Saturday, April 28, 2012

Hyvää Pääsiäisiä

Happy Late Easter! We had a long weekend, and just before the break I took my fifth period tests. So I got Thursday and Friday off with that, and Monday off as well, which was nice. Kauhajoki right now is still in a bit of a winter phase - there's the occasional light snow - but spring is just starting to pop up!

This is what the field looked like in the morning after a night snowstorm. In the afternoon, there was no snow! 

I took a day trip to Vaasa with a few of my friends, and we went shopping. Which was fun, even if I didn't buy much. My legs got a workout, at the very least. Vaasa (or Vasa, the Swedish name) is one of Finland's biggest cities (around 60,000 people in the main city). The city is bilingual, with almost a third of the population having Swedish as their first language. A bit of history: Vaasa was the capitol of the White side during the Finnish civil war, in 1918. Helsinki was the base of the Red side. As the reign of the Russian czar fell, the Finns used the chance to escape Russian rule. But the country was divided, particularly between the wealthy upper class and the industrial working class. The rift caused a short but terrible divide between the new country, lasting from January until May. Most still know what side their family was on. The Whites promoted capitalism, and were assisted by Germany, whereas the Reds wanted socialism and were assisted by the newly formed Russia. Long story made short, the Whites won the war, and now on display in Vaasa's city square is a statue of a White soldier holding the heart of the nation, over the defeated Red man. Finnish history is really quite captivating if you look into it! 

The main shopping mall we went to, it's quite big inside. Also, notice the yellow truck in the background. Yes, that is what you think it is - it's a Spongebob van. 

To get to Vaasa it takes an hour and a half bus from Kauhajoki to Seinäjoki, then another hour by train to Vaasa. But the sunset was worth it. 

And now onto Easter. Ha. Many go to church on Easter, although my family did not. It's more or less celebrated similarly to the US, visiting family and friends, lamb as the traditional meat, and decorating eggs. But Finland has mämmi. Similarly to salmiakki (salted black licorice) it is something that is not seen much outside of Finland, and is a love-it-or-hate-it type of food. Or so I've been told. Mämmi is a pudding dessert  made of rye flour and malt. (Personally, I think it's fine, and it tastes a bit like raisins. But beware that opinions may vary!) It has an intimidating and slightly unfortunate look to it. Luckily, it is consumed with sugar and cream, or vanilla sauce, which makes it a decently good treat.

Did I forget to mention on the Saturday before Easter Sunday the Finns also have Halloween? Well, not exactly, but pretty similar. It involves more sticks and sightly less candy. It is held during the day and it really is practiced only by children (and exchange students), parents, and older siblings who help out. There are more crones as well. And money. Anyways, you decorate pajunkissa (pussy willow) branches beforehand, with feathers, painted hollow eggs, glitter (lots of it) and the like. You then dress up (the traditional design is that of a crone, or a witch, but anything goes) go around to the houses of those you know (particularly grandparents) offering them the sticks you have made in exchange for candy (usually chocolate of some sort) or small change ( I managed to get 5 euros!) . Instead of saying trick or treat, you say these lines of poetry:

Virvon, varvon, 
tuoreeks, terveeks, 
tulevaks vuodeks.
Vitsa sulle,
Palkka mulle.

I virvon, I varvon*
As fresh, as healthy,
For the next year.
A stick for you,
A treat for me.

*It's a play on words, basically think something like I trick, I treat, except with made-up words.

Bonfires are a very common tradition at Easter as well. Finnish tongue twister! 

Kokko, kokoo kokoon koko kokko! - Koko kokkoko? - Koko kokko.

Kokko (a surname), gather up the whole bonfire! - The entire bonfire? -
 The entire bonfire.

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