This time 4 years ago I was homeless. Life was up in the air. In the year 2017 I'd moved from spare room and couch from out of my own place 5 times within 4 months. Our permaculture course had concluded that July and I was planning the next step in my life. What was the plan? Opportunities arose that didn't quite fit due to timing or situation and all my ideas kept returning me back to teaching in some form. The final dream was to have some sort of learning centre for both children and adults. Nature based learning. Permaculture principles. But how was I to fund all of this and gain the necessary skills and experience to make it a success? If I got another job then my most current experience wouldnt be in that field. I needed time to plan and skill up. I then realised I should just suck it up and go back into the teaching profession. Save up, plan and prepare. That was the new plan.
Initially I did supply work in the Calderdale area in the most quaint little schools in the most quaint little villages. It was perfect but not sustainable. My friend needed me out of her spare room. She was pregnant with twins. Supply work was not going to cut it. So I went on the hunt for a more permanent role.
Whilst searching for something in the Calderdale area I somehow stumbled across a short term post in northern Finland. Accommodation was provided, it was for 4 months and it was Finland - the world renowned and respected education system. I wanted to skill up, going there would boost my C.V. after having some time out and it got me out of my friend's spare room. Seemed like the perfect short term solution. Little did I realise that 4 years later I would still be here.
So here I am in a village two hours south of the Arctic circle. I now own a house here with my Finnish Lappish husband to be. I definitely feel like I'm living the dream. Not exactly the same dream I'd had. I have the wooden house and land enough to get my permaculture design claws into however it's not a learning centre. But I do work in a place where there's a massive push for nature based learning and I'm quite often teaching permaculture principles. We work with the seasons and adapt everything for them. There is no stress in comparison to teaching in the British system and the children are definitely not stressed. I spend at least half of the day outside with the children in temperatures as low as - 20°c and at least once a week all day in our wooded garden. We also have biweekly morning sessions in a forest in Spring, Summer and Autumn with the simple aim of fostering a love of forests in the children and teaching them about the forests, the animals in them and the children's rights within them. It's a really good compromise for me.
There are many reasons I have settled here besides falling in love and enjoying my job.
Life here is great. It's calm and it's simple. We live 10 minutes from the sea, river and reservoirs. We have a forest that starts in our back garden and plenty more surrounding our street. We have a ski track at the end of our road for the cold winter months. We spend the summer months kayaking, sup boarding and cycling and in the winter we have skiing and sometimes snowmobiling. Everyone seems to wild swim here too mostly in the summer months but there are definitely some who swim in the icy waters too. I've yet to pluck up the courage for that. I really do love the lifestyle here.
I also really love how people have a really good relationship with nature and their environment. I'm constantly in awe of how much knowledge everyone seems to have about animals and plants, fruits and fungi. At the end of summer there is a real transition to Autumn with all the fruit picking and fungi collection that goes on. Everyone seems to be at it. We even take the children at school to collect berries. You literally see the local children with their friends collecting in their free play. It's becoming one of my favourite times of the year.
Another reason, which may sound silly, but I've loved how easy it is to be conscious of where your energy at home comes from. As a rule all of our electricity comes from wind farms and hydroelectricity and that's just from the local electricity company. It was the same when we were living in the nearest city. We have never been given the opportunity to have fossil fuel based energy as our prime source of energy. We have been lucky though it seems as this isn't the case all over, particularly in the south and in Helsinki where fossil fuels are apparently the norm. I also believe that the centralised heating of a lot of flats is by district heating which uses gas.
By law in all houses we have to have two sources of heating here. In our house our current system uses electricity but we also have a fire place where we burn wood. A bit controversial but believe me it's needed when temperatures drop below minus 10°C and especially when we're in the minus 20°C's and minus 30°C's and the electric underfloor heating doesn't quite cut it anymore. We get our wood from a local forester who literally is based a 15 minute walk from us and he supplies most of the houses in our neighbourhood. We do hope to one day install a geothermal supply source but that is down on the list of priorities for now as it is quite costly. I was surprised at how many houses already have geothermal heating whilst house hunting. I just love it.
I also have ended up falling in love with a meat eating hunter gatherer from Lapland. In my 14 years as a vegetarian I always said I would eat meat if it was hunted and every single part of the animal was used and had respectful consumption. Well the universe listened to me and I'm now no longer vegetarian. A lot of the meat we eat at home is from hunting trips my partner's step dad has been on. Moose and wood chicken being a staple at times throughout the year. My partner can no longer hunt since he had an accident in our first year together. Hunting is highly regulated and licensed and it's not something everyone does. It feels like the further south you get the less common it becomes. You can only hunt certain animals at certain times in certain ways. Large animals like moose are shared between the group of hunters. However in between we do buy some meat from the local supermarket but that is from local farms and the fish is fished locally mostly. We only buy local though and we have recently found a small farm a 20 minute drive away that we can buy directly from. At home we've also started growing some vegetables and chillies indoors with lamps for the winter. We've only been in our house a year and have spent this year observing the garden, the sun and shade, and getting a real feel for what we want and need. Next year we'll hopefully start to grow more outside. There's a much shorter growing period here though as even when it's warm we often still have snow and ice on the ground until late May.
I do love Finland's traditions, its awkwardness, it's seriousness, and the people's love of space and general introversion. It feels like everyone is super active, creative and self sufficient and I find that really motivating and inspiring. I feel my own awkwardness and weirdness can thrive here and my inner introvert is accepted here. I'm definitely comfortable living here and somehow and very strangely my Boltonian accent is thriving and growing the more time I spend here.
I am however struggling to learn the Finnish language. Thankfully a lot of people do speak English and really well but 4 years in I'm starting to feel rude that I can't yet fully converse fluently. It's apparently normal though for it to take time so hopefully I'll get there eventually.
So there we have it.
I do hope life is being good to you all too and that the pandemic hasn't had too much of a negative impact on you. I've purposely not mentioned any of that here. It would be really lovely to hear news from you too. So if anyone would like to reconnect please contact me on: d.l.crook(at)hotmail.co.uk.
Bestest of wishes to all 🤗
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