Taylors in Finland

The Grand Adventure

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



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2-10 March 2002
Ski Week Vacation Highlights


2 March, Saturday
Sunrise/sunset 0726/1735
Hi/low 25° F / 4° F (-4° C/ -16° C)
Cross-country skiing

I had set a goal to cross-country ski every day of my vacation. I didn’t quite achieve my goal, since my body started to complain after three days.

On Saturday, it was a clear, sunny day. The Isotalus family asked if we would like to join them for cross-country skiing at the track ten minutes from our home. It is in the forest near the airport, where I had skied with them during a past evening.  It was John’s first day to try cross-country skiing – what a good sport he was!  His skis had not been properly waxed, so they were sticking in the snow. Finally we traded skis and he seemed to be able to slide along more easily. I like it when we are skiing with the children, because then I don’t feel guilty for holding other people up. The children set a pace that works for me; but I must say everyone is very patient.

This was my second day of skiing and I felt like I was getting the hang of it. After about an hour, three kilometers and surrounded by the beauty of nature we headed home. Pertti and Marjo invited us in to have some delicious salmon soup. Yummy!! I hope to get the recipe so I can make the dish for you when we return home.

In the evening we were off to the Marbach’s for a wonderful dinner. We enjoyed the video tape John had made of the UNICEF event at school and we visited about life in Finland, Germany and the United States.


3 March 2002, Sunday
Sunrise/sunset 0722/1738
Hi/low 20° F / 1° F (-7° C/ -17° C)

We were off to try cross-country skiing again. Pertti had waxed both pairs of our skis and suggested we add a different wax to the center section of each ski. John added the wax, but he shouldn’t have, because we both found we were sticking at times, mostly on the hills. Oh well, it was still fabulous to be out on the trails of the forest in the glorious sun.

John – Waxing skis is more art than science. Cross-country skis may have two types of wax on them. A “speed” wax on the entire ski, or at least the outer thirds. The center portion, measured by where the ski does NOT touch the floor when you are standing on it, has a “sticky” wax. The intent is that the center portion only touches when you push hard, otherwise you are gliding on the “speed” waxed portions of the skis. My problem was that whenever I went over the crest of a bump or hill the skis would stick and my momentum would carry me forward. I usually landed on my knees and elbows. Nothing hurt but my pride (and it sure has taken a few bruises)!


4 March 2002, Monday
Sunrise/sunset 0719/1742
Hi/low 24° F / 0° F (-4° C/ -18° C)
Skiing on the Kiiminkijoki

Heikki Soini, our third grade teacher, called and wanted to know if we could join him, his wife Riitta and their daughter Maija at her parents’ cottage on the Kiiminkijoki (Kiiminki River). We met at school and followed Heikki along Highway 20 towards Kuusamo. We stopped along the highway and met Riitta’s father who had driven there to give Heikki an ice drill. As soon as we arrived at the cottage, Heikki and John went about ten feet out from the bank of the river and re-opened hole in the ice.  (John – the drill was Russian-made and it screws counter-clockwise – not what I am accustomed to.)  After pumping the buckets full they were put in the sauna (so they wouldn’t freeze), we had a little snack and then headed out. Down on the river, we put on our skis and started upstream.  Heikki was very patient as we made our way slowly along some snow mobile tracks to the area near the bridge where we had seen the rapids with Outi Tuovinen in October. It was hard to imagine that we were now skiing on the same river.  Occasionally we would heard a burbling sound and see an opening in the ice where the water was bubbling past. One time I thought I saw a river otter and later John saw an otter run across the ice farther upstream, so I must have seen his head like I thought.  Next we headed to the bank, sat on some stones and enjoyed some coffee and blueberry bars that Riitta’s mother had made. What a treat!

Then we headed back towards the cabin and met Riitta and Maija. We started into the forest and skied for about twenty minutes.  Then Heikki skied ahead and decided we were on the wrong trail. So we turned around, backtracked and found the correct trail.  We skied/walked to a fire hut/shelter in the forest where we cooked sausage, drank coffee and enjoyed the outdoors. The fire huts are small log huts, stocked with wood, with a fire ring for use by anyone.  It was clean when we arrived and clean when we left. It really didn’t matter that we had taken an extra trail, because the sun shining through the trees was so beautiful and the forest was so peaceful with the diamond-like snow sparkling in the sunlight that I had to pinch myself to see if this could be real.  We enjoyed seeing the animal and bird tracks in the snow. It hardly seemed any time before we were around the fire having hot rum coffee and sausages.

The sun was starting to set so we headed back to the cottage, restoked the wood-burning sauna and Riitta started fixing dinner. Then Riitta, Maija and I enjoyed a long sauna.  It was my favorite sauna experience so far.  My body was nice and hot and the outside air was cool – very refreshing. Then Heikki and John had their turn. The sauna sits on the bank of the river.  (John – we had some great conversations about the Finnish perceptions of America and vice versa, what we had learned from our fathers about World War II, and life in general.)

After the men returned from their sauna, we enjoyed a wonderful poached salmon for dinner. We visited over dinner and then headed home. A great day.  Heikki had made a great call on the weather since it was a perfect day; clear, sunny and cold with no breeze. The next day the weather was overcast.


5 March 2002, Tuesday
Sunrise/sunset 0715/1745
Hi/low 23° F / 4° F  (-5° C/ -16° C)
Off to Kalajoki

Our neighbors, Pertti (“Pepe”) and Marjo Isotalus, invited us to join them for the day at a cottage they had rented about one hundred kilometers down the coast in Kalajoki. We left just as a weather front was started to snow in Oulu. During our drive down we encountered heavy winds and snow drifts on the highway. While we sitting at the table in the cottage enjoying chicken curry, the sky turned blue as the tail end of the front passed by!

Later they took us for a tour of Kalajoki and then on to a swimming facility.  What a contrast to walk across a snow-covered parking lot, with two-meter high drifts along the sides, into a warm resort watching people drift by in the pool. The main pool was circular in shape. For five minutes the water pumps supplied water massage jets along the pool walls or for a central fountain/water fall. The next five minutes the water pumps circulated the water around the central island (with swim-up bar lagoon, seating area and a hot tub) so that you could float and be carried all the way around the pool.  For the next two hours the six of us swam, soaked in a Turkish-style steam bath, “enjoyed” a dip in the +8°C (46°F) “cold” tub (brisk is an understatement!) and a final Finnish sauna.

We returned to the cottage for “coffee and” with fire-cooked sausages, a good visit and then drove home under clear, starry skies.

When we got home we called Natalie to wish her a Happy Birthday.


9 March 2002, Saturday
Sunrise/sunset 0701/1759
Hi/low 25° F / 4° F (-4° C/ -16° C)
Salo family for lunch

Raimo Salo and his family came for lunch. We enjoyed our afternoon sharing about our different interests in types of music, learning about their children's kindergarten experiences and hearing about their summer plans at a cottage and doing some fishing. It was pleasant to have a chance to learn more about their interests.


10 March 2002, Sunday
Sunrise/sunset 0657/1801
Hi/low 23° F / 4° F (-5° C/ -16° C)

It is an absolutely spectacular day.  John is out clearing the driveway from yesterday’s steady snowfall. I’m starting our newsletter for the highlights from the last two weeks and looking out the window to see the mounds of snow becoming higher and higher along the driveways, watching the shrubbery move in the wind, seeing the snow on the roof tops glisten in the brilliant sun.  Wow!  This is what the Finns say they have been waiting for – bright, beautiful days with the temperatures around -5°C (23°F).  Well, I can see why they like it. It is unbelievably beautiful.

Mary Ann

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John is on skis again!! The first time since 1988 at Yosemite National Park's Badger Pass. (2984)

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Mary Ann and Marjo. (2987)

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Mary Ann and John on the trail. (2988)

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Pertti and Marjo relax for a moment. (2989)

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Done for the day! (2995)

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Pertti showing us how to wax our cross-country skis. (2999)

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That's the sauna to the left of the Volvo. It is on the east bank of the Kiiminkijoki. The original cabin is to the right. Any new buildings on the river must be set back from the shoreline. (3001)

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Riitta and Maija. (3006)

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Heikki and Mary Ann on the Kiiminkijoki. (3007)

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Looking back at the cabins and sauna from the river. (3011)

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A scene along the river. (3013)

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Mary Ann on the Kiiminki River. (3014)

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Mary Ann just clears one of the bridges we crossed during our tour with Outi. (3015)Look at 2796.

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Heikki deciding where to stop for coffee (and waiting for us to catch up with him). (3016)

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That is one of the Finnish traditional wooden cups on the rock. (3017)

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The trail to the fire hut. (3019)

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Riitta, Maija, Heikki and Mary Ann enjoying sausages and coffee at the Ujola fire hut. (3033)

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Getting started on the way back to the cottage. (3036)

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Mary Ann and Riitta try to find some of the birds we saw on our way to the fire hut. (3039)

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Getting ready for dinner. (3042)

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The storm on the way to Kalajoki to visit the Isotalus'. (3043)

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A church in Kalajoki. The wooden statue to the left of the door is to leave alms for the poor and orphans. (3048)

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The main pool at the Kalajoki pool complex. (KP01)

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Ice sculptures. They had concluded an ice carving contest. (3056)

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View of the Gulf of Bothnia. (3057

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John roasting our sausages in the fireplace. (3065)

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Marjo and Pertti sending Ossi and Kalle up to their bedroom in the loft. (3067)

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Raimo bundling up one of the children. (3075)

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"OK, Dad. I'm ready, why aren't you! (3076)


Last Update 2002 04 22

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