There were four big tough-looking men staring at me with knives in their hands.
The white overalls that they were wearing were smattered with blood stains. Was I in the right place I wondered? This was the address that I had been given. There weren't many other houses along this long lonely road in Lapland. The snow had really started to come down hard now. Everything was white and all of the houses looked the same.
One of the Sami men leaned forward and spat to his side. I decided it was time to speak.
"Hi my name's Tony. I've come here to work with reindeer."
My tone was inquisitive rather than factual, even though I knew what I was there to do.
"Mitta?", said the biggest of the Sami men. This means 'What?' in Finnish. It was clear that none of these men spoke any English. This was going to be difficult.
I tried again, half in Finnish and half in English; "Mina olen Anthony. Olen here to work with poro".
This seemed to work. The youngest Sami said something in Finnish and then came forward. "Hello Tony. Welcome in Finland. Now you cut meat from dead reindeer!"
That was the beginning of my winter in Lapland working as a reindeer herder with the indigenous Sami people. I would go on to work there for the next 6 months and return for another 6 months the next winter as well.
It was an amazing experience that saw me practically become a part of the family. This first meeting was just one of the many adventures that followed between the Sami and I.
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