I've spent the last week and a day having quite the adventure! Now I'm finally sitting still, waiting for my water to boil so I can drink some tea, and reflecting on just how amazing it's been. It's really hard to believe I only have a week and a half left in Jyväskylä and a week more left in Europe.
This post comes to you in three parts. one third is very American, one is very European with a dash of America, and the last third is very global! Here we go!
So, there are 6 American exchange students here for the semester including myself and we all were missing the fact that we would not be home with our families for Thanksgiving. The holiday is a special time to be with family and really reflect on the blessings of the year. Lately, I've been spending this holiday with my mom's family in Iowa. This year, however, we celebrated a couple days early! Tuesday evening, my apartment was filled with about 40 people from 11 countries on five continents.
Honestly, I don't know how we filled every mouth that walked through the door that day. We had a 12 lb. turkey, North Carolina southern style biscuits, sweet potatoes, homemade creamed corn, stuffing, lingonberry sauce (there's no cranberries), and (since pumpkin pie isn't a thing here) a couple fruit cobblers. We really planned on making the event a "sampler" where people would get just a taste of our holiday, but people brought a lot of their own foods to share too, and I saw people go up for second and third plates. We also had last year’s Macy's Parade and the dog show playing in the background. It was a really good evening!
And then it was Christmas time!
That Thursday, actual thanksgiving, the USA crowd was back at it again to adventure to Tallinn for the long weekend. I had no idea what to expect but I was ready for an adventure! We spent two full days there and it was magical! The Christmas market was a dream, the old city seemed like a place where Harry Potter and his friends could be hiding behind a brick wall.
The first day, we spent all day wandering through Old Tallinn, exploring all the gift shops and taking in the city. We found a children's library, a used book store, and a whole lot of churches! And of course a McDonald's *rolls eyes.* Then we had traditional Estonian Christmas dinner at the Christmas market while we listened to a high school choir!
The second day, we did a bit of exploring outside of the old city walls. We found the president's palace and the largest bookstore in Estonia, where the nerd in me got Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in Estonian. We had pancakes for dinner and we watched folk dancers at the market before heading home!
On the way home, we had about an hour to wander through Helsinki and it was the first time I'd seen the capitol of Finland so it was nice to get a taste of the city on the way home!
UniSounds Concert - Two Nights in a Row
Last night was the Bring Your Own Culture evening and UniSounds, the international student choir sang Norwegian, Lithuanian, and Finnish music! The rest of the night was filled with Finnish snacks, folk music from Peru, India, Bulgaria, Lithuania, and Scotland, folk dancing from Belgium and Iran, and stories from all of the places. It was really nice to get to experience pieces of everyone else's home and see everyone dancing together.
Tonight UniSounds performed with seven other choirs with each other. It was a very unique concert. Most of the time, when you perform, usually the audience is full of people who will love it no matter what because they don't really *know* music. But this concert's audience was only the rest of the choirs. So we were performing for each other! It was really cool to be in a room full of so many singers supporting each other, but there was also a lot of pressure to sing well since everyone would hear all the mistakes. However, we kicked butt! We sang a traditional Afrikaans song and Silent Night in German, French, and Finnish. My favorite part of the evening was when all the choirs sang together. We all sang a Finnish song together, White Christmas (the only song 100% in English all night), and we closed the evening singing Finlandia together in honor of Finnish Independence Day in a week.
This week has been a really big adventure and it’s brought me out of a big slump! I haven't done real homework in longer than I care to admit, but I've gotten some real work done lately. It's time to finish strong! Next week, Monday is my last evening with my Finnish family, Tuesday is my last American game night, and Friday is the exchange student farewell party, and this weekend is a huge Harry Potter marathon with a big group of exchange girls. Also will be finishing all my final assignments. Then in two weeks, I leave for Lapland to wrap up my exchange semester with Santa, huskies, Sami food, northern lights, Norwegian sauna and a dip in the Arctic Ocean, reindeer, and the last hurrah with the girls I started the semester with. Ready, set, final sprint.
"If my ship sails from sight, it doesn't mean my journey ends, it simply means the river bends." - Enoch Powell