Apr 012014

Wednesday, 12th of September

Our day started with a bus drive from Tampere to Helsinki followed by a flight to Birmingham via Munich, Germany. The long journey took up nearly the whole day, from the early morning all the way to the evening. We arrived at the school and met our host  families for the first time at  6pm. having already witnessed the scenery of English rural areas between Birmingham and Stratford. During the evening we chatted with our hosts and exchanged the unique feature of our cultures. The host families received various Finnish products, such as the world famous Fazer chocolate and the timeless vases of Alvar Aalto.

Thursday, 13th September

We headed for the school after eating an English breakfast. Stratfor-upon-Avon school seemed enormous from a Finnish perspective – with its 2,500 students it is way bigger than any Finnish schooö. We also met the other foreign guests for the first time. Representatives from Spanish, Italian, German, Polish and British schools had arrived the previous night just like us. We got to share stories from Finland with our fellow visitors.

The main quest for the guests was to initiate the planning process for a sports event that was to be held in Malaga, Spain, a few months later. The purpose of the event was to raise money for charity and train participants’ collaboration and leadership skills.

Both of us toured around the main sights of Stratford in the afternoon. The most notable sight was the birthplace of William Shakespeare, and the other spots also had something to do with the author. Along the “The Birthplace”, the homes of Anne Hathaway and Mary Arden as well as the Stratford-upon-Avon church nest known for the tomb of Shakespeare were included in the tour. To complete the English cultural experience, the dinner of the day was ordered from a genuine “fish and chips” restaurant.

Friday, 14th September

Friday morning was spent finishing the plans for the sports event and preparing a presentation containing useful tips for the foreigners visiting Tampere and their hosts. In the meantime, contact information was collected so that we could keep in touch with each other after the Stratford meeting.

The Finns parted for the Friday evening. Juuso spent the evening at school as his host partook in a sports leadership course involving coaching and playing. Giuliana, an Italian girls was also there with her host, which made further discussions possible. Maisa visited Warwick, a nearby town, with her host family, The time was well spent adoring the medieval castle and enjoying Indian food.

Saturday, 15th  September

Saturday was dedicated to travelling as it was fairly accurately Wednesday reversed. Farewells to hosts were left in the the yard of a local hotel. As we came back home, British souvenirs, including lots of Shakespeare items were spread. The contact information gathered on Friday was immediately used as we both started online conversations with the European students we had met in Stratford.

DSCN0068By: Juuso Järviniemi & Maisa Borg

Mar 312014

We made our way to the airport on Wednesday the 6th of March, also known as yet another cold winter day in Tampere. Naturally we were very excited to escape the pesky minus degrees, and so were eagerly awaiting the trip. Our first flight took us to Stansted airport, where we had six hours to kill before our next flight. Being an eager set of travellers, we jumped into a cab and drove to a little village called Bishops Stortford, located around half an hour away from the airport. We visited a lovely tea shop and enjoyed a traditional English lunch before we took a train back to the airport. It was definitely a privilege to catch a glimpse of England before we arrived at our final destination.

When finally setting foot on Spanish ground, it was nearly midnight and we felt exhausted after the long and tedious journey. However, excitement soon caught up with us as we reunited with our Spanish friends who previously visited Tampere. The excitement didn’t die down as we glued our noses to the car windows on the drive to our new temporary homes. It was as if all the fatigue had been drawn out of us and replaced with eager anticipation about the following days.

Thursday morning we woke up to pouring rain; so much for the long-awaited sunshine.  After all, we certainly deserved some vitamin D after four months of utter darkness… Nevertheless, we made our way to school where we met up with all the people from the other countries. It was great fun talking to new people and everyone was very enthusiastic and open. We spent most of the morning in the assembly hall, listening to different presentations on employment that the Spanish had prepared. We also got the chance to play a game of role playing that involved employers and employees.  Lunch was eaten after school at 3pm  something we found unusual. The students, most likely with the help of their parents, had prepared us a buffet consisting of typical Spanish foods. It can be presumed no one left with an empty stomach. After lunch, we spent some time on the beach, playing games and getting acquainted. Someone brought the Spanish flag with them, which we attached to a branch and planted in the sand; where it remained until a game of capture the flag began. 

Friday morning we woke up bright and early in order to catch the bus to El Morlaco park. In Finland, if the program says ‘bus to … at 8’, the bus actually leaves at 8, leaving any latecomers behind. This was not the case in Spain. We arrived at 8.05, only managing to enter the bus several minutes later. Latecomers were patiently waited for and certainly not scolded. We agreed this was quite obviously more pleasant than the Finnish version.

In El Morlaco we were split into pairs, offered a map, and given an alarmingly long speech on how to read said map. At the chance of sounding arrogant, us Finns did quite well, orienteering through the unfamiliar park. However, this may be because orienteering is an essential part of Finnish P.E. classes, so none of us were particularly new to the sport. The best part of the activity was probably getting to know our partners and the momentarily scorching sun (it became shy soon afterwards). Like the day before, we played some games on the beach, and this time the sun even graced us with its presence for a while. In the evening, we walked to the center and through the main street, seeing some of Malaga’s many attractions. An experience that was surely bizarre, was eating a Burger King burger on the lap of a statue portraying H. C. Andrersen, while the others sat around it. After having our interesting dinner, we proceeded to take a stroll by the port, illuminated by twinkling street lights. Although we were moving at a pace akin to that of a snail, we enjoyed ourselves immensely. There were some fun, interactive playground equipment for children (and immature adults) that we decided to try out as we unleashed our inner children.  We even sprinted through a fountain.

For Saturday, ‘enjoying Malaga with your twin’ was on the schedule. This meant all but one pair spent the day roaming through Malaga, visiting a castle, a church, and a Roman amphitheater. The pair not present was one of us, who made a visit to Granada and Alhambra instead. Alhambra was astounding and the polar opposite of any type of palace or fortress found in Finland. The walls were decorated with intricate designs, reflecting years of hard labor and talent. Come evening, we were all reunited at one of our hosts’ place for a ‘party’. A game of truth or dare was played, a Harlem Shake was recorded, and tearful goodbyes were said to those leaving early the next morning. At 1 am we finally trudged our ways back home, exhausted but happy.

The last day, there was no official program but we saw some more of Malaga’s jewels. It was especially nice to see a view of the whole city while standing on the walls of the Gibralfaro castle. We also visited the Picasso museum, viewing unique Cubist paintings.

At 8, us Finns were to assemble at the ‘aeropuerto’ – the hilarious version of the English word airport. Embarrassingly enough, some of us supposedly tough Finns shed tears while hugging our equally tearful Spanish friends. It certainly was upsetting to be robbed from our new families and friendships, but fortunately we live in the 21st century where technology is easily available.

When we arrived in London, we immediately left to hit the hay. It was challenging to drag ourselves out of bed at 5 am the next morning, but us troopers pulled it off. It helped that we slept at the airport and on the flight back. The sleep did not guard us from the depression that hit once we landed though. Snow covered every surface and the air was bitingly cold, unlike the climate of Spain. Even the group of excited (and loud…) British students in front of us for passport check seemed dull. On the bright side, it was nice to sleep in our own beds once we made it home.

All in all, it was a memorable trip. The activities were fun, the food was simply amazing, and the Spanish were overwhelmingly welcoming and open. As well as acquiring a secondary family in Spain, we gained memories to cherish for a lifetime.

– Linnea & Majken

Ps. It was hard to pack a suitcase of merely 10kg for four days. We’re girls, we need to bring excess clothing, regardless of whether we wear them or not.Pps. We miss the Spanish hams and churros.

Working on our task