Taylors in Finland

The Grand Adventure

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

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5 - 8 October 2001

10 October 2001
Friday 1850
Sunrise/sunset 0755/1817
Misty, 8°C (46°F)
Oulunsalo, Finland


This is going to be a catch up for friends and family.

On Friday afternoon, 5 October, Outi, the Finnish Second Grade teacher at my school, took us to some of her favorite haunts near Oulu.  She had not ridden in the new Volvo, so John drove and she was the co-pilot.  We headed east toward the 18th-century mansion that our staff had rowed upriver to on 20 September.  I wanted John to see it, so we stopped for a coffee and then took a quick walk around.

After our coffee, we headed to a modern art sculpture park that is along the Oulu River.  Many of these sculptures had been carved out of huge logs.  Some reminded me of the bears you see in the shops at South Shore, Lake Tahoe.  And others reminded me of the driftwood sculptures that you used to see in the mudflats near Emeryville, approaching the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Next we headed to a beautiful Lutheran Church that was along the banks of the Oulu River.  Outi had pointed this church out when we had been rowing that afternoon.  She told us that this church was built in 1905. 

We could see the lovely wooden timbers, when we peeked inside.  We also saw a group doing a wedding rehearsal.  Outi shared that one her friends had gotten married in this church.

Then she took us northeast to Koitelinkoski, on the Kiiminki River, where we saw some fabulous flat rock formations in the middle of the river.  The rocks had beautiful shades of orange and green.  During the summer, people come here to sun themselves on the rocks and enjoy the river for swimming, fishing, and kayaking.   It reminded me of the rocks along the Yuba River close to the town of Washington near Camp Gold Hollow or Nevada City.  As we were hiking through the woods along the river, we saw a family building a fire and roasting sausages for dinner.  The temperature outside was probably about 40F.  I continue to be impressed how the Finns love nature and how they pass on their appreciation by doing activities with their families in the forest.

Last, she took us by the area where her parents live and where she grew up.  She wanted us to see her flat, which is one of the four in a building that is over a hundred years old.  Outi then invited us in for coffee.  I am learning about Finnish ways.  They feel it is important to serve at least seven items, when inviting someone for a meal.  She served garlic French bread, Finnish meat pie, Finnish fruit pastry, Tux crackers, chocolate sandwich cookies, chocolate-dipped wafers, and grapes.  After having great conversations while eating, we enjoyed looking at her photo albums of England from her trips as an exchange student and au pair.  Outi is a fabulous photographer.  We headed home around 2200.

Saturday was to be a laid back day, which was good since we awoke to pouring rain.   We slept in and then I enjoyed finishing my book "American Dream".  I planned our week’s menu and then we went to Prisma to do our weekly shop.   In the evening we rented the video “The Insider”, about the tobacco industry.  It was very thought provoking.  The young people in Finland should watch this movie and take heed.  Everyday when I get off the bus, many of the high school students light up immediately.  It is sad to see.

The sun awakened us Sunday around 0730, so it looked like a great day to head to Liminganlahti Bird Sanctuary at the Liminka Bay, southwest of Oulunsalo. The great bird migration is best seen in May, August and September; we were a little late. But it was fun to walk along the boardwalks over the mudflats to some of the bird observation towers; where we were able to observe lovely views of the bay. We plan to go back in May.

Monday, we awoke to rain which was too bad.

The first and two second grade classes were taking a field trip to Turkansaari, which is an open air museum, on an island in the Oulujuki (Oulu River). It was a trading post for the Russians and Swedes during the 16th century. The rain didn’t stop all day, but that doesn’t stop the Finns from going to an outside museum and having fun. None of the children complained about the weather. Most came in rain boots and rain-resistant clothing. The children got to see what life would have been like during the 19th century around Oulu. We observed and did many of the jobs the women and men would have done. First, we went to the kitchen of a cabin and learned how important potatoes were and are to the Finnish diet. We saw many varieties of potatoes. She showed us and let us taste a potato skin rolled in rye flour then baked. Next we saw mashed potatoes, snow potatoes and potato flour which they use for a thickening in their berry sauces. I have never seen potato flour in the U.S.A. I always use cornstarch for a thickening. We saw the ovens where they were baking a circular rye bread that has a hole in the center like a very large donut. We watched a woman spin the wool that the children had carded. Then we went to a barn where we got to weave bark baskets and ginned potatoes to start the process for making potato flour. Next, we went out into the rain and got to hammer wooden shingles onto a root cellar roof, where the potatoes are stored during the winter. Next we toured the bunk house where the lumberjacks lived while away from home. Last, we toured a 19th century farmhouse and watched a woman weaving a woolen/linen table runner on an old wooden loom. There, the children had a chance to try weaving on a small wooden loom. John went with us and helped keep the stragglers from getting too far behind as we moved from one event to another. He also got some great pictures of the children at work. It is great to have him join us on our field trips. He gets to see the Finnish children in action.

Monday evening I was in the mood to bake so I made oatmeal raisin cookies for John and for our Tuesday teacher’s meeting after school. They were a big hit and many wanted the recipe. It is fun to share some of our goodies with them.

Tomorrow we are spending the morning doing special reading activities to help celebrate a famous Finnish author’s, Alexsis Kivi, birthday. The fourth graders are bringing a favorite book to read to the children in the second grade classes. Then the children will make a book cover for their favorite book. Last, the children will have time to read or share their favorite book with their classmates. We will be decorating the hallway with their book covers and book reviews that they will do later in the week.

It is getting late and I am going to turn into a pumpkin, so I will close.

We love all of you and hope there will not be any retaliation now that we have started bombing.

Notes from John:

Children are the same everywhere. Put them in the rain with (or probably without) rain boots and every puddle is there to splash; some hats on and others off. There were two “tail end Charlenes” who would go everywhere but straight ahead, pause, giggle and then catch up to the group; only to repeat the entire process again.

We’ve got life easier than 150 years ago. I don’t mean Mary Ann and I but rather most people who live in developed countries. Turkansaari points out the ease we have now. I’m not saying life is easy but some of it is not as difficult as the past. 150 years ago most people made everything including their tools. Carding wool, spinning thread, making yarn, weaving cloth, grinding flour, making nails (the cellar roof shingles are held on with one nail every other shingle), splitting shingles, baking enough rye cracker bread for six months, etc. And most of the work done in the winter time was lit by a single flame from the end of a split pine strip.

Many of the people who volunteer at Turkansaari are older women who know the crafts. Many of the crafts are not being handed down since they are not necessary any more. It is a shame to see the crafts disappear. Only if you know how hard it was, do you know how easy it is now.

During her morning bus ride to school Mary Ann has noticed that the fields that were harvested only a few weeks ago are being tilled under this week.

The rain this week seems to have delayed winter. The cloud cover has keep the temperature around 8°C-13°C. Whenever it clears there is morning frost. I’ve been told October is the month of rain. Then the snow starts in November or December (depends who you talk to). Once it comes, it stays.

We have made reservations for a trip to the Cornwall area of England. Hopefully we will also go to the Isles of Scilly. The photos on the web are very attractive. There seems to be no lack of places to stay in the Cornwall area. I hope we are arriving a bit “out-of-season” so we don’t have to shop around too much. Guy’s notes are coming in handy.

Stockmans is a department store chain that opened a new store in Oulu on September 1st. It already seems to have plenty of customers. Today was the start of their “Crazy Days”, a four-day sale where the sale items change everyday. All departments have about 20% of their items on sale on each day. Like sales everywhere, lots of people. On the ground floor was the department for those with a sweet tooth. There are candy stores, or departments, that sell bulk candy. You only need one bag because all candy is the same price. The local Pizza-Grilli (also our local video rental store) sells candy for 36.90 FIM per Kg, the two local chain supermarkets price theirs at 46.90 FIM per Kg while the sale price at Stockmans was 26.90 FIM per Kg (about 1.95 USD per pound). Needless to say the line was always six or more people in length.

The leaves are changing color every day.


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Entrance to the modern art sculpture park along the Oulujuki. (2785)

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Outi Tuovinen and Mary Ann. (2779)

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Outi Tuovinen in the park. (2780)

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Another sculpture.  "That reminds me..." (2784)

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Interior of Oulujoen kirkko. (2787)

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Koitelinkoski. (2793)

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Mary Ann and Outi "on the rocks". (2796)

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More rapids. Imagine this during the spring ice breakup! (2802)

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Outi's place. She has the first floor. (2807)

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Crossing the bridge to Turkansaari. (2830)

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No puddle shall escape unsplashed! (2838)

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The (unheated) church at Turkansaari. (2836)

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The many kinds and uses of potatoes. (Tur16)

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The spinning lady. (Tur18)

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Even a woven basket backpack! (Tur21)

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"How to shingle" class. (2847)

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The weaver. Setup of the loom can take as long as the weaving itself. (2849)

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Local field before harvest. (2248)

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"Crazy Days" sale at Stockmans. The "bin" candy and sweets department. (2857)

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Fall's color changes have started. (2859)

Last Update 2003 11 14

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