The last week has been pretty busy and so I have not had a chance to update you all at home. I got down to some serious work last week, well some work, but it was not that serious. My teaching involves a weekly workshop on Creative Problem Solving. I can hear you all questioning what I know about creativity, and it is true that I am probably learning more than the students that I am supposed to be helping. The trouble is that they are just too imaginative, I cannot keep up! So far they have been thinking up magical watches that can assist you on a first date, proving the existence of aliens, and designing a computer that can buy Karelian pies. If you have a problem that needs solving then let me know and I will put it to the class – I am sure they will soak it up. :)
Last Thursday night I got on a minibus to Koli for the annual baltic sea conference on computer science education (Koli Calling 2007). It was dark (as it is quite often here!), it was snowing (which is also common), and our confident driver was propelling us to our destination at breakneck speeds down country roads covered in snow. I was sat in the front seat, and I could just about make out two grooves in the road, either side of which was a foot of snow. Thick snow was falling heavily from the sky and hitting our windscreen giving the effect of badly tuned television. It was quite an experience. If we had been in England, the country would have crawled to a halt by now, but in Finland driving on snow is as common as tarmac – and seems therefore to be treated so! (I had to chuckle at the BBC news yesterday about the inch of snow that brought chaos to roads and homes across the England.)
The conference was excellent: the talks were very entertaining, the people at times dressed as pirates, the scenery spectacular, and we had saunas every night until the small hours. We had time to explore the surroundings each day, and I took some photos.
On Sunday, Mikko took us on a hike around the Koli national park for a couple of hours in the snow. It was quite special to be making paths through deep snow. I thought that people would be skiing, but according to the Finns the snow is ‘not good enough yet’. I cannot wait to see it in December when the downhill ski routes open. As you can see from the photos, the trees are already quite weighed down with snow.
After our hike we visited Koli church for the Sunday service, where I learnt to sing hymns in Finnish for the first time. This might actually be a good way of learning to pronounce the more difficult Finnish letters (like ‘y’ which I gather is pronounced ‘ou’). I have not made much effort to learn Finnish during the activities of the last week, especially having met so many foreigners – but this should change now I am back in Joensuu and I am making attempts with Clint to be ‘friendly’ to the ‘locals’.
This week I still have a few activities to keep me busy. Tomorrow I am off to Kitee (a town about an hour from here I believe) with the research group for a PhD seminar day which should be fun – especially as there is a sauna and a swimming pool. The good news is that the swimming pool is not a lake, but it is inside and there is a slight chance it might be heated. So this might be one of the few non-masochistic activities available in the area. I will report back soon!