December 10, 2007

The University of Joensuu International Publicity Band

On Thursday at 3am, after barely an hour of sleep, five brave souls at the University of Joensuu took to the road for a trip to the arctic circle. This international group came together from five distant parts of the globe:
  • Representing Africa, the queen of dance, Myriam;
  • From the mother country Russia, our singer and songwriter, Anya;
  • All the way from Asia, the man who has more social events than I have cups of tea, Shujau;
  • Coming from America, the cookie eater, Clint;
  • And from a little island in Europe, causing trouble in all parts of the globe in true British style and your narrator, Ant.

They had equipped themselves with thermal long johns, a Finnish map, a bunch of big yellow dudes (also known as bananas), a ton of little orange dudes, a most revered Audi A3 hire car (complete with heated seats), and an infinite supply of creativity. This is the story of their adventure.

The journey north from Joensuu to Lapland was long and slow in the snowy conditions that I had not really practiced for. It was Finnish Independence Day though, so there was not much traffic. When we set off from Joensuu the roads were icy and slushy which was pretty tricky, but once we got further north the roads turned to solid snow which was much easier (and surprisingly faster) to drive on. However, the conditions further north were made more dangerous by the animals on the road. The first time we saw a reindeer crossing the road while Clint was driving was quite scary, as slowing down is a slight issue, and then later on I almost hit a big reindeer by a couple of feet. Luckily this meant that I had to concentrate so much on spotting reindeer that there was no chance I would fall asleep. I also managed to spare a fox’s life too.

After 7 hours or so, we pulled over at a place called Ruka where we spied a ski slope from the road. Once we had found a morning cup of tea, we quickly decided that we should hit the slopes and so we signed ourselves up for a group beginners lesson. Despite it being our first time, we impressed the instructor with our skills—after all, we are the Joensuu International Band, world famous for our creativity and problem solving skills! We also provided much entertainment for the rest of the skiers. I think all of us managed to fall of the ski lift at some point, whilst Myriam managed to ski down the slope backwards, and I performed a 360 spin and stayed on my feet to continue the run.

We were on the slopes until it got dark—which was by 3pm! Then we headed north again, whilst eating the supply of food we had brought including lots of big yellow dudes and little orange dudes. By 5pm we were in Salla and easily found our cabin, which was situated next to another ski slope. We had a wander around and cooked some noodles for dinner, and I drank 3 cups of tea to restore the drought that I had suffered during the day. After dinner we took a sauna, as we had our own in our cabin, and we made good use of the deep snow outside our cabin. By this time, we had been up for over 20 hours and we were getting sleepy, but it seemed that everyone was not ready yet for bed. There was some suspicious cake making going on too.

At midnight I was encouraged to go out with Clint to check out the northern lights. Unfortunately, the only thing we saw was the northern clouds! On returning to the cabin though, it was lit up by candles and as I entered the band were singing happy birthday, the cake was ready and tea had been made! I had not really been expecting to take much notice of my birthday and this was a lovely surprise, but this turned out to be the first of many special events that would take place in the following 24 hours. Thank you Clint, Shujao, Myriam and Anya for making it so special!

(To be continued.) (See some photos.)


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