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29 July 2011

Letting it Be in Tampere

Day 60: Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Wow, I simply love Finland. I've never felt so automatically comfortable in a foreign country. Finland feels so much like America at times, just with much more of a liberal and contented attitude toward everything. People here just don't give a shit. Yet they're all so socially conscious and progressive. Also, with a completely unintelligible language. I've been able to pick up a few words, such as kiidos. But there's no way I could figure out or reasonably understand any sentences.

Finland, like the rest of Scandinavia, is very expensive. Students in Finland get 50% off many things, such as train and bus tickets (not to mention that besides having to pay zero tuition, students here receive a few hundred euros a month from the government for living expenses! How amazing is that! Needless to say, I really wish we moved toward a similar system in California - maybe including a bit of the social service that is required of young people… but I digress and daydream…). I try not to think of how much money I'm spending and just do my best to live cheaply. Luckily I have not had to pay for accommodation anywhere, save for the €40 for the campsite at the festival. I can't just live here like an American, buying everything whenever I want; I actually have to plan the best way to budget my money, time, and transportation availability. The markets here are only allowed to sell alcohol from 9:00-21:00, and beers are quite expensive. In Tampere, buses taken after midnight cost twice as much per ride.

We were back from the Festival in Tampere, and Lisle and I slept as Petri and Pekka departed for work at 8am. We returned to our favorite cafĂ© next to the supermarket and got some waffles… again, eating them while sitting in the comfy chairs in the corner of the cafe. We then decided to make dinner for Petri and Pekka, so we bought some ingredients for Lisle's homemade chili. It was somewhat difficult but fun to try to translate the different ingredient/seasoning names from Finnish to English.

I had my own "blonde moment."
When trying to set the washing machine, I forgot to close the basket. And Lisle and I took a couple minutes figuring out what was wrong until she saw my mistake. D'oh!

We hung up our laundry and then headed out, enjoying our ride in the "hissi" (elevator) - Petri's apartment is on the 12th floor, and the elevator rolls past each floor such that you can touch the walls moving alongside you! We took the trash out for the guys (flies had started to swarm in the hallway) and then took the bus, which cost €2,50 each, into the city center and explored.

We found a riverwalk and a bridge over a dam. There were a lot of locks placed on the fence on this bridge, with people's initials carved into the locks. We walked around some brick buildings, which looked like industrial-age breweries or something. We came upon a park with small shacks with artisans selling hand-made crafts.

We walked a bit more, trying to get to a big observation tower in the distance and coming upon a ridge and there before us stood the holy grail: an amazing theme park. I had been told about this theme park before. We excitedly walked to the park to see how expensive it would be. We queued and asked the cashier - it cost €10 to enter and €9 for one ride; or €34 for an all-day pass. Doing the conversion in our head, it seemed really expensive. So we decided not to go that day, because we really just wanted to ride one coaster. Maybe tomorrow…

So we walked back into Tampere's city center, playing on some small swingy animals in a mini-playground. We visited the mandatory church and after smelling some food, I was craving either a double-double with grilled onions, fresh spicy Thai food, or a Ben & Jerry's milkshake. However, Lisle was craving a beer, so we popped into a bar. We got a half-litre each of a smoky dark beer, costing €7,50. We sat on the patio and enjoyed our beers, getting tipsy of the one drink quickly since we had nothing else in our stomachs. We then laughed our way down the street and back onto the bus to Hervanta.

We picked up some beers for the guys and returned to the apartment, where we found Petri and Pekka already there. They went out for a run, and Lisle and I began putting together dinner. The guys returned and we had some wonderful chili. Then we had some beer and chilled for a bit before Petri, Lisle, and I went for a walk into the woods.

We went to a ski jump and climbed up to the top, where we enjoyed the view and chilled some more. The sky began to change colors as the sun descended slowly in the late-night sky. Two guys also climbed up the ski jump; they were from Croatia and were in Tampere competing in a football tournament. One of them had a fear of heights. They invited us to join them for drinks, but Lisle and I weren't really feeling it. We were enjoying ourselves already. We stopped by Hesburger and shared a milkshake, which was very sugary and artificial, not as good as those at McDonalds in the US (and definitely not as good as a Wendy's Frostee).

We couldn't decide whether to stay in Tampere one more day (to visit the theme park) or to head to Turku (and get a head start on our journey to Sweden, since we'd only have 7 days). So we each sent messages to all our friends, asking them to vote on what we should do. The responses were mixed, so they didn't really help our decision. I think we were just so happy that it simply felt right to decide, as we fell asleep, that we just want to stay.

Day 61: Wednesday, 20 July 2011
So today, we stayed inside again. I think the drinks and stuff from last night have just made me exhausted. And the couch I'm sleeping on is pretty hard. Nevertheless, I've been sleeping very solidly every night. Nothing like travel to give you a good night's sleep!

Lisle and I woke up around 10am again and suddenly felt much less enthusiastic about going to the theme park. It just seemed too pricey, and not as good as parks back home in the US. So we stayed in for much of the day and decided to plan our trip, sending couchrequests (which we were accepted) and decided to take a bus instead of hitchhiking to save our peace of mind. We finished just before 15:00 and thus had time to go for a walk in the nearby woods.

There are many trails just leading away from Petri's neighborhood of Hervanta. Just a few blocks away and you're in the forest, and there's a nice lake right there (actually there are several lakes). It feels just like Alaska, as Lisle told me (she spent several months in Alaska doing park conservation work). The trail leading around the lake was well-maintained. The trees were green, and the lake was picturesque. We were truly in nature, just a 15-minute walk from the high-rises of the student neighborhood. There was a small beach there with families bathing and enjoying the summer sun.

We looped around the lake and returned to the town, which felt surreally just like a US suburb. Wanting to buy a refreshment, we stopped by the grocery store again. Talking about milkshakes gave Lisle and I a craving for ice cream, which we got before stopping into the K-Supermarket for a gatorade. We quickly made it back to Petri's, where he was waiting for us. We only had a few minutes to say good-bye, but we managed to catch up with Petri, locate our bus, try to re-book Lisle's ferry to Stockholm, light one up, and chug a beer each. (Ok, Lisle couldn't finish her beer, so I had a beer and a half.)

Lisle and I said bye just as Pekka returned home; we then rushed out of the apartment, thinking we'd miss the bus. But we had plenty of time.

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