As I've never before experienced an ultra-cold snap above the 60th parallel, I found it really intriguing. Things just don't act the way you'd expect them to at -20 C. For instance, walking around for some time in that temperature will result in your entire face and half of your hair encrusted in ice as you continuously walk into the cloud of your own exhalation, resulting in strange facial crispiness and the appearance of having aged 40 years in 15 minutes. When I thawed out, my hair was soaked and felt even colder than when I had been outside. Also, that part from the Christmas Story movie where the kid's tongue gets stuck to a metal pole? That actually does happen, folks. And no, I didn't actually stick my tongue to a pole, but I was standing on my apartment's balcony to soak up about five minutes of sunlight, and realized that my gloved hand had frozen to the balcony railing on which it lay. There is still a layer of suede fuzz there. I immediately started trying to stick other stuff there, such as my scarf, just to be sure it wasn't due to some regular adhesive that somehow ended up there - but no, just actual insta-freeze adhesion. I've never lived anywhere where it got cold enough for that to actually happen, so it was pretty exciting.
The really great thing about it being well below freezing is that the snow never melts and re-freezes. It stays powdery and pretty day after day, which I think has helped my mood immensely. My roommate had warned me about the entire population of Finland turning into zombies for the month of November, mainly due to the cold and the dark. But the snowfall has really kept my spirits up, even though the sun is setting earlier and earlier. Also helpful was this past weekend's joulutori - the Christmas marketplace featuring booths with homemade food and crafts, as well as performances by dancers and choirs, and of course a booth with Santa, Mrs. Claus and some elves too. Even the biting cold didn't keep people away, though I felt bad for the vendors who had to endure that weather all day Saturday and Sunday. Most towns in Finland have a Christmas market but Turku's is the oldest. It's not in the city's current center, where the market is usually held, but in the old square, surrounded by the cathedral and the old orange and yellow Swedish buildings. In front of the cathedral is a gigantic Christmas tree, 25 meters tall and lit up with thousands of lights. Even though there's a month still to go, in these surroundings I'm looking forward to it - and not only because this will be the first Christmas in almost ten years when I haven't been working in retail. On Sunday near the joulutori there is a culture workshop that has free candlemaking for several hours - all you need to do it show up, and make some candles the old fashioned way by dipping them repeatedly into paraffin wax. Then there are some colored waxes for a final dip to give them whatever color scheme you want.
This weekend there are some more pikkujoulu parties, for my department as well as TYRMY the metal club. Next week brings some final exams, and after that I will have some free time to catch up on some other projects and hopefully start looking for a job for January through March. If I can make a little money before I leave for Germany in April, I'll feel a little more comfortable about this exchange thing. But in the meantime, getting all my papers done and rocking these exams is the first order of business!