Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The REAL meaning of "Harvest Season"

Remember... I am a city girl! I'm not accustom to having the forest so close by.  It was hilarious the first time that I asked for some carrots for dinner and they just pointed to where they were.  At that point I just nodded and walked straight to the location they pointed. I looked around trying to locate the carrots not knowing that I actually had to pull them out of the ground.  Are you kidding me?!?!?!  Pull them from the ground?!?!?!  Why would anybody do that, when you can just go to the market and buy them??  I felt really stupid, there I was standing in front of the most natural way you can get a carrot and I was arguing because I had to get my hand dirty picking them from the ground.

Hilarious?!?!?! Nope... more in the lines of Frustration!!!  How on earth was I going to survive in this place? 

As I mentioned in my previous post... We had arrived to Kuusamo just in time for the Harvest Season.  All I have to say it's been a difficult but rewarding journey!  During these past months I've learned how families get together for the collecting of potatoes... (that was an exhausting day!), how you can actually receive a call from a nearby house to let you know that their red currant bushes have produce more berries that what they need and you can come by and help yourself, how a family on a perfect Sunday afternoon goes to the forest to pick lingonberries and this is consider as "time with the family".  As I said before, it's been very interesting! I have to admit that between my moments of frustration, I actually had fun.  But coins always have two sides!  I can say that I have been the entertainment of the season for my boyfriend's family and closest friends.  Why do I say this?!? Well, here you have a city girl asking all these "Dah!" questions about things that are so obvious to them.  "No question is a stupid question?!?!?!", think again....

What for them was usually cause of a laugh, for me was usually cause of a frustration.  Handing me a "thing-a-magigar" to pick berries from the forest and expecting me to know what on earth to do with it was priceless.  Handing me a bucket in a potato field and telling me to go pick potatoes without explaining the process was once in a life time experience. Bringing like 6 cabbages to the house and telling me that I had to mash all of them without a thrall explanation, just letting me know that they were meant for preserves (sauerkraut).  Taking me to a swamp to pick mushrooms and first expecting me to pick the mushrooms from that type of soil and then expecting me not to have an anxiety attack between so many branches together and knowing that at any minute a toad could just jump out and scare the SH#*% out of you.  These are things I will never forget!  Too many "First Times" in one Harvest Season if you ask me!

Sunday, November 24, 2013


It was around 1:00am and I knew we had finally arrived to Kuusamo because I remembered the main roundabout of the town from our trip during the holidays .  You can see from afar the sculpture in the middle of the roundabout and the lights of the two main supercenters of the town.  But wait.... we were not yet at the house!  My boyfriend's parents live around 30 minutes away from the town, so we were not there yet! 
My legs were numb, we were hungry, but most of all I was scared as hell!  How will I be received this time around in his parents house?  Will they welcome me with open arms? or Will I be received because there's no other choice?  These questions kept on bothering me throughout our journey up north.  I just met them last Christmas, I'm the second girl ever that my boyfriend has brought home, and after six months of meeting them I come back with a baby belly.  Awkward?!?!?! Uncomfortable?!?!!?!?  It sure was!
We got to the house and I didn't want to be the first to enter the house, so I was just walking behind my boyfriend at all times and till he didn't go in I was just being his merely shadow.  Finally the time of truth came... his dad was asleep, but his mom was waiting for us.  When she saw me she greeted me with a smile, open arms and the words "Welcome Home!".   Relief?!?!  Yes! 
When we arrived to the house, my boyfriend's brother and his family were visiting, so I didn't feel too uncomfortable, it actually felt like my visit during the holidays.  But once they left it actually hit me and the days that followed, I have to admit, I was very uncomfortable.   Even though they were nice to me and tried their hardest to be very welcoming, I was still feeling as an intruder.  A few days past and I decided to let it go and tried to enjoy this new life.  Surrounded by green forest, in the middle of nowhere where when you need potatoes for dinner you don't go to the groceries, you just go to your backyard and pick them up from the ground, where if you are craving strawberries, raspberries or currants you just go out to the backyard into the bushes and pick the berries yourself, trust me when I say....  "It wasn't easy!"

Some of you may think that a place like this it just exist in movies.  Nope, is 100% real!  But remember, you are talking about someone that felt awkward by even stepping out to her porch in an apartment in the city barefoot.  Not only the country but all this "farm stuff" was new and foreign to me. 

The months that follow were even more weird to me.  Not only because my body was going through so many changes because of my pregnancy, but because of the fact that we arrived just in time for the Harvest Season.  Whatever that means!!!!!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Road Trip Up North

I know this post will sound very informative but I just had to write about this... A Finnish Road Trip cultural experience....  Enjoy!

During our 8 hour road trip to Kuusamo it was natural that we would make stops along the way.  Either to just stretch our legs, get coffee and/or ice cream or just a bathroom stop.  It was very interesting coming from the states where road trip stops are usually in gas stations in the middle of nowhere and if it's after nightfall you won't stop unless is a QT Station or a fast food restaurant.  Here, the story is completely different.  The places where you make your road trip stops are everything in one; gas station, restaurant, fast food, small grocery shop and in some cases souvenir shop as well and there is always a traffic of people that are heading somewhere.  These places are called "Service Stations".  It's amazing... knowing that no matter where you stop you won't get robbed, you won't get any deceases for using the bathrooms or even by touching the door knobs because they are always clean!!!!.  Impossible you say... Trust me!  It's true!!!   People minding their own business not watching your every move since the moment you step out of the car till you get back in it.  Priceless!!!
In their restaurant area you can find good home cooked typical Finnish meal.  Steam vegetables, mashed potatoes and meat stew are always part of the menu, which I have to say it doesn't taste bad at all.  For those that just want to grab something warm to eat and continue their way, in the fast food area you can find burger meals as well as a variety of pizza, the taste is not the best, but it will do the trick to fill you up until you actually have the time to have a proper meal. 

The grocery shop area is something that I haven't seen before in my road trip stops in the US.  It's an actual grocery store, but in a smaller size.  From a variety your local fresh fruits, yogurts, juice, milk to hairspray, clothe detergent, etc., you can actually find pretty much anything.  But the most interesting thing of all is that you will get these products at the prices you would find at your nearest grocery store, not at the inflated prices of a gas station in the middle of nowhere anywhere in the United States.

These "Service Stations" are everywhere and you can find them in all shape and sizes.  From the modest models where you order and pay everything to the same cashier to those huge complexes where there is a closed in bridge over the highway connecting entire service station, where you can sit to enjoy your meal while you watch cars pass by. 

This country is amazing!  Since I arrived, I have been amazed with the Finnish way of living and I think I can get use to this.  ;)


Thursday, October 17, 2013


Since we started talking about moving to Finland we had decided that it would be more cost effective to spend some time living with his parents in Kuusamo, which is only 20 miles away from the Artic Circle.  So, just after a few days in Helsinki we started our trip up north, with a few days stop in the lovely city of Jyvaskyla. 

My boyfriend use to live in this city before moving to the states.  So, it's normal that he has lots of friends here and knows it's salsa community in and out.  A sign of relief was at all times in my head... Finally, some dancing!!!  I had been without dancing for a while and it was literally driving me insane.  So, as you all can imagine every time that I had a chance I was asking and confirming that in our short stay in Jyvaskyla we were going to one of their salsa socials.  My boyfriend being as patient as he is with me, kept on reassuring that we would not leave Jyvaskyla without some good dancing.  When the day came to go out dancing I was very excited... but of course having issues finding what to wear since the temperatures were getting chilly at night and wanting to look good on my first actual salsa social in Jyvaskyla.  Little did I know that this great social turned out to be a Surprise Welcome to Finland Party for yours truly organized by my amazing boyfriend.  It was a surprise indeed!  I even got a great Strawberry Cake covered with sugar frosting that resembled the Finnish Flag. Yum!!! Needless to say I felt overwhelmed and truly welcomed to this country and to it's Salsa Community. Thank you!! 

Yes!  Believe it or not I danced all night, I even got to dance my first Rueda ever and have to say it was "Awesome!" I haven't laughed that much with a dance in a while.  Almost at the end of the night they had a "Circle Dance" just for me to officially welcome me to the salsa community and I have to say that this was my favorite part.  I love the circle dances because it gives you the opportunity to dance with as many dancers as possible during one song and get to know a little bit about their style. 

After we left the party we went for Finnish Street Food, thing that I have been craving ever since I knew I was coming back to Finland.  You got to understand... this is the kind of food that is not good for you in big quantities but it lets you always wanting more every time.  It's so good it should be illegal!! And don't worry, soon I'll write a post only about it... ;)

The next day after a well deserve good night sleep we were ready to head out to Kuusamo.  But first we had to go and pick up the other member of our little family.  Pinja, our great and spoiled by me, dog!!  Ever since I met her during the holidays I've missed her very much and asked my boyfriend constantly to take her to the states, but because she is a big dog it would be cruel to take her to a life in an apartments with just occasional visits to a park, when she is so use to the forest, open fields and playing with big sticks that she finds along the way.

After playing tag for a while with the person that takes care of her when we are gone, we were able to pick her up.  She was so excited to see us that she kept on barking and literally moving the truck where she was side to side asking to get her out.   It was a priceless moment when she got out.  She didn't know what to do with so much excitement.  We played with her for a little while till she calmed down so we could get her in the car to start our 8 hours road trip to Kuusamo.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Finnish Summer Markets

After another very long night because of the jet lag, we decided to hit the town.  Since I've only seen Helsinki covered in snow, it was about time that I would get to experience it from a totally different perspective.
There are people everywhere!  The parks are covered with picnic blankets and people just laying down with a glass of wine and a good book enjoying the great weather that would only last a few more weeks.  Musicians in every corner, sharing their passion and feeling through music.  Cafe's empty in the inside but packed in their outside areas of people feeling at ease with the warmth of summer. 
Since last summer I've been fascinated with the summer markets in Finland.  I've heard that Finland has the most amazing berries and most of all the most amazing strawberries, which I'm crazy for.  So, we decided it was time to visit one of these local markets.  "Wow!"  This was the only word that would come out of my mouth over and over again while going through this market.  Fresh and local products that tasted so rich. None of these flavors would even come close to what I've tasted before.  No chemicals, no preservatives, all natural.  It was awesome!!!  Every single taste exceeded my expectations, every single bite was a feeling of amazement.

Last year when my boyfriend came back from his usual summer trip to Finland he would not stop talking about these amazing products.  And for me, being a very visual person, it was difficult to comprehend what he was talking about.  He would try to describe me those berries that are not found in the states such as the Bilberries and the Lingonberries but I could not seem to comprehend what he was trying to describe.  He brought with him some samples of these completely natural berries and all I was able say is omg!  Every single one was better that the last and at that moment it occurred to me that it would be a great idea if he could import those kind of products that are consider Superfoods in the states.  He found a way through his company Nordik Imports.  This way everybody would be able indulge the natural tastes of Finland.

Needless to say once surrounded by these delicious berries at the market, we ended up buying not a bag, but a box full of strawberries. Our fingers, mouths and cheeks were completely red but at least I got to satisfy my craving for Finnish Strawberries!!!


Friday, September 6, 2013

The Re-Encounter


My experience in this hotel was very different compared to my first visit to Finland.  When we came to Finland during the holidays we stayed at the Glo Art Hotel in Helsinki.  This hotel is amazing, the rooms are small but there is elegance everywhere.  This time I stayed at the Sokos Hotel Pasila which is somewhat more to what I'm more use to in hotel service and accommodation, nice and practical.  The rooms were very small, it just has what is necessary for one person... a twin bed, a desk as long as the width of the room, a TV and a small bathroom, which doesn't have that much space to walk around.  You go in the bathroom and in front of you is the shower, you turn to the left and there is the toilet, you turn to the right and there is the sink and behind you is the door.  That is it!  

Following a very long night because of the jet lag of more than 7 hours, I decided to head to the restaurant since the stay included breakfast.  A whole new experience... some of the things were familiar, such as the scrambled eggs and bacon that you find in any bed and breakfast in the states.  But everything else was the "Finnish way".  Plain yogurt with all kind of granolas, fruits to mix with it, several kinds of rye bread surrounded by salad, cold cuts  and of course, how to forget the porridge!  But the most interesting thing of all was that other than the scrambled eggs and bacon, everything served in the buffet were local products.  The variety was impressive, I had to try most of it and the taste was amazing, but at the end I had to have my portion of scrambled eggs and bacon. 

I returned to my room satisfied with my big breakfast and since I didn't sleep much during the night and check out was at 12pm, I decided to take a nap until 11am which would give me enough time to check out from the room.  The next few hours were the longest ones, knowing the fact that I just didn't even know where I was and how to get anywhere I had to sit and wait in the hotel lobby until my boyfriend arrived to pick me up.  During this time I had the opportunity of looking and study the people that come and go at that hotel.  Let me tell you that the Finnish tourists are not far different from the American tourist.  Even the clothing is very similar which I found a little bit funny.  Coming from Puerto Rico and knowing how a "gringo" or American tourist usually dresses when they go on vacation, it was very interesting seeing these similarities in Finnish tourists.

Finally the time came when my boyfriend and I saw each other after so many months.  I was a little nervous and excited at the same time.  It was the first time he would actually see my baby belly...  The re-encounter was as I imagined, an eternal hug filled with kisses and loving words... but most important seeing his embracing our baby belly brought tears to my eyes. I know this may sound corny for some of you but once in a while you just have to be! 

At last we were together!  Soon after we got in the car and started this crazy new adventure that I like to call FINLAND!!! 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Ready or not I have ARRIVED!!!

After picking up my bags I went to the Starbucks at Helsinki airport where I was going to meet my other half for the first time in almost 5 months.  I arrived a few hours before his flight, so I decided to get a latte which would be my last Starbucks latte since this is the ONLY Starbucks in Finland.  Weird?  I don't think so!  There are so many amazing coffee shops all over the place that this American coffee shop doesn't have anything special to offer to the Finnish community.  After a few hours went by I decided to go on Facebook and let everybody know that I made it safe and sound to my destination.  To my surprise I find a message from my boyfriend letting me know that he missed his flight and wouldn't be arriving to Finland till the next day.  At that moment "Freaking Out" feeling came back.

Came back? YES! 

Arriving in Finland for the second time brought a mix of feelings. Excitement, because I was going to see Finland from a completely different perspective, a new adventure experiencing the unknown.  Worry, because I don't know the language and the culture is still somewhat foreign to me.  But the first and most overwhelming feeling was FREAKED OUT.  Yes me, who kept it calm through out the packing and moving process, who stayed positive at all times... well, that is till I landed in Finland and it was time to get out of the plane.  Then it hit me, God only knows when is the next time I'll see my friends, my family, the next time that I'll see and do so many things that were included in my comfort zone for so many years.  But that only lasted a moment, I braised myself, got up and left the plane. 

While trying to have my latte in a calm, discrete way so nobody would notice, I kept on repeating to myself the same question.  What in the world am I suppose to do in a place that I don't know much about, don't know the language, don't know many people.  Thank God my boyfriend put me in contact with some good friends and they were able to find me lodging in a hotel close by till the next day. 

Then... a sign of relief, at least I was going to have a place to spend the night!