I think tonight, I will finally sleep like I belong here. Today is my second full day in the city and I am beginning to walk with confidence. To be comfortable in a place where the words don’t make sense. To find people I can connect with. To understand that American coffee is for suckers. Ha!
Yesterday was a super long day. I walked more steps yesterday than probably the entirety of the two weeks before combined. We started first thing in the morning meeting everyone in our little groups of people we got paired with to get to know and we started our information sessions. There, we heard about the student union and about the apartments and about the education practices of the school. After that, we got lunch and wandered around the main campus (theres three) and the city.
While in the city, I was actually surprised to find so much that I was familiar with. I found the McDonald’s! And a Subway, and an H&M. I heard Rihanna playing over the speakers. And there was even a restaurant called American Diner that I will eat at at least once. I plan on saving it until its a super cold, rainy, droopy day and I just want to be back home. Passing it yesterday, I could smell the nasty grease. It is going to be grand.
But there was also so much that was unfamiliar to me. Malls built into the city that look like nothing special from the outside. The city itself was such a change from home, even in the cities I have been in. There are countless bars and clubs – and even some coffee shops right next to them! I was blown away by the sheer mass of bicycles around. And the public transportation is so efficient. Also, There wasn’t a single piece of trash anywhere to be seen.
Unfortunately, after such a full day I expected to be sleepier than I was. When I got back home the jet lag finally kicked in. I fell asleep at 8pm and woke up at Midnight. Which was actually 4pm to my body. I lay awake and my mind was racing. Take a look into my sleepless mind:
Should I rent a bike or buy one?
I should arrange to meet up with my Finnish family.
I really need to start signing up for classes. How do you do that? Let’s go look it up. I really want to be ahead of the game on it.
The coffee here is really bitter.
If I make coffee, where should I recycle the coffee filter? Is it paper? Textile? Is it even allowed to be recycled since it’s dirty?
Where are the plastic recycle bins? My apartment only has bins for glass, paper, metal, and compost.
What time is it at home?
This bed is really hard. I should get a mattress cover.
Well. About 4:30am I finally fell asleep again. 8pm to my brain. That explains it.
Today I’ve been much nicer to myself. We started the day with equally drowsy information sessions. How not to get caught by phishers and why you wanna take Finnish classes and how to adapt to the new culture. Then we had lunch and the real fun began.
We finally got to see the part of campus that Google shows you when you ask it about JYU. And we got to explore on our own a bit. A huge group of us wandered around the lake in the rain and although it made our shoes wet for the rest of the day and was a bit miserable when we didn’t find the place we thought we were looking for right away, it made for an adventure! And when we finally got to sit down and drink some coffee (or hot cocoa in my case) we all got to learn from each other about how the governments, schools, and many other topics compared between Holland, Austria, Turkey, Latvia, and home. We also bonded over stories like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones. What started as a quest for a pick me up turned into an adventure to a new place and time learning about each other.
Eventually though, we decided it was time to come back to the rest of the world. We’d just missed pancakes! But we got some picnic food and sat around continuing to learn about each other. We discussed religion and culture and wow! It is so amazing to hear what people outside of your own circle understand about topics you hold close to you. And it’s even more special to have open conversation knowing it’s safe.
After the picnic was a concert from a men’s show choir made up of university alumni. It was a super strange experience to attend a concert 90% non-english. That being said, it’s also special to be reminded that music is universal. Even though I did not understand the lyrics of most of the songs, I could understand the feelings. Between me and my friend sitting next to me, we had a good time. The show made us laugh, made us dance, made us smile. And that’s all you can ask of a performer.
Interestingly, the enthusiasm expressed by the performers was not as evident in the audience. I believe everyone had a good time; the concert was also attended by freshman of the university and they laughed at all the jokes in the music that I didn’t understand. But it seems that Finns enjoy entertainment rather passively to what I am used to. I wanted to stand for the concert! I wanted to dance and be crazy and really get into the spirit and embrace the energy that the performers were sending out. But the audience was not as interested. But that’s okay. Lisanna and I enjoyed it enthusiastically from our seats!
Also we learned a new Finnish word today: onnellinen; happy. If you listen to this song, you won’t have to have needed me translate it for you.
After the concert, a big group of us went to the pizza place in our apartment complex, Kortepohja. We spent way too long in there but when you have two Americans, a Dutch, an Austrian, a German, a Latvian, a Finn, and a few others all in one place and it’s one of their birthdays, it gets crazy! We all got to talking and sharing about each other and we discovered amazing things about how our histories intertwined, how each of our politics function, and the significance of language learning in school. At one point, Christopher and I just sat back and listened because everyone was talking across the table in different languages, comparing each other’s speech and learning from each other. It was something I think everyone should encounter at least once in their lives, but doesn’t happen often enough. Even after the pizza place closed, we stayed outside discussing our countries’ teacher training programs and more for long into the night.
But today is only Wednesday! There is so much to do before classes start. Tomorrow I am going to meet my friendship family, and a bunch of us are on a mission to finish stocking our apartments with the essentials and get bicycles. I should be getting a cell phone SIM card by next week so I’ll have an official Finnish cell phone number and data and everything will be set to go! Tomorrow, I should be able to sign up for my classes as well! And then there will be one more day of orientation, a good weekend to get ready, and classes start Monday!
So anyways, now I’m going to bed. I think I’m going to sleep better tonight. I can tell this place is special. I am onnellinen. I’ve only met two new Finns but I am surrounded by amazing people and I am ready for anything Finland can throw at me.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Kalliope’s Blue Diary Cover
Originally posted on Everyday Adventures.