Taylors in Finland

The Grand Adventure

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



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13-20 January 2002

13 January 2002, Sunday
Sunrise/sunset 1001/1453
Hi/low 3°C/0°C  (37°F/32°F)

Cook’s Challenge

We have learned that many people in Finland have allergies to milk products or gluten; also many are vegetarians. This can create a challenge for the hostess. Today we invited Kate, Marja, Chester, Outi and Sami to join us for our evening meal. My solution for the vegetarians’ menu was to cook a mushroom-spinach quiche and a Quiche Lorraine using lactose-free cheese and milk for the others. It seemed to work out well. Chester was happy to be able to call his cousins in the U.S.A using dialpad.com before dinner.

During dinner we had great conversations sharing our views about why children are acting out in certain ways in the States, South Africa and in Finland. We talked about using common sense when walking about and the feelings of safety in the different countries. I am gradually feeling quite safe when walking through Ainola Park even when it is still dark in the mornings. Russia was also a topic, since we plan to join the university tour to St. Petersburg and Moscow at the end of March.  Sami had sent us the flyer for this trip since he works at Oulu Polytecnic.


14 January 2002, Monday
Sunrise/sunset 0959/1456
Hi/low 5°C/3°C  (41°F/37°F)

I realized that I have had two weeks during which my teaching time table was not changed in any way. Wow, unbelievable! One always goes with the flow, you adapt when there is change, but it did feel great not having any interruptions and I accomplished a lot more in the classroom .

I started my “sound unit” for Environmental Science, so in Crafts we started to make our rhythm instruments out of recyclable materials. We made shakers with paper plates and popcorn, pan pipes from drinking straws cut to different lengths and a strumming instrument out of Styrofoam meat dishes and rubber bands. We also made “telephones” from two cans and string. Some students used plastic cups. We found that plastic cups worked better. The kids had so much fun they all wanted to take them home that day. Next week we will start playing our instruments in rhythm to different types of music.

I had planned to start my ice skating unit for P.E. but, when we had our warming trend with the temperatures above freezing, our ice rink had a layer of water on the top – so our skating was postponed. Well, here was an opportunity to tie my sound/music unit to P.E. by starting Folk Dancing. I taught the Virginia Reel and the Mexican Hat Dance. They learned the dances quickly and had a great time.


18 January 2002, Friday
Sunrise/sunset 0948/1509
Hi/low -4°C/-7°C  (25°F/197°F)

Fulbright Weekend in Jyväskylä

We left Oulu at 1415 and arrived at Sandra’s around 1820 – a four-hour drive with one pit stop and road food along the way to keep us alert and awake. The roads were clear without much traffic. John has become the chauffeur, until spring, since I do not feel comfortable driving in the icy weather.

Sandra had a great chicken rice casserole ready. Jennifer, Marie-Camille, Rheda and Elisabeth were already there, so we ate right away, since John and Sandra had to leave to pick up Dave and Lori at the train station. When we were all together, we celebrated several birthdays – Mary Ann’s (28 Nov.), Sandra’s (2 Jan.), John’s (7 Jan.), Rheda’s (19 Jan.) and Dave’s (2 Feb.). We sang Happy Birthday in English and Finnish. The Ass Kickin’ store in Tampere came through again with the cake mix and frosting! You cannot find cake mixes in Finland. The cake was so moist – yummy – what a treat!

There were conversations all around the room. We hadn’t seen each other since early December in Helsinki at the Fulbright Christmas Party and almost everyone else had gone home to the States for the Christmas holidays. We had stayed in Oulu and Elisabeth had gone to Denmark to join her aunt and cousin.

We heard the details of Jennifer’s being able to stay in Finland to complete her Fulbright experience instead of having to return early to Iowa.

Around 2300 everyone was slowing down so we began getting ready for bed.


19 January 2002, Saturday
Sunrise/sunset 0945/1513

Happy Birthday Rheda!

We started gathering around the table for breakfast around 0900. At 1000 we headed into Jyväskylä proper to visit the Aalto Alvar Museum (he is considered the most significant architect, sculptor and furniture designer in Finland’s history) and then on to the Museum of Central Finland. After a few hours at the museums we went to lunch.

John and Dave went to the Aviation Museum of Central Finland in Tikkakoski, about ten kilometers north.

We finished lunch and headed to a small mall. The guys picked us up around 1500 to go back to Sandra’s house to get ready for a party starting at 1900.

She had invited many of her colleagues from school and her neighbors to meet the Fulbright teachers.  Sandra had prepared meatballs and Rheda, the Socorro Salsa Queen, made her award-winning New Mexico salsa. I copied the recipe and cannot wait to try it. John and Dave were the greeters and coat checkers. Elisabeth had the guests write their name on a slip of paper to later match people as partners. The rest of us were ready to introduce ourselves and converse as the guests arrived. After all the guests had arrived, Sandra shared that three pairs of partners would play a game of Uno for candy awards to be given out at the end. The Americans explained the game to any Finns that had never played Uno. After two hands the next round of players would come to the table. It took five rotations for everyone to get a chance to play. Our low point winners were Rheda and Raija. Sandra’s goal was to get everyone visiting in groups with both Finns and Americans. She succeeded. Every once in a while I would stand back and just watch or listen to the wonderful conversations.

Sandra’s party was such a success due to her wonderful planning and organization. Everyone had been apprehensive about playing games, but you should have heard the laughter coming from the game table. The game table also meant that the conversation groups broke up and reformed, as new players went to the game table. The party didn’t even start to break up until midnight. What a grand way to get to know and appreciate the Finnish people. After an easy cleanup, we were in bed around 0115.


20 January 2002, Sunday
Sunrise/sunset 0943/1516
Lightly snowing, low of -18°C (0°F)

Most of us were up around 0900. John took Rheda and Jennifer to the train at 1100. We had a leisurely breakfast, looked at each other’s photos and shared some of our travel plans for the next five months, then started packing the car. We took Marie-Camille, Elisabeth, Lori and Dave to the bus station at 1300 and then headed north to Oulu.

Sights on the way home to Oulu:
It was so impressive to see scenery along E75 at two different times of the year. We had seen the colorful birch trees, lovely pines and large lakes when we visited Tampere in October. Now, what a contrast, for in winter the birch trees were bare with their wonderful white trunks and frosty branches showing. The pines were heavily laden with recent snow and the lakes were completely frozen over. In fact, on one lake there were cars driving across!

Mary Ann


Note from John:

I'm beginning to prefer snow over rain. It is dry and far easier to drive in than rain. The windshield stays clear as the snow blows by. Heated seats make getting in a cold car more bearable although some people put electric heaters, on timers like the engine water heaters, in their cars.

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Student art work from Mary Ann's class. (2509)

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Second grade students at work. (2510)

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Rhythm instruments by the students for the Sound Unit.. (2511)

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Shakers on display (2513)

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Punching holes in bottle caps for a tambourine. (2517)

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Creative children constructing rhythm instruments. (2519)

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Testing out the string telephones in the corridor. (2521)

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Sandra carries out Rheda's birthday cake. (2343)

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Snow was still falling when we arrived. The Volvo's traction control works great in the snow. (2360)

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Snow everywhere.  I like the pattern of the snow n the rock. It reminds me of the cliff walls in Yosemite National Park. (2362)

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Sandra teaches Uno in preparation for the Saturday night party. (2364)

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The Tikkakoski Aviation Museum was great. (2413)

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Everyone pitches in Saturday morning to clear the walk and driveway with Sandra as the "sidewalk super". (2416)

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Elisabeth and David are ready to greet the first arrivals. (2421)

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And the party gets underway. (2423)

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Another conversation group. (2425)

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Something tickled Lori. (2427)

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Marie-Camille and one of Sandra's neighbors. (2434)

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More of Sandra's neighbors and fellow teachers. (2435)

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Mary Ann and Jennifer. (2437)

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Sandra and Rheda. (2438)

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Sunday morning breakfast. (2447)

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Somewhere along E75 on the way to Oulu. (2456)

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Birch trees along the highway. (2459)

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A bridge on E75 across a frozen lake. (2460)

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The faithful Volvo and a gas station we rolled by (we get high 20's on the road). ( (2463)

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Lake is frozen enough to drive on. That speck of light are the headlights of two cars out there! Better them than us. (2475)

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A boathouse we saw in the summer. (2468) Compare now to 14 October. (2976) (below)

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Same place, last fall, 14 October, while driving home from Tampere. (2976)


Last Update 2003 11 14

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