The Travelling Trooper Goes Into The Woods

We boarded a train for Jyväskylä after two fantastic nights in Oulu. (To the best of my knowledge, it’s pronouced Ya-wiss-cue-la; but I could be wrong.) We had nothing planned for our brief stay in the city. All we knew was that we were staying with Anne. Anne was a well-traveled English professor, so we obviously had lots to talk about.

We met at the station, I picked up some groceries, and we headed for her home just outside of the city centre. Thankfully, Ollie, the landlord’s over-protective Chow Chow  eventually stopped barking after the first ten minutes of our arrival. I guess he thought I was up to no good with his beloved Anne. And despite their cuddly exterior, those dogs bark something fierce.  (Fun fact: Aside from being super fluffy and cute, Chow Chows are exceptionally loyal and protective of their loved ones. Hence why my patronus animal is a Chow Chow.) We shared travel stories and talked for close to six hours before calling it a night.

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Next stop was a small area called Kuhmoinen. We were going to stay there for two nights with our host Silvi. Silvi was a 55-year old French woman with long white hair and a smile that makes her look 20 years younger when her eyes twinkle. That youthful lustre probably stems from a healthy dose of the outdoors. Silvi had warned us in her e-mail exchanges that she lived out in the middle of nowhere, and she wasn’t kidding. Thankfully, she was kind enough to pick us up at the bus station, which was just a small bus terminal plopped on the side of the road.

She’s actually spent a good chunk of her life essentially living in the woods with a diet that relies heavily on foods that you can find outdoors. For example, I got a good feel for what my stay with Silvi was going to be like within a few minutes. On the drive to her place, she asked if it was okay if we parked and went to pick mushrooms in the forest. Of course I said yes! She picked this mammoth beast that was unlike any ‘shroom I’d ever seen!

Silvi has lived pretty much everywhere in the world. Nicaragua. Canada. All over Europe.  You name it. I think if she were to write a biography, every chapter could be a stand-alone book. As a result, she had some very interesting ideas and insights to share. I didn’t particularly agree or believe in everything she had to say, but they were fascinating ideas nonetheless. For example, I didn’t take any pictures of Silvi out of respect to her, since she believes that photographs are materials items that tie us down to the past like anchors. Silvi chooses to live her life looking forward. While I could see where she was coming from–our newfound obsession with social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat distance us from reality, the present, and our human selves–I didn’t entirely agree with her philosophy.

Nonetheless, she did manage to shed some insight on some personal things that had been bothering me for some time, which was really appreciated. I really loved the time I spent with Silvi. It was a mental and a physical escape from the outside world.

We hunkered down in the living room upon arriving at Silvi’s. This is where we’d spend most of the next two days. At first, the majority of our conversation centred around Nicaragua, since Silvi spent three years doing conservation work on the island of Ometepe, where she fell in love with the people, the food, and the culture. Her Spanish was impressive. The woman’s got a knack for languages. Her daughters do too, apparently. Silvi can speak English, French, Spanish, Finnish, and Portuguese. That last one she learned in her sleep!

It was time to get up and stretch our legs for a while, so we took her rowboat out for a ride on the lake that’s basically in her backyard. It was so peaceful out there. It was a hidden paradise. I was on rowing duties, and though I struggled at first, I’m proud to say that I got the hang of it in no time. For the most part.

We got to the other side of the lake and did a quick hike to the vista at the top. It was quite a memorable hike despite its shortness. We were hiking up moss-covered rocks. Sometimes, though, the moss could be deceptive. Sometimes the moss was just covering a hole. One misstep, and you’d be in for a tough tumble.

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Back at her place, Silvi had a delicious chickpea soup dinner ready for us. We’d slowly polish it off over lunch and dinner during the next two days.

Once dinner was done, I went upstairs for a power nap, while Silvi went outside and picked blackcurrants. She returned shortly after I awoke, and we spent the rest of the evening back in our spots in the living room, talking, laughing, and listening to music–all while she plucked and cleaned her load of blackcurrants. She did this for hours! These would serve for smoothies for breakfast for the next two mornings 🙂

The next morning, Silvi put me to work. We spent a couple hours cutting up firewood with a chainsaw, and then I offered to cut her overgrown lawn with her trusty manual push lawnmower, since she was leaving to visit her daughters in France the next day and wouldn’t be able to cut it herself. It felt good to be out in the fresh air all morning.

My reward for all my hard work was more delicious soup.

We spent the rest of the day sharing laughs over various board games. The first one was a French one that was all about gardening. (I know it doesn’t sound very fun, but trust me, it was.) We tied the first game, but she won the next two.

In an attempt to find a game that I could win, Silvi suggested a bird-themed game of Memory. (I told you she loved the outdoors.) I lost at this too, since all birds looked exactly the same to me.

Next, I suggested Dobble. I initially thought Silvi might not like it because she might be at a slight language disadvantage. English wasn’t her favourite language, and you need to be able to to recall the names of the pictures on the cards as soon as possible in Dobble. I could not have been more wrong. I tried to take it easy on her the first time, and was surprised when she actually beat me. Thankfully, she was immediately hooked on the adrenaline rush of the frantic search involved in the game. The second time around, I decided I wouldn’t hold back, and that lady mopped the floor with me time.

After using and abusing me for several rounds, she suggested we try another game–a puzzle game that doesn’t have winners or losers, but is more about the experience. I didn’t mind losing, though. Every round of every game seemed to bring a new moment of hilarity–even the gardening one! The puzzle game used triangle shapes. In order for two triangles to go together, the number and colour of dots have to match on the two touching corners.

We eventually packed the games away and talked away the rest of the night. Finally, just as we were getting ready to call it a night, Silvi asked if we could play one more round of Dobble–and I won! Silvi must’ve been exhausted. One round turned into eight or so. We were more evenly matched this time around. I just had to tire her out first.

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