Keaners Tour You Around The World | Chai Jing: Be a Child King in Santa’s Hometown


Right at the beginning of my first year summer break, I waved my university goodbye and became an international volunteer in Finland. In the following 44 days, I assisted faculty of an architecture school called Arkki in Helsinki in organizing teaching activities and became a “child king”.

This is the first time I travelled afar alone.

“Home of Santa Clause, one of the Nordic countries, with one third of the territory in the Arctic Circle.” Except all these googled information, I know nothing about this country. However, the 44 days in Finland really help me better understand Finland and the people here.


Impression of Finland
Finland has a close bond with the nature. Helsinki is the capital of Finland, and naturally becomes the most prosperous city in the territory. Fairs by the harbor, cruise ships at anchor, seagulls singing and hovering above the sea. In the central station, you can see fancy people gathering here from all over the world.

Flowers, beer and ice cream – that is my impression of a Finnish summer,

Along the streets, you will see flower shops and ice cream bars of all ranges. Either travelling by tram or by train or simply wandering along the streets, you will see people carrying bunches of flowers back home. And beer – another necessity for a Finnish summer. People in Finland are used to carry whole boxes of beer home, and spend the night drinking and chatting with their friends. People in Finland are also fond of coffee. To my surprise, the coffee consumption per person in Finland ranked the top all around the world.

Finnish people love their summer so much that the summer solstice even becomes a statutory public holiday. On that day, shops in Helsinki close early, and people will go bonfire camping or travel abroad.


Let’s talk about Finnish now. Traditional Finnish are “dull on the outside”. They are reluctant to communicate and leave a one-arm distance from you. In my flat, I have a traditional Finnish roommate who is silent all the time and greets me briefly when we run into each other.


What is she doing?

The school I volunteered in, Arkki, has two campuses in Helsinki, one in city central where I spent a week assisting teachers in helping children build houses out of wooden materials and learn Triangulation Principle. Children imagine how their cities are like and draw them down or build them with Lego.

The other campus is located in a suburban forest, where I stayed three weeks. The little beasts inside children are entirely uncaged here. They saw woods, build wooden houses, and hang swings. I will also go to the beach or museums with them.


However, most of my time was spent in the woods. I need 2 hours to travel between my flat and the campus. I caught the train on the rustling road at 8 in the morning, and sung myself home with my stained rain shoes at 4 in the afternoon. There is no tap in the forest, nor is there electricity. It is just woods. All supplies require our manual work carrying them into the forest.




Teaching assistant experience

Compared with children in China, children in Finland seem to be more free and independent. They are fond of creating things with their own hands. They go into the words clean and tidy, and go back home with mud and paint stains all over. They are eager to share the day with their family even so.

I am very surprised that even when a child tumbled, no one would care, and the teachers would just say, “Let it go.” I was going to clean the desk once, and a teacher stopped me and told me that she wants children to learn to clean by themselves, because if we finish everything for them, we are not helping them grow up.

And I consider it what children in China lack of. Children in China are often so spoiled that they become the princesses or kings at home. However, we will eventually grow up, face the world alone, love other people, learn to tolerate and create.


Her harvest

During the 44 days, I met many lovely and friendly people.

The contributor Aiesecers who slept in a sleeping bag at his friend’s place in order to make room for us; my roommate from Hong Kong who spoke Cantonese that I could not understand; the straightforward Rose who had a lot in common with me; Gerald who prepared a whole table of barbeque; Chelsea who was crazy about taking photos; many young and cheerful volunteers from all over the world; and our lovely teachers – we chatted in a house roof sauna the night before we went back to China.

Here, the life seemed peaceful, but everything is authentic, which gave a girl, who travelled so far away from home for the first time, a substantial experience overseas.


I had never thought I could drag all my heavy luggage and fearlessly stepped onto a strange land on my own. Choosing to be a volunteer gave me the opportunity to explore the world and broaden my vision. The life in a Nordic country is entirely different from the one I have in China. Especially when having heard the trip would be about children, I made my decision. My parents certainly had their concerns, but when I was really doing this, I realized that this is just a beginning.

As long as you have the bravery and the dream, just walk your own way, see however you feel like, and do whatever you want to.