Wednesday, May 27, 2009

First impressions

Were I to broadly generalize from my limited experiences in Hyytiala to the rest of Finland, I might come to certain conclusions.

For example, I might generalize that Finland looks eerily like Northern Ontario: full of lakes and pretty flat (except when I go for a run, and then I find that it becomes an Escher drawing, made entirely of up-hills). I might generalize that the entire country is littered with flux towers and expensive aerosol chemistry equipment (there are THREE aerosol mass specs here right now. Three?? That's more than in the entire country of France). And from the about 100, mostly large, burly & male foresters I've met here at the field station, I might generalize that all Finns are quiet and eat a lot of potatoes. But I have decided that my first impressions and preliminary generalizations from a week and a half of an atmospheric chemistry field campaign might be slightly skewed.

I've been working on the foresters for over a week now, and have found that some of them do indeed talk (relatively speaking). The tree-cutting types, not so much: but the soil scientists and at least one summer researcher from Lapland are a little more willing to practice their English and indulge the crazy American girl (the fact that I don't drink much beer, see lots of vipers and go running every afternoon leads to some interesting generalizations about North Americans). And every person I've gotten to know surprises me in some way. For example, there's a big guy from Kuopio who might fit the Finnish stereotype: he drinks a lot of beer, plays ice hockey, and is the drummer in a heavy metal band (this makes sense: Finland is at least as big a fan of hockey as Canada, and as for Eurovision, just google Lordi). However, he also likes a canned alcoholic grape drink that tastes eerily like a wine cooler (one of the fruitier drinks that I gave up drinking in college. Early in college). We have since developed an excellent relationship: I help him fix his instruments, and he drives me into town to buy cider and chocolate.

There's the resident handy-man, who looked like a standard forester until I spotted him one evening decked out in leather riding a motorcycle. And the station director, who is one of the tallest people I've ever encountered, and, despite his initially intimidating demeanor - carefully constructed to scare incoming forestry students, I think - turns out to also be one of the nicest people I've ever encountered, patiently translating signs and checking in on my instruments.

So my initial generalizations and first impressions of the people at Hyytiala (quiet, beer-drinking, slightly intimidating) were clearly wrong. Except for the potatoes. They do eat an awful lot of potatoes here.

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