Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ik Mis Holland

Vandaag was het weer koud en het dragen van winterkleren maakte me mis de nederlanden! zo, ik at hagelslaag voor onbijt! de beeste ooit! Zijn zo lekker!!!

p.s ellen, bedankt voor mijn mooi posti!! ik wil schrijf je snel terug! ik mis je zo erg. kom je snel naar florida, alsjeblieft! xoxo

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Adventures in Finland

I'm finally getting back to write more about our travels in Scandinavia.

Here are some of the great adventure stories Desi and I experienced while in Finland...

We had a long boat ride from Sweden and an even longer day running around Helsinki (I may or may not have been accosted by a was awkward). We decided to take a nap in Helsinkipuisto, the central park of the city which is located along the river. Lovely views!

I really loved Helsinki, despite how exhausted we were. The most confusing part is that they put most of the signs in Swedish and Finnish, obviously, but for us, these languages weren't that easy to read or pronounce! You gotta love being confused and lost in a foreign country. Plus, we were happy to find any excuse to yell, "Ahh Finlandia!"

Needless to say, we we turned around and confused...A LOT and entered the wrong trams quite often. But it was such a beautiful day that there wasn't much to complain about especially since we enjoyed a little in the sun. Then, suddenly, a troop of people showed up, busted out a boom box and started practicing the waltz!

At first we were pretty confused, this seemd like a very serious group (Is this a dance gang coming to steal our passports?) but they all matched up into pairs and started hopping around, doing the jitterbug. Awesome!

We found the best picnic spot on Suomenlinna Island.
We really enjoyed beautiful summer weather in Finland! And to think the whole time packing for this trip my mother was telling us to bring more sweaters, ha!

We spent the whole day at Summenlinnia and had some interesting Finnish pizza. complete with a strong bow cider and Tabasco know we can't live without hot sauce.

Oh, yeah, that’s us, just gambling in the grocery store. Which apparently its a normal sight to see in Finland...

While in Helsinki, we stopped to share some tasty treats at Fazers. 
No big deal, it's just the most famous bakery in Finland, and seriously delicious!
How do you say, "sugarfoodcoma" in Finnish?

After running around Helsinki all day, we took the night train up to the Arctic Circle!
Good thing we got to sleep because that ride was 13 hours long and all you see are trees, trees and more trees. We awoke in the middle of the night to look out the window for reindeer but instead just saw miles and miles of green whizzing past. That's when we realized that we really were headed to the middle of nowhere! Finland has some beautiful nature, that's fore sure.

We met Santa (it was kinda creepy) and mailed postcards home with a very official seal of approval. If you're a big fan of Christmas and happen to be in Finland definitely don't miss this spot!

Here I am keepin' it real in the Arctic Circle. 
Now I can check that one off my list! 

After our epic train ride we made it to Ylitornio, Finland for Heidi and Jarrod's wedding.
There was a lot of yummy Finnish food, and I dug into their delicious strawberry cake. Desi is a brave foodie and sampled some reindeer but wasn't very enthusiastic about...this could have been associated with the high amount of alcohol intake that is required at a gathering such as this.

Finnish weddings are definitely an experience, between the never ending flow of alcohol (vodka, cider, vodka punch, wine, beer...) these Finns know how to party! Plus, there was quite a lot of wild and crazy dancing to heavy metal and Bon Jovi songs. 

It was an intensely fun day and night and I'm so glad we made it up to the corners of the Earth to celebrate with our friends. Congratulations you guys! 

Heidi’s family showed us the midnight sun from the top of a mountain. What a beautiful sight to see!

This is a statue of a nice finish author Annikki Kariniemi, but I prefer to call her Finnish cat lady because once again, Desi and I couldn't read the sign and had to interpret the best we could.

After the wedding celebrations came to an end, we headed back "south" to Rovaniemi.
Desi, Heidi, Jarod and Anu (our Couch Surfing pal) took part in something special...
A summer time bobsled ride!

I’ve never been in a bobsled before and it was especially odd when it was about 95 degrees outside with a million mosquitos flying in my face. If you ever have the chance to ride a bobsled, don't pass it up. 

Heidi and Jarod head down the hill...

How beautiful are these views? Finland, I love your countryside.

And to sum things up, no trip to the Arctic Circle is complete with out reindeer!
We spotted these guys on our last day, finally! 

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sinterklaas Arrived in Leiden

On Friday, I finally met the legendary Sinterklaas and his helpful (yet very controversial) friends, Zwarte Pieten. The Dutch holiday story is somewhat similar to the American tale... except for a few major differences. First, Sinterklaas lives in a castle in Spain and once a year he and all the Zwarte Piet travel by steam ship to The Netherlands in time for celebrations on December 5th when the little Dutch children leave their shoes out by the fireplace at night and wait for gifts. Seems fine, right?

Sure, it's a cute enough story for kids. However, the whole concept of adults (!!!) wearing blackface (!?) a curly wig (!?) and huge red lips (!?) was so shocking and weird to see in real life!  I mean, whyyyy is the blackface necessary? They say he fell down a chimney but I personally don't understand why someone would do this, especially given the negative history that black face represents. It's not so baffling to see adults dressing themselves up in costume or character yet the blackface... I just can't wrap my head about how that's justified. The funny outfit and feathered hat seem like quite enough to do the trick. Throw some cookies and me and I'll know you're Zwarte Piet, no blackface needed.

Never the less, beer in hand, I tried to muster up some cultural relevancy long enough to get a photo. Don't let the smiles fool you, this was an incredibly awkward moment for me. So, that's the story about the first (and hopefully last) time I met Zwarte Piet.

To finish up, here's our pal Sinterklaas dancing on top of the bar which is a clear indication that he most likely added a little something extra to his warm chocomel.

Since Ellen has to work a lot we have mostly been hanging out at night and making dinner together with friends. Most of the time we make some kind of variety of vegetables with satay because... it's the best sauce ever next to hot sauce, of course. Oh yes, I love that peanutty-goodness. You can put almost anything on fries over here and I'm happy to mention that satay sauce on my friets is now an obsession too.

Another night Marleen and I made some pannenkouken with apples, raisons, pineapple... yum! Dutch food isn't exactly the most interesting span of ingredients but on a cold winter evening, pancakes for dinner are a very good idea.