21 November – 5 December 2001
21 November, Wednesday
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
High/low -8°C/2°C (36°F/18°F)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.