Until a fortnight ago, I had always assumed that once you got below freezing point, you wuldn’t be able to tell too much of a difference between temperatures – it would all just be cold.
Boy, was I wrong.
Finland is a unique place, in that you get a very broad range of temperature. Since I’ve been in Finland, I’ve experienced my hottest temperature (88 degrees in the sauna), and also my coldest (minus 20 degrees in the snow). It’s even MORE unique in that you literally step from one to the other. It’s quite a shock to the system to change temperature by a hundred degrees instantaneously!
What I found ironic though, is that while we were in the sauna, it was 88 degrees, but only 50% humidity. So while I hadn’t been in a hotter place, I used to live near Cairns, which could regularly hit 70 or 80 percent humidity. Just chuck some eucalyptus oil in the sauna, and the atmosphere was surprisingly similar to back home.
Now, I’m going to hazard a guess that, because most of the people reading this will be Aussies, you know what it’s like to be hot. But let me just elaborate on what minus twenty feels like – or rather, DOESN’T feel like. Minus twenty basically translates to loss of all feeling in your cheekbones within a minute of stepping outside, with your nose soon to follow. Even though your fingers and toes are protected by super thick gloves and socks/shoes, it only helps for twenty minutes or so. For a while there I wasn’t sure whether my second toe had snapped off or not.
Minus twenty degrees translates to water freezing in the open air after an hour or so; there’s no chance of your car CD player working; and there’s frost forming on the INSIDE of the car windows. In short, it’s freaking cold. I never thought I’d be relieved to return to temperatures of minus five.
We were about thirty kilometres south of the Arctic circle, in Matti’s family’s winter cottage and I got to try my hand at downhill skiing, for free nonetheless! It’s a good thing, because I’ve always said that the best skiing is free skiing. I wasn’t all that good at it, in fact, I couldn’t actually stop. But then I took the plunge and went on a proper slope, and found I was able to once I got a bit of speed up. I didn’t fall over at all, which I was fairly proud of. I wimped out after an hour or so though – it was minus eighteen, and Matti and Emilia were both freezing as well, and they’re both Finnish!
I spent Christmas with Matti and his parents – my first white Christmas. It was very, very enjoyable. They have all their celebrations on Christmas Eve in Finland, so it meant that I was opening my presents at around about the same time my family was back home. There were no prawns to be found, however dinner DID consist of cold ham and salmon, as well as an assortment of random casseroles, all of which were scrumptious.
We went to a Lutheran church on Christmas eve, and then a Pentecostal one on Christmas day. I didn’t understand a word of either service, but thoroughly enjoyed them both nonetheless. Singing in Finnish is fun. It’s a strange experience, singing in an unknown language, but knowing that you’re still singing praises to God, along with an assortment of other believers. I picked up a few Finnish words to add to my reportoir – Herra means “Lord”, and “Mailmaan” means “In all the world”, and “Kitoss” means “Thank you”. Unfortunately, I never got to say “Katte voita” in context – there were no leaking roofs to be seen. It was useful for something though, as all the Finnish people I met were thoroughly amused at the fact that that was the only Finnish I knew.
More to come!