24-27 August 2001
27 August 2001
Monday evening 2345
Little twilight left
Our weekend was great. It was very special.
On Friday, Pirjo Thompson, our Sixth Grade teacher, invited John and I
to join her family for dinner. Her husband, Craig, an American, grilled salmon.
She made a delicious blueberry torte for dessert. They have three darling children.
Their oldest is Taylor; he is twelve. Tim is six and Audrey is five years old.
Taylor is in his mother’s class at the Oulu English Speaking Classes.
After the children went to bed (on their own!) we had a chance to ask
questions about places to visit, where do you buy this, how do you
arrange that, etc. At the end of the evening, they asked if we would
like to join their family for an outing to the
area to see the forest. We were very happy to join them. After spending
the day in that area, we decided to spend the night in a rental
cabin that we all shared.
On Sunday, we hiked in the
National Park to Juuma and watched the Jyrava Waterfall; it was spectacular.
The lingonberries weren’t quite ripe. There were still a few blueberries
that we could pick along the way, yum! It was a wonderful weekend
experiencing Finland with Finns.
Some comments from John - I continue to be amazed at the roads here,
especially when you consider the winter weather conditions. As we went
from highway, to local road, to lakeside road they are all in excellent
condition; few cracks (patched), no potholes and very smooth. And every
few miles a bus stop. The only concession to weather in the mountains
is that the mail boxes are put under a small roof. And we were never
out of cell phone range.
“No right on red” in Finland. So if you are at a red signal light,
you wait. Makes life a little calmer; you can’t get anxious because
the car in front is blocking your turn – you shouldn’t go anyway.
There are some motorcycles here – mostly Japanese “pocket rockets”.
An expensive hobby when you consider the purchase price and short
season. But they have great roads to ride on although the speed limit, even
on the four-lane major highways is 100 KPH or 62 MPH.
The trails in the parks are well marked and were often board walkways
to prevent the tree roots from being walked on too much. With a short
growing season trees take a while to recover from abuse. But, unlike
the states, no guardrails, warning signs, etc. The Finns assume you
possess common sense and are not going to stand at the edge of a
crumbling cliff. It is refreshing to walk in the forest without signs,
warnings, rails, etc. everywhere. Although a popular park it was vacant
by California standards. I think we saw twenty other people during
the entire three-hour hike.
The stretch of river we walked along was a fast set of continuous
rapids for about one mile that end in a waterfall. The river has a
rope, on floats, across it so kayakers and rafters know when to get
out and portage. It reminded me of a few, fortunately short, stretches
of the rivers I floated with our son Archie and my brother Archie
when we took a fishing trip in
Alaska a few years ago.
Much of Finland has been forested for lumber but they have replanted.
You do see some clearcutting but most of it is recent. We also saw
some peat bogs where they harvest the peat for power generation.
Mary Ann's classroom finally is beginning to look like she's
been there a while. Children's art, birthday schedule, "What
I did last summer" sketches, etc. are beginning to cover the walls.
A landmark in Oulu is the “ball”. The ball is a one-meter diameter
granite ball in a fountain where the water pressure “floats” the
ball in a granite block. You can push on the ball and spin it any
way you like. Mostly children play with it but a few adventurous
adults give it a try. The ball fountain is at the north end of
Rotuarri, a pedestrian mall, and we have used it as a meeting place
Right now we divide everything by 6 to get an idea of the cost in dollars.
Most of the conversions on our VISA card and Bank of America checking account
have been at 6.30 FIM to 1 USD. I put everything I can on the VISA. We
were told that using a credit card gives us the best exchange rate since
the banks are moving a lot of money and you avoid some of the "not-our-bank-ATM"
fees (3.00 USD).
This Thursday morning we fly to Helsinki for a two-day Fulbright
Orientation. It will give us a chance to visit with the other teachers
and students who are in Finland. We will stay through Sunday evening
so we have time to explore Helsinki.