Friday, August 3, 2007

You don't know what you've got...

Just a quick thought, inspired by Daph's blog. After this past weekend, renewing the bonds shared with my exchange student friends, we swore we wouldn't let 14 years go by again without getting together, and those of us who are geographically close promised to keep in better touch. What I'm pondering is this: why are we so determined this time to keep in touch? Why do we think it'll be different? I think the answer is, because we're 14 years older than we were when all went our separate ways. I don't think I realized at age 18 what an amazing thing that friendship was, and that I should cherish it. I think I thought I would find other friendships to take its place. I *have* found wonderful friends since being home, and I treasure them, too, but they are in addition to Daph, Darren, Monica and Ismail, not instead of. And I know now how lucky I am to have those four people as my dear friends. I promise to be a better friend this time.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Some things'll never change...

...but some things will. Like a 17 or 18 year old kid sent to live in a foreign country for a year.

At my reunion weekend, my friends kept saying how our year in Finland made them who they are. This got me thinking. How did my year abroad change me? How has it affected who I am today? I mean, the man I'm married to knows very little about that year, I don't talk about it much with friends did it contribute to who I am today? Or did it?

So yesterday, as I drove for 2+ hours in 30+ degrees Celsius in a car with no AC, alone with a baby, I thought about it. I came up with ways Finland changed me and ways just being an exchange student changed me. Here's what I came up with.


Drinking coffee - I never drank the stuff before I went to Finland, but when you go to a Finn's house, they will offer you some. And go into an absolute tizzy trying to get you something else to drink if you say no. So I just started drinking it to save everyone's sanity.

Drinking beer - Never drank this either, but then again, probably would have started in university if I hadn't already.

Cheering for Finnish teams/athletes - unless of course they're competing against Canadian teams/athletes.

Cheering against Swedish teams/athletes - and basically being against all things Swedish. It took me a long time to accept that the Leafs had a Swede for a captain. And even longer to admit that I actually liked him.

Amusing anecdotes - like the time I went to St. Petersburg and was so focused on bringing my camera, passport and American money that I forgot to pack underwear. I have many more stories like this. Ask me about my trip to Stockholm sometime. The thing is, I don't want to bore anybody, and I always think these stories are only interesting to me and the people who were there. If I'm wrong, let me know - I'd be happy to share some stories.

Interesting second language stories - these serve me well as a second language teacher. Like how tuli, tuuli and tulli all mean different things, and sound SLIGHTLY different. Or how Finnish only has one word for both he and she.

An affection for all things Finn - like Finlandia vodka, Fazer chocolate, Lapin Kulta beer, pulla, Karelian pies...sigh.


Not letting people too close - this is all I could come up with that was at all big. I have some wonderful friends, but we aren't as close as I was with my exchange student friends. I don't know if this is because I don't let them get as close because I don't want to go through losing them like I did with my exchange student friends, or if it's just because adults don't form friendships like that, or what.

Being self-reliant - I can get through just about anything, and do it on my own. I learned to do that when far from home in Finland, too shy and/or proud to ask Rotary to help.

That's it. Most of that isn't even huge, I don't think. So, here's my question. I know at least some of my Oulu buddies are reading this - how did our year abroad make YOU who you are? Or if any other exchange students - past or present - are reading this, how did/has your year changed you? And if that's too personal for the comments, email me. I'd love to hear.

PS For pictures from my weekend, check out Daph's blog. And for a someone else's take on the reunion, check out Darren's blog.