Hi, or Hej, to everyone!
I know, I know, hej is Swedish, but I’ve been living in a Swedish speaking region of the country, so I’ve picked up just a bit more Swedish then Finnish so far (not at all due to the incredible difference in difficulties between the two languages). My summer has been different then the other girls as I’ve been lucky enough to spend my summer on Kimitoön Island. Unfortunately, this means I haven’t spent it with the rest of the girls, but I’ve had some cool opportunities out here to make that okay!
As for my work experience, Kasper and Amy Lindroos, two past members of the exchange I’m sure some of you know, hired me to work on their farm/B&B this summer. Farm work is familiar to me, considering I grew up on a small farm in Kelowna, BC. However, the life of a Finnish archipelago farmer turned out to be a little different then what I’m used to back home. For one thing, you might expect to spend time in fields because of plants; but, it has not been plants I’ve spent countless hours in the field for, it is rocks. When I send my updated resume to future employers I hope that’s what they’re most confused about, the description of ‘expert rock picker.’ I don’t know if I can even remember all the things I’ve done around the farm the past two months, but as a brief overview they include cutting down trees, helping build a fence, weed-whacking under a fence, painting Kasper and Amy’s home, and last but not least, working in the pig barn. Speaking of the pig barn, one of this summer’s most memorable moments occurred while working in there. On my second Monday of work I was removing iron pipes from the walls of the barn with Kasper when I proceeded to fall backwards, into a deep, dark hole, more aptly described as a well, of fermenting pig poo. If anyone has a story of more encounters with gross matter from their exchange, I’d love to hear it!
Outside of work, my time on the Archipelago has been incredible. This past weekend we went on a boat trip to Öro Island, and it was incredible to experience both more of the Archipelago and what seems to be a common summer getaway out here; time on the boat. On Öro there was tons to explore and learn, I found it interesting how it has always played an important role in the defense of Finland, up to as recently as 2015, and because of this houses 6″ and 12″ guns installed by Russians. These guns are not what you’d typically imagine as guns, the 12″ for example, was as long as a semi trailer and weighed something like 50,000kg. As far as exploring, I managed to find some areas to climb that I definitely wasn’t supposed to be climbing, (old military sites and bunkers in various states of disrepair) something the members of the exchange who were a part of our road trip will tell you I have a knack for. Other then Öro, I have gotten to kayak the sea around Kimitoön, spend a morning at the Baltic Jazz festival in Dalsbruk, and experience the Storfinnhova smoke sauna with a traditional midsummer meal!
Along with all I have had the opportunity to do and experience so far, I thought I’d talk about some pieces of Finland and my summer that I didn’t expect. First, the number of things you have to watch out for: vipers, needles (a plant that gives a nasty, painful, rash), bacteria in the soil, toxic algae, and crazy strong UV rays. On the positive side, I knew the berries over here were going to be good, but I didn’t realize how good. The wild Finnish blueberries are everywhere and amazing, and the wild strawberries are actually addictive. I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied with berries back in Canada again! I also love the sea, more then I expected too. Growing up an Kalamalka lake girl, I have always been biased, but the Baltic sea on a calm, sun filled day has a certain magic that is undeniable. Finally, when I was younger, I told my mom my dream was to move to Europe and buy a road bike. Little did I know that in order to train this summer (I’m a part of the UofT women’s hockey team) I’d be halfway to that dream. The bike I’ve been using isn’t quite a road bike, and I haven’t exactly moved here yet, but after this summer in Finland I believe that dream is possible.
This weekend I’m off to Norway to hike some mountains that have long been on my bucket list, and then I’m looking forward to making the most of my last two weeks in Finland. It’s been an amazing experience so far, and I’m thankful to have met so many cool people along the way!