By Ozan Telatar
Finland is either a dark place or a bright place to live. I remember vividly that when I arrived for the first time, it was 13.00 pm and the sky was already getting dark. It was nothing like I saw before. The first thing I liked about it, the sky was so clear and full of stars. The first couple of days, I was alone in my flat until my flatmate arrived. So, I sometimes found myself staring out of the window watching thousands of stars. Then comes the silence. Even the masterpiece by Simon and Garfunkel, would be a noise in that silence. One day although it was minus 20 degrees outside, I opened the balcony door and stepped outside just to see if it was that silent also there. I was shocked that it was maybe even more silent outside than inside.
Rovaniemi is a city of 62,000 people in the Lapland region of Northern Finland. There was not much to do, but it didn’t bother me. In two months, I met so many people and discovered that bonding with people is a precious thing to me. Our biggest outdoor activities were, barbecuing, ice swimming (good for blood circulation!), and hiking for short distances because the weather was simply too cold. The barbecues got funnier because I met a lot of musicians. Every time we barbecued, they jammed out. I even sang some Bob Marley songs. The best part about the darkness was the Northern Lights. In total, I saw them three times during my stay. The Northern Lights leaked from somewhere more spiritual and they were like lightening for sure. In the dark times, Northern Lights were something like a life potion, an elixir. The arrival of the Northern Lights means that the sun and the bright times are coming soon. When the bright times come, the sun almost never sets. The night’s lifespan is limited to 3 or 4 hours and you cannot escape the light. In this sense, Northern Finland made amends for the darker times. The best part of the bright times was the animals. When this happened, I made even more friends.
I had a routine that I followed every 2 or 3 days. Going grocery shopping was drudgery when the ground was covered in snow. Plus, the return from shopping was uphill. And, oh boy, it was steep. However, that changed when I felt the heart-warming company of the brown rabbits while I was climbing my personal Everest. I saw them one day while I listened to the sounds of the small forest beneath the dormitory. The bushes moved but I neither heard nor saw anything because of the crackle sounds from the paper bag I carried. Then I saw it – a brown rabbit, which I later named Kemi because of the great Kemijoki river located between the market and the small forest. Then more rabbits appeared, which I named Ouna, Rova, and Doris. Ouna comes from the hill of Ounasvaara which was an abandoned ski centre with a ski ramp and a tower at its peak. I loved that place because I went to the peak after 15 to 20 minutes of hiking and watching the brilliant view of the western part of the Kemijoki river. That part always reminded me of a beautiful curvy woman with long straight hair somehow. And then Rova got his name after the city of Rovaniemi. I named him Rova because he was the biggest rabbit among them. Finally, Doris, got her name after the nightclub I frequented with my other friends. I named her Doris because she was the one who did not stop jumping around the bushes. She was the one who exposed herself and others to me that day because she was a quicksilver. Every 2 or 3 days until I left the Rovaniemi, the rabbits came with me on the path for about thirty meters and then went back to the mysterious bushes. I never followed them because I respected them.
The last day I said goodbye to my friends in the dorms. Some sentimental moments took place, of course. After I finished that part, I still was not ready to leave. Then I ran to my flat and then back to the path to the small market. I did the ritual that I had for the last six months. I carefully walk with the same pace as before. Maybe I could see at least one of my rabbit friends again. I climbed until the end of the path but they never showed up. Then I went back down again slowly and took out the paper bag I used to carry. I thought maybe the sounds of it was missing to complete the ritual. I climbed one more time, half way through, Doris did not show up but I said goodbye to the bushes where she usually stood. Then on my left, Ouna was not standing behind the rock where she used to stand. I waved to the rock as a goodbye. Then at the top left behind the thin trees, Kemi was not gnawing on blades of grass, I said goodbye to thin trees instead of him. The path was almost over then I saw Rova. He left his usual place on the path and stood in front of me. Then I told him that I said goodbye to the others. I was sad at first since I saw only Rova. By standing there, he was bidding a farewell to me on behalf of others and perhaps to all Rovaniemi as well. Then Rova jumped into the bushes and out of my sight. I felt complete.