Written by Janet English

8. Swimming and Dipping in Icy Finnish Water

Chapter 8

Swimming and Dipping in Icy Finnish Water

I hate the cold.  I hate cold water even more.  It takes my body a very long time to warm up after being chilled and because of this I was very nervous to live in Finland for a winter.  I’m pleased to report that Finns are exceptionally good at keeping their homes and buildings warm so the cold has been absolutely no problem for me – until now.

Some of the American Fulbrighters decided to go ice swimming to welcome our newest addition, Christine McCartney.  Truly, there’s no better way to welcome her to Finland than to give her a truly Finnish experience but I was less than optimistic about my ability to submerge myself in icy cold water.

The first step in this winter swimming experience is to get very, very hot in the sauna. This is the first sauna I’ve been in that is meant for both men and women and it is PACKED.  Body-to-body.  One man is sweating and hitting his back with birch branches and unfortunately his sweat is getting sprayed all around him.  (I had to move because the water was flying!)  It is truly the hottest sauna I’ve ever been in and it is so hot it hurts my eyes.  Surprisingly, the native Finns just sat there – looking quite pleased and comfortable.  Relaxed. Clearly, I had a lot to get used to.

Five of us are going to give it a try! Christine McCartney, our newbie, Amanda Siepiola, the one person who has done this before, Karen Lee, Lindsay Whorton, and me.  We are excited, nervous, and, I would say, as a group, “fearless.” (Not me.) This is not a group who sits by and lets the world roll by – these are women who truly embrace “life” and do their utmost to experience it.

I have to admit – it felt WONDERFUL.  I dipped three times and then on the fourth, I couldn’t do it anymore.  Clearly, my adrenaline was all used up.  In all honesty, I can’t wait to do it again – and again and again and again.