Ryan’s summer in Finland

Yo. I was blissfully enjoying my vacation when Jonathan roped me into writing this blog post about my summer. Thankfully at least one of us is still responsible as I honestly forgot that the majority of my summer was spent working since it was so fun it seemed like a continuous vacation. But of course, all good things have to end and now is the perfect time to reflect on a few unforgettable months spent on Kasper and Amy’s farm and bed & breakfast (Vestlax Mellangård – shameless promo, go check em out, they open every weekend throughout the year now!).

As some of y’all may know, I spent the summer working and living with Kasper and Amy, both alumni of the exchange, their two adorable kids, Forth and Lucy, and the always barking, belly rub loving dog Yalla. In the peaceful farm nestled in the rolling hills of Kimito Island, I spent my summer waking up to cows mooing outside my window and horseflies giving me voracious kisses all over my body. My main job was preparing breakfast and setting rooms for the bed & breakfast. Each morning I would start my day at 0730 to serve the guests breakfast. The two rooms were almost always full each day with many Finns and travellers from abroad stopping by the farm during their vacations. I had the chance to practice my French, taste Austrian jam, and learn about what Finns like to do on vacation from the variety of guests we had through our doors. After clearing down breakfast and the mandatory coffee break (I did not get hooked on caffeine but instead discovered a dangerously unhealthy love for lactose-free butter on Amy’s home baked buns), I moved through a daily routine of cleaning the rooms, changing the sheets, doing the laundry, and vacuuming. Occasionally I would find myself with a miscellaneous concoction of farm jobs that range from moving trees to mowing and trimming to cleaning windows. Although I did crash the mower on my very first day, I was Tokyo drifting the ting by the end of July. Grass did not stand a chance.

Since I worked six to six and a half days a week, I usually ended early in the afternoon and had the chance to frequent Kasper’s enormous sports hall. This thing fits a full-sized tennis court with room to spare. Being on an island, the sea was a short but crotch breaking bike ride away and was the perfect place to cool off after a day’s work. I occasionally cooked lunch or dinner for the family as we exchanged cuisines and I got to try plenty of traditional Finnish food while sharing some from my Asian background. Kasper being a farmer had of course the best meats and I was spoiled to plenty of oxtail, cow tongue, in-house charcuterie, and dry aged steaks. Their organic farm was full of salad (lettuce for y’all Toronto yutes) and the best strawberries I’ve ever had, with the nearby forest teeming with wild blueberries.

One thing I did not pick up was any Finnish or Swedish. The kids would constantly quiz me on my Swedish and I felt like I was suffering back in Chinese school again as I got word after word wrong. Whether they were laughing with me or at me while I tried to speak Swedish, I will never know. Despite being a two and a half hour transit from Helsinki, I had plenty of chances to visit the other Canadians and Finns and spend time in the city. Hiking and camping, boat rides, shooting rifles, Midsummer BBQs, many sauna visits were just some of the many Finnish things that dotted my summer in this beautiful country. My experience was no doubt wilder (literally) than the other Canadians but it is one that I wouldn’t’ve traded for anything. Not a drop of city life. Just the forest, the sea, a loving family, potatoes, and flies. So. Many. Flies. I can’t wait to come back. Just maybe in the fall.

Text and pictures by Ryan Wang

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