It’s hard to believe my time in Finland has come to a close. After 5 months full of ups and downs, I can honestly say I enjoyed myself in this Scandinavian country. From the people I have met, to the sights I have seen, weather I have endured and food I have tasted, my experience was a memorable one. It was tough saying goodbye to the people I’ve become close with – many of whom I may never see again. It’s crazy how people move in and out of your life. The last day of practice was a memorable one as the girls surprised me by dressing up in their most colorful gear. This was a tribute to my November 9th post “Ouch – My Body Hurts.” I definitely got a laugh out of it and realized how much I’m going to miss seeing these girls everyday.With my travel to Sweden all set for today, I thought I’d dedicate this post to the highlights and lowlights of my time in Finland.
• The freezing weather! Definitely colder than what I’m used to. But, like anything, I became acclimated to the temperature and at times actually found myself enjoying the snow and seeing my breath in front of me.
• Darkness. The first 4 months were bizarre, as it would be pitch dark by 4pm. This completely threw off my inner clock and I would find myself dead tired in the middle of the day. It was something I never got used to, however, since the middle of February it stayed light out until 7:30pm.
• Falling in the snow. Needless to say besides the embarrassment factor, I apparently don’t have the balance to walk long distances in the snow!
• Losing more than winning. I’ve never been on a team below .500 so this season was an adjustment. However, I believe it helped me become mentally stronger as a player.
• Black licorice flavored everything! I don’t mind black licorice, but when it is the flavor of choice for everything you can imagine (candy, gum, ice cream, chocolate, alcohol, medicine, etc) the thought of tasting it again makes me nauseous.
• Being away from family and friends. Though I never got extremely homesick, I definitely had days where I would of done anything to hang out with my family or grab dinner with some friends. It’s been tough being away for so long, but it’s allowed me to find out who those closest to me are.
• Eating pre or post game meals at gas stations. Mmm…
• Cost of living. Almost all my expenses were taken care of, but the cost of everyday goods, eating out, transit, etc were quite high. It was annoying to pay 4€ to ride the bus or spend 10€ on a small shampoo bottle when you can buy a big one for $8 at home.
• My extra-small game shorts
• Free time. Don’t get me wrong – I love being able to chill out and relax, but when your job takes up only 4 hours a day and you’re away from the people at home you like to spend time with, time goes by slowly.
• All stores being closed on Sundays
• Cafeteria food. Eating lunch there everyday was not a highlight. The food was bland and flavorless and I never want to see a boiled potato again! In general, there wasn’t much flavor variety in Finland.
• And finally, getting stuck in a tiny elevator for an hour with 6 people early in the morning. This was scary. And the fact that no one could move made it one long hour before a service crew rescued us.
• Chocolate croissants. One word – amazing!
• Arnold’s Donuts
• The Coffee Shop and its delicious desserts
• Golden Cap/Up Cider - our alcoholic beverage of choice. Light, crisp and refreshing. I still can’t believe this brand hasn’t made it to North America.
• Jaffa orange pop
• Juissi juice
• Our large modern apartment with it’s own personal sauna!
• Traveling to Estonia with Liz and Charlee. A great trip that was tons of fun and is something I’ll always remember.
• The experience of living in another country
• Learning Finnish words and trying to incorporate them into my everyday vocabulary.
• The HOT hockey café owner. I’m pretty sure we went there twice a week to buy a Jaffa just so we could admire him ☺. The guy was gorgeous and always made time to chat with us. He even kissed me on the cheek once…I definitely made a fool of myself and acted like a high school girl with a crush!
• Our favorite cafeteria lady preparing us a special Christmas dinner. She dimmed cafeteria lights, lit candles and even played Christmas music. It was cute!
• Getting gawp for our bottle collection
• Downtown and the walking street
• Watching Top Chef on Thursday nights
• Hanging out at Hemmingway’s with the best bartender in Finland – Piia!
• My teammates and coaches (Mikko and Jaakko)
• Piia – a great friend who was extremely helpful during my time in Finland. I don’t know what I would have done without her. She’s someone I hope to keep in touch with and see again soon.
• Meeting and becoming friends with great people like Gavin, Keena, Crystal, Aaron and Monty. This was our crew. On the weekends you rarely saw one of us without the others. Gavin and I plan to meet up this summer at the Calgary Stampede.
• And last but of course not least, Liz and Charlee! Wow, I don’t even know where to begin with these two. I can’t imagine what I would have done without them. I consider myself very lucky to have been able to play with these two great ladies. Not only did we have great chemistry on the court, but off it as well. You’d think being with the same two people 24/7 would get old, but it never did. We have tons of great memories and quotes that will never be forgotten. Both became great friends who I’ll miss a lot. We will meet again Sartsa and Lissu!