We took an overnight flight from Boston to Paris, and then Paris to Finland. I don't really know why, but I would just love to be in an airplane that has to emergency land- in the water. It would be incredible! I guess I want to because whenever I get on an airplane, they switch on the safety video and what you should do if there is an emergency landing. I've been hearing that so much, in all the years I've gone to Finland, I actually want it to happen for a change. Of course, loosing your baggage stuff would be awful, but there's time for shopping later. It would just so cool to come up to one of your friends the first day of school, and they'd be all, 'How was your summer?' and you'd say, 'Oh, yeah, it was great! My plane landed in the water and we went out on those raft things!' You know what I'm saying? It would be the coolest story to tell with the whole experience, and I just want to be able to actually DO the things it says over and over in the safety videos for once.
We got to Paris, and this is the part that I find completely ridiculous: We had to wait for the next aiplain to Finland for 8 hours. That's longer than the flight from Boston to Paris. I felt so bored. The only thing I found fun was this thing in a toy store in the airport- it's called 'ROFL' (Stands for Rolling On Floor Laughing) and it's this monkey having a laugh attack rolling around. Too funny. I gotta give credit to the person who designed the airport- the chairs we were sitting in for 8 freaking hours where pretty comfortable. It's much better than a dirty plastic chair.
We arrived in Finland.. well.. the time zones make it kind of complicated. That's okay. We stayed at the house of my cousins once removed. Before I get to the house and our stay and everything, I really want to know: What the heck does a 'cousin once removed' mean? What is that whole 'removed' thing all about?? I had a wart once removed, but I don't think that has to do with this. But seriously, someone explain that to me because I have no clue what the heck it means. (For now I'm just calling them 'cousins' because I don't even know what the whole 'removed' thing is all about.) Now back to our stay.
One thing I always look forward to when I visit my cousins' is their trampoline. I love jumping. I could be on that thing for hours jumping and landing on my butt and all those crazy fun things. :-) So the first day we arrived there, Sam, my oldest brother and my cousin were bouncing me on the trampoline. I was on my back, in the center of the trampoline, and I was holding my knees to my chest. So they were bouncing me, and I was going pretty high, so I let go of my knees and just spread myself out. I was bouncing on my back, my head kept bobbling on my chest. Then I felt this pain in my back- not the kind of pain you get from jumping upright too much, but this thing just killed. I yelled, 'Stop! Stop! - Ow!' and in Finnish, I yelled, 'Lopeta! Lopeta! - Ow!' I sat up- pain. I figured this mean no more jumping for the day. Yeah, I could walk just fine. Nothing wrong with my legs. The pain in my back went away after about 5 minutes off the trampoline. Note to self: be more careful! You don't want to end up with a broken leg in Paris!
My older cousin, Jane (Pronounced: Ya-neh) has his own motorcycle!! ... And two helmets. Guess where this is going?? Yeah. I rode a motorcycle. I don't know if I've mentioned this or not, but in Finland in the summer time, it's almost always sunny. Like, it would still be pretty light out around 10:00 PM... which is why we usually went to bed around midnight. The sky is not pitch black, but the sun isn't up. It's like those pink calm skies right after the sun sets. Pretty peaceful way to fall asleep, especially when your bed is right next to window. :-) So, it was around 8:00 PM, and the sun was setting when Jane and I took off. I must've looked so stupid, because I was searching everywhere on the motorcycle for some sort of seatbelt or strap or something, but no. When my oldest brother Sam, told me to just hold on to this little handles down next to me, I thought he was kidding- there had to be another way of staying on! Apparently not. Jane said in Finnish, 'I'll start out slow, then we'll speed up.' I tell you, I was holding on to those handles extremely tight. I had a little jacket on, flapping in the wind, but with that huge helmet on, 1. I felt like I was wearing a space helmet. 2. I couldn't wrap my arms around him, because then my large helmet would just kind of lean against him, and I was just guessing that wouldn't be comfortable. So I didn't do it. 3. My head was the only part of me I wasn't worrying about getting hurt- because on the turns, I feel like I'm going to just fall right of the thing!! Here was the absolute best part of the motorcycle trip: so we are riding down this long rode, no trees in sight, no buildings, just fields. We are riding straight down the rode- here's what made it amazing. The sunset was gorgeous- like, the sky was peachy pink with a tint of soft orange, and the blazing, beautiful sun was setting in the horizon. The most wonderful moment of my life- that was the only time in the entire ride that I forgot that I had to hold on for dear life. I'm all, 'Wooooooooow....' thinking to myself. I'm pretty much hypnotized by the sunset. The wind flapping on me, the sun setting, I'm not dieing a painful death, life is good.
My cousin's house has something called a sauna. It's a wooden room, with wooden benches, and there is this oven type thing that holds very hot rocks on it. When you poor cold water on the rocks, it sizzles on the rocks and makes the room very warm and relaxing. You would usually go in a sauna in your bathing suit, or with just a towel wrapped around you. Usually, you would take a quick rinse in a cold shower, then hop in the warm, soothing sauna. Man, that just feels sooo good. I think the fact that you are wet in the sauna makes it feel better. We stayed there for 3 nights, and every day I would go in with my other cousin, (once removed, remember. I'm just calling them my cousins because I have no clue what this whole 'removed' thing is.) Jeni (pronounced: Ye-ney) at least twice a day. So soothing.
The last part about our stay at my cousins is the swimming area. It's a nice little pond, with some picnic tables and a little ice cream shop. Here's the best part: Not 1, not 2, but yes, 3 diving boards! The first one is your average little diving board, right over the water. A second to get to the water. The second diving board is quite high from the water. About 3 seconds until you hit the water. Then, we have the third diving board. Very high above the water, I think it takes about 4 1/2 seconds until you got to the water. Let me tell you, I was super scared to jump off that thing at first. But of course I had to do it anyway and get it over with. So I jump. .... I finally hit the water with a large splash! One thing I like to do when I jump in the water is try and stay under for as long as possible before coming up for air. I don't really know why. :-)
The day we left, we left at 10:30 AM. Were we were staying is at the bottom half of Finland. Were we were headed, my mom's friend's house, was on the very tip top half of Finland. The town we stayed in was called Porvoo, and as you can see it's highlighted on the map below. See on the map where is says, 'Urho Kekkonen National Park'? Where we were headed is in that general area. Imagine driving from Porvoo all the way up there. At least we had a GPS to help us. Although the GPS dude who's name was Tim and had a British accent, he didn't say, 'Cross the Rotary. __ exit.' He said, 'Cross the round about. __ exit.' My dad, Erik Heels, was joking around that he actually meant cross the round about (British-English thing for rotary) by driving straight over the little patch of grass in the middle of the rotary. The one thing that really bothered me about this road trip, was how loudly Tim spoke. Yes, you can adjust the volume on the GPS unit, but my parents just left it on loud and clear. I guess that was fair, because if it wasn't loud and clear, and they accidentally took the wrong exit, we'd end up somewhere else. But then again, that could mean ending up at my favorite place, IHOP. (International House Of Pancakes) So I did mind that it was loud and clear. It was also extremely hard to fall asleep. When I first heard that the car ride was going to be approx. 8 hours, I thought I could really catch up on my sleep and just nap for half the time. No, Tim was very loud. But, on one part of the trip, Tim didn't speak for a while. A while meaning approx. 7 minutes. Because that's about how long it takes for me to drift off into sleep in the car. So I'm having such a peaceful sleep, I'm dreaming about this large island turned into a cupcake. So instead of dirt on the island, there was frosting sticking to your shoes everywhere. I was just about to eat a handful of frosting off the ground, when Tim scared the daylights out of me, by saying a little bit too loud and clear, 'Right turn ahead!' One thing that cracked me up was when we went in a recently built high way that Tim didn't know about, on the little GPS screen, it showed our car driving through fields and into rivers, saying over and over again, 'After 80 yards, turn right-- after-- after 80 yards, turn right!' He kept calculating new ways to get back to the road on the little GPS screen. Yes, we knew the way for this highway. We didn't need Tim- except for major entertainment in the backseat, sure.
Remember that sauna thing that I told you about several paragraphs ago? Yeah. Believe it or not, Riita has 3 saunas. Two of them are outside, the other one is inside. One of them is actually on a boat, with a motor. The day we got there, we took a little evening trip out on the sauna boat! Riita and Ari have 2 teen kids, and they came along for the ride. Ari started up the engine and we started moving out into the lake. It was a simply gorgeous sunset that evening.
We all went in our bathing suits. We stopped the boat, and all got in the water and swam in the sunset. After I came out of the freezing cold yet somehow refreshing water and found my legs and arms covered in mud. I swam in muddy water! Really refreshing muddy water. I dried myself off, grabbed a little chunk of chocolate from the bowl on the table, and hopped in the sauna. That was the most relaxing moment. Imagine this: it's a warm summer evening, you just came out of the very refreshing cold water, and your skin is covered in mud. You are chewing on a piece of chocolate, melting in your mouth while you sit in the cinnamon scented sauna.
The next day we spent mostly on the blue motor boat in the picture above. It was so pleasant. In the boat, there was a little nook down in the front of the boat. Squishy seats, tons of magazines, a nice big bowl of freshly picked strawberries, the place to chillax. (Plus I need to work on reading in Finnish!) Ari stopped the boat in the middle of the lake for some fishing. I have to say, I am very impressed in my brother, Sam. He caught a medium sized fish! I tried it as well, but I wasn't very good at it.
After the boys finished up the fishing, most of us crowded in the little strawberry nook (that's what I'm calling it from now on! :-) and just relaxed as we made our way to an island. Ben and I were in our bathing suits to go swimming, and the rest of the family with Riita and Ari took a nice little walk. Once again, when we got out to dry and chillax on the beach, our skin was covered in mud. As we wrapped up this little island visit, we started a little camp fire and cooked hot dogs over it. It was hilarious: we had a roll of paper towels to hold the hot dogs and eat them- they were pretty hot from being over the camp fire! Ketchup, mustard, a couple bottles of Diet Coke and several plastic cups. What a meal! I find the hot dogs with the paper towels and no buns so funny. The Diet Coke mixing in with the whole camp fire thing was just hilarious.
We stopped at another island that had this little place that was completely perfect for skipping stones. We hiked all around the island, exploring. We found this old cannon that was used during WWII. We stopped for ice cream at a nice little café for some ice cream treats. What I find very funny was right by the check out counter, then had little mints in a packet and the label said, 'American Candy'. Sure...
On our way back to the house, my brothers Sam and Ben went fishing once again. Sam caught his second fish, plus Ben seemed very satisfied with his first fish. I gotta say, I'm way impressed. The first time I went fishing was at Sebago Lake, Maine and that was the first time I ever caught a fish. Ever. And these guys were catching fish like, every 10 minutes! When I went fishing in Maine, we would be out there for hours and I only caught one fish. Yes, we let him go. But we made him 'dance' in the little bucket we caught him in for a little while before we let him go and live his life as a fishy.
Ben even put the effort into slicing his fish up, and cooking it for the whole family to have. I'm proud of him. Good for Ben. :-)
The rest of the night was simply chilling out. I was getting very addicted to the mini pool table Riita and Ari had, so I was playing some people in there. The others were singing Karaoke and jamming it up.
Isn't that just so dang cute?? The cue sticks are actually longer than the pool table itself! And the balls are so cute and mini!
The next day, we noticed there was an island not so far from the house- swimming distance. We decide to explore and swim over there. I was pretty quick about this. I swam slowly and calmly and quietly, no splashing whatsoever, until about the halfway point when I decided it's all of a sudden a race. In my head. I'm thinking to myself, GO, Sonja, go! Go! Go!! You can't let Ben win! You have to get there first! And.. and touch the island first! Hurry! He's right by your feet! Speed up!! I didn't think of it as a race on the way back, though. I just wanted to relax.. that's me. Always looking for ways to relax... except for yoga. That's just bending yourself in weird ways, holding it for several painful secconds until the woman with the calm voice says, 'return to your original position.' And I'm like thinking to myself, 'How the heck do you call this relaxing?'
We got back to the house, when we see that Ari is filling up an air mattress so we can use it in the water! Ben sure liked the idea of this, so I decided to tag along with the idea. Ben liked to call it the water taxi or something. So we cruised out pretty far. Then he said we were going back to the island! Alright, sure, I needed to work on my tan, but I'm not just going to sit there and go back to that island. So I dive off, and swim back. Here's what happens: I get back. Sit there a couple minutes, looking at Ben. I decided I wanted to tag along again, so I dive back in. Swim back. 'Did you miss me?'
If you look really far out near the island, you can see this little smudge. That's the air mattress. See that thing in the middle of the lake with it's arm in the air? That's me! I really wish I could do a better picture of me in the water but dad says I need to wait until I'm 13. 11... close enough.
After Ben and I got back from our relaxing mattress ride, we decided to take a dip in the hot tub! Since so many people were in the hot tub, the water level got higher and higher, so when I sat down on the benches in the water, the water level came up to my nose. So I just kinda squatted there.
Remember that other sauna I told you about that was outside? Apparently we call that the 'earth sauna'! It's a nice small sauna, very cozy and off course, very warm.
After our wonderful dinner outside, we decided to bring out the Jet Ski! My parents told me that it's like riding a bike: you can't get your feet on both pedals, and then start. You have to start it while you are getting on. Press start to start, stop to stop, turn the handles to turn it, push the thingy with your thumb to go faster. Simple enough. So I put on this bright orange life jacket, and hop on the thing. Weee!! That thing is like a bike in the water- only not!! I'm like riding around in circles, all around, I even got kind of close to the island. I rode around in loops for a little bit then a came zooming back. Everyone was very impressed, since I was one of the first people who got it the first try. When Ben tried it, he kept screwing up and falling over. Good thing I had my camera with me.
You can see Ari has tons of CD's, and a super cool stereo system. That small screen is the computer hooked up with iTunes, (the keyboard is on the top of the shelf there) and you can see part of the TV on the right. Isn't that sick?
The next day was the day we left. We all got up around 9:00, and took lots of pictures after breakfast. Lots of hugs, and definitely many thank-you's. Riita and Ari also had a dog that was bouncing in during the hugging near the car.
His name is Rex, and he is totally the nicest dog I have ever met. As you can see in the picture, he's on the sauna boat! He came along with us. Such an adorable dog. :-)
The last thing I'm saying about this part of the trip is the funky clocks. I think I was the only one in my family who actually took notice of these unique clocks all around the house. Take a look at them! (Just click the image to view all of the clocks.)
After you read this paragraph, scroll back up to the map of Finland. Remember near the tippy top where we stayed with Riita, Ari, and the kids? See where it says Helsinki at the very very bottom? That's the general direction we where heading. Whoopee. Very long drive down, and we got there at about 7:00 PM to my Aunt Anne's house. She greeted us with some wonderful pizza and made beds. Ben and I played some scrabble as we settled in.
The next day, we drove two hours to my mom's cousin's house, where my grandfather was as well. The had a house right next to a cute little swimming pond. It had this huge rock in the middle, but that was like, the only rock in the pond. It was freezing! I'd never swam in colder water! But of course I eventually got used to it. I couldn't wait to go in the nice, warm sauna.
That was pretty much the day activity. We all played Frisbee in the backyard, but since it was a long drive back, we left a little early so we wouldn't be dead tired late at night when we got back.
The next day, my mom got an eye infection, plus the car needed anti-freeze. So my aunt and my mom went out to do some errands, while my dad took us on the train to a science museum called Heureka. They have such fun stuff there. Like, a bike on a wire thing in the air, and you can ride it back and forth. It's like a double sided bike. Two seats, two handles, and it's totally safe. They also have this thing where you get in a metal box and it shakes like it's an earthquake. Here's my favorite one: you sit down, and you have a TV screen in front of you, along with two pedals. It's like you're in a car. You chose the temperature outside, and if it's like snowy or icy, sunny or rainy. Then you start 'driving' with the pedals. This random stick figure runs across the road, and you try to stop in time. (But you usually end up hitting him anyway. Another one of my favorites is when you are in a little room. You make a pose against a wall- and someone hits the button that makes the thingy flash. When it does, it captures your pose on the wall. It fades away after a few minutes, so it's not permanent.
For lunch, I had mashed potatoes and meatballs with gravy, plus a little chocolate cupcake. All the stuff I told you about inside the Heureka, that's just the beginning. They even have tons of stuff outside! My favorite is this huge fan. I would always push the button that made the fan blow extremely hard, stand in front of the fan, and wait for the fun. Next thing you know, your hair is completely screwed, it seems like your in a desert fighting a wind storm, and your shirt will not stay down. So your fighting this wind storm, while at the same time trying to hold your hair from springing up and looking completely ridiculous, and with the other hand, preventing your shirt from flying up. I don't know why, but that's just hilarious to watch, and even more fun to actually do. So I do it. Another one of my favorites is this big jumpy thing. There's a rope with a not-so-easy-to-grip handle, you hold on to the handle, jump, and the pulley thingy does the rest and pulls you way up. When I did it this year, my hands were literally slipping of the handle it was so hard to grip. That's the only disadvantage of that one. They also have this little place where you build a little mini bridge.
Once we got back, we saw this mini golf course- and no one there. We went over to see if it was open- and to have the whole place to ourselves! Sure enough, the golf course was open. We ordered 4 balls, 4 club things, and 2 Fantas. It was a great game after about 6 holes, when it started to rain. That's when we sprinted back to the apartment.
Monday, we had to wake up at 5:30 (This time we had a good excuse for waking up this early in the summer- but usually I would like sleep until 9:00. When you get the chance to sleep in- take it!!) to go to a cruise boat to Talin, Estonia. My aunt came along, too. We got on the boat, I was awake, but still droopy from sleeping in the car. (I'm really good at that, by the way. If the car ride is longer than 7 minutes, then I can fall asleep.) It was pretty crowded on the main floor where everyone came in, and especially crowded right by the restaurant where they just opened and started to serve breakfast. We managed to cram ourselves in the line and have our own table. (We had to reserve it ahead of time.) Afterward, we decided to rent a small cabin to just chill in our own little space. Once we dropped some stuff, we headed down to the market. My older brother, Sam, found poker chips to play Texas Hold 'Em. I found some post cards, and this huge thing of Mentos. It was this large tube with 6 small Mentos packs in it. I'm thinking to myself, 'Imagine sending that to your friend- like, no packaging- just slap the stamp, address, return address on it and shove it in the mail. Imagine getting a huge Mentos roll in the mail. I gotta do that sometime.'
When we got back to our little cabin, Sam taught me how to play Texas Hold 'Em Poker. Very addicting.. but later I started to write post cards. In our tiny little cabin, there's this little bathroom with a shower! My dad found that hilarious, so he actually took a shower on the boat! So you walk into the bathroom, there's a little sink right there. Off to the left is the shower, and in the little shower nook is the toilet sitting right there. ..
We finally got to Talin, Estonia. My dad says that it's very 'touristy'. I completely agree. We walked around, looking for a nice place to have lunch. They had tons of adorable little shops all around the streets. Lots of restaurants had little out door tables and chairs where people ate (and smoked. :-( ). I was totally going nuts with looking in every little cute shop I saw- and let me tell you, there was a LOT of adorable little shops. I could tell that my brothers were getting sick of being dragged in all this 'girly-girl' shops, so my brothers and my dad split up to do what they wanted to do, while my aunt, my mom and I went to go shopping some more. I ended up getting a really cute pare of earings that had this orangey yellowish light brownish look to it. I loved it. On another road, they had tables set up outside with tons of trinkets and things. I couldn't help but just gaze at it all. Unfortunately, I didn't have any money with me to buy any of these things- but my mom bought me a couple cute things.
We found a nice place to have lunch, so we settled there. My family never gets appetizers from restaurants, but when we saw 'Pig ears' on the list.. well... we decided we wanted to get pig ears. 1. To say that we've eaten pig ears. 2. To see what they taste like! Turns out they were really awkward tasting. Like, it was kind of crispy, but it was also kind of gooey. Weird combination- gooey and crusty. They even had this little dip to dip your ears in. Eh.. don't try it. My brothers shared this HUGE meat thing (it was meant for two people but it was still pretty darn big for that), while I had a little salmon dish with some Pepsi. Yum! I found this restaurant quiet interesting- it had little over head lamps made of upside down baskets! Very unique.
I insisted that we kept on shopping, and looking at trinkets, and all the 'touristy' things. Mom said that she really wanted to walk to the top of the hill and see Talin from above. So up we go! There were several street performers, playing guitar and violin. :-)
Pretty soon, the cruise boat thing was going to start letting passengers on, so we decided to wrap up shopping and last-minute pictures, and get going. What a day! I got new earrings! :-)
The next day, we went to Linnanmäki!! Ok, I know it. You're just like scratching your head wondering, what the heck IS that?? It's like Canobie Lake Park, without the water rides and anything to do with water. So, it's just dry rides. But they are still fun! There's this one called the rainbow, and you sit down of course, and you go around in circles in the air. when you go down, it feel incredible weird. Like you feel as light as a feather at the tippy top where it stops for a couple secconds- then it drops you and it's like they're not even controlling it! It's like they just turn the engine off and just let it free fall. My favorite ride was by far The Rocket. (Of course at the actual place, it was in Finnish. That's just the translation.) It's like the Star Blaster, only I think it's higher. Same idea, though. You get it, pull that huge thing over you, hold on, and wait. They totally catch you buy surprise. First, it rises a couple feet, then waits a few secconds and inches it up even more- lots of people think that's when they blast you up, but they just inch it up even more. No warning, it shoots all the way up. My heart jumped when we all of a sudden shot up. I'm like holding on pretty hard on the way up, they just kind of bounce you back down. Free hands for that, of course.
We left a little after lunch time. (And soft serve ice cream time. Never leave a theme park without saying that you've had soft serve ice cream.) The last thing of the day, was this very interesting out door play, in this small little out door theater. They were talking very fast, though, so I only understood about half of what they were saying. But the emotions and the acting just did the rest. It was great! There was an intermission, and they served pulla and coffee. (Pulla is like cinnamon rolls. The ones they served here are huge! Like those giant cookies you can get at Starbucks!) The play was just great. Even though I didn't quite understand exactly what was going on, I loved it.