Monday, June 28, 2010

How do you say "jittery" in Finnish?

The Finns love coffee. They have the highest coffee consumption rate in the world. I love coffee. I also love tea, but really my day doesn't begin without a cup of coffee.

Although my husband loves Finland and all things Finnish, he views caffeine as a gateway drug. He loves iced tea, but always asks, "Is there caffeine in here"? I am left with the choice of a wisecrack answer, "no, it's brown water with lemon slices" or the lie, "of course not, dear." Iced tea without sugar is one thing. Iced tea without caffeine is worthless.

Well, today on NPR I heard that Alzheimer researchers indulge in the gateway drug 5-6 times a day. This is thanks in part to research from Finland.

One recent study comes from Finland where researchers followed about 1,400 coffee drinkers for more than two decades. Researchers found one group seemed to benefit the most: the people who'd been drinking three to five cups of coffee a day in their 40s and 50s.

And on this happy note I will start my second cup of the day!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Midsummer Night's Dream-Flag Day

I love Finnish Flag Days. I love the fact that the flag is not used to advertise used car lots. Instead, there are careful rules for flying your flag. In case you plan to fly the Finnish flag tomorrow here are the rules:

Midsummer is the only day of the year when the flag may be flown all night. The flag is raised at 6 PM on Midsummer Eve and not lowered until 9 PM the following day.

The top picture shows 7 year old Sophie at 6 pm helping Matti's father-in-law raise the flag. You can see the detail when you click on the picture for the larger view.

There was a Finnish flag that flew on a house on Fisherville Rd. I drove by the house to see if it was flying, but I suspect that the house belonged to the Finn who fought City Hall. The house is now empty.

I think we need to fly the flag at our house in accordance with Flag Day rules in Finland. Down to Main Street to see if the flag store carries the Finnish flag!

Tomorrow is Juhannuspäivä ilta. Have a wonderful time in the sunlight.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Few Small Berries...

Today is the longest day of the year.

I was never concerned about the sun's position in the heavens when I was living in Georgia. The sun was everywhere and winter was the opportunity to wear cords. Not until we moved to New England did we gain a proper appreciation for the summer. It is a short, sweet season to be cherished, but also to be spent preparing for the next winter. Hanging over my head are the cracked windows, the old windows, the boiler, the chimney.

The biggest holiday in the Finnish summer is Juhannuspäivä. Friday is Juhannuspäivä ilta and bonfires will burn across Finland and flags will fly at the appointed time.

One friend in Finland told us that some Finns become morose on Juhannuspäivä because the days will quickly start to grow shorter. We experienced how quickly the days became longer so I have a sense of how quickly you feel the approach of the winter even while lighting your bonfire and savoring your new potatoes.

I recently discovered this blog, The Blog of Henry David Thoreau. His blog entry for June 17 sums up the mixed emotions of midsummer:

.Thoreau's Journal: 17-Jun-1854
Another remarkably hazy day: our view is confined, the horizon near, no mountains; as you look off only four or five miles, you see a succession of dark wooded ridges and vales filled with mist. It is dry, hazy June weather. We are more of the earth, farther from heaven, these days. We live in a grosser element. We [are] getting deeper into the mists of earth. Even the birds sing with less vigor and vivacity. The season of hope and promise is past; already the season of small fruits has arrived. The Indians marked the midsummer as the season when berries were ripe. We are a little saddened, because we begin to see the interval between our hopes and their fulfillment. The prospect of the heavens is taken away, and we are presented with a few small berries.

I was floored by the beauty of this sentence:

We are a little saddened, because we begin to see the interval between our hopes and their fulfillment. The prospect of the heavens is taken away, and we are presented with a few small berries.

I think Thoreau was expressing his inner Finn.

What would Thoreau say about the monster berry I picked at Apple Hill? Things have changed. Yesterday he wrote that he was wearing nothing around his neck. Good for you Thoreau. Lay aside the neck wear. Take a dip in Walden pond. Winter is coming!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More Finnish observations of Sweden!

The Swedish royal family is compared to Eurovision! But who doesn't love Eurovision?

Below from the Helsingin Sanomat:

Bereft of political power, Sweden’s royals rule through visibility

By Anna-Liina Kauhanen in Stockholm

When Swedes tell foreigners about Swedishness, they will often talk about everyday life. “We Swedes pay high taxes, and sex is free here. We Swedes swim in indoor public swimming pools and make decisions after talking about the matters. We Swedes are proud of equality, the ‘people’s home’, and we drink lots of coffee.”
I see.
Sweden is like a republic, which still has a king.

Sweden’s royals are an interesting institution, in which the ideas of the nation and the state seek to come together in the form of a glamorously dressed nuclear family.
The standard line of the Swedes includes saying that the royals unite the Swedes. Besides, waving at their own royals is a safe way to channel nationalist feelings.
Supporters of the monarchy claim that even if the confrontation between the Social Democrats and the centre-right were to last forever, the royals unite the nation above and beyond all class divisions. When a tsunami hits, or a passenger ship sinks, King Carl XVI Gustaf comforts the entire nation.
But even though Crown Princess Victoria’s wedding frenzy is at its height, the popularity of the monarchy is actually on the wane.

Support for the monarchy among Swedes is at 56 per cent. In 2003 it was still 68 per cent. Admittedly, the popularity of the monarchy is still great, if it is compared with support for any political party.
Of Sweden’s parties, the Social Democrats, the Environment Party, the Left Party, and the youth organisation of the Liberals have long ago included in their political platforms that they want to get rid of the monarchy. However, they are not actually making any efforts to achieve this goal.
Most Swedish Members of Parliament in office feel that in principle, the monarchy should be deconstructed in a solemn manner. However, they will not say it out loud. Even though there is much discussion about the monarchy in the media, it is not a theme of any kind in the campaign for the autumn elections.

The royals are simply too beloved by the people, says Peter Althin, chairman of the Republican Association, which wants to abolish the monarchy.
“There is not enough pressure in Sweden yet for the actual dismantling of the monarchy. But the day that the majority of the people is against the monarchy, the parties will wake up. Then the same thing will happen that took place when the Soviet Union fell: a new model will be found very quickly.”
The pace at which the popularity of the monarchy is declining, gets Althin to think that the real debate will start in ten years. In fact, the republicans have calculated that the time of the monarchy in Sweden will be over in 2024.

Criticism of the monarchy has a long history in Sweden. August Strindberg wrote already at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th that the monarchy causes everything in which it is involved to deteriorate.
In 1974 Sweden amended its constitution in a way that deprived the King of all formal political power. All that was left were ceremonial duties.
The power did not completely disappear - it simply morphed into the power of opinion and attention. Visibility became important for the royals in a way that it never was before.

“Looking at photographs of European royals from the 19th century, one gets the impression the bourgeoisie on a picnic. But when power was restricted, they needed hats and tiaras. Majesty became glamour”, says Anu Koivunen, a media researcher researcher at the University of Stockholm.
The Swedish royals started using their power by choosing carefully where and how they would be seen. The royals changed, and the media changed as well, but in any case, the metamorphosis of political power into symbolic power meant that publicity is now crucially important for the royals.
“Displaying the symbolic nature of the royals - how they justify their existence - takes place in the public eye”, Koivunen says.

And everything that does not happen in the public eye, is really hidden away somewhere. It is impossible to supervise the activities of the Court from outside.
It is not easy to even define the legal status of the Royal Court. In fact it is impossible. The Court is not an office, a company, or a public entity. Its existence and its position are not based on the constitution, and its accounts cannot be audited.
Swedish legal experts describe the Royal Court as a “relic of history”, and as “the King’s own sphere”.
It is no wonder that people in Sweden are asking what would happen if the Royal Court had dangerous interests. How would Daniel Westling, the spouse of the Crown Princess be supervised if he were in the oil business, and not a fitness entrepreneur?

In Swedish debate, criticism of the monarchy comes from three different angles, Anu Koivunen says.
Most of the critics have political reasons: the monarchy is seen by them to be undemocratic. For some, it is about morality. All power that cannot be publicly supervised, is potentially dangerous.
And for some, it is about economics, and about the idea that the people should not pay for someone using symbolic power. The Court is an institution which gets 125 million krona, or 12.5 million euros a year, which is not based on any legislation. Nevertheless, the Court is dependent on public financing.

It is hard to place the opinions that different people have about the monarchy into any sociological framework.
“It is often hard for Finns to understand the subtleties and lengthy traditions of the Swedish monarchy debate, and that the Swedish attitudes toward monarchy do not directly follow the dividing line between the political right and left”, Koivunen says.
“For instance, a person may be upper class or noble, but it does not necessarily rule out the possibility of being a Social Democrat, and supporting the ‘people’s home’ instead of a state of liberal competition.”

Republican association leader Peter Althin is himself a good example of the fact that party affiliation is not an indicator of attitude toward the monarchy.
Althin is a lawyer, and a former Member of Parliament of the Christian Democratic Party. In the present Parliament, the Christian Democrats are among the staunchest supporters of the monarchy. The party’s justification of the monarchy is typical: it has an important role in Swedish history and in Swedish culture, and the royals are an important part of Sweden’s international image.

Another interesting aspect of Althin is why he is willing to put his prestige on the line in an effort to topple the monarchy. In Sweden he is known as a tough lawyer, who has represented people such as Mijailo Mijailovic, who murdered Foreign Minister Anna Lindh.
Althin defines his association as a democratic movement which wants to let the citizens decide who is the head of state.
“It can be a president or some other representative of the state - as long as the people get to choose the leader democratically.”

The association is not big, but it is gaining members rapidly. In six months the membership has grown from 3,500 to 6,000.
For Swedish republicans, one of the greatest problems of the monarchy is that of a hereditary head of state, “and that the position of the King has no legitimacy based on legislation”, Althin says.
The King even enjoys immunity against criminal prosecution. “The King could throw Silvia out of a window, and he could not be prosecuted.”

The monarchy for Swedes is like the Eurovision Song Contest, according to Swedish journalist Per Svensson, who writes very critically about the monarchy. It is kitsch, but fun - something that has become very important for the Swedes, even though it has no real importance.
There is a bit of a flaw in Svensson’s comparison. At worst, the monarchy can bring significantly more trouble than Eurovision, even if the attitude toward the song contest were as fanatical as that of the Swedes. Or if the monarchy itself is not troublesome, then a monarch who misuses power can be.
It is always possible to not watch the Eurovision Song Contest. The royals are a bane for the whole nation.

Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 13.6.2010

Finland is not Sweden!

I like the Finnish humor in this article!

Royal Wedding frenzy trickles down from Stockholm to Helsinki

Royal Wedding frenzy trickles down from Stockholm to HelsinkiVictoria and Daniel
Royal Wedding frenzy trickles down from Stockholm to Helsinki
Royal Wedding frenzy trickles down from Stockholm to Helsinki
Royal Wedding frenzy trickles down from Stockholm to Helsinki
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The eagerly-awaited wedding between Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Daniel Westling will finally take place in Stockholm next Saturday.

Even in Finland, many people are looking forward to the televised wedding of the future Queen of Sweden. The President of Finland is also expected to attend the ceremony, as well as certain other Finnish citizens who have been lucky enough to receive Victoria’s wedding invitation.
Moreover, wedding frenzy has also spread from Stockholm to Helsinki.

Looking for special wedding items decorated with Victoria and Daniel’s photos, we started from the Academic Bookstore at the Stockmann department store in downtown Helsinki.
”Excuse me, where is the Victoria and Daniel table?” we asked a sales assistant.
”What is Victoria and Daniel?” the confused assistant replied.
”The royal couple?” the colleague said, offering a hint.
”Oh, them”, the sales assistant laughed, adding: ”I thought you meant a brand of clothing”.
This does not look very promising. Are the Bernadottes not a kind of our own royal family?

Any Daniel T-shirts or Vickan dolls? ”No, there aren’t any, and there won’t be”, Jaana Puustjärvi snorts at her souvenir stall in Helsinki’s Market Square.
All she has is reindeer. Even the doors to the Embassy of Sweden by the Market Square are locked.
In the Rikhardinkatu Library, a table display is promoting football books. Hey, where are all the princess books?
”At the moment, the World Cup is closer to the Finns’ hearts than the Swedish royal wedding”, librarian Jyrki Heinonen believes.

In the district of Kruununhaka we finally find something!
Victoria Cake EUR 3.25, says a sign on Mariankatu outside a confectionery store.
”Raspberry mousse and jam, with vanilla cream”, sales assistant Mari Heikkinen explains.
The first spoonful is heavenly, but then it starts to become overly sickly-sweet. This could be a metaphor for the fate of the wedding ceremony itself - the TV coverage on Saturday is set to last all of three hours.
In glass cabinets there are white V & D cakes which do not look very royal, to tell the truth. Nevertheless they will be suitable to celebrate the ordinary-looking wedding couple. But would a fitness entrepreneur who is watching his weight accept such a cake?
”It is a low-calorie cake, as are all our cakes”, Heikkinen laughs, saying that someone had seen Vickan glasses and chocolate in the Stockmann department store.
We did not find any such glasses, but we bought a box of chocolates which have been personally approved by the wedding couple.
SEK 1.50 of the price is being donated to a children’s charity. That is so Swedish!

In the Esplanadi office of Handelsbanken, one of the biggest banks in the Nordic countries, we finally find a real diamond.
A genuine Victoria is sitting behind the counter!
”And my husband is Daniel”, she says.
This Victoria is admittedly Victoria Pasternack, an official in charge of the bank’s corporate clients. However, this is about the closest one can get to a real princess in Helsinki.

A book of wedding congratulations will be available for signing at the Embassy of Sweden on Wednesday and Thursday from 9:00 to 12:00 and from 14:00 to 17:00, as well as on Friday from 9:00 to 12:00. Address: Pohjoisesplanadi 7 A, Helsinki.
For those who are eager to participate in the wedding fenzy in Stockholm itself, there are only a few scattered seats available, as the ferries of Viking and Tallink Silja have been fully booked.
In order to create the right atmosphere, eight couples will be getting hitched on the Tallink Silja in Finland’s territorial waters on Friday.
Flight tickets to Stockholm are still available, but hotel reservations in Stockholm might be quite another matter.

When it comes to wedding presents, the royal couple has hoped that people could make contributions to their foundation.
Other presents may be sent to the address: Kungliga Slottet, 11130 Stockholm, Sverige.
On Saturday, it will be possible to watch Victoria and Daniel’s wedding live on a large screen at the Elisa shop in Helsinki’s Lasipalatsi.
Moreover, the Ikea furniture store in Vantaa will celebrate the wedding day of the Swedish Crown Princess with a special programme.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Clear Finnish

We have been out of Finland for 2 weeks and I am ashamed that I have not studied Finnish on American soil. Chris is wandering around with Hyvin Menee tucked under his arm and I am lucky to catch a glimpse of the New York Times.

Here is my new plan for the continuation of my Finnish studies: Selkouutiset! Clear news. You can go to the YLE areena web site and do a site search for selkouutiset. On the computer you can hear a five minute news clip. With all the stops and starts and replays the five minutes takes about fifteen minutes but you do hear the news!

This morning I learned that the new prime minister of Finland is a woman, Mari Kiviniemi. The President of Finland, Tarja Halonen, has moved to Naantali for the summer. And the Egyptian grandmother is in hiding. I listened to this news in Finnish with Chris' help.

The Egyptian grandmother has been in the news for a while. She has been living in Finland with her son and his family, but does not have a residence permit.

Immigration is sure to be a hotly contested topic in Finland in the next election. It is a hot topic here.

I have a new Finnish friend here in the Concord area. I met Päivi on FaceBook and we had marvelously American meal at the Barley House. For our blind date Päivi wore a green striped Marimekko shirt and I wore a baseball hat that said Suomi. We recognized each other immediately.

The pie pictured above was my entry in the initial pie baking contest of the summer. I included cardamom in the crust and the strawberry+rhubarb filling. It was wonderful, but not a hit with the 10 year old judges.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Happiness is....

I am reading The Geography of Bliss. The author, Eric Wiener, visits ten countries and ruminates on the definition of happiness in those countries. Alas, he does not visit Finland.

I know what made me happy in Finland and I plan to ruminate on my Finnish happiness. But, right now I am happy because I have a beautiful new Mac glowing on my desk. I am up and blogging again. Thank you Apple and thank you Comcast. I can't wait to see my daughter's face when she comes home. I will lose control of the computer because playing with Photo Booth is her idea of happiness.

We all miss Finland, but we are getting in the swing of the Granite State life. The Concord city market is open again. It is only once a week and there is no potato Elvis, but I can buy Finnish "sweet bread". The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) starts next week. There will be no shortage of spinach in this house. I am riding my bike as much as possible and have even tied a plastic bag over the seat in true Finnish fashion. There is nothing like pedaling through Concord in the rain while wearing a Marimekko raincoat. I have joined the rowing club and can pretend the Merrimack is the Aurajoki.

I meet friends for drinks or coffee and I am very happy if a little wistful for Finland. Market Basket cannot compare with Stockmans. In fact, Market Basket is in a class unto itself. (It's not called Dirty DeMoula's for nothing!)

Eric Weiner quotes a statement that a Polish citizen made about Americans:
"When Americans say it was great, I know it was good. When they say it was good, I know it was okay. When they say it was okay, I know it was bad."

Keeping that in mind I will say that Finland is fabulous. But New Hampshire is about as close as you can get to Finland on this side of the Atlantic: Granite, pine trees...catch a glimpse of the great state of New Hampshire here and plan your visit!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mannerheim's Birthday! A Flag Day of course!

It has been four days since we touched Finnish soil. Sounds very dramatic, doesn't it? Chris and I are going through withdrawal. Sophia, however, is back in the swing of things. But the school librarian did tell me that Sophia asked for Finnish books during library time. Maybe she too is pining for Finland.

I haven't had sufficient opportunity or wireless internet access to blog. What would Field Marshall Mannerheim say about these poor excuses? I think he would take a dim view of any excuse not to do what I set out to do.

It is hard to blog about Mannerheim, even on his birthday because he is such an important figure. Of course the flags were flying today in Finland because his birthday is also the flag day of the Finnish Defense forces. There is so much to learn about Mannerheim, but I will start with the basic facts. I hope to learn more about him as I continue to study all things Finnish.

I would say that Mannerheim could be as important to Finland as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln all rolled into one impressive person. Military leader, founding father, fighter of a civil war. But it is more complex than that. There is the lingering shadow of the civil war to add more subtle shading to the portrait.

Mannerheim was born in the Grand Duchy of Finland, part of Imperial Russia, in 1867. He served in the Tsar's army and fought in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904. Upon his return to St. Petersburg he was asked to be a spy/archeologist and travel from Turkestan to Beijing. This was a fascinating trip and the photographs of his journey are wonderful. He met the Dalai Lama on this trip. So, please roll Indiana Jones into that ball with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.

He fought for Russia during WWI, but fell out of favor with the communist government after the Russian revolution and was relieved of his duties. In January 1918 he was appointed commander in chief of the non-existent armed forces of the new Republic of Finland. After leading the Whites to a swift victory in the Civil War, he left Finland because he had misgiving about how close the Finnish government was to Germany. Mannerheim went to visit relatives in Sweden. He also met with the British and Americans hoping that those governments would recognize the nascent country of Finland.

In December of 1918 he was summoned back to Finland to serve as Regent. He ran for president in the first election, but lost and left the public stage until WWII. After the Soviet Union attacked Finland on November 30, 1939, Mannerheim became Commander-in-Chief of the Finnish Armed Forces:

The President of the Republic has appointed me on 30.11.1939 as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of the country. Brave soldiers of Finland! I enter on this task at a time when our hereditary enemy is once again attacking our country. Confidence in one's commander is the first condition for success. You know me and I know you and know that everyone in the ranks is ready to do his duty even to death. This war is nothing other than the continuation and final act of our War of Independence. We are fighting for our homes, our faith, and our country.

He was 72!

I will close this post with this video from youtube of Hitler attending Mannerheim's 75th birthday party. I am not sure that this visit was at all welcome, but your enemy's enemy is your friend.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Back in the Granite State!

We are in New Hampshire trying to organize all the Finnish souvenirs that are spilling out of the suitcases. We flew from Turku to Stockholm and Stockholm to Newark with some fellow Finland lovers: two American students who studied in Turku. The five of us formed a "leaving Finland" support group until we separated at Newark.

Our luggage was crazily heavy. That's what happens when you have not one or two or three Finnish dictionaries, but several. And those Tatu ja Patu books can add extra weight to your luggage.

Meanwhile, back in Concord: I don't know how Sophia is doing it, but she rushed out the door to school this morning as though she had never heard of jet lag. She is wearing her Suomi football shirt proudly. Her friend just borrowed the entire Moomin box set so I know that the Concord chapter of the "We Heart Finland" support group is well on its way to composing by-laws.