Sunday, December 10, 2006

I'm a November Survivor

It’s dark, the super reflective-snow-system has melted, and it gets way worse than this! That was the problem with November. I was dramatically confused as to whether I should stay awake or go to sleep. The darkness isn’t too much worse than Seattle’s darkness, but it is detectably worse than Seattle’s darkness. The shortest day of the year will be five hours and 20 minutes long. Until a certain point in November, every-day uncertainties in my research seemed like showstoppers. Homework assignments felt like they were taking over my life. But I survived. Here’s how:

After some very intense exercises on staying positive, lots of gmail chats and Skype sessions (Thanks to all of you who participated), November turned around. I had my first sampling day this month at a farm on the outskirts of Tampere. Outi (one of my colleagues at work) and I bravely faced the embarrassment that many scientists must face. We gathered feces to test our primers.

It was gross. Even the farmers laughed at us. We laughed too. But we got our first samples! We have millions of sampling days ahead of us, but the important thing is: we got started! If it’s possible in November, it’s possible anytime!

…and: I voted in November. Thanks to Yolanda, Dan, and a support team of Environmental Health alumni and graduate students, I received my ballot and did what I (and Yolanda and Dan) could in the election. The Finns are weary and still worry about Mr. Bush. Yes, he’s still there, but congress does have a lot of power, I try to explain. I think things will improve.

Other November accomplishments and happenings:

I’m now a regular at the Finnish salsa dancing school that Outi introduced me to. I’m learning a lot of words in Finnish like up, down, around, and left, two, three, four, right, two, three, four. And now with music...

Some of those same words also fit into my engineering vocabulary. Somewhat related to salsa, or at least dance, Outi and I saw the Estonian National Ballet perform Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. The performance was truly amazing. Apparently the plot of Swan Lake can change slightly from performing institution to performing institution. The director’s comments in the program emphasized the importance of allowing beauty to stand up against the wrong and the cruel, and that the past is not as important as the present. However, I thought it was a bummer that the young prince Siegfried was either dead or very morbidly distraught by his decision to escape from his real-world responsibilities and live in his beautiful, imaginary dream world, as the curtains fell and the show ended. Perhaps he could have benefited from a brief thought into either the past or the future. Oh well. It was a beautiful performance. May Prince Siegfried rest in peace… and beauty.

Audrey and Lea officially introduced me to Finnish summer cottage culture, also in November. The sauna was very very close to 100°C. For those of you who aren’t experts on the Celsius scale, that is the temperature at which water boils. In case any of you are thinking about coming to Finland, I wrote up a little sauna instruction list, so you can start out on the right foot in the Finnish sauna:

  1. Go inside the very hot sauna
    1. If you feel like you can’t breathe, cover your face with your hand—it’ll pass.
  2. Stay there for 15-45 minutes chatting (through your hand if it’s over your face)
    1. there are special conversations in the sauna that happen nowhere else
  3. Leave the sauna and get cold
    1. Option 1—sit outside
    2. Option 2—jump in the icy lake (Summer cottages are often on lakes, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find a lake)
    3. Option 3—dive into the snow (well, roll around in the snow until you’re freezing cold again. Don’t dive head first.)
  4. Go back to 1 and repeat 1-3 until you’re almost unconscious (2-3 times)
    1. I prefer to end on 2, but you can end on 3, if you’re into being cold.
  5. Cook sausage
  6. Eat sausage
  7. Don’t re-enter sauna after eating: the order is important there
  8. Drink beer throughout the process.

If you feel like bringing your beer inside the sauna, it’s allowed, but you’ll probably only do it once. 100°C beer isn’t good. In fact, if it’s in a can (often the case in Finland), the metal may actually burn you. Be careful.

Next week is a busy week of well water, farm, and septic sampling before heading off to Germany and Austria for the holidays. Have a wonderful break, and I’ll see you guys in the sauna!

1 comment:

Laura G said...

Wow, that sounds like something I should try one of these days.