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Showing posts from January, 2018

Getting in Rhythm with Finland

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It has been 18 days since I landed in Finland, but it feels like much longer.
Leaving Los Angeles, and leaving my public, urban middle school (what’s up Lions?) I was moving at the speed of 100 miles per hour. Here, I have had the incredible luxury of s l o w i n g  d o w n , as I mentioned in my last post.
Cultural exchanges take time. Time to understand why people live their lives the way they do. Why certain practices exist. Why some values are more important than others. With 18 days under my belt, I am barely scratching the surface, but progress is being made. It comes with understanding phrases spoken to you. Or learning how to pronounce words correctly. Or walking in snow and ice and not biting the dust.


I’m getting used to little to no direct sunlight and am surprised at how much it has affected my mood. In the darkness, you have to push yourself to be active, to make some kind of progress.


Upon arrival in Helsinki this week for my Fulbright Finland Orientation, we were invit…

The Concept of Time

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There are 48 hours in the day in Finland.
Not really.

But it is amazing how much time you have when you are not busy being a mother, teacher, daughter and wife.
As Fulbrighters, we are encouraged to take time to get to know our new environments, whether in Botswana or New Zealand or Singapore. There are many A-type personalities in the group, and many of us don’t know how to take it slow. But I heeded the advice and moved slowly.
I've been getting familiar with the transportation system. Venturi is the national train system with an app that helps you look at timetables and purchase tickets. 
Electronics-Finding the right adapter to connect to European power supplies. 
Currency-what is the value of a Euro in comparison to a dollar? It’s important to know. Do I really want to spend 99 euros on a blender? (About $125)

Setting up my apartment involves connecting to the WiFi (important!) and seeing what needs to be purchased for day to day needs.
I was fortunate to find my apartment thro…

Moving at 47

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It was the late ‘70’s and there was a televised show based on the Hardy Boys mysteries (who else has that collection?) that captured my attention. This particular episode was based in the city of New Orleans during Mardi Gras time. The visual images captured my imagination: people wearing masks, losing their identities and adopting new ones, dancing and parading on the streets, the music…well, I was hooked. I knew at age eight or nine that I would be visiting New Orleans and as many other places in the world where I could discover a different kind of mystery and magic than what I saw in my own neighborhood.
Almost 40 years later, some might say I took this to the extreme by moving to one of the colder climates in the world, the country of Finland, for 5 months to study the school system. If you’ve been reading this blog, you will know there is a special urgency that underlies the reason for applying for this Fulbright. Other than educators who work in impacted communities, few people…

FULBRIGHT: TODAY IS THE DAY

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What I Want to Experience Aurora Borealis
What I Will Miss My Husband
My daughter, my old family, my new family, my dogs, my cats. But you only live once, and there is important work to do. Adelante!

FULBRIGHT: Countdown Day 2

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What I Want to Learn How to Live in The COLD
How do people deal with no sunlight? There were zero days of sunlight in December in Jyvaskyla, where I will be living for 5 months.  Yet people take dips in the the icy lakes? And what is this sauna thing all about? How do students deal with the cold? Do they stay inside? Are there snow days?

What I Will Miss Mexican Food
No explanation needed.

FULBRIGHT: Countdown Day 3

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What I Want to See Student Break Time
For every hour of instruction, Finnish students receive 15 minutes of unstructured break time. What do they do during this time? How much is spent outdoors? Do teachers influence student choice? Are there gender differences in break activities? I want to know. Here is a great article by ex-pat Timothy Walker on this topic. He also writes a great blog called Taught by Finland. where the intrigue with Finland first began. I hope to meet him there!

What I Will Miss Friends and Family
On the one hand, I have the best friends one could ever hope for. On the other hand, many of them will have a chance to come visit me in Finland! I will miss my family, and my husband's family, especially our children.

FULBRIGHT:: Countdown Day 4

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What I Want to See The Finnish Educational System How do schools in urban centers incorporate nature into the curriculum, as opposed to schools in the far north, Arctic Lapland?

What I Will Miss My School

For all of its challenges, the value of the work we do with the students and parents of South Central L.A.  is what keeps so many of us still working there.

FULBRIGHT: Countdown Day 5

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What I Want to Experience Finland's Natural beauty
From the raw beauty of Lapland to the National Parks, I want to see how much time students get to spend in nature, and study the effects on their schooling.


What I Will Miss Woodland Hills
Just as I'm getting to know this neighborhood, and liking it, it is time to go. I never thought I'd be a Valley Girl.

FULBRIGHT: Countdown Day 6

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What I Want to See
The Nordic Model

Universal healthcare, free schooling through college, generous work leaves, all paid by the state through high taxes. There's even an experiment with paid unemployment! How does that work?  Read all about a the Finnish baby box that all newborns receive, that has reduced the infant mortality rate in Finland substantially.

What I Will Miss Diversity
It's just a way of life in Southern California. It's not something you even think about.  My husband is half Irish, half Indian. My daughter is half African-American. My best friends are the Rainbow Coalition. I will miss the diversity of food, traditions, people and thought while I am away.

FULBRIGHT: Countdown: Day 7

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As my Fulbright journey becomes a reality, I am one part excitement and anticipation, another part forlorn about what I am leaving behind. So each day, leading up to my departure this time next week, I will post what I am most looking forward to learning and what I will seriously miss from my life in Los Angeles.

Looking Forward To Discussing Education
In our August orientation, I met some of the world's most intelligent and passionate educators. It feeds the soul! These are people for whom teaching is not just a job, but a calling. In just the few days we spent together, I knew that the ideas produced could actually make a difference in improving educational practices in the U.S. Now, I will have the opportunity to have these same type of discussions with educators in Finland while visiting their schools.

Here is some more information about the Finnish education system, from the Fulbright Center in Finland.

Will Miss Sunny California

The fruits. The vegetables. The concerts The go…