It’s not that I have had enough things to work on already … so I had to add a few more classes to my busy schedule: Introduction to Finnish History and a Project Management workshop. Yeah, I was really surprised with the Finnish history class, since I have never seen such a bland and dumbed down introduction to any nation’s history, ever. At best it’s a high school approach to teaching history at the university: these lecturers are taking generalization and simplification of historical facts to such an extent that you begin to wonder what is wrong with them. I don’t want to bore you to death here, so I’ll just give one example: I’ve just learnt that paying taxes in medieval Finland was a privilege. ‘Nuff said, seriously.
Now the other class, the Project Management workshop, has been fantastic (so 50% payoff on adding new classes to my schedule). The class is taught by a visiting lecturer Laurence Short who used to be an artist, but has been working for the last 25 years or so organizing, curating and planning art events. What shall I say, one can easily tell that he’s a very pragmatical fellow and has a very open approach to novelty. Thus it comes as no surprise that his lectures are done in the same way: a vague structure, with lots of discussions and brainstorming. And he’s got so much experience that it’s actually quite enjoyable to listen to him speak about how he’s been executing various art projects. Then again, the main aim of the workshop is to teach us how to prepare and think about an exhibition project from the concept to the exhibition. Hey, it really is a workshop. We’ve been divided into three groups and each group was assigned a task of preparing an exhibition. Out of all ideas, we’ll all choose one and then actually set up an exhibition in the following months. It’s every bit as exciting as it sounds. I’ll keep you posted on this one as the ideas and projects evolve.
Addition of these two classes (with lively social life, of course) almost spells insomnia. But hey, as long as I can take it and have fun while doing it, I ain’t going to wonder why, but rather why not!
Learning Finnish actually turned out to be a quite hard nut to crack. Not so much because of the language itself, but rather because of the lack of exposure to it. “What the … but you’re in Finland?” you might say. Well, I’m sitting 10 hours a day in the lecture rooms and am addressed in English and have to communicate in English all the time. So when I step out of the classroom in the evening, that’s when I have to make a switch to Finnish and even then people around me speak the wrong language, again. But I ain’t giving up. I’m writing my shopping lists in Finnish, try to get all my SMSs and emails done in Finnish (although at least one of my friends admitted that my Finnish is cryptic - a nice way of saying: “I have no idea what you are trying to say, pal.”) and I try to communicate in verbally as well. This last one has proven out to be the hardest of all as it’s almost like it’s written on my forehead with all caps: FOREIGNER. But I do manage to acomplish some of the day-to-day tasks in Finnish, which means progress.
However, I do find the language to be both amazing and amusing. The amazing part comes from various peculiarities on how it is structured. For instance Finnish language does not have a future tense (now also means in the future), there’s no word for please (which I find really perplexing, as I do like that word in any language; and on top of that my Suomi yksi teacher has been repeating that Finns are rude people and thus don’t need that word), linguistically speaking there is no difference between masculine and feminine (that’s why you often here Finns refering to women as he and him and vice versa), it has letters in the alphabet that are hardly ever or even never used (for instance, one rarely encounters letters C and W in any of the words). These are just some of the peculiarities. Other than that, I have to say that it is a very logical language, almost akin to a bit twisted programming language. And one thing I like very much is that you can say a lot with just a single word, and I mean a lot. Which is a result of something that in my opinion resembles German way of creating compound words, but Finnish takes it a step further by completely eliminating prepositions. I’m telling you, it’s fun.
Now, the amusing part really is something. It surely is tightly connected to cultural nuances and peculiarities (which, of course, can be found in every single culture). It’s the language that speaks about culture more than people are willing to admit if you ask them directly. But once I get them to talk about it in concrete ways (i.e. using the language itself) then a whole new avenue to both the language and the Finnish culture opens up in front of me. For instance, just yesterday I was at a party where a few tipsy Finns were telling me that there are more than hundred different ways to say drunk in Finnish. Sure, I believed it, as it is an integral part of their culture. Anyways, the host of the party picked on me asking in rhetorical way if I am trying to make fun out of their culture. Nope, not at all, since it was not me who brought up that linguistical aspect in the first place. And yes, in the next 15 minutes or so they did come up with 26 different ways of expressing drunkness. I am positive that they’d come up with a lot more if they were not so eager at hugging their beer bottles and sipping homemade wine - which again says a lot about how much they care about the subject matter we talked about.
Talking about being drunk, I think there’s one more thing I should add. When people are drunk here, they do behave a lot different as to what I’ve been used to seeing in other cultures. They somehow seem to enjoy pronouncing their lack of sobriety with passers rather loudly in pissed Finnish and when they notice that you do not speak Finnish, then they are more than glad to switch to English and say the same thing again. Which can be fun to watch and listen to, only to a certain extent of course. Although I have not had any trouble with drunk people they can get annoying sometimes by thinking that you enjoy their company while the case is exactly the opposite. But then again, there’s nothing special about that, as it seems that it’s the inherent effect of alcohol on all human beings: it breaks all social barriers.
Here’s to all of you strangers and friends: kippis.