Cool breezes, Craziness and Cakes in Canberra
When I first arrived in Canberra on a Saturday morning in July, I froze. Not because I was nervous or had a culture shock – it was literally so cold. I was not prepared for it being colder in Australia than in Finland when I left my hometown Oulu. I guess Australia did a good enough job with its dreamy travel destination promotion to make me forget to check the local weather properly when I was packing. Oops.
|Cruising around Lake Burley Griffin.|
When chatting with locals and telling them I was surprised by the coldness, they would say: “But you’re from Finland, you must be used to it!” I had no choice but to embrace my inner Viking if I was to survive in icy Canberra. Luckily I was born with a lifetime dose of the Finnish “sisu” running through my veins. Still my first purchases in Canberra were warm gloves and a beanie.
Priority number two was coffee. Like most Finns, I also love coffee to the moon and back. After traveling over 30 hours it was basically the only thing in the world that could keep me awake and alive. This is where I had my first culture shock: filtered coffee is not a thing here. Once I got over the initial shock, after a short trial-and-error process I have grown very fond of flat white, or as Aussies call it, flattie.
|Views from the summit of Mount Ainslie.|
My next (and best) purchase was my beloved bicycle. That’s something Canberra and my hometown Oulu have in common: cycling is a very popular means of commuting. I have not regretted buying a bike for one second, as it has enabled me to explore beautiful Canberra on a much larger scale than using a car or public transport would. I have discovered amazing places and encountered wonderful wildlife. I mean, wonderful for the most part, if you don’t count a few magpie attacks, which traumatized me for life. Just kidding, in a country full of spiders, snakes and crocodiles you shouldn’t be too scared of a couple of silly birds…
|Rewarding views after a bushwalk at Booroomba Rocks.|
Nature here is truly something else. I could spend hours and hours wandering up and down all the hills and mountains, saying hello to kangaroos, wallabies, rabbits, foxes and all kinds of colourful birds. What also makes Canberra so unique as a capital city is that just outside the city you can observe true and authentic Aussie life: while cruising the roads towards the mountains less than an hour from the city, I even saw a sun-hat wearing farmer driving a moped with his (very brave) dog sitting onboard!
How did I get outside the city if I only have a bike you ask? It is all thanks to the hospitability of the locals: one family offered to lend us a car to experience the breath-taking bushwalks outside Canberra that can only be accessed with a car. I love how friendly and willing to help all the locals I have met here are and I promise I will bring some of this genuineness back to Finland with me.
Back to business
I can’t emphasize enough how much I love my route to work. Every morning I get to cycle along the beautiful Lake Burley Griffin, take a good look over the lake from the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge and ride through mesmerizing parks full of wildlife – majestic pelicans, adorable families of swans and ducks, fish jumping and splashing in the waters... It’s like living in a Disney movie: everywhere you turn there is another creature looking at you. And I’m not even exaggerating! There was honestly not a single morning when I would have rather wanted to stay in bed.
|Lake Burley Griffin and the Telstra Tower.|
Since day one, it was crazily hectic at work, after all the Finnish Crazy Games was only three weeks away and preparations were in full speed. We were expecting thousands of people to come and celebrate Finland’s centenary year of independence with us in the spirit of quirky sports and everything Finnish. I took a dive into all of it head first and felt like an important part of the team from the first minute.
|Lake Burley Griffin and the National Library of Australia.|
On my first day at work I revealed to my co-workers that I love numbers, as I study accounting. Ever since that moment I was “the girl who loves numbers” and all tasks involving numbers, counting or Exceling ended up on my desk. No regrets. As it was the first time the Embassy organizes an event as big as the Crazy Games, we wanted to learn as much as possible for future reference (not making any promises here!). After the Crazy Games I conducted a feedback questionnaire on the event for all participants that left their contact details for the raffle, and I got almost 250 responses! Either people were feeling really helpful or very eager to win the traditional Finnish log throwing game “mölkky”, which was the prize ;) I'm joking, I appreciate all the responses a great deal, if you’re reading this and recognize yourself as a respondent, thank you so much again! So I put my already famous Excel skills to practice again and conducted analysis which proved to be very useful and wrote a report on my findings.
|On the rooftop of the Parliament House.|
I have been honoured to be an intern at the Embassy during Finland’s centenary year of independence to be a part of organizing the Crazy Games and many other wonderful events. However, the events are just the icing on the cake: as an intern I got to do everything – and I mean literally everything. Not only might you have seen me as the blue-wigged clown trying to get you to try n-oar-dic walking at the Finnish Crazy Games and pouring you refreshments at the Kari Ikonen Trio concert, but also as the Lady Fortuna on the Facebook live-stream picking up lucky raffle winners, sitting behind the “Finland” sign in important meetings and lastly – as a blogger.
|Blossoming tulips at Floriade.|
I learned a lot every day – about politics, economy, different cultures, traveling, life in general, you name it. I am extremely thankful for being privileged to have been selected for this internship. It feels unbelievable that exactly one year ago I initially sent my job application to the Embassy – and here I am now, done with everything and about to leave for another adventure. I hope I can say I was able to give something to the Embassy as well – at least if you count it in cakes, I contributed two.
I will never forget this experience and my lovely colleagues at the Embassy! I hope you’ll remember me as well – and I’m sure you will at least as long as the Embassy’s phone system is in use as I lent my voice and left my legacy there in the form of a series of (awkward) phone messages. I promise you’ll hear from me at least once a year, when I check if I’ve been replaced on the phone switchboard ;) But for now, Au Revoir!
Julia Metsola is an intern at the Embassy of Finland.