1. в санкт-петербурге

    Hi, friends!

    It’s been a while since our last update. The short version of what we’ve been up to is that most of our classes have ended and we took a weekend trip to St. Petersburg. The long version, though…

    We decided to take a trip to St. Petersburg with ESN FINT, an organization for exchange students at the University of Tampere. Traveling with the student group meant that we wouldn’t have to worry about working out our own transportation or lodging. The biggest perk, though, was that we didn’t have to apply for visas, which is requires time, money, and a lot of paperwork! We were able to visit St. Pete on a group visa since we were just there for the weekend.

    On Thursday, April 18, we took a bus from Tampere to Helsinki. From there, we took an overnight ferry from Helsinki to St. Pete. The trip was a bit rough (parts of the ocean were still frozen), but we arrived in St. Pete bright and early on Friday morning. After everyone in our group got through customs (it took around three hours), we took a bus tour of the city. The city looks very European – I got the impression that some of the architects were thinking, “Look Europe, we’re better at being European than you are!” We also noticed that a lot of the major landmarks were being refurbished. Our tour guide said that the city was being spruced up because 2013 marks the 400-year anniversary of the Romanov family. When I told my dad about this, he said, “But didn’t they get executed…?” It’s true, they did, but at that time there were still Romanov cousins and other relatives living abroad, and they escaped execution. Here’s what the Russian Imperial House has to say on it: “Since 1917, the Russian Imperial House has been compelled to live in exile, but its traditional historical, spiritual, and legal foundations continue on unchanged.” If you’re interested, here’s the website: http://www.imperialhouse.ru/eng/

    A lot of our Russian vocab came back to us once we got into Russia. We did get slight headaches, though. When you see a sign written in your native language, you can glance at it and have a good idea of what it says. When you see a sign written in a foreign language – and even a foreign alphabet! – it takes a minute of concentration before figuring out if you know the word or not. Neither of us could stop ourselves from reading nearly every sign we came across. In a city the size of St. Pete, that’s a lot of signs! I was so pleased that we still remembered the alphabet, though, since we haven’t had any practice for a year.

     We got to our hotel at around 4:30 and met up with our friend, Senya, pretty soon after. Senya taught us Russian for a year at MSSU (back when MSSU still had a Russian program). He went back to Russia in May 2012, and has been working in a small (well, what he calls small…) town in southern Russia. I believe he said it has a population of 1 million – still, it must seem pretty “provincial” when you’ve grown up in Moscow! Anyway, Senya made the trip up to St. Petersburg to visit us. From what Google Maps tells me, that’s about 15 hours by car. We were so happy that he came to see us for the weekend. After meeting up we spent a few hours wandering around the city by foot. The architecture was just amazing. If you haven’t seen our pictures on facebook, check out the picture below to see my favorite building, which was completely decked out in fabulous art noveau. Inside is a shop/café that sells specialty meats, cheeses, chocolates, coffee, tea, and other delights! Here is a video of the interior, where you can see me being dazzled by the awesome design and hear Senya talking about overpriced cheese:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOmVqm_nUJc&feature=youtu.be

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    That night we had dinner in a Georgian restaurant (as in the country, not the state) and had some delicious coffee. Well, Graham and Senya had delicious coffee – I had горячий шоколад (“goryachii shokolad,”), which is hot chocolate. I was surprised to find out that in Russia, hot chocolate is not the same as cocoa! I have always used the words interchangeably, but in Russia, cocoa is much thinner than hot chocolate, which is pretty much very thick melted chocolate. It was so good! After that we saw Church of the Savior on Blood (picture below). We also took the metro back to our hotel. It was much less cheery than the London metro.

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    On Saturday we met up with Senya for a nice brunch and then spent some more time walking around the city. We visited St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Graham went up to the top and took some awesome pictures of the city (see picture below). I wasn’t up to all the steps (my leg is healing very well, but I still get worn out pretty easily!) so I just went inside and looked around. As a one-word description of the cathedral, and of St. Pete in general, I would say “impressive.” It’s very clear that the city was carefully planned to make an almost overwhelming impression on its visitors. For those of you who don’t know much about St. Pete (I didn’t before we visited it): The area was originally occupied by Swedes. Peter the Great captured their fortress in 1703 and build the Peter and Paul Fortress. Peter made it the capital of Russia in 1712 and developed many of its most famous buildings very quickly. The city is said to be built on blood and bones because, well, it literally is. Many of the peasants used to build up the city died because of the harsh conditions. Originally Peter wanted the city to be similar to Venice (hence all the canals going through the city), but that didn’t really work out. In 1914 the city was renamed Petrograd; in 1918 Moscow was once again named the capital; in 1924 the city was renamed Leningrad; and in 1991, it was once again named St. Petersburg by popular vote. Here is a video of the State Hermitage/Winter Palace and the Palace Square, where the October Revolution took place: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_qccMHDj6Y

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    We had sushi for lunch. It was sooo good. The prices in St. Pete are way cheaper than in Finland, so we were able to enjoy things like sushi that are pretty much out of our price range in Tampere. That evening we went to Alexandrinsky Theatre to see a ballet performance. The theater itself was so beautiful – and, you guessed it, very impressive (see picture below). We saw three back-to-back performances. Here’s what Graham says about them:

    We saw The Rite of Spring, which is a traditional modern (as in around the turn of the century) ballet by a famous Russian composer. It was weird and scary but also very cool. The second piece was an actually modern German ballet and it was incredibly beautiful. It had a lot of modern elements, some that looked like salsa and some that looked like something you would see at a rave…very cool. The last one was uber traditional complete with tutus and frolicking. It was interesting, but very silly looking.

    Also, the third ballet was performed by a group from Moscow. When we emerged from the theater at 10:00, it was still light outside! We were all pretty tired, though, so we called it a night.

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    On Sunday Graham and I started out by taking a tour of the State Hermitage with the student group. It was amazing! There was so much art, enough that if you spent 30 seconds looking at each piece you would be in the museum for 9 years. As you can imagine, we only saw a fraction of what the museum has to offer. As Graham says, we saw the “four turtles” of art (Raphael, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Donatello). Actually, we didn’t see anything by Donatello, but hey, we got three out of four. Unfortunately, our camera battery was dying while we were in the museum, so we didn’t get nearly as many pictures as we’d have liked. We got a few, though. The building itself was a work of art (see picture below).  

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    After spending a few hours at the Hermitage, we went to go “roofing” with Senya. Apparently it’s a big thing in St. Pete to hang out on roofs. There are even websites dedicated to finding out which roofs are open for people and how to get on them. We did a lot of walking – the first few places we tried didn’t work out. Finally, we found a building we could get into. It was pretty dodgy, but Senya said it wasn’t abnormal. Senya and Graham got up on the roof. I was too chicken, but I poked my head out of the hole and looked out with them. Here is the view from the roof: 

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    By that time we needed to meet up with the group again and start the trip back to Tampere. I was really glad that we got the chance to see Russia, especially since we’ve been really interested in Russian language and culture for a few years now. We were also so happy to see our dear friend Senya. I have a feeling that we didn’t see him for the last time!

    Since we’ve come back from St. Pete we have mostly focused on finishing up our classes. We did celebrate Wappu week (which will be featured in our next post!) on May 1. We will be completely finished with our courses on May 8, and then we’re heading to see London and Dublin on May 10. I can’t believe we’re only 23 days away from Joplin! We’ll be seeing you all soon!

    With love,

    Graham and Sarah

     

  2. Laplands at Length

    Hi, friends! 

    As many of you know, we decided to take a trip to the Laplands. We were a bit cautious about signing up at first, since it is still difficult for me to walk for very long or on uneven ground, but after the assurances of one of our friends in Tampere we decided to take the trek north. We traveled with ESN FINT, a organization from our university that organizes events for exchange students. It was quite a relief to not try to plan the trip ourselves. We did a LOT of activities, though, so be warned: this is quite a lenthy post! 

    Sunday: We left from Tampere around 23:30 on a charter bus. Several students from Helsinki and a few other towns were already on the bus. We drove overnight.

    Monday: Our first stop was in Kemi to visit the LumiLinna Snow Castle/Hotel. As you probably can guess, the whole place is made of snow and ice. There were some really beautiful snow and ice sculptures there. We saw everything from an ice unicorn to an eight-foot Angry Bird made of snow. It wasn’t as cold as you might think, but I certainly would not want to spend the night there! Next, we went to Rovaniemi, a town just on the edge of the Arctic Circle. We visited the Santa Claus village, home of the most “authentic” Santa. In order to meet Santa, one has to walk through a souvenir shop (of course) and a museum giving a brief history of Christmas traditions in Finland, Germany, Russia, France and Japan. Fun fact for those of you who watch The Office (US version): In the Season 9 Christmas episode, Dwight dressed up as Belsnickel, a German Christmas figure that is…well, terrifying. This caricature was also featured in the Santa museum. It turns out that many of the traditions Dwight did, such as beating people with birch branches, was pretty accurate! A picture from the museum below:

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    After that we met Santa. He was a pretty nice guy! Although I’m not a fan of the Santa tradition, he did a good job being an “authentic” Santa. He spoke a bunch of different languages. He also didn’t ask us what we wanted for Christmas – he was pretty much a normal dude who happened to be wearing a beard and sitting on a throne of lies. He asked us about our time in Finland, how I broke my leg, where we’re from, etc. We did not get a picture with him, though, because it cost ten euros! After meeting Santa we drove the rest of the way to Inari, the small town we stayed at. Graham and I lodged in a tiny wooden cabin shared with six other people. Luckily, we liked our roommates and even made friends with them! We stayed with a boy from Spain, a boy from China, and a boy from Greece, all of whom are exchange students in Tampere, and also three girls from Wales, who are studying in a small town near Helsinki. We found out that one of the girls from Wales was living in Oklahoma at the time of the Joplin Tornado, and she even made some trips to help with clean-up. I was once again reminded of how very large, and also very small, the world is.

    The cabin was truly charming. It had a beautiful view of the frozen lake nearby. After unpacking, we unwound from our long journey by going to the sauna. Graham was brave enough to dip into the icy lake between his sauna trips, but I wasn’t! To be perfectly honest, I was pretty cautious about doing anything very adventurous during the trip – I really didn’t want any further injury to my leg. I probably didn’t get the “full” experience of the Laplands, but I had a wonderful time anyway, and letting other people sprint from the icy lake back to the sauna suits me just fine.

    Tuesday: The morning was pretty uneventful. There was a survival course that was available for an extra cost that included lessons on using a GPS system, building a quinzee (a type of igloo), building a fire, cross-country skiing, using snow shoes, and ice fishing. I didn’t participate (even without a broken leg, I doubt I’m any good on skiis), and Graham decided not to either, since it was quite expensive and I would be left alone. Despite that, I really enjoyed the morning – there was a time when all our roommates were gone and Graham was sleeping, and I realized how very quiet it is up there. If you take a moment now to sit quietly, what do you hear? Cars driving by? The washing machine? Someone in the other room watching TV? Maybe even birds singing? At that moment, there was nothing – nothing. Complete silence. Not the oppressive kind, either. It was a deliciously peaceful type of silence. Experiencing the silence helped me understand why people would bother to live in such a cold, rough area. Graham spent the morning exploring the forested area near our cabin. He found an old, abandoned shack that was covered in snow. He decided not to go in because it looked pretty unstable and he was pretty sure he could hear animals inside – a wise choice, I think! He also found the quinzees that had been made by that morning’s survival course participants.

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    In the afternoon we went with the group to the Saami museum in Inari. The Saami are the indigenous peoples of northern Finland, Russia, Norway, and Sweden. They are reindeer herders – supposedly, all the reindeer in the world are now owned by people, the vast majority of them Saami. Although the Saami share some similarities, the different tribes are very unique. To give you an idea, there are twelve distinct languages amongst the Saami people, and over a hundred different dialects. The museum was very interesting. We learned about the origins of human life in northern Finland and about how the Saami were able to survive the harsh conditions. We also learned a lot about the nature in northern Finland. Below is a picture showing a scene from the Laplands in each of the twelve months. You’ll notice that October is clear of snow, but once it hits November – WHAM! Welcome to winter. I think it’s also interesting to see the difference in how much sunlight is available at different times of the year.

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    On Tuesday evening we headed back to the sauna and also stayed up late to see the Northern Lights. They are usually not visible from southern Finland, but in the Laplands they are pretty common if you’re willing to stay up late enough. We were not disappointed! Although they were pretty weak on Tuesday night, it was still amazing to see this reminder of God’s glory bursting through creation. The rocks will cry out if we don’t!

    Wednesday: Graham spent the morning cross-country skiing. He told me he fell about five times – he thought he wasn’t very good, but I think that is quite impressive! One of our roommates heard him and said, “What, only five?” In the afternoon we visited a reindeer farm run by a Saami family living in Inari. The family is very interesting – the father is of the Inari Saami tribe, while the mother is of a different Saami tribe – I think she is Skolt Saami, which originally comes from closer to Russia. This means that at home they have to speak Finnish – their Saami tongues are too different to be understood by each other! They have two adult children, one boy and one girl – the girl learned the Saami language of the mother, while the boy learned the Saami language of the father. We learned about how reindeer husbandry works. When the reindeer are very young (less than two months old), their ears are clipped to show which family they belong to. Each reindeer herder has a unique marking that they make on the ears of their reindeer. We saw a video of it happening – because the reindeer are so young, they don’t have any feeling in their ears yet. They don’t even wince when it’s happening. We got to feed some of the reindeer, too! I chose to feed one that didn’t have any antlers. Both male and female reindeer have antlers – the males’ fall off once rutting season is over, and the females’ fall off a few weeks after their calves are born. The reindeer survive the winter by sniffing out lichen (yup, even through the snow!) and digging down to get it. We learned that for much of the winter, the males don’t have antlers and the females do, so usually the females let the males dig for the lichen then they push them out of the way and take it for themselves. It might seem a bit selfish, but this is to ensure that the females get enough food while they are pregnant! After we learned a bit about the reindeer, we got to ride in a sleigh pulled by them.

    By the time the sleigh ride was over, we were freezing! The Saami family took us back to a teepee-like structure that is similar to the structures Saami reindeer herders used to live in. We warmed up by the fire while the matriarch of the family sang some traditional Saami songs to us. She used a drum while she was singing. Nearly all of the drums used by the ancient Saami shamans were destroyed when Lutheran missionaries came to Finland. Here is a video of her singing a song about hunting a bear: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcSBPMWhU_0&feature=youtu.be

    On Wednesday evening we had a group campfire inside a teepee at our lodging site. We all cooked our food over the campfire. Graham and I were surprised to learn that s’mores are very American. The people at the campfire had only ever seen them in American movies. Unfortunately, we were unable to find true marshmallows to share with them, but we had something pretty similar. About halfway through dinner the Northern Lights showed up, and they were pretty strong! They’re very hard to take pictures of without a tripod since there has to be a pretty low shutter-speed setting. This is the best photo we took:

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    Thursday: We got up early and hopped in the bus to start a trip to the Arctic Ocean. Here is the route we took:

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    On the way we stoped at Utsjoki, the site of a very old church and some cabins from the 17th century. The cabins were surrounding the church. Utsjoki was a common meeting-place for families, and since the trip there often took weeks, the cabins were available for families during their extended stay. It was a really beautiful area.

    We got back on the bus and kept heading north. We passed through the northernmost city in the European Union before crossing into Norway. The landscape changed dramatically almost as soon as we crossed the border. We pretty quickly left the pines and firs behind, and soon even the scraggly shrubs couldn’t survive the tundra we ventured to. It is difficult to describe the beauty of this isolated area. We passed a handful of lonely towns crowded around the beaches, snow touching sand. Our destination was Bugoynes, Norway, a tiny town nicknamed “Little Finland.” Hundreds of years ago during a period of hardship in Finland, some Finns migrated to this spot by the Arctic Ocean so that they could at least have fish to survive on. The town was isolated for many, many years. A paved road was only built to the town in the 1950’s. We learned that although it is very cold here, the ocean does not freeze over because it is fed by the Gulf Stream. We were so in awe of the beauty that we couldn’t stop taking pictures, but it is very difficult to truly show how amazing the landscape was through still shots. Here’s a video that Graham took of the beach: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IY5ROP9jCes&feature=youtu.be

    Our intention was to swim in the Arctic Ocean. A small sauna was set up in a shack next to the beach, so that you don’t die from the cold! We got in our swimsuits and shivered our way down the rocky slope to the shore. These days I’m a pretty slow walker (especially on rocky slopes), so by the time I got down there I was too cold to try getting in the ocean. Graham was really brave – even though he’d walked slowly down to the beach with me in nothing but his swimsuit, he still ran into the ocean!

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    Afterwards we (slowly) made our way back up to the sauna. Some people in our group went several times from the sauna to the ocean, but we were content to call it quits after the first time. After we were dried off and dressed we went to the church to have lunch  - see if you can spot the church in the video! We had delicious salmon soup and coffee made by the woman who owns the seaside sauna. After lunch we got back on the bus and started the long trip home. We were sad to leave this beautiful spot.

    Our trip home took longer than expected. Shortly after crossing the border back to Finland, the bus hit a patch of ice and slid into the snow on the side of the road. It was a little scary, but everything was okay. The snow was so deep that it kept the bus from turning over or going very far off the road. We called a tow truck, but the only available one big enough to pull out the charter bus was back in Norway. We waited for about two hours for the tow truck, during which lots of people stopped to ask if we needed help. Once the truck got there, the tour guide hopped out the window to go speak to him. Graham, being the gentleman that he is, was the first one to hop out the window to help shovel out the bus. Several other boys followed, and soon we were told to make our way through the waist-deep snow so we could stand on the road while the bus was tugged out. Most of the passengers (including me) stood on the side of the road and wiggled around as much as possible to keep warm. A group of about five boys (including Graham) dug out the sides of the bus while the truck driver hooked up the tow cables. After about an hour of standing outside (me wiggling, Graham digging), the bus was finally pulled free and declared fit to take us back to Inari. Poor Graham was pretty well soaked from melted snow by the time that we got back on the bus. I sure am glad to have a brave husband who likes to serve others – and he’s handsome, too! We finally made it back to our little cabin and finished off the long day with – you guessed it – a trip to the sauna.

    Friday: Our last day in the Laplands. We cleaned the cabin and left at 8:30 AM to go on a husky safari in Saariselka. Once we got there we were greeted by the sound of about 100 huskies anxiously expressing their desire to run. I spent about five seconds feeling bad that these dogs spent their days pulling people around on sleds before I saw how absolutely desperate they were to go. They were already harnessed to the sleighs and were moaning and howling with excitement. The people running the safari told us not to take pictures or touch the dogs before we left, because they were so excited that it would just agitate them. After a short lesson on how to drive the sleighs, we got ready to go – Graham was the driver, of course, and I was the passenger. It was so much fun! We were in the last sleigh and one of the dog-trainers changed out some of the harnesses before we left, so we were way behind the rest of the group (we travelled in a line of about eight sleighs). Our dogs were so anxious to go, however, that we caught up with the group really quickly. The track was pretty bumpy to start off with, so I held my leg up in the air a little so it wouldn’t get too jostled. Graham was a great driver. He told me it was kind of like driving a really bumpy tractor. About halfway through the safari one of the dog trainers pulled up to us, him on a snowmobile, us on a husky-drawn sleigh. It was quite loud because of all the barking and the snowmobile, so he just held out his hand for our camera and I passed it to him (I was a little bit nervous about dropping it in the snow at high speed!). He zoomed off ahead of us and got some really cool shots of us riding in the sleigh. A few minutes later he passed back the camera (again, at high speed in the snow!). After we got back to the starting point he asked to see how the pictures came out and told us not to tell anyone else about it, at least until we got back on the bus. Traveling as a couple has many advantages, and people offering to take your picture is one of them! I think travelling at the back of the line has its perks, too. He was a really nice guy, one of the many nice people we’ve met while abroad. After we were done talking to him and petting the huskies, we went to a small cabin to learn about dog-sledding and to warm up by the fire. The instructor also brought a fluffy husky puppy for us to play with!

    After the husky safari we went to the holiday club in Saariselka. To be honest, it was pretty touristy, but we still had fun. We pretty much just walked around and waited for it to be time to get back on the bus. We left at 17:00 and arrived back in Tampere around 8:00 on Saturday morning.

    If you made it all the way through this post, I congratulate you! I cannot apologize for writing at such length, though, because we had so much fun that it merited a detailed account. The next planned trip is for St. Petersburg at the end of April, though we might take a short trip to Helsinki before that. We will keep you posted!

    With love,

    Graham & Sarah 

     
  3. Today we received our first package from home. Woohoo! Even though breaking my leg was certainly NOT fun, we have enjoyed being showered with cards from home. :) The last photo shows some of the mail we’ve received recently: get-well cards from my grandma, my aunt, lovely Linda Clementine, and my parents & brother. Pictured in the front is a lovely letter from our insurance company stating that they will reimburse us for most of our pharmaceutical expenses! I wish mail could always be this nice! 

     

  4. Breaking a Leg

    Written on 23-2-2013:

    Hello, friends!

    If you haven’t heard already, we had an exciting Saturday. We woke up and had a lazy Saturday morning together. We’ve been watching the Malcolm in the Middle series on Netflix lately. After watching some Malcolm we walked to Yliopistonkatu (it’s a street that runs in front of the university) and headed to a nearby park to go ice skating. We had wanted to go ice skating with a group of students this week, but were unable to because of a Finnish exam we had to take. Anyway, we arrived at the park but first went to a café called Kahvilla because they allow people to rent skates for free. The café was awesome! Very eclectic, for sure. We grabbed some coffee and sat down at a table with a giant hole cut in the middle of it. In the middle was a deep bucket full of legos! Well, of course, we had to play with those before going out to skate. We made an awesome boat. It didn’t come out exactly the way we wanted, but we had fun anyway and it was getting late (16:30), so we decided to start on our skating adventure. I had never been ice skating and am TERRIBLE at rollerskating, so I fully expected to lose my balance several times. Graham had only been ice skating a few times when he was much younger, so he was pretty much a beginner, too. After struggling for a while to get our skates on (they were very tight!) we finally made it out onto the ice…and about 15 seconds later I slipped, heard a terrible crack!, and knew that my day of ice skating had come to an end.

    Luckily, several other people were in the park. There was a mom and her little boy, and also a man who didn’t speak any English but was terribly kind to us. Graham was able to stay with me the whole time. The lady used her cell phone to call an ambulance and the man went to go get our regular shoes for us. They were also so nice and helped keep me warm because I couldn’t move off the ice. I broke the fibia and tibia in my left leg, so the paramedics had to cut that skate off – we’ll try to reimburse Kahvilla for the shoe strings. After that I was loaded onto the stretcher and taken to the hospital. Thankfully, one of the paramedics spoke English pretty fluently. I am sure glad that we took the Finnish survival course, though – there have been a few instances where I’ve needed to try to explain things in Finnish while in the hospital.

    While I was getting “checked in” by the nurse I realized how inconvenient it is to not know the metric system. For example, the nurse asked me my weight and height, and I couldn’t give him any information other than inches and pounds. After getting my leg X-rayed, the doctor came and told me that I will need a long nail put into my leg in order for it to heal properly. I don’t remember how long he said the nail will be – maybe around 24 inches? – but it will be a permanent titanium fixture. I should only have two small scars from the incisions, though. Last night it sounded really scary. I kept thinking, ‘Why can’t you slap a cast on there and let me go home??’ Today, though, I’m not as worried about it. I found out last night that the Finns have to problem with liberal use of opiods. J I’m writing this at 10:00 on 24-2-2013 – the morning after my skating accident. I should be getting surgery around noon or 13:00 today. The doctor said I’ll need to stay two more days in the hospital to recover and to learn how to use my crutches (which I’m kind of nervous about – there’s almost always ice on the sidewalks). I’ll probably need crutches for about six weeks, and it’ll take approximately three months to get back to normal.

    This experience has definitely been one of firsts! It was my first time ice skating, my first time breaking a bone, my first time riding in an ambulance, my first time getting checked into a hospital (since I was born, anyway), my first time receiving synthetic heroin…

    I have been so overwhelmed by all the help and kindness people have shown me. Graham, first and foremost, has been so sweet by helping me – he let me bite down on his glove when my leg was particularly painful, he told me jokes to distract me while we were waiting for the ambulance, and after making sure I’d be taken care of he went home to get me a bag of goodies and essentials. He wasn’t allowed to stay overnight, but he should be here pretty soon now. The paramedics, nurses, and doctors have also been so kind in explaining everything and giving me all the help they can even though the language barrier makes in more difficult. The nurses were also very patient with me calling them over and over throughout the night for more meds. J Even my roommate in the hospital, who doesn’t speak a lick of English, has been kind in getting me help when I needed it and offering to let me have the TV remote. And again, I want to emphasize how unexpectedly kind the people at the park were. God’s kindness is overwhelming, and it is such a pleasant gift that he gives us through others. “Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the merciful Father, the God from whom all help comes! He helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God. Just as we have a share in Christ’s many sufferings, so also through Christ we share in God’s great help!” (2 Cor 1:3-5)

    Written on 28-2-2012:

    I am happy to report that I am comfortably settled into our apartment. The surgery went perfectly, according to the doctors, and my pain has been pretty minimal. I am so blessed to have Graham here to help me. I honestly have no idea what I’d have done if he wasn’t here. Here are things you can pray for us about:

    • I feel sort of like a slug. I can’t move around or even sit up very well on my own. I’m pretty much dependent on Graham to help me move around, eat, get ready for bed…everything. It’s kind of depressing on my end – I feel bad about being so completely reliant on Graham for everything while not being able to help with the things I normally can do, like laundry, grocery shopping, etc. Please pray for my rapid healing and increased independence. Please also pray for Graham – he has not complained at all about suddenly having to do everything by himself, but I know it is exhausting. Please pray for this dramatic change in the dynamic of our relationship to strengthen our marriage instead of cause friction (there has been no friction so far).
    •  I am having trouble sleeping. Graham is having trouble sleeping during normal hours, so lately he’s been up all night and sleeping for a large portion of the day.
    •  Please pray for my mental health. I am confined to a bed in a one-room apartment for at least a week, and maybe two. It also causes me a lot of distress when Graham has to be gone (to go to class, to get groceries, etc.) because, like I said, I am in many ways helpless on my own.
    • I am worried we might not get to do as much travelling as we’d hoped because of the expense of the medical bills combined with my reduced mobility. Please pray for us to make peace with this change in plan.
    •  I am really nervous about going out on the icy sidewalks with my crutches.
    • Please pray for everything with our insurance to work out smoothly. 
    • Please pray for my parents, who have been very worried about both of us. 

    Thank you, everyone, for the outpouring of love and prayers that was showered on us via facebook. We are blessed by your friendship. We will keep you updated. 

     
  5. Hello, everyone! We’ve just gotten back from London and I’m in the process of writing a detailed entry about it. In the meantime, please enjoy some photos of the beautiful doors we saw while in Tallinn, Estonia. 

     
  6. A photo entry of our weekend in Tallinn, Estonia. 

     

  7. Sunday in Tallinn

    From Graham:

    Had a super awesome experience tonight, but first I need to rewind a month or two ago. Before we left for Finland, I was talking to my good friend Chris Nash about how we were going to miss our Church whilst we were abroad. He had mentioned an international fellowship that some acquaintances of his had started in Estonia and messaged me a link to their website. I admittedly did not read that message, thinking that it would be too much of a hassle to cross half of Finland and the Baltic Sea just to go to church. I therefore knew nothing about this church other than that it was an international, English speaking church somewhere in the country of Estonia. By this morning, I had also forgotten that we had even ever had such a conversation, so Sarah and I were just wondering around the Old Town district of Tallinn visiting touristy shops and taking pictures of old stuff and we stopped to take photos of this beautiful cathedral (pictures later). An Estonian man walked up and asked us if we spoke English, and then began to give us a brief history of the building. Then he said “actually, there is going to be a meeting in English starting in one of the side rooms in about five minutes if you would like to go.” This man happened to be one of the 5 or so attending members of that church. So in sum, in a country we are visiting for one day, a man who is one of 10-15 members of the only church anyone recommended to us picks us out of all the tourists walking this street and invites us to attend their weekly meeting which starts in five minutes, and we are entirely oblivious to the whole thing until it has already happened. God is so good, and it was wonderful to meet with his people again.


    (Note from Sarah: That is me standing in front of the door of the church!)

     
  8. Scenes from our weekend of exploring Tampere.