When I lived in Utah for my graduate studies this was (and still is) the tagline for their tourism campaign. I was thinking of that yesterday as I took the kids skating in the evening. Perfect stellar dendrites were falling down from the sky. It certainly did feel like this was the greatest snow on earth.
I don’t want to pick any fights about the “greatest” snow, but some observations. The temperature in Kuopio seems to be uniformly constant as a rule (rather than an exception). Having the temperature stay in the mid to upper 20s (Fahrenheit) means that the snow is uniformly fluffy. The type of snow is so variable for a given snowstorm in Minnesota – mainly temperature dependent (heavy-wet, dry, sleet, etc). In terms of amounts, we get a little over a lot of days, rather than a lot over few days. That makes a difference.
Living in an apartment and not having a car also means I do not have to shovel every day and navigate the roads. That helps. Although I wonder how much this tractor costs – it can very quickly clear snow. #goals
People back in Minnesota have been asking “what the COVID-19 situation is like”. After a few weeks on the ground, here are some (mainly anecdotal) comparisons. I tried to find data/sources where appropriate, but recognize this is an incomplete analysis.
Approximate values – I believe Finland has just
administered one dose.
Statewide mask mandate
Region dependent? In
any case, wearing a mask in public is highly encouraged.
Finland seems to use more disposable masks more*
Shops open, restaurants to half capacity
Shops and restaurants open
Schools / Universities
Elementary moving to in person. LINK
/ Universities are mainly online.
In person / Universities are all online.
*For example, we received a general message from their school that high school students in Kuopio will be required to wear a mask. The school would provide students with disposable masks that they needed to monitor to make sure they had enough for each school day, assuming they use 2-3 per day.
From what we have seen there is more of an acceptance of the public
health measures here – as I was told once “Finns do what we are told.” As a country, I
think Finland buckled down early and kept numbers low. Overall there is concern about the new COVID variants
– but the recommendations to the epidemic varies by region. (Kuopio was recently classified in the accelerating
Not speaking Finnish, and getting a limited (in other words, translated) view on Finnish news I can’t speak to what public attitudes really are on the epidemic – if they are as divided as they are in Minnesota. Each store here has sanitizing stations as you enter, and people line up to use them. A lot of the work has moved online (or people find clever ways to network outside). Finns that I know are taking it seriously by rearranging meetings to online or if eating in a restaurant picking a time where it isn’t as busy.
appreciate the concern in Finland that daily new cases have increased 20 fold
(from single digits in the summer to 200-300 new cases). It can’t help but wonder how Minnesota would
celebrate these numbers (and we were at a scarier place in December 2020). On the same hand, there are lessons to be
learned from Finland in the acceptance of what needs to be done for public
health, and to channel some Finnish sisu to work together to get through this.
We left Minnesota just over two weeks ago, and the news to report is that things are … mundane. Mundane in a good way – (1) my kids finished their first full week of in-person school since March of last year, (2) this weekend we took our kids to a trampoline park to burn off some energy, and (3) we spent some of Friday evening working on a puzzle. We’ve been able to video chat (Facetime or Facebook) with our parents. In many ways our lives seems normal-ish, with the exception that we are half a world away.
Let me state the obvious: it is cold here. Walking to work at 8 AM requires bundling up in (a) snowpants, (b) scarf, (c) hat, (d) mittens, and (e) reflective vest (sun doesn’t come up for a few hours).
My spouse – S — is asking me this question in Prisma, a megastore that could best be described as a cross between a Super Target and Walmart. We had walked a half hour at -12C to get the kids sleds, and also decided to pick up skates for the kids (we were told they would need it for school at times).
But the real question is whether or not I would want a pair.
A confession: I don’t know how to skate. I grew up on Lake Vermilion, tried skating 2 or 3 times – didn’t really like it. (In college walking back to the dorms – finishing graduate school applications NOT partying — I slipped on ice late one night, followed by knee surgery a week later. Those formative experiences probably have a more than unhealthy fear of ice. But I think a little pagophobia is a little justified.
So, when in Finland ….
Later that night I got to try them out. I went with the kids to a hockey rink about a 5 minute walk from our house (nearby their school). Thankfully no-one else was on the rink, it was just me and my kids.
I could describe those first few minutes on the ice, but perhaps this would better:
This was not going well.
But as I was shuffling along my kids were spinning circles around me. How did they get so good? They have my genes! All three of them came over and said “We will teach you how to stake dad! Just follow us. Your first lesson is Push, push, glide. You can do this!” I do remember teaching them that the time I took them to the rink, but just wore my boots because I was too scared to skate.
And so they gave me gentle encouragement, taught me how to improve my form, and were cheerleaders the whole way. It was a rare moment of unity and graciousness for my kids, and perhaps a turn of the tables. That realization was caused me stop (and almost fall flat on my face). With this trip we are asking so much of our kids – living in a country where they don’t speak any of the language, attend a school where they are complete outsiders, and force them to be away from all that is familiar for six months. Too often the power dynamics with children are unidirectional and asymmetrical, so having them see me as vulnerable (and willing for them to be the teacher while I am taught) is a valuable lesson. My heart was filled with pride.
I finished my kids’ “Beginner” lesson (my grades were an A+, A+, and an A; tough crowd), and I needed to practice for my “Expert” lesson.
I first went skating four days ago; each night we go out skating. I am seeing some improvement – undoubtedly I won’t qualify for Beijing 2022, but in my mind my kids are all medal winners.
We have been in Kuopio the for two days now, getting settled into our apartment and finding our way around town. The kids start school on Thursday, so a few extra days of break for them.
Doing some reading ahead of time I learned about the Finnish concept of sisu – loosely translated as inner strength. I was familiar with the term growing up in Northern Minnesota, which had one of the largest groups Finnish immigrants. What I remember is that sisu was used as a substitute for “Finnish” (maybe used as an adjective (“I am sisu.” Or “Sisu proud.”) than a noun or concept.