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Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

Culture shock is a bit like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for me. One day, I’m flying off the handle because Matt is working long hours, I can’t find the post office, had a run in with the bus driver, the kids are fussing at me, etc., etc., and the next, I have a perfectly wonderful–perfectly normal–day.

So if you were on the receiving end of one of my grumpier/whinier/bitter emails, I apologize. Thanks for humoring me and letting me vent, and know that I’m not nuts. At least, not more nuts than I was when I left for Finland. I’m at a point where one bad trip to the grocery store (like Monday, when I couldn’t get the shopping cart to release from its brethren and lost my Euro, then forgot to weigh my leek & cucumber at the produce aisle and had to relinquish them to the checkout girl) is enough to ruin my day–Dr. Jekyll–and one good trip to the grocery store (remembered to weigh the leek & cucumber this time, successfully freed the shopping cart, AND found the granola bars that had been evading me on previous trips) makes me feel like I have figured it all out/conquered Finland/am an international traveling badass–Mr. Hyde.

It’s warmer today, right at zero C after several days in the negatives, so I decided to leave my hair curly this morning and wear my headband instead of my hat when I shuttled the kids off to school. You know, take advantage of the “warm weather” while it lasts. Har har.

It’s been snowing since Thursday, which I’ve been told is an unusually early freeze-up even by Finnish standards. We’ve got about 8 inches now and it’s still coming down. They’ve been keeping up with the plowing for the most part but today, either because the snow was still coming down or because they finally fell behind after near-constant plowing, the roads and sidewalks were not clear for the walk/tram/bus to school this morning and the tram was late, so we dropped G off at school a bit late and headed out again to take Lily to her school.

In addition to the snow, it’s also windy. Very windy. And it’s about a third of a mile walk to the bus from Gabriel’s school, so Lily wasn’t happy and I ended up carrying her part way. By the time I got on the bus, I was frazzled, but also prepared for the usual strange stares I get when we get on the bus. First, my coat is bright pink/purple, which I think is acceptable for teens here, but not so much for adults. Second, aforementioned curly hair is a bit of an anomaly here. Third, Lily often speaks VERY LOUDLY in English as we’re getting on the bus, thus illuminating a giant “ALIEN” sign over our heads.

So I was expecting the looks. But then I caught a look at myself in the rearview mirror of the bus. Holy Arctic Medusa! My hair had been blown up in the wind and then, seriously, frozen there. I wish I had a picture (and those Finns on the bus with me probably do too!). By the time I got to Lily’s school, it had melted and returned to more or less normal, but I think I’ll be wearing a hat this afternoon when I go to collect them from school!

In other news, I’ve bought an English-Finnish dictionary and a Berlitz Finnish CD to get me started while I wait to get signed up for language lessons. Google Translate does not seem to handle the endless prefixes and suffixes that make up Finnish very well, so I needed something a little better for my studies. Wish me luck!

5 Responses to Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

  1. Amber

    holy guacamole that’s a lot of snow!
    I know you’ve lived abroad before, so been-there-done-that, but this made me remember when I moved to France as a student. Every day it was something different, like the cashier at a shop hasseling me because I wanted the one euro that was the difference between the product I was returning and the one I bought in exchange. I had a lot of melt-down moments, even though I spoke the language decently and the culture itself isn’t that vastly different. I started counting the things that felt like a kick in the gut that happened to me every day, and then counting the things that felt like success — not getting lost, successfully answering somebody’s question on the street, finding what I was looking for, making it to the post during working hours, etc. Eventually the “successes” started outweighing the “failures” and I stopped focusing on where I was messing up and let myself start to enjoy the world around me.

    I’d say for having only been there for a matter of days, you are doing an awesome job. Don’t worry if you have your Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde moments. They make for good stories to tell later that you can laugh about, and they remind you how far you’ve come.

    As for language learning and exchanges, have you ever heard of CouchSurfing.org? It’s a website designed to give people a free place to stay as they visit the world, but it’s also designed to put people in contact with each other for coffee/visiting/whatever (you sign up for as much as you are willing to offer). You might be able to find some Finns who are interested in having a chat, or some other expats living in your area that could give you a hand. Just a thought :)

  2. Nicole

    I just realized you’re updating the blog! I’m not getting it in my reader and I’ve been a sporadic FB checker lately! Glad I checked so I could see this!

    I wish I could have seen your hair!!

    I love hearing about your adventures!

  3. Julie

    Yeah, I’m still blogging more blog-like posts over on TerminalVerbosity.com, but I’m doing more journal-type personal posts here. I like the idea of keeping them separate, thinking that mostly my friends IRL will read this one as most people in the blogosphere would not be so interested in my ramblings!

    Urgh, the hair was a nightmare, but I was even funnier that afternoon because I was wearing three scarves as I went to pick up the kids. One for me, and one for each of them since I forgot to put them on them this morning and it was still blowing snow like crazy this afternoon! I looked like a total dork, and the old ladies on the bus definitely commented on it. For once I was glad to be blissfully unaware of what they were saying ;)

    Amber, I’ll check out couchsurfing–I didn’t realize it had a second purpose that could be useful!

  4. Melisa Egusa

    Aloha Julie,
    So many thanks for your blog! I am in awe of your adventures and the new chapter in Helsinki. It is impressive that you have learned so much, so quickly…and the children are amazing with what they have picked up so far! Another few weeks and you will look back and laugh…okay…maybe in a month or two! In the meantime, please feel free to fly over to Kauai if you need a sunshine break – we have lots of it this week!
    Much love to all!

  5. Salina Gonzales Frazier

    Julie loved your post! I feel like that most weeks and I’m not even in a foreign country (though I personally would consider that debateable in Spokane). But in all seriousness love your stories and your tenacity and adventure! Your kids are so lucky to have you guys as parents and to have this experience! It will get better and soon the good days will far outweigh the bad ones!

    I have to admit the hair episode on the bus is priceless though!!

    Salina

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