I am Karlina. For the last 8 months I have been on an EVS placement in Finland working at EKOenergy, hosted by the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation (FANC). This is where I write about my adventures in Helsinki and beyond.
If June and July were the months of departures and goodbyes, August and September were the months of holidays and visitors. It was kicked off by a visit from my dad who drove up from Latvia with a car full of Latvian treats (mainly beer and rye bread - I'm a simple girl with simple tastes). It was followed by a visit from my mum and one of my sisters and a few friends from the UK too, including YDVs very own Rachel - we are old uni friends and it was so lovely to have her around. It is always a bit nerve-wracking to show a new place you love to the people you love - what if they don't think it's that nice? What if they don't see what you see? Luckily, my worries were unnecessary - everyone loved Finland as much as I do.
I had also saved up enough holiday days (we get 2.5 days for every month we work, but this varies between hosting organisations and placement countries) so I went on a little trip to southern Italy with a couple of friends. We stayed with my friends’ family and it was the best mini break I could have asked for, full of sun, sea, mountains and gorgeous food. Not to mention all the warmth and hospitality Italian families are stereotypically known for. I returned to Helsinki a much warmer person and not just because of all that roasting in the sun.
Back in Helsinki, the rest of the August was spent pretending to be a Nordic wildling. All the Finnish forests were full of berries and mushrooms, and most of the locals have their own secret foraging spots outside of the city, so the woodland areas in the suburbs often remained untouched. It was great to explore my local and not so local areas (as if I needed an excuse to go on wilderness bike rides) and it is great to know that I have a few portions of wild blueberries waiting for me in the freezer – come at me Nordic winter, I am ready for you!
In other news, I have started learning Finnish. Unfortunately, I missed the sign up for official university language courses, so I’m doing it the old-fashioned way, with a book and a CD on my commute to and from the office. I am not very good at learning languages, but what I lack in skills I make up with sheer, puppy-like enthusiasm. And the Finnish language is so out of this world and like nothing I have ever read or heard before, it is a joy to learn. A biologist from FANC has just released a book on freshwater ecology (in Finnish, of course), and I have secured myself a copy. Every day my task is to translate a sentence of the book (either through google translate, or by pestering one of my Finnish speaking colleagues) and try to remember it. I don’t know if it’s the typical way of learning a language, and I’m not entirely convinced that any of it is sticking in my mind, but it’s a bit more fun than learning the days of the week. Plus, as a wannabe freshwater ecologist, if I don’t know what a lake or a river is in Finnish, then what do I know.
Think I will leave it at that for now. To summarise, the summer was full of friends and adventures. Next time, in my penultimate blog post, I will tell you what I have learned about the world and how we might be able to save it.
Kiitos for reading!