Kylie, outbound to Finland

Minä olen ollut Suomessa kahdeksan kuukautta! Jag har varit i finland i åtta månader! Guys I've been here 8 months, and I just wanted to say that I am so incredibly thankful for the opportunity I have to live here in Finland. I feel like I cannot stress that enough. I have friends that I feel will have an impact on my life for years to come, and I have had the opportunity to become a part of two different families that I love. I honestly feel like I couldn't have possibly ended up in better homes and consider myself really lucky. I have learned a lot from them and know that I can speak to them about anything. I am definitely in love with Finland, no matter how cold. Something that really astonishes me is that a lot of the people who are so important in my life in Florida, will have no idea about what life here is actually like. Something that is so important to me in everyday life, they have almost no concept of.

Anyway reader, I could ponder in my thoughts or tell you about how grateful I am to be here but what you're really wondering probably is what I have actually been doing here the past few months.
Well, this is when it gets difficult for me to write. The thing about it is that the things that seem important to me are sometimes really small details, but anyway I'll give you the big parts. So, I left you last time at the Wanhat. It was a really stressful week. I had an issue that apparently I am between sizes in high heels and waited until the week before to shop for them. So my amazingly patient host mom took me around the mall and several other stores to try on shoes. I actually ended up not buying any and borrowing from a kind teacher at school. Another issue was that my dress was flowy and quite long. So there was a large possibility that my clumsy self could have stepped on my dress and 1. fallen 2. ripped my dress or the last, and my personal favorite 3.been torn down from my chest in all its strapless glory.

My host mom and grandmother were angels and took up the hem of the dress and it turned out that none of those horrible things mentioned above happened! We danced 3 times that Friday. Once in a middle school with only 4 couples, the next in front of our school, and the last for the families in a large gymnasium. All went well and my host sister got a lot of pictures that I will keep (hopefully) forever.

A few weeks later, I had the sporting holiday from school so I got a week off. At this point in time I was missing the sun and warmth more than you can imagine and my sisters took me to this hotel where they have cool water slides, heated pools, a small lazy river and saunas. It felt so humid and warm just like Florida. Being there was just what I needed. That weekend, I went skiing with my Rotary district. The first time I went skiing I had the flu, so this was pretty much my first actual attempt at it. Honestly, it was terrifying but my friends helped me a lot and the Rotarians were really good about helping me get down slopes that were too difficult for me. By the end it was actually enjoyable as opposed to just straight up terrifying so I'm glad I went.

In the beginning of March, I went to Helsinki with Iris, my close friend, and something magical happened. As we were walking I spotted from a distance a place called "Southern Fried Chicken" and I got incredibly excited. I had been wanting fried chicken since the day I stepped off of the plane and finally I got it after 7 whole months.
Then, I guess you could say I was inspired by my fried chicken experience and decided to cook some more southern comfort food for my family. I made them chicken and dumplings, it was good I think but also not the same. I guess with the different brands and such it's hard to make it exactly the same.

March 16th was one of the coolest days of my life. In the afternoon, I went to walk the dogs with my parents since it was very nice weather. They took me to the place where people lived in the Bronze Age, a short walk from my house. We walked through the woods and along the river in my city. I found it odd that even though I had been living here for 7 months already, I had never seen that area of Raisio before. Later that night, I found out that the northern lights were supposed to be visible in all parts of Finland. I walked outside with my dad and he showed me them. They were really faint, so my mom offered to drive me to a place where I would be able to see them better. We drove to the middle of nowhere and it was so much more clear, the way the lights moved and changed color made it seem like my eyes were playing tricks on me. The northern lights are a little like magic. They seemed to make everyone who saw them remarkably thankful for life, and for Finland.

One thing that I am really excited about is that I have been planning the trip my Finnish friend will take to stay with me in Florida in 2016.

Another kind of interesting thing I have been able to do recently is to go see a Finnish play called "SIG: the musical" with my Rotary club. It is a play that takes place in my city. It was also the first time I got to see my first host mom since I moved. It was really nice to see her after seeing her almost every day and then not seeing her at all for almost two months.

A few weeks ago, my host sister Isabella took me to her friend's party with her. Her friends are really friendly, nice, and welcoming. I had an awesome time, I'm glad she invited me. It made me realize the slight cultural difference between the Swedish speaking Finns and Finnish speaking Finns. In general, the Swedish speaking Finns are more outgoing and welcoming to new people.

At the end of March, I had a lot of free time because I had exam week, and no exams. I went to Helsinki to say goodbye to one of my closest exchange friends, and to celebrate another friend's birthday. Going to Helsinki is always a good time. It's so exciting and different, at least for me. I think Helsinki in a lot of ways is different from the rest of Finland. One obvious reason is the population, and the fact that it's a capital but also I feel like there is a lot more diversity there. There's also more art, a different dialect, much more public transportation, a slightly different style, and a lot more to do...and it's only 2 hours away from me.

Since it has been warmer lately, for example this week it was 15 celsius (I almost cried tears of joy) my family took me to the summer cottage on Easter. We drove the car to a motor boat which we then took to the island. It was astonishingly beautiful and I can't wait for summer and to live there. Even if it means I won't have plumbing. Later that day, I got to try a very typical Finnish Easter desert called mämmi. It looks very undesirable but to me, with vanilla cream and sugar it was actually good. When I told my friends that I actually liked it they were all very surprised. Mämmi is rarely liked. The week of Easyer, my host mom hid eggs in the morning and left clues on the table so we could find them. It was a cool spin on Easter egg hunts. Traditionally, on Easter children are supposed to dress like kind witches and go around to their neighbors singing a song to receive candy, much like Halloween. Although, I don't think that we had any come this year. Probably because it is a long and tiring walk up the hill to our house. On Easter Monday we were able to go to my mother's mom's house for a meal with my aunt's family.

Recently, my family went to see my first host brother's floorball game and then went to my first host family's house. Since I had been here, I have really started to like floorball and I'm a little sad that it doesn't really exist in Florida, or the United States. It was fun to spend time with both of my families together. It's kind of hilarious when they get together. Both of my dads have an interesting sense of humor so it's always a lot of laughing.
This week I caught some type of stomach bug, and I was really worried that I would not be able to come to my Rotary district conference in Pori, but luckily I was able to. All the inbounds and gave presentations to the Rotarians of cultural differences, which ended up to be quite hilarious. My group did a presentation shedding light on the differences in meeting someone for the first time between Australians, Americans, and Finns.

The Americans met by one complimenting the other and then skipping off together. The Australians introduced themselves and decided to get together for a barbecue and the Finns met and just said hello and walked away. Obviously, these are very stereotypical, but I think everyone got a good laugh out of them because they still hold a lot of truth. We stayed in a nice dorm type place and we all went to the sauna and hung out at night. Sunday, we went to the mall in Pori and several groups of outbound gave presentations in Finnish, and we sang a song for the audience. All of us were dead from lack of sleep and sad to say goodbye!

One last thing I have to mention is my language progress. With Finnish, I think my confidence is going up but my skill level is not changing very much. In Swedish, I am understanding more each day and it clicks in my brain much easier than Finnish does. I'm very lucky because my host family has been doing a lot to try to help me improve my Swedish. Even if it means saying the same story twice in two languages.