Finland Pt. 6 🇫🇮

As mentioned in the previous post, my laptop was stolen, along with some other things. I’m at home in Toronto, showered in a proper shower, slept in my big ass bed and played video games… sort of. I’ve been busy since I came home. Below you’ll find what I had written and saved; you’ll also see the rest of the post. I’d like to wish all the readers and followers a very Merry Christmas, and a joyous holiday season.

QWhile this post is entitled, “Finland Pt. 6” I thought about calling it “Comin’ Home.” Every time I came back home from university, I’d play “Comin’ Home” It’s a song by one of my favourite artist, City and Colour or Dallas Green. I saw him in concert a few summers ago, sang along to every song, and swayed to every slow song. I’ve been a huge fan of his for a long time, and I encourage you to youtube some of his music. In the song ‘Comin Home” he sings about coming home, about being on tour, knowing that it’s a cycle, but he misses home. The song also mentions a girl and the hardship of long-distance dating.  I’d play this song when I came home because it was aptly named and I liked to lean my head against the window and daydream out the window. Now I could relate to the song because long-distance dating is taxing. But now I think I can connect to it even more.

I came to Finland with a plan. Be a better Adel, do well in school, and get the girl. I’ve written about my ex on numerous occasions. A lot of the poetry and early writing is about her. I cannot express it in words but not only did she have a profound effect on me and push me to be better, but I’ve never loved someone more in my life. Even though it’s been a long time since our break up, I think about her, and I still do love and care for her. I needed this adventure more than I let on, not because of my break up, but because I wasn’t where I wanted to be in life. I kept looking ahead, I’d propose to my girlfriend most romantically, we’d move in together, I’d get a career job, we’d live in the city blah blah blah kids, taxes and death. There is nothing wrong with trying to map out your life, but when you set it in stone, the chances of you becoming obsessed with it are pretty good. That’s where I was, and it’s why this break up has been hard for me. I’m not saying it was easy for her, breakups suck.

My plan for being out here went out the window because I hated it. Planning has its perks, but going with the flow and following your gut is pretty good too. I knew this experience would change me, not because everyone told me but because the signs are in a different fucking language! Something was going to change, and I was going to pick up words and customs. I like learning about different cultures and people, and I knew I’d try to learn as much as I could about Finns and Finland. I did that because it’s who I am. I’m a nerd, and I had a list of all these things I needed to see. I knocked down most of them, I saw Old Trafford, I visited the Guinness Brewery, I went to the cliffs of Moher and peered over the edge, I went to Rome alone and saw the Colosseum, I went to Paris apart and saw the Louvre and Eiffel Tower, and I went to Madrid and saw the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. The last three might sound insignificant, but I did those alone. I do come off as confident, but I struggle with it all the time. But the amount of travelling I did alone just showed me that I need to take those risks. It also helped me reclaim my ability to be independant. It stopped being about someone else and just became about me. I didn’t forget, I could never, it just became more imprtant to look after myself. It’s what I’ve taken back from Finland. Personal growth is always something I can be proud of and nothing about the last 5 months have been easy.

Truth be told I miss Finland, I miss being on my own. It truly was the adventure of a lifetime and one that I’ll never forget. That there is the final photo I took in Helsinki. It is at the Christmas Market and I think its where I left my Christmas spirit.

Finland Pt. 4 🇫🇮

December 1st and I’ll be done with school. That means exams and final assignments. I’ll have my internship event on December 8th. There is going to be a game here in Jyväskylä between two-second division teams. Jyväskylä is home to JYP of the SM Liiga or the Finnish first division. This makes generating interest pretty tricky, it also means the event might be a huge letdown. Most of the exchange students will be in Lapland (Northern Finland), so there goes some of the possible spectators. We have a solid plan, we know how we’ll execute it, planned the events on game day but I’m still stressed out about it. Now I know how my bosses back home feel, but I wonder if they also feel the sense of excitement that I’m feeling? Who knows.

Home. Today I woke up and these were the first words out of my mouth, “Finland, you win.” Lack of sunlight, constant rain and the repetition of tasks has taken its toll. I’m ready to come back home. I’ve done what I set out to do, and now I’m looking forward to being an intern, an employee, a gym rat, gamer, bookworm, volunteer, most importantly, being busy. Now I know there will be days where I’ll miss it here, I know that’ll come. In the last Finland post, I touched on not being happy. I’m not happy with the weather, it does take a serious toll on the mind and body. I hope I can word this properly, there is a constant feeling of “Ending.” You wake up, and it’s dark, at 1:30 it starts getting dark, at 3:00/3:15 the sun is almost gone, by 3:45 it’s dark. Dark as in street lights are on, and cars have their lights on. I’ve been talking to some of the other exchange students, and they feel the same. I know, I’m Canadian I should be used to the darkness, I am just not when it happens this early. Another thing it never really feels dark in Toronto.

Having said this, I’d say its probably the only downside of being here. I’ve said there’s nothing to do here, there is just a lot of it is repetitive. Going to the pub and the club, then McDonald’s. When I’m at home I don’t go out a lot, especially drinking, the fear is I won’t know how to get home (irrational fear) or I’ll get lost (I have a phone), or in most cases, I’ll have to dish out money for a cab. I don’t mind if I’m in a group but a lot of time I want to sleep at home not on a floor or couch, so I have to take a cab home. That’s on me, and I accept it so most of the time I either don’t drink so I can drive or I don’t go. However, since I’ve been here I’ve gone out a lot, now I can refuse or just go to the pub and not the club but then I’d either have to walk or take a cab alone. A taxi from the city centre to home is 17 Euros. Let me put that in perspective, I’m on a budget, and a bus from Helsinki to Jyväskylä costs 8-15 Euros, that’s a 3.5-hour drive. It’s a 10-minute drive from the centre to my flat.

I’ve never been a person to go to clubs, I’m not a good dancer, I don’t like crowds I feel very anxious in them, and the only way to compensate for it is to drink a lot. That is a significant problem because what it’s done or what it’s doing is it’s forging this relationship that whenever I’m uncomfortable, I should drink. I have no problem going to the pub and getting hammered but that happens over the course of a few hours, and there’s usually a bunch of great conversations, some games, pool, and maybe even sports. It is a relaxed environment, and it’s what I go for.

I am ready to come home that much I know, but I cannot have asked for a better 4 months. I’ve learned a lot, a ridiculous amount, academically, and personally. The very first post I wrote for this blog makes reference to the little things and how they add up. When I came here I was in a different mindset, I’ve made mistakes out here that will and do have very real consequences, I’ve proven a lot to myself, impressed myself, haven’t hit anyo… we’ll work on that (Sorry Shawn). Finland “beat” me, but I’m walking away …. running away with a lot of things to build off of. So I think I have officially 17 days left here, I’ll be heading to Paris, Arras, Madrid and possibly Barcelona on the 10th-18th then I’ll come back to Helsinki for a few days and then Toronto. If you’re looking for the Billiards post I’ve taken it down, I’m happy with it but I don’t think it’s ready to be finished yet. It’s meant to be a bigger project, one that I’ll have to do research on. So Stay tunned for pictures and posts about France and Spain!

George and the Dragon 🐉

September of last year I used to tease a friend that I’d run away to Sweden. She’d joke that she’d come with me, well I went to Sweden, she didn’t go with me, but I’m sure whenever I see her I’ll tell her to visit. The obsession with Sweden came out of a desire to experience something new and different. Well, nothing’s changed, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last couple of months.

A few months ago my classmates and I were presented with an opportunity to go on a cruise to Sweden. We’d leave on Sunday and come home on Tuesday. We’d get a room, one night with free dinner and unlimited beer/wine and eight hours in Stockholm. Why not? Getting to Helsinki like I’ve mentioned before from Jyväskylä is a nightmare. The morning started with the group riding our bikes to the bus terminal. If you’re going to ride your bike in the winter, bring gloves. Three and a half hours later we were in Helsinki, I’ve been there before, but I’ve never really wandered around the city. Helsinki is a fantastic city, its full of life and oddly enough its full of things to see and do. Helsinki Cathedral is a great stop. It was built in the 1800’s as a tribute to Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. Finland was once a part of  Russia and Sweden once upon a time. Swedish is actually the second language here. Today it’s a Lutheran church. There are four million Lutherans in Finland. IMG_2992

Anyway, after we walked around and saw some more things we headed to the ferry terminal. I waited in line for about two and a half hours. I hate the “getting there” part of travelling, it’s ass. Okay let me dial it back a notch, when I’m home in Mississauga, I’m a five-minute ride from the airport in Finland I’m three and a half hours away. So maybe it’s just Finland that makes me hate Finland. To my surprise, we were not on a ferry but on a cruise ship. I’ve never been on a cruise, I’ve heard only good things. Since I’m a student, I’ve been eating like one, not a lot of ramen but a lot of bread and eggs. On the cruise, however, well your boy ate his fat heart out. They had three different kinds of salmon, roast beef…. and all you can eat ice cream. Thinking about it makes me hungry. Dinner, however, was spoiled by an idiot who tried to wet willy me. I don’t like to be touched, I don’t fancy hugs, I don’t like having people put their hands on me, poking me, grabbing me, yes there are specific scenarios where it’s okay, but most of the time, please don’t. So this guy tried to wet willy me, and well I almost hit him until I realised that, like most times I see him he was piss drunk. Still didn’t stop me from being mad about it. After that fiasco, a friend and I went down to the duty-free shop. Twenty-four beers for ten euros, sold. I won’t lie to you I don’t remember a lot from that night, not because I drank a lot but because it wasn’t all that memorable. We drank, played cards and got hampurilainen, which is Finnish for a burger.

I woke up at the crack of dawn the next morning so I could eat, do work and take this Processed with VSCO with f2 presetThat is the sun rising over Sweden, those little islands actually have people living on them. It was a tad chilly, so I came back inside, and that’s when I heard the captain on the PA. He said that we’d been delayed due to a search and rescue that took place the night before. It wasn’t until later that day that we found out that after a night of drinking a student went out onto the deck, started running and jumped. A thirty meter fall into the November Baltic. People laughed, thought it was funny,  some made jokes in an attempt to take away from the seriousness of what had happened. Look, you never know what is going through someone’s mind, and I’ll tell you, drinking doesn’t help if anything it gives you courage. When you die in cold water your body sinks, so the person who jumped may never be found.

I stopped writing for a couple of days to think about the cruise, and while I had a good time, there were a lot of small things that happened, that I observed, or heard that made upset me. Made me think about how people could do certain things, be so selfish, be so cruel, and be so monstrous. I’m not perfect but if I ever resorted to spiking a girls drink, trying to rape someone, grabbing someone against their will, or not taking “no” for an answer I’m pretty sure I’d never be able to live with myself again. I know this post is about me going to Sweden but in light of recent events, I feel like I need to comment on this. The victims are real people that try to carry on as best as they can, and sometimes they suffer in silence or worse, alone. That’s all I want to say about this, and I think it’s the lesson I learned or experienced or saw first hand going to Sweden. I mean I already knew this, but it’s closer to home than you think.

The Storkyrkan, a gothic church in the heart of Stockholm was the only thing on my list to see. It features a sculpture of St. George vs the Dragon. It’s to commemorate the victory by Sten Sture, the Elder who was the Swedish Regent in the late 1400s over Christian I of Denmark. The dragon represents an invading army, which the Danes were. Sten Sture commissioned the sculpture, Sture prayed to St. George the night before the battle. So that’s the little history lesson and here’s the picture.
IMG_3053Due to the delay we only had four hours in Stockholm, and from the port, it took about half an hour to reach the city centre. Here is what I’ll say about Stockholm, it’s expensive, it’s small, there is an amazing mix of old and new architecture, the history is outstanding, the people are friendly, and the people are very well put together, from the way they look to the way they dress. I’d really like to go back there and stay a little longer. Each adventure has taken me to a new place, taught me a new lesson, provided me with a shot glass, fridge magnet and a new country to scratch off my list. So let’s see, Canada, United States, Trinidad, Jamacia, Barbados, Germany, Finland, Sweden, England, Ireland, Estonia, Italy, and Ukraine. Frankly, it’s a short list, and that’s a letdown.

Canada Eh 🇨🇦

“Oh you’re the Canadians?” Everywhere we go that’s the greeting we get. We are the Canadians. Jyvaskyla is in many ways just like home. There is an amazing amount of beautiful scenery, trees, lakes, parks and of course, sauna. Everything is uphill here, but as you can see it’s normally worth the climb.

Right now I’m riding a bus, the suns come out and all I can think about is the beauty of this city. As a Canadian, this is new, I’ve said it’s much like home but in more than one way it’s nothing like it. For example, Starbucks doesn’t exist. Many of the parking lots are not pavement but beautiful stone work. It’s a country of 5.5 million and there are 3 million saunas. Saunas are everywhere. Sure those are tangible … ish kinds of things.

The most amazing thing and the feeling or emotion I would like to convey is something I don’t know how to explain. I don’t speak the language, I don’t read it, the food is so different (no spice… salt and pepper are spice and they’re rarely used) Everything about my appearance screams outsider! Foreigner! Different! It’s been 1 week, and I haven’t felt like I don’t belong. I haven’t felt like any of those things. I’ve noticed that I’m becoming more and more comfortable with myself.

Yes there are certain comforts of home that I miss. There are certain people I miss. I’ll be honest, I miss work, my books, my games. I even miss the hustle and bustle of getting ready for frosh. I guess I somewhat miss my routine.

I am Canadian. I am living in a country thousand of kilometres away from my home. I am in no way in any rush to come home. I’m sure there will come a time while I’m here where things will get difficult and I’ll want to board a plane and run away as fast as possible. However as for right now I’ll relish in being one of the Canadians and the beer pong champion of Jyvaskyla.