Taylors in Finland

The Grand Adventure

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



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21 November – 5 December 2001

21 November, Wednesday
Sunrise/sunset 0913/1455
High/low 2°C/-6°C (36°F/21°F)

Shortly after school started in August, Pirjo Thompson, the sixth grade teacher, asked if I had brought any plays with me. She said that her class had really enjoyed performing a play last spring in Finnish and was hoping to do another one during the autumn term in English. I told her I had brought one play which she was welcome to use. In October, her class began working on “How To Eat Fried Worms” and it was presented to the other classes and families this evening. John had been coming to school to help as the Sound Manager. The play was a big success and the students did an outstanding job.


22 November, Thursday
Sunrise/sunset 0917/1452
High/low -8°C/2°C (36°F/18°F)
Happy Thanksgiving!

We were invited to join Ralf and Birgit Marbach at their home to celebrate a traditional American Thanksgiving. Their son Ritchie is in my second grade class and his family has gone “beyond the pale” to be helpful – sharing tips about where to buy snow tires, where to find certain grocery items we were unable to find ourselves, reminding us to change to a thinner motor oil for the winter and inviting us to join them on 11 September, when Birgit remembered we receive only four television channels, all in Finnish. Their two children, Richie and Katharina were born in the United States and have dual citizenship, so they celebrate traditions from Germany, United States and Finland. Birgit did a juicy, tender turkey in her terra cotta pot. She had ordered the turkey at Prisma. She got her American cookbooks out for the turkey dressing and homemade cranberry sauce (using lingonberries). I brought a sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top. We had gotten the marshmallows at the Ass Kicking American store in Tampere. The store carries American-made products like cake mixes, Rice-a-Roni, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, peanut butter, Pillsbury flour, A&W Root Beer, etc. that you cannot find elsewhere. I also made pumpkin bread which the children really liked (JMT – me too!). Brent Cassidy, Katharina’s pre-school teacher, brought a pumpkin pie. He is from North Carolina and has been teaching in Oulu for four years. He also runs an English-speaking travel guide service. We had a very nice evening – delicious food and wonderful conversation.


23 November, Friday
Sunrise/sunset 0920/1449
High/low -1°C/-6°C (30°F/21°F)

Tampere Fulbright get-together

Johanna Nousiainen suggested I take a half-day off so we could leave for Tampere at 1130 since it is a seven-hour drive and who knows what the weather would be like. There had been a bad storm on Wednesday. Kate Munro would be responsible for my lessons, while Tina, our teachers’ assistant, took my Ethics and Art lessons. After a four-hour drive we stopped in Jyväskylä to pick up Sandra Stine (she teaches PE there), and Lori and Dave Heintz (they had taken the train over from Kuopio Thursday). The next two and one-half hours to Tampere flew by because we were so busy catching up on all the news since we had seen each other in Oulu. We arrived at Marie-Camille’s around 1830. For the first time we had all the Fulbrighters together at the same time, since Washington, D.C.. We decided to celebrate by having dinner at the top of the Tampere revolving tower, Näsinneula. It was beautiful seeing all the lights of the city as we made three revolutions during our three-hour dinner. The food was delicious but the Crème Brulée was one of the highlights and Elisabeth asked the chef for this recipe. He gave her the ingredients but not the proportions. She is planning to follow up and ask for the directions.


On Saturday I was supposed to get up to make my pumpkin pie at 0815 but it was 1015 when I finally got downstairs and made my pie. Then John, Dave and Elisabeth went to the Spy Museum. Rheda had a rehearsal for the Christmas Concert she will sing in on 14 December. Lori, Marie-Camille and I went downtown for shopping. Lori had not been to Tampere so there some special shops I wanted her to see. Marie left us around 1500 to check on the turkey.  John picked Lori and I up around 1700 and all of us pitched in to put out appetizers, set the table and do the finishing touches to our Thanksgiving meal. Marie-Camille had made name and menus for everyone to take with them. Our hats went off to our hostess and chef. The meal was scrumptious. We toasted everyone and we all shared our Thanksgiving traditions “back home” and updated everyone else about their school situations. We visited until the "wee" hours.


On Sunday we went to the Market Place in Tampere and then watched the Christmas Parade. After the parade the city turned on the Festival of Light decorative lights that had been strung along Hammenkatu, the main street. Marie, Lori and I started our Christmas shopping; I was quite successful. We met John and Dave at 1400 to load up for our drive home. It was great to have Lori, Dave and Sandra along on part of the journey to Oulunsalo. We dropped them off in Jyväskylä around 1630 and arrived home around 2030.


26 November – 2 December
My Parent Conference Week

I had a wonderful birthday on Wednesday, 28 November. The children and staff all sang to me in our lunch room. The staff presented me with a lovely card and Marimekko stripped blue and white shirt. The staff shared that when they were in school every teacher wore these shirts, almost like a uniform. I started my parent conferences. After doing my first five conferences, John treated me by cooking dinner. He had purchased a wonderful birthday cake and shared he had a Finnish artisan making me a traditional Finnish hat for winter.

By Friday, 30 November, I had finished my conferences. Hooray!! I was the first of the staff to finish. They were very successful. I was not sure what kind of feedback I would get, but it was positive. To celebrate John and I went to a local pizza parlor in Oulunsalo. After enjoying our pizza we went outside and were surprised to find our car surrounded by parked bicycles and people so we followed the crowd to the main street to learn they were celebrating Christmas. A truck trailer had become a stage and a young woman, after being introduced, began singing Christmas carols in Finnish (JMT-some of them I recognized and could hum along). The crowd kept growing – it was made up mostly of young families with children. Many were pulling the young children on sleds or pushing baby buggies with the child well bundled up (it was about -5C). It was very cold that night, but it didn’t stop the families from coming out to celebrate. After singing carols, there was a Christmas play presented by four boys acting a saga about three kings and the Star of Bethlehem. A hat is passed as a collection for the young actors. When I asked Heikki about the play, he said when he was young he and a group of boys acted the same play out for their neighbors. This play is a tradition in the Oulu area. Also there was hot porridge and glögi being served. To top off the celebration or the official opening to the Advent Season there was a very nice fireworks show.


1 December, Saturday
Sunrise/sunset 0946/1429
High/low -2°C/-2°C (28°F/28°F)

John and I were up early and off to school for a Fundraiser Christmas Bazaar hosted by the Parents Association. The parents had been busy for weeks making Christmas craft items. Of course, John and I couldn’t resist. I bought John his Christmas tie, handmade by Birgit, since he didn’t bring his traditional holiday vest with him. The Parents Association had arranged for reindeer-pulled sleigh rides. We enjoyed watching the children having fun (JMT - but the reindeer looked like he wasn’t). Then we headed to the waterfront and downtown for more Christmas shopping – our goal was to have our packages in the mail by 5 December. In the evening we watched a video and wrapped presents.


2 December 2001, Sunday
First Day of Advent
Sunrise/sunset 0949/1427
High/low 1°C/-8°C (34°F/18°F)

We had been invited to Pirjo and Craig Thompson’s home to celebrate Little Christmas, the first Sunday of Advent. There were three other families there to help celebrate. The house was decorated with Poinsettia, what they call “Christmas Star”. They have these wonderful wooden candle stands with electric bulbs that everyone puts in their windows. (JMT – it is shaped in an upside-down V with seven “candles”). After appetizers of cheeses, nuts, breads, crackers, grapes and glögi we sat down to a traditional Little Christmas meal of rice porridge. You may sprinkle it with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon or ladle a fruit compote over the top. Dessert followed with star-shaped prune jam-filled tarts. This meal is often served on Christmas Eve morning. It was a wonderful way to start the Christmas season. We were privileged to be included.


3 December 2001, Monday
Field Trip to the Seamen’s Museum
Sunrise/sunset 0951/1425
High/low 3°C/-2°C (37°F/28°F)

At 1230 our first and second grade classes walked to Pikisaari (Pitch Island) to visit the Seamen’s Museum and make some Christmas Crafts. We learned that this building is the oldest remaining home in Oulu and has been owned by several families. When restoring one of the bedrooms they found fourteen layers of wallpaper! The seamen would return with special gifts from their often three-year long trips. Many seaman's homes had English porcelain dogs in the front window. Facing out meant they were looking for him to return from the sea; facing in meant he was home! After a tour of the home the children made a chain of Finnish flags to string on our school Christmas tree.


4 December, Tuesday
Sunrise/sunset 0954/1423
High/low 3°C/-3°C (37°F/27°F)

Tuesday was the last day with my five student teachers. Saila did Ethics with my 3rd through 6th graders. Evelimna Koskela and Eva-Stinna Papinaho did P.E. and art with my second graders. Milla & Anna did P.E. and Art with Outi’s 2nd graders. It was a great experience. It is always refreshing and energizing to see the enthusiasm and willingness to try out new things that youth brings to a classroom. At our teachers’ meeting we will do an evaluation of the program from the Teachers Training part of the University. At our teachers’ meeting on 4 December Johanna shared she had been involved with the English Speaking Classes since 1997 and felt it was time for fresh blood, so she was not renewing her contract that ended on 22 December. She will be moving to Toronto on 28 December to be with her boyfriend, Blair. We were all in shock.


5 December, Wednesday
Independence Day Celebration at School
Sunrise/sunset 0957/1421
High/low 1°C/-8°C (34°F/18°F)

Paula Dziadulewicz had made arrangements for Martti Niemelä, a World War II veteran, to speak to our students. He is a member of Sotainvalidien lûtto, an organization for injured veterans. We had an assembly at 0930 which began by singing the Finnish national anthem. Then the proud gentleman of 83 spoke to our students in Finnish of events that happened to him between 1939 through 1945. Paula translated his stories into English. The children asked good questions and he concluded with a poem he had written about his homeland and how nature feeds your soul; he recited the poem in English. We ended the assembly with another patriotic Finnish song that was sung in English. Our students were very impressed and showed great respect towards the veteran.

At 1558 John and I caught the train to Helsinki to begin our Independence Day holiday to Tallinn, Estonia. We arrived in Helsinki at 2305 and walked to our hostel, about four blocks from the train station (JMT-and around the corner from the Fulbright Center). The ride was very smooth and the seven hours passed quickly with reading and snacking on crackers, cheese and fruit. I finished my school work, read about Tallinn and brought my journal up-to-date.

Mary Ann

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John and Elisabeth with our "essential" American supplies. (T15)

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Some of the traffic that stretches a trip out here. (2977)

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Sandra, Jennifer and Marie-Camille at dinner in the tower with the lights of north Tampere in the distance. (0002)

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A gracious table was planned and set by Marie-Camille. (0015)

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Marie-Camille and Lori and a turkey. (0027)

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Rheda, Elisabeth, Sandra and Marie-Camille. (0031)

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Lori, Jennifer and Mary Ann. (0032)

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Elisabeth and Rheda relaxing between dinner and dessert. (0038)

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Something tickled Lori's "funny bone". (0039)

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Dave and Marie-Camille. (0044)

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Tampere and the Christmas Market Place on Sunday. (0047)

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Hammenkatu, looking north, and the lights have just been lit. (0053)

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Hammenkatu, looking south, and the lights have just been lit. (0054)

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Mary Ann, her hat and 39 candles. (0076)

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The hall at school set up for the Christmas Bazaar. (0083)

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Reindeer-pulled sleigh rides were the order of the day for the children. (0098)

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Crossing the bridge to Pikisaari. The river is almost frozen. (0103)

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We arrived early and Birgit Marbach, Mary Ann, Outi Touvinen and Tiina wait while... (0110)

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... the children played. (0111)

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Tiina, a teacher's assistant, and some children during the flag making workshop. (0119)

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Two of the Seaman's House docents and students. (0120)

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Mary Ann in her Marimekko teacher's striped shirt. (0133)

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The stenciling done on painted walls.  (0135)

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Looking south to the wwod pulp and paper mill in the distance. (0139)

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View of Oulu from the Theatre at the waterfront. (0140)


Last Update 2003 11 14

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