Taylors in Finland

The Grand Adventure

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

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9-19 February 2002

9 February 2002, Saturday
Sunrise/sunset 0840/1625
Hi/low 1°C/-1°C (34°F/30°F)

Williams "Going Away" Party

We were invited to a going away party for the Williams, a British family. Merry works for Nokia and he transferred to Oulu just over two years ago. They will be returning home in the middle of March. I teach both of their children. Rowan is in my Second Grade class and his sister, Hazel, joins me for my Third-Sixth Grade Ethics class.

The party was held in a building that was built in the 1930s as a Children's’ Tuberculosis Sanitarium. Then, at four miles, it was considered quite a ways out of town; now it is inside the city limits. The building has continued to be used for children and now offers art and music classes. Groups may make reservations to use the building free of charge, when children are involved. It was a pot-luck affair, so we had some wonderful dishes including braised moose with mashed potatoes; very Finnish, excellent and not gamey at all.

Because I teach many of the children who were at the party I had been asked to teach the Mexican Hat Dance to the parents as part of the entertainment. I guess many of the children had gone home and tried dancing with their parents even though they did not have the music. This gave the parents a chance to dance with their children, and show what they had learned, with music. It was fun to watch as the parents danced with their children. Lots of good conversation and fun was had by all.

10 February 2002, Sunday
Sunrise/sunset 0836/1629
Hi/low 2°C/0°C (36°F/32°F)

Isotalus Family for Dinner

We invited the Isotalus family over for dinner. They had debated what “the Americans” might serve and decided it would be a “T-Bone steak”! I shared we would have that when they come to visit us in California, and that we were having a family recipe that my mother often served for dinner – homemade chicken pot pie. The children, Kalle and Ossi, did very well. I told them they didn’t have to eat the vegetables they didn’t like – and just a few peas were left behind.

We shared pictures of our family and talked about joining them for some cross-country skiing and snowmobiling over the Ski Week (March 4th-8th). We decided, if I was home from school by 1430 I could observe Marjo’s Kindergarten. I have been wanting to observe Marjo’s School, Päiväkoti Villivadelma , which is only two blocks from our house. She teaches twenty-one children ages 2 through 6 years.

John - Earlier in the day I snapped a picture from the dining room of two neighbor children using the snow piled on our front yard (I was about to say lawn but have not seen it for a while) by the snow plow as a practice hill. They had their cross-country skis and poles and spent about forty-five minutes side-stepping up all two feet of the snow and then skiing down. Winter here is just another season with different activities. Summer time is shorts and a T-shirt and winter time is a snow suit. "Go play outside" is a year-round saying here.

12 February 2002, Tuesday
Sunrise/sunset 0830/1636
Hi/low -1.8°C/-5.7°C (28.8°F/21.7°F)

School field trip to Auranmaja

We had a field trip for cross-country skiing at Auranmaja, about a twenty-minute ride from school. Two city buses picked up 120 of us at 0830 along with skis and poles. The school provided bag lunches and sausages to be cooked in the fire hut. The students were allowed to bring a small amount of money to buy a warm drink or something at the café. Most bought candy;  they love their sweets!

When we were assembled at the ski area everyone put on their equipment. The fourth, fifth and sixth graders took off for a five-kilometer trek through the forest with Pirjo and Paula. Kate and I were in charge of the figure eight practice and weaving through the cones for the first, second and third graders.

Heikki and Raimo took one-half of the younger children to practice on a downhill slope.

After lunch we traded activities. The older children did the downhill practice and relays, while the second graders skied three kilometers with Outi. The first graders did two kilometers with Kate and I. Kate and I weren’t on skis – she led and I brought up the rear. We had some children who had never been on skis, so they were moving slowly. I do want to learn how to cross-country, but decided this was not the time. It is beautiful to watch those who use the skating technique on skis, but I will be happy if I can learn the traditional parallel technique.

John was busy taking pictures, building the fire and cooking the lunch sausages.

We loaded the buses at 1210 and were back at school at 1230. It had been perfect weather for our skiing trip, about -6°C (21°F). The children were dismissed and the teachers met for their weekly meeting. After going with my children for the two-kilometer trek through the forest, I could see how peaceful and refreshing skiing can be. One of my goals is to come back with a real ability to cross-country ski and ice skate. We will see!

14 February 2002, Thursday
Sunrise/sunset 0823/1642
Hi/low -3.7°C/11.6°C (25.3°F/11.1°F)

Myllytulli Concert

John - During the morning periods all of the students, teachers and assistants walked over to Myllytulli School for a concert. The audience was asked if any Americans were there. Mary Ann and I kept quiet. Some of the songs included the "secret hockey play" the Finns use! Of course, the song was in Finnish so I am still in the dark about the "secret hockey play".

Hyvaä Ystãvãnpaivãã
(Good Friend's Day)

This day in Finland is not as commercialized as in the States. There had been no mention of Valentine’s Day parties at school, so I decided that my class would have a quiet party during our last period. I had sent a note home at the beginning of the week with a packet of materials for the children to make their own Valentines the old-fashioned way with paper and a doily to use for trim, since pre-packaged Valentines are non-existent.

The children were very excited about passing out their valentines and didn’t expect anything else. When I started passing out homemade decorated Valentine cookies, juice and candy they said “Wow, this is a food party too!” It is so refreshing, when something is a treat, and not expected.

When we got home, we took a plate of Valentine cookies over to the Isotalus family and they had made a lovely Friendship card for us.

Many unexpected warm wishes were received this wonderful Good Friend's Day, along with a lovely bouquet of yellow and orange tulips from my fabulous husband.

John - I went with Pertti when he took Kalle and Ossi to ice hockey practice Thursday evening. The children are fun to watch and some of them are very serious about the game. Besides a game to teach the rules they have basic practice like running starts and pushing a puck around cones. The children don't rest during a break. They'll start scrambling among themselves if there are four of them "on break".

15 February 2002, Friday
Sunrise/sunset 0819/1646
Hi/low 3.3°C/-3.7°C (37.9°F/25.3°F)

UNICEF Celebration

Our school had been asked to host a UNICEF Celebration by the City of Oulu on Friday evening. It was a fund-raising event to help our city raise a targeted amount of money for the street children of St. Petersburg and the people of Chad. Our school and the Parent Association really took our role seriously. We were to decorate the gym, corridors and to start the evening’s entertainment. The theme was Friendship Around the World. Some of the many Arts and Craft projects done by the children were:  Friendship Quilts, paper maché globes, Friendship wreaths, life-size drawings of children holding hands, kites with flags from around the world, posters and banners with the meaning of friendship, a chain of hands and poems or sayings about friendship.

As part of our folk dance unit for P.E., I had taught the Mexican Hat Dance to all the first and second graders. So we decided to have them perform that evening. Paula taught the students the song “The Children Of the World”. The children marched in waving flags to the song and then the first and second graders danced. Next the third and fourth graders played the didgeridoo, an Australian aboriginal wind instrument they had made, and sang “Kookaberra”. Our last act was the school singing the United Nations Anthem, “Let There Be Peace”.

It was a great beginning for the evening’s entertainment. Next there were many different ethnic groups from Oulu that performed. We had Thai dancers, Israeli dancers, a Tai Chi demonstration, a young Finnish singer, an African rhythm group, Iranian Dancers and a Turkish mandolin player.

The children were asked if they would like to dance, while the young Finnish pop singer performed and also during the African rhythm group’s performance. Many of them got up and it was fun to watch them enjoying themselves.

During the intermission the University Band played in the lobby, while an accordion player entertained guests in the lunch room where they were enjoying their coffee and cake.

There were around three hundred people that came to the event. I was disappointed by the lack of appearance of any city officials. The city had asked our school to prepare for and host the event. Some parents worked the entire week before the event and the staff and students for two weeks preparing decorations, learning dances and songs.

16 February 2002, Saturday
Sunrise/sunset 0816/1649
Hi/low 6.0°C/0.5°C (42.8°F/32.9°F)

After such a busy week it was great to sleep in and read on both Saturday and Sunday. I don’t have a problem convincing John to do this.

Saturday evening we joined Merry and Bev Williams, who are returning to England, for a gracious dinner and wonderful conversation at the Thompson's.

John - Craig and Pirjo Thompson gave their children a Yellow Labrador puppy for Christmas. Of course she has grown during the last six weeks. I am always surprised by the growth of puppies and kittens. Maggie is pretty mellow and was very relaxed, even with five children about. She doesn't think of herself as a lap dog, but loves to lay her head on your lap so you can pet her.

17 February 2002, Sunday
Sunrise/sunset 0812/1653
Hi/low 6.0°C/0.4°C (42.8°F/32.7°F)

John - Today was a catch-up day. Catch-up on the newsletter, catch-up on the photos, etc.

We took a walk this afternoon. It was very icy. Although it is above freezing, the water from the snow melts, collects on the roads and walk ways and freezes again. The result is very slick. We wore our slip-over studs and still slid sometimes. Spring won’t be fun for the few weeks, while the pathways and roads lose all of their ice. Now the roads and paths have about an inch-thick ice coating. In colder weather it is not a problem because there is some snow on top that provides traction. Right now I can see the front walk brick under the clear ice!  The forecast is for -20°C (-4°F) by Wednesday so I best remember to keep the Volvo's engine heater plugged in!

18 February 2002, Tuesday
Sunrise/sunset 0809/1656
Hi/low 1.3°C/-4.5°C (34.e°F/23.9°F)

Night Cross-country skiing

After we arrived from school, Pepe called, and asked if we wanted to join them for cross-country skiing through the forest near the airport. Since I was going to be teaching cross-country the next day, I decided it would be very wise for me to have some experience before Tuesday's P.E. lesson. John was waiting for a return telephone call from our travel agent, so he decided to go the next time.

Pepe told me to meet at their home and we left at 1800 for a ten-minute drive into the forest. I asked, "Are you sure about this?", because by now it was very dark and snowing. Pepe said, "No problem, the forest path has lights". Sure enough, the cross-country path was well lit. Pepe reviewed snowplowing for going down the hills, making a V shape with the skis to climb the hills and how to push with the poles and glide. Kalle and Pepe took the lead - Marjo, Ossi and I were at the back. It wasn't long before I was getting the hang of it and took off on my own for awhile. This is another terrific sport that I want to learn. We skied for two hours. I must say I was quite tired, but enjoyed every minute of it.

19 February 2002, Tuesday
Sunrise/sunset 0805/1659
Hi/low 1.1°C/-7.9°C (34.0°F/17.8°F)

John - Well, the predicted cold has arrived, finishing off the warm streak. It snowed on and off during the day. I had to clear about three inches of snow today from the front walk and driveway. Still ice underneath so I left a thin layer of snow to help with traction. It started snowing during dinner and is still at it. Cross-country skiing and ice skating are back in fashion. I guess I still have to go and buy some used ice skates.

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The Williams family arrive to a grand welcome. (2596)

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Neighbor children use the snow piled on our front lawn as a practice hill! (2602)

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Mary Ann, "Pepe", Kalle, Ossi and Marjo Isotalus. (2607)

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Warming hut at the ski area. The fire hut is in the right background. (2619)

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Heikki Soini, third grade teacher, smoothes out the slope before the students arrive. (2614)

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Raimo Salo and Heikki Soini survey the hill and their preparation for the students. (2615)

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The students have arrived and Raimo is instructing how to side-step up the hill. (2620)

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Mary Ann and Kate Munro with the other children. (2621)

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Raimo instructs the children as they come downhill. (2627)

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Paula Dziadulewicz, fourth grade, just back from 5K trek with three classes. (2629)

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Kate watching her class. (2646)

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Heikki demonstrating coming down a hill on one ski. (2648)

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One of the students practicing the "snow plow". (2655)

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Mary Ann leading some students. (2664)

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Teachers and students enjoying a concert in the gym at Myllytulli. (2689)

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The rest of the room. (2690)

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The band, during a calmer part of the music. (2693)

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This musician really got "up" during the concert. (2700)

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Friendship card made by Marjo, Kalle and Ossi. (FVI)

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Pertti Isotalus helps one of the club's children with his skates. (2703)

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One ice hockey practice is to skate "pushing" the puck around cones. (2708)

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Meanwhile, it is a scramble on the sidelines. (2719)

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Birgit Marbach, one of the many parents who worked on the school decorations. (2725)

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Some of the life-size drawings the children drew. (2739)

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You can see the playground in the background. (2740)

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"Friends have a language which you don't have to speak." (2750)

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Some of the children's posters. (2759)

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Another parent, Jenni Rees, answering a telephone call. In the foreground overhead are handmade earth globes. (2762)

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Window masks by the students. (2771)

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The Golden Gate Bridge started the wall poster of Friendship. (2776)

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The Friendship! (2780)

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The lower grades performing the Mexican Hat Dance. (2806)

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The third and fourth grades performing using the Australian aborigine wind instrument, the didgeridoo. (2808)

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The children enjoyed the entertainment as much as the adults. (2821)

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Part one of the Tai Chi demonstration. The second included swords. (2823)

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The University Band provided some of the intermission entertainment. (2832)

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The accordion player provided the other half of the intermission music. (2836)

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Jenni Rees, Maryvonne Sillanpää and Eija Livingstone have an impromptu planning session. (2867)

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Heikki Soini dropped in to see if he could do anything. (2868)

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More of the evening entertainment. (2874)

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The ice on the edge of the dining room roof is slowly melting. (2883)

Last Update 2003 11 14

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