After many rejected volunteering applications finally we received a positive response, a confirmation that we never expected from the distant and unknown Finland. There are two important things to remember about Finland, saunas and mosquitos.
After many hours spent at airports seats we finally arrived in the small place called Loimaa. The school where we were accommodated was completely vacant and we were the first volunteers. As the hours passed the kitchen table was filling seat by seat in order to be 14 young persons ready for volunteer challenges in Finland. The next day we got a list of activities that we will perform during our project. Although it was tabulated and written, it was still not clear to us exactly what will be our obligations. Honestly, we did not want to have a lot of ideas about what to expect. The days began to pass quickly, much faster than we were anticipating. The days started with breakfast, prepared by ourselves, the volunteers, and it continued every time differently. We went to museums, walked in parks and forests, but also we worked. We were part of a market for old jobs and we assisted the organization within the Sarka Museum of Agriculture. Another day with music and six hours unnoticeable time of painting planks for the new summer theater, where after every day, somehow, in some activity, we were experiencing the Finnish way of doing things. And as we said, the saunas, true enjoyment of warm beams, where after that you have to go swim in the cold treads in lake water – that’s the way how Finns do it. True adrenaline enjoyment.
One of our activities was to help clean one small pond. It was interesting that there was nothing to clean, it was impeccably clean and besides a few cigarettes filters there was nothing… so different from us here. Oh, and the days, they lasted a lot more than that you can expect, we never saw a complete dark night. Nights don’t exist in May in Finland. Obviously for the long days we had even more time for different mutual friendships and activities. We were all different, which it made all of this more interesting. We all wanted to see, to explore, and to experience new things. We were not thinking how much the spicy muffins from Afghanistan will be (they were spicy a lot!), nor did we think how the traditional Latvian pie would taste. Different flavors, various spices, scents were everyday in these sixteen days. Every day, the meal started with a Finnish salad. It was so vague, it was a vegetable – fruit mix without salt or oil. And as for being in Finland for just 16 days we also learned a lot of Finnish which it wasn’t as hard as it sounded in the beginning. “Kuka sinä olet?” it was the main question, which we had to know, which translates into “Who are you?”. We only had two hours of Finnish, and we learned very much. And it’s impossible to forget the time when we were in an elementary school where we played bubble-football. It was amazingly unpredictable to run on the grass and only with a small touch to fall and start rolling backwards. The field was filled with lots of laughters.
The last days we closed with volunteering at Loimaa City Festival. The only thing we understood from the performers was uksi, kaksi, kolmme (one, two, three) and just raise our hands and dance. It was a different weirdly experience to dance in the music rhythm that you do not understand in a place where no one knows you.
In the end, we want to say a big thank you to Finland, to all the members who were part of the project, the organizers and the luck that we were chosen for this project. We thank to you in Finnish as well, Kiitos!
Photographer: Anita Vasileva