We arrived to a kitchen stocked with one pan, a couple of pots, a dozen tea cups and saucers, 3 dinner plates, a few bowls, two knives, a cutting board, a strainer, a kettle, a couple of place settings of utensils, a spatula, an oven and stove, a microwave, a fridge and freezer. We have everything we need (and more - really, how many knives do we need?)
Our fridge, freezer and pantry were bare with possibility - oh, what will we find to fill these spaces? That first night, at 8:30pm, having been in our apartment for five minutes, we rushed out to the market down the street before it closed at 9. We rushed through the aisles tossing in bread, a cucumber, ham, orange juice, yogurt, strawberry soup, and mint tea. These items covered 1.5 meals. The next day we found a larger, better-stocked, and less expensive market in the City Center, below the Sokos department store. Equipped with my one shopping bag, knowing we had a 20-minute walk home (uphill), and already laden with shampoo, conditioner, body soap, napkins and a hair dryer, we trod as lightly as we could - pasta, sauce, beef, milk, cheese, eggs. 1.3 meals.
I'm sure you see the pattern - we were soon back for groceries. A few times. And guess where I need to go this afternoon?
Getting our fridge and pantry stocked with a few days of food has proven to be a challenge. Diversity of food is not an issue. In fact, I'm quite overwhelmed with the vast choices and variety, a mix of recognizable and ooh-what's-that? I've spent quite a bit of time hunting...then gathering...then trekking home to unload, prepare, and consume. Please don't forget that I have an active 12-year old who is often ravenous.
What's presently in our kitchen? A bowl of guacamole I made last night, a jar of pickles, yogurt, milk, two bottles of salsa, eggs, smoked salmon, a little jar of capers, 4 tortillas, a few slices of salami, a bag of blueberries, a head of cauliflower, a bag of brussel sporuts, 2 apples, orange juice, butter, 1.5 limes, grilled bell peppers I made last night and I'll eat for lunch in just a bit, 3 tomatoes, an onion, 2 bulbs of garlic, a bowl of mandarin oranges, bottle of honey, box of jasmine rice, and a bag of what turned out to be Dorito-like chips when I was shooting for tortilla chips (Sarah was not unhappy about this error.)
What's for dinner? Steamed and sauteed veggies and I'm going to shoot for baked chicken. Have chip debit card - will hunt, gather, and cook.
Identity Dilemma (dilemma downgraded from crisis)
Hi. I'm Jennifer Ann Chavez-Miller.
I'm a mom who is presently solo-parenting and I'm sort of freaked out. While my kid is easy in a million ways, being the sole parent in her daily life the past 12 days has been eye-opening. I am very aware of how I cannot fill her dad's shoes - they are just too big, metaphorically and literally. I do not wrestle. I am more likely to slip on patches of ice and go down in a flash. I'm less able to shrug off the small stuff. As such, I feel vulnerable while she watches me fumble and bumble and very-nearly-fail-to-get-us-on-the-right-train.
I'm wearing snow boots everyday. Every time I step out the door, I'm in my snow boots. I wore my other boots one day, but they are no match for icy patches. I'm sticking to the snow boots for comfort - they are my security blanket. I miss my everyday shoes -- those cute shoes I bought in December - black pumps with black and white checkered detailed -- sigh. They are in the closet here, lonely. I'm in pants, except for one day last week. I prefer dresses and skirts and tights. Maybe I'll wear a skirt and my wool tights this afternoon. As a professional, for better or worse, I rely on my clothes as part of my identity - I love being a teacher and I love my teacher clothes. Boots + big winter jacket + wool beanie hat + gloves feels cozy but awkward. I'm feeling like a marshmallow, stumbling around in the snow, slipping and yelping. This does not bode well for my self-confidence.
I'm a teacher. Without a class. I'm embracing this opportunity for a deep breath, but it feels ... lonely. So many times during this past 12 days I have seen something, experienced something, and thought of particular students who would want to see that medieval iron sword or hear about the man on hockey skates who was riding the lift up the ski slope and skating down. I've thought about how I want to share that I was wrong about homework in Finland - children do have homework! I am so looking forward to beginning observations and interactions in schools this week. I love classrooms. That's where I want to be....sometimes.....
Because I'm also an explorer. Well, an explorer with boundaries and a budget. This is one quality I want my daughter to know about me, to embrace. The world is so big, so diverse, so accessible. On Saturday, I told her that I think she'd remember this day for the rest of her life - the first day she skied in Finland, feeling the cold breeze on her face, being an ocean away from home. Getting out - out of the country, out of the apartment, out of my comfort zone -- we're doing it.
I'm a wife, missing Brian. I miss our daily life together even though I'm intrigued with life apart (for a pre-determined period of time - I'm coming back....right, Bri?) Mostly, I'm grateful for Brian.
I'm an American. Working on basic Finnish, master of kiitos (thank you.) I'm also a sort of heathen as evidenced by the conundrum faced when I was enrolling Sarah at school this morning. I did not fill out an affiliated religion and there was confusion on how to convey that blank space into the drop-menu that listed world religions of every kind and no option to be...blank. Finnish students can and do get religion instruction - based on their self-identified, documented religion (90% of Finns have membership to the Lutheran Church.) Children also have the opportunity to learn about World Religion. We opted for that - world religion studies. The principal was kind and assured us that our way was good - religion is not taught in American public schools. And, I'm pretty sure he told the secretary to just to pick a religion for the registration form.
I'm a New Mexican who thought that we'd just live without green chili for four months. But they have lots of Mexican food items here. Now I'm thinking that we need a box of chili sent out, stat, because if we can find comparable stuff here, we might as well be eating the good stuff.
I'm a researcher. Here on a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher Award. I'm still shaking my head in awe and gratitude. I'm here to study how Finnish educators teach global citizenship. So far, I have a few dozen questions and no answers. Sounds about right after a week into my grant period.
I like how the Finns recycle almost everything - biowaste, recovery paper, recyclable cardboard, glass, and metal.
I like walking and getting to know places on foot.
I like walking in the snow.
I like when the clouds blow away and blue skies sparkle through and the snow takes on hues of lavender.
I love having friends - old and new - in Finland.
I like having a sauna in our apartment building, about 20 feet from our apartment, and with our own scheduled time to use it.
I like being with Sarah - walking, talking, playing, watching, waiting, hunting, gathering...
Finally, and not ever trivial...Gratitude
Grateful for this opportunity. For this day. For this time with my girl and this time for my professional growth.
Gratitude reigns supreme.