Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Hello again! As the holiday season comes upon us, I want to wish you all a Hyvää Joulua (Merry Christmas) and an Hyvää Uutta Vuotta (Happy New Year) !

Lenni in a seasonal outfit

Minun Perhe / My Family

Anyways, WAAAAAAAAAY back in the beginning of November, I switched over to my second host family, the Virolainen* family.  They live outside of town, on the edge of the farmland, and next to forests, which makes for a nice view. Considering that it's about 3 kilometers to school (roughly 1.8 miles) I'm quite happy for the scenery. I have a bedroom on the second floor, which is separated from my host sister Annuka's room by a common room. Annukka (16) is in the first grade of lukio as well, and I hang out with her at school. She's really sweet, and it's nice having someone to bike with to and from school. They have two male dogs, Lenni, a white fuzzball who loves nothing more than to be snuggled, and Otto, a sweet and (in comparison to Lenni) solemn hunting dog. I believe the two are a bichon frise and a Swedish (?) beagle.

My host parents are Marja and Heikki Virolainen. They have both really taken me under taken me under their wings, and it's wonderful having someone to teach you how to knit (Kiitos, Äiti!). Marja is a child therapist in Kauhajoki, and Heikki is an elementary teacher in one of the small towns about 30 minutes away from Kauhajoki. I'm really glad that I've had the chance to stay with them. During November, I had the chance to meet suku (extended family) from both sides: Heikki's mother and sister on Isänpäivä (Father's Day)** and Marja's sister, nephew and oldest son on a weekend trip to Helsinki (I forgot to bring my camera, oops! But I got to spend an entire day running around historical sites and museums, I really enjoyed it). Annu is actually the youngest of three children, and has two older brothers, one who is about thirty and lives in Helsinki, and one who is in his mid-twenties and goes to TU (Tampere University). I met Tuomas (the eldest) briefly in Helsinki, but I'll get to know them more over Christmas, when everyone comes here for the holidays!

*Viro is the Finnish word for Estonia, and Lainen means person or citizen. Despite this, my host family is not from Estonia - it traces back through their lineage from when my host father's family lived in Karelia, a south-eastern part of Finland that is now split between Finland and Russia.
**Father's Day is held on the second Sunday of November each year in Finland.

Marja in NYC over autumn break
(courtesy of  Annu) 


Saturday Morning Breakfast - With American Pancakes!

Noora (left) and Annu (right) sitting behind me in history class

This was taken sometime in mid-November, before the snow came. The driveway goes a ways before reaching the main road, so the whole house is in its own little world. On the second story, you can see Annu's window, mine is on the opposite end of the house.

Our upstairs hangout room! 

PikkuJoulu / Christmas Party

On the Friday before last, the 9th of December, my Rotary club had their Christmas Party. So I went. Christmas are really popular here, and everyone seems to go to multiple parties once December starts! I enjoyed myself there, and it was nice to see my first host family. Also, I won a gift basket! 

Here's me, all dolled-up and in my stockings! I actually did my hair as two braids, then layered them over the top and pinned them up Scandinavian style! 

Notice the posters. They are only one of multiple boards of Rotary club flags from around the world,
 many of which come from exchange students. 

The party was held in a renovated country house from the Turn of the Century. 

This year's club president and others speaking about... Rotary things, I suppose...


Syntymapäivä / Birthday

I had my birthday party on December 2nd, which happened to be the day before I went to Lapland. It was really nice, Annu inviting some of her friends over and my friends coming together. Nothing big, just lots of candy and hanging out. Also, we watched Henkien Kätkemä (Spirited Away) which I am proud to say was in Japanese with only Finnish subtitles. ( I'm not saying this proves that much, considering that Japanese is my most practiced foreign language - but I did rely on the Finnish subtitles from time to time, and it helped me to understand what the dialogue was.)

Hanging out in the kitchen with my friends on my birthday!
From left to right: Bence, Reetta, and Lassi

Everyone who came watching Mythbusters, playing telephone, and hopefully enjoying themselves! 


Mon 14.11.Tue 15.11.Wed 16.11.Thu 17.11.Fri 18.11.
1. European Culture
1. English 1. Advanced Math 2-3. World Religion
8 am
1C. European Culture
1C. European Culture
2-3. World Religion 1. Advanced Math 2-3. World Religion
9 am
10 am1C. English 2-3. World Religion
11 am1. Advanced Math
1. Advanced Math 2-3. World Religion
12 am
1. Advanced Math Finnish lesson for exchange students1B. English 1C. European Culture
1C. European Culture
1 pm1. Advanced Math
2-3. World Religion 1C. European Culture
1B. English 1B. English
2 pm
1. Sports1-3. Cinema1. Art1B. English
1. Sports1-3. Cinema1. Art

This is my third period schedule, of which I am currently taking the koeviikko (test week). It's crazy to think that I'm already half done with the school year, but that's life for you. I have really enjoyed being able to switch courses often and it makes for a good study of numerous topics. But I do miss being able to do big research projects and to be able to fully understand all the material. Not just because my classes are in Finnish (obviously), but because we have to rush through so much material. Of course, it depends upon the class, in particular my history and English classes, where the teacher has given us various out of class projects to work on. Outside of that, the only real graded assignments I seem to get are the final exams, which doesn't boost anyone's confidence much.  

The first year advanced math class, in which students ponder the mysteries of mathematics and stare into the lenses of cameras.  (Iida on the left, myself in the center)

After who knows how many hours of school, you would be falling asleep on history class too! 
(Despite what it looks like, she's actually awake) 

So, again, sorry for the delay, and I'l do my best to write another article soon, probably involving my trip to Lapland with the Rotary Club and Christmas stuff! 
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me. 

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