tiistai 5. tammikuuta 2010

S vastaa (vihdoinkin)

I am writing this in response to the questions and comments of my last post. I am very lucky to have the more traditional foreign experience than most exchange students, but it sometimes is hard because the people that surround me don’t have an outsider’s perspective on things, as would other exchange students. Also almost all my friends here are friends of my wife’s, which sometimes makes it feel like I haven’t paved my own road here. But again, this really isn’t a complaint as much as an observation. I still find myself in a very lucky situation.

About the Finnish language, I might have exaggerated a bit in the last post. I do know some words and phrases; I can get along well enough at a bar. But I am very far from being able to hold a conversation. I have been trying, but I do think my brain isn’t wired for language skills. For my foreign language requirement in high school I took Latin, because I knew the teacher wouldn’t require us to speak it (long story), so all we had to do was recognize and read basic Latin stuff. Anyways my point is that I really only understand English. I know some Spanish, from working in the US, but I would put my Spanish and Finnish at the same level. I know how bad that looks, but I never had any expectation of ever leaving the US. Even my English skills are below my math and science skills. You can compare that to Anni, who even graduated college with an English degree, speaks at least 3 languages fluently, and corrects my writing all the time. I know I am making excuses and I could learn Finnish if I dedicated myself to it, but I do think it would be more of a battle than it would be for people who already know more than one language, since the skills of learning a language are already there. Also, when kids come I know Anni will teach them Finnish, and that will probably help me more than anything. But it could also become a ‘Mom’ thing with the kids, which isn’t bad either. Imagine how cool it would be to actually have a secret language you could speak around your father. Anyways only time will tell on that front.

I have made a few of my own friendships while I have been here. But several of them were also foreigners who have left already. I am far from friendless here. I am just one of those people that when growing up always had a friend or 2 around. I am always happiest when surrounded by friends. I am also a very loyal friend, which has caused me problems when, for example, a friend got married in Kansas and I had to miss it. I also feel stressed at times, because I am going back to the friendships I had in the states, and I am leaving the ones I make here.

The weather here is different than what I am used to. The best way to explain it is to say that Kansas weather is just crazy. I have experienced cold in Kansas like the cold I have experienced here, but it Kansas it will only last one night or a few days, then it will be semi-warm again. The weather in Kansas is always fluctuating between extremes, here the changes are very calm and slow in comparison. For example, the snow here just slowly build up a few centimeters at a time, day after day, week after week. In Kansas we can get snowstorms that drop 25 cm of snow in a day, but the snow will usually melt within a week of the storm. Rarely does one snowstorm add to a previous one. I was talking to my parents last week and for the first time in recorded history, they are forecasting 10 consecutive days under freezing in January, and just last week it got down to –20 degrees Celsius. So the cold I have experienced before, but I have never experienced it day in and day out, over and over for months; or for it to be cloudy and dark for days on end. I am used to one dark snowy day, then a day with 10 hours of sunshine. Also the summers here are nice, but I prefer it much warmer. Where I come from the average high in July is 32 degrees, with a record high of 46 degrees. I prefer 28-29 degrees personally. The reason I would say I would like it warmer is because its hard for me to enjoy all the lakes fully if I am freezing. But it is nice to come out a sauna and for it to be a cool evening. Anni and I have discussed having a sauna in Kansas, but I doubt it will get much use on those hot July days. Going outside is probably going to be sauna enough for Anni. Also I miss the thunderstorms in Kansas. We get some excellent storms, which can scare those who are not used to them. Sometimes we have tornados, but I have personally never seen one, so they are semi-rare.

As far as outlandish attitudes, I haven’t experienced too much of that, although I have had to have several conversations about the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, which can sometimes get rather heated since they are usually done over one too many beers. I would say the attitudes I have had the most issues with are along the lines of “how could you have voted Bush as president” and comments about the US being war hungry. The thing that most people don’t realize is those questions and attitudes are also very popular where I come from. All-in-all I can’t think of anything a typical Finn would say that I couldn’t see an American saying.

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