windy but very beautiful and fun to glide along on the water. We even stopped and got out on a little island to have a snack and sit in the sun.

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I was able to make some pizza bread for the family, which is somewhat of a Dickman tradition that my dad was always making when we were younger. It’s more like stromboli but the ‘pizza bread’ name has stuck with me. I usually use a bread machine at home to make the dough, but since we didn’t have one here we made the dough by hand. The pizza bread¬†turned out pretty good and I enjoyed snacking on something that reminded me of home.

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For breakfast one morning I also made an “American breakfast”. Pancakes and bacon!¬†My brother and I used to compete with¬†how many pancakes we could eat at Grandmas, and to this day pancakes still remind me of her.

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I have¬†also enjoyed¬†cooking with the family, and the other day the grandmother showed me how to make Karelian pies. These are a very traditional food in Finland and you can find them in the stores and even at hostels for breakfast, although I’ve been told the best ones are homemade. (And I can attest to how delicious they are right out of the oven!)

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The weather has been pretty rainy the past few days, but last night we braved the rain to go to some trotting races. Each race was either for warmblood horses or coldbloods (mostly Finn horses). It was really neat to see and of course I ate a sausage with mustard which is becoming one of my favorite things to eat.

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Finally, and maybe most exciting to me, I was able to ride a Finn Horse! Twice! ¬†I hopped on Valo the Finn horse at the farm¬†where my sisters ride. We rode along the trails and in the arena for a bit and it wasn’t very different from riding any horse at home. I like Finn horses because they look stocky and seem to have more power, yet can move quickly too. ¬†This week when I rode again we went to the water and swam with the horses. Valo was a little reluctant to go in but eventually did and it was worth the wet socks and jeans on my part. Now I am just trying to figure out how to get a Finn horse back to America with me ūüėČ

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“Time flies when you’re having fun” is definitely the statement to sum up this week-although it’s crazy to think I only have one week left with my first family.

P.S. I was determined to see a moose one night as we were coming home late, and lo and behold- there was a moose! It was a younger one and pretty small but still exciting to me ūüôā

 

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Almost A Real Finn

So now it has officially been my first week in Finland with my family. I think only one word comes to mind when you look around the landscape in Finland- the lakes, wildflowers and greenery, and tall pines and birches- and that word is breathtaking. The scenery here is beautiful and encourages a person to spend as much time outside as possible, if the mosquitos aren’t biting that is. When the weather is nice it is sunny and warm but not humid, but we have also had some cloudy days and rain here.

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Luckily I got here the week of the Midsummer celebration. For this national holiday, the whole family went to the island cottage by boat. We ate a lot of food, especially sausages, and spent a lot of time in the sauna, swimming in the cold lake, and sitting in the palju (basically a hot tub heated by fire). I am not used to going to the sauna so much but I like it, and the combination of cold swimming and the hot sauna makes me feel relaxed yet very alive. Although not everyone in the family can speak English, and my Finnish is very very limited, I felt very welcomed and was glad to be invited to share in these festivities.

Sitting in the Palju with my Sisters and Mom

Midsummer, or¬†Juhannus, is not really the middle of the summer but marks the weekend after¬†the longest day of sunlight in the year, or summer solstice. Speaking of sunlight, the sun goes down around 11¬†pm here and it never really gets dark. It looks like it is the evening outside all night and you could easily walk around without a flashlight. Then the sun comes back up around 3am. Luckily I brought¬†an eye mask to wear when I need a little darkness to help stay¬†asleep. ūüôā

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The Sunset around 11pm!

I was also able to participate in some other traditions of Midsummer, one of which was a huge bonfire by the water. We also collected a bundle of birch branches to use in the sauna to hit your skin with. I collected 7 different kinds of flowers too, and slept with them under my pillow so I could see my future husband in my dreams.

Bundle of birch branches (aka vasta) and my 7 wildflowers

We eat a lot of berries, fish, and bread. I have liked the food a lot, and was a little worried about eating fish before I came but it has all tasted so good, even smoked fish straight off the bone.

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I¬†made chocolate chip cookies with help from the girls,¬†and they were consumed pretty quickly! Soon I’ll make¬†‘pizza bread’ which was always one of my favorites to make for my roommates back home. I was not able to bring my trusty Bread Machine though, so this time I will be making the pizza dough by hand.

Fortunately for me, my sisters love horses as much as I do and I have been¬†able to see the girls’ riding lesson and meet the horses they ride and even hop on a horse myself, Old Risto. He was a pretty sturdy ride.

 

Valo and Risto

And the other day we hand washed some carpets, which was neat and something different. There was an area that was free to use with hoses and even a large roller to press out all the water from the carpet. Maybe scrubbing the rugs will give me some muscle ūüėČ

So far Finland has been amazing and I am blessed to be with a sweet family who is very¬†understanding of how I could be feeling in a strange place. Thankfully they are very welcoming and I feel right at home and am grateful to spend two more weeks¬†with them ūüôā

The First Steps

From Thursday till now, Monday afternoon, we have been in Washington, D.C. for the IFYE orientation. It has been great to not only get to know the other outbound IFYES, who are going to Finland, Korea, Costa Rica, Taiwan, Luxembourg, Estonia, India, and Poland, but also get to know the inbound IFYES from all over the world who are coming to spend a few months in various states of the U.S. I was very excited to meet my Finnish roommate, Anna, and ask her all kinds of questions about Finland. One thing I’ve learned in these few short days already is that even though we are all different and come from various¬†cultures and backgrounds, we really always have something in common and are more alike than you might think.

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On Sunday we went to tour D.C. which was pretty awesome, since I’ve never been able to do that before.

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This whole orientation has made me even more excited to leave for Finland in just a few hours, and has also increased my bucket list of all the countries I want to visit some day. I am grateful for the people I have been able to meet here and hopefully one day can use these connections while traveling again in the future.

Now-off to Helsinki for the Finnish Orientation then to my first family ūüôā

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Tomorrow’s The Day!

My suitcase is stuffed and I’m ready to head to Washington, D.C. tomorrow morning for orientation before I head to Finland. The past couple weeks have been filled with shopping trips, list making, organizing, packing, and doctors appointments.(Yay vaccines!)

I never thought I would be packing less stuff for a 6 month trip than I typically might take for a one week vacation! However, I did have some really useful items that made packing a lot easier, given to me as a gift from my dear aunt. One is a Travelon Hanging Toiletry Kit which I managed to fit all of my various bathroom items in. Another was some HomeTop Compression Roll-Up travel bags which seemed to make a lot more space.

My suitcase is a High Sierra wheeled duffel, which seems pretty neat but we will see if it holds up! Other than that I am just taking a backpack.

 

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There it is. My life for six months. Now its off to bed to rest before the big adventure begins. Wish me luck!!

P.S. Shout out to my parents for helping me out these past weeks and making sure I was ready to go. They are quite the blessing.