Gotta Keep Your Eyes Open: Animals in Finland

When I moved halfway across the world, I noticed different animals in my backyard. Back in Portland, I saw robins pulling worms out of the ground and chickadees at our bird feeder. I heard a baby hawk squeaking for food. I saw cute little squirrels with floppy ears that my dog loved to chase. Sometimes, at night, it sounded like a hundred million frogs and toads were croaking in the wetland by my house. My neighbor told us that there used to be rabbits before the coyotes came to Maplewood. In Finland, I have learned to expect different sounds and sights.

Sometimes, two squirrels come right outside our kitchen window. We see a big red one and a little brown one that we think is a baby. In Finland, the squirrels’ ears have little tufts of fur that make their ears look like they are standing straight up. They look for bird food and other scraps. Sometimes, we put out pieces of cracker for the birds, but the squirrels find it first. Also, sometimes, when we’re eating meals, they climb on the vine and hit against the window. Once, when our back door was open because it was hot, the baby squirrel put his front paws on the inside door mat. My mom screamed and he ran away. They are very tame.

We also see rabbits, European Hares, outside our kitchen window. Usually they’re brown, but in the winter their ears and fur around their heads turn white. They are gigantic, compared to pet rabbits in America, so to my family they at first looked like they were dogs, or even coyotes. Once my mom and I saw one taking a dirt bath. In the springtime, I have learned, the females hit the males to tell them they’re not ready to mate, or to challenge them. Sometimes, in the wintertime, the bunnies sleep under the pine tree in our front yard. The bunnies may be big, but they sure are cute!

Birds are some of the loudest animals in Finland. In the winter we saw only magpies, but now that spring has come, we see other kinds. Now we see birds like wagtails, blackbirds, and robins. The robins here are different than American Robins. They are European Robins, which are smaller. Their chests also look more orange, rather than red. We try to feed the birds, but the squirrels always get at the food first! Not only are there birds in our backyard, but we also live really close to a lake where a lot of black-headed gulls live. Black-headed gulls are a kind of gull that make nests out of old reeds. They like to live on bodies of water. The national bird of Finland is a Whooper Swan. We have seen flocks of them flying overhead. When they fly, they look a lot like geese.

Soon I’ll be moving back to America. Before I leave, I’m hoping I’ll see more animals and I know I probably will. For example, just a few days ago I saw both perch in the lake I was wading in and a hedgehog in our street! I’ve learned to keep an eye open all the time because sometimes animals show up when you least expect it.


Spring in Finland

Spring has come slowly to Finland. First, the snow started to melt on the streets, and then on the sidewalks. Cars and people walking created heat that melted the snow there first. Then, the snow on the grass and trees began to melt very slowly. Even after the snow started melting and the temperature went above freezing, the ice on the lakes remained thick. My class was able to go ice fishing in late March because there were still 48 centimeters of ice on the lake. I was sick with a spring cold so I was not able to go. Now, a few weeks later, the ice on the lakes is really melting. I have seen buds coming out on bushes. The birds have been chirping vary loudly lately. The only snow I see is the piles that the snow plows made.

Easter traditions in Finland celebrate the arrival of spring. Some kids dress up as witches on Palm Sunday and go around carrying pussy willows, which bloom in the spring, in exchange for mini chocolate eggs. They ring door bells and when someone answers, they say a Finnish poem. This seems to be like trick or treating except for the fact that it is on Palm Sunday and you have to give something to receive a treat. The pussy willows are said to protect you from bad spirits. Another tradition is to plant grass inside little baskets. I did this at school. Then, by Easter, the grass has grown. Instead of dying eggs people in Finland paint or wax eggs. On Easter kids in Finland get Kinder Surprises, which are hollow chocolate eggs with toys inside, from an Easter Rooster instead of an Easter Bunny. My family decided to dye eggs, just like we do in America. When we were finished, we poured the extra dye on the melting snow in our back yard.

I have been celebrating spring by riding my bike. We got our bikes last week and on Saturday and Sunday we went for two long bike rides. On Saturday, we saw buttercups blooming and they were very pretty. On Sunday I saw five swans flying and two bunnies eating. We thought a lot of people rode bikes in the snow here, but now there are even more people riding bikes! We rode our bikes to a lake. My dad, brother and I walked out onto the ice from a beach. My dad and I came back, but my brother went exploring towards where a stream came into the lake. My brother forgot that ice is weakest where channels of water come into the lake. Suddenly, the ice under his feet broke. He fell in, just up to his shins, and landed on his bottom. He learned a very valuable lesson! Spring may come slowly, but you had better watch out for it!

Buses, Trains, and Things That Go!: Transportation in Helsinki

My family took a trip to Helsinki. The bus was a double decker. We got to sit on the top level. It was only the second time I had been on a double decker bus. The other time I had been on a double decker bus was the other time I went out of the U.S.A. to Victoria, Canada. The bus had outlets and Wi-Fi, so we could use our screens to pass the three and a half hours. Outside it was white and getting warmer. The bus was an Onnibus so it had a moose painted on the side. It was really fun!

Not only did we take a bus to Helsinki but we also used many different kinds of transportation to get around to many different places. The types of transportation we took were metros (a train that goes underground), a streetcar, and we walked! We went to places like: Hesburger (a burger place like McDonalds), a giant toy store (where I had fun playing with remote control cars), and two museums: a natural history museum with wooly mammoths and a cool art museum called Kiasma.

The coolest type of transportation we took was a ferry. We took the ferry to Suomenlinna (the island fortress) in the harbor of Helsinki. On the way there, the boat was breaking the ice but I just stayed inside and watched through the window because it was very cold. When we got there we found a map and chose were we wanted to go. Sadly all the museums were closed ☹. But we went to a church and went to look at where people lived ☺! We loved it!

At last, it was time to take a bus home to Jyväskylä. I loved Helsinki but I was excited to go home! Everything we did was exciting and fun, especially because we got to get around so many different ways! I hope we can go again some time!

Snow in Finland

Here are some things I notice about snow in Finland: 

  • The snow is not always hard enough to make snow balls with in Finland; that is one thing in common with Oregon.
  • When you go outside, any hair near your breath, like your hat, hair, and eye lashes freeze.[And my dad’s beard.] 
  • When you get your hands cold, your whole body gets cold.
  • People like to ride their bikes on the side walks, which are basically just ice.
  • The sun rises at about 9:00 and sets at about 3:30. On the snow when it sets, the sun  looks like it’s melting.