Taylors in Finland

The Grand Adventure

Mary Ann's Fulbright Exchange to Oulu, Finland
August 2001 - June 2002

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24-27 August 2001

27 August 2001
Monday evening 2345
Sunrise/sunset 0542/2058
Little twilight left

Dear Everyone,

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 Ruka and Kuusamo 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 Oulanka 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.

Mary Ann

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 several times.

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.


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Pirjo Thompson and Mary Ann at our lunch stop. (2330)

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Craig Thompson with Taylor, Audrey and Tim. (2347)

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Cable suspension bridge at the start (and end) of the hike. (2352)

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View of one lake from the cable suspension bridge. (2353)

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Jyrava Falls. Only in a heliocopter would I go over these! (2364)

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The rapids before Jyrava Falls. (2360)

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Our son Archie fly fishing on the Chena River near Fairbanks, Alaska. (ak97)

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A tier "C" road, probably equal to a U.S. county road - great condition. (2337)

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The bulletin board outside Mary Ann's classroom. (2767)

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Mary Ann's classroom. (2771)

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Oulu's stone ball fountain. The ball is solid granite and floats on a film of water. (2503)

Last Update 2003 11 14

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