Disclaimer: this post has absolutely nothing to do with my research, but hopefully gives a somewhat accurate impression of day one…
That being said, after a long, harrowing flight, I am finally settled into my small, fabulously mod apartment in Tampere, Finland!
If you want to take a second to pronounce it like a true Finn, click here.
My travels were happily uneventful. Although I could barely look my husband or my dogs in the eyes as I bid them farewell and my flight was delayed a bit, things began to turn around when I woke up mid-flight to a brand new day and this beautiful view of the clouds over Norway:
Thankfully, one of my Fulbright friends staying in Helsinki not only met me at the airport, but also travelled from Helsinki to Tampere with me, filling me in on the events I missed and the plans I had to look forward to. After having visited several schools and working on her fascinating project for a few months, she was able to give me some helpful insight into how to approach my own research as we took the two hour bus ride through southern Finland. Despite snow-covered roads, we narrowly missed an accident only once, and I am not even sure if a horn was blown, despite being mere inches away from impact; in fact, the sound of cars skidding is much more common than the sound of horns blowing on the streets of Tampere, as Finnish folk are not easily perturbed.
When I arrived at my apartment, I immediately realized that booking an apartment on the other side of the world based on some pictures on the internet actually WAS a good idea. Not only does it look like it came straight out of an IKEA ad (which, anyone who knows me will recognize as a fabulous thing), but it also is surrounded by a gorgeous lakeside park on one side and an enormous amphitheater on the other. I am told that beginning in June, the amphitheater has outdoor concerts, in particular Finnish metal concerts: perfect! It also has a lovely courtyard filled with walkways, a playground and tons of bikes, which at first seemed odd until I realized that Finns actually have no qualms about riding bicycles/driving/doing anything on snow-covered ground.
In just a ten minute walk, I can be both right in the center of town as well as moments away from frostbite. But luckily, my new Finnish friend, Elina, showed me that there is a shopping mall about halfway through the journey that I can cut through, which not only cuts off two blocks, but also provides a brief respite from the cold. As I searched for a warm cup of coffee and wifi early this morning, I realized that many walking commuters utilize its heated corridors to do the same.
In addition, I get to look at spectacularly aesthetic things like this while saving time AND retaining heat:
Turns out that being vegetarian in Finland is fun and easy as well, however pricey. From the little time I have been here, I have quickly learned that fresh veggies are everywhere and a little corner store down the street even has an aisle with things like vegan salami, just because.
I can’t really comment yet on the nightlife in my new little city, except that last night I visited two places of interest (mind you it was a Tuesday night). In one pub, there was both a hockey game on and trivia night. Unfortunately the trivia was in Finnish, so I was at a loss. The game, however, was the Tampere Tappara‘s final game of the season. They won. I am a new fan. Tappara means battle axe. I love it. Turns out that so far, all the hockey fans I have met here are Washington Capitals fans who worship Ovetchkin, which is weird since he is Russian and not Finnish, but to each his own. I had to rep the Rangers a bit and I did bring my Callahan Jersey, so we will see. Hockey here is more like Nascar though, EVERYTHING is advertisements. Literally, the ice, the walls, and the players are covered with ads, which is probably why the tickets are so inexpensive, which I am not complaining about since I am definitely going to catch a playoff game.
So I will leave you with a brief description of the second place, and will paint you a picture using a sentence that is both a fragment and grammatically incorrect, but wholly appropriate to the experience. Hole in the wall dive, filled with some shady looking characters and a girl singing (in English, but with a heavy Finnish accent) an unbelievably poor rendition of Barry Manilow’s timeless classic “Mandy.” Picture it. You are probably pretty close.