Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family"

So there is a lot to catch up with! I have been so busy the past few weeks between my mom’s visit to Finland and Jackie and I’s trip to Sweden.  After our game on Saturday we decided to show my mom the club scene here in Kokkola.  It was a girl on my teams 18th Birthday so we had a table reserved at a bar in town.  Go figure the night my mom came out it was a foam party! We only stayed a little while but had a lot of fun and have a lot of funny pictures to show from it!

We got up early Sunday to go watch Elis’ (Host family/Lil Bro) games.  He is only 9 but can probably kick my butt in 1 v 1.  After the game we went out for lunch at a place along the ocean. It was really nice. For the first few nights while Jackie and I left for training, Mom and Ebba were designated to the kitchen! We had some great home cooking and on Tuesday night we invited Tess (teammate) over to try some good ole chicken cutlets and homemade mashed potatoes.  She loved it!
Wednesday we had a game in Oulu.  They let Mom, Ebba and Robert come on the bus! We started off dominating the game but only five minutes in they scored a fluke goal.  The ball was crossed and when I came out it took a weird bounce and rolled into the net.  I was pretty disappointed but we were able to put away a beautifully placed shot just before the halftime whistle blew! The second half provided chances for both teams but the game ended 1-1.  Although we only came away with 1 pt it was a crucial pt for us as we both sit tied for 2nd place in the standings at this point in the season.  On the bus the manager of the team presented my mom with a customized GBK jersey!

One of the things my mom wanted to do while she was here was too meet everyone that has taken care of me over the past months.  Thursday we had lunch at Katja’s parents and then coffee and cake with Robert’s parents.  The food was really good and they always have so many delicious deserts!  At night we had dinner at the Astrom’s and then sauna! I have really been making my mom nervous about taking a sauna but she really enjoyed it I think.  Sauna is one of my favorite parts of being in Finland. It feels great to sweat everything out and then take a nice cold shower! The temperature usually is 80c so about 176f so you really get a sweat going in there after only a few minutes.

Friday morning we got up early and took the 4 hour train to Helsinki.  Mom and I spent the day together sightseeing in Helsinki.  We went to some really cool places and walked around the city quite a bit.  We took a ferry out to the islands off Helsinki to see the sea fortress.  Suomelinna was built as protection against Russia.  While the island now has many people living in a lot of the buildings there was a few interesting tunnels, walls and cannons. When we got back we checked out the market place. It was closing but we got to see a few stands. They had a lot of really nice silver. The silversmith makes the jewelry at the spot and you can buy it there.  The last stop we made was to the Rock Church.  This was really cool! The church was built inside a massive rock and has this saucer looking roof.  Inside the walls are all rock and the lighting comes from natural light. 

In the morning it was time to pack up and drop my mom off to the train station before I met the team for our cup game in Helsinki.  It was a very busy week but I was really happy to see my mom in real time and not just on Skype! It was hard to say good-bye and made me miss her more now that I just saw her, but I will be back home in 3 months and will get to see all my family and friends! Update from our trip to Sweden to come!!

Hejdå för nu!

Monday, June 13, 2011

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

Our home field
Saturday we played a home game against Semi.  It was probably the best overall game we have played this season. Everything seemed to be improving and everyone was playing well with each other.  The weather was perfect and our home field is awesome! Less than 10 minutes into the game we scored our first goal.  I opened up with a long punt and Linda flicked it on to Tess who broke through for the first goal! Heading into the locker room we were up 2-0.  We were creating many opportunities and the defense was doing a great job maintaining their dangerous forwards.

We knew the heat would play a role in the second half and it would become more important that we were able to dictate the play.  We believed if we put another one away it would help.  Ten minutes into the second half we scored again.  While Semi fought hard the entire game we were able to finish the game 4-0.  We can take away a lot of positives from Saturday's game as we played a great game together.  Everyone was playing intelligently and we were finding each other very well.  Four different people scored today and I believe we are getting better and better each game!

Mom and I after the game!
Saturday's game was especially important to me because my mom was here to see it! My mom has been at almost all of my soccer games growing up and I know how hard it is for her to not be able to watch me play while i'm here in Finland!  Just seeing her in the stands was extra motivation to win.  If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be at where I am today.  She believed in me and knew I loved the game.  All of the time and money she spent for me to improve and grow. Knowing how happy she is when I win just makes it even better!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Game update

Tuesday we played at FC Sport in Vaasa.  The stadium was really nice and the field was in good shape.  It's amazing how there are so many soccer venues here compared to at home. The weather was a bit hotter then what we are used too (26c/80f) but we were fit for the fight!
Pic of the field after the game
The game started off well. We scored two quick goals within the first fifteen minutes or so. We were playing a 4-3-3 and completely dominating the game. The team was playing very well together and everything was clicking. At the half we were up 3-0 heading into the locker room.

The second half started off a bit different. We came out flat and FC Sport had made some changes. They were starting to create some chances and we were looking pretty tired.  We were able to withstand their pressure and finished the game 4-1.  We need to figure out how to keep the game in control especially when we have such a big lead.  But we were able to create many scoring opportunities and bring away many positives from the match. Things are looking bright and its back to the pitch for two more practices before our next match on Saturday.  I am especially excited for Saturday's game because my mom will be here to see it! We play home against Semi who we previously beat 2-1 but they will be back for revenge and we need to be ready for a competitive game.

Monday, June 6, 2011

An eventful weekend..

This week our game was played on Thursday. We won 1-0! Everyone was excited to play, the weather was great and it was a home game! It was only our second home game so far. We started the game off well and held possession for the majority of the game.  In the first half we had many opportunities to score but just couldn't capitalize. Mid-way through the second half Tess scored off a shot just inside the box far post, off the post and in! She celebrated with an African dance... if you score and don't celebrate then the team fines you one euro (fun rule.. too bad I don't score)  One goal was enough and we got the three points but there is still some work to be done.  Everyone is working hard and the goals will come.  We were given the weekend off for Graduation.  Our next game is tomorrow (Tuesday) away vs. FC Sport.

Ebba (Back row, white sweater)
Elis (Front, Blue t-shirt)
Friday Night Jackie and I went with the Astrom's to Ebba and Elis' end of the year celebration/Ebba's elementary school graduation. We sang a few songs in Swedish and all of the kids read a poem they wrote about what they love in summer. Ebba received the "best friend" award! In between they had some of the kids perform.  One boy played the electric guitar and he was so good!  The ceremony didn't last too long and it was back to the Astrom's to prepare for Saturday's big party.

Max on the drums
Max was graduating from gymnasium (basically High School back home) and it is a really big deal here! We were preparing for at least 150 people to come to the party! Saturday morning when we woke up we went to the high school for the ceremony. There was only 40 students graduating, whereas I graduated with a class of over 400! It lasted about 2 hours with different speeches, awards and students performing.  Max played the guitar and sang a song in Swedish along with another classmate. He also played the drums while the graduating class sang "We are the Champions!" He did a really good job! He got a very big award from the School because he graduated with the best test scores and grades in the school!
Max and I
Just a few of the cakes!
After the graduation was over it was back to the house for some final party preparations.  When we got there the power was out! It came back on shortly and everything was set up in time. Jackie and I were sent to the sauna to be kitchen workers for the party.  Jackie was in charge of the coffee and juice and I was the dish washer! Katja gave Jackie and I both Aprons with our names on them to wear! After about an hour into the party I was swamped with dishes!! There was a line up to even get into the house. After about two hours of strictly dish washing it finally died down and we took a break.  Someone else took over for us and we were able to enjoy all the different cakes and talk to some of the visitors.

Just locking up the shorts!
When the party was over Jackie and I came back to the apartment with Kersten.  Graduation night is a big happening and everyone goes to the beach area to drink before they go to the club.  So we decided why not see what was going on and headed to the beach.  Since we had on dresses and needed to ride our bikes we though why not wear soccer shorts and then string them on the bike lock when we get there! This was a really good idea (obviously I thought of it) There was so many people there but it was so cold out! We left and went to the bar. We were so excited to get in and be warm... Kirsten forgot her id! So we talk to the bouncers and then they ended up letting us in without it! We danced almost the whole night! The way people dance here is so much different from back home but I don't even know how to explain. We decided to leave around 3 am. We stopped at the cart in the marketplace and got spring rolls and headed home!
Kerstin and Jackie with a few of the graduates!
We woke up Sunday morning and were mentally preparing for the Olympics! Kersten's host brother Emil was having a birthday party and it was Finland vs. USA.  Emil is friends with Elis so Elis and Otto were on team Finland as well.  USA consisted of Jackie, Kerstin, Ebba, Emma (Kerstin's host sister) and I.  We were to play floor ball, soccer and dodge ball.  The first half of floor ball went well we were only down 1 going into the snack break.  We ended up losing by at least 7 to a bunch of 10 yr old boys! In soccer we tied 2-2 and then it was down to dodge ball.  The boys decided they didn't want to play dodgeball anymore and wanted to have a shootout. The ref rigged this one because the girls had to shoot from half court and the boys about 20 yds away.  We lost by 1 and Finland took the Gold! Although we lost, and I hate losing, it was a fun day.  I think the boys had a lot of fun playing with us too!

The weather is starting to get a lot nicer! This week is predicting high 70's! We have practice tonight and our next game is tomorrow. Update coming soon...

Hejdå för nu!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Back to the 6th grade!

Ebba and Elis are in elementary school at the Rodso School about a mile from the house. Last year I went with Ebba for a day in school and this year they invited me back! Jackie and I decided to get up and go with the kids to school.  We rode our bikes and got there about 15 minutes before the school bell. Since it's the end of the year they didn't have too much work left to do! I went with Ebba's class and Jackie went with Elis.  Ebba is in the 6th grade and Elis is in 3rd.  At the start of school everyone met in one classroom while the teacher read a story and we sang some songs in Swedish.

The Rodso School is a Swedish speaking school and possibly the smallest elementary school in Kokkola.  It consists of just three different classes and only forty children! The classes group together two grades, so Ebba's class had the 6th and 5th grade together.  The teacher will advise one grade their work and once they are started she gives the next group their work.  While I was there the 6th graders worked on math while the 5th graders had an English lesson. It was a recording of a foreigner who traveled to New York City and was shopping.  Ebba and I couldn't stop laughing at the accent they had on this New Yorker!! I thought we were going to get yelled at! And I am pretty sure that no one had any idea why were laughing so hard! The rest of the afternoon her class got to watch Despicable Me.

I decided to go with Elis and Jackie on a nature hike with his class. The kids were given little magnifying glasses and we went hiking in the woods.  The teachers were describing different types of flowers, leaves and bugs but we weren't quite sure of the English translation for most of them. After we went through the woods we went and checked out the river. It was pretty cold out and being by the river was so windy. I went back to the school and watched the rest of the movie with Ebba's class. While Ebba's class can understand and speak English pretty well most of the younger students have not yet learned it.  When they are in 3rd grade they start to learn Finnish and when they get to 4th grade they begin to learn English.  It's amazing how they are able to learn so many languages at such a young age.

The whole school has lunch together in a small cafeteria.  It's basically like a home cooked meal.  The cooks are really nice and make very good food! The students all eat quietly and when you are done, one or two students from each table will clean up everyone's dishes.

There are two breaks during school which most of the kids go outside and play soccer with each other.  Soccer is a big part of school here in Finland.  When you get to high school you can even take a soccer class and get to leave school to go practice.  In elementary school they have a school futball tournament which I will blog about later! Jackie and I played with them and we played girls against boys. Unfortunately we lost by 1 goal! Elis was now done for the day, but Ebba still had a Finnish lesson left.  Here the kids get out of school at different times every day! Sometimes as early as 12:30! It is said that Finland has one of the best school systems in the world. I would have loved to have some of the same opportunities they get in school when I was a kid!

Today we have a home game agaisnt Karhu.  The weather looks to be clearing up a bit! It is only our second home game, and first outside. I am excited to play and will check back with a game update soon!

Hejdå för nu!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Hangover 2

The Hangover 2 was showing in the movie theater here in town.  Jackie and I thought it would be a good idea for our lazy rainy Sunday. The theater opens 30 minutes before showing. Two of our teammates came and picked us up. We stopped at ABC (Convenient store) and picked up some candy and chocolate to sneak in!

About eight of our teammates decided to come see the movie with us! So that was fun.  When we got there, the lobby of the theater was about the size of half of the bathroom at a theater back home! There were only two different screen venues inside. We paid for our tickets and entered the theater. The theater was a decent size and the set up was basically the same. 

The movie started and thank gosh it was in English! Something we were a little worried about prior to the movie, but some of the girls promised us it would be in English.  They had Finnish subtitles while the movie played. I honestly thought the movie could have been a lot better, I was a bit disappointed.  Although I still had a few laughs I thought it was too similar to the first one.  While everything was very predictable the humor was an in your face type of comedy! Be ready for some interesting stuff to happen! If you enjoyed the first movie I would recommend it although don't get your hopes up to high!


Hejdå för nu!