A Tale of Two Back to School Nights

Excitement and enthusiasm were in the air as teachers in my new high school in a middle class neighborhood prepared their classrooms by decorating their bulletin boards, displaying student work, and straightening desks. Welcome messages abounded, Remind.com messages were sent, and we opened our doors to meet the parents.
I have done these events for 24 years, four times a year at my former school in South Central L.A. But this year’s Back to School Night left me reflecting, and perhaps shedding a tear.
First, my new parents were fantastic. They were friendly, enthusiastic, and supportive of the new ideas I bring to the school. I knew in them I would have allies to incorporate my findings from my Fulbright exchange in Finland earlier this year. Parent after parent nodded their heads and strongly affirmed that break time was important to students, teachers, and workers in general. They were excited to hear about the summer travel programs I had prepared.
As I looked at their warm and s…

The Concept of Time

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 through AirBnB, and the hosts have been so accommodating and have made me feel welcome. 

These are just some areas of focus along with meeting with my dynamo faculty adviser, Hanna Poylio.

The illustrious Hanna Polio from Niilo Maki Institute

But back to time; due to my body’s fierce love of jet lag, I have been waking up every morning around 4:00 am. The sun doesn’t rise until 9:30 am. That leaves plenty of time to work around the apartment.

I’ve never had so much time to do my hair.

Time to read? Yes.

Make your bed? Done before 6:00 am.

Write and blog? A cinch.

And that’s all before the sun rises.

Knowing there’s only 6 hours of “sunlight” (it should be called graylight), means carefully planning your outdoor activities. So far, some include:

A city walk, to get the lay of the land.

Exercise spots for walks/hikes.

Comparing supermarkets and stores in the city center.

Finding the post office, museums, and coffee shops.

Or watching the President of Finland speak to local residents at the mall.

Reindeer art

President Sauli Niinistö

Harju walk

Gingerbread Jyvaskyla

Lake walk

Local church

Art everywhere

I could get used to this new concept of time, but I don’t want to worry about that yet. The three hours of commuting time in Los Angeles traffic is a bad nightmare that won’t return for another eight months.

In the meantime, I am embracing the time I’ve been given to be a Fulbright Teacher, and to go in-depth into my inquiry project.


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