Monday, February 16, 2009

#4.2 Christmas Town!

Rovaniemi Finland is the capital of Christmas. Every year around 50,000 eager tourists pay a visit to this winter wonderland, and to Santa's official residence on the arctic circle. Now keep in mind that there's only about 60,000 permanent residents, so it was pretty crowded. It was weird to be in the city and hear snipits of conversations in British English or German or Russian. After a few weeks I was sick of all the tourists. In the center of town in front of Sampokeskus they put up a giant Christmas tree, and tourists could be seen pulling their kids in sleighs around it. They also set up rows of booth where people sold over priced touristy items like Sami made woolly mittens and socks as well as bits of reindeer horns and pelts. They were always crowded by eager tourists, anxious to spend there money to show people back home that they had survived for a few days of life in the cold and dark arctic circle. I found them really annoying for some reason!You could instantly tell the tourists apart from the natives. Most of them were wearing unfashionable one piece snowsuits obviously borrowed from the hotel to cope with the sub zero (Celsius) temperatures. Where as the native Finns were resplendent in their oh so fashionable coats and voluminous scarfs, draped just so, and cute little hats and mittens. The freezing temperatures gave them a bit of color in their pallid faces that seams to be missing the rest of the year. The contrast was comical. I wondered where I fit in in these things. Did I look like a native or not? I had that question answered a few times over when different people came up to me and asked questions about where to find certain things in English, and I was able to give them directions. Sometimes they would thank me by saying an awkward 'Kiitos!' (Thank you in Finnish) It sounded cute and unnecessary to my ears.

It was getting cold and dark. I really started to notice it when one day I walked to the city after school at about 2:00pm and the sun was setting quickly and the temperature was a bone chilling -22 Degrees Celsius (thats about -10ish degrees Fahrenheit) When your outside at in that temperature you freeze after about 5 steps. The cold is complete and all encompassing. Your face feels like its going to fall right off. The snot in your nose freezes after a minute or 2 and you have these little icicles tickling your nose, its pretty gross when you go inside and they melt. I had a lot of Finns tell me that when they were kids it would regularly go down to -30 C, but because of global warming, that doesn't often happen during the day.
The days were really short now, only an hour or so of daylight. I kinda liked it. It makes everything inside feel so much cozier, and it's easier to sleep. It was about then, when it was at its darkest that my Host Dad decided to pack up and go to the Mökki ('summer cottage') for Christmas!

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