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Diaconia University of Applied Sciences Helsinki, Finland

Blog entry 5 - Frozen... far far away!

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 | Diakonie FH Helsinki

November draws to a close. And not only November, but also my semester abroad. Only three weeks of my six months filled with excitement, emotions, ups and downs are left. People who say that there are only ups during a stay abroad are lying. Life is no bed of roses. Still, you need to see the positive and learn from it for the future. I continued my internship at the youth center and wrote some reports and essays for university. I also need to start to prepare for one exam back in Germany, which I want to take. That’s the business. That was an update about what’s going on at the university. And now about some more enjoyable things. I can’t wait to tell you!!

Where to start? Lapland!! This was probably the highlight of my stay in Finland. If you should ever get the chance of traveling there, don’t hesitate and pack your winter clothes! Although, I have to admit, that I wasn’t so sure myself, if I should travel to Lapland or not. Traveling is expensive and also the chances of seeing northern lights in Saariselkä in November are very low because of the clouds. Looking back at it, I cannot understand how I even thought about staying behind!! I am so glad that my friends convinced me to go. On November 25 at the crack of dawn I took the plane to Rovaniemi. The trip to the airport has been a bit chaotic and we started to panic when our train connection was cancelled. But everything went well in the end and we were able to wave Helsinki goodbye as the plane took off.

The flight to Rovaniemi only took one hour and we arrived at noon, which gave us enough time to visit the Santa Clause Village close by. The temperature was rather moderate for the Napapiiri (Arctic Circle). In the afternoon we took the bus to Saariselkä, a tiny village (300 inhabitants) close to the Russian border in the middle of nowhere. The landscape though, can only be described as a beautiful winter paradise, because it has been snowing all week before our arrival. When we arrived in our cozy cabin at four p.m. it was already pitch dark. That’s absolutely normal in winter here.

The nice thing about this trip was, that we were a large group with many different kinds of people, which was the main reason why I remember this journey so fondly. Why? Because Lapland and the things you can experience here are simply not of this world. That makes everything very special. We had wonderful evenings with playing guitar, singing, playing cards, having a sauna and having serious and not so serious conversations, some causing me to laugh, others to cry. A crazy feeling.

I saw the northern lights, which felt like Christmas, Easter and Birthday, all at the same time. The northern lights!! Crazy! No, insane! This moment was magical! And what a lucky chance during this time of year! A dream came true! It was freezing cold, but we walked for about one hour to reach one of the hills outside of town, where there was less effect of light from the street lamps. Occasionally, I thought ‘This is so stupid! ‘The temperature was minus 21 degrees Celsius and it was really windy. But if this is what I have to do to see the northern lights…! I didn’t want to miss my chance. In the end, it was worth the frozen fingers. Once you see the northern lights painting patterns into the sky you feel only lucky and overwhelmed. Now I understand what Kant was saying about how gazing at the starry sky filled his mind with awe and admiration.

Besides the northern lights walk, we did a husky-tour. We were very glad when we got equipped with insulated shoes, reindeer fur gloves and full-body suits (even though the suits weren’t exactly benefiting my shape). We followed our husky guide into a small forest where the doggies were already waiting for us. There are a couple of things you need to keep in mind when driving a sledge with six dogs. Never take both feet from the break at the same time. Otherwise you are likely to somersault, because the doggies speed like like crazy. You should also be careful with bends! I wasn’t sure at first if this sport is cruel for the animals, but my husky guide told me, that the doggies want to run. And the dogs were really excited when they were allowed to start. Afterwards, we had the chance to pet the dogs and I was surprised how lovely they were. We did not only see huskies but also reindeers!! They crossed right in front of us when we went cross-country skiing. Actual reindeers!! Really! I am so glad, that I had the chance to see all those things, which make Lapland so wonderful and extraordinary! In the evening, we took a sauna. It’s the best thing to do after such a cold and frosty day. After each round, we went outside into the snow. That’s the Finnish way of having a sauna (wallowing in the deep snow until you think you’re dying and then get back into the sauna)! Again, this is equally cool and crazy. I would never do such a thing at home. It is a whole different world for Germans like me, or maybe just me. But it makes everything even more special.

But of course, it’s just a vacation. It’s different for the people who live here all year around and get almost no sunlight in winter. It’s a world where it’s minus 40 degrees and the sun doesn’t rise at all in January. However, it is a very special place on earth. No wonder, that people here are very happy.

Time went by way to fast and it’s almost December now!

My last month…. It’s almost “time to say goodbye”.

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