Kylie, outbound to Finland

So I'm writing my second journal. This is a joke right? I'm already in month five and time has honestly never gone faster. I can count the number of days until my oldies leave in my fingers and toes and it's just, well...sort of terrifying.
Before I give you a recap of everything that's been happening in my life, I'll start by answering some questions I've been asked recently. "How's your Finnish? Isn't Finnish the 3rd hardest language for English speakers?" Well to answer your question, yes. It is. I feel like the reason it is so difficult for English speakers is because it is extremely different. For those of you who don't know anything about the language, here is a quick overview:
-Finnish (comparatively) has very few cognates to English
-No articles
- 6 verb types, and 4 tenses (no future)
- Free word order (to a certain extent)
-About 16 possible forms of every word.
- There is no such thing as prepositions, and endings to words preform their purpose.
- Spoken Finnish is very different from written.
So to answer your first question, no I am not by any means fluent, but what is important that I am trying and I am getting better each day. It can get extremely frustrating but I guess I look at it as the catch for getting to live in such a great country.

"How is your host family? Have you switched yet?"
I'm still in my first host family until sometime in January. I loveeee love love my host family. I feel like we get along very well and they help me out whenever I need it. They put up with me eating probably a little more than I should. They aren't afraid to mess with me, surprisingly enough this makes me feel even more at home.

"Isn't it always freezing an covered in snow where you live?"
No. It's not actually. Until recently the weather has been afraid to creep below -2 c. It has snowed a few times but usually it only lasts 2 days. Luckily though, the snow is supposed to stick after it snows on the 26th of December.

"How much light is there?"
It's been a rough fall. Every day was shorter than the last and it noticeably takes effect on people. It's exhausting to go to school and it's dark and come home and it's dark. It's good to have distractions and the snow helps to brighten things up. Now, since today is the winter solstice, the days will become longer! To be completely honest I think I miss the sun more than any person.

Now for the recap. The first Sunday of November was Finnish Father's Day. My brother and I made cards for our Dad and on that morning we went and woke him up by singing a Father's Day song (I did not know this song so I just kind of smiled and stood there) and then gave him some gifts.

The following weekend was the Martinex outlet. Martinex is the company that my host mom manages. They usually just sell products online, but once a year they have a weekend outlet so it gets really busy. It was nice because I got to meet her coworkers and help package boxes for costumes.

Later in November, I got invited to go volunteer again, but this time with my friend Mila. It was for a Christian rock festival. We worked and made sure that there was enough food placed on the buffet tables so that every person there could eat. After we finished, we got to go in and watch the performances. Mila was nice enough to let one of my best exchange friends, Pilo, join us too, even though she didn't know him. I'll be honest, it started off boring. As it got later, the music got better, and by the end it was more of electronic and everyone went to the dance floor.

The following weekend was the Christmas party for my district. We all met and went to a building where we prepared gingerbread cookies and Christmas tarts. After it was all devoured, all of us left in groups and went off to do whatever we wanted. I went to eat pizza and walk through the snowy streets and then met up with a bunch of people at Burger King, these sort of nights are amazing.

That next week I caught the flu. I felt really terrible and I was worried that I would be feeling horrible during Lapland which began that Friday. It turned out to be okay; I did still have the flu, but I felt immensely better. It was a longggggggggggg trip. Long. Around 16 hours. In order for almost all of the exchange students to go (somewhere around 140) we had to take 4 charter buses.

On Saturday, we arrived in Muonio in the morning and ate lunch after that we mostly just got to hang out, go sledding, go to our rooms, and went to the ski resort to make sure everything fit. Sunday was the skiing day. We left in the morning and went to the resort. I figured out something that day...that everyone has their thing and that skiing is most definitely not mine. It was a lot of fun though. After that, we got to cook sausages by the fire. Later that night we got to go eat soup in a huge tent and hang out and have fun that night.

Then Monday started off for me by going to a small museum specializing in the animals of the region, after that we went to a reindeer farm where we learned about the indigenous people of Lapland and about the life of a reindeer. It was crazy to get to see a bunch of reindeer right in front of my eyes and we even got to feed them!! After the farm we got to go explore an unfinished ice hotel. It was amazing, it was entirely made out of ice and actually pretty warm inside. After that, we got to go on a husky sleigh ride. This is something I have wanted to do ever since I was 9, when a friend told me that she went on one. Then later we got to go on a sleigh pulled by reindeer!

We walked back to the hotel in snowshoes and ate reindeer and mashed potatoes. To be completely honest, reindeer is not my favorite. However, it's definitely a unique flavor and I'm glad I've had the opportunity to try. After dinner came the sadness. It was our last night in Lapland and we had a party where the fact that our oldies (people who came in January and will leave in January) are actually going to leave soon.

Everyone, semi-unsuccessfully, tried to hold back tears. Then, as always, it turned into a huge dance party. Tuesday it was time to leave so we headed off to Rovaniemi to Santa's village. Forget what you've heard, Santa lives in Finland. It was funny to see how excited some of my friends were to meet Santa because they are from countries that don't have Santa Claus. After the time in Rovaniemi, we went to eat and said our goodbyes again. It was really hard, knowing that we may never see some of those people again but we tried to smile through it.
Coming home was weird. It was the longest I had been away from home and thinking about coming back was sort of a reality check, like I realized what I was coming back to.

The next Friday was one of my best friends here in Finland's birthday parties. I spent the night at her house and we had a lot of fun. That Saturday it was Finnish Independence Day so we went over to a family friend's house and watched the president and his wife shake hands of people invited to his dinner for about 3 hours. It sounds boring, but it's kind of fun to comment on all of the dresses and stuff while indulging in great food and, of course, with good company. The day before, at school, we had a program where students went up and sang or danced in honor of both Independence Day, and of some students graduating.

Last weekend, I got the honor of visiting Finland's capital city for the first time. I went to Helsinki to visit my good friend Kat for her 19th birthday. Helsinki is different from everywhere else I have been here. Most places in Finland are pretty spaced out and even large cities are relatively quiet (until nightfall when people get drunk.) The amount of foreigners was noticeable because I heard a lot of English, and also a lot of noise in general. It was so nice to spend time with some of my favorite people there, but I almost think my favorite part of Helsinki was the food. It was actually pretty cheap and there was a better variety of restaurants.

The Tuesday after Helsinki, something crazy happened. Kylie was in a Finnish play. I had been in a drama course for about 2 months after being, well quite frankly, forced into it. Generally, I get nervous in front of crowds. My role in the play was a circus director/ light man. My character was sort of insane, and I got to wear a golden hat and jacket. The play was in front of around 400 of my fellow classmates and I started out terrified but actually when I went out in front of the curtains, it wasn't as bad as I expected, but that doesn't mean I would willingly do it again. Now I'm on winter break and I get to celebrate Christmas the Finnish way. Today my family went to my mom's parents' house and had dinner and decorated their Christmas tree. It feels a little odd not having my family with me, but I guess you could say that I do. These people are my family now, just not by blood. I plan to make my family a pumpkin pie, which they have never had before! Here, we open presents on the 24th in the evening and it might actually be white. Merry Christmas/ hyvää joulua!