Happy New Year 2013! We had a pretty excellent New Year’s celebration, which consisted of: (1) My first cross-country skiing experience; (2) another fabulous round of reindeer chili, complete with champagne; and (3) a midnight visit downtown to partake in the Rovaniemi city fireworks show and the communal festivities.
First things first: in XX skiing, the toe of your ski boot (which is a lot more like a regular shoe) has a tiny metal bar at the tip, which is how you affix your foot to the ski. So you’re attached to the ski only at the toe of your feet. A XX ski has 3 areas: the front section, which is thin, and the bottom is waxed to be slippery; the 2-feet or so directly under your foot is much thicker, and waxed for traction; and behind the foot, there’s another section of thin and slippery. The skis are also rather personalized, to both your height (should be about 10cm taller than you) and your weight (they must be bendy enough so that when you put your weight on the ski, you can make contact with the ground). So you move forward by putting all your weight on one leg, which brings the central ‘traction’ part of the ski in contact with the ground, and then you shove off and glide forward. Repeat with the other leg. This is the ‘bouncy’ movement that you’re shooting for. You also have ski poles, which you use to help propel yourself using your upper body.Turns out I’m not a natural at XX-skiing. It took me over 10 minutes just to get the skis attached to my feet. Once I started actually moving, I couldn’t seem to keep my attempts at ‘bounce’ stepping from becoming just a series of opportunities to acquiant myself with nearby snowbanks. I met a LOT of snowbanks, but with the exception of one knee-to-ski contact, the snow was really soft, so it was more embarrassing than anything.
When I got home from skiing, Brandon gave me a personalized lesson in the making of his reindeer chili. We did a pretty good job eating our half-a-reindeer, but I’m getting left with rather more than I’m comfortable with. So I decided I needed a chili-tutorial. And this batch was super yummy (if I do say so myself). We also toasted the new year with a bottle of some inexpensive Spanish champagne.
The later portions of the evening were an interesting cultural experience for us, as the Finns interact with fireworks and public intoxication in a rather different way than we’re used to. First off, fireworks are not banned from within city limits, so pretty much everyone was in their yard (or the middle of the street in the more forested residential areas like ours) setting off fireworks nearly constantly from 6pm until 2am. There used to be almost no firework regulation in Finland, but the consistent and nasty nature of firework-related injuries prompted the government to implement an age limit of 18. In addition, you’re not permitted to begin setting fireworks off until after 6pm (this is hard, since it gets super dark by 3pm, so you’re tempted). This means that at 6pm, the town literally lit up. It was really loud and crazy, and there were points when the clouds looked like a multicolored marshmallow package – the sky made into a mosaic of pastel by the combination of the snowy weather and the firework lights. And I couldn’t help but think that for a town that was completely destroyed by a winter fire during WWII, these people are not afraid of close-proximity fire power….
The city of Rovaniemi also had a fireworks show at midnight downtown by the river. After much grumbling, I propelled Brandon from our house and downtown to see the show. We were joined by at least a thousand other revelers, seemingly all of which appeared to be quite drunk. I was sure that we were going to witness a person-car collision, as people stumbled across the downtown streets and cars somewhat forcefully crawled through the traffic. The littering was also a little out of control. Finish your beer? The nearest snowbank looks like the place for the empty can/bottle to go! Finish your bottle of vodka? Why not throw it against that building there? (yeah, this happened, and it was funny/sad because there were lots of people around and then it didn’t even break!)
Upside – it was really warm here the last few days, sitting right around 30F, and snowing pretty much constantly. So the walk and the standing were rather comfortable, for a midnight jaunt in a Lappish January. Downside – the Rovaniemi fireworks show (despite the 5000 euro pricetag) was a little underwhelming. Is that super American of us? Brandon was openly mocking it while we were watching it, and I was frustrated because you couldn’t see the majority of it unless you were down actually on the riverbank. Unfortunately, by the time we made it downtown, the closest we could get to the river left us marooned behind a 3-story building, which effectively blocked 80% of the show (this is why we were a little underwhelmed, as the height was just rather weak).
But it’s 2013! Brandon read an article that said that human brains are better at denial than at active change (apparently the Catholic church was on to something with the whole ‘self-denial’ schtick), so we’re trying to make new year’s resolutions that we’re framing as denials. Example: Brandon wants to read more books, so he’s resolving to watch less TV. I want to learn more Finnish, so I’m going to speak less English. Tomorrow Brandon and I head down to Helsinki for a few days of vacation before he heads back to the states on the 6th. Super sad face.