Allright I think I have pushed off this long enough. (Cracking her knuckles)
(I typed this entry mostly on my pager so pardon for fragements, typos, et cetera!)
Europe-- almost four weeks of country-hopping and with no definite plans-- was great.
Began with Barcelona, Spain-- a nifty city with so many things to do. Went to seven different museums (Miro, Picasso, Contemporary, Gaudi). Barcelona's famous figure was Gaudi-- he designed those weird-looking building all over Barcelona. We went to three of his works. La Pedera, Dragonhouse, Sagrada Familia.
Barcelona doesn't speak Spanish-- their native language is Catalan. They prefer tourists to speak in English or Catalan, but never in Spanish. Catalan, from as I can see, has both influences of Spanish and French (given its geological location, no wonder!). It is incredibly easy to get around in Barcelona-- by foot, by metro, by whatever. Barcelona has beaches and ports to sightsee and mountains to climb for an overview of the city. It has a large versality for any type of people to visit. Their nightlife is pretty good. Many resturants stay open until midnight or so (depends if so many people keeps coming). They do have diverse meals-- McDonalds, Greek, Chinese, Thai, and more to keep any type of people satisfied with meals. My favorite joint was Maoz vegetarian. Falafel and hummus in pita-- yum!
We did try Barcelona's famous tapas... however our first attempt was a flake. We went into this restruant/bar and looked at their menu-- (the first red flag we should take notice of, most tapas bar usually have a buffet for you to see and pick out your tapas)-- and ordered a plate of tapas that included a special kind of cheese. We envisioned this type of cheese to be placed atop small pieces of bread and diced tomatoes. When the waiter brought our tapas-- we were shocked to see that we paid 4 euros for four small sliced squares of a cheese????? Ah. Tourist trap. However we were able to find a wonderful tapas bar where they do have a buffet for you to see all different tapas to feast upon. We did write in catalan to inform the waiter that we are vegetarians-- and he pointed out the vegetarian-friendly tapas. Wonderful!
We did go to a Deaf club in Barcelona (I will post the website as I scurry through my journal for the website they gave us) and they happened to have their annual anniversay party so we got to see everybody there. The club was mostly older Deaf people. We had difficulty tlaking with them but the young people-- much easier-- I guess because they do know some international signs (due to have friends who already went to "Deaf Way" in D.C.). There are a variety of Deaf-- some do talk while signing, some remains tight-lipped while signing, some do talk and don't know sign (I met a Deaf oralist man who didn't know Catalan Sign Language much but he remembered American Sign Language since it was his first sign languag he learned from an international Deaf friend. ) We did take some videos of the event to capture their signs. Hopefully we will post it soon as possible!! We did go to an univeristy to see if they do have a Deaf/Sign Language program since the TILR conference was hosted there a couple of years ago. Howevere there are MANY universities in Barcelona so we never could find that university but the one we went to-- they were very helpful and printed out papers to direct us to Interpretering programs at nearby universities. That wasn't what C wanted-- C wanted to meet DEAF and YOUNG people... next time, we will come prepared, I guess.
With 5 days of Barcelona's metro map embedding into our minds, we flew out to London Stansted airport. We arrived 6pm and were stuck in their lobby because we couldn't obtain our ticket for next flight to Finland until 4 am. So we slept on those hard chairs-- around 2am, a security guard prodded my leg and I woke up to see a *packed* airport so I had to sit up instead of lying down and hogging the chairs. Finally that hour has came for us to leave Stansted to Tampere, Finland. We already noticed the advantage of having a backpack instead of a luggage while travelling-- there are no wait line for luggage to come out on the carousel... we just walk by all those people in a rush to get their luggages but have to wait... Sweet!
My cousin and uncle were at Tampere airport waiting for us. Tampere airport is the smallest international airport I ever have been to!
My uncle is the "photographer" of the family, so naturally he took pictures of us stepping out of the controlled areas in airport. After our fashion shoot were finished, we went to Pori which is an hour and half westbound from Tampere. Pori is where the majority of my family lives.
As most of you may know, my mummo died last November. So I got a chance to skim through some old pictures that Mummo had-- and I finally saw pictures of Mummo as a young teenager! I could see where I get my looks from-- but more of how I can see my Mom in Mummo. It was very sentimental for me because I also saw pictures of Mummo and Isoisa (grandfather) as sweethearts, so there were snapshots of them sitting on a rock in the forest, at dinnertable, smiling, and of each-other posturing against a wall of a barn. I never knew Isoisa because he died of prostate cancer before I went to Finland at age 8. My mom doesn't mention Isoisa much... I guess Iso-isa was a rough person while Mom grew up. Iso-isa was born in Karelia-- which was then part of Finland, but today is a Russian province. He fought in the WW2 and Winter War to keep Karelia from being annexed to Russia. Eventually he ended up being a resident of Hameeliina, Finland along with Mummo. (That is my small interesting fact about my background! I am Finnish even though my ancestery lies inside Russian's boundaries.)
The Christmas in Finland was wonderful! Family, being home away from home, with warm, hearty food (yes, and starchy, but YUMMY!) that are homemade by my aunt. The only unfortunate part about the christmas in Finland is that it was a green one. There were leftover snow when we arrived but it rained overnight and the next day, you can see grass everywhere. Not brown, but *green grass*. But I did get to skate on the road with the icy top with my shoes! :) You don't get that chance very often in California!
Finnish christmas is an opposite of American Christmas (and is also what I grew up with-- even tho I did have a small American twist). We (I mean Finnish people) don't celebrate christmas on 25th. We celebrate on 24th instead-- and NOT in the morning... In the evening! So no wake-up-and-run-down-the-stairs-to-rip-off-the-wrapping rountine while I grew up. An authetic Finnish christmas usually includes a person to dress up as Santa (white beard, red robe, red hat-- no white fluffy balls or whatever. Just red.). Santa will come between 7p to 9p to a house of surprised children and greet the family. Santa goes ahead and pass out gifts (that are already sitting under a tree!) by calling out names from tags. Once all gifts have been given away, the children has to sing a song for Santa. Once Santa is content, he leaves the house. Simple as that. No hiding the Santa, no cookies nor a glass of milk waiting atop of a table, no sneaking around at midnigh to see if Santa has left gifts. We also don't see Santa flying the sleigh with magical reindeers-- we see him *actually* sledding.... Finland's pretty flat and snowy around Christmas so Santa can handle the travelling!
So I found it strange that American parents hid the presence of Santa and made the children loving a stranger that they never met yet received gifts from! I did grow up with an American twist due to have an American father... I celebrated christmas on both days-- 24th and 25th. We opened all gifts on evening of 24th (that are from family, friends, et cetera) then on 25th in morning, we will open gifts that are from Santa (which I was led to believe until age 7). My father never dressed up as a Santa, but I was aware that in Finland, my cousins do have Santa visiting their homes so I always had thought: "Oh, Santa has time to visit my cousins because they are living in same country so I understand-- I live in America, which's really far from Santa's home." Unlikely many people, I say Santa is from Rovaniemi, Finland, NOT North Pole!
So you can see how different Finland conducts their christmas than America!
As we packed our christmas gifts (candies, towels, a candle holder, and more candies), we went to Turku to see Castle of Turku on our last day in Finland. It is the oldest building existed in Finland-- remember that there were numerous wars ravaging the country for land claims so this castle was an impressive historical building to survive. All the musuems' placards have long paragraphs in Sweden and Finnish to explain the artifacts yet only a sentence in English stating the obvious-- "an artifact found in the ground." Such a bummer! The museum did include some exhibits of the city's history, geologically. Turku used to be an island!
We flew back to Stansted London to meet up with Jordan (our British buddy!). Jordan was kind to let us crash his place for the duration in London. He also acted as our tour guide-- took us to all major tourist spots. It is just so easy to not have to figure out another city's public transporation when you have somebody for you to follow. :-) London was rainy and foggy-- as usual! London does have CC like America. I noticed the tv stations like to color their CCs- so one person is yellow while another person is purple, so whatever words they say, yellow texts come on for the former, and purple texts for the latter person. Met somebody that worked for RNID-- the interesting story about how that person and Jordan met-- Jordan was protesting at RNID's headquarters. You see, RNID is a mostly Oralist communtiy organization that shuns against sign language so many Deaf Brits are upset that RNID is the representative of UK and gives away this biased prespective to hearing people to assume all D/HH British do follow this philosophy. The RNID is biased in their philosophy whereas they could be more open to all methods of communciations among D/HH community to ensure unity. So that person was trying to get to his work when there were a large number of Deaf protestors-- so he asked Jordan who happened to be next to his car-- "what is up? Why are everybody here at RNID?" Jordan explained to him and eventually discovered that he was employed there! But somehow they hit it off and became best friends. They just don't discuss RNID ever! (I may be wrong about RNID but that was the tone I have received from that made me labelling RNID as an Oralist organization. )
On our last rainy day in London, we were so saddened to say bye to Jordan (and several other American friends who just moved there--and they had a toodler that I had babysat several times-- she bawled so hard the second I told her that I had to go. Poor baby! Made me missing her...!), but we had our eyes on Paris...!
TO BE CONTINUED!!!