We’ve been in Finland just over three months and there has been snow on the ground since the last week of November. I can admit it, I’m sick of winter. On our recent Winter Break trip to Paris, Gabriel declared Paris was his favorite place ever. When I asked him why he thought that, he said it was because it wasn’t snowing. This was just after Lily had expressed complete glee that she didn’t have to wear her snow pants for a few days. Is it spring yet?
In short, no. The temps have been hovering at or below 0F (-17C) for the past several weeks and although it’s supposed to “warm up” tomorrow, we’ve probably got another solid month before I can even start to wish for melting snow, let alone something green to break up the blinding sheet of white (ah yes, when it’s this cold, it’s brilliantly sunny, which does in fact make the snow blinding). It feels idiotic to complain about the cold and the snow since we live in Finland, which is not exactly known for its tropical temperatures. However, I console myself with the fact that even the Finns are complaining about this bitter weather.
One of the things people often ask is what we miss from home. The answer is, other than family and friends, precious little. We’ve found most of the comforts we crave although anyone who comes to visit would be welcomed to bring us some of our favorite guacamole seasoning, refried beans, boxed mac-n-cheese, and ice-cube trays. Yes, I said ice-cube trays. Yes, I am smiling at the great irony that in the land of freaking ice and snow, the ice-cube trays are…unsatisfactory. Our flat came with one tiny dorm-room fridge-sized tray that has been inadequate in many ways. I recently embarked on a shopping trip to Stockmann, the great (if over-priced) Mecca of all you could need in this world. And I purchased a new, big, fancy silicon ice-cube tray for 13 Euros (~$20). It is with great sadness that I report that it, too, is a piece of shit. Are there no good ice-cube trays in Finland? WTF?
Adjustment to our new home continues. Matt & I have both started taking Finnish lessons with a private tutor, and both have agreed that our brains feel scrambled at the end of each session. I can now count to ten, exchange all the usual hello/goodbye/how are you pleasantries, say the days of the week, and have even started to conjugate verbs and put together very basic sentences in Finnish. I’m adding to my food vocabulary on an almost daily basis, and haven’t ordered anything too awful from the organic food coop we’ve found (which only has parts of its site translated to English). Words that I actually understand are popping up with increasing rapidity as I eaves-drop my way through town. But I have a long way to go, and traveling to Paris, where I understood almost everything, was a welcomed relief.
We’re still anxiously awaiting news with regards to Lily’s spot at the International School next year. Although I tried to be zen about her not getting in this year since we moved in mid-year and since Nokia wouldn’t pay for a 4 year old to go anyway, I will be less so if she doesn’t get in for Kindergarten. Cross your fingers for us. Gabriel has really been thriving at ISH and I am really hoping Lily will be able to do so as well next year. While she enjoys her current play school, it’s definitely more of a structured play time than a school and she’s anxious to work on her letters and her reading, so we’ve been doing that at home since they don’t really work much on that at school.
The picture at the beginning of this post was taken this month at the International Party they do each year at ISH. This is the kids’ interpretation of what “dressing American” is like, which I thought was pretty funny. My investigation of my own cultural identity crisis continues even as we teach the children about different cultures and what it means to be American.
This week marked the fifteen year anniversary of the day Matt & I met. We were lucky enough to spend that day in Paris, just as we had fifteen years ago. A milestone like that makes me take stock and appreciate all that we’ve done together over the years–it’s been quite a ride so far and the next fifteen years look to be just as interesting. Although I had one of those gut feelings that told me he was the one for me soon after we met, I never could have anticipated what the bit after the “happily ever after” looked like. There’s surprisingly little that I would change, and certainly nothing of consequence.