Part 15 - 6.5.09

Where have the last few weeks gone? The snow has completely gone, the sea and rivers are flowing again and spring is definitely here. I did some supply teaching for the last two weeks but now the teacher is better again and I am back at home with Neil. Whilst we could do with the earnings, it is actually a relief to be back home, as we didn't do any study while I was working and we are supposed to be sitting the exam when we're back in the UK. Oh, by the way, apologies if you have had some problems viewing this site - it's very complicated and unless you're a geek (like me) you probably won't understand or care, but I had to change the server that this site lives on because the original one doesn't support Perl. Now that we are developing a new section of the site (hate to be secretive but if I told you, I'd have to kill you) and the Web design course is getting more in depth, we want to put things like feedback forms on. Some of the things require programming languages that work better on a Linux server but the changeover takes a good few hours. I was so impatient yesterday! I kept checking every few minutes, all through the day, to see if we were back online. Well, this morning we are but some links are broken. I'll fix those this morning.

The first thing I should talk about is Vappu. That is what the Finns call May Day. It's a bit like the UK, only it is held on 1st May (Friday, this year) rather than the Monday. Maybe it's because it marks the end of winter but it's a massive celebration here. We had been warned about seeing people dressed up in bizarre costumes, getting drunk, doing stupid (and sometimes dangerous) things. Actually, what we witnessed was lovely! It was forecast to be quite warm and sunny so we decided to cycle into the city centre. It's about 9km each way but because it's flat and the cycle tracks are now cleared of all the grit, it's really pleasant. The first part of the journey, once out of Talvikangas, goes through the forest. Then you pass a Lidl supermarket and a petrol station, before coming to the river. The river looks so beautiful now it's moving again. There are often people out rowing and we see an occasional fisherman. Once you get over the bridge, there's a very steep path that takes you down to the road beneath. That's the exciting bit! If there aren't too many people around, you can get some speed up there. The path then follows the river right into town. Just before you get to the city centre though, on the right, is a huge park. We went there a few times in the winter too. We had taken a picnic with us and there are plenty of picnic tables, some under shade, where you can sit and eat. There's also a couple of cafes and toilets. The play area is great and is surrounded by trees that the boys just had to climb. Boys will be boys. We think at one point Josh fell out but he swears blind it was deliberate!

While we were in the park, we discovered another tradition. Loads of people were wearing white sailor hats. At first, we thought it must be some kind of tribute to the navy or something but then some friends appeared and we asked about it. It's a graduation thing - everyone who has a degree wears their white hat on Vappu. I felt really conspicuous then! I didn't have a hat on! Everybody must think I'm thick! Either Oulu is full of child-genuises though or they are quite relaxed about this because I saw several kids of about eight, wearing the hat.

After we had been in the park for a while, we cycled into the city. There were a lot of people but not that much actually happening. We treated the boys to an ice cream and decided on a different route to cycle home. On the way, we went down Uusikatu - that's the street that runs parallel to the main street. Andrew thinks it's stupid because the whole road is cobbled (right pain to drive on!!!) but Uusi means 'New' and katu means 'Street'. He can't understand why the oldest looking street in the city is called New Street. He may have a point. Anyway, we reached the junction where we were hoping to cross Uusikatu but there were crowds of people there. The noise soon gave it away. There was a motorcycle parade of some kind in progress. At first, we waited, thinking it must be almost over. I got the camcorder out and videoed a bit of it. Then we got a bit closer and waited some more. Nothing was going anywhere, so I suggested that we carefully go up Uusikatu (tricky with 4 bikes) and cross at the top. Well it must have taken us a good 10 to 15 minutes to get to the top and the bikes still kept coming. I have never seen so many motorbikes in one place before! It must have been the entire population of Finland!

The ride home was good. On the way, we found a popular skate park with ramps, rails and stuff like that. That is clearly where the local teens hang out. We enjoyed the cycling so much that we decided to cycle to church on Sunday. Again, it went well... at least, it did on the way there. On the way back, just as we got to Lidl (which is about half way) the heavens opened and huge, cold raindrops pelted us for the entire journey home. We were soaked to the skin! We all had showers but then decided a sauna might be better, so we did that too. The weather hasn't cheered up much since. It's quite cool this week and very wet. Never mind - we have lots of indoor things to catch up on and I'm sure the sunshine will return - probably on the day when I have a long drive and forget my sunglasses!

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