Start of spring…..slighlty

1 05 2010

After the start of the new semester I have changed classes and now have classes in photography, printmaking, illustration and life drawing. With no exhibition at the end of this semester the workload is a lot lighter and therefore giving me more free time. The weather has also changed, the temperature has risen for spring to around + 5 which now means most of the snow has melted and the frozen lakes are also well on their way to becoming liquid lakes again. With the warmer temperatures has also come rain and sleet with the odd sunny day. Before the last of the snow went me and some others took the opportunity to sledge.

I also went on the trek to Puijo tower….Kuopio’s ski tower, after climbing many steps and taking a ride in a lift we got to the top and got to see the birds eye views of Kuopio. We also managed to bump into many of the other erasmus students as the tower is one of the main attractions in Kuopio. After taking in the views we stopped off in the revolving restaurant for a drink…..although we didn’t know it was a revolving restaurant until the stuff we put on the window sill started to get further and further away from us.

The start of the spring also meant the end of the ice hockey season….the local team KalPa had got into the playoffs so there were a few extra games that we were able to go to. The games have definitely been a highlight of my stay in Finland the atmosphere at them is amazing and I hope to see some games back home too.

Unfortunately they lost their last couple of games knocking them out of the playoffs.


One word….Lapland!

21 03 2010

This week I went on an organized trip to Lapland, the actual town was called Levi and its about 600km from Kuopio which meant about an 8hour coach trip.

We set off at 3am and everyone just got on the coach and went straight to sleep but I was sat across from the onboard toilet….mistake….because from the toilet was a huge icy draught we kept me from sleeping. People would also leave the door open which made it worse so I had to get up to close it myself. We had a few stops at service stations on the way then we stopped off at santa’s village in the arctic circle. The village was made up by a post office where all the letters to santa get sent and souviner shops.

After a couple of hours there we arrived at Levi but most people were so tired after the long journey we all were in bed by 10pm….if not earlier.

Throughout the week we could sign up to activities on the first day was snow walking which didn’t really appeal to me so I went to the slopes and hired a snowboard to spend the day snowboarding. I have never tried it before and I didn’t get any lessons I just hired the gear and found a small slope at the bottom strapped my feet to the board and then that was it I started to slide down the slope and I didn’t know how to turn, stop or slow down so I just slid full speed to the bottom…amazingly without falling 😀

The falling did come eventually though when I tried to turn or slow down but no broken bones occured so overall a good day, it was the evening that hurt when my joints started to ache and the next day. It was also so hard to sleep in the cottage we were in because the bedroom was hotter than the sauna we had in the bathroom plus there was four of us sleeping in bunk beds in the small room so I needed to get up all the time for glasses of water to rehydrate myself.

The second day was the snow mobile activity where we got to drive one to a reindeer farm and then back again. It was two to a snow mobile so I drove the first leg and then Laura (who I was riding with) drove on the way back. The snow mobiles were amazing and we reached a speed of about 60kmh on the open frozen lakes. The course we took was quite open so it was really windy and cold especially when you were sat on the back but when your driving you get the comfort of heated handles and a space to slot your feet into. We did get the proper gear though to wear which included boots, all in one suit, baraclava, helmet and gloves.

That night we also got to see the Northern lights. It was weird seeing them in real life and not just on a photo, I don’t think they were the strongest but it was still amazing to see. We got a knock at our door about 7pm to say they were visable so everyone went outside of their cottages to look at them until they started to fade. I tried to get a photograph but I only had my small digital camera with me and so all I got was picture of the black sky with no green on 😦 Later that night the coach was coming to take us up to the top of one of the hills so we could look for the northern lights high up in the dark away from any other lights so 11pm we all got on the coach and it took us up. What they didn’t tell us was that we would have to get off the coach and climb up the hill in pitch black in 3 foot of snow! Everyone was slipping, falling or sinking into the snow, on the way up I slipped and landed on all fours then ended up sliding back down and like a bowling ball managed to take out about four other people. When we eventually reached the top surprise surprise there were no northern lights, we stayed there for an hour freezing on the top of some huge hill for nothing.

The last day we travelled to a Husky farm where they breed and train huskies for competitions and to star in movies and photo shoots. The first thing you notice when you arrive there is the smell!! It absolutely stunk of dog wee and most of the snow was yellow from it all, also just a dog smell in general which took about 30 minutes to get used to. Firstly we got to sit in a sleigh and get pulled by the huskies which was really fun but my face almost froze and my eyes were watering for the wind although the dogs didn’t go so fast but it was probably hard with four people sat in the sleigh and a big bloke at the back controlling the dogs and the sleigh.

After the ride we got a guided tour round all the dogs and also a few wolves they had. We also got a break in one of the log cabins where we got hot berry juice and randomly…a giant sausage.

The final day we set of at 10am back to Kuopio but on the way we were stopping off at europes biggest ice hotel. The whole hotel takes about 2 monthe to build and lasts for about 9 months of the year. Inside it had a four corridors based on wind, earth, fire and ice and then it had a large dome room that was the restaurant and the disco, it also had a vodka dome with a large Finlandia bottle of vodka made from ice in the centre and also a church where people can come and get married as well as all the rooms complete with their ice beds.

Eventually after the longest coach ride ever we arrived back to Kuopio around 11.30pm and so had been travelling for over 12 hours. Amazingly when we arrived back there actually seemed to be more snow in Kuopio than in Lapland :s

Helsinki, Estonia, a train, a ferry and a coach

13 03 2010

This week has been winter break at the school which means a week off for me 🙂 So a group of the Erasmus students decided we should go visit the capital Helsinki for a few nights and from their we can take a ferry to Tallinn.

Finland is quite a big country, specially compared with the uk so to get to helsinki is a 4 hour train ride ….not something I do very often. We went for the earliest train around 8 am and queued for our tickets among the masses of people also waiting for the train. There was about 10 of us traveling together and most got seats in the same carriage but a couple had seats in a carriage at the other end of the train except me that ended up in a carriage on my own. So once we boarded the train I had a solo mission to try and find my seat, the train was massive and even had an upstairs like a double decker bus and after walking up and down for about 5 minutes after the train had started moving I settled on a seat upstairs. After about an hour I text Laura to come and find me because there was some spare seats next to me and I was starting to get bored sat on my own. After another hour the train stopped at another station and a bunch of guys came on and thats when they told me we were sat in their seats….they spoke in finnish but I could tell thats what they meant. So we packed up our belongings and found a couple of our mates in the next carriage to sit with. I think it turned out I was sat in the 1st class seats upstairs for half the journey, but I payed for it later when a big smelly woman came and sat next to me for the final 40 mins of the journey.

We arrived in Helsinki and left the station to go find our hostel, immediatly we could tell the difference between Kuopio and Helsinki, the city was big, really big and had trams very similar to being in manchester. The trams also brought back memories of my time in Lodz.

The first day was pretty cloudy and unlike Kuopio there wasn’t much snow instead the paths were covered in layers of thick ice that was anightmare to walk on. About every 40 seconds you would hear that noise…the noise of someone slipping….not falling over but having that mini heat attack when you know your close to ending up on your back.

The second morning was the day 5 of us were taking the ferry to Tallinn, the ferry left at 10.30 so we got up nice and early to get to the harbour for 10. The ferry had just arrived and the roads were chaos with lorrys and cars that had unloaded from the ferry and there was 100’s of people queuing to get out of the harbour with their suitcases and cases of beer. We got inside to check in only to find that the ferry before us was the stockholm ferry! we had actually gone to the wrong harbour and the harbour for the Tallinn ferrys was across the city, there was no chance of us walking in the time we had left and the other option to get a taxi was also flawed because of the traffic jams outside caused by the people off loading from the Stockholm ferry. Luckily the woman said we could change our tickets to the ferry at 2.30 for no extra cost so now we just hand about 4 hours to waste which we spent looking in the art gallerys and museums of Helsinki.

This time we boarded the ferry no problem and got to Tallinn….the difference in architecture compared with Helsinki was amazing, we walked around the ‘old town’ of Tallinn which seemed to have a medival theme.

The ferry we got back from Tallinn was a bit of a disapointment compared with the luxury of the one we travelled out in, we were all pretty tired but the only seats we could get were some hard ones in a canteen next to a childrens noisy play area so by the time we got back to the hostel at about 11.45pm I was ready for bed but in the hostel kitchen we got caught talking to a guy from Montana who now lives in Moscow…..he never shut up and we just let him talk all night until his wine was gone but honestly he was really weird….

I spent the last day visiting a few more places and galleries. Realizing that most of the places we visited seemed to be churches like we were on some sort of religious holiday. I will admit though they were all pretty interesting to look at.

The last church was definitely my favourite, it was carved into a giant hill and water actually seeps in through the stones, luckily there is a grate that goes around the whole of the wall for the water to drip down into and stop the church from flooding…i’m not sure if its holy water or just the rain….

We were getting the train home at about 7.15pm so we got to the station around 7 and went to the desk to buy our tickets, a couple of people got an earlier train so now there was just 8 of us travelling together. One person asked for all the tickets at the same time so we would this time get seats next to each other and not spread across the train. we then started to pay individually, once the first couple of people got their tickets they headed straight to the train as it was less than 10 minutes before it left. I got halfway to the train when I realized the other were still at the desk and it looked like there was a problem so we went back to see what the hold up was. The girl at the counter had somehow messed up the tickets, something about there being an extra one or one that was unpaid for. So after 10 minutes of trying to sort it out she gave us all new tickets and we ran to the platform but it was too late the train was just pulling away. I got a call from the people actually on the train asking if the rest of us were on it but nope we were marching back to the ticket desk for a refund! The refunds then took at least another 30 minutes and then our only option to get home was either wait for the next train which was like the next day or we go by coach. The coach wasn’t until 1am so we now had about 5 hours to wait. To pass the time we ended up going to the cinema, we split up and some of us watched ‘up in the air’ and others watched ‘I love you Philip Morris’

Now extremely tired from the past 3 days of walking around helsinki and tallinn we got on the coach which would take almost 6 hours, although extremely uncomfortable we all managed to sleep most of the way, we all managed to lie across two seats even when the bus got full it was just a case of pretending to be asleep so that no one could sit next to you or tell you to budge up.

So 7.30 am I arrived back to my room after what could be described as quite an adventurous few days….interesting, enjoyable, exhausting but definatly not boring!!

A Frozen Debarkle…….the exhibition

7 03 2010

After 2 months at the university it was time for me and Laura to show off our work in a solo exhibition. The main school has an old wine cellar that they use as a gallery for the students work, so we booked the gallery, the dates were a little sooner than we had planned, so now after the trip to Tahko where we missed a week of work we had just one and a half week to get everything completed.

We each had two pen drawings of animals from the trip we took to the museum for the drawing class and also a painting each from the painting class.

We also made a product for the product module we were taking, not realizing that their product design class is different from what we would call product design and we ended up designing and making a coat/accessories stand from acrylic plastic instead of designing things like posters and logos :s. As we aren’t product design students we didn’t really know how to use any of the machines in the workshop but after a quick demo from one of the teachers we ended up producing the stand between use without loosing any fingers either!

The final class we took was a plaster/clay class this was probably my favourite class from the first term. In it we produced a mould of my arm and then from it produced 30 plaster hands to create an installation for the exhibition. The hands are supposed to represent the trees here in Finland there are so many and its something I have never seen before.

Because it was only going to be our work in the exhibition we felt we needed something else to fill out the space so we decided on producing a giant mural using a sort of street art style that would represent our time here in Kuopio.

We then decided on a name for the exhibition….we didn’t want anything too serious but we wanted something that would also connect with our time here. After many ideas we settled on ‘A Frozen Debarkle’ frozen- something we have definatly experienced here in Finland and debarkle (or debarcle how it should be spelt) also something we feel we have also experienced here, not in a bad was just things haven’t always gone so smoothly, there are things we can definatly look back on and laugh at, although some of them maybe not so funny at the time.

We created a poster to advertise the exhibition and put the opening date on this meant we now had a day to work towards so we had no choice and couldn’t waste time.

A day before the exhibition we started to hang all the work, we thought this would be the easy part but this proved to take longer than we expected, the works we had produced needed extra bits attaching to them to be able to attach the wires to hang them, luckily there was a janitor guy that could help us do this. The main thing we were concerned about was getting our plaster hands to stand up and not fall over and smash, after the janitor gave us a rubber sealant gun erecting the hands was probably the easiest part of the exhibition. With most things set up we went home for the night and just had a few more things to set up the morning of the opening. We were both a bit nervous that the hands would not stick and we would go in the next morning to find them all smashed. the next morning (the day of the exhibition) we went down to the cellar praying that the hands were still as we left them…..only it wasn’t the hands we should have been worried about because when we got down there we found the tree cost stand on the floor in 5 pieces!! It turned out that it was too heavy and the hook in the ceiling we had hung it from had popped out in the night sending the stand crashing to the floor and breaking…..luckily by this time we were used to things not running smoothly and managed to laugh at the whole situation…..yet another debarkle you could say!

The stand how it looks before it broke.

How we displayed the stand after it broke.

Actually I think I prefer the Second photo, although not as practical the end result certainly looks better!

We opened the exhibition with wine and marshmellows with the other erasmus students and students from our class, as our first ever exhibition I think me and Laura were both a bit nervous about showing off our work and we didn’t know where to put ourselves but luckily no one asked any difficult questions and I think overall, excluding minor issues,  the exhibition was a success 🙂 !…..well I guess it could have been worse…

Snow sculpting at Tahko

22 02 2010

Last week I travelled to Tahko a ski resort about 60km from Kuopio to take part in creating a snow playground. It was up to the Erasmus and some of the Finnish students to design and sculpt a playground for children made completely out of snow with the sculptures based on words that Finland in famous for. We travelled early Tuesday morning and stayed in a hotel at the resort for 3 nights so we got 4 days to complete the task.

The temperatures last week had dropped from the previous week and at 9am when we had to go out and start the work the temperature was around the -27 mark…….not very enjoyable! Although inside the hotel it was really warm especially in your room and the bathroom was literally a sauna as it actually contained a small two person sauna along with what looked like a giant fridge which was actually a giant heater/dryer.

Each morning we would go down for a large breakfast, as much as we could eat as we were getting it for free before going out to start the work in an area next to the edge of the hotel building with views opposite us of the ski slopes.

The first day was probably the worst as we were greeted with a giant mountain of snow that we had to start to clear to make a space for our sculpture so this meant grabbing a shovel to start moving the snow. By the evening my arms were really starting to ache as they weren’t used to this type of manual labour! We also started to build some of the wall that would go around the playground area, to make the walls we used moulds created from panels of wood that were screwed together and shoveled snow inside them, we then got someone to climb on top to stamp the snow down to compress it altogether then after waiting for around 30mins everyone would grab a corner of the mould and lift it off to reveal the block of snow.

I was working on building a truck with two other girls from Huddersfield, the truck we were building was a ‘Sisu’ truck which is a brand of truck here in Finland. We first had to create the basic blocks for the truck using the moulds then we would carve the details of the truck into the blocks. We decided to hollow out the back of the truck and create seats so that children could climb into the back at sit in it.

After 3 full days of working the truck got completed, although whilst carving some of the small details the snow ended up coming off in larger chunks and because the temperature was so low the snow was very powdery and we couldn’t stick it back together again 😦

The week was deffinatly exhausting working outside in the freezing cold in the snow but the end results were pretty good, a couple of the local papers also came to take photos and ask a few questions so they could do a story on it, the only bad thing was having to leave the t.v in the hotel room…

Saw my first bear

9 02 2010

Been on my first class trip…to the Kuopio Museum with my drawing class. The museum is called ‘Kuopion Museo’ and is the natural history museum. The aim was for the drawing class to go for the afternoon to draw some of the exhibits. It was currently showing an exhibition on ‘South Africa’ on the ground floor…which at first I thought that was the entire museum but soon discovered a there was a set of stairs that led to the main floors of the museum. The first floor housed the animal section with animals typical of Finland, the second floor then had furniture and household objects also from Finland’s history.

The museum itself from the outside looks a bit like a castle with a large turret at the front and big wooden doors to enter into the lobby.

Of course one animal I was expecting to see was a bear or ‘Karhu’ in finnish. It took a while to find the bears because they were in their own little room, I was slightly disapointed with the size of the bears as I was expecting some giant scary looking grizzly bears but the ones here were alot smaller but I’m sure they would be just as scary if I was to see one live.

One animal I wasn’t expecting was a giant wooly mammoth! I saw a sign with a picture of a mammoth on with a caveman chasing it and assumed that in that room there would be a mammoth, although I couldn’t read the sign as it was in Finnish. The room was really dark inside and you had to go down a dark corridor that was on a slight slope. I got to the end of the corridor and was expecting a large mammoth but I couldn’t see anything, you could then turn left back up the slope but on a different path this time but he space looked too small to hold a mammoth but thats still what I was expecting. Once I got up to an opening I slowly turned my head round a dark corner but no it wasn’t a mammoth it was three cavemen models…quite scary looking too especially as the room was so dark and they were lit up by red light.

After that I guessed there was maybe no mammoth until I walked into a room that I thought was taking me to some new stairs but it was infact the mammoth. The model was really big and it wasn’t behind glass so you could get quite close to it although I don’t think the model was an actual real mammoth…

6.30’s and -25’s

28 01 2010

Well I’ve been attending school now for a couple of weeks mainly based in a building at the opposite end of town called Turo where I take drawing and painting classes. My timetable here changes every week but I  always seem to have at least two mornings in school starting at 8 o’clock! This means setting my alarm for 6.30 to go catch the 7.30 bus. It also means going to school in the dark as the sun doesn’t rise till about 9.30ish, by this time I’ve already been sat in lesson for over an hour.

Sunrise through classroom window

The Turo building also has a small common room to hang out in on your break, it also has a couple of vending machines to get a drinks and some chocolate, but I think most people use them to buy coffee and espresso’s to help wake them up. Like most of the school the common room has a selection of mis-matching furniture that looks like it has come from an antique shop but being able to sit on a sofa of a big armchair is very relaxing after the stress of traveling to school at 7.30 in the dark and cold.

Common room

retro chairs

I also got a few shots of the main school in the office area which is decorated in a completely different way to the rest of the school, the office area has more of a museum/gallery feel to it than a school, I also noticed there is a lot of rugs covering the wooden floor too.

Lots of the same rug everywhere

Not only have I had to be getting up early to travel to school but this week has also seen a drop in temperature to the -25 mark. This means spending as little time as possible outside because it only takes about a minute before your freezing especially when your stood waiting for a bus. I’ve heard from a few people that this is the coldest most snowy winter here in about 7 years and that we are lucky to see it…..I think they mean we are lucky to see all the snow and not the freezing temperatures though. The snow does make the place look very pretty though although the snow has started to get a bit dirty in the town centre and on the roads but the quiet areas still have amazing white snow and against a bright blue sky you sometimes forget how cold it actually is.