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.