Kylie, outbound to Finland

I realized that in my journals I have not yet written the thing I think about every single day, so I would like to start off by saying: Thank You!! Rotary.  Seriously, I cannot imagine how different my life, or the lives of students all over the world would have been without Rotary Youth Exchange.

This past month has consisted of a lot of emotions, mostly good. Christmas was perfect. The weather was great too, a few days before Christmas it started snowing and did not stop until at least a week after. In the last few days of December it was very cold (-20 Celsius!) The day before Christmas (the 23rd here) I spent with my family watching movies, eating my father's oven baked nuts, and drinking glögi. Glögi, for those unfortunate enough to not know, is a hot juice that is generally served with raisins and nuts (you just dump them in). It is basically the Nordic equivalent to egg nog.

The next morning, we all woke up and got dressed up. My father's grandparents came and we watched the reading of the Christmas peace. It is a document that is read in Turku every year on Christmas, a tradition that has been upheld since the middle ages. Then, for breakfast we ate Christmas porridge, another Finnish tradition. The porridge usually has an almond hidden in it and the person that gets it gets to make a wish. This year, my mom actually put two. I got an almond in my first bite! In the evening we ate more than we should have and opened presents. Overall, Christmas was more than I could have asked for. I felt happier than ever and very much at home. In the days that followed, we ate and ate and ate. After all of the eating, I did not feel hungry for about two days.

A few days after Christmas, I tried avantouinti (ice swimming).  I went with my friend Mila and her mom. We first went into the sauna for about twenty minutes and drank a lot of water, then we walked across the icy dock and brought everything but our heads into the freezing water. Then we did it again. It actually was not as bad as I expected and was super interesting to experience. When I just stood outside, even though it was negative seven, I felt warm. The only drawback from it was the dizziness caused by drastic change in blood pressure.

On New Year's Eve, I went with Mila to her boyfriend's house. There I had basically the most Finnish New Year possible. We went in the sauna where we sang "Maamme" while standing and water was constantly being poured on the kiuas until we finnish the whole verse. After, we went into this thing called a palju, which is basically  a wooden hot tub without bubbles. We walked to an empty field by the water and set off fireworks.

The weekend after school resumed was my birthday, so two of my best friends from Helsinki area came to visit. We had a girl's night in Turku that Friday and that Saturday was my actual birthday. My family woke me up singing the Finnish birthday song and gave me a nice card but unfortunately my brother had a floorball game and I had a friend's going away party so we did not get to celebrate much on my actually birthday. However, we did celebrate on Sunday with my grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins and of course, delicious food made by my grandma.

Our oldies left last week. For those who do not know, oldies are the exchange students who started their exchanges six months earlier. It was really devastating to have to face the fact that we will not be able to see these people on a regular basis, and that we will not just see them at Rotary events. Last week was hard for all of the exchange students. It's not only that we won't be about to see them, it's also that we realize that we will (sooner than any of us want to believe) also have to step on that plane and go "home".

The good thing that comes out of our oldies leaving is that we get newbies! I will no longer be the only exchange student in my school because I am one of the lucky ones to get a newbie.

This past weekend was a lot of fun for me. On Friday, I went to my friend Hilma's birthday party. I love parties in Finland because it's a really good way to make new friends and practice Finnish. Then on Sunday I got to go ice skating with my brother, aunt, and cousin. My aunt used to be a figure skater so she taught me a few tricks and the proper way to skate.

In conclusion, I would just like to send out a PSA as a  warning to all of those Floridians who are traveling somewhere cold soon: Be careful of the ice, you probably will slip and it will hurt. I'm saying this from experience.