Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hyvaa uuta vuotta!

This afternoon we walked in the bitter cold (it has gotten progressively colder each day we have been here) to the children's New Year's Eve celebration in a sports hall in Kupittaa Puisto. The entire hall filled with children who were there for what the city web site termed a "Sports and exercise wonderland" Children have an opportunity for an exuberant celebration indoors, using various sports and exercise equipment.

Sophia enjoyed herself and made a friend who was Norwegian. What I like about this video is the announcer controlling the age of the children who were on the trampoline. I am learning to count and I am very practiced at saying "Puhutteko englatie?"

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More Pictures of our day in Turku


Three of our Finnish kitchens could fit into our kitchen in New Hampshire. The Finnish kitchen is very European with the small fridge, no freezer, but with a dishwasher that I am afraid to use. The most distinctive feature of a Finnish kitchen is the dish drying rack. We first experienced this when we visited Finland 2 years ago. The recently washed dishes are placed over the sink to drip dry.

I read about this innovation in the "Welcome to Finland" magazine. The drying rack was developed in the 1940s to increase kitchen efficiency by the Finnish Society for Work Efficiency. Maiju Gebhard, a home economics teacher who trained in Sweden, returned to Finland with the idea for a drying rack that was neatly hidden in a cupboard. For more information on kitchen innovations, you should watch the delightful Norwegian movie, Kitchen Stories. A team of Swedish efficiency experts is dispatched to Norway to study the kitchen habits of Norwegian bachelor farmers. In this comical movie, the observer becomes the observed.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bicycles in Finland

This has been our first day in Turku, our new home. So far we have seen very little. After a night of ups and downs where we all slept differing amounts, we headed back down to the market square to tackle banking. We needed a Finnish bank account and we will receive the Finnish cards that people use rather than money. The bank had rows of chairs facing the tellers. When you enter, you take a number selecting from a menu of options. We were mostly guessing, but with our number we could sit and wait and watch our fellow customers. It is all very orderly. Your number flashes telling you which teller to visit. You take a similar number in the grocery store, but they don't provide seating while you wait for your kaalilaatikko.

While Chris waited, Sophia and I went to the library for her library card. The library is closed for the week, but you can use the reading room and they have a small selection of books for people to check out. But, you can't explore the stacks. Chris and I got our library cards last night. I feel that is the sign that we are home. The banking took a while and we went back to our apartment for a meal (either lunch or dinner--our internal clocks don't care which) and then headed out for the 5 pm showing of Avatar. Once at the cinema we learned that the Finns consider 9 to be too young for that movie so we headed to the library and checked out books and movies off the rolling carts to sample at home.

I must explain the posted video. I am fascinated by the fact that everyone bikes here even in the nonstop wet snow of today. This past February Chris was pulled over by the Concord police for riding his bike on a snowy day. Luckily he was on his way home from the dentist, but the police insisted he push his bike because he was holding up traffic. That won't happen here!


Here is Chris in the market square in Turku. It is 3 pm. It has been raining and streets are wet and slippery. Sophia stayed at the apartment to set up her bedroom, but Chris and I ventured out to change money, buy food and we applied for and received our library cards! I asked a stranger, in Finnish, where the library was and he called my bluff by answering in several paragraphs worth of Finnish, but ended up showing us the way. This will be the hard part; understanding the Finnish replies.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Peace in New Hampshire and Finland

Here is the text to the Declaration of Christmas Peace read in Turku today:

The Declaration of Christmas Peace

The Christmas City parchment roll
Tomorrow, God willing,
is the graceful celebration of the birth of our Lord and Saviour;

and thus is declared a peaceful Christmas time to all, by advising devotion and to behave otherwise quietly and peacefully,

because he who breaks this peace and violates the peace of Christmas by any illegal or improper behaviour shall under aggravating circumstances be guilty and punished according to what the law and statutes prescribe for each and every offence separately.

Finally, a joyous Christmas feast is wished to all inhabitants of the city.

The injunction against illegal and improper behavior reminds me of the editorial in today's Concord Monitor.

In 19th Century New Hampshire, Christmas was so rowdy that the legislature enacted a law prohibiting: "firing guns, beating drums, playing ball in the street, galloping on horseback and, most urgently, throwing clubs at tame fowl. Slaves and other servants were prohibited from playing games that might "lead to unlawful pursuit of money."

Christmas traditions

Our Christmas traditions are somewhat truncated due to our impending departure. Last night I did my annual teary reading of A Christmas Memory. Every year, at about the point where they go to fly their kites, I start to sob. This year Chris took over the reading and even he seemed to choke up when Queenie died.

I read on that the Christmas Eve tradition in Sweden is to watch Donald Duck cartoons.
"Every year on Dec. 24 at 3 p.m., half of Sweden sits down in front of the television for a family viewing of the 1958 Walt Disney Presents Christmas special, "From All of Us to All of You." Or as it is known in Sverige, Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul: "Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas.""

I found this interesting web site on Finnish Christmas traditions from the University at Jyvaskyla. The sauna was a big part of the celebration. Also this rather scary looking cattle deity.

"After the sauna, people would dress in clean clothes and gather at the table for the feast. The Christmas feast included a variety of breads, lutefisk or boiled fish, mixed herring salad, potato purée and swede purée, sausages, and meat dishes. The dessert was barley porridge. The purées were festive dishes in Western Finland from the 18th century on. Later they became a part of the Christmas feast across the country."

The Times of India reports that the Finnish embassy in Delhi has been celebrating Christmas in a lavish way. I like the reporter's description of the batter for the "yum Christmas cake".

"A MOUTHWATERING MIX: “We’ve mixed black currants, raisins, walnuts, almonds, cherries and dry lemon pieces, altogether weighing around 500 kilos along with 30 litres of liquor including brandy and rum,” said Chef Devinder Kumar. The batter will be used to bake the yum Christmas cake."

This description brings me back to Buddy and his friend rounding up their windfall pecans and HaHa's precious whiskey for their Christmas gifts. And here the tears might start to fall again. I know I will cry tonight during the pageant. I will cry again when we leave Sheba at Lory's, but I am truly looking forward to our trip to Finland!


I omitted an important Christmas tradition for Turku: The declaration of Christmas peace. The City of Turku has declared Christmas peace since the Middle Ages. You can watch the program here: Thank you to Deb for alerting me to this important festival.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I finally attended my last school board meeting! Five years of meetings...done. Unbelievable. Sophia was a student at Emerson Preschool when I ran the first time and now she is a fourth grader reading Harry Potter and refusing to pack.

We had lunch yesterday with new friends, experienced Finland Fulbrighters. Talking to them made us more eager than ever to get there. For one thing, they told us it feels warmer in Finland--there isn't the biting wind that seems to be blowing in my face no matter where I go these days.

Another day of tidying and packing and organizing.

I like this headline from YLE:

Finland Closes for Christmas

published yesterday 03:31 PM, updated yesterday 04:09 PM
Christmas brings changes to opening hours and public transport.

Image: YLE / Eeva Hannula

note the wheelchairs in the background!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Count down

In 6 days we might be doing this:

In Turku, there is a free Christmas concert on Sunday billed as You Can Only See Stars in the Dark at St Henry's Ecumenical Art Chapel, an unusual building of copper and wood that opened four years ago.

Of course, we might be severely jet lagged.

Whether we make it there on Sunday, the Art Chapel is a "must see" in Turku. It was awarded the roof of the year in 2005! You can see more pictures of this beautiful building here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Good Read

One thing I am looking forward to after this week of stress, is settling down to read good books. It is always interesting to me how the bestsellers in another country are likely to be unheard of in the States. Even English speaking countries have different bestseller lists. When Wolf Hall won the Mann Booker prize, it was not that easy to track down in Concord, NH. I did eventually buy it and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Finland has a lively literary scene that I have been following. This web site, Books from Finland, has been fun to read. I recently read When I Forgot by Elina Hirvonon. It is about the effect of 9/11 in Finland and the reaction of the population of a foreign country to the US government's decision to invade Iraq.

My father recommends this book:

Sibelius: A Composer's Life and the Awakening of Finland

by Glenda Dawn Goss. He heard the author speak and was very impressed.

I am interested in reading this book Purge about Estonia. This article from the Helsingin Sanomat shows that the novel is actually not that well received in Estonia.

The popularity of Oksanen’s novel Puhdistus (”Purge”) in Finland has showed the Estonians that the difficult history of Estonia can be understood even abroad.
When Puhdistus was showered with literary prizes in Finland, the atmosphere in Estonia was like an Estonian skier had won a gold medal at the Olympic Games. Puhdistus has been translated into 26 languages.
”Sofi Oksanen is Estonia’s unofficial cultural ambassador”, said Kopli.

Friday, December 18, 2009

They don't sell this at the Piggly Wiggly!

I was already aware of the stress of grocery shopping in Finland from our vacation there two years ago. The groceries stores were very busy and you weighed your produce first before proceeding to check out. So, a hapless foreigner could slow down the check out line with her unweighed bunch of bananas! Trying to figure out what is butter and what is Parkay when you can't read the lingo is another hazard. I just hope this addition to the grocery offerings doesn't create further havoc in my shopping day!

Sex Toys in Supermarkets; Children’s Ombudsman Concerned

Starting next year, consumers in Finnish supermarkets will be able to add items such as dildos to their shopping lists, as the stores such as Kesko’s Citymarket chain add sex toys to their range of products.

Shoppers will be able to pile items such as dildos, stimulator rings and massage oils into their shopping carts, making Finland the first Nordic country to offer sex aids in supermarkets.

Maria Kaisa Aula, Finland’s Ombudsman for Children says there seems to have been little forethought behind the decision to introduce sex toys to supermarket shelves. Aula pointed out that the advertising trades had a duty to respect parents’ responsibility to raise their children appropriately.

The Ombudsman said that the placement of sex aids should not force parents into premature discussions about sex with young children. Finland’s Consumer Agency has also weighed in on the issue, advising that products intended for adults should not be placed within children’s reach.

In spite of her concerns, Ombudsman Aula is not calling for the removal of the sex products from supermarkets.

“Children should not be unnecessarily confused by these things. Children who haven’t encountered these items before wouldn’t necessarily know about them, or what they’re for. There’s no point in needlessly confusing them, and for that reason it would be good to place them in such a way that children won’t see them,” Aula said.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The countdown continues

In 10 days we leave for Finland and there is still so much to do! I still have 3 board meetings to attend as well as the continual decluttering of the big blue house. It is so cold here in New Hampshire, that we can't pack. We are layering on all our winter clothes!

Wintry Conditions Disrupt Road and Rail Traffic

published today 08:11 AM, updated today 01:38 PM
Wintry conditions disrupt road and rail traffic.

Image: YLE

Wintry weather has been taking its toll on both road and rail transport. Several minor collisions were reported during the Thursday morning rush hour in the Helsinki region while in western Finland trains have been delayed by icy conditions.

A fresh coating of overnight snow has caused problems for many on the roads in southern Finland. For example, an articulated lorry and a car were involved in a crash on the Helsinki-Porvoo highway early Thursday morning. Smaller 'fender bender' accidents were reported on routes in the Uusimaa region, including Ring III in Vantaa, Route 170 near Kulosaari and Highway 1 in Lohja.

In western Finland, rail travellers faced delays when severe frost caused a rail to snap some 90 km north of Seinäjoki. Officials hope the line will be back in service later on Thursday morning.

Overnight passenger services to the north were delayed by up to three hours because of the fault. Other services to Kolari and Rovaniemi have also been delayed.

There are also slight delays in commuter rail services in the Uusimaa region, with trains moving slowly due to slippery tracks.

More flurries are expected on Thursday along the south coast and in Northern Lapland, with the mercury remaining between minus 10 and 25 on the mainland. There are warnings of slippery roads in the far north and parts of the south coast, with strong to severe gale-force winds in south-western maritime areas.


Monday, December 14, 2009

St. Lucia's Day

It slipped past me, but yesterday was St. Lucia's Day. This is a tradition that comes to Finland by way of Sweden. Named for an Italian martyr of the 4th century, towns and schools select a young woman to be St. Lucia. One of the duties of St. Lucia is to deliver buns and coffee to hospitals, retirement homes, prisons. I would be ecstatic to open my door to a woman in a lighted crown bearing buns and coffee right now! Since that is unlikely to occur I will have to make my way down to Bread and Chocolate for a sticky bun.

The Stress of Departure

With our flight to Finland less than two weeks away, I have to keep reminding myself to unclench my jaw. I am de-cluttering my house, preparing for Christmas, and living day to day. There isn't much time to think about Finland! We haven't packed. We all need our snow pants here in snowy New Hampshire.

But Finland has been in the news! This article from the New York Times covers the struggles at Nokia as Nokia battles the iPhone for US market share. I feel a little guilty for owning an iPhone. What I love best about Nokia is it's history as a rubber boot manufacturer:

"Nokia’s roots go back to 1865, and as recently as the 1980s, its products included not only cable and telecom equipment but also rubber boots and toilet paper. But in the early 1990s, many businesses were spun off in favor of the growing cellphone sector. By the mid-1990s, under its former chief executive and current chairman, Jorma Ollila, the profits were rolling in."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Snooooow and other news

Concord, NH, true to form, will have a white Christmas. On Wednesday, Concord received 8 inches of snow and Sophie made the most of it. The Concord Insider has posted the latest issue on line and you can read Sophia's and Ella's interview with Aki and Niko here. The New York Times published an article about the Finnish phenomena, the Complaint Choir. I wrote about the Complaint Choir on November 6. The video that I posted is very enjoyable.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Fourth Grade Correspondents

I am very proud of the Fourth Grade Correspondents! Their latest story, an interview with Aki and Niko, was published in the Concord Insider on Tuesday. As soon as it is on the web, I will publish the link.

Aki and Niko are students at New England College, but are originally from Turku, our new home. They play hockey at NEC, but you can read more about them in the Insider.

We are no closer to being ready to leave, but we are ready to go. It is hard to clean, pack and celebrate Advent while still living my New Hampshire based life!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Finnish Independence Day!

December 6 is Finnish Independence Day! This year is the 92d anniversary of Finland's separation from Russia at the time of the Russian Revolution. I find this time period fascinating. From the movie "Reds" to the novel "Sashenka" I can't get enough of the Russian Revolution. When we were in Finland two years ago we visited the Lenin Museum in Tampere (Lenin-Museo). It is the only permanent museum about Lenin in the world. I guess that means impermanent museums must pop up from time to time! Lenin fled the Tsar before the revolution and took refuge in Finland. This picture is Lenin in disguise-clean shaven with a wig-while in Finland. Today Finland will award honors to outstanding citizens and remember those who gave their lives for Finnish independence, especially in the Winter War. Visitors to Finland today can easily forget that it is a relatively young independent country with a turbulent past.

Friday, December 4, 2009

More Conan

Look at the expression on Conan O'Brien's face while the anchors speak in Finnish. Now you know what I will look like for 5 months.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

O'Brien meddles in Finnish politics!

Now I have become a Conan O'Brien fan! Watch this. He speaks Finnish!

World Leaders

The New Yorker has a wonderful photo essay on the heads of state of various countries. It is always refreshing to see the President of Finland, one of the few women in the group. Tarja Halonen is also known for her physical resemblance to Conan O'Brien!

The Fourth Grade Correspondents

I can't scoop Ella and Sophia because their interview with Aki and Niko will come out in Tuesday's Insider. However, I will write about one subject they did not cover for the Insider: Pesapallo. What is Pesapallo, you might be asking. It is the Finnish version of baseball with many significant changes. See where the pitcher is standing in relation to the batter! It was developed in the early 20th century and was an exhibition game during the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. I hope Sophie plays this game at school. Then we can play in White Park when we return and drum up Pespallo fever here in Concord.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Watch me post about Sports!

There was more news from Finland in our local paper yesterday, the Nordic World Cup results. The real story from Kuusamo, Finland and the Nordic World Cup was the amazing performance of Kris Freeman:

KUUSAMO, Finland - Andover's Kris Freeman finished a career-best fourth yesterday in the men's 15-kilometer classic style skiing World Cup race, and in the process posted the best non-sprint finish for a U.S. skier in a World Cup race in more than 26 years.

Kris Freeman is New Hampshire's hope for some Olympic medal action next year.

It is strange to think that I will be following the Vancouver Olympics from Finland and I will therefore have the Finnish slant on all events. Finland has the fourth highest per capita medal count in Olympics history and a long history of doing well in the winter sports. Many of the players on the Finnish National Hockey team play in the NHL and are familiar to American hockey fans. It is fun to ask a child for their favorite Finnish hockey player. In Concord they are likely to say Tuukka Rask. Rask is a goalie for the Boston Bruins and in this house we are watching his career with interest. In Atlanta a child would say Kari Lehtonen.

Fashion disaster narrowly averted

Our Finnish friends, Aki and Niko, came over for dinner last night. Before dinner they were grilled by the hard hitting journalistic duo of Ella and Sophia. No favorite color will go undisclosed! The best part of the evening was when they told me that people in Finland do not wear snow pants all day long. That was my plan--snow pants all day long, every day. I would have been the only person swishing through Turku in snow pants if Aki and Niko hadn't set me straight.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I am sitting here with "that sinking feeling". We are now one month away from our move to Finland and I do not feel ready. In fact, I feel that I will never be ready. I don't even know where to start to try to be ready.

Sophia and I spent the day in Cambridge yesterday. We went to the Harry Potter exhibit and mooched around Harvard Square. I was trying to think festive thoughts, but it is hard with one big move hanging over my head! My new goal is to be better organized by December 6. December 6 is Finnish Independence Day, Itsenaisyyspaiva. I will need a blue and white cake to celebrate!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Plea bargains

I was surprised to find that Chris has been asked to lecture on plea bargaining while he is Finland. As a former Fulton County Public Defender, plea bargaining is something I know well. I would walk into the jury room with my 20 case files and start to dance with the prosecutor. Preparation included knowing all the weaknesses in the state's case and what your client was willing to take. The biggest weapon you had for extracting a decent plea bargain was to say, "Okay, bring it on." Sometimes the best offers came after you announced ready on the trial calendar.

Plea bargaining is not part of the process in Europe. Chris sent me this article from the Helsingin Sanomat:

Working group to look into possibility of reduced sentences in exchange for admission of guilt

Working group to look into possibility of reduced sentences in exchange for admission of guilt

Minister of Justice Tuija Brax (Green League) has set up a working group to look into the possibility of giving reduced sentences to criminal suspects in exchange for their admissions of guilt.

Plea bargaining is a disturbing practice if you think about it
for too long. It will be interesting to watch how plea bargaining develops in Finland.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Now I need to dust off my swan dress!

My latest Finnish news flash is that a new Moomin movie is coming out and the soundtrack includes a song by Bjork!
I hope we are able to see the movie while we are in Finland. I highly recommend the Moomin books. Tove Jansson also wrote books for adults:
  • Sommarboken (1972, The Summer Book) (translated into English)
  • Solstaden (1974, Sun City) (translated into English)
  • Den ärliga bedragaren (1982, The Honest Swindler) (translated into English in 2009, under the title The True Deceiver)
  • Stenåkern (1984, The Field of Stones)
  • Anteckningar från en ö (1993, Notes from an Island) (autobiography; illustrated by Tuulikki Pietilä)

I have read The Summer Book, but haven't yet read her other books. True Deceiver is receiving good reviews. It is going on my list. I have ordered "When I Forgot"by
Elina Hirvonen from Amazon. I read a good review of that book in the New York times.

Drunk, insane and American

Q: How do you tell a Finnish extrovert?

A: He looks at your shoes when he's talking to you!

My husband loves Finnish humor and especially enjoys the humorous videos of Martti Suosalo and Stan Saanila on the Helsingin Sanomat web site. This video
has the 2 comedians assuming the role of security for the Finnish president. You don't have to know Finnish to laugh as you see them walking the president's cats.

Here is a joke I swiped from the web:

You know you've been in Finland too long when a stranger smiles at you and you assume that:
a. he is drunk
b. he is insane
c. he is American
d. he is all of the above

Since I grin at everyone, I assume I will be labeled as drunk, insane and American when we get to Finland.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Yesterday, Afghanistan slipped three places to become the second most corrupt country on the Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index. Only Somalia is perceived to be more corrupt. Finland is no. 6 while the United States trails at no. 19. When I hear about pervasive corruption I think about how hard it must be to institute change.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Preparing to leave

I have been busy preparing an article and a talk about the former owner of my house and he had no ties to Finland! But I do love this picture. Elwin Page is the young man in a suit to the far right of the picture. Please notice the dog. After tomorrow, full speed ahead to Finland.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Finnish Star Trek...Star Wreck

I might have to buy this movie for a certain someone who loves Finnish humor. This is a Finnish take off on Star Trek with an Airplane sensibility. Have some light balls Captain Sherrypie!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Check out Elvis' belt

The Leningrad Cowboys! Always a hit. Anything by Aki Kaurismaki is bound to be interesting and very Finnish.

The African Star

On a rainy day a board game is always a good idea. A Finnish board game is a better idea! The most famous Finnish game is Afrikan Tahti. It was designed in 1949 by a 19 year old and was first produced in 1951. Every Finnish home contains a copy of this game. I love the map that serves as the game board. You have a choice of starting in Tangiers or Cairo. I always choose Tangiers in honor of Paul Bowles. You then plod around the continent looking for gems. I never find a gem and consequently never have enough money to fly. Not so Sophia. She is always jetting around in search of the diamond. Your roll!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Christmas is coming!

Last night Sophia told us she was thinking of her Christmas gift list...books, clothes etc....but also she announced that she wanted a Finnish/English dictionary like Dad's! Well, I know how much Dad's Finnish/English dictionary weighs. I bought it in Cambridge and schlepped it around Boston one festive shopping season. Happily we are a household blessed with numerous Finnish/English dictionaries and she received one then and there. Ahhh, you never forget your first Finnish/English dictionary!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Stay within the speed limit!

I am trying to learn more about the Finnish criminal justice system. One thing I have learned is that fines for driving offenses are calculated on your monthly income. The more you make, the more you pay.

In 2001 a director of Nokia was fined $103,600 for speeding in Helsinki. He was driving 47 mph in a 31 mph zone. The latest news on the fine was that the speedy Finn was appealing the fine because the value of his stock portfolio had fallen!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Finn bit for today

The Helsingen Sanomat reported that an American from Sheboygan (Sheboygan!) Wisconsin put his naming rights up for sale on Ebay and the right to name him anew was bought by a Finnish store. I enjoyed this quote:

There seems to be some confusion over the meaning of the new name Calvin has taken - the newspaper says "Verkkokauppa" means "catalogue", when it is closer to "online shop" or "online trading". But what's in a name, really?


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Elvis in Finnish

The King in Finnish (or Latin)

My friends and I are all aglow with the prospect of the new Cirque show about Elvis in Vegas. I remembered a news story about Elvis from Finland and diligently sought it out. A Finnish professor, recognizing that some things never die, translated Elvis' oeuvre into Latin.

Surrender - Nunc aeternitatis
It's Now Or Never - Nunc hic aut numquam
Can't Help Falling In Love - Non adamare non possum
Wooden Heart - Cor ligneum
Love Me Tender - Tenere me ama

I will do everything in my power to catch Latin Elvis in Finland! Shakes fist at heavens.

Monday, November 9, 2009


The celebrations marking the fall of the Berlin Wall yesterday made me think about how narrowly Finland avoided becoming an SSR. The history of its Baltic neighbor, Estonia, shows how easily the Nazis and the Soviets were able to move in and conquer their neighbors. Finland avoided the fate of Estonia, but it was a hard fought victory and not without loss. Finland fought the Winter War and the Continuation War against the Soviet Union, but lost part of Karelia to the Soviet Union. Karelia is often considered to be the heart of Finland and its loss is mourned today. Finland also had to fight the Nazis at that time. There are some good movies about that time. I recommend The Cuckoo.

The Kalevala

Sophia's teacher in Finland has included me on the parent email list so I learned that Sophia's class recently visited the art museum in Turku to see an exhibition of the Kalevala paintings. Luckily Sophia will not be behind her class. She knows all about the Kalevala. We bought the book, The Canine Kalevala for her birthday when we were in Finland in 2007. The Kalevala is the national epic poem of Finland and is credited with helping mobilize the Finns to struggle for independence from Russia. Because of the Kalevala's central role in Finnish independence, it has been the subject of many painters. If you want an idea of what the Kalevala sounds like when read aloud, dip into some Longfellow:

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
Rose the firs with cones upon them;
Bright before it beat the water,
Beat the clear and sunny water,
Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.

Apparently Longfellow borrowed the cadence of the Kalevala for his Hiawatha epic.

Longfellow, like another American I know, studied Finnish! Who knew?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Complaint choir

It is part of human nature to complain. I should know! The trick is to complain beautifully. Here is a link to the Helsinki Complaints Choir. The music is beautiful. There are subtitles so you can read the trials and tribulations of Finnish life. Plus, if you watch the video, you realize it must be pretty cold in Finland!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pictures from our trip to Finland in 2007

Here are some pictures we took when we visited Finland at midsummer.

Finland in the Concord Monitor Again!

Maybe seeking mentions of Finland in random books and periodicals is becoming boring and I promise to stop, but I can't let today go by without mentioning the last line in the B1 story in the Concord Monitor Voters bring back Glahn. Finland also made the Sports section of the Concord Monitor, but I will stop with the Bill Glahn election victory.

This news story makes our temporary move to Finland seem very real. We are well into November now and have tickets for Finland on December 27. I feel as though I am living two lives. I am still going to meetings, making lunch for Sophia, teaching my class. At the same time I am trying to plan leaving this big house and moving to an apartment in Turku. Not surprisingly I am treating myself to a small Oban every night. It helps with the persistent cough.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More Finnish tidbits

My book group recently read The Soloist. This book was part of a community project, Concord Reads. There were two Finnish Easter eggs in the book. In one scene Nathaniel Ayers, the homeless musician, meets Esa-Pekka Salonen at Disney Hall in Los Angeles. In a later scene, Ayers and Steve Lopez enjoy the music of Sibelius playing on a car radio. I continue my search for Finnish in my daily life. I can report first-hand that Finland was not mentioned once in the 4 hours of meetings at the Concord School Board last night. Dommage!

The picture is Sophia at the Sibelius monument in Helsinki, July 2007.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Finnish news in the Concord Monitor

Finland made the news in the Concord Monitor , our local paper this weekend! It was an AP story written by Matti Huutanen about the world's largest cruise ship. This ship, the Oasis of the Seas, was built in Turku. You can see video of the ship narrowly passing under a bridge in Denmark here.

The other news here in Concord, NH, was Halloween. It was a wonderful holiday. Friday night was the Halloween Howl on Main Street and Saturday was trick and treating. Sophia, Nathan and Vivian enjoyed their annual trip to Auburn Street and the ritual sorting of the candy. It was a very Pippi evening!

I wondered whether Halloween is such a big event in Finland. Apparently not. According to this web site, All Saint's Day, Pyhainpaiva, is the celebration. This is a day to celebrate saints and the departed. The closest thing to our Halloween is Palm Sunday! On Palm Sunday in Finland children dress as witches and collect candy door to door.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Looking for Finland in everything I do

Last night I went to see the movie "The Singing Revolution". Why? Well I had a babysitter and I was hoping to get close to Finland through a movie about Estonian history. It was a fabulous movie and I recommend it, but Finland was mentioned once! One man hid from the Soviets in the bathroom of a Finnish ferry and emigrated to Canada.

When you are looking for Finland, you will be surprised at what you find! One friend recommended "Confessions of a Shopaholic" because of the tiny subplot about the Finnish language. We all watched it one rainy day, savoring the subplot. The shopaholic character claims to know Finnish since no one can ever check. Having a chickflic revolve around some throwaway lines reminded us of our "Charlie Wilson's War" experience. Who remembers the important Finnish language plot line? Well, we do! Picture Philip Seymour Hoffman saying this:
Gust Avrakotos: Promises were made!
Cravely: Not by me.
Gust Avrakotos: I've been with the company for twenty-four years. I was posted in Greece for fifteen. I've advised and armed the Hellenic Army. I've neutralized champions of communism. I've spent the past three years... learning *Finnish!* Which would come in handy here in Virginia, and I'm never ever sick at sea. So I wanna know why... I'm not gonna be your Helsinki station chief.

Let us know of any other Finnish subplots we should be studying!

P.S. The Cravely fellow is John Slattery from MadMen! Who knew?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Finland and cell phones

The New York Times recently wrote about the cell phone refuseniks. Apparently only 15% of American adults do not use cell phones. The adults without cellphones tend to be older, less educated Americans according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. But, there is a small subset of American adults who resist being readily accessible. E.g. my husband! The biggest change in our family when we get to Finland will be that Chris will use a cell phone. In fact, he has already purchased 3, yes 3, cell phones. Sophie will also have a cell phone. Our life is changing!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

You can find Finland anywhere!

I took this picture in Maine this summer. As we drove south from Camden, the last thing we expected to see was a little piece of Finland. Sadly, it was closed for the day by the time I did my Uwy into the parking lot. This fall Chris and I tried to find the rumored Finn Hall in New Hampshire. If you know where it is, let me know.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wool Dog

Finnish for Poodle is villa koira or wool dog. Villa koira is also the term for dust bunnies, those tumble weed sized objects under my bed. So, I have a herd of poodles under the bed!
The hardest part of this trip to Finland is leaving behind our wool dog, Sheba!

1Mb Broadband Access Becomes Legal Right | News | YLE Uutiset |

1Mb Broadband Access Becomes Legal Right | News | YLE Uutiset |

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High Tech Finland

Northern New England struggles to provide internet service to its residents. Fairpoint purchased Verizon and agreed to maintain the landlines and also provide internet access to 75% of its customers. This is proving hard to accomplish:

Meanwhile, in Finland, access to broadband has been made a legal right.

YLE, the Finnish radio station, reports that,

"Starting next July, every person in Finland will have the right to a one-megabit broadband connection, says the Ministry of Transport and Communications. Finland is the world's first country to create laws guaranteeing broadband access.

The government had already decided to make a 100 Mb broadband connection a legal right by the end of 2015. On Wednesday, the Ministry announced the new goal as an intermediary step.

Some variation will be allowed, if connectivity can be arranged through mobile phone networks."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Unusual Finnish Sports

Finland is known for some of the world's more unusual sporting events.

For instance, the Air Guitar World Championship is held annually in Oulu, Finland.

Finland is also home to the sport of wife carrying or eukonkanto. This sport, originating in Sonkajarvi, Finland, involves a man carrying a woman through an obstacle course. The local race is held in Sunday River, Maine every Columbus Day. (Drat, we just missed it). The winner of the Sunday River contest can go on to Sonkajarvi where the prize is the wife's weight in beer.

And today I learned about the sport of shoefitti. One of my students brought this up in the context of Street Law and as I read through the Wikipedia site I was not surprised to see that, yes, "Boot throwing has been a popular sport in Finland since 1976 when the first Finnish Championships of boot throwing has been organized." Thank you Wikipedia.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This is Sophie with Moomintroll's love interest, Snork Maiden. The red face paint on Sophie's cheek is the character, Little My.


Before Chris developed his obsession with Finland, my Finnish touch points were Fiskars scissors and Moomins. What are Moomins? They are the characters in a wildly popular children's book series by Tove Jansson. My family had the series as children growing up with an English mother. There is a theme park in Finland devoted to the books and their characters. It is a low key theme park on a tiny island inhabited by actors dressed as Moomins. We took Sophie to the theme park, Muumimaailma, in the town of Naantali. As luck would have it, Naantali is close to Turku and we have visited Turku, our new home, for a day. Here is Sophie in an embrace with Moominpapa.

Monday, October 12, 2009

First things first

Yesterday I had my first Finnish lesson with Aki and we immediately honed in on what I need to know: How to order coffee. This is no laughing matter. According to Cultureshock Finland, Finns drink more coffee per capita than any other country. In my idealized view of my life in Finland, I am in a coffee shop reading and knitting. No more school board, parole board, meetings of any kind, just me and a cup of joe.

Me: Haluasin kahvia, kiitos?
Finnish barista: Ole hyva.
Me: Kiitos. Saisiko olla kermaa?
Finnish barista: Ole hyva.

This could work though Aki warned that people in Turku speak faster than other Finns and tend to drop their endings.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

What to do at a hot spot!

Will I be cold and mute?

Yes, I know everyone in Finland speaks English. They are probably more proficient in English than I. However, I have this Quixotic desire to know enough Finnish to be able to ask to come in out of the cold.
Today, I begin in earnest by meeting my tutor, a local college student named Aki. I don't even know how to begin this journey. I just know I can't do flash cards. Chris is all about the flash cards and has been carrying packs of them around for several years now. I remember a suspicious pack of Finnish words spilling out of his pocket during a security check at the courthouse. The guard stared at the rubber banded pack of words with the letters yy and aa and uu and handed them back.
I hope Aki will have some good ideas and won't think he is wasting his time. His home town is Turku so we can discuss all the HOT spots in Turku. I am not speaking of nightlife here, I mean temperature hot!
Here is another helpful site for those of you who wish to learn Finnish too:


And in case I do find those fabled hot spots!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Finnish Goth music!

Last year Peru! This year Finland!