Summer Soul in a Frozen Land – Kuusamo, Finland

Summer Soul in a Frozen Land
Kuusamo, Finland

‘Golf’ at midnight, herding the reindeers off the ninth green. ‘Golf’ in winter, luminous orange and pink balls, with men missing in snow drifts or walking on water to gallantly retrieve your wayward shot. This is the land of ‘sisu’ – a magical strength and determination. There is no messing with a Finn’s sisu.

Skating on the Lake
Skating on the Lake
They are focused, especially walking or skiing on a frozen lake. Individuals may cross paths, a study in isolation, but only a stare is forthcoming. The stare is an art, remarkable and enviable in its strength and focus, no blinking or looking away until sight is lost. A last minute sunny Queensland smile lobbed in return however, wins the match. Their sisu folds in panic.

‘Pavement’ as well as road rules, with stares of ‘pavement rage’ if you happen to wander in your normal whimsical way to the wrong (left) side of the path.

Short forest strolls of 15 kilometres, led by iron women who swim every winter night in the sea – at many many degrees below zero.

The ice hole swimming fashion – woolly hats to prevent loss of cold from the head. Am I missing something?

An elf-like Finnish teacher with blue suede boots up to her armpits, brandishing a rifle on weekends and slinging an Elk trophy over her bird-like shoulder, carves and burns a forest campfire. She carries her own hatchet to cut a hole in the ice for water.

Sun Through the Trees
Sun Through the Trees
My non-English speaking female soul mate, single mother of five children – sisu in a nutshell. She was recently well-placed in an international ice hole swimming competition. Remarkable any way, but she only has one arm. We can only communicate using an online Finnish/English dictionary, such a loss at the moment.

A promised 90 kilometers trip camping out in open sheds with reindeer skins on the floor and a huge fire to keep us from dying.

Driving a snowmobile for 5 hours in a blizzard, in the dark and being asked by the guide just before you cross your first lake – ‘can you swim?

Meeting my husband’s colleague for the first time at her home with an introduction that more or less evolved as ‘How lovely to meet you, I will feed you and then ask you to take all your clothes off and sit with me in a sweat box and then roll bollick naked in the snow. Are you comfortable with all that?’

A feast in my ‘honour’ at a lakeside log cabin. Smoked reindeer and blue cheese soup, wild grouse and traditional Finnish cheese with hot honey, cream and chilled cloudberries. The cheese is made by a baking process and only considered good if it ‘squeaks’ as you eat it. Hosts that have a song for every stage of the meal. A multitude of male Finnish bottoms flitting about after many wines and a sauna.

Roasting sausages speared by branches over log fires in summer, with wild blueberries, strawberries and mushrooms underfoot.

A splendid performance of a chook laying an egg in a supermarket – with sound effects. Shopping without language is stimulating.

‘Ulkomaalainen’s – ‘foreigners’ better qualified than I to comment, have despaired of the Finnish tongue. Just try pronouncing words with three consecutive ‘a’ s. The first two are pronounced with the lips curved well up and the third with the lips down. Be alone when you try it and well away from a mirror. ‘Thanks a lot’ – ‘keeeeedoxia’ is more like cursing them with a paralyzing disease and ‘aye’ means ‘no’. Finnish boys are confused.

There are two final things I must add – stunning fresh salmon at 7 dollars a kilo and post-sauna vodka. If my quota of these is in full supply, then I can survive anything.