Thursday, February 16, 2012

Vanhojen Tanssi

So, if anyone reads this blog anymore, even though I pathologically lie about my intentions to update it, and you want to see some Finnish Culture in action, read on! Tomorrow at 7:00p.m. Finnish time ( or 11:00 a.m. Minnesota time) I will be dancing in the Finnish old time dance. You can watch it online if you would like to at this link mms://video1.edu.kuopio.fi:8080/iisalmi_live/iisalmi_live
If that is something you would be interested in doing, and you have no life enabling you to sit around and watch finns dance to strange music, you are welcome to it. I am also singing with a group of girls in the beginning, luckily my singing is better than my dancing. Hopefully that is true, otherwise invest in earplugs.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Presidents

Today is the first election for the next Finnish President. Now for all of my American readers, you are thinking "First?". Yes, first. The way that Finland narrows down their presidential candidates is far less confusing than the ever baffling caucus system. Here is how it works. The eight political parties, yes eight, choose their candidates. Then today the Finnish people vote for their favorite. Now if one of the candidates gets more than half of the votes today, he/she is the next president of Finland. However, because this hardly ever happens, the candidates with the top two percentages of votes run against each other in a second election which is two weeks from now.
The Finnish Presidential Candidates
Now as you notice with every country, most of them are old men. Now this is true, but what makes it cool is that there is actually women, and one of the old men is gay. I think the level of acceptance in Finland is what puts it ahead of so many other countries. Now the favorite seems to be Sauli Niinistö, but Pekka Haavisto is also suprisingly popular, considering his sexual orientation would turn a whole party of Americans against him. I am waiting now with my host parents to find out who wins, as they shut down the polling stations in 10 minutes. I will post more about the second rounds later, but I am super excited to watch this.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Apology for 3 months

I'm sorry to all the people who want to know what is going on with my life. I'd like to say that I've just been so busy in the last three months that I haven't had time to blog, but that would be an obvious lie. I guess part of me just wanted to ignore the outside world in hopes that if I didn't tell others about my experience in Finland it would last forever. Now I am near the halfway point and am trying to accept that this won't last forever. In the next couple of days/ weeks I'm going to try to post some information about different experiences I have been having and things that I have been doing. I'll end this short post with a bit of what I have been doing. I made this movie in my art class with my best German friend Lena. In case you haven't seen the original this is based off of go to http://www.youtube.com/ and search for the one semester of spanish love song. I'm sorry this is in Finnish, but I can give you a translation if you would like.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Four Girls and Magic Jeans

Well it is time again for me to put aside my precious, tv watching, book reading, time to update my now 14 followers, and other possible readers on my current adventures in Finland. Yes, don't judge but I totally get excited when I get new followers or comments. I love to look at my stats and find that hundreds of people have read my blog from all over the world. The only problem is that now all my Finnish friends read my blog so I can't make fun of their dressing habits anymore. There is no particularly monumental event in the past to weeks to focus on, so I'm going for a write what comes to mind approach.
Probably the biggest thing that is starting to change is that I have gotten a bit of a social life. It is hard to believe how little you get out as a foreign exchange student because it seems like they are always doing something. That may be so, but it really takes time to build the relationships where people actually invite you to do things. At the same time I believe some culture shock is starting to hit me. It took a while to notice this, but a lot of things that fascinated me in the beginning are now just normal. The taste of salmiakki is no longer cool to like, it just leaves a nasty aftertaste. We have been through an entire rotation of lunch food so I'm no longer trying new things, I am just eating enormous amounts of salad and bread to compensate for the fact that I dislike a lot of school lunch foods. Riding a bike to school loses its appeal when it is 40 degrees farenheight and your adorable fingerless gloves are leaving your thumbs numb. Mostly there is too much time to get anything done. It seems like anytime in the past when I am really busy with school work and activities that is when I get the most work done. Now that I have virtually all day to get my half of an assignment done I never seem to find the time to do it. In orientation they tell you  not to isolate yourself, but what is there to do when you have nothing to do?
My exchange friend L from Germany came over last Friday to spend the night and that was a lot of fun. We made macaroni and cheese (she's an herbivore) a delicacy I have waited to long to make. Then we watched Date Night and Four Girls and Magic Jeans. It is better known in English as The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, but that is the literal translation of the Finnish title.
I have finally gotten my mother to send me a care pakage full of what I'm sure is lots of wonderful licorice free american candy. I'm really excited to share it with my finnish friends and to hoard all the chex mix for myself. Now I can show them what I mean when I tell them that their juice boxes here taste like pixie sticks and water.
Lastly after today and Friday I have nine days of Syysloma (fall break) full of travelling adventures which should give me something to write about. This weekend I'm going with my host sister up to Oulu to stay with her cousins and then next week I'm going to Helsinki and Stolkholm. I look forward to updating you all and hopefully taking some great pictures to make up for the fact that I haven't taken any in a true Maggie fashion.
Remember to follow my blog so that the numbers increase my self confidence and that you are always free to send me fan mail full of chex mix and cheesy goldfish!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pieksämäki, Fall, and the End of Physics

Well here I am, same place I have been for the past six weeks, enjoying the beautiful fall colors of central Finland. It has all gone so fast, and I am already done with the first jakso (term, period, semesterlike thing) in High School here. However, I will talk about events in a chronological order starting at Rotary's District 1430 Camp. It was a great weekend full of finnish activities and exchange students, a perfect combanation for crazy. It was so nice to meet up with some of our camp friends and some friends yet to be made for a weekend after our first month in Finland. There isn't much to tell, but we all had a great time with our three and a half hour hike, and our complete lack of sleeping the whole weekend. The best part about the trip, although I say this in a joking manner, was the train ride. I think that there is some sort of genetic link to things you like because for some reason I, like my crazy mother, love riding trains. It is awesome and I think if I had the money, I would skip out on my next months of exchange to just ride the train around Finland.
After that not much has happened that is extremely noteworthy. I am continuing to learn important finnish words such as yksisarvinen (unicorn), and trying to take pictures of this lovely place before all the leaves are gone. I love fall and for some reason it seems like it comes earlier here in Finland. To me it seems like right now should be a beautiful October day, except for the fact that it is the middle of September.
Another important thing that I began to talk about in the beginning of my post is the end of the first jakso. This means that I am officially done with my first classes inculding physics, which is hopefully something I am done with forever. Never take a class you didn't like in english in a foreign language. The thing is, being here I have almost no desire to take classes that I loved in America. I dropped my math class, I dreaded physics, and I'm not taking any more Spanish until the spring. I'm really excited for next tuesday when I begin my music, art, English and RUSSIAN classes. Emphasis on Russian was shown through my use of capital letters. I can't wait to start again though it is sort of a downer that the friends I have made in my current classes might not follow me into my next ones. Well I better get started on making some new ones then.
Today was a little bit different because after the four to six weeks of classes here there is an exam week. Exam week starts today and ends next Monday, and because I talked all of my teachers out of making me take them with the exception of Spanish, I have nothing to do. However, this week the newbie exchangers from Spain arrived and so I am attending Finnish lessons in Spanish all week. It really shows me how far I have come, because I am able to help teach some using the little Spanish I know combined with the even less Finnish I know. Can't wait for the rest of the week and the rest of the year, however I hope it doesn't go too fast seeing as so much of it is already over, and I don't want to go back to my real life so soon.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

So My Mom Started to Complain...

I'd pretend I was just really motivated to update my blog, I just got really busy with all the finnish learning and parties I'm going to, but that would not be the truth. The thing is I have always been far to lazy to keep a journal. Then I get really bothered by the fact that I have journal posts from two years ago and I want to start fresh, so I in turn rip out those pages. However I don't plan on ripping out the pages of my blog, I just am not the best at taking the time to update it very often.The reason I am doing this post is because my sister facebook messaged me that my mom is complaining that I don't update my blog enough, so out of the goodness of my heart, I'm doing it for her.
I haven't posted in about two weeks which leaves a lot of time and suprisingly very little information to cover. School has now been going on for over two weeks here, so it is hard to imagine that it hasn't even started back in Minnesota. I think I'm mainly going to talk about the differences between the school systems seeing as I have been living in school the past two weeks.
Everyone has heard about Finland's education system being the best in the world, and if you haven't before, you just did. So I had no idea what to expect before I came to school here. I figured it would be impossibly difficult, and everyone would be unbelievably smart. However, there are quite many similarities which I will try to remember and point out.
The most noticable difference here is the personal responsibilty. I think much of America's problem is the fact that teachers underestimate the abilities of the students and don't push them. Here there is no school bell assuring that you will be on time. The teachers don't collect your homework, they expect that you have done it and that you will be prepared for the class. The schedule is different every day so you have to be aware of your schedule or you will miss a class or show up when there isn't a class. If you don't have class, you can leave the school whenever. H&M happens to be about three blocks away and what in America would be a study hall becomes an empty hour which you can fill with what you choose (shopping).
Right now I am taking geography, English, Spanish and physics. As difficult as they are to do with a language barrier, they do not seem overly difficult. However, there is not as much class time to work on homework as there would be at home, and luckily I only have four classes in six class hours or I would probably be over streched. Here classes are 70 minutes which seems impossibly long, specifically in physics. However the breaks between classes are 15 minutes long which gives you a perfect time to relax with a cigarette. Now that was a joke seeing as I have no intention to begin the expensive and nasty habit of smoking, but there really is a place fifty meters from my school that is marked of as a smoking area. At any given break there will probably be at least a dozen people standing there. It really shocks me as something you would never see in America.
Finnish school can also tend to be a bit of a fashion show. I didn't bring many clothes, but my typical jeans and a tee-shirt wardrobe does not fit in very well here, which brings me to a segment I like to call,
How to Dress Like a Finn!
  1. Wear leggings as pants. It doesn't matter if everyone sees your underwear. It doesn't matter what size you are, leggings are pants.
  2. Wear a sweater. Maybe a cardigan, maybe a shrug, maybe a sweater dress.
  3. Wear a scarf. However, be careful not to wrap it around your neck and let it hang down. No, no it must be carefully  looped around your neck, as if a wreath.
  4. Last but not least, have a ridiculously sized bag or purse, to carry all your books and H&M between class purchases. Not to forget of course the vital Marimekko pencil case that is a vital acessory for any serious studier.
Another difference is that everyone bikes to school. I think I have gotten a ride to school three times so far this year. Not everyone has a bicycle though, some have adorable little scooter/ vespa things. They are awesome. Bike riding is efficient and environmentally friendly, but it totally sucks if it is raining. I live 3km (2 miles for all my Jenkki readers) and that is a perfectly long bike ride if it is pouring rain. The food in school here is free, which also means that it is healthy. Telling a Finn that you eat pizza for lunch in America is the surest way to make their jaw drop. The last and most expensive difference is that you have to buy your own textbooks. Which could cost up to 800 dollars a year if you bought everything new. However, most kids share or buy used which saves a lot of money. Luckily Rotary pays for mine.
A non school realted thing that has happened recently is that I went to my first Rotary meeting here. I gave a presentation in Finglish, and my host dad translated it. It was interesting, but I think that it will be much better when I can speak Finnish. Well there is much more I could say about the school, but I'm afraid that my exchange would be over by the time I finished. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments below, in an email, or Facebook message.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fungi Finding in Finland's Forests

It has been a while since i've updated my blog because school started and it turns out that homework is a lot more difficult to do when you don't speak the language all the instructions are in. So i'll try to give an update with Tuesday-Saturday remembering as much as I can but a lot has been going on.
Tuesday was my day home with Annariina because both of my host parents were at work. We watched Phantom of the Opera with Finnish subtitles and played Wii Party (a super lame version of mario party, I couldn't even be toadette). Then we went to the kirjasto (library)/ cultural center where I tried out for the choir. I love to sing but haven't been in choir since seventh grade on the account that I don't have time to take classes from scary people. I made it in, filling my tuesday nights for the year.
Wednesday was the first day of school, but not really. I had to go in at noon and talk to the english teacher who helped me plot my schedule for the next six weeks. In Finland, you have about five or six sections of the year where you take up to six classes. I am taking physics, math, English, Spanish, and geography. Suprisingly math is boring. I love math and want to keep taking it, but I am in the equivalent of Advanced Algebra in my high school, so I just do all the homework questions during the notes and stare at the ceiling. I might change to art, but I will have to see if it is still possible.
Thursday was the first real day of school, and I had all of my classes that day. I was really confused in the beginning but but it got better after lunch in english and spanish class when i actually understood what was going on. I biked 3k (2 miles) to school but then regretted it when I had to bike home in the pouring rain. Then I spent more time on my homework than I ever did in america because I couldn't understand anything.
Friday was another day of school, but it was better because I knew people and I knew what was going on. I keep meeting people but have trouble remembering names because they all sound the same and strange so I forget them easily.
Today I met with a rotarian so I know what is going on with Rotary. Then my host mom and I went shopping and mushroom picking (hence the name of this entry). I figured out how to use an atm and got some money.
I think the biggest thing that has happened all week though is that I've gone to sauna, twice. Sauna is such an important part of Finnish culture and now I understand why, it is what you dream of during the entire cold day. Coming from a place where you don't take off your clothes in the locker room, going to a sauna naked was kind of hard to imagine. I love it though and am totally glad that I did it.