Monday, December 22, 2008

#3.1 Another trip to Oulu

The weekend they left I got an email from the AFS Oulu chapter. They were having a meeting the weekend after Ivy and Domi left, and i definitely wanted to go and get a chance to see everyone again. The meeting was on a Saturday and I was planning on catching an early morning train there and then taking the last train home. I talked to One of the Italian exchange students there, he said that his host family could pick me up from the train station and go back and have breakfast at their home before going out to the meeting.


My dad took me to the train station very early that morning, the train left at 7. He asked if he should go inside with me, but I thought I could handle a ticket transaction in Finnish, so I said no thanks. When I got inside I was shocked to find it deserted. The ticket booths were all closed with a sign that said they didn't open until 9:00. There were some automatic machines in the corner, but I couldn't figure out how to use it (it was in Finnish). I Looked at the big clock on the wall, I had 5 minutes till the train left. I started to panic. I went out the back and onto the train platform. I asked a maintenance guy where the train to Oulu was and he pointed it out to me.

Not Wanting the train to leave with out me I got on. There weren't many people on it, but i found a comfortable seat next to a window. I had planed to enjoy the ride, maybe take a nap, but i was still in a state of panic. I didn't have a Ticket!!! The train lurched and then started to pick up momentum. I Knew that any minute the conductor guy would come out and ask for tickets. What would they do when they found out that I didn't have one? Would they make me get off at the next stop? I couldn't call anyone to ask, to early. And my dad couldn't help because I didn't know how to explain it to him.Should I hide in the Bathroom, that always worked in movies right? But they would find me for sure. Would the Finnish police get involved? Oh god that would mean that AFS would kick me out! I was going home, I was sure of it. I Didn't want to go! not yet! I was desperate. It a last attempt I walked through the nearly empty train trying to find someone who didn't look too scary. I went over to a young woman with headphones on. I was breaking the invisible Finnish protocol now. You didn't bother strangers. You keep to yourself. I asked her If she spoke English, my nerves couldn't take a conversation in Finnish right now. "Can you buy your tickets from the man who comes to check them?" I asked. "Yes you can." Whhhoooooshhhhh. Ah Wow that was intense. I was so relived, you have no Idea. I went back to my seat and tried to relax.


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The Man came by And I bought the tickets, no problem. I spent the rest of the train ride trying to calm myself back down again. The train ride took about 3 hours. The scenery was getting too be so familiarly Finnish. I got of in Oulu and waited on the platform for Filippo to come and find me. As I was waiting I ran into A German AFS exchange Student living in Kemi, she was going to the same meeting that i was. We had a whole conversation in Finnish! It was soo cool! We just talked about basic things like "what was your name again, sorry I forgot" ,"What rain are you taking home", "who are you meeting here", and "I'll see you at the meeting later." I felt so international ha ha!


I met Filippo and his host mom. They lived about 15 Km out of Oulu in a suburb called Kemplele or something like that. He had two younger siblings. We had the oh so traditional open faced rye bread sandwiches with butter cheese and cucumbers on it. I had a nice conversation with his mom and dad. I couldn't help comparing his family to mine. After we ate I got a tour of the house. Very modern, most Finnish homes are, with the exception of my cabin. After the tour Filippo and I left to go catch the bus into the city.


We walked around the city. The last time I had been there there wasn't much time for sight seeing. This time we wandered for hours looking into shops. It was cool to be in a (kinda) big(ish) city again. There were a lot of people. The city is older then Rovaniemi, it has cobblestones and narrow streets with architecture from the 1800's. We went to Stockman's, the quintessential Finnish Megastore that has everything from high fashion to a variety of toilet cleaners. The building was massive, with rotating doors that could fit 2 or three shopping carts. The building was 4 stories tall, and each floor held its own secrets. There were even like these half stories in between the floors. And there were other stores inside so you could find yourself in a different one without even realizing it. It was really cool. Even though I was in a different city that was crowded, I still ran into some one else I know. The Thai exchange student and his friend. crazy! Finland is such a small country, people wise.

It was just about time to meet up with AFS. We met in the square in the middle, there were about 10-20 people from all over. We stood in a cluster and started talking in many different languages. I was surprised to see the New Zealand girl there. We started talking, but it was kinda unfair cause every one could understand when we were talking to each other, but we couldn't when they started speaking German or french or Italian. So Unfair! Freaking multilingual Europeans man!. There was one Swiss boy who I was particularly jealous of. He spoke Swiss German, German ( both north and south dialects) Flemish, Italian, French, English and now he was working on Finnish! So He could understand what every one was saying and he transitioned smoothly between languages.

We went to a cafe' that was on the top floor of Stockman's. AFS paid for one cup of coffee for us each. We sat and talked for hours about Finland and home and everything in between. I think this is one of the coolest parts about being an exchange student, just mixing with people from all over the world and drinking good finish coffee and meeting all their friends. I love It. I didn't want to go home, but the last train left at 5:30, which was much to early for me. I asked around and Ashleigh from New Zealand said I could spend the night with her, even though she lived about an hours bus ride away. I called my dad and he said it was ok. The place closed at about 6, and half of us left anyways.


We found another coffee shop and we stayed there the rest of the night. one of the kids had brought their laptop and we spent a while watching funny YouTube videos. Which goes to show that where ever you go these days teens are pretty much the same, connected through the Internet. Then we started up a conversation about minorities that have been persecuted throughout history, maybe not one of the favorite subjects of teens, but we all had something to say about it. Then we moved on to Politics. And the subject of Obama came up. At this point he had been elected. They were tentative about asking me my opinion of him, asking first if it was ok if they asked a personal question. I wasn't so shy about giving them my opinion though. Everyone here is surprisingly supportive of Obama, they're all up to date on what was going on. And they all had something to say about Palin And McCain also... I don't know if you heard about the comment Italy's president made about Obama, but every Italian I meet here (and i know quite a few) tells me about it. He said something along the lines of "yes a very handsome young man with a nice tan." Europe was outraged by that comment and immediately shot him down for that statement, making people ashamed to be Italian for a while.



The elections were a big deal here. I remember I woke up at about 5 in the morning so I could follow them on the Internet. I later found out that most of Finland, and perhaps the world, had done the same thing. I was over joyed when I found out! In the car ride that morning my dad was intently listening to a Finnish news station where they played back some of his speech. In My English class that morning the teacher asked me to do an impromptu presentation on American politics and about Obama. But before that she asked the class what they already knew about him, quite a lot. they new his age and occupation before running and a lot more. They are very informed people. People would come up to me in the halls that I had never talked to before and ask me my opinion. It was crazy. See I bet you can't even name the president of Finland? And they know about ours and the names about half of Europe's.


(By the was Finland's president is Tarja Halonen. She is currently serving her second 6 year term. She was one of the first female president in the EU)


They also knew a lot about the huge plunge the stock market had just taken, and how it effected Europe. Pretty much the entire country of Iceland is now bankrupt, and many countries are suffering from their investments. The news is full of frantic politicians trying to come up with a scheme that will help them. For me personally it means that my currency keeps changing its value. When I first got here it was about 1.2$ to 1€ but now it went up to nearly 1.4$ to 1€. Its a pain, Finland being already expensive enough for Finns without this currency gap.
Anyways.......At 8.00 this cafe' also kicked us out because we were under 18 and they were about to start serving alcohol. We had to catch out bus anyways, so we said our goodbyes and set off to find the bus station at night in a foreign city. Easy as pie. We compared our slang on the ride to her place. Zealandese has a mix between American and British slang. but all her E's sound like I's, which makes her incredibly hard to be understood by the Italians, who make fun of her constantly. She also calls dinner 'Tea time" which I think is ridiculous because there is no actual tea consumed at this time.


Ashleigh loves her family. She got really lucky. Her host family actually came and visited her in New Zealand before she came here. Amazing! We looked up the bus schedule for the next morning, uh oh. The only bus out left at 7 and got me in Oulu by 8, my train left at noon uhk. That Sunday was 'Isänpäivä' fathers day (yes in November) So all the shops were bound to be closed. They were.


I found my self alone in an almost deserted city wandering through the narrow cobbled stoned and foggy streets. It was almost magical. I covered the center of the city twice, up and down, it took me 3 hours to do it. Everything was closed, but I mapped out where I would want to go next time i was here. i wouldn't get lost here either. I found some pretty cool things that I took pictures of. Finally noon rolled around, but you could hardly tell because of the fog. This time i bought my ticket form the lady at the train station, I don't think she noticed that I wasn't Finnish. I only understood like 1/3 of what she was saying when she gave my a few sheets of paper, but I smiled and nodded and it seamed to be enough. I got on the train and had a look at what she gave me, but everything seamed to be in order, plus there was a booklet with all the timetables for trains In and out of Oulu.

I told my dad happy fathers day and gave him an Origami card I had made. He asked my about my trip, and I was able to give him some details, and he seamed happy with that. I was almost done with my 2nd course in Finnish, but i was nowhere as good as I had hoped to be at this point. I can understand much more then I can say, and saying it is the hardest part for me, major confidence issues.

School was going well also I guess. Its just a bit monotonous and boring when you cant learn much from it. I was enjoying my 2 art classes however! I started to see the other exchange students out side of Finnish lessons more often. We would go somewhere afterwards for coffee or something. Sometimes they would bring their friends and sometimes I would, until we had this pretty cool interlocked group of friends. It was the end of the 2nd Jakso and the tests were coming up, and I though i might be able to do alright on them. It was just at this point that things were looking up for me socially and academically it was time to leave for a two week trip to the Spanish Canary islands off the coast of western Africa with my host family.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

VOIIII IHANA. I love Oulu. I was living in Ii from 06-07. I miss it so much!!