Monday, August 17, 2009

Here is the Essay I wrote for FUSYE YFU at the end of the summer:

Not That Different
Megan Yeo August 3, 2009

One of the first expectations people create before traveling to a new country is how different everything will be. From the food and people´s appearances, to the weather and the how buildings are made, we expect every last detail to shock and amaze us with its newness. I had similar expectations before I came to Finland. However, the biggest lesson this summer has taught me is how the world and the people in it are not that different after all.

At the beginning of my summer in Finland, I was told again and again not to expect anything, and to take whatever came my way with an open mind. While this is good advice, I believe that imagining how something could be before you see it is human nature. Like most travelers then, I expected that everything down to the last second would be different in Finland. It was a another continent and a unfamiliar culture after all. When I arrived, it became clear that this was not true. Not every minute was action packed, not every conversation was unforgettable. Not every morning dawned beautiful and sunny, and the days were not without boredom. Minutes passed like minutes anywhere else, and it rained just the same. Although I had some truly amazing and unique experiences during the summer, the concept of Finland and home are constantly jumping in my face. It´s just life, no matter where you´re living it. You can´t always decide how it is going to go, but you can decide how you are going deal with it. This is something I understand now.

Before I came, I imagined myself in Finland as if from a bird´s eye view, clearly showing me in the middle of a foreign country. When I arrived, I found that the view was not that different after all. I felt the same as I did back home. There was no thunderclap, no amazing realization about where I was and who I was. I had not changed at all, not the way I imagined. The feeling brings to mind one of my favorite quotes:`Wherever you go, there you are´.

At first look, Finland is a world apart from Stafford Springs Connecticut, USA. However, when I became accustomed to life in Finland I stopped thinking "Oh, this is so new and exciting!". I simply accepted things as normal and they ceased to amaze. Then I saw the similarities, the biggest of which is in the people themselves. Now I know that wherever you go, in whatever country and whatever culture, people do not differ that much. Their customs, their clothes, their food, their language and their ideas may differ. But when it comes down to it, we are all the same. We all love and laugh and hate and cry, eat and sleep and dream, no matter who we are.

Regardless of how unchanged I felt at the beginning of the summer, I have changed along with my new perspective, and learned many things about myself. I know now that people see me differently than I see myself and that I must be aware of how my communication appears to others. I learned that I am strong enough to handle a foreign culture, and that I have much more to learn and many areas I still need to strengthen. From this summer in Finland I can see my own country, family, friends and life from the outside. This new view has shown me how precious and special my home is. Now I understand how important it is to make ´home´a broader term. Now my home is not only a little town in the USA, but a place in Finland as well.

When people at home ask me what Finland is like, I will probably rattle off a list of praises: " It is a beautiful, clean country, the food is amazing, the people are lovely and very quiet, the nation is well run, in the summer it is still daylight at 11 pm, and I love it!"
But what I might not say to my family and friends, is how I don´t think Finland or any other country for that matter, is that different after all. I would not be able to fully explain to them how a country halfway across the world could be the same as home. Because most of them haven´t seen, like I have, how even though cultures in general differ greatly, the people who make up those cultures are incredibly and wonderfully similar. When you work it down to the essence that is human beings, you see that no matter where on the globe you point to, the people living there are all kin. With that realization I can comprehend what a small place the world is, small enough so that when I have stretched myself across the globe, home and Finland are not that different.
I AM HOME! IN THE USA! IN MY HOUSE! WITH MY FAMILY! In case you didn't pick up on it, I am extremely happy to be home. I miss Finland, but I so caught up in the awesomeness of being home, that I don't really have time! The flights back home were uneventful, although the longest one ( 9 hrs, 5 minutes) seemed longer than the one going to Finland. When we got to the Washington Dulles Airport, and went through customs, the American citizens went through a fast moving line that was parallel to a super long and slow line of non- citizens. It was so awesome, in a mean sort of way I guess, but I felt so proud to be in my own country again! I got the biggest thrill while waiting in the airport for my flight to CT, because I discovered that I could eavesdrop again!!!! I could actually understand the conversations of the people sitting near me! It felt amazing... but it was a kind of relief to hear some people there speaking a language that I didn't understand, it required less thought! I had to say goodbye to the other kids in the group, I was so sad and it felt awful to say " have a nice life!" to them! We have became very good friends over the summer. Luckily some of them live close by so I can see them maybe sometimes. My family met me at the Bradly Airport in CT, complete with a 'welcome home Megan' sign! They are all so awesome looking, my brother has gotten taller and got some swimmers muscles, Beth is gorgeous, and Jamie looks older! Nene, my new exchange student from Japan is really nice too :) At home, I kept getting amazing thrills from seeing normal, old things in my home, like yesterday morning I got up and just stood in my room staring at my dresser, thinking how lovely it was! HAHA! The newly painted rooms are nice too, I love how they look. My mom is also talking about painting the kitchen too!
Today I am going to go to the beach with some friends and this week is going to be full of seeing people and catching up. Next week we will start school I think. I guess that my summer in Finland is over now. It is a strange feeling, knowing that that huge adventure is behind me now. It has taught me alot. It has changed me in little ways. It has opened my eyes and showed me how beautiful and incredible the world can be. It has taught me to cope and to fly in airplanes without freaking out. It has taught me how exchange students living in my home feel. It has taught me a whole summer load of stuff that I could go on and on and on about, but for now I will stop typing, and say good bye to all you faithful readers. Thank you for your support this summer!! Moi moi!
And here ends the blog of Megan Yeo, American Overseas Student to Finland in summer 2009 :)

Friday, August 14, 2009

It is currently 2:16 in the morning, and I know I should be trying to get some sleep. I have to leave for the airport at 4:40 this morning, and my flight is at 6:55 am. I just had to write now though, despite the lateness of the hour and then level of my exhaustion, because I am leaving in a matter of hours after all.
Last night I was out late with Petra at a dance... I´ll tell you all about it in person, but it was great. Lots of dancing Finns and looooooooooooooooud music and I get to bed at about this time, 2:30 am. tonight I was out until 1 am at a concert... which was louder, if possible and all Finnish rap. Still, it was nice :) So, needless to say, with my evening adventures and then all the day time programs, I am strung out pretty thin. This afternoon I came back to Petra´s and tried to do some packing. However, I suddenly found myself having a total emotional breakdown... I totally lost it. Those who know me know that this happens sometimes, and Petra said that the same thing happened to her on the eve of her leaving too. So that made me feel better and actually the loosing it helped, in a strange way. This week has left me very confused. At the end of my stay with the Haanpää´s, I was very clear about what I liked, what I was looking forward to at home, and why I did things they way I so. I also thought I understood myself better and had worked out some of my kinks. After this week in Tallinn and Helsinki though, I am very confused about all of those things. I guess it comes from being with the other students, who are all more independent and comfortable with city life, as well as being with Petra. Those midnight jaunts are new for me! But I loved them and I want to get more comfortable with them. I think sometimes I think too much, and that confuses me. On another note, which sorta contradicts what I just said, I think I need to learn more practical things. I felt sort of stupid next to the other students, they seemed to come up with intelligent things to say and know alot about a broad range of subjects. I sometimes just nod and laugh and sit there with a question mark over my head. This is something I need to fix, any ones help will be welcome :=)
Some notable events that I was at during the last few days before I go close my eyes for a few blessed minutes:
I have gone to the Ministry of Foreign Affair Office, met the Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Stubb ( he is awesome by the way), I have gone to the Finnish National Archives Office and got to see some seriously huge books. I have learned about Finnish education systems, and heard some things that really made me think. I have visited the US Embassy in Finland... which was quite awful really. The board room we were in was old fashioned, stuffy, and smelled strange, and the lectures by the different ministers of the Embassy were boring and ignorant. I liked the Finnish Embassy MUCH better. I have gotten used to Finnish design in public buildings and such, and it was awful to be in that stuffy crowded room. But, the reception was nice, I really realized then how important and official this scholarship is... I met loads of important people and it made me feel important. Today we went to the Iittala factory, and got a wonderful tour of the factory, which was fascinating.
I already mentioned my evening and early morning so far... people at home: expect a really dead tired Megan when I get home.
This will be the last entry in the blog while I am writing from Finland. Can you believe it? I sure as hell can´t. What a summer though... I feel different in my mind sometimes... more mature, more accustomed to dealing with daunting things. But sometimes I feel just the same girl who left for Finland back on June 21, 2009.
Here I am, sitting at Petra´s computer at 2:35 in the morning on August 15, 2009, writing from Helsinki, Finland for the last time. I hope that it will not be the last time however. In fact, after the summer I had here, I am completely positive it will not be. My sleepy love to you all... xox Megan Gail Yeo

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

hello all!
I am aware that you all have been waiting for another post, and that I have been really lazy in the last few days. I do however have excuses ( I broke the computer turn on button, which was awful and I felt horrible but it was fixed eventually, and then the Internet was super slow.) I wanted to write on Sunday, seeing as it was the day I left, but I didn´t get to. So I will have to write a short ( ha) over view of the last few days, which have been some of the most amazing so far!
Thursday we went to visit Äiti´s sister and family, ate snacks with them, and then went to the horse races down the road. It was really exciting, because one of their friend´s horses was racing, and came in third place! Äiti´s sister bet 3 euros on that horse and won a few more euros when it got third. She gave me the 10 cent coin as a ´lucky coin´haha. Friday we went to the amusement park Säarkkänniemi, where I rode my first real roller coasters. One was called ´Tornado´and it was fantastically scary! That was a fun day. Saturday, well nothing special, just hanging around the house and packing a little. Sunday, my last day, I finished packing, and prepared to leave... I also fell on my bike and skinned my knee really really bad... it has a huge sore spot and i am sure it will scar a little! It has caused my some discomfort during the last few days...! Sunday evening was great... we had a traditional Finnish summer meal for dinner, and then the family surprised me by announcing that they wanted to try making snores again, even after the horrible mishap from the first time. So we did them again, with great success and happiness all round. Then they gave me a Mummin mug, with four chocolate bars in it... I was sooo happy... oh and a card too. Then the girls acted out some little skits for me, which was adorable, and I taught then some that I knew. Then sauna... which was extra nice because Ilona came with me this time, and we had a great talk about everything... including how she felt now and thought now after having me for the summer. Then I said goodbye to the girls, and went to bed. I got up at 4:30 the next morning, Simo drove me to the train in Tampere, and off I went to Helsinki! The train was fantastic, because it was so smooth you could barely feel that you were moving! Petra´s mom met me off the train, and I went to the port where the other kids were. It was amazing, talking to them... all through the Tallinn trip we swapped stories, and talked up a storm. I learned that they all had similar problems and adventures as I had had! We got on the ferry, and off to Estonia. The Tallinn trip was well worth the 120 euros I spent for it... nothing has ever been so amazing. The place where we got off the boat was totally different looking form Finland, there were tons of ruins from the Soviet Occupation, crumbling buildings and sidewalks etc. Further into the city though was beautiful. There is the new city, which is slowly being rebuilt to be all modern looking... all glass buildings and such. There are the malls and the allys and the city looking areas. Then there is an aciant wall ( called the city wall) that separates that part form the old city, which really is a huge tourist attraction. But I know now why, because it was totally and completely beautiful. Old old buildings with red roofs, made of plasterish stuff of brick, beautiful cobble stone streets, tons of gorgeous shops, dozens of fantastic churches, and looooads of beautiful people. It felt like a place straight out of a fairytale, I have never seen a more beautiful city. We went on a 3 hour walking tour there with the Estonian guides who had been exchange students themselves. So many churches, and streets and shops and museums, all so little and beautiful and closely packed. IT really was a perfect old European town. I could feel the centuries of history I was walking on! We climbed the steeple of a church, up a tiny tiny stone spiral staircase, which was quite scary because you were always afraid you´d fall! The view from the top was amazing, I could clearly see the change from the new city to the old city. Then we walked to the upper part of the old city, where you could see the whole thing laid out below. Dinner was at a African Kitchen restaurant ( very funny, African food in Estonia) which was hilarious... the room was like a cave almost, painted with African designs and with couches instead of seats! We stayed up super late talking and finally slept ( in the hotel in the new town). The next morning( this morning) we ate breakfast in the hotel and then went off for our three hours of free time. I met Stina at the hotel, and she took me shopping in Tallinn! It was amazing seeing her. So strange though, because we´d just seen each other in Stafford Springs, and now I was there in her home town IN ESTONIA! She couldn't´t get over the thought, and kept repeating it. We shopped ( I bought presents!!!) and had a really really great time. She left me outside a hotel with the group and we went off the lunch at a Cafe Tao ( ha ha, another foreign restaurant). After that we had some more free time, so four of us went back to the old town to buy some flowers and sat in a cafe for a while. The weather was lovely and the place was heavenly. Then back tot he ferry, and back to Finland. Petra´s family met me at the port, and took me to a nice restaurant for dinner. I am currently in Petra´s room, at her computer and practically falling asleep on the keyboard! It is incredible to be here, in her home, since she has spent so much time in my home in the US. These past few days have been a whirlwind of change and movement... but I am not scared by it. I know I would have been just a few months ago, but now I can handle it. There was a moment on the train from Tampere on Monday morning where I was filled with such a thrill... I as going somewhere, I didn´t know exactly where or what to expect, but I was going and I was loving it. I guess that is the travel bug! love to you all... I´ll try to write soon.
p.s. please forgive the spelling errors, I am DEAD TIE RD. DEAD I tell you :)

Monday, August 3, 2009


Sorry for the long wait, but this has been a very busy weekend and it is hard to keep up. A brief overview: Tuesday we went to Moomin world, like a fairytale world for little kids. It was crowded with small people and their parents, and very enjoyable to me too! Wednesday we walked around the town of Naantali, which is the perfect picture of an old European town. We ate ice cream there and bought several trinkets in little shops! Thursday we went to visit Ilona´s godparents at their summer lake home. It was really lovely, overlooking a blue lake, and we ate delicious food and talked. The daughter Tiina showed me some pictures she took of Pete Parkkonen and other artists whose concerts she´d been at. Friday was Anssi´s 20th birthday! Äiti baked him a cake, and then we packed up and left for the weekend so he could invite some friends over. We went to a very nice camping place near. I have pictures of the sea of campers parked between the pine trees, it is really something! We swam in the heated pool and went to sauna many times. There was a huge water slide as well, that was fun! It rained most of the afternoon on Friday, but there is something very lovely and exciting about swimming in the rain, so I didn´t mind. That night we had a nice meal together, and I felt suddenly much closer to the family. We were joking and laughing and teaching each other words. We have a joke that what we speak most of the time ( when I´m around anyway) is called ´Finnglish´. In Finnglish you would say ´could you please pass the maito ´( milk) or ´makes sure you go to vesa before we leave´( vesa is bathroom)! That evening was one of the most fun I have had... there was a disco for the teens there! It went from 9:30 pm until 1 am... by the end of the night I had been dancing for almost 4 1\2 hours straight! It was a very curious thing really: When we first got there, there were lights and music and everything fabulous, but no one was dancing. The walls were lined with Finnish teens ( and preteens) sitting on benches in little clumps, totally ignoring the music! I couldn´t, I was bouncing in place, but I didn´t want to be the only person dancing. I finally convinced Ilona and made her promise to come dance when there were more people out on the floor, and FINALLY we danced. I felt so free and happy, there is really no way to describe the feeling. Sometimes we were the only people dancing, ( me, Ella, Ilona, Heli, and a girl named Julia who we met there) but I didn´t mind. Something about being the only American there empowered me to not be shy, and I have never danced for so long at one time, ever! The Finns danced with us, and one guy asked to slowdance with me 6 times by the end of the night! HA! Anyway it was a blast! Sunday we drove home and watched ´Freaky Friday´until nearly midnight.
Today has been really great, although I didn´t do much at all. Äiti had to go to work, so we all slept in and took our time doing everything. I call it a soul-resting day... <3 class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_31">aren´t that different from each other, and that realizing that makes the world seem much smaller. I will post the essay in the last blog post. It´s so strange, knowing I am going to leave the Haanpää´s home next week. Actually, next week I will be in Tallinn by this time! How the summer has flown by so fast, I´ll never know. I do know however that it has been amazing and incredible and unforgettable. I will try to write more in the next few days, as they will be action packed and worth writing about. Now I will go out in the sun and feel happy :)

This is the poem I wrote to reflect the feeling of the Finnish silence. It is something that I like very much, and wish more people at home knew the beauty of it.

The Melody of Silence

I thought I heard a bit of music,
When I opened up the door.
But when I strained my ear to hear it,
I found it was no more.

And not again did it drift,
Upon my waiting ear.
For it was the Melody of Silence,
Which I had loved to hear.

That little song of quiet,
So simple, sweet and clean.
I long to hear again someday,
When Peaceful Thought is Queen.
Megan Yeo

Monday, July 27, 2009

I have a bit of catching up to do I think! Even though it has only been a few days, much of interest has happened in those days that is worth writing about!
Saturday: Petra and her mother and father came for a visit! I surprised myself and started crying when I saw her, it was like hugging a little piece of home and it caught me off guard. We ate some lovely food, talked for a long time, took a walk and talked some more! It was blissful speaking to her in English and hearing about how she has been adjusting to being home. I will stay at her house while I am in Helsinki, something I am thrilled about. We have all sorts of plans! I might even be able to see Stina in Tallinn too while I´m there which would be brilliant!
Sunday: Me and Äiti went to church. It was a beautiful old church, yellow and white on the outside and painted all white inside. There was a huge silver organ, a gigantic painting of Christ, and several ships hanging from the ceiling. They were there to represent how we are all ´in one boat with God´. That Sunday was special because there was a group of young teens having their confirmation ceremony. The church was packed with family and godparents, all dressed up like for a wedding. The kids were dressed in long white robes, and paraded in carrying a huge cross. There were hymns, and prayers, and the normal things ( except in Finnish!). The confirmation bit was very quick, each teen was blessed by the priest while their godparents stood by. Even though there were about 25 kids, it was over quickly. Then communion, which I took part in. The wine was real and the bread wafer stuck to the roof of my mouth! Note of interest: the wine was the most unpleasant thing I have ever tasted!!! After the ceremony the teens all have huge parties, Ilona went to a friend´s that afternoon. I am describing it all in such detail because it was a Finnish church after all. The denomination ( I guess) was Lutheran, but more than that I´m not sure. After church we ate and then got ready for a total change of gear... the concert!!!!!! I have one word for you: WOW. Wow as in loud, wow as in yikes, wow as in exciting and wow as in I loved it! First there was Pete Parkkonen and his back up band. He was amazing ( and cute...) !! They danced and yelled and screamed and were really great performers. He even sang ´Womanizer´ by Britney Spears, and did it well too! The fans for Pete ( which you say Peh-tay btw) were mostly young teen girls, although the park was packed with families. For the next performer however, it got even more packed, if that was possible! Popeda, a boy band that had been playing together for 30 years is HUGELY popular in Finland, and the fans crowding to the stage for their show were much much older. And much younger too, which surprised me. There were old men dancing there, teens sitting on each others shoulders and whooping, and little girls standing on chairs and singing along! I didn´t like them as much, maybe because they sang in Finnish, and maybe because they were around 45 years old!! But the park was full of dancing, clapping Finns! Afterwards I couldn´t hear properly, it was so LOUD! I got an autograph and a hug (!!) from Pete, and a picture with the bass guitar player, who had really awesome long blonde hair! Happy me lol.
Today( Monday): Not much really, but I went blueberry picking! Not at a farm of somewhere like that, but actual, Finnish style berry picking... in woods. There was miles ( it felt like) of bushes, inbetween tall redbrown pine trees...we picked about 2 buckets full! Then at home I tasted ´blueberry milk´, a Finnish treat ( Blueberries, covered in sugar, drowned in milk and consumed.. yummm). Äiti also made a blueberry pie! Whoo hoo! Tomorrow we leave in the morning for the Moomin world near Turku. I´m not thrilled about being in the car again, but I think I will have a blast anyway.

Friday, July 24, 2009

good afternoon from Finland...! It´s about 2:30 pm here, it´s very strange to think that at home it is about 7:30 in the morning, and eveyone just opening thier eyes...
I am relaxed in sweat pants and a tank top, complete with a mug of tea. Ilona is out with Anssi looking at scooters, Ella has a friend over, Heli is at a friends´ and Marjut is doing laundry and such. I took bike ride this morning to the mall... only to turn around when I got there and go home again. I had forgotten the bike lock and so couldn´t go into the stores. Not that I could buy anything anyway, but just to people watch . Oh well, I got some good sweaty excersize! The wind seemed to be trying to blow me off the bike as I went, quite annoying. Tomorrow Ilona wants to go to the mall anyway, so I will go along. Later Petra and her family are coming for dinner... this is a common thing in Finnish summers, having friends over for dinner. And as I found the other night, it is very pleasant. Sunday we are thinking about going to church ( more on that later) and then there is a park concert in the afternoon. Tuesday we will leave for the proposed plan I mentioned a few days ago, except now we aren´t going to Helsinki because Petra is coming here!

I´ve been trying to figure some things out in my head today, not all of them are clear enough thoughts that they will make any sense written here. Just a muddle of feelings and phrases. I´ve been thinking about how everyone at home thinks of me, like I´m off on a gigantic adventure. Well, I guess I am, but really.. well not every minute is action packed, not every conversation is unforgetable. Not every moring dawns beautiful and sunny, and the days are not without bordom. Minutes pass like minutes anywhere else, and it rains just the same. I know I have covered this subject very well in previous posts, but it is one that is constantly jumping at my face. It´s just life, no matter where you´re living it. You can´t always decide how it is going to go, but you can decide how you are going deal with it. It´s something I understand now, but I can´t always apply it to my actions. Maybe someday I´ll manage it.