|Alex in the wonderlandIt was like “Totò Peppino e la malafemmina” (an old Italian movie), when they arrive for the first time in the big, cold city in the north of Italy, all dressed with furs, hats, gloves while other people were wearing only T-shirts. It was the same for me. I’ve packed all my heaviest sweaters (also because of my mom… you know how moms are) for the -20 degrees temperature which is common in Finland during winter, and it was only -5!!! C’mon, I’m here to feel the real cold, the one which makes you freeze instantly when you get out of the plane! Ok, I cannot tell my nephews that I felt the real cold, but let’s enjoy this exchange!Sunday 6th February
We’ve arrived one day ahead of schedule on Sunday. I’ve met the Hungarians at the Frankfurt/Hann airport. We took all existing transports except the ship to get to Oulu. We’ve got the first “Tervetuloa” (welcome) from the chairman Aleksander Doubrovitski (aka Doubro) who took us to his place (I still don’t know how we’ve manage to fit in his small car) to put the luggage and to have the first sauna of the week. That night I slept there because Tiina, my host, was still at her hometown.
Monday 7th February
The day after, Anti (aka Murkko) took us to have a little sightseeing of the places in the neighbourhood while all the other participants began to arrive one by one. First I’ve known Astrid from Germany that Niina and Joanna took to Doubro’s place while we…ehm… actually Murkko was preparing some…some… round things to eat. Then I’ve known Milos from Serbia, Gaspar and Gregor from Slovenia during the welcome party at Caio club, where we had another sauna.
Tuesday 8th February
On Tuesday they took us to see a kind of competition where all the engineering departments challenged themselves sliding down a small hill with some very weird sledges built by them. Every participant of the same department must dress its own suit (a kind of dungaree) of the same colour. I didn’t understand exactly who was the winner, but it’s been really funny for us to see all that weird sledges sliding (and sometimes rolling) down that hill.
That night was the ONE EURO NIGHT. It’s a special day in which the Hot Night Club (a club in the centre of Oulu) sells beer for 1€ per pint. That evening we’ve been for all the night in that club dancing, drinking, singing and above all knowing each others.
Wednesday 9th February
Mornings has been often dedicated to sleep. And even that morning I woke up quite late (because of the night before), but after lunch (…well, actually in Finland I’ve never had a real lunch as I’m used to in Italy) we went to visit one of the two Nokia factories in Oulu, the one which builds Base Stations. It has been really interesting to see the whole assembly line commented by a worker (I guess she was some kind of supervisor). We weren’t allowed to take our camera with us inside the laboratories and we also had to dress a kind of conducting string on our shoes to let the static energy to discharge down from our body. It seems to be an unnecessary information, but you should have seen how funny was to see all that people trying to make that discharge mechanism to work. After the visit to the assembly line we went to the guest room (all the companies in Finland have one) where we had some food and we had a relaxed sauna with the employee who made the presentation about the Nokia division which builds Base stations.
In the evening we’ve been at a club where students use to celebrate the competition which I mentioned earlier and it was funny to see that people were still dressed with the same suit they had the day before, with some elegant accessories on it.
Thursday 10th February
In the afternoon we’ve been at the university in the Robotic Lab to see how Robots (don’t) work and then we’ve visited VTT, a Finnish research institute, where they showed us some projects they were working on, like an online server-side gaming system. After that we went back to the university to take some pictures of animals in the internal museum, and then plants at the botanical garden outside the university.
One of the most important reason to visit other countries is that you can easily learn about their culture, their language and… their games. Kyykkä is an old Finnish game that is still played in Finland. A guy, who’s going to participate to the Kyykkä world championship, taught us the rules and made us play. Actually Kyykkä is not a game where you have to run and jump, so when it started to snow we were cold enough to leave the game and go back to the university.
Friday 11th February
On Friday we’ve been around the city watching the museum and the Town Hall. They told us that 2005 is the 400th year since the foundation of the town and they gave us a questionnaire about Oulu and Finland to fill up. Even the local press got interested in our visit to the city, in fact they took some pictures to put them in the newspaper. In the afternoon they took us to a software company that, as Nokia did, showed us a short (this time it was very short) presentation in the guest room. After that we had time (a lot of time, too much time) to drink, eat and have another sauna.
Saturday 12th February
Saturday was the cottage day. We went to a place where people can rent cottages for a few days, and that’s what we’ve done. We first went to a frozen lake (maybe it was the sea) and for me was the very first time (I guess also for the others) I’ve walked on the ice and drilled a hole for fishing. I didn’t intend to fish anything, but it was nice knowing that I could have done it. I have never seen such a landscape before. A big plain with nothing but snow for kilometres. Everyone of us tried to get warm in the weirdest ways, running, jumping, drawing on the snow and playing games like cavallina, an Italian game that is perfect to be practiced in wide spaces like those. On that lake I’ve been amazed watching some guys who were preparing to dive in that very cold water with wetsuit for a scuba tour under the ice. I didn’t even imagine that some day later I was going to see something worst! On that lake, I felt for the first time the real cold. I couldn’t even take more than 3 pictures that I had to put my hands back in the gloves.
In those two days I have been sick. I didn’t enjoy that time as I wanted, but it doesn’t matter; the day before Niina gave me a painkiller that made my body react to viruses killing them all… well, at least almost all.
In that place was for me also the first time I’ve tried to ski and to use the snowboard. Since I know to roller-skate, I thought that even if I’ve never tried before to ski, I was used to have something rolling or sliding under my feet and it shouldn’t be too hard for me to learn. I was totally wrong! It’s been the worst first time in my life, every two steps I was with my ass on the snow (and sometime even with my face). Two girls were trying to help me getting me up from the snow while my legs keep knotting. I gave up soon.
Sunday 13th February
Actually I don’t remember what we did on Sunday. The only thing I remember is about some crazy people that dived into a frozen river. I can understand if you get into the cold water with the wetsuit. BUT NOT WITHOUT IT!!! Some Finnish guys get into the river and even some of us (non Finnish) got. I didn’t know that human body could resist to such a temperature jump. Next time when I’ll be on the shore during summertime and the sea water will be 20°C instead of 22°C… I’ll not complain.
Monday 14th February
We spent the last day in the centre of the town buying something for our parents, relatives and friends. I’ve been at the only souvenir store of the town, at least I guess it was the only one, because no one knew some other. And in the evening we had the farewell party. We gave them the usual presents from our countries and we have danced a little bit.
Tuesday 15th February
The first day after the end of the event, four of us, Gaspar, Gregor, Ivana and me, went to Helsinki by car, the Slovenian’s car. The trip hasn’t been too tiring even if we were really really tight because of the luggage. When we arrived we had a brief tour in the city and the first thing I’ve noticed was that around 9 PM there was nobody on the streets in Helsinki… I guess people preferred to stay inside their houses with -15°C outside. We slept in a hostel and the day after we went in the centre of Helsinki to see the city.
So the saddest day was come. The day I had to say goodbye to everybody, to the people with which I spent a wonderful week. It happens every time. :'(
We spent our relaxing moments in the guild room, a social centre where students use to spend their free time eating something, playing table hockey, watching TV, checking mail, etc. It’s very pleasant to stay all together doing… nothing. The most important thing is to not stay outside. The guild room is free for every student, and everybody can stay in it using all the things inside. There is also a kitchen and something to eat and drink. You can take or cook whatever you want by paying the money for what you take. You just have to put the money in a box. There are no guards to prevent thefts, people just don’t steal anything. Everyone knows that to make that room run properly they have to respect some simple rules. And everybody does! It was surprising for me to see how people live together so nicely, respecting other people and things. In Italy it wouldn’t be possible!