After 182 days of adventuring, my blog has almost caught up with my everyday. I had a lot to say about many things, but some just happen without eliciting a response. Not everything deserves a long text; many things just don't fit into one. Before I left Finland, I wanted to go back and sweep my virtual floor.
A friend recently asked me what I had hoped to get and what I had gotten out of my stay in Finland. The answer is constantly changing in my head. I am unable to make a coherent summary three weeks after leaving Finland. So here is what I am left with.
At the beginning of my au-pair existence, I couldn't imagine how much someone else's children, unrelated to me, could strike a cord with me. Between confusion, laughter spasms and testing my patience, there were also countless moments of peaceful coexistence. These were moments when I was able to watch the children discover and expose their character. That was one of the most wonderful things.
Once, my Finnish host father filmed his children playing. They (10, 6, 2) played a game, which they called "the angry princess and her two angry cats." I have never seen the video but only heard the soundtrack. It was fantastic. I leave it to your imagination () to visualise the scene.
The youngest enjoyed the attention she got when she ran feet stomping through the house and scolded her doll or the family dog. There wasn't any malice in what she said, but she mimicked the scolding tone, drew a face, threw around with orders, and stretched her index finger. A real fighter dressed in a pink princess' dress. The two boys usually had a kind, lenient attitude to their little sister. Although they were powerless against her immense will power. For me, watching this trio for a fraction of what will be their life was one of the greatest gifts.
My most precious moments in Finland I had when S. visited me in my room. Then she danced on my bed to any music she could find on my computer (preferably with a pink cover) and broke into rapturous laughter when I joined in. She imitated my clumsy and well-rehearsed dance moves and found nothing more amusing than watching me impersonate a ballerina.
My first thought when I discovered that we had a river on the property, was: “Yeah! Ice skating!” But I was soon told to put that out of my mind. Natural ice surfaces were not very popular, because of the snow on it, the danger and the unnecessary risks. (More work than pleasure.)
Where do the Finns learn ice skating? After all, about 1/10 of the country is covered with lakes. And isn't it easy to just go there?
One thing that is more common than lakes are football fields. Each village has one and usually a parking space right next to it. Since the Finns are very practical and train the football teams inside during winter, there are no counter-arguments. Every puddle of water turns into an ice surface in winter anyways, so it's easy to create a thick layer of ice and operate it with minimal effort. When it gets dark, the football lights are switched on. At six o'clock in the afternoon, the ice is filled with boys and girls, fathers and mothers.
This doesn't mean that you can't go and play on random ice puddles. My two boys are playing on small streams (rather rain outlets) often. It's especially pleasurable for them when the ice breaks and their gloves get wet. The three-centimeter-thick layer of ice is recovered from the water and with great joy, collected and counted. Meanwhile the other rushes over the uneven ice with his skates. If he falls, he gets up again. When the ice is cracking and tearing, he listens attentively, as if he knows exactly when it will break. Who knows, maybe he does?
One of the most important things I have understood in Finland is that families never stay the same. As a child, it feels as if nothing ever changes, because it takes place in themselves and they are so occupied, they don't necessarily see what happens outside of them. As an adult, I recognise that families never remain the same. It's always a compromise on time. Even if children don't perceive these temporalities, this doesn't alter the fact that all the rules and things that seem unchangeable are very changeable. Everything else is an illusion.
Here in Finland, the parents juggle the needs of the children, the au pair and their own with virtuoso flexibility. It looks to me like a well-trained muscle, because the procedures change not only every year but every season. Life during winter is different from life during summer: the hobbies of the children may not be the same for winter and summer, the number of animals on the farm grows by two ponies and perhaps three sheep in the warmer month, and between all these changes, of course, the primary needs of the growing children also vary.
What had I hoped to get from Finland? A break from travelling, time to reflect, to plan ahead, get to know people and look at the inner workings of yet another family. What I got out of my stay in Finland? Besides everything that I had hoped for, context. The way of life of the North. The winter sun. THE WINTER SUN. Driving in the snow and on the ice. Serenity. Another country in which I no longer feel foreign. Places I want to return to.