Saturday, September 3, 2011

I'm Back! ...but I've moved!

Long time no post because I moved cities and apartments and everything and have been super busy! But I am back to give you your regular dose of Finnish culture.

The first thing on the list is mölkky, or in English, lawn bowling.

How it works is there are are 12 pins each with a number 1-12 on them. You set them up in a specific order, kind of like in pool, all close together. Then you take the möllky pin, which is a bit longer than the numbered pins, and throw it at them. The goal is to reach 50 points EXACTLY. How the scoring works, is that if you hit ONLY one pin, you get the number of points on that pin. So if you hit the 9, you get 9 points, 12 then 12 points, etc. But if you knock down 2 or more pins, your points equal the total number of pins knocked down, regardless of the numbers written on them. So if you knock down 2 pins you get 2 points, 3 pins are 3 points, etc. And the pins have to be completely flat on the ground, no leaning on each other or anything. Each time you hit the pins, you go over and set up them in the exact place they fell. So each round, they generally get farther and farther apart, as you can see in the photo example (which shows 3 points by the way).  Sounds easy, but the strategy is tricky, because if you go over 50 points, your score automatically is reset back to 25. And as you get closer to 50 points, it's harder to knock multiple pins down since they are farther apart and still hard to knock any specific pin down too. And if you miss the pins entirely 3 times in a row, you are out. It's a really goofy yet fun game and can last from a short to a long time. It's great to play outdoors, at the park on a nice summer day and I highly recommend everyone play it at least once. Great fun.

Or if you are more the sporty adventurous type, you can always participate in the commonly seen on the sidewalks of Finland activity of rollerblading WITH NORDIC POLES. (Are they nuts? I think yes.) I'd always heard of Nordic Poles and seen them rarely in the US and they are quite true to their name in that it's extremely common to see people walking down the street with them, all year round. But I never expected anyone would be so crazy as to try to rollerblade with them. They are quite speedy too. Me, I think I'll pass for now.

I prefer a less death-defying activity like playing board games. And Niko for my birthday got me Alfapet, which is the Swedish-made version of Scrabble, using the Finnish alphabet! This is great for me because it's very fun to begin with, but also improves my vocabulary and Finnish skills. And the interesting part to me is that I win sometimes!!! Against a native Finn!!!
In my opinion, Finnish Scrabble/Alfapet is much harder than English Scrabble because there are a lot more words in the English language and because in Finnish words are modified or declined by their endings. Also Finnish has a grammar rule called Vowel Harmony (Vokalharmonie auf Deutsch) where the letters a and o and u always go together and ä and ö and y always go together and there is no word (that's not a compound) word where those letters are combined. (good examples in the photo) I and E can go with either set though. But if you have letter tiles on your tray and no vowels to match the words on the board, then you are out of luck. So the game is much more challenging, but a fun challenge.

As I stated, I am now in Lappeenranta. It's in the south-eastern part of Finland and while the size of the city is probably medium size, the population density is quite high. It's also a university city so there are a lot of students. It has two shopping centers, a bunch of markets and supermarkets, a ton of Turkish pizza places and grillis, and even a sewing shop/craft store. There are buses that run every hour from the university to the city center and a few buses that run that go to the supermarkets and stores a bit further out. In Finland, buses run on tickets and when you get on the bus you tell the driver where you are going. This is because ticket prices are based on how many kilometers you are going. So if you are just going to city center, it's cheaper than going to the further out markets and stores. The buses are quite helpful in winter, when it snows too much to walk or bike a long distance, and it's also good when it rains. Which it does. A lot. Almost every day. Almost every time I look out the window it is raining. But that's always a good excuse to sit down with a  nice warm cup of Lämmin Kuppi book or some knitting or maybe some Project Runway Season 9.

And afterwards you get to enjoy a nice Finnish rainbow.

Until next time.

T. Kati