I am using this blog to tell everyone what I'm thinking and doing beforehand, during and after my exchange year in Finland for 2011.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Week two

Monday: School again and I had History and religion and we finished the Da Vinci Code. After School Jarmo took me to watch my volleyball team play so I could see if I want to join. It was really good and I am definitely joining! They train three times a week, Monday Tuesday and Friday. Afterwards I went swimming and I did quite a few laps! 

Tuesday: Religion, History and English again; I read for most of the day. I had my rotary meeting that night and it went really well. They have it at a small restaurant and we have dinner which was some sort of fish and mash potatoes. I did a small speech in Finnish thanks to Sophie. It was pretty basic sentences but I was really nervous saying it so I think I said it really badly but they all seemed to like it. Then I talked about my family in English and Kalevi (my counsellor) translated. It was weird being translated; do you speak to the audience, or to whoever’s translating? I finished the book I was reading which was ‘The Hunger Games’ it was a really great book and I would highly recommend it. I’ve ordered the other two in the series from The Book Depository, which I also recommend. Who doesn’t love cheap books shipped free?

Wednesday: I stayed home sick today so I didn’t really do much except watch a movie. 

The amazing scene outside my window that I couldn't resist capturing

Thursday: Again really sick today so I did nothing all day again, I managed to do a fair bit of blogging though so be grateful faithful readers! I also got to talk to Lisa on skype and then definitely improved my mood 

Friday: Still really sick today but I didn’t have school anyway so I was glad I wasn’t missing any more. I went into town with Katariina and Väinö and we went to a special cow supermarket were you can buy anything you need for cows! Who'd have known you can get bras for cows? Afterwards we went to the Post Office to get stamps for my postcards and then did some grocery shopping with Tiina and her friend. Liisa, Antti and Pauli came home at about 10.30 and Antti and Liisa told me all about their cows and also about the special traditions that are coming up at school.

We got heaps of snow today! 

Saturday: After breakfast Pauli drove Liisa, Antti and I to Iisalmi which is our nearest “big” city. It’s about two times the population of Kiurvusei and there are a few more shopping opportunities. Liisa and I went to the shoe shop first and we found one pair that were ok just not very warm so we decided to come back later. I found a cheap top at one store and a nice pair of jeans at another where we also ran into Liisa’s best friend. We took a break from shopping and went to an op shop for a bit and also a book store. It was a really nice big bookstore and I did feel a bit sad standing in such a big book store knowing I couldn’t read any of the books in it. They even had the Cyanide and Happiness book in Finnish! I got a present for one of my friends who is having a birthday soon and also a book called The Little Prince that Liisa said was one of her favourites as a child. We went to another clothes shop and I found a nice cardigan, we went back to the shoe shop but it was closed so we decided to go the big supermarket to see if they had shoes and for donuts! No luck on the shoe front so we had donuts at a place called Arnolds which my siblings tell me is very famous in Finland. The donuts were very yummy! We went to another big supermarket that had even less shoes than the last place to we just looked around and I pointed out every single Moomin thing I could find and Liisa gave me a Moomin character lesson. We bought some lollies and then it was time to go home. When we got home we played Cluedo in Finnish and Antti won. We had sauna just before dinner which was you guessed it, Makkara and Chips! :) We watched the semi final for Eurovision and apparently they were all rather awful. We all played Disney Trivia after that, split into two teams and Liisa and Pauli won.

Sunday: It was insanely cold today so we just played guitar hero for most of the morning because no one wanted to go outside. Eventually I tricked them all into coming outside and by golly it was cold! Just standing still makes you feel like your running because the air is so uncomfortable to breathe. We took turns pulling each other in the sled and then Liisa, Pauli and I walked down the road to get the newspaper. It seems the sun always shines brightest when its coldest so there I was in -25 degrees wishing I had my sunglasses! Crazy! We all played cards after lunch, this cool card game that they all taught me and then I taught Antti how to play speed. Liisa showed me all her photos from school and we talked about the cool traditions they have a little more. We also tried glögi which is a special wine that the Finns drink at Christmas. It wasn't my cup of tea but it was nice to be able to taste it. 

Go Tiina!

Antti about to throw a snowball at Tiina

The sun was very intense today!


Overall another great week besides being really sick but one thing I realised while I was sick was that although I was sore and tired, I was still Happy because I love my life here and can’t wait to see what Finland throws at me next! P.S If you haven't already you should check out my 365 Project here. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

First week in Kiuruvesi

Monday – In the morning my host mum had a meeting so she dropped me at the shops to do any shopping that I needed. It was sort of a condensed version of Big W but with a grocery section as well. I bought some face wash, hair ties and a couple of postcards, I know what your thinking, exciting stuff! Afterwards Katariina took me to the school where I met the principal and some of the teachers. I met my group of “buddies” who offered to show me where I should go etc and they all seemed really nice! We walked over to the library that doubles as a culture centre and I signed up for a library card, they have a section of English books and the kids Finnish books will be good for me too! I skyped with the whole family and Tiina and Katariina said hi to them all too and Renee and Amy were embarrassing as usual! I talked to Liisa and I decided on my subjects and then I went to write in my journal and accidentally fell asleep, I was that exhausted! Luckily I woke up an hour later and we all headed out to go swimming. They have a pool Zumba session that I joined in for, I was easily the youngest there by about 20 years but it was fun and after it was finished I just did laps. It was nice to be swimming, it felt familiar.

Finland's idea of a charity calendar!

Julia socks!! :D

Tuesday – 10 days in Finland! This morning I had to get up a bit earlier and I got ready for school and then Tiina and I walked down to the bus stop to wait what felt like years for the bus. It was only really about 5 minutes it was just so cold!!! When I got to school my friends showed me where to put my coat and shoes. Most people walk around in socks, its awesome! The finnish school year is broken up into 6 periods that last about 8 weeks each. Because they are almost finished period 4, I don’t have any real classes till period 5 starts so I just go wherever! I went to history first, I have no idea what we were learning about, I just copied everything from the board into my book. After that I had English and the topic they were doing was Australia so that lesson was a lot more fun. I told a dream time story about the Murray River and the teacher used me as verification for all the facts in their textbooks. Then we had lunch, school lunches in Finland are free and in my experience, quite tasty! During lunch I went with my friends to the supermarket where they bought some pick and mix lollies or candy as it is known here. We had a free after lunch and then I had maths. It was pretty simple maths by what I could see but I didn’t have a clue what I was actually supposed to be doing because of course all the instructions are in Finnish. I felt very frustrated that I couldn’t understand because I've always been pretty good at math and to suddenly be quite hopeless was rather depressing. After school finished Katariina took me to the shoe store but the end of January is a very bad time to buy shoes and I have quite a big foot so we left unsuccessful. I went for a walk when we came back home. It was just on twilight so it was really pretty outside and I took some photos and almost got stuck in the snow :P

Wednesday – Today I was in a bit of a panic for the whole day because I’d heard about cyclone Yasi and my host sister Henriikka lives in Cairns and I was really worried about her. I emailed her though and she said she was alright so after lunch I was lot less on edge! I talked to a few really nice girls before school today and one thing I’ve learnt about foreign names is that they are so much harder to remember! I think its because sometimes not only are you remembering who has what name but you have to actually remember the name too because its likely you've never heard said name before. Anyway I had history first again and then religion and we watched the first 50 minutes of The Da Vinci Code which was a really cool movie. We had lunch and then I went to the library and borrowed a novel to read. I was supposed to go to social sciences but I got a bit lost and couldn’t find the class so I just went to the library and read till the lesson was over. I watched the cyclone for a while when I got home but stopped when it started getting serious, it was to sad. I worked on my presentation for my English class a bit and uploaded a heap of photos. For iltapala, which is like evening snack, we had Mämmi, I can’t really explain what it is but it was quite frankly disgusting. I was a good sport and ate it all though.


Thursday – I had History in the morning again, it was good to have my novel with me this time. I had English afterwards and I gave a quick talk about Australia, I talked about the geography, sport, animals, beaches, school, food and a fun bit at the end about all the “big stuff” we had in Australia. I think they enjoyed it, especially the big stuff bit. I went to the shops at lunch and got some blue tac and a postcard for my rotary club. I got on the bus all by myself today and I managed to find the right one so it was all good. After lunch Tiina and I went and played in the snow, we had a snowball fight and we swum through the snow and we laughed at the cats when they jumped off the tree because they can only just keep their heads out of the snow, it was hilarious! When it got a bit cold we came inside and played guitar hero and also sing star. I sung Mika boogie which as some of you might remember I posted here back in May when I’d first found out about exchange. I was hopeless! I tried to actually sing the words but I couldn’t say them fast enough :P It was fun though and it was great to spend time with my sister. We went swimming again and there was no Zumba tonight so I just did laps and went in the spa with Tiina. After swimming we walked a little while in the snow to the supermarket where we bought lollies and ice-creams. Magnums here are just over 2 dollars!! When we got home I gave my family their gifts and I think they liked them!

Tiina and I having fun

My house! :)

They don't get a lot of use out of their hills hoist.......

This is a picture Liisa sent me just after Christmas and I thought it was good to show how much snow there is. The seesaw thing was completely buried and then some! 

We thought the cat jumping into the snow was the funniest thing! 

Friday – I overslept a bit today and had to shovel down my brekkie and dress really fast. It had snowed HEAPS the night before and it was a bit annoying to walk on the fresh snow because it made your feet cold. I had history and the religion again, I read in history and we continued watching The Da Vinci code. I had English after lunch and then I had a free because they had a special meeting to go to. While I was waiting for the bus 2 girls introduced themselves to me and one of them is in my volleyball team!  It was the first time I had to get off the bus by myself because Tiina had an early finish and I got of one stop too late but I didn’t mind because it wasn’t too cold so it was a pleasant walk. I decided to take advantage of all the fresh snow so I grabbed my camera and threw on some hot gumboots and went for a walk, takin heaps of pictures on the way. I almost got stuck at one point, I wanted a better perspective for my photo and the snow was deeper than it looked! Somehow I managed to roll out of it and after that I was too afraid to stray off the path. I ended up with a few really great shots! For iltapala we had toast so I thought it was a good opportunity to let them try vegemite! Tiina and Katariina tried it and didn’t really like it all but I will have to bring it out again when all my other siblings are here again so they can try too! We also ate our Runeberg’s tarts that we’d made beforehand and they were delicious!

I like this photo, its sort of menacing.

My current screensaver :) 

I wanted to get closer to the really, really white trees to take some photos but I was afraid I would get stuck

Happy Julia is happy!

Runeberg's tarts! 

Saturday – I got to sleep in today, it was nice. I skyped with the whole family this morning and I had to talk to mum about St Petersburg Tour. We went shopping after that and I got some bathers. We went food shopping too and that was exciting! I tried to make note of everything that was different but there was too many to list after a while! You cant get milk in bottles though, only cartons. Tiina had her friend over for a sleepover so we had hamburgers for lunch and then this really delicious chocolate biscuits. I finished my book and then did another blog post. We had Pekkala Saturday tradition again but we had ice-cream too and ice cream here comes in cartons so you peel the carton off and then slice the ice cream, it was so funny! We also watched a show on tv called Putous that had an actor called Krista Kosonen on it! 

Sunday – I went for a walk with Katariina in the morning to get the newspaper and it was exceptionally cold! We were only outside for about 5 minutes and I was utterly freezing by the time we got back inside! I played with Tiina in the snow for a bit and we jumped off the concrete pipe in to the snow, move over jetty jumping! Afterwards I helped Katariina make pizza and it was delicious! It had a layer of mince and tomato sauce then ham, cheese and herb mix. I had a bit of a rest and then we went to my host dad’s sisters house for dinner. They were all very nice and we had a delicious meal. Afterwards we went upstairs and watched the Finnish version of new inventors and also Finnish Idol, they just call It Idol though. There was a surprisingly large amount of English songs being sung so it was fun to watch that. Even in Finland they have people that just audition for the fun of it!


I hope you’ve all had nice weeks and that you enjoy the weekend! I have added all my January and most of my February photos onto facebook so if you’re my friend you should check them out. Ill try and do more than just diary posts now that I have more of a routine here but I want to know what sort of things you all want me to write about? If there’s a certain topic or anything that you’d like me to talk about leave a comment of you can ask me on facebook.
I have added a page, which you can find on the sidebar called Finnish Figures. There I will keep track of a few silly things a few more serious things so you guys can see what I am doing and also what I’m not. To start it I’ve added # times been in the Sauna, # times been cross country skiing, # times eaten a main meal that didn’t have potatoes and distance swum in the pool because I swim A LOT here and I’d like to see how high I can get it. I need more inspiration though! What are some things you guys want me to keep track of? Also if you’d like to send me stuff, like postcards, letters or even parcels if you love me that much just send me a message on facebook and I can give you my address. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

First day with my family

We had rice porridge for brekkie which was pretty nice but a very strange texture. After breakfast we all suited up to go skiing! It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be at first, there are like tracks set up and you put your skis in the tracks and then use your feet and your sticks to ski. So I was having a lovely time until we had to start going up hill. I was okay at first because it wasn't too steep but then it all went downhill (pun intended). After a few minutes of struggling with Katariina standing behind me in case I slipped backwards, Eeva and Ville took their skis off and practically dragged me up the hill, it was so embarrassing!  When we were at the top, I had to go down! I was a bit scared because I wasn't sure how fast I would go. Eventually I toughened up and I went whizzing down the hill! The whole way I thought I was going to fall but I kept my knees bent just like they all taught me and I got all the way to the bottom without falling over! It was actually really fun and I can’t wait till we can go out again. Hopefully I get the hang of going uphill a bit better! We skied down to where Pauli and Antti had made a fire in this little shelter they have near the river and we warmed up and talked. Eventually we had to go home because Eeva and Ville had to go home. Antti, Pauli, Liisa and I played guitar hero until Antti and Liisa had to go back home, Pauli helped me set up my Finnish cell phone, whooo Nokia! It is one of my second family's old phones. After Pauli left Tiina and I kept playing guitar hero for a while but she beat me every single time! :P 

Getting some lessons from Eeva and Ville

What a pro! 

Katariina, Tiina and I

Katariina and I, this was just before we went uphill

Meeting my Host Family!

I had my bag packed and ready before breakfast, amazing how much harder it is to pack after only a week! I can’t imagine how it will be after 3 months! We had a talk with all the rotary people after breakfast just stuff about Russian tour and how to log on to do our quarterly reports. Doesn't that sound fancy; quarterly report! When we came out our host families had started arriving! We had to go and get our stuff though so we all hurriedly finished packing and then we went back into the main building and all our family's had little signs with our names on them! I saw Jarmo holding a sign with Julia written on it so I rushed over and gave him and Ritva a hug. Jarmo and Ritva are my second host families parents but they offered to pick me up because my first ones couldn't. We had to listen to the rotary people for a bit but then we went to lunch and afterwards, I said goodbye to everyone and then we got in the car and left Karkku. It was sad to leave but I was so excited to be with my family that I didn't really care! The trip home took about 5 hours, it snowed quite a bit! I talked about all kinds with Jarmo and Ritva and it was really nice to learn about Finland and the school system and all kinds of things! We had a quick stop and a petrol station and their petrol stations are full on restaurants! With a supermarket too! Crazy! When we pulled into Kiuruvesi I was super excited and we drove through the middle of the city then we turned into the drive way I saw 6 heads pass by the window! When I went inside they all introduced themselves and then we went on a tour of the house. The house is beautiful and my room is really great! We all talked for a while and they all spoke really great English and they were all so nice to me, I think after about an hour my face was starting to hurt because i couldn't stop smiling :) Not long after I arrived my host mum and dad turned up, they’d been in the cow house, and their were more introductions and then we had tea which was the Pekkala family tradition of sausages and chips on a Saturday! We had sauna afterwards and went through the host family rules whilst eating tim tams which had unfortunately melted a little at camp but were still very yummy! Afterwards we had cake which Liisa had made and it said tervetuloa soumeena which means welcome to Finland!  It was delicious! After that we all went to sleep!

Awesome cake

Everyone minus Väinö who was in the cow shed :)

An introduction to my family!

This picture is from 6 months ago but it is the only one I have of all of them together.

From left to right is Väinö (host dad), Katariina (host mum), Antti, Ville, Eeva (Ville's wife) Tiina, Liisa and Pauli (Liisa’s fiancé)
Liisa and Antti go to university in Oulu which is a little while north of Kiuruvesi, Pauli lives with Liisa too but he is in the army right now. Ville and Eeva live further south in Jyväskylä and they both study there. Then there is Tiina who is in 5th grade at school and we have lots of fun together but I’ll talk more about all the fun we have in later blogs!
I love having such a big family! Liisa, Antti and Pauli come home most weekends but Ville and Eeva not so much.

More blogs soon! 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Day 5 and 6 of Karkku

Day 5 of Karkku

Same as always 4 hours of lessons broken up by a cool Finnish dance called Letkajenkka (click here for a video because its too hard to explain), kahvi and lunch. We played fruit salad with Finnish fruits and we got to colour in! It is nice being back in reception :P After we were all finished for the day Sophie, Lewis one of our tutors Linda and I went out in search of my first Finnish cache and first cache ever for the others. It was only a 200 m walk but we had to swim through the snow for a little bit of it. When we arrived at GZ, Sophie went straight to one of the caches and Linda went straight to the other one! There were two of them because the first one is in the base of the tree and had there been any more snow, it would have been very hard to reach! The winter version was hanging a tree and we all signed it and then headed back. I was very happy that id found a Finnish cache because I didn’t think I would be able to for a month at least because there aren’t a lot of caches in my city. We had a talk on a summer language camp that happens in Turku, it is a camp for Finnish student to learn English and each year they take on a few exchange students as tutours because it helps the Finns with English and also the Aussies with their finnish. It sounds like fun but it has a focus on drama and I suck at drama and I think there are other people better suited to teaching than me so I didn’t apply. After tea we had a break so we all played British Bulldog which is an intense game! It is like all over red rover but there is a bulldog in the middle who, when the people try to run across, has to cacth them and lift them entirely off the ground. The girls were caught pretty easily because they are pretty light and one guy could pick us up but for the guys sometimes we need 4 or 5 people to hold them down and then try and pick them while they are still trying to kick and squirm free! Click here! The last variation is what we were playing. Afterwards we all walked about 50 minutes to Karkku church and it was FREEZING! By the time we got there I could not feel the backs of my legs and my nose felt like it would snap off. The service was really nice we sung 2 hymns in English and one in Finnish. Our Swedish teacher gave a short little sermon and one of our tutors did a bible reading. On the way back I talked to our Swedish teacher about uni in Finland and what kids do after they finish school. I also saw my first Finnish train on the way to the church which I thought my dad might like. :)

Playing a game, clearly Maddy is interested...

hahahahahaha You have to plug your car in so it doesn't freeze! 

First cache with Sophie and Lewis

The Karkku church

Day 6 of Karkku

Today in lessons instead of a game we had to write a letter to our future sleves about our fears and hopes for our exchange and we get to open them on Lapland tour. I was very unimaginative with my letter because I have tried to have no expectations and focusing on a fear sometimes makes you fear it more so I was finding it hard to find things to write. After lunch we had our last Karrku lesson :( We got chocolate for the lovely reeta and we danced to mikä boogie and we all got diplomas! Yay! A bunch of us went sledding after this and the amazing Ana managed to get a photo of me on the sleds! Thank you Ana!! We tried to make a train at one point but no matter who tried to “drive” we kept running in to the snow and piling up in a big heap of limbs, sleds and snow! Afterwards we played floor ball with sleds! It was so much fun! I paired up with Christina and we were a super team! We scored 2 goals! Our team; Team poro (reindeer) won 4-0! :D This was also an intense game and there were quite a few pile ups and me being me I managed to get in the middle of one too.  Afterwards we had a talk form Paavo, one of the rotary representatives; it was really about the rules we have to follow etc etc. They are a lot stricter with travel than I expected so the possibility of maybe going somewhere else but Finland with Jenny may be a bit hard but I don’t care because there is plenty to see in Finland alone! I got to talk to dad for a little just before the talk and the weather over there is crazy! Nippers and a carnival had been cancelled because it was just too hot! Glad I am in Finland and not the 40 degree heat! 

We had our cosy night which was really funny Kim did an awesome Aussie rap, Laura and Miki played the piano, Eamon did a Finnish poem, Constance and Christine did a new Zealand chant dance/song thing, Eugenia showed us this strange game that I was hopeless at and the tutors did a funny skit. We also played the strangest game I have ever played in my life it was called “if you love me will you smile?” or something like that. It is very hard to describe but there is a person in the middle who goes up to someone in the circle and they have to say to them “if you love me, you will smile for me” and they can touch their face or their hair or whatever they want and its supposed to be so ridiculous that the person smiles or laughs and then they are in the middle. If they manage to keep a straight face long enough they say; “I do love you but I can not smile” at the start we all thought it was the most hilarious thing ever because these people that we barely knew were trying to seduce us into laughing so everyone laughed at the start. We broke for tea which included a staring contest between Alpi and Miki and Miki own! We played the game again and because everyone had gotten over the initial shock of it we all had to start being a little more creative and it got very creepy! After we stopped playing some stayed and just hung around and I went and had a shower and went to sleep! I also posted my first Finnish facebook status that day which was a detail about my family and the ages of all my brothers and sisters. I was pretty chuffed with myself but in truth it was pretty basic there were like two conjugations in the whole thing so it was really just vocabulary. 

Ana, me and Karkku!

Aaron and I about to collide, I fell of seconds later! 

Testing it out, I wasn't brave enough to go from the top. 

I love this photo! You can't really see it here but we are all mid way through crashing XD


The cool kids group

Reeta and I

Kiitos Reeta!! 
I have a big head.....

Dancing, hahahaha Linda! 

Our Finnish teacher Anni

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day 4 of Karkku


This morning we were up early as usual and we had 3 hours of lessons, during our lessons the sun came out! The actual sun was shining! :O We all went out and took photos and it was nice to have some sunlight! We played lots of games in lessons today and we learnt how to tell the time, the weather and some pieces of clothing. After lunch we had a big cake that Eugenia host parents had sent to camp for her 18th birthday! After that we got on the bus to head to TAMPERE! The trip took about an hour and was pretty boring but it was exciting when we got there because it was our first Finnish city because Helsinki doesn’t really count because we only saw the airport. First up was a tour on the bus and it was really interesting, we stopped at two churches and also a park right at the top of the city and the view was pretty speccy. It was a really nice city but it was freezing, It got to about -20! After the tour we went shopping! Our first stop was H &M, a few of our tutors said it was the best store ever, i'd only heard of it because of CS. Anyway I got a beanie that was only 5 Euros and when I went to pay the lady said something which I thought might have been do you want a bag so I just said joo, which is yes and so then she said something really long and fast at me and I just had to nod my head and give her my money! We went to this huge department store, like Kmart but with EVERYTHING! We stopped at Heseburger for some noms and the burger was pretty good but it didn’t taste that different to McDonalds but I know there are Finns who will disagree with me here!  After that we hopped back on the bus and headed back to camp were we were treated to a lovely performance by the Karkku church band. We played some more strange games which included Finnish bowling and that was really awesome! I will have to buy a set of those pins and ship them home. 

The sun! 

Playing spin the pencil

Happy 18th Birthday!

Pretty Stain-glass in the first church

Creepy painting in the church, it has a nice meaning behind it though, something like the skeletons are tending to our souls before they go to heaven. 

The view from the park


The organ in the second church.