We arrive in Nokia, Finland. Behind an elderly home is a big lawn, ending by a lake with a small beach. This is where we will sleep tonight. We sit down on a bench and start cooking. Some children are still swimming but the temperature is dropping. Soon they will leave. Then we will pitch the tent.
The children that were swimming are still in the water when we finish our dinner. Even more people are jumping in the water, although the sun is getting low. Young children, barely patient enough to get undressed before jumping in. A professional looking couple, putting caps on their heads and seriously training in the lake. By the time we go to sleep two girls in their twenties arrive. It is dark now, but they do not care. They jump in and stay in the water for an hour.
In the early morning around five, noise wakes us up. Other than a group of drunk teenagers earlier this night, these young men are noisy but harmless. All twenty get changed and jump in the lake. We go back to sleep until we are woken up by old ladies, who are going in the water with a belt around their waists to go jogging in the lake. We decide to jump in as well. The water must be quite warm, considering the sixty people that we have seen jumping in in the past fourteen hours. It is now 7:30 am and the sun is shining beautifully over the lake.
When we go into the water it takes our breath away. Cold! We swim back and forth a few times, because we feel like we should. The old women are laughing at us, seeing us fight the cold. When we get out we feel like we've just been in a sauna and have cooled ourselves in a bath of ice.
That is it of course. That is why the swimmers are not at all impressed by the water temperature. Those Finnish people have saunas every other day. They are used to jumping in the coldest lakes. Even during the winter they swim outside. Everyone tells us that when lakes are frozen over, they make a hole in the ice and jump in the water. However, we have not spoken with a single Fin who swims in ice water him selves. Is it just a myth?
Either way, while we were camping by the lake in Nokia, tens of people have been swimming. Very young and very old. From a toddler who could barely walk to a grandfather who could barely walk. We laugh as we see one after the other get into the water and consider it the national sport. But actually, we are impressed.
In Latvia we are staying with Jack and his son Charlie. Charlie's mom is Latvian so they spend most of their holidays in their summer house near Riga. Charlie is a stubborn little boy who gets whatever he wants. He is very annoying but his dad is friendly and in for a good conversation. When we talk about Charlie speaking two languages, Jack tells us about the conversation he had with his son when he was only four. Charlie did not want to speak Latvian. But how would he be able to speak with his Latvian grandfather if all he could speak would be English, was Jack asking him. Charlie looked as if his dad had just said the stupidest thing on earth. He would speak louder of course!
This is what you expect from a four-year-old. However, while travelling in the countryside of Belarus and later the Ukraine, we experience exactly the same. People address us in Russian and we communicate back in a few broken Russian words that we do not speak their language. As usual we attempt to continue the conversation with sign language. It seems impossible though for the local people to switch out of Russian, into the world of someone from a different part of the planet. They keep repeating what they have been saying all along, in Russian. Louder and louder it goes, but it does not help us understanding what they mean. Even our picture book doesn?t help because they have no patience to have a look at the book and point out their thoughts. At some point we start ignoring them and do our own things, leaving them stare at us just like when we were in Africa.
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