All posts by Phuong Nong

Last Meeting: A trip to “Hell”

We saved the most exciting meeting for last! Thanks to Elisa driving, three of us could have a short trip to the national park Helvetinjärvi, which, according to my Google Map, is 74 kilometers far from TAMK. It took us about one hour and a half of driving to get there. And the weather was great, warm enough, not to cold not too hot, and sunny! Perfect for a trip!

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From the gate, we walked 2-3 kilometers to Helvetinkolu Gorge, which is considered as the most famous gorge in the area. On the way there, Elisa and Tuulia told me about several different types of mosses, which was interesting because I couldn’t even recognize the difference between different mosses, if any, in Vietnam. They also taught me the Finnish names of three main trees in Finland: kuusi (spruce), mänty (pine), and koivu (birch). The forest was beautiful and relaxing, though I bet it would be much prettier in the summer.

The Gorge was pretty impressive, you could see the whole sight from there while enjoying the fresh. I loved the lake, which was beautiful and peaceful. Elisa was very kind and prepared some sweet treat for us too, which was so nice after a walk. Then all three of us had a little climb up through the cliff as well, it was very nice though a little bit tiring.

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While hiking, we talked a lot about the Finnish nature, all kind of plants and animals, and even how to do when running into a bear, which I hope I wouldn’t face in the future.

I would really love to come back here in the summer and have a much longer walk-around, since we had just three hours and didn’t explore everything there. But it was still a very nice trip and a beautiful landscape.

The ten meetings for Each One Teach One were not the only chance for me to talk with my two colleagues, but they helped a lot to bring us together and me to learn more about Finland and its culture and nature, to introduce my country to international friends, as well as to get along and practice my English and a little bit Finnish. I enjoyed every meeting and feel lucky to have the best colleagues ever!

9th Meeting: Vietnam’s Nature

This was the most exciting topic to talk about, in my opinion. I love nature and always want to explore it more, and Finland’s and Vietnam’s nature are so different that talking about them is very interesting.

I had tried to find some information on the Internet about Vietnam’s nature so that I could provide Elisa and Tuulia with more details, but it turned out I just talked about what I already know and based on my own experience. I told them that Vietnam is cover with lots of tropical and dense forests and swamps. However, because of the huge and growing population, lots of forests and natural lands have been cut down for agriculture purposes and cities.

Despite that fact, I am confident to say that we still have a diverse and plentiful nature. As a tropical country, Vietnam is home of thousands of flora, small insects as well as mammals and birds. Besides, because of the long seashore and many long rivers, Vietnam is also rich in seafood. My two colleagues seemed to be very interested in and surprised about it.

They also asked my about what kinds of fruits we have in Vietnam. There are a lot: mango, starfruit, pineapple, avocado, guava, coconut, and dragon fruit, which both Tuulia and Elisa had never heard of before.

We also talked a little bit about agriculture as we drove pass some fields, since I has something to do with the climate and nature as well. In Vietnam, the most common thing to grow in fields is rice, then potato, peanut, corn and all kinds of beans.

It was nice to talk about my own country. And as usual, my two colleagues were very kind and asked a lot of questions, so that it was easier for me to answer.

8th Meeting: Finnish movie Rare Exports

We had our eighth meeting at Elisa’s place to watch a movie. Elisa asked me to choose one of two movies that she had. I thought Santa Clause is one of the special features of Finland so I chose Rare Exports. Elisa and Tuulia had warned me before that I could be hard for me to understand Finnish jokes and this film is quite weird and a little dark for even Finns.

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The film is about some reindeer farmers living in the Lapland area who discover the secret behind Santa Claus. Unlike the kind and generous Santa Claus as we all know, the one in the film is somehow bad and dangerous. To be honest, I don’t think I understood the film completely. But anyway, I did enjoy it and did have a good time, with a cup of tea and some popcorn, thanks to Elisa.

Tuulia and Elisa laughed a lot during the film, while I kept a poker and confused kid of face since I did not understand the reasons why they laughed. They told me that the English subtitle couldn’t translate the complete meaning of the Finnish dialogues in the film. They said that Finns love using swear words and they are very common used in the daily basis, I myself did learn some of them, so that in case catching them somewhere I can understand what people are saying. I think it very helpful J

I asked Tuulia and Elisa whether it is true that Finnish films usually contain not so much talking, since I found that Rare Exports had many periods of time without any conversations. They said it might be, that they hadn’t noticed but it seemed quite true.

Besides the fact that I now have some insights about Finnish film culture, I find it is urgent to learn Finnish, not because it is mandatory, but because it is interesting and full of surprises. I hope I could watch other Finnish movies in the future and learn more about Finnish culture and language, it would be very fun and exciting!

Seventh Meeting: Well-known Vietnamese People

We had our seventh meeting last Wednesday, 13th of April. Tuulia and Elisa wanted to know about some famous Vietnamese figures as well as their contributions. So here we were.

To be honest, it was quite hard for me to choose who to mention, since I myself know quite many and they are all very important in my opinion, but to talk to your foreign friends is another thing. However, it was exciting and my two colleagues seemed very interested in learning more about my country.

Of course, to start off, I had to mention the most famous figure in Vietnam’s history, Ho Chi Minh. Elisa and Tuulia realized the name because it is the name of the biggest and most crowded city of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, which is named after Ho Chi Minh himself. His real name is Nguyen Sinh Cung, he was born in 1890. In his twenties, when Vietnam was under the control of France, he decided to leave his home country and try to find the best way to gain the independence for the country. He came to France, Russia and many other countries, learning their languages, their ideas. He was the founder of Communist Party, who led to country to its independence, and he was the first prime minister of Vietnam. Even nowadays, Ho Chi Minh is well respected by all Vietnamese people, and we call him Uncle Ho, the father of the nation. And we study and follow a lot from his ideas and his insights.

There are so many famous people that I could choose whom to talk about, so we went through a list and picked up some names. We talked about our prime minister, Nguyen Tan Dung; about mathematician Ngo Bao Chau,  the first Vietnamese national to have received the Fields Medal, considered as the Nobel Prize in Mathematics; about composer Trinh Cong Son; and about cosmonaut Pham Tuan, the first Vietnamese to be in space.

Tuulia and Elisa asked me whether there are many famous females in Vietnam. In fact, most of them are singers and actresses. Not so many Vietnamese females get interested in politics, I guess, though we of course have some names.

To sum up, I found this meeting very interesting since not only Tuulia and Elisa could learn some things new about a faraway country like Vietnam, but also I could remind myself some things about my home country.

Sixth Meeting: Finland’s History

After talking about Vietnamese history, Elisa and Tuulia educated me about Finnish history.

They told me that during the ice age, Finland’s land was covered by ice and it was not until the ice had retreated that hunters and gatherers started to immigrate to this area.

According to Tuulia and Elisa, Finland was under the control of Sweden for around 700 years, then becoming a part of Russia in 1809. Finland gained its independence from Russia in 1917.

They told me that after then, the country fell into a civil war, with two sides of the Red and the White, and Tampere was one of the most important battlefields. They sounded very disappointed about this, since people within the country were against each other, even within one family.

After the civil war, Finnish people began to rebuild the country at speed. Tuulia and Elisa seemed very proud of the fact that the country was able to pay the war reparations to the Soviet Union and develop the country very fast. I myself think that it is truly a huge achievement of Finland.

I am very impressed that though experiencing lots of wars and domination, Finland nowadays is one of the best countries in the world and I am so proud of being here to learn about your culture and lifestyle.

In addition to history, three of us also talked about politics. While Vietnam is a one-ruling-party country, Finland has a multi-party political system, and Tuulia and Elisa told me that Finnish politicians can be criticized heavily by the public and they need to have enough guts to face it. We also talked about the election in Finland as well as how my two colleagues usually do to choose their leaders.

Fifth Meeting: Vietnam’s History

This was actually a double meeting since we could not make it last week, so we talked about Vietnamese and Finnish histories and considered as two meetings.

History, for me, is useful and important for everyone, but I myself do not have much interest in learning it. My excuse is that all history lessons at school are just too boring to get interested in. However, I could say that Vietnam has a colorful and heroic history, one of the things that I am really proud of. And though I could not remember exactly all the years and events, I managed to tell Elisa and Tuulia some facts.

As many ancient civilizations of the world’s history, the very first Vietnamese people settled nearby rivers, Hong, or Red, River in the North and Cuu Long, or Nine Dragons, River in the South. We had a history of agriculture, especially rice growing.

Since having a government, Vietnam has a 4000-year-long history, with many dynasties as well as many wars and dominations. We had about 1100 years under the domination of Chinese dynasties, from which we inherited their culture and customs.

Vietnam has an advantageous geopolitical position in the region, which is the reason why so many foreign conquers wanted to dominate our country, such as China, France, Japan and the US.

We finally gained our independence from France in 1945, with the independence declare in August, though it was just the North that was under the rule of the Communist Party. It was not until 1975 that the whole country was united.

We started to rebuild and develop our own country since then. It was tough because there were too many damages and people were too poor and under-educated. However, I can say that we have had many achievements and have been successfully building our country.

Elisa and Tuulia seemed very curious and surprised about these facts of Vietnam. I could understand there is such a huge gap between Finland and Vietnam, and it is so great for us to have a chance to share with each other about our own nation.

Fourth Meeting: Finnish Food

Today 22/3, we had our fourth meeting with the theme of Finnish food, at Elisa’s place. We made karjalanpiirakat (karelian pies) and Pannukakku (Finnish pancake).

I have tried karelian pies before, I think it looks so cute and is very tasty and kind of rich. It has two parts: the dough and the porridge. I find the porridge quite weird, because in Vietnam we don’t put milk in our porridge and it’s usually salty, not sweet. But it’s good anyway. I found the process of making it very fun: you have to rough the divided dough ball into a thin layer, then spread the porridge into the thin dough and “wrinkle” its edge (I don’t really know how to describe it by words). I had such a fun time making them!

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About the pannukakku, it’s so different from, say, American pancake! You mix wheat flour, milk, butter, baking powder and egg well together, and just pour it into a baking pan before putting it into the oven. So simple! And the result turned out very good.

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After like one hour of baking, we had karelian pies with the egg-butter mixture and pancakes with strawberry jam. They were all very good, in my opinion, and seemed to reflect a lot about Finnish culture.

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Tuulia and Elisa told me that back in the past, most of Finns were farmers and they tended to make food from what they had, so it was pretty simple with similar ingredients like milk, butter, flour and egg.

Besides, each of us had a cup of tea, too. And after the meal, we had some chocolate as well, since Elisa said it’s essential for Finns! I had a fun time when I said I couldn’t eat chocolate without a lot of water, as it was too sweet for me, which Tuulia and Elisa found very surprising.

After the meeting, I realized how huge the difference between Finland and Vietnam is, at least in regard of daily food. When we Vietnamese tend to have a lot of vegetable since we have so much of them, Finns usually have butter and milk and fatty stuff.

Third Meeting: Healthy Vietnamese Food

If there is the only one thing that I am proud of Vietnamese food, it would be that we have many very healthy recipes, containing lots and lots of vegetable. Therefore, I chose colorful fried rice and spring rolls, as they are quite easy to make and the ingredients are available here.

For the fried rice, we had cooked rice, shrimp and lots of various vegetables like carrot, sweet corn, mushroom and spring onion and a tiny little spicy pepper. I also put some fish sauce and salt for flavor. It is a very common dish in Vietnam, and you can have it for lunch or dinner, even breakfast sometimes that you want to. A bowl of hot liquid soup that we call ‘canh’ would go very well with it.

Next, we made spring rolls. It was not the deep-fried rolls that you can easily see in Asian restaurants. We used raw vegetable like curly endive, cucumber, carrot, sweet pepper and spring onion. I had rice paper that both Elisa and Tuulia found very interesting. It is made of rice and dried in the sun. After being dipped into water, it becomes softer and elastic, then you just need to put each of the ingredients into the paper and roll it. We had it with a mixed sauce containing fish sauce, water, spicy pepper and garlic.

I was too busy cooking to take pictures, so this is my only one when everything was done :)
I was too busy cooking to take pictures, so this is my only one when everything was done 🙂

I hope my two colleagues enjoyed the dishes. I am not a very good cook and usually I just do whatever I want without any measurement, so I hope they could take some ideas and had a picture of how Vietnamese people eat every day.

Besides the cooking, they also asked me about sweet treats in Vietnam. Actually, at least in my family, we rarely have things like chocolate, ice cream or candy, we prefer fruits and tea for a mid-afternoon or after meal treat. As a tropical country, Vietnam has so many different delicious fruits!

Now, I have to admit that we do have not so healthy one as well, but I try to present to my international friends with basic, simple, easy to make and healthy food, so that they could make and enjoy themselves if they want to.

I had a very good time with Tuulia and Elisa cooking and chatting. I am really looking forward to the next meeting in which we will make some Finnish food, since I am always eager to try!

Second Meeting – Finnish is so interesting!

Before coming to Finland, I had already looked up for Finnish language and found it very “strange” and “different”, yet very interesting to learn and to understand. Therefore, I had decide to study this language. But after the meeting with my two colleagues, I determined to learn it properly.

We had the lesson in a café in Prisma Kaleva on Wednesday 09/03/2016 at about 12:30. It was a quite crowd and noisy place at that time of day, but I do not think it affected us too much, since we had a lot of things to say and discuss.

Since I already have been having a Finnish course at TAMK, it was not very difficult to follow Elisa and Tuulia. I would like to learn some common-used phrases and verbs that I could use practically on daily basis, so the first thing we talked about was different verb forms with different personal pronouns, using the verb ‘olla’ (to be) and ‘tehdä’ (to do/make), in the present tense and past tense. It was interesting to know that there are quite many differences between written Finnish and spoken Finnish, for example ‘me ollaan’ in spoken language instead of the formal ‘me olemme’.

We then covered some very common-used and useful phrases like:

  • Sori/anteeksi (I’m sorry)
  • Hyvää päivänjatkoa! (have a nice day!)
  • Hyvää viikonloppua! (have a nice weekend!)
  • Pidä hauskaa! (Have fun!)
  • Voiko auttaa? (Can you help me?)
  • And a very useful word that I hope I don’t need to use: Apua! (Help!)

Now I will try to use all of these everyday!

I also told Tuulia and Elisa that I was always confused between the sounds ä and a. So they pointed out the difference and took some examples for me. Now I am not yet confident to say that I could always tell when hearing one of them, but thanks to my two colleagues at least I understood the difference.

Besides these, we also talked about many other things that I could not write down all here.

I find Finnish quite difficult to learn, especially when I have to learn it in English, with which I still have many problems. However, I also think the language is beautiful and interesting and it deserves to be learned. Moreover, I learned not only the language but also the culture and lifestyle of Finland, which is very exciting since it is the reason why I decided to come here.

First Meeting and General Info about Vietnam

Our very first meeting for Each One Teach One (though we see each other quite often in class) was last Wednesday 25/02/2016. We had our Economic Business class that day so we decided to meet at school.

So after having lunch, around 11.30am, we went to the library and chose a nice place where we could talk. To be honest, I had not have time to prepare anything, so basically I just talked about what came across my mind, with the great assistance from Tuulia and Elisa who kept asking me many questions about Vietnam.

First, I told them that Vietnam is a developing country in South East Asia. We grow quite fast and indeed have a huge improvement in comparison with the time right after we got our independence in 1945.

I told them our population at the present is about 90 million people, which made them quite shocked, of course they were when Finnish population is just over 5 million.

Elisa wanted to know our exact geographic position, so I quickly drafted this to show them:

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We have our “big brother” China in the North, our best friend Laos in the north west and Cambodia in the south west. Our whole east area is the East Sea, which is one of the hot spots nowadays with the conflict between China and some ASIAN countries like Vietnam and The Philippines.

After that, we talked some things about Vietnam’s war, which seems to be the only thing my two colleagues, and I reckon many other people, know about Vietnam. We achieved our independence in the north in 1945 and the ruling Communist Party established the first government. However, not until 1975 that we gain the independence for the whole country.

Vietnam had a tough time after the war, but Vietnamese people were brave and hard-working, we had protected our country against invaders and we have been rebuilding and developing our country. That is one of the things that I am proud of. I am proud of my country and it is so true. I am proud of the friendly and generous nature of Vietnamese people, of the beauty of the country.

It was so nice that both Tuulia and Elisa seemed very interested in Vietnam and asked many questions about it. I was kind of nervous and did not really know what to talk about, so their questions did help me a lot and made me feel better. Both of them were really nice and supportive. I myself had a great time talking with them. I hope next time I would prepare much more carefully and be able to tell them more about my Vietnam./.