So I have been in Finland for exactly a week, and I have experienced so many new things that I have been hesitant to write my first post “from Finland”. The preparation for this trip did not and could not have prepared me for the actuality of it. That is probably true for most Fulbright teachers, and certainly true for someone like me who rarely leaves the U.S.
It’s difficult to sum up all of the changes I have experienced. From a small plane landing in very low visibility and taxi-ing on hard packed snow (yikes), to a warm and welcoming host, to challenges reading the Finnish labels at the grocery store (okay, I just guessed), to my first Finnish language lesson which taught me that I can’t actually make all the sounds possible with a human mouth, to the quiet and contented feeling of being in such a place.
Truly my first few hours in Jyvaskyla would not have been the same without my wonderful Fulbright buddy Marja and my host Anne. I had the fortunate experience of communicating with both of them for many months before I actually met them, so that part was wonderful. Starting with them and continuing with all my other contacts, I am learning how Finns can be welcoming and kind. In fact, I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t been more than gracious. I notice this throughout my days in many ways. Bus drivers, customers, university personnel, everyone is patient with me and with each other. There is no feeling of being rushed or stressed to accomplish certain tasks. One extremely helpful secretary at the university even spoke aloud to herself “I am peaceful, I am calm” when she could have felt flustered. We laughed about it, but I admired her effort to center herself even when technology was acting up.
When I first arrived in Finland, I felt the quietude of this country at the Helsinki airport, which pipes bird songs into the rooms and bathrooms and provides chaises for sleeping during layovers. As I sat at my small gate area for the small jet to Kajanni and then Jyvaskyla, I saw a lovely quote about travel on the glass sliding door. Since then I have seen quotes everywhere: on the back of my seat on Finnair, in the library, on doors.
Since I’m not returning home anytime soon, here’s my one second a day for Week 1: