Settled in (for now!)

Trip Start May 02, 2005
Trip End Jun 27, 2005

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Saturday, May 28, 2005

Hyvaa Paivaa everyone!

Sorry it took me so long to actually sit down and type out a few of our adventures. Sorry, but this is going to be another lengthy one! ItĘs been a very busy time for us, but one that has been very... interesting! We arrived here in Jyvaskyla on May 15 after a five hour bus ride through the ĘcountrysideĘ... itĘs quite impressive just how much green there actually is around here (not to mention lakes!). The nickname here is ĘLakelandĘ. Right now weĘre situated about 300km north of Helsinki in central Finland.

ĘWe met our greeters at the bus station after we arrived an hour early (we got on the wrong bus!) but at least we made it here safe and sound and not lost!). They walked us to our places, which are about a 40 minute walk from the city centre. This student village is called Kortepoja - which we soon learned means Ęsmall penisĘ in spanish... someone obviously wasnĘt thinking... I walked into my new apartment (they are shared accommodation with one other person) and was immediately struck by an overwhelming dose of body odour (b.o.). My room mate smelled horrible!!! It was so bad that I actually lost my appetite. The worst was when he asked Kris and I to come into his room to watch a quick video clip of Jyvaskyla. We walked in and literally had to hold our hands up to our noses to breathe (we think we did it casually... but who knows!). He is really nice though as he made me coffee and offered me cookies, and then took Kris and I around town for a tour on foot. He is a really lonely guy and I can literally hear him run to his bedroom door to greet me and talk when I return home. However, the unbearable stench overpowered his nice personality and I found myself avoiding going home until the last possible minute and when I was there I felt restricted to my bedroom (near the window) as I couldnĘt breathe in my own place! It was so bad that when I had visitors they couldnĘt believe how horrible it was and were asking how I could live there. In addition, some days I would come home and be starving - the second I walked through the door though all my appetite was gone. I obviously couldnĘt endure it for an additional three weeks so luckily after some begging and pleading they allowed me to transfer apartments. It was the best thing that happened. I moved into this much nicer place (in the same building) that doesnńt smell and had the greatest room mate who was half Finnish and half Russian. However, he left to go up North for the summer after the first three days (or maybe I smelled so he had to go!) and so now I have the entire place to myself!! ItĘs great! I have friends over all the time though so it doesnĘt get lonely...

Also, our rooms came ĘfurnishedĘwith a bed and a desk. I wish I could show you pictures (IĘm having technical problems right now) as the rooms are unfortunately huge and white so it was very uninviting. However, in these buildings when students move out they stick all their unwanted furniture in the hallways and if you see it you can have it. So, I now have a very comfortable bachelor pad! I managed to scrounge up a nightstand, table, make-shift couch, lamps, a carpet, and even a stereo system and TV (it only has one channel, which is in Finnish, so I just turn on the picture to keep me company!)... but itĘs great and super comfortable too! People laugh because when I had to move apartments it took three of us three trips to move everything. As one girl commented, Ęyou came with one backpack, so how on earth did you collect so much stuff in one week!!!Ę

Kris and I just completed our second week-long course here yesterday. The first week we took a course on counselling and therapy. I can honestly say it was the most positive academic experience I have had to date. We had students from all over the world (many were from Spain) and we all became very close and trusting after the five day experience together. we had four therapists as our professors and it was fascinating! We commented that we would normally pay big bucks to have four therapists listen and counsel us on our problems at once! And this past week we had a rather dry course on developing organizational leadership. Some of the content was interesting but our prof seems to get a little carried away with diagrams. He provided us with some handouts of materials he had been developing for 8 years. He claimed they were very logical, but when we saw the 50 arrows and numbers and boxes and circles and triangles and notes.... well, letĘs just say it may be logical to the creator, but not those who must interpret it! Yikes...

During our first week Kris and I decided to rent a computer from the student union. They allow students to place a 50 euro deposit and return 30 euro when you return the computer. We get free internet here and as a result we figured it was worth it. So, here comes the good part... Kris and I simply thought we would physically pick up the computer, walk it to the bus stop, and then to her room from the bus stop. Well, someone failed to tell us that the nearest bus stop was 1km away, and up hill. Picture Kris carrying the tower (yes, it was not a laptop!) and me with a massive monitor walking through the streets of Jyvaskyla complaining and laughing our heads off. The worst was that we got lost on top of it and wound up walking futher than was necessary! However, we finally found the bus stop, got on, and then failed to notice when we got to our stop until the bus started pulling away! So, we had to walk even further after we got off. AND THEN (do you honestly think itĘs over yet...) we got it to her room and found out it was completely infested with the wonderful Trojan virus, and nothing operated properly. Porn keeps popping up left, right and centre, and none of the icons actually match up with what opens when you click on them. But, we canĘt be bothered to lug it all the way back to campus... so we put up with it!

Kris and I have been eating almost tooooooo well lately! ItĘs a nice change to say that though! We manage to eat a huge lunch, including SALAD and bread, for only 2.35 euro a day. It actually will be enough to fill us up for both lunch and dinner - so we get good food and save money in the end (well, hypothetically!)... so donĘt worry, IĘm getting my vegetables now.

We also bought used bikes during our first week here. EVERYONE rides bikes and there are very few cars on the roads. I bought a literal piece of garbage (but a reliable one), and of course itńs quite a humerous bike. I didnĘt pick it as I was desperate to get any bike to reduce the travel time to and from the city centre. By foot itĘs about 40 minutes, but by bike itĘs around 10! Anyways, I probably have the gayest bike in the city as itĘs purple, says ĘbeautyĘ on it in Finnish, and has a hanging reflector on the back of it that says something in Finnish that I believe is something like Ęhave a great day!Ę... enough said... but I bought it for 25 euro, most of which IĘll get back when I sell it to the shop later. Everyone has been having trouble with their bikes too, so IĘm fortunate that nothing has happened to mine yet!

I also had my first authentic Sauna experience!!! It was actually a very different experience as they sauna naked in these parts.... But it was totally comfortable as all the guys were naked and so it didnĘt feel weird as it appeared to be the normal thing to do. I must admit I was a bit nervous at first, not too sure what the expect, but in the end it was a lot of fun as we would sit there until it reached about 100 Celsius and then would run outside (in our trunks) and jump into the freezing cold lake. It was invigorating! You canĘt describe it until you try it! And itĘs HUGE here... everyone saunaĘs all the time... itĘs like their past time. I must admit though that the heat can get quite intensive, especially when your skin feels like itĘs burning... but apparently itĘs all in the experience!

Life in Jyvaskyla has been school, a bit of sleep, and LOTS of partying! We seem to have parties almost every single night. IĘve hosted two at my place (the first of which I had 20 people crammed into my room) and then another last night with about 12. We have so much fun together and have forged some pretty cool friendships. A bunch of the Spanish girls who were here for two weeks left today so we had a going away party for them last night (although they came for 30 minutes as they had to leave early this morning...), so the rest of us went out downtown afterwards to one of the clubs. And itĘs SO bizarre. When we bike home at 3:30am itĘs BRIGHT outside! This morning it was as though it were 7:30am! All I have to say is that itĘs really strange when you go into the club at midnight and itĘs dusk, and then you come out three hours later and itĘs daytime... During my party last monday I had bought juice for people to mix their drinks with. Kris found some strawberry juice so we bought it. Unfortunately when we began pouring it out though we realized something was wrong... it was incredibly thick - almost like syrup! So we asked people why their juice is so strange and they said that it was actually SOUP! They put Ęstrawberry soupĘover their porridge here! Go figure... so lets just say those drinks were not as appetizing as we were hoping.

It was also a huge challenge to go shopping for the first time as NOTHING is in English! We had to guess by looking at pictures and the shapes of cartons. And no, you canĘt even try and decipher the language as it has absolutely no relation to English. So I came home and went to make a bean salad, only to find that my can of chick peas was actually a can of whole mushrooms! But since then itĘs been okay. We stick to what we know!

WeĘve also made a great Canadian friend! Her name is Katie and sheĘs from Winnipeg. WeĘre hanging out a lot and itĘs fun to chat about Canada from time to time and compare things to here to back home.

Well, I think that about covers the basics. I donĘt want to bore you all with the mundane details, so hopefully these stories will be a bit interesting for you. I do have constant email access for the next two weeks, so feel free to drop me a line.

Take care and IĘll update with pictures as soon as I can figure out the bugs...

Moi moi! (pronounced moy, moy - slang for bye)


P.S. Remember the Red Bull girl I wrote about in my last posting that we met in Helsinki... well, itĘs a small world as I was in the limbo line last night at the club and I felt someone tap my shoulder... sure enough it was her!
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