**This is part of my on-going Finland series. I apologize for the delay, I promised no major interneting while in the country. Enjoy!
On the way to the summer cottage, we stopped by Matti’s uncle’s place. I should mention that Matti’s entire family lives in Hemeenlinna. In fact, his backyard is connected several of his relatives’ yards. It is pretty cool, but I know it would never work for Chaos and the Changs. Matti’s uncle and father were painting the exterior of the house. Each house in Matti’s family was built ENTIRELY by members of the family—I was beyond impressed!
After our brief meeting, we drove off to meet Matti’s friends, Ettu and Hanna at the summer cottage. Matti decided to break some pretty difficult news…there was no running water in the toilet, we were to shower in the sauna, there would be a good chance that we would have to heat up lake water to shower in the sauna. Apparently, I was also supposed to jump into the lake after finishing in the sauna.
Matti and I drove for about 40 minutes and ended up in the parking lot of Sale (a store). It was a bit of a joke for me because the word, “sale” in Finnish is “Ale.” I was being a ‘fake’ dumb American by saying, “Uh…someone forogt the ‘S’ in ‘sale’.”
Ettu and Hanna (Matti’s friends) met us in the parking lot. We went into the store and they were very apprehensive about what I [the American] would eat. Matti explained to them that I don’t eat dairy, but I eat TONS of bacon and he told them to be safe, to just buy me bacon and potato chips. :)
As we drove to the cottage, Matti decided to go into further detail about how Finnish cottages and saunas work. I think the look on my face was priceless because he just kept laughing at me. I felt sick just thinking about the possibility of living in the place where the toilet doesn’t flush. After all, I am the 28-year old who has NEVER used a port-a-potty. Now, I was to ‘live in the woods.’ I would be roughing by my standards (my skater friends took a trip to Minnesota where we ‘camped.’ By roughing it, we had a place by the lake where each of us had a flat screen TV in every bedroom, a jacuzzi tub, a wine bar, and a fully stocked kitchen). We got to the cabin and put our stuff down. Matti decided it was time to “potty train me.” We walked to the outhouse and opened the door. It was fairly large, but it did not have any real lighting. We marched straight to the ‘toilet’ and I sighed. Matti opened the foam lid and said it was just like a modern toilet, only instead of flushing…he walked over to a bucket and opened the lid, we had to scooop the cedar (at least that is what I think it was) and throw it into the toilet. Eww…
I was determined to hold ‘it’ in as long as I could…possibly days if I could manage it. In China and Taiwan, I would literally hold ‘it’ for a day (12 hours I think was the longest amount of time) to avoid a squat toilet as I had a bad experience with one. No, I didn’t fall in (though, Tim’s younger brother did).
I was determined to give the outhouse the same courtesy I showed to the squat toilets in Asia.
Next, Matti showed me the sauna. Saunas are extremely important in Finnish culture; they are considered ‘sacred’ grounds to some extent. I looked around a the wooden rom and Matti showed me the shower. I was going to have to hose myself down (there was a real facet and a shower hose and head, but it was low to the ground), and shower in the actual sauna. What an experience this was going to be.
After my tour, Matti told me we had to go potato picking. I think the Finns thought the idea of me getting dirty in a garden was very comical. I followed them to the field and then we just watched Ettu pick potatoes. I turned to Matti to ask why we weren’t helping…
“We don’t have rubber boots. Besides, you’re American. What do you know about farming?” (True dat).
Matti’s aunt and uncle have a cottage near Ett’s. They drove by and invited us to their cottage. However, I had no idea that they invited us as the entire conversation was in Finnish. Suddently, I found myself in a rowboat with Matti in the middle of a the lake. Matti’s aunt and uncle were delighted to see us. They took several photos of the two of us in the boat. Their cottage was very cute, but they has absolutely NO running water. All of a sudden, the outhouse and sauna shower did not see so bad. Perspective is an amazing thing. At the cottage, we sat outside (where I was attacked by bugs) and drank some berry juice (J. Tuner would not have been pleased with my diet this entire trip). The group chatted for a bit, except for me, and then we decided to head back.
I got to row the boat back to Ettu’s cottage. I will say that I am an a natural…not really. The bad part about the rowing was that we didn’t decide to have me row until we were a few meters away from the dock. (It’s Finland, they use the metric system). Trying to switch places on a boat in the middle of the water is a tricky endeavor.
Soon, it was getting close to dinner. Matti decided that since I am an American and my country invented BBQ, I would do the grilling. Dinner was fantastic, if I do say so myself. My only complaint is that the hot dogs (or sausages) were not really made of meat. I thought Matti was kidding when he told me they were mostly wheat…he wasn’t. Very disappointing.
After dinner (still holding my pee), we played a series of games. First, we played croquet, which I am absolutely terrible at playing. I think it’s because it’s French. Afterwards, we played this Finnish game called “Molkky.” Molkky has 12 wooden cylinder type objects and you have to throw another wooden cylinder at the twelve. The cylinder-type objects are numbered 1-12; if you hit one of the cylinder-types, you get the value of that object. (If you hit the 12, you get 12 points). If you hit more than one object, you take the count of the cylinders you hit. 3 misses in a row and you are officially out of the game. Yeah, I didn’t win this game either.
It was about 10:30 (still light out…it didn’t get dark until after 2 a.m. I was told) and I couldn’t hold it anymore. I whispered that I needed to go to the bathroom and all three Finns grinned. They cheered as I walked to the outhouse. I opened the door and took a deep breathe…done. I did not look down as I scooped the cedar and dumped it in the hole. I washed my hands (in the sauna) and shuddered. I was welcomed back by clapping. Matti asked me how my experience was and I simply replied that I did not want to discuss my private matters. I also couldn’t look at him in the eye.
11:00—- sauna time. Hannah asked if I wanted to wear a swimsuit. I looked at her and apologized and then said, “yes.” I just couldn’t be fully naked with another person that I just met for half a day. Hannah said she understood and we both put on our swimsuits and sat in the HOT room. In the sauna, Hannah and I talked about the tradition of the sauna…how everyone grows up going to them with their families. Lucky for me, I could not picture my parents or my sister naked and I just concentrated on not dehydrating. It was HOT. About 20 minutes later, Hannah said we should get out and go to the lake. We walked out to the deck and she jumped in. I looked at the water, saw a few lily pads and a bit of movement (I think it was fish) and just stood at the dock, I couldn’t go in. We came back, and went back into the sauna (that’s what they do) and talked about Matti.
Finally, Hannah said it was time for me to shower. She got out of the sauna and I was left to figure everything out myself. There were two buckets of water, I think those were for showering, but I walked over to the faucet and turned it on. The water was a bit cold, but the room was hot. I spent some time trying to balance out the water temperature compared to the room temperature while washing. It was definitely a process. I came out to see the guys in their towels…oh boy. I went up to bed and about an hour later, I had to..yes, go to the bathroom.
Hannah walked me to the outhouse with a flashlight and I had to use it while I did my business. It was not a fun experience. However, I had done it before, and I was going to do it again. I heard the boys jumping in the lake and I quickly washed my hands in the sauna.
Hannah and I watched some TV (and ate potato chips). I watched “Vampire Diaries” for the first time. Ick.
It was bed time, I did not want to think about outhouses or naked people anymore.
Good news? Matti realized before my arrival that my limit for sleeping outdoors was probably very low. I only had one night roughing it.
Caroline-0, Nature-2 (and then some)
My dad apparently showed up in Dublin at 2:30 a.m. to check to see if my mom was having an affair. No joke, the man literally (not figuratively) drove from Boston to Ohio to try and catch my mom cheating. No luck, sorry, pops.
Anyway, he called me on Saturday expecting me to drop everything to hang out with him. Nope didn’t happen, sorry pops. Anyway, on Sunday, I decided after what seemed like an interminable conversation on the phone, decided to meet him for breakfast.
When I got to SunnyStreet Cafe (or whatever it’s called), I hear, “Chao!” It was John, twin brother of one my my ex-boyfriends, Tony. I look over and their family and Franni (Tony’s fiancee) were eating outside.
I went in and told my parents that I would be right back and I went out to say, “Hello.” All of a sudden I hear,
"Ah, hello. What twin are you?" My parents were standing RIGHT BEHIND ME. So of course they stood there and said hi to Tony, John, Franni, and family. I felt a bit bad for Franni…I mean, she hates me, so I shouldn’t…but it had to be SUPER awkward.
When my family got back to our table, I scolded them for following me.
Me: Why the heck would you go say hi?
Dad: I like Tony.
Me: You didn’t know which one he was.
Mom: But they look so much alike [J and T]
Me: Yes, they are twins. Anyway, you shouldn’t have one. Poor Franni must have felt so awkward. PLUS, dad, you really have to shower in the mornings, your hair is everywhere and you look terrible.
[Dad smiles sheepishly]
Mom: It’s true, he does look terrible. Always.
Dad (in Chinese): Yeah, I can see how it would be bad for Franni. [Now in English] We didn’t know Tony was engaged and besides, she looked like she could be his aunt!
Me: I TOLD YOU. And…well, that’s mean. She doesn’t like me, so I don’t really care.
Waitress: May I take your drink order?
Mom: I what I want. But I don’t know about her (pointing to me). But let me order now. What is a BLT?
Waitress: Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato
Mom: No cheese
Dad: Is there chicken or beef?
Waitress: It’s just bacon, lettuce, and tomato.
Dad: So no chicken?
Waitress: No, just bacon (fake smile while gritting her teeth)
Mom: No cheese.
I ordered and the waitress left. If that wasn’t awkward…be prepared to read more.
Me: So, based on your last phone call…are you finally getting divorced?
Dad: Your mom and I are negotiating a deal.
Me: Here goes..
Dad: I just want to buy a house in Boston. Your mom will not let me take out the money or a home equity loan.
Mom: $210,000 for a home equity loan is ridiculous. We paid off both mortgages.
Dad: Let me talk
Dad: Anyway, I want to buy a house. So we decided my money will be mine and hers will be hers.
Dad: But I will pay for the property tax (not taxes) on both house (not houses) and I will pay your mother $400 a month so she cannot date and to stay in the marriage.
Mom: Is it a good deal?
Mom: You wouldn’t take it?
Dad: Of course not, she’s Caroline
Me: Of course I wouldn’t take it. What are you thinking mom? Just get a divorce.
Mom: Yes, but if I stay with your father, then he will pay the property tax, health insurance, and I make some money. I still cannot decide. Everyone makes fun of me because my marriage is like a contract. Your dad does not allow me to have any freedom and always shouting.
Me: Then leave.
Dad: Well, I only do this temporary. Once I save enough money for a down payment, then we can separate half and half.
Mom: My half should be bigger.
Dad: Shut up, Cindy. I need to tell Caroline MY side of the story.
So they go on and on about money, etc. I tell them the whole thing is stupid.
Me: Well, mom will probably do it.
Mom: Why I do it?
Me: You love money first. In fact, the order of your affection goes in the following: 1. Money, 2. Vicky, 3. houses, 4. Shop, 5. by default me.
Dad: I am probably 10
Me: At least your in the top ten. Wait… 1. Money, 2. Vicky, 3. Dance, 4. properties, 5. shop, then me at 6.
Dad: I like your humor, Caroline.
So they continue to argue through breakfast and then the MOST AWKWARD PART:
Mom: You know what. If I take this deal, you know what your dad said to me?
Me: I don’t want to know.
Mom: That I can maybe have sex once a year. [Now being sarcastic, which is kind of funny as I want to die from hearing this]. Don’t you think this is a good deal? Once I year I can maybe have sex?
Me: GROSS. Stop talking. I’m done eating.
And there you have it folks, yet another awkward breakfast with the Chaos. I really should sell the rights to my family to a TV show.