The ice is also starting to melt, which many Finns have told me is not normal for this time of year. Climate change has definitely affected Finland this year, and everything is about a month ahead of schedule as far as snowing and melting and heating up. Since the ice is melting though, I have been walking around and actually looking up instead of staring at the ground and trying to place my feet to avoid a slip on the icy patches. It's amazing how simply walking around with my head up has really made Jyväskylä develop a personality as a city for me.
It seems fitting that as I am starting to feel a part of this city, I was also invited to sauna yesterday. One of the guidance counselors at a high school I have been visiting told me that her sister had a wood-burning sauna, and I was invited to try it out. A statistic I have been told many times here is that there are 6 million saunas in a country of 5.5 million people. They are everywhere- houses, apartment buildings, offices and even in schools. Most people go to sauna almost every day. It is completely ingrained in the culture as a time to unwind, detox and spend time with friends (although many people go alone). So after a delicious homemade bread and soup dinner, my friend, her sister, my roommate and myself undressed and walked into a million degree sauna like it was the most normal thing to be doing on a Sunday. I immediately started sweating, but it felt good. And sauna is a time where you get to a heat limit and then take a cool shower (or jump in a frozen lake), and then go back into the sauna again. We also drank very low-alcohol beer in between sessions to replenish the water and sugars we had lost. As my friend told me, we were getting our Vitamin "B" back by drinking beer.
This sauna experience reminds me of something that I have already been observing. The Finns I have met, put a real emphasis on finding ways to relax and be happy. They find ways to spend a lot of time outdoors, and they seem to have less stress. After going to sauna, I felt relaxed the rest of the evening, and then I went home and fell asleep. It was one of the deepest sleeps I've had here.
The rest of this week, I'll be spending some time in elementary, middle and high schools. I've spent a lot of time just trying to develop relationships, and I feel like I am now at the point where I can start collecting stories of teachers or principals who are trying new things. Hopefully, my next entry will start to document these risk-takers.