Friday, January 20, 2017


This past week and a half has been unlike anything I've ever experienced.  Ever.  The amount of learning and adjusting we've had to do is amazing.  I honestly hardly know how to put it into words. While reading former Fulbright blogs, Jerod and I noticed that there were a lot of explanations about seemingly mundane things.  Now we get why they were writing about those things.  When you are in a new country and you don't know anyone or speak the language, those things are a BIG DEAL!!!

Let's take our first trip into town as an example.  It was our second day here, we had only a few food items in the house and getting to the grocery store was necessary that day.  Lydia was still sick, and I wasn't feeling very well either.  But of course I wasn't about to send Jerod into town alone, when we had literally no clue which end was up.  So we bundled up and headed down the path across the street from our house that we thought lead to the bus stop.  We made our best guess about which stop to go to.  Then we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  It was cold and the girls were not diggin' hanging out at the bus stop.  So we walked across the street and found a dental supply store that was open.  We went inside and asked the lady if she knew when the bus came.  She pointed out the window - there it is!  We all turned to see the bus roll away.  So we went and waited some more.  Finally the bus came . We got on and the conversation with the driver went something like this:

Us: Does this bus go into town?
Driver:  Yes.
Us:  And can we buy a bus pass in town?
Driver:  You do not have a bus pass?
Us:  No.  We just arrived in town.
Driver:  6 Euros please.
Us: ...............  Do you take American money?
Driver:.......................Just get on.

Thank goodness for kind people.  That act of letting us ride into town for free was HUGE, and not to be underestimated.  As in, had he not let us get on the bus, I think it would have been a moment of crisis for us.  We were tired, had no idea where a store with food was, really had no idea how far or close we were to town, couldn't plug in our computer because we didn't have an adapter, had no working cell phones, and no one to call even if they had worked.  

Every little thing we've had to figure out has been a big deal.  And for the first few days, the agenda for each day was small.  
Day 1:  
Find Food 
Get bus pass

Day 2:  
Buy SIM cards for cell phone
Find the REAL grocery store 
(The one we found on day 1 had the food selection of a glorified gas station.)

Day 3:
Find the girls' school
Buy an adapter to plug in the computer
Find beer

That first week was tough.  Not bad, just tough.  Jerod and I each had one day of freaking out, but luckily we are good planners and chose not to do this on the same day as each other.  There was just so much to figure out.  In addition to the things listed above, which were the really big things, there were also a ton of small things.  Like, what do these strange symbols on our stove mean?  And how do miles compare to kilometers, or how does celcius compare to fehrenheit, or kilograms to pounds?  Where does our recycling go?  How in the world does one read these very confusing bus schedules (that are all in Finnish)?  How do you lock the front door? Why does the drier keep beeping?  (Because in Finland, you have to empty out a tray of water after every load.)  Also, jet lag was tough.  We were not prepared for how long it would take us to adjust.   

Our second week has been a little easier.  This week has been less about figuring out the big and little questions, and more about adjusting to our new life.  At our orientation in Washington D.C., we were told not to feel like we had to hit the ground running when we arrived in our new countries.  Rather, we should take a week or two to get situated and find our way around town.  This sounded so luxurious to me, I mean I am getting paid to be here after all.  But now I totally get it, and thank goodness we were not forced to start work right away.  

Here we have no car and use public transportation to get everywhere.  This alone has been a big thing to adjust to.  For the first week we just showed up at the bus stop and hoped a bus would come.  We finally found a website that explained the schedule, which has proven to be accurate most of the time. But we have to plan much differently when we can't just hop into our car.  

Not having a car really affects grocery shopping.  You shop differently when you have to carry home everything you buy.  We shop everyday for food.  Anytime either one of us goes into town, we pick up a few things.  And we don't buy things that we don't need, because that will just make our bag heavier. This also means that we are way more aware of not wasting food.  I know I'm hardly growing all of my food or raising chickens, but I already feel much more connected to my food.  It is just so different when you are intentional about EVERYTHING you buy.

The day light, or lack there of, has also been an adjustment.  When we got here the sun came up at about 9:00 and set by 3:00.  We can already see that the days are getting slightly longer - we are gaining almost ten minutes of daylight each day.  The combination of jet lag and and long nights has meant a lot of sleep for us, which has been good.  We are starting to feel normal again.

Our house is little.  This has had an affect on many things.  We need to keep our stuff organized, which is not a strength of ours, because there's just not much space.  But its been easier to do because we have less stuff.  And even though we packed a fraction of our belongings to bring to Finland, we already feel like we don't need everything we brought.  Being in a small house also means there aren't as many ways to escape from each other.  We've spent a lot more time together as a family and a lot less time watching tv.  That has been a really good change for us.  

We spend WAAAAAY more time outside than we did in Minnesota.  I'm loving this.  We walk to the bus stop, we walk around town, sometimes we walk into town (Jerod and I do, not the girls.) Speaking of walking, this has been a big change, and it's been a hard one for our girls - especially Lydia.  On the agenda for the next few days is finding a stroller, because her little legs just can't handle it if we have to walk more than 10 minutes or so.  Ruthie struggled the first few days with this, but now she's doing way better with it.  I think Finland is going to make our girls a little tougher! Being outside so much also means that proper clothing is important.  After a very sad trip ice skating, we realized that Lydia's gear just wasn't doing the job.  We invested in some good mittens and an awesome snowsuit for her, and now things are much better.  Finland also has really cool sleds and ski scooters.  The girls have had so much fun playing on these!  There's a great sledding hill just at the end of our street that is so fun!

Our sauna!  It is AMAZING!!!!  I love it.  I want one.  Everyone should have one.

Gosh, I'm sure there's so much more to tell about, but that's a lot for now.  Here are two final things.  

1.  They don't shovel the sidewalks in Finland.  They simply put gravel on top of the snow.  When I asked my adviser why the sidewalks weren't shoveled she said, "What do you mean?  Why isn't the snow removed completely?"  When I told her that in Minnesota each home was responsible for shoveling their own sidewalk she said, "But why?  It isn't slippery to walk on."  And she's right, it's not.  People walk and ride bikes on these sidewalks all the time here, and it's just find.  I don't have a good answer for her.  This seems like an easier solution to the snow than what we do.  

2.  A carrot sharpener.  I've only yet taken a picture of it because I thought it was funny, but I think I may have to go buy one.  

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