On Christmas Day, there were many optional activities to take part in. Some of the group went off to learn different Arctic skills, like building a Quinzee ice house, cross-country skiing, and ice fishing.
Personally, I enjoyed a leisurely morning stroll in the scenic forest, with beautiful views of Arctic tundra.I did end up joining the nighttime snowshoe hike, which turned out to be a frozen adventure. I went snowshoeing with my three roommates- two exchange students from China and one from Indonesia. At -21 degrees, you can see that I was definitely not trying to make any fashion statements. I practically put on everything I brought! Three layers of pants and socks!Now the first task at hand was getting on the snowshoes. They distribute your weight, so you don’t fall very deep in the snow when you walk.
Next, we began our snowshoe scavenger hunt. Our guide, Victor, made us use a GPS to find hidden objects in the forest.
We had to find flint and wood, which we used to make a small fire. As our reward, were able to roast marshmallows and mini sausages. 😀The whole time I was absolutely freezing, but the views from Lake Fox were incredible! Many thanks to Sang Jun Yoon, who brought his tripod to make some incredible captures of the night sky! 😍The Northern Lights Kp, or strength of geomagnetic storms, was much higher tonight, and we could see rays of green and purple in the sky.
The next day we went to a reindeer farm, to meet the traditional Sami people.
Anyway, the Saami culture has prevailed for thousands of years, and fortunately, compared to other indigenous groups around the world, preservation of their traditions is supported by the local Finnish government. They are able to study the Sami language in primary school, meaning the language will not become lost.
Fun fact: the Saami traveled to Alaska in the 19th century to teach the Inuit how to herd reindeer. Their presence sledding with reindeer in local American parades thereafter gave Coca Cola and Disney the inspiration they needed to make reindeer the ones pulling Santa’s sleigh! 🎅🏻
Along with preserving their language, the Sami are also the only people allowed by the government to herd reindeer in most of Scandinavia, meaning they can continue sustaining themselves in this fashion. That being said, modern Sami can choose any profession, and some become doctors, lawyers or teachers instead.Anyway, while visiting the Sami village, our group was able to feed some of the reindeer, and ride on a traditional sleigh covered in reindeer hide.
We also learned how to lasso a reindeer, with a fake, wooden one, of course! Hah!
We also received a somewhat cheesy, but cute reindeer driver’s license for riding the sleigh.Lastly, we popped in their quaint shop, to purchase local handicrafts. Many people on the tour bought handcrafted knives made with reindeer antlers, but I couldn’t imagine how I would get that home, so I opted for a few other souvenirs instead.
On the way back to Vasatokka, our Russian guide, Victor, told us about a prank he played once on a former tour group. He told us that during his first year as a guide, he bought some chocolate reindeer poop candy at the souvenir shop, then threw it in the snow near the hostel. 💩 🍫When he walked by the poop with his tour group, he said, “Look! Reindeer poop! It is good luck to eat this!” Then he picked up the candy poo, and began to nibble away, in everyone’s disgust. Hah! He also never revealed the joke, and when the reviews came out later, the visitors wrote, “Our guide Victor was so crazy! He ate reindeer poop and tried to get us to eat it too!” Hah! 🤣🤣
Anyway, our last stop of the day was the Siida Sami Museum, where we looked at some traditional Sami artwork and learned more about modern-day Sami life.