Monday, May 28, 2012

Puhe vuodestani lukiolle (Speech of my Year to the School)

Yksi vuosi on pitkä aika. Tämähän on totta. En olisi uskonut, että minun vuoteni Suomessa olisi mennyt niin nopeasti. Silti tässä minä olen, kymmenen kuukautta saapumispäiväni jälkeen.

Minä haluaisin tänä aamuna kertoa teille vähän minun vuodestani Suomessa ja mitä olen oppinut.

Tulin Suomeen elokuussa ilman perhettäni, ilman kieltäni, ja ilman ystäviäni. Nyt, minä saan sanoa, että minulla on kolme uutta perhettä, uusi kieli, ja paljon hyviä ystäviä. Lisäksi minulla on nyt uusi maa ja uusi kotikaupunki.

Tässä vuodessa olen oppinut lukemattomia opetuksia. Paljastan teille niistä muutamia.

Minä kehottaisin teitä kysymään itseltänne ’miksi ei?’ Mistä te tiedätte, ettette te tykkää jostakin jos ette ole yrittäneet?
Esimerkiksi, uiminen avannossa talvella oli minusta hullua, ennen kuin yritin.En olisi uskonut, että olisi tullut niin hyvä olo sen jälkeen. Nyt saan sanoa, että pidän uimisesta avannossa koska minä yritin. Toiseksi esimerkiksi, Suomessa on ruokia joita pidin outoina (muun muassa salmiakkia ja poroa sekä hirven sydäntä). Maistoin niitä kaikkia; sanotaanko näin että toiset olivat hyviä ja toiset, ainakin maistoin yhden kerran.

Olkaa itsenne aina.
Katsoin uuden Risto Räppäjä -leffan pari kuukautta sitten nelivuotiaan host-siskoni kanssa. Sehän oli lasten elokuva, mutta se kuitenkin opetti hyvän opetuksen: ”minä olen minä, ja sinä olet sinä”. Älkää unohtako koskaan, että te olette ainutlaatuisia.

Jos aluksi ette onnistu jossakin niin yrittäkää toisen kerran.
En oppinut suomen kieltä yhdessä yössä. Ja minähän tiedän, että minä en puhu suomea täydellisesti. Olen tehnyt virheitä ja varmasti vielä teen paljon virheitä. Minä en luovuttanut kun ihmiset nauroivat minulle – vaan minä onnittelin itseäni koska sanoin jotain oikein. Minun päämääräni on onnistunut; ainakin minun mielestäni osaan suomea ihan hyvin.

Teidän pitäisi matkustaa. Maailma on suuri. Matkustaminen on avartanut mieltäni. Matkustaessamme voimme ymmärtää paremmin toisia kulttuureja ja omaa kulttuuriammekin.

Latinaksi sanotaan ”carpe diem”, englanniksi ”seize the moment” ja suomeksi ”tartu hetkeen”. Jokaisella kielellä tämä sanonta on niin totta kuin toisillakin. Ette voi tietää  mitä tapahtuu huomenna, ensi viikolla, ensi kuussa tai vuoden päästä. Kun tilaisuus näyttää itsensä, ”tarttukaa hetkeen” ja tehkää se. Aika menee nopeasti ja elämänne on lyhyt.

Kauhavasta on tullut toinen kotikaupunkini. Kauhavalla ja kauhavalaisilla on oma paikkansa sydämessäni nyt ja aina.

Vuosi vaihto-oppilaana on ollut kokemus joka tapahtuu kerran elämässä. Minä toivon, että te olette oppineet jotakin minulta, niin kuin minä olen oppinut teiltä.  Kiitoksia tästä vuodesta.

Note: English translations available on request.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Ihmemiehen toukokuu (Wonder Man's May)

My newspaper article
A couple of weeks ago I gave my presentation to Rotary about my year in Finland. It was, of course, entirely in Finnish. My host family came to support me. One Rotarian took notes and submitted a short article to the local news paper called ”Ihmemies” Davidson Kanadasta, or “MacGyver” Davidson from Canada. It called me MacGyver (literally Wonder Man) in reference to the fact that I have been so involved and done so many things this year.
Kalle, Heli, Ilkka, and me on the dam at the Imatrankoski
My host sister Emma (24) just graduated from a visual arts post-secondary school in the town of Imatra, which is in Eastern Finland, almost at the Russian border. A couple weekends ago her school had their graduating students’ gala. We (me, my host parents, and my two host brothers, one of whom came from his university town Oulu) drove to Imatra to support Emma. The Imatrankoski (Imatra rapids) are said to be the first tourist attraction in Finland; Catherine the Great of Russia is known to have visited them many years ago. In the summer, the floodgates are opened and the rapids are lit up, but they weren’t yet when we were there. We stayed in quite a spectacular hotel in Imatra; it reminded me a bit of the Fairmont Banff Springs, but smaller. After the visiting the art exhibition we all went out for dinner at a very nice restaurant. This night happened to be the same night as the Canada versus Finland game in the World Hockey Championships. After dinner I was proud of Canada for winning, but I’m not really very much of a hockey person. (Eventually Finland and Canada came out fourth and fifth respectively.) The next morning Emma gave us a tour of her school. Her specialties are printmaking, drawing, and photography. She showed us several of the interesting machines that she and her classmates use. We spent the rest of the day on the road home.
The pasta is drying. Each one is rolled out and sliced by hand.
Mother’s Day was a couple of weeks ago. Kalle and I made homemade pasta from scratch. No machines involved in the process whatsoever. That was a very lengthy process, but it was probably the best pasta I have ever eaten. I called home and had a good conversation with my Mom and my sister (Dad was in Toronto).
Me with my language certificate and valkolakki
You may recall that at the end of March I wrote a language test. Afterwards I felt that it had gone quite poorly. I wrote the intermediate level test instead of the basic level which most Rotary students write. It was a very difficult test, but I received my results last week…ja se meni läpi! (I passed!) I am now a certified speaker, listener, reader, and writer of B1 Finnish! This means that I understand the central idea from longer stretches of text, provided the topic area is relatively familiar and that I can write simple, coherent texts even though grammatical and lexical inaccuracies may occasionally hinder comprehension. I have been told that I am the first Rotary student in Kauhava to have ever passed the intermediate test. To celebrate my success, I bought a Finnish ylioppilaslakki (graduation cap).
I am on the far right.
I have been rehearsing for several months in anticipation for the ensi-ilta (open night) of the community’s musical “Pohjalasia”. I am, in fact, on the show’s poster! I play the small but important role of a häjy (HIGH-yew). The häjyt could be considered to be like a Finnish version of a gang of cowboy bandits. They roamed this area of Finland (Etelä-Pohjanmaa) a hundred or so years ago. The premiere evening went quite well. My second host family as well as my host grandmother came to see the performance. The theatre was almost sold out. I received several roses at the end. We had our second show the next day, and my last show will be tonight (May 25) because I will be on my EuroTour for the remainder of the run, which includes one more show in Kauhava and two shows in Helsinki.
The six of us at the main entrance gate
Powerpark is an amusement park situated in Alahärmä, which is another town which was amalgamated a few years ago to be part of Kauhava. A couple of months ago I emailed the Rotex for District 1380 with the idea that the inbound students could visit the park for a day in the spring. Well, last Sunday my idea came to fruition and five of us (half of the students in our district) as well as a student who is in Finnish Lapland spent the day at the park. The weather wasn’t great, but it made for very short lines; we never had to wait. For a little town, the park is quite good. There are a few roller coasters, several very thrilling rides, some rides you might find at a carnival back home, and some kiddie rides.
My current host dad is a powered paraglider (PPG). A couple days ago I went with him to the airfield on a good evening for flying. Check out this youtube video he made!
My year has to come to an end. Lots of stuff is coming to an end in my town: my last day of regular school was yesterday and my last performance with the church choir was last Thursday (Ascension Day). Next week will be my last band rehearsal, Rotary meeting, and the lukio’s graduation ceremony. On June 3rd I will depart for my whirlwind tour of Europe (nine countries, seventeen days).
I received my flight information for my return trip. I will depart at 8 am from HEL (Helsinki Airport) to Frankfurt and will then continue to Washington, DC, and onto Seattle. My long, 26 hour day of travel will end just before midnight when I arrive into Vancouver.
Note: to all people who may have been fooled, the video is of my host dad flying, the photo at the end is just me trying the equipment on after his flight.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Kooste keväästä (Spring Summary)

My new home, my window is the furthest to the left.
Isn't it sort of cool that the title of this post is an alliteration in both languages? Okay, maybe it's just me.
A few days after my trip to Berlin, I changed host families. I now live with the Peura family. My new host brother, Kalle (KAWL-lay), is one of my best friends here in Finland. My host father Ilkka is a retired teacher from Air Force School in Kauhava; he now operates the movie theatre. My host mother Heli works in a fabric store. Mikko and Emma, my host brother and sister respectively, are both post-secondary students. Mikko studies business in Oulu in Northern Finland and Emma studies arts in Imatra in Eastern Finland. I had visited the Peura family countless times before moving, so the transition between families was pretty easy. However it was the first time in years that someone has told me I need to make my bed every day.
After my Berlin trip a new jakso started at school. This jakso I am in a physics “work course”, in which we do experiments every class. I am taking another äidinkieli course: kielioppi (grammar). I understand much of the syntax discussed, but sometimes I don’t need to know how to write the second infinitive in the inessive case with the first person singular possessive ending (for those curious minds, an example of what I just described is “uidessani” = when I am/was swimming). My math course is number theory and logic. This is my schedule. The blanks are all spare periods; you may notice that this is the least busy term I have had this year. But hey, it’s also my last term of Finnish high school ever!


Physics 9
Math 11
Physics 9

Finnish 10
Math 11

Finnish 10

Finnish 10
Math 11
Physics 9
Music 7


Heli, Kalle, and Ilkka at the piano recital.
At the end of April, Kalle, who is a talented and aspiring pianist, had his first solo piano concert in the church’s congregation hall. About 70 people were in attendance. Kalle played marvellously, and more importantly he was happy with his own performance.
The orchestra. I'm the the front row; apparently I was camera shy.
Veteran’s Day was the last Friday of April. I played with my orchestra at a celebration in Ylihärmä. A couple days later we also played at a party for the fiftieth anniversary of the Ylihärmä Reserves (as in military reserves).
Vappu, (also know as May Day, the first of May, and Walpurgis Night), is one of the biggest celebration days. It is a day for all ylioppilaat (high school graduates) to wear their ylioppilaslakki (graduation hat). It’s also the time of year to drink sima, which is a low-alcohol sparking brew made from lemons, brown sugar, water, raisins and yeast. Sima is normally consumed with either munkit (doughnuts) or tippaleipä (funnel cake). In the squares of larger cities, hundreds or even thousands of people can gather to celebrate. Living in a small town, there were no such large celebrations. Because vappu was actually on a Tuesday with work and school on Wednesday, many people celebrated Monday evening and night. I celebrated the occasion with my friends at a barbeque held at my new host family’s house. Kalle and I spent the day in the kitchen preparing burgers, shish kebabs, stuffed mushrooms, and Jell-o. On May the first, we all slept in and had a big brunch with champagne, sausages, bacon, real pancakes, and pure Canadian maple syrup.
Kaitlyn and me, overlooking Hämeenlinna.
Last weekend I went by myself (with all necessary permissions of course) on a nice trip to the town Hämeenlinna. I stayed with Canadian exchange student, Kaitlyn, another who is from the Greater Toronto Area. I caught the train after school and spent almost the whole trip writing my last blog post (about Berlin). Kaitlyn and Clare (another Rotary student from New York State) met me at the station and we walked to Kaitlyn’s house. I could tell that her host dad was anxious about having a boy spending the night, but I had a conversation with him and he said within a minute he could tell that I was a good guy. The three of us students spent the night wandering around as the girls showed me the highlights of the town. I think that there are about 60,000 people in Hämeenlinna. The major attraction of the city is a castle which I visited with my first host mother Jaana in the fall (see “Ruotsi ja syysloma”). On Saturday, I met up with Vilma, the girl from Finland who was in my Rotary district last year. She drove us to the town where she lives, Valkeakoski, and showed me around. Then we visited her home for coffee where I met her family. In the afternoon I went back to Hämeenlinna had a bicycle tour of the Aulanko area with Kaitlyn and her friend Aino; unfortunately my camera’s battery died before I took any pictures and I had left the spare at Kaitlyn’s house. I believe I have said that Etelä-Pohjanmaa, where I live in Finland, is like the Saskatchewan of Finland in that it is very very flat. Hämeenlinna is my no means mountainous, but the littlest hills felt massive because I am not used to riding my bike on hills. Saturday evening was spent downtown with Kaitlyn, Clare, and some of their Finnish friends. I left on Sunday by train in the early afternoon. I actually rode on the same train as my host dad who was coming home from Sweden. I was also in the same car as my Rotary counsellor, but we didn’t notice each other until we were at the station in Kauhava. I spent the trip home making my presentation entitled “Minun vuoteni Suomesta”, my year in Finland, which I will present tomorrow to my hosting Rotary club. It’s crazy that I am already presenting about my whole year. It has been just over nine months that I’ve been in Finland, and I only have less than two months left.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Matkani Berliiniin (My Trip to Berlin)

Me at the Brandenburger Tör.
At my school in Finland there is a week in April right after Easter called “projektiviikko” (project week). During this week students can choose from several opportunities for activities to do. As much as I wanted to be in the sky diving course offered, I travelled to Berlin with seventeen other students and two teachers. I am not very familiar with modern world history (the World Wars, Soviet Union, etc.) as a result I learned lots of new things from the trip. I would say it is probably the most educational school trip I have ever gone on. Just a warning in advance, this post is a little lengthy.
Our hostel - City Hostel Berlin
It started early Tuesday morning, the bus left from the school parking lot at five. I slept. After a few hours of driving, we stopped at a rest station for some breakfast and then back on the road. The airport was pretty much uneventful. It was an airport; stuff was expensive. The plane ride to Berlin was too short to watch a movie on so they played an episode of both “Friends” and “Cheers”. I watched them and I tried really hard to hold back my laughter when there was a good joke. There were no Finnish subtitles so no one else was watching it. As we stepped off the plane onto the runway everybody was given a chocolate heart from the airline. Thank you Air Berlin! We caught public transit to the hostel: a bus and a metro. I stayed in a room with three other guys from my school: Niko, Joni, and Matti. After we got settled in, we went to get something to eat at a little Turkish restaurant that served pizza/pasta/kebab (aka döner). Then Niko and I did some exploring in the area around the hostel. For anyone who knows Berlin, we were situated a couple of blocks on the eastern side of the former wall about halfway between Brandenburger Tor and Potsdammer Platz.
The soccer game.
All of the guys (eight students and one teacher) spent the evening of the first night at a football match. Berlin’s club BSC Hertha played, and lost, against SC Freiburg. The game was held in the marvellous Olympic Stadium used in 11th Olympiad. The Olympic bid had been won by Berlin before the reign of the Nazis but in 1936 Hitler used the event as a form of propaganda to show the world that Germany was thriving under his “leadership”. The game was pretty uneventful as I am not a huge soccer fan, but it was really entertaining to watch the fans with their jerseys, massive flags, and painted faces.
Me at the memorial to Jews murdered in the Holocaust.
On Wednesday we had a bus tour (in English) of the highlights of the highlights of Berlin. We drove by Checkpoint Charlie, which is the only remaining official checkpoint of the Berlin wall and was operated by American Forces. We also stopped at the East Side Gallery, which is the longest remaining segment of the Berlin Wall and has been painted with murals each depicting its own artist’s representation of freedom. Some other sights included Alexander Platz, Brandenburger Tör, and the Reichstag (German Parliament) among several others.
That evening we went to an interactive museum named “The Story of Berlin” which lives up to its name and told us the story of Berlin in a multimedia presentation. The most fascinating thing was a tour of one of the largest bomb shelters in Berlin which could house over three thousand people for an estimated two weeks in complete seclusion from the outside world. After the museum, Niko and I went on a little self guided walking tour back to the hostel. We walked through the Tiergarten, to the Reichstag, and past Brandenburger Tör. I am glad I convinced my friend to do this with me on the second day, when our feet could still handle a bit of mileage.
Checkpoint Charlie.
Thursday morning we visited the museum at Checkpoint Charlie all about the Berlin Wall and the division between East and West Berlin. It was very crowded and there was lots of information to read. I think I was definitely the person to get the most out of it, as most of the Finns I was with were disinterested in reading everything in English and because of this they quickly made their way through the entire exhibit. There was a very large group of Canadian students who came through the museum at the same time we were there. They had been part of the large anniversary celebration at Vimy Ridge, one of the greatest battles in Canadian military history. I really only talked with one teacher who was from Nova Scotia. That afternoon we went to another exhibition called “Topographie des Terrors”. It was about the rise and fall of Nazi Germany. When I was reading the information I felt very sick to my stomach because of all the horrible crimes committed under Hitler’s dictatorship. Afterwards we went to Potzdammer Platz to eat and shop. It’s an interesting, and new, centre of the city because much of it was in the death zone of the Wall.
Me chillin' with Einstein.
On Friday we all went to Alexander Platz and went up the Ferseturm (Television Tower) which at the time of construction was considered to be a marvel of Eastern engineering, even though most of it was designed by Swedes. It is still the tallest building in all of Germany. Why in most major cities is there some huge building with an observation deck? The next place we went was the largest church in Berlin, the Berlin Dome which is surprisingly a protestant church; it’s surprising because normally the largest churches in Europe are Roman Catholic in denomination. After the church I walked with Niko to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. We went inside and took several pictures with celebrities both from nowadays and from many years ago.
The Reichstag.
We had an appointment to tour the Reichstag (the house of Germany Parliament) on Saturday. This building is a very unique fusion of modern and aged architecture. It was built in the late 1800s but suffered tremendous damage from a fire at the beginning of the Nazi rise to power. This being said, the outer shell of the building is still the original façade, but the inside is has very modern, almost futuristic feel. Near the beginning of our tour, the guide asked several questions, most of which I answered (of course after waiting to see if anyone else wanted to respond). After the third time she pretty much told me to shut up and let other people have their turn. She of course was under the impression that Finns are people who answer questions; this being something that I have known is false since my first presentations at the beginning of the school year. But I shut up like she asked, and I let her endure the silence after she asked a question. There were some neat things in the government building, like some charcoal graffiti left on the walls from after the Russians won the Battle of Berlin. At the end of the tour we got to walk up to the top of the glass dome which provides light to the parliamentary chambers. After parliament we walked to the back to the Brandenburger Tör for a group picture, except for Niko who went back to the hostel because he was feeling ill. The afternoon was spent shopping, except I didn’t buy anything because I’m not really a shopper.
The execution wall at the concentration camp.
Sachsenhausen is the name of the concentration camp which we visited on Sunday. It definitely was not a very fun visit, but in my opinion it is a good thing that we went. I have always wanted to see a concentration camp because I’ve been curious about the terrible conditions of living to which those considered enemies of the state were forced to go. It was every bit as depressing as I had believed it would be. Almost all of the buildings were gone and each of the former bunkers was marked with a bed of stones. It was only a short visit, but well worth it. That evening the entire group ate together at the Hard Rock Café.
The return home on Monday was pretty uneventful. We showed up at the airport a few hours before necessary. In other words we sat waiting for a long time in the airport terminal. I tried to teach some of my Finnish friends how to play cribbage, my favourite card game, but it was too complicated for them. For most of the flight and the following bus ride back to Kauhava I read my Harry Potter book in Finnish. We arrived back home at about 11:30 pm. I didn’t go to school the next day.
Niko and me posing with a giant teddy.
Berlin was a really neat city because mostly everything was very new and modern, even thought the city has been in existence for centuries. Also, the divide between East and West Berlin is almost non-recognizable; in the very unlikely situation that you didn’t know any history of Berlin, I think you wouldn’t have guessed that the city was divided for years.
One really interesting thing that I noticed during the trip was that I think I have a “kielipää” or language head. English is my mother tongue. I spoke Finnish with my schoolmates. We all heard lots of German but spoke English to the Germans. And sometimes I read a sign or piece of information in French just to remind myself that ‘yes, I do still know French.’ I actually think I can still read French better than Finnish, but I am sure I can speak Finnish (and maybe even write it) much better than French. I almost felt sorry for my classmates because there was absolutely no information in Berlin written in Finnish. On a couple of occasions I was asked by some classmates to translate something or to order their food.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Virpominen pääsiäisenä (Trick-or-Treating at Easter)

The week before Easter was test week at school. I had two tests; I wrote a math test and I had a conversation with my äidinkieli puhekurssi teacher about what my mark for the course should be. I still haven’t gotten my math test back, and my mark for the speaking course was an “S” (in other words, a pass) however if I had done my second presentation, which I didn’t do because I was sick and then I went to Russia, I would have gotten a 9 out of 10 for the course. In all the free time I had during test week, I went to several elementary schools in Kauhava to gives presentations about my city, my country, and me. It was pretty fun to give away Canadian goodies to all the kids who asked questions.
There is one type of food in Finland that comes out only around Eastertide. Mämmi. It is made of rye flour, malted rye, and dark molasses. Finns either hate it or love it. I like it but only when it is served with heaps of sugar and cream.
With Easter being one of the most important events on the calendar of the church, the choir sang on multiple occasions. We sang the Thursday before Easter, twice on pitkäperjantai (Good Friday), and also on Easter Sunday (however I was absent from that service). My understanding of Finnish is good enough that I know most af the content that we sing about, however it is normally really formal or archaic language so sometimes I have problems. There was one song we sang which was written by Bach. Not only were the melodies and harmonies quite tricky, the words were in German. At the pitkäperjantai evening service, there was the first reading of which I understood everything. It was a story about a boy questioning his mother about the meaning of Good Friday.
Me as a witch and Saila as the Easter bunny
Finns have a very unique Easter tradition. It reminds many people (me included) of Halloween. The little kids dress up as witches and go from door to door. They have made decorated twigs and say this poem “Virvon varvon, tuoreeks terveeks, tulevaks vuodeks, vitsa sulle, palkka mulle”. The poem is sort of like a little spell that mentions something about health coming in the year and then it says a stick for you and payment for me. In essence, the kids give their decorated stick to the home owner, who in return gives candy and coins to the kids. The morning of the day before Easter I went “trullitelemaan” a.k.a. “virpomaan” with my host sister Saila and some neighbours. I too dressed like a witch and got a kettle filled with chocolate.
The kokko.
The Saturday evening before Easter my host family drove to my host-mother’s parents’ house. My host parents went to a birthday party and the grandkids (me included) spent the evening with mumma and paappa. We went to the kokko, which is a big bonfire and Easter party. It seemed like the whole village came out, including my host aunts, uncles, and cousins. There was a little fair inside the community hall. They were selling makkara and pulla. I entered the costume contest and I was the oldest participant by probably more than ten years. I tried to converse with as many people as possible to persuade them to vote for me. But I lost. A cute 18 month old Easter bunny won over me, the 19 year old Canadian exchange student. My host siblings and I spent the night at my host-grandparents house.
Easter Sunday was a pretty low key day. I had two shifts working at the movie theatre to fundraise for my Berlin trip, for which I would leave only a few days later. For my second shift no one else showed up to work with me, so I ran the kiosk by myself. I even answered the questions that some of the moviegoers had. I walked home from the movie theatre (because the rest of my host family was at another birthday party). Sunday evening I ate pizza and skyped my mom and grandparents.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Санкт-Петербург, Россия (Saint Petersburg, Russia)

Me in front of this cool, famous church
I recently went on a Rotary organized trip to my holy city. (That was an attempt at being funny…because my name is Peter)
The first day of the trip started just before four o’clock in the morning when I woke up. I slowly packed up my final things and then hopped into the care with my host mom to drive to Seinäjoki, where the bus would depart. At five, the bus’s wheels started rolling. Most of the Finns to whom I told that I was going to Pietari (St. Petersburg in Finnish) were all very surprised to hear that I was going by bus; it is faster, easier, and more convenient to travel by train.
For the first couple of hours on the bus, I tried sleeping when it wasn’t interrupted with conversation amongst the exchange students. Our first stop was in Tampere to pick up a lot more students. Then we made another stop a few hours later in Lahti. This trip was my first time meeting most of the new Australian students and the one new Kiwi. I had already met the three who are in my district, two of whom live in Seinäjoki. The bus trip itself was pretty uneventful. Other than meeting the new people and just general chatting, nothing happened.
We stopped in a town just before the border to eat lunch and exchange some money. The other two buses came just a short while after us and there were lots of reconnections and new introductions. The border crossing was sort of interesting. We needed to go through one building to check out of Finland; then we drove a little bit (over the actual border) and had to go through another building to enter Russia. Almost everyone had a tourist visa for Russia, with a few exceptions because some nationalities don’t require one to visit Russia. We stopped at a gas station a short way from the border to buy provisions: for me it was a big bottle of water and a chocolate bar.
Jonathan and me in front of "my" throne
We arrived at the hotel after driving into St. Petersburg at night. I think big cities always look really cool at night: with all of the buildings and monuments lit up. We ate our dinner and just hung out for the evening. My roommate was Jonathan from Australia who lives in Seinäjoki.
We spent lots of Friday in museums. The first was the world renowned Hermitage Museum situated in the Winter Palace. It is the largest museum in Russia and thirteenth largest in the world. Some rooms were filled with old paintings; others were furnished with furniture from the era when the palace was used. The palace first started construction under the reign of Peter the Great, the museum was founded by Catherine the Great. For lunch we all went to the same restaurant; I think the cuisine was Moroccan but I’m not really sure. In the afternoon we went to the Kunstkamera, aka Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography. It is basically Peter the Great’s collection of oddities and curiosities. For example, there was a human fetus with two heads, a placenta with five human fetuses, and other really disturbing stuff. There was also a large globe (diameter of about 8 feet).
Some of the dancers
Friday evening we went to see a Russian folk dancing show. It was really good! There was an a capella men’s singing group, a folk band, and some more folk singers, and two dance groups. The show was filled with energy. One of the chaperones and one of the students were brought onto stage to participate in the show.
All of the Canadians on the trip, standing on the river
On Saturday we had a tour of the city: “the highlights of the highlights” as our tour guide said several times. We visited several churches which were of the Russian Orthodox denomination and drove past the important buildings and monuments in the town while getting a bit of a Russian history lesson. During the entire trip to Russia and especial on this tour I started picking up several letters of the Cyrillic alphabet. I started recognizing familiar words even though they looked totally different. Saturday afternoon we had some free time in the shopping district.
Me and my bus buddy and new Aussie friend Danika at the ballet
That evening we went to the ballet. Most people got dressed up. I wore full suit and tie. I wish that the ballet had been a classical, well-known show like Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Instead it was a contemporary ballet set to the music of Bach. I didn’t really understand lots of the show. But one number in particular stood out in my mind. It was with a dancer in the role of Bach playing his famous cello suite, and the cello was another dancer. It was really interesting to see how the dancer interpreting being both a musical instrument and the music which it produces.
Sunday was the long drive home. We left about nine o’clock or so in the morning. In the middle of the night the time change happened in Finland (a couple weeks before in Canada), but not in Russia. This confused some people and the alarms on their cell phone. 
My Russian dolls
We drove to Vyborg, which used to be the largest city of Eastern Finland but Karelia was lost to Russia during the Second World War. We went to a market hall where I purchased my souvenirs for the trip: a couple of matryoshka dolls (where you open one up and there is a smaller one, and inside that is a smaller one…). I actually bartered with the merchant in Finnish. Even though I knew instantly that her mother language was Russian, I hadn’t spoken Finnish for almost the duration of the trip and I needed to practice. While in St. Petersburg I bought and wrote some postcards, but I forgot to send them. I briefly looked around the market hall but couldn’t find any post boxes. I asked (in Finnish) a lady trying to sell scarves if she knew where the closest one was. She offered to take my cards and mail them because she wasn’t sure where one was. I was very hesitant, but the bus was about to leave, so I gave the cards to her. Then I decided to also give the loose change in my pocket to say thanks. I gave about 30 roubles which is roughly 1€ or $1.30. I really didn’t think they would ever get sent but it was worth a shot. One of the cards was to my host family, and they received it yesterday.
The rest of the trip was pretty much a reverse of Thursday. We drove across the border, again going to one building to leave Russia, driving, and then another building to enter Finland. We ate lunch at the same restaurant near the border. Then the goodbyes started. Goodbyes always take a really long time when you have a group of exchange students. Then the three buses went their separate ways. We stopped at Hesburger for dinner and arrived in Seinäjoki at about 11:30 pm.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Maaliskuu on tullut ja mennyt (March has come and gone)

Kauhavan kirkko.
Minä haluan sanoa aluksi, että olen pahoillani kaikille joka eivät osaa suomea. Ehkä Google-kääntäjä voi auttaa teitä. Tänään minä yritän jotain erilaista. Tämä koko teksti on suomeksi. Minun suomen kielikoe oli pari päivää sitten ja minun täytyi harjoitella kirjoittamaan suomea. Jos sinä huomaat ongelmia, että olen kirjoittanut väärin toistuvasti, kerrothan minulle. Huomatkaa suomalaiset, että tämä on harjoitukseksi eli olkaa kilttejä ja älkää olko ”kielioppi natseja”. Kiitoksia.
Vau! Maaliskuu meni todella nopeasti. Ja minä olin huono blogi kirjoittaja (vain yksi koko kuukaudessa). Minä tein paljon asioita, mutta en muista niitä kaikkia koska minun päiväni olivat normaaleja. Niin kuin olen jo kertonut minä olen ollut kuoron, orkesterin ja myös näytelmän harjoituksissa. Siis olen ollut kiireinen.
Eräänä lauantaina pari viikkoa sitten oli kirkkokuorokurssi seurakuntatalossa. Eteläpohjalaisia kirkkokuoro laulajia tuli tälle kuorokurssille, joka oli Kauhavalla. Ehkä kurssilla oli kaksi- tai kolmesataa laulajaa. Toukokuussa on iso kuoro juhla Jyväskylässä. Täällä kurssilla me opimme lauluja, joita lauletaan juhlassa. En tiedä menenkö juhlaan laulamaan, koska olen vaihto-oppilas ja minun suunnitelmani vaihtavat usein.
Meidän näytelmämme, ”Pohjalaisia”, valmistuu. Minun roolini on aika pieni. Minä olen häjy, eli eteläpohjalainen mies, joka on vihainen. Laulaminen näytelmässä on vaikeaa koska minun täytyy laulaa ulkoa ja ei vain suomeksi - vaan eteläpohjanmaaksi. 
Kauhavalla on kaksi Rotaryklubia: minun klubini ja toinen, joka syntyi viime vuonna. Minun lukion rehtori muutti tammikuussa toiseen klubiin ja hän kysyi minulta voinko kertoa heille Kanadasta. Ei ollut paljon henkilöitä, mutta puhuin enemmän kuin neljäkymmentä minuuttia vain suomeksi. No ehkä viisi sanaa englanniksi.
Koulussa oli hyvä kuukausi. Tunnit ovat nyt kivoja koska minä ymmärrän mistä puhumme ja voin oppia jotain. Kemian työkurssin ymmärtäminen oli vähän vaikeaa mutta kurssi oli hauska koska minä sain tehdä kokeita. Minun äidinkielen kurssini meni myös ihan hyvin. Kun oli minun ensimmäinen esitys luokalle se oli hermoja raastavaa. En tiennyt kun esitin, että minä puhuin ainakin kymmenen minuuttia enemmän kuin piti. Viime viikolla oli puhekoe. Minä sain aiheeni ja minulla oli vain kaksikymmentä minuuttia aikaa valmistua, mutta se oli kaksi kerta enemmän kuin muilla oli. Puheeni oli isälleni hänen viidentenäkymmenentenä syntymäpäivänänsä.
Tein niitä keksiä yksin. Maapakinavoisuukkoja.
Tiistaina menin ystävälle syömään veripalttua. Se oli...syötävää. Me leivoimme myös keksiä. Tämä perhe (Kalle, Ilkka, ja Heli) on minun seuraava isäntäperhe.
Eilen oli kielikoe Seinäjoella. Minä päätin puolitoista kuukautta sitten, että haluan yrittää tehdä keskitason koetta. Minä tykkään haasteista ja luulin että se voisi mennä hyvin. Olin väärässä. Tuo koe oli vaikein koe, jonka olen tehnyt koko elämässäni. Saan minun numeroni kahden kuukauden kuluttua. Ehkä pääsen läpi, mutta luulen että se meni tosi huonosti.
Minun lukiollani on projektiviikko pääsiäisen jälkeen. Minä menen viikoksi Berliiniin, Saksaan, koulukavereiden kanssa. Olen innostunut Berliinin matkasta. Kahdeksantoista oppilasta ja kaksi opettajaa lukiostani lähtevät sinne. Minä olen joutunut tekemään töitä elokuvateatterissa koska me saamme rahaa Rotarylta, jonka elokuvateatteri on.
Minun seuraava blogikirjoitus on Pietarin matkastani, joka oli vaihto-oppilaiden kanssa. Varmasti se on englanniksi, mutta yritän kirjoittaa jotain suomeksi.
Kiitos kaikille lukemisesta.