Zane, outbound to Finland

I can’t believe it’s been over a month here in Finland. Time really flies when you’re having fun. I’m not even sure where to start. At school I get to go on every class’s field trip because I’m a foreign exchange student. So last week we went on a field trip to Turku and on the way stopped at a really cool place called sammallahdenmäki. It’s a burial place from 500 BC, there is just like piles of giant rocks where people are buried. There are really big burial sites where there is legend to be giants buried there, but they dug one up and there were no giants :/, but that’s still awesome. I’m sure the ancient aliens took the giant's corpses away.

After we stopped at sammallahdenmäki we went right into Turku. I’m not sure if I really liked Turku very much. I like Helsinki and Tampere a lot more. In Turku we went to a defense castle and it was super cool like all decked out. The guide told us there was a moat and Draw Bridge, then when coming to a gate you had to stand on a trapdoor and on each side of you were bears in  cages. If they didn’t want you in the castle they dropped you down the trapdoor then the bears would eat you. Really awesome stuff! The castle construction started in 1280. Pretty cool to think about, America wasn’t even an idea when this castle was, and I walked around in it and went to the king’s bedroom where he slept and lived. Really mind boogling. I know it doesn't look as good as Cinderella's castle back home but it was a defense castle and its's also 734 years old.

We also went to the biggest cathedral in Finland and it was beautiful. A really massive place and it always blows my mind how they could build things with such detail and perfection such a long time ago. Also the queen of Sweden’s coffin is in there but someone broke in a long time ago and took all her jewelry and cut her head off, but her head and body is still in there so it’s all good. everytime a new Bishop came to lead the church, he would build a new part as his own and you could see how architecture and art forms changed over time with each new Bishop.

My most recent School trip was to the capital of Finland, Helsinki. I really think that city is perfect. It's absolutely beautiful and there aren't too many people. It's cool because there are extremely old buildings and then as you get farther from the city center where the old buildings are, the buildings get newer and newer.

Just yesterday I went on a massive, beautiful, handmade sailboat on a 4 hour cruise. This sailboat is about as "made from scratch" as you can get. 15 guys build this boat over 4 years and they hand crafted every last thing. All the wood they needed for the boat, they cut down their own trees. They made this sail boat " the old fasioned way" but I'm not a sailboat craftsmen so I couldn't tell you exactly how they did it. The cruise was amazing and everything was beautiful. I'd never been sailing before and its really nice to just be going with the wind, no noise of an engine or anything. It was an absolutely beautiful day.

School is really great here even though I don’t understand most of what the teachers are saying, the system is really great. My teachers are very nice and understand my situation and try to explain things to me the best they can. I was nervous and excited for what awaited me there at koulu (school). I go my first day and Finnish students who were former exchange students to America show me around and help me create my schedule. Here in Finland there are no private schools, and all schools are 100% free, the only thing you have to pay for is your own books. This means lunch is free and I normally stand behind my American reputation, stack my plate high and grab a few glasses of milk. There are potatoes for lunch every day in a few different forms. Either in soup or just plain skinless potatoes or mashed. My favorite is mashed. And the potatoes are accompanied by either a pasta dish or some kind of meat. This isn't just cafeteria food though it’s all pretty good and I enjoy the food. Another thing I enjoy is having time to eat my food. At home lunch is 20 minutes and here it is 45. Another difference is that there is only about 1000 kids here compared to the 3500 at home.

So here in Finland there are 7 periods a year, and a period is 5 weeks. For my first period I chose geography, music, art, and civics. I chose these classes because I wanted something easy while I try to wrap my head around the basics of the Finnish Language. Right now almost all my teachers want me to conjure up some kind of presentation about my life in America and what we do in America. I spoke in front of the school and told them who I am and where I’m from and that’s was pretty exhilarating.

I’ve made a few friends at school but they are all good. Part of the Finnish culture is that guys will not talk to other guys they don’t know as a way to show that I respect you so I’m not gonna bother you. So all my friends so far have been girls, but I don’t mind that at all. I’m sure after some time some dudes will come around and ask what’s up. I’ve made a lot more friends on the soccer field though, some of my best friends here are Jami, Jani, Mikka, Eino, Rikso, and Tuomo. These guys are really the best, they are so loyal and honest, and they really want to help me learn Finnish, every time there is something they know the name of in English they will point to it and say it in Finnish. EX. Rock- Kivi. It’s really helping me so far. Rikso invited me to play on their Jalkapallo (soccer) team called FC Kura and it’s really awesome.  We have games every Tuesday. Jani, Mikka, and Jani also play on the team. It’s really a blast because the games are sort of competitive but at the same time we don’t really care. We lose almost every game but we have the best time.

Luckily I’ve continued my habit of fishing all the time thanks to my awesome brother Tony who appreciates fishing as much as I do maybe even a little bit more. He reminds me of myself a little how I used to never want to give up and when I would finally give up, I would be so pissed off because we didn’t catch anything. I’m sure he will grow out of that as I did, thankfully since we are both fishing masters we have only been skunked once. So far I’ve caught 2 small hauki (pike) and it was a great time. They are the Ferrari of fish.

One of my favorite things about Finland so far is just how natural and beautiful everything is. I really thought I’d seen it all before I came here but I was extra wrong. Every time we drive somewhere even if it’s only a kilometer away you’ll see something beautiful, maybe a massive field, or the Kokemäenjoki River. Everything is just amazing and really the air is clean like you can taste it and feel that it’s just better. Finland is just really a beautiful place.

The sauna is very tranquil and relaxing. A really nice atmosphere in the sauna and a really a good place to hang out and talk to your friends. It’s about 176 Fahrenheit and it feels great. You go in the sauna for some time and then get out and go outside where it is about 50 degrees and you are just steaming like crazy. Like it’s really wild how much your skin steams, then you go back to sauna for a little. After you get out you get dressed again and your skin feels really smooth and nice and you feel more energized. It’s really an amazing Finnish tradition. Almost every Finnish home has a sauna built into it. All in all it’s a great place and I love it. Yes, I go butt naked.

Something weird here is a soda that is tar flavored. It literally says on the bottle "tar tasting soda". I don’t know why they make it or why I like it but it’s really strange and good at the same time. On that note I’m going to get back to living here in Pori Finland.