Archive | December, 2012

From autumn to winter

30 Dec

This is the same place outside my apartment, first in September then in November, what a huge difference! I’m not sure which I like best, what do you think?

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From Oulu To England

30 Dec

I’m back for the Christmas/New Year period and enjoying the hot weather (in comparison to Finland!) and the British rain. Of which there has been a LOT. Many people have experienced flood related problems over the last few weeks and it looks like it will take a while for the water to drain.

Anyway, I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. I certainly did – I ate many mince pies and drank much mulled wine. Sara heaven.

Before I left Finland my boyfriend came to visit for a few days and I showed him around Oulu. The first day we went to the city centre and saw ‘The Hobbit’ at Finnkino. I love the cinema for its cosy seats, warm theatres and pick and mix sweets. We went for a Finnish lunch on campus – meat, potatoes and salad, mmm – and then to a bar in the evening in Kaijonharju.

IMGP0036The rivers have all frozen over

The next day we took a trip to Rovaniemi and went husky sledding – that was my favourite part! It was freezing cold and so scary when we went over the frozen lake, but we enjoyed it so much that we were giggling for most of the trip. The husky dogs were so clever and so cute! We finished the day with a hot chocolate (adult style with liquor in it) and walked around the Santa Claus Village admiring the Christmas lights.

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On our last day we went and walked on the frozen lake next to the university, then headed back into town for a last shop for Christmas presents, took a photo with the toripolisi and went to the pancake house for our last meal. The next day we flew from Oulu to Helsinki and back to London, where we parted ways.

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Being back in England has made me realise the beauty of our countryside and the green really stands out for me at the moment. It’s much more crowded though and it took a few days to get used to that. But it is nice to be back for a while.

Here are a couple of photos of my home county Dorset.

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I’m afraid that’s it for me until next year! I’m off to my university town for a few days and then back to Oulu. Happy New Year Everyone!

How to Feed a Reindeer

15 Dec

Inari was the last stop on our tour of Sami Lapland – it’s the largest municipality in Finland, was founded in 1876 and has a population of around 7000. Roughly a third of these are Sami. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to see much of the place, but we saw the most important sites. The most important being the reindeer farm.

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Okay, okay it’s touristy and something which I had been complaining about for the whole trip, but I let myself enjoy this aspect of the trip because I love animals and I felt like a kid again with a handful of reindeer pellets. They were beautiful, friendly creatures, but also incredibly powerful and strong. Here’s a video of me feeding one =)

At the reindeer farm we heard some beautiful yoiking from one of the owners. Yoiking is a traditional form of singing from the Sami and it’s incredible, so much so that here is a video of the Sami Grand Prix – a singing competition held by the Sami.

As a reward for not messing up drastically during the week we were given a proper hotel to stay in. No more cabins, no more trekking through the snow for food, and there was a proper, shiny bathroom for the morning. Here we ate the best desert known to man in the restaurant – I wish I had taken a picture, but I was so tired I didn’t even consider it.

After a night in proper beds we felt much better and stumbled out into the cold of the morning to be winked at by the most beautiful sunrise that we had seen in days. It brightened everyone’s mood and there was a great air of playfulness about the group as we walked to our last sightseeing destinations.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAFirst we went to the Sami museum ‘Siida’ which was very informative and interesting. There was so much to look at and so many examples of the culture. Our guide was lively and fun and gave us lots of things to hold and touch.

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Next we trotted over the see the ‘Sajos’ building, which is a centre for activity in Inari; it has language courses, parliament meetings, music shows and plays. And a library. It was super busy when we were there and everyone kept apologising to us for this, but I loved seeing it in use. It wasn’t exclusive for the Sami culture either – it aimed to create a greater bond between the Sami and other cultures, Finnish and otherwise. It was also heavily into promoting the Sami language and teaching Sami and others how to use it, which I loved.

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This concluded our trip to Lapland and we faced another long, eight-hour drive. It was sad to return to Oulu, but it looks like the weather followed us back because we had snow the next day!

All the Right Friends

11 Dec

In the middle of my posting about Lapland I have to add in a few words for my dear friends in Oulu. Tonight I organised our Christmas party and it ran as smooth as a chocolate fountain – but has left me with a ball of sadness between my throat and my stomach at the prospect of saying goodbye. I never thought I could be so happy and so sad at the same time.

I have never had friends like this in England, never known such a mish mash of personalities and nationalities, and the best part is that we work together so well! I have had many great adventures with these guys and I will never forget the things I’ve learned with and from them – from how to eat in a Finnish cafeteria, to how to iceskate, to how to travel spend the best 24 hours in Helsinki (I will post about this trip later =))

People say that you will meet lifelong friends at university and up until now I had begun to grow skeptical. However, here in Oulu I have met my best friends and soulmates and shared more with them than I have with anyone in England. Many are leaving at the end of the semester and it will be the hardest goodbye I will ever have to say, but at the same time the prospect of visiting them all in the future makes me happy. I already have plans to experience a Polish Easter next year.

If you’re ever in doubt about taking a year abroad reconsider for the friends that you might miss out on. My life would never have been so good without them and will probably never be this good again.

Still, I guess there’s always next semester to find out =)

 

Karasjok, Karigasniemi and the Sami Culture

11 Dec

After we visited Kautokeino we took a jaunt through Karajsok to see another side of the Sami culture –  the working culture of the north. We dragged our giant suitcases through the snow and boarded the bus again, escaping the new minus 15 degree temperatures. We passed through the Norwegian mountains – and what I thought was a 11.30am sunrise turned out to be an 11.30am sunset! Pictures are here, it was a stunning morning =)

Once we reached Karasjok we stopped by the NRK Sami Radio station and got a tour from the quirkiest, funniest guy – not what I was expecting, and it really brightened up the trip for me. I was feeling a little tired and sick by this point. The tour really emphasised the importance of radio and media for the Sami culture – for improving communication through different communities and developing the Sami language. They’re really into improving the accessibility to radio and television services for the Sami community, especially children. Their kids’ tv set was the best part and I wouldn’t have stayed there and made glitter animals had I the chance.

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After this we went to a completely contrasting place – to a tourist shop full of cheesy Norwegian flags and fridge magnets (okay, I bought a bumper sticker with a moose on it, but that was all!). I’ve really grown to dislike these kinds of shops and tend to just buy something little with the name of the place on it, proof that I’ve been there or something.

Then to contrast again we popped into the Sami parliament building on the way out of town! They were holding an important conference and there were lots of important people walking around. I knew very little about the Sami culture before I arrived in Finland and I really enjoyed seeing the working culture as well as the one which tourism presents – we met many intelligent, active Sami who were incredibly keen to chat to us. We were such a diverse group and I’m sure that they found us as fascinating as we found them!

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We didn’t stay in Karasjok for the night but plowed on to Karagasniemi, back in Finland. It was like coming home to see the signs in Finnish again. We got a room in a ten bed cabin with the other girls and I managed to snag a room with one of my friends for a bit of chill time. However, we had just settled down to our essays when our teacher knocked on our door and said that we could go iceskating if we wanted – me and my friend had both recently obtained some iceskates and it was our new obsession. He offered to drive us to the local school to skate, an offer we couldn’t turn down, so we grabbed our skates and set off. Although not the point of the study trip this was probably my favourite part – we had the rink to ourselves and had such a blast. And I didn’t fall!

The next morning I was feeling even worse and nearly skipped the trip to the reindeer farm and the subsequent hike, but I’m glad I didn’t. Although the blood spattered snow from a recent reindeer slaughter made me feel a little queasy the fresh (FRESH) cold air made me feel better and the hike was beautiful. I should say ‘hike’, because the snow was so far up our legs that we managed only twenty minutes or so.

We hiked to see the beautiful Sulaoja fountain that never freezes and it a sacred place for the Sami. Many go there to be baptised and our teacher invited us to drink the water. Usually I have a policy to drink only bottle water when travelling (because I’m a germaphone) but I felt invigorated by the walk and the daredevil in me was awakened by it. It was pretty good water!

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Then to Inari we went, the last stop of the trip!

 

Like a Real Explorer

5 Dec

I fear I may have overreacted to yesterday’s cold weather; I walked to the store today and didn’t die of exposure. It was a successful trip, which I actually rather enjoyed.

Here are some photos from the venture:

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On the way back I was actually starting to feel too warm in my many layers!

It’s Minus What Now?

5 Dec

It’s been hovering between -10 and -20 here for the last few days and I thought it about time to make a post about it; I’ve neglected Oulu in my posts for too long. I went for a bike ride yesterday (stupidly) to check out the lake and my eyelashes froze! I looked like I was about to perform in a wacky music video. I would not recommend doing this unless you are properly dressed – after five minutes both my hands and feet were numb and I was starting to get a bit worried. Even the bones in my forehead ached from the cold. That said, it’s very, very beautiful here at the moment.

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I woke to this delightful piece on my window yesterday. This is on the inside by the way, not sure if that is entirely normal I must admit…

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThe average hours of daylight is around four or five, which is making me want to turn into a bear and hibernate. I woke up early to go to the library, but couldn’t bring myself to leave the house, so here I am, not writing my essay…

The lake behind the university has frozen over entirely. Once I’ve acclimatised to the cold I would like to go back and take a better look around =)

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERABut for now I will retreat back to bed and try to finish the last essay of the semester… =)

 

 

 

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