• Mario Alberto Gonzalez Robert

Finland: Ylivieska

Before getting to my next helpx in Ylivieska, I went to a city called Oulu for a visit and because it was the nearest bigger place where the transport could easily take me. There I couchsurfed at a friendly guy’s house who took me to play his favorite sport called air golf which is played by throwing different kinds of Frisbees to some ring structures with something like nets made of chains which stop the Frisbee if you hit them, allowing it to stay in the ring, just like the holes in golf. He was also very interested in astronomy and explained me things about constellations, galaxies and stars. While we were walking around, he asked me if I was travelling by woofing, I said I was doing something similar called helpx and workaway, he told me that he did some woofing in Germany for about two months until he had to stop because of one problem that made all coexistence with the host family very tense and then he raised his hand to show me he was missing his pinky finger. I didn’t want to start asking more details about it so I just said I understood why the situation became tense and that I hoped I had no accidents myself in the future.

Later on I took a train to a small town called Alavieska where my hostess picked me up to take me to where her house was in an even smaller village called Ylivieska. There I met several of her friends who were staying at her place to help with the renovation of the house while they were on holidays. I remember we were painting outside when I started listening to someone singing with a beautiful voice and I thought it was the radio but then I realized it was one of the friends who normally sings at her town’s choir.

The house where we stayed was quite old and big, all made of wood which was in several parts already rotting; therefore we had a lot of painting and removing/replacing to do. Another big task was chopping wood for the winter which gets really cold so far north. One day one of her friends saw my drawings and she asked me if I could paint a zebra on her car, I told her I had never done it before but I could give it a try if she was brave enough to let me do it. We went to search for some paint and tools for it and I decided to do it by brush. After several hours of painting and repainting (because I had to apply about 5 layers so the paint wouldn’t look uneven and transparent) the zebra was done in a very satisfactory manner and a photo session followed.

Zebra painted on car

One day the neighbors invited us to their sauna and to chill at their place for a while. They had some kind of a big Jacuzzi or bathtub (I forgot the name in Finnish) which in winter they fill up with warm water but this time they put very cold one so that we could refresh after the sauna. We were coming in and out of it as we pleased, and once the neighbor threw so much löyly (a Finnish word they use to refer to the general ambience of the sauna as well as the water they throw to the stove to make the steam) that it climbed over the 80ºC and I just couldn’t stand it or breathe so I had to take a dip in the cold water. They stayed inside the sauna nonetheless.

Her friends didn’t stay for a long time so we were left alone for a few days until two German girls came to helpx with us from their trip through Scandinavia. During that time, we decided to meet another helpx host who was nearby and had a French girl staying at her place. She invited us to a sauna next to a river, calm enough that we could swim in it to refresh. Then we had the idea to go to the rocks where some kind of soft rapids formed to lay down on them and feel the water massage our bodies. I was there with my hostess and the French girl, each on their own rock, laying on top of the carpet-like moss when suddenly I raised my hand, looked at it and saw what seemed like a tiny leech stuck on my skin, I put my hand in the strong water current to make it detach but it wouldn’t, then I wiped it off with my other hand and checked the rest of my body, just to find several of them stuck all over. I told the girls to check themselves and at that moment we decided it was not the best idea to stay there so we spent the next few minutes searching for all the small leeches we had, to remove them, fortunately they were tiny and we didn’t feel any pain.

With the new German helpers, a few times we spent several hours going to the forest to gather as many blueberries as we could because they were abundant and my hostess wanted some to cook, some to sell and some for her mom to make some delicious pies. I must say it was a tiring job due to the heat of summer and the incredible amount of mosquitoes as well as the super annoying horse flies which bite pieces off your skin and make small itchy and painful holes. I created myself some special garments wearing a mosquito net over my head with a cap to keep it away from my face, a jacket and long trousers, although that made the heat more uncomfortable but I think I prefer to sweat than to be eaten alive.

We went also one evening to try and spot some deer or moose in the forest by car. I believe those forests are the coziest and most beautiful I have seen in my life, especially while being lit by the low sun at dusk. After some slow driving we managed to clearly see a few deer wandering around and also got a quick glimpse of a big moose which ran away into the high grass as it saw us.

My hostess took us one day to play volleyball in Alavieska with a group of young teenage girls at a gym where they used to practice and they completely kicked our asses. We had to later split and join their teams to play with them, instead of against them and stand a chance to last at least a bit longer than thirty seconds of play before a point was scored.

After my stay in Ylivieska, I proceeded to Turku which was my last stop in Finland and where I was hosted by a friend of my helpx hostess who was also very nice and happy to show me around all over the city. She told me that she wanted to visit Mexico some day as she is a big traveler and just a few weeks ago from when I’m writing this post, she did go to Mexico City and stayed at my dad’s place with two other Lithuanians friends and my Mexican friends showed them around.

Finnish landscape in summer

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