Most of the past year has been a grueling tour through Turku's worst possible flatmates. During the fall my friend who I had been living with since the beginning moved away to Japan, and shortly thereafter she was replaced by a girl from mainland China who had clearly never been away from home before. She had the most advanced skills in the art of Not Cleaning that I've ever seen in my entire life, and had some other unfortunate habits regarding hygiene, safety, and basic honesty. Suffice it to say that it was pretty taxing to live with her, but I was stuck there for a long time, since during the autumn semester there are exchange students occupying all of the housing. Four months later I finally got out and moved to a new neighborhood on the other side of town. What I thought was the best Christmas present ever quickly proved to be otherwise, when I found out that my new roommate was 16 years old and somehow possessed even more masterful skills in Not Cleaning, to the point where mold and sour milk had pretty much taken over the kitchen. Her friends also took great pleasure in abusing my things and they were told that next time they came back, I would invite my friends to the party as well: Turku's police.
Finally the student housing office approved my application to live with my friend who had an empty room in the same neighborhood as where I had been living - an application that I had pestered them about for five months - and in the spring, just before flying back to the US to visit my parents for a few weeks, I moved in with a decent human being again. It's been absolute heaven ever since, and I'm hoping that my streak of bad roommate luck is finally over.
So that's about it regarding my living situation. It made everything pretty much unbearable, but there were a few good things during that time as well. Earlier this year I had an internship with an archaeology company with connections to the university, Muuritutkimus ky. One of their projects involves the development of a program designed to guide users through an archaeological site using a tablet PC or a laptop as a tour guide, through GPS and a multimedia presentation that users can build to present the subject. Although my work required me to do some winter biking in the countryside on days when it was -15 or -20 outside, it really was enjoyable work. Having a job that dealt with computers yet also required you to get outside and be physically present in the field for GPS data collection was really a nice blend, and I would be more than content having such a job full-time. However, it was only a two-month assignment, but in the end I received some money for my work and some good contacts for possible future assignments.
In March and April I went back to the US, as mentioned. It was a bit strange being home again for the first time since I'd left, and while certain culinary delights were thoroughly indulged (particularly Chipotle burritos, Reeses' peanut butter cups, and Kraft mac n' cheese) I still felt like a bit of a stranger in a strange land. Luckily, there was time in the woods, and time spent with old friends, and of course family. So it was a pleasant trip overall.
Currently I'm distracting myself from my actual thesis work by looking for work, since I need to have a certain sum in my bank account by August when I renew my visa, and money doesn't grow on trees. I've been applying for both academic work in my own field as well as more practical things like warehouse work (something I have plenty of experience for). If nothing else turns up, I recently accepted a job offer at a ship cleaning company, since they are always looking for new people and hire a lot of foreigners. I'm sure it won't be fun but it's only a few hours a day, and I tell myself that 3 hours cleaning ship cabins can't possibly be worse than 12 hour days at Taco Bell. Time will tell if something better will come through, either here in Turku, or more likely, elsewhere: Helsinki, or possibly farther abroad like Sweden or Germany. The next six months will be critical in determining where I spend the next phase of my life.
Tomorrow, however, I'm setting sail in a reconstructed Viking ship to an island to relax and celebrate Juhannus. For awhile I was worried that I wouldn't find much to do, since many of my friends are leaving town, but thanks to the modern marvel of Facebook, I was able to be on board for something new and exciting. I won't have my camera with me this time, as cameras and the Baltic Sea don't mix well, but rest assured I will be thoroughly enjoying the weekend. Hope the rest of you out there still reading this will do the same.