Published: January 1st 2008January 1st 2008
Me by the Christmas tree when we sang the carols.
Hey everyone. It's been awhile since I updated, sorry. I just got busy with my birthday weekend and then school, and then with every day that passed it became more and more that I had to write about. So, I'm finally doing it now. I'll try not to write a novel.
So, I last left you after my trip to Lapland. After I returned I basically had the whole rest of the week off because that Wednesday, the 5th, I only had one class and then the 6th was Independence Day so we didn't have school the 6th or the 7th and then of course came the weekend. So, that was all very relaxing. On Independence Day they don't really do anything special in Finland. Everyone gets the day off so I was at home and I baked drömtort with my host mom for my birthday. Drömtort has since become like my favorite ever dessert and I'm going to have to ask her for the recipe before I leave. It's just so tasty! In the evening Jani and I made the traditional gingerbread house. And like good siblings we divided the entire thing in half, even to the chimney, and
Jani, working on the gingerbread house.
we each got to decorate half of the house.
December 8th, my birthday, was very interesting. My host parents, host brother, and my host brother's friend who happened to have spent the night at our house, woke me up in the morning singing happy birthday. They sang in Finnish, Swedish, and English. My host father was carrying a tray that had a bowl of ice cream, with a candle in it, a brownie, a cookie, and a little cake on it. Apparently this was my breakfast in bed. They also gave me all my gifts which I opened right there. I mostly got chocolate. I also got a reindeer ornament and a mug with salmiakki in it from my host mom's parents. Then everyone left me to eat my breakfast in peace. Then we ate real breakfast. During the day I got phone calls from Mom, Suzie, Mallory, and John, thanks guys! In the afternoon I had a few of my friends over and we ate cake and such. They brought me some presents......mostly chocolate. Then in the evening I had a basketball game and then after the game I went out with some friends to celebrate my 18th
birthday in the true Finnish style.
On December 9th we had another basketball game in Tampere. I wasn't supposed to go. I had spent the night at my friend Ella's house and on the way to pick everyone up for the game they dropped me off at the school where we have basketball because my host brother had a game there so my host family was there. However, about 10 minutes after they dropped me off I got a call from Ella, "So, do you want to play in the basketball game today?" Haha, I didn't particularly want to go, but they needed another player so I said that I would. So, my day of relaxation after a long birthday had become a 4 hour bus ride to Tampere.
On Tuesday the 11th I didn't have class until 11:10 because my biology class was canceled. It was so nice to sleep in! I had my cooking class again and we made gingerbread cookies. Yum!! After class I went to Arbis, it's like the adult education center in town. They have night classes and stuff there in every possible subject. I went to see about a Swedish class there.
They had a class there that is specifically supposed to prepare you for the Swedish test in April which I would be taking. The class had actually started in the fall, which I hadn't realized, but the teacher said that I spoke Swedish so well that I could just join it when it started up again. So, I signed up for that.
On Wednesday the 12th I had to give a presentation on American folk music in my music class. I gave it in Swedish. It was so scary and I was sure it was going to go awful. Especially since I had just made it the night before and I was sort of half winging it. Winging a speech in another language is not usually a good idea. But it actually went pretty well. Everyone was amazed by my Swedish and my teacher actually told the class that if I had learned that much Swedish in 4 months then they should all be able to speak Finnish after learning it for like 10 years.
Thursday, December 13th, was St. Lucia Day. It's actually a Swedish tradition, but all the Finn-Swedes celebrate it. I was part of the
with some of our gingerbread cookies
Lucia train at my school. I think in English we would actually say Lucia procession, but it translates to train from Swedish so.....Anyway, that was fun. We all dressed up in white dresses and had candles and sang Lucia songs, all of which were in Swedish and I had just learned the night before. Later after school I was hanging around waiting for the bus and I ran into Ella. She said, "Hey MacKenzie do you want to come do Lucia with us (some IB students) at the old people home?" Since I didn't have anything else to do and they desperately needed people, I said yes. We only had 6 people and it was basically put together in an hour, but it actually turned out quite well. We didn't get done until like 5:30 and I was supposed to go meet my new host family at 7:00. However, I didn't really have time to go home and then come back, so I just decided to walk to my next host family's house. They only live about 3km from the city so it only took about half an hour. I found the house all by myself. I was very proud.
Me with my birthday breakfast and presents.
So, I visited with my next host family for about an hour. It was nice to get to know a little bit about them. We also decided that I would move to their house on New Year's Day.
On Friday night I went and saw my friend Cecilia perform in The Singing Christmas Tree. It was kind of a weird musical. I guess her school puts it on every year and it's always called The Singing Christmas Tree, but the story is different every year. The music was really good, but the story was really bizarre.
On Saturday I had two Christmas parties to attend. At 4:00 I had my school's Christmas program and then at 7:00 I had my basketball team's Christmas party. Since I had to dress up for both of them I decided I would also straighten my hair. Just for fun. The school Christmas thing was ok, but a bit boring. The highlight of the evening was definitely the third year students' film, Pimp My Ride Vasa Övningskola Christmas version. It was hilarious. At 7:00 I left the school Christmas thing and went to the basketball party. That was fun. We all had a
Me and my presents.
traditional Finnish Christmas dinner. It was good.
On Sunday we baked gingerbread cookies at my house. We used the cookie cutters that Grandma Donna sent. My host mom was really excited about them. I guess they only have boring cookie cutters in Finland. I basically spent the whole day studying for my two Finnish tests the next day. What fun!
On Monday I had my two Finnish tests. Afterward I stopped by the Finnish high school because I wanted to talk to someone there about taking Russian classes in the spring. I had to talk to this one secretary lady who of course didn't speak English. So, I had to try with Finnish, and I actually didn't do too bad. She was apparently under the impression that I spoke Finnish really well. She was talking so fast to me I could barely understand anything she said. I was just like uhhhhhhh? Then she gave me this book that from what I can guess is a book of stories written by exchange students from the school. I don't know. When she gave me the book she was talking very quickly and the only two things I understood were the
The Advent Calendar that Jani and I shared.
words exchange student and that there was a picture of the school on the front of the book. Haha. Anyway, I did get what I wanted. I talked to the Russian teacher and she told me that the next Russian course wasn't until the last period, but I was welcome to come then if I wanted. After going home I had planned to just study for my Finnish test all night. I had a test the next day at my regular school and I knew it was going to be quite hard. However, after a few hours I began to grow restless so I decided that I would have to go to basketball practice. We didn't have a real practice, it was just sort of like an open gym and my host mom didn't want to drive me all the way out there just for that, so I took the bus. Which, surprisingly wasn't that hard.
On Wednesday I planned my schedule for next period at school. I'm taking 6 classes and I'm going to be in the choir. So, I'm going to be quite busy. I'm taking my cooking class again because it continues into the next period,
My own personal Advent Calendar that I believe my hostmom said her parents bought.
Finnish 2, biology 1, art, Theory of Knowledge (an IB class), and IB psychology. And, as I said, I'm going to be in the choir. It was kind of funny because we were planning my schedule and the music teacher walked by and the teacher who was helping me was like, "Hey, are there any music classes MacKenzie can be in?" and he was like, "Yeah, choir." So, now I am in choir. In the evening I went to the movies with Cecilia. We saw Beowulf. It was kind of strange, but not bad. But the movie theater in Vaasa really isn't very nice at all. It's really old and not really worth the 8 euros to get into the movies.
On Thursday I didn't do anything. I had planned to spend the day updating my blog, but we didn't have any internet.
On Friday we didn't have real school, but we all had to go to church in the morning. It was boring. Then I stayed in the city for awhile and hung out with some friends. In the evening I went to my friend Annastina's house. She had just moved and invited everyone over to see
The Christmas decorations in my room.
her new house. It was fun. At night, when I went home, Jani and I put up the Christmas tree together. Then we all drank glögg, a traditional Finnish Christmas drink. I didn't really think I would like it that much, but it actually wasn't that bad. It's basically warm juice that has like spices in it. It's kind of bizarre.
On Saturday my friend Erica, who lives in Seinäjoki just happened to be in Vaasa. So, I went to the city and hung out with her a bit. Then when I went home I had dinner with my host family and a bunch of my host father's relatives. It was nice. In the evening some of my friends came over to watch a movie. However, before we really started watching my host mom came in and said Jonna was on the phone and we could talk to her if we wanted. We ended up talking to her for like 2 hours. Then we watched the movie.
On Sunday I went to town and did some last minute Christmas shopping with Christine. I went home later and ate. At 6:00 we walked down to near the sea and
sang Christmas carols around a Christmas tree with the rest of the people who live in Näset. I guess it's like an annual tradition here. Afterwards we got to eat gingerbread cookies. Then we sort of had a family night at home. Jani and I put together a puzzle and we all ate ice cream and stuff. Before I went to bed I mentioned to Ros-Mari that my throat was hurting and she looked at it and it had some white spots on it. We thought it might be strep throat so we decided that I would have to go to the doctor in the morning.
On Monday, Christmas Eve, I went to the doctor with my host dad. They did a strep throat test and it came back negative. So, they told me I must just have some virus and would have to wait for it to get better. So, we went back home. At about 2:00 we had our traditional Christmas dinner with Ros-Mari's parents. It was ok. I've discovered that I don't really like the Finnish Christmas food that much. I've had it multiple times and I've never really liked it. Anyway, then later in the
Notice the international flags.
evening, at about 5:00, all of Jari's relatives came over. We talked and stuff. Then at about 5:45 Santa Claus came. He came inside and passed out the Christmas presents. Then we all danced around the Christmas tree with Santa. We sang some special Christmas tree dancing songs in Swedish and Finnish. They wanted to sing a song in English, but I was like we don't really have any Christmas tree dancing songs in English. So, we ended up singing Jingle Bells. Then Santa left and we all ripped into our Christmas presents. I got some nice things. I got alot of chocolate, alot of Finland stuff, and I think maybe the neatest thing I got was this candle holder that my host mother's father made me. It was neat. Then we ate some more Christmas food. This time it was like dessert so it was all really good. Then we basically just hung around the house the rest of the night.
On Tuesday, Christmas Day. We didn't really do anything too special. In the morning we had a special breakfast of hot chocolate and some sort of pulla. I still wasn't feeling very well so I mostly just
The special glögg glass.
laid around the house. My host family went to visit Jari's relatives again, but I didn't go. I also called all of my family on Christmas, but you guys already know that.
On Wednesday I woke up and I couldn't talk because my throat was so swollen. We decided to go back to the doctor because obviously there really was something wrong. They did two more strep throat tests and gave me some penicillin to take. However, the strep tests came back negative again so I really didn't have that. The next few days I basically just laid around the house and did nothing. I just tried to get better.
On Friday my host mom made me go to the doctor again. This time they did a mono test, and of course I had mono. Great.
On Saturday I woke up and I felt alot better. The swelling in my throat had gone down alot and my nose wasn't so stuffed up. On Sunday I felt entirely better. I even went with my host family in the evening to visit some of their relatives. So, I'm thinking maybe they were wrong and I don't actually have mono.
Warming the glögg.
Or that was the fastest mono recovery in the history of the world.
On Monday, New Year's Eve, I went to a friend's house for the evening. We ate dinner and hung out. One of my friend's had just gotten the game Guitar Hero 3 so we went to her house and played that. When it got near midnight we all went outside and shot off fireworks and stuff. It was fun.
Well, that's about all I have to update you guys about for now. I move to my next host family on Thursday. Originally it was supposed to be today, but we changed it when I got sick. Then school starts again on Monday and it will all go back to normal everyday life. I hope everyone is doing well at home!
There are more photos below