Ian, outbound to Finland

So my first blog post in sometime, I’ll start by apologizing for the lack of updates. I am truly sorry. However My new years resolution is to put up these blogs every second weekend so this is the first of those posts! Since I last left you much has happened.

First I’ll speak about the second period of school. My schedule included 5 classes; Finnish, Cooking, Music, European History, and Art. Two weeks into the second period of school we had a week break off of school. During this time my first host family brought me to Estonia. That trip began with a 3 hour drive to the capital of Finland, Helsinki, where my host Aunt and Uncle live. We spent the first night in their house, the next day I went to explore the capital. I found it to be amazingly beautiful city, because of the fact that did not face the problems of the large cities I've been to elsewhere, such as crowded streets due to overpopulation or the “city smell” due to overwhelming pollution.

Helsinki was an incredibly clean city with more than enough personal space. We walked around and used the trolly system to get around. We went all over the city the most notable location were the Presidents house, the train station, the Harbor area, and the US Em bassy. On our way to the Harbor we passed by the President’s house, an impressive building that hosts a massive party ever year on Finnish Independence Day, it was no where near as guarded as the White House, which I found interesting and a good example of the level of security that Finns feel. The harbor was also stunning. We walked around the edge and eventually got some food at a small stand. I tried some muikku, which is a small salty fish that was fried and served with a garlic sauce. We also walked around a small market place at the harbor.

Once we were done with that we went to find the US embassy, we found the street that housed most or maybe even all embassies in Helsinki. I found it really cool to look at the various embassies and see different elements of culture that are plainly visible. We then went back to the city center where the train station is. The reason I find the train station to be memorable, is the statues out front, there are four identical sto ne men holding what appears to be globes, for a reason unbeknown to me these statues stand out in my mind. That afternoon we boarded the ship that would bring us to Estonia, while the boat ride over was only a few hours at most we weren't allowed to enter the city until the next morning.

The time we spent on the boat was fun but it reminded me of staying at a hotel, the buffet we went to served some great food. The next morning we walked out into Estonia’s capital Tallinn. Tallinn is hard to describe, it is a city in which you can clearly see the history alongside the modern life. I really found the medieval architecture next to the modern shopping buildings to be quite an amazing sight. The day we spent there consisted of going to get coffee in the morning and then shopping for souvenirs. We had to board the boat again that afternoon. Once back in Helsinki we took a train to a station near to the host Uncle’s house where spent the night playing board games as well as the Host Uncle trying to teach me how to play the bass guitar. The Next day we went to a Jokerit ice-hockey game. The Jokerit team plays in the KHL, the Russian hockey league and it is the only team in Finland to do so. After the game we drove back home to Lappeenranta.

Once I got back my friends and I started making plans for Halloween. We planned on taking the Malaysian exchange student, Emily Wong, trick or treating for the first time. We put together some Star Wars Costumes and then we were ready. My friend from Canada, Colton Wynnychuk, lives just an hour or so away in Hamina so he visited for the holiday. Although we planned on having a large group we only ended up with a small group of five; Colton, Me, Janina Tirronen, Aleksandra (Janina’s friend), and Janina’s younger cousin Elli, unfortunately Emily couldn’t make it. Trick or treating is not a very common tradition in Finland so not every house had candy, I suppose one of the causes for the lack of popularity is the temperature, as the night was close to freezing. Colton was still visiting the next day so we went to see the local hockey team, Saipa, play early in the evening, we were joined by Emily and Janina. Afterward Janina, Colton and I went to see the new James Bond movie, in the brand new theater just opened in our town. That was a great day, as it was the first time I had seen a Rotary friend in a month or so, also since then I have become much better friends with those who I spent the day with.

In order to keep these blogs at a readable length, and to be able to add as many pictures as possible I will end this post here and pick up at the same spot in the next one. So thank you for reading this, the next one should be up in a day or so and I’ll continue to post frequently until you are all caught up.

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