A student, living comfortably in the deep south (Minnesota, U.S.) experiences the thrills of true northern living, whilst attempting to define the syntactic category of "Subject". It's just one of the things you do for a love of agglutinativity.

torstaina, tammikuuta 19, 2006

Been a while

I'm quite alive and quite well, which I hope has made the rounds. There's no doubt that I shouldn't be, but not writing in a while, who knows what people might start to think. Basically, I've managed not to avoid feeling inspired to write much about anything, perhaps due to the weather or who knows what. It's not like there's been a complete lack of things to do, anyway, as I've been quite busy.

Lets begin by starting with the trip to Lapland, a few weeks ago, which there is photographic evidence of. The trip was quite lovely, and aside from one sometimes annoyingly chatty dutch girl (is this some sort of American in Europe cliché?), the weekend was much quieter than the city could ever hope to be. I guess what mainly interested me about the whole trip was just how quiet the world can be, and how much that can give you the (perhaps very correct) impression that you're the only person around for miles. Going outside, all you could hear would be yourself. Any vehicles on the road would make a noise for kilometers, giving anyone who wouldn't want to be seen (perhaps reindeer, for instance) pleanty of time to escape. As a strange sidenote, I also found my echolocating skills increaced greatly as a result of this, so I would have to use minimal effort producing a tongue click that could provide the necessary echos for me to hear nearby buildings, whereas in the cities it really is only a novelty item requiring a larger amount of effort to make a horrendously noisy sound.

North of the arctic circle, the sun does not rise. It is not completely dark by any means, but what light there is is quite unique and different. The whole of the region is stuck in a period of twilight, or dawn, or dusk. The word for such a thing is called kaamos. The word itself feels like it crawled out of the peat bogs, and mists of the lappish morning, which begins somewhere around 10:30, and ends thereafter at perhaps 2 in the afternoon (at least where we stayed).

Most of the time I was up there, the sky was enshrouded in clouds, leaving me with boring colours in the photographs I did take. The last day I spent there was an explosion of colour, much like Dorothy reaching Oz, in some way. Previous to this, unless you saw a house or two, the whole world seemed to be black and white. The sky didn't help at all, being gray and mudnane. Either way, this last day the sky was an explosion of colours, pinks and blues and yellows-- I've never seen such a thing (well, at least at noon). What more can one say?

So, while up there we managed to see the prerequisite reindeer and tundras, but unfortunately the biggest tundra was covered too much in artificial snow and clouds to get a clear view of.

On a rather strange note however, I spent part of the following day piecing together something rather saddening that I'd managed to avoid overhearing while on the train ride back. It seems that while the train had stopped in the middle of nowhere waiting for whatever reasons (as trains sometimes do), it had actually stopped as a result of running over two italian tourists and some of their dog team. The incident is supposedly related to a large amount of bad judgement on part of those leading the dog team "safari", as they call them. I guess one of the ironies in this is that the region I was staying in is named Kolari, which as I had heard before leaving, can mean one of the following: someone who shovels snow, or some sort of vehicular accident.

* * *

As some of you may know, José came to visit me for the first two weeks of January. José is a long time friend from junior high to college, who had been thinking of going to Japan, but for whatever reasons, ended up coming to Finland. I unfortunately didn't take too many pictures of the visit in general, rather some vaguely nice night photos of southern Helsinki, and some photos of the sea from a brief side-trip we made to Tallinn, in Estonia. Otherwise, you'll have to take my word for it that José enjoyed his visit. We mostly spent the time wandering around Helsinki, and (gasp) going to various bars, which I've subsequently decided I don't exactly like so much.

I also found that my skills in off the cuff translation from Finnish to English could use some work. While I may perfectly well understand what's going on, it may somehow be rather difficult to rephrase this in words more suitable to English ears. José on the other hand (and this must go down on the records, for history's sake) did manage to serve as my translator once while I was buying pants. The store owner spoke Finnish, and no English, but she also spoke Spanish. Since I couldn't use English to ask her something, José was there. The reason I mention this, is because I'm sure it will be an important point of humour when I am a world renowned linguist, speaking 90% of the worlds 8,000 languages, and so on and so forth. Okay, so humour me.

* * *

Classes have started up again this week, and while I haven't made it through the whole week yet, I've enjoyed what I have taken. More Sámi, which is unsurprisingly enjoyable, and then some Finnish courses on Finnish morphology and phonology, and then another class in Finnish on phonetics and phonology. These topics are rather well known to me, except for a few points (which I did find out on Tuesday), so there is actually a miniscule point for me to take these classes, aside from just learning the vocabulary of the field.

Being in a Phonology class again has been somewhat rejuvinating for my interests in linguistics , which had perhaps surprisingly stagnated for the past month or so. I guess I still don't know what I want to do, but my imagination is active again.

So in complete lack of summation, there are some more pictures posted in various places, so go check them out. Until next time, well, happy winter!


  • At 6:54 ip., Anonymous Anonyymi said…

    Studying Finnish has to be a unique experience, given it's unusual / unique character in the linguistic universe. I spent some time as a human resource manager for an outfit that from time-to-time sent folks off to learn a language and I was so surprized to learn that Finnish was SO DIFFRENET from anything else in it's adjacent universe!

    I am thinking of visiting Finland this spring or summer, sort of a family voyage of discovery as I have what may be a relative interred in the Cathedral @ Turku. Bishop Johannes Gezelius and I may be related. Any thoughts on when to visit Finalnd? Anything that a solo traveler should be aware of? Any places worthy of a special trip?


    John Gezelius
    a/k/a JOHN1082 on LiveJournal

  • At 6:12 ip., Anonymous helsinkian said…

    John, Suomenlinna (a group of islands in Helsinki with a fortress from the 18th Century) is certainly worth taking the quick boat trip from downtown Helsinki, if you visit the capital city.


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