Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A recent article in the New World Finn

I wrote the following article about a month ago. It was published in the most recent edition of the New World Finn. If you are at all interested in Finnish-American culture I recommend that you subscribe to this publication.

Summer’s strawberries were at their best the week Reino was born. We drove to the hospital early in the morning and everything went the way it was supposed to. The midwife brought us yogurt and coffee, she even made us sandwiches. Mother and child stayed in the hospital for the first 3 days. In the meantime, Daddy and his friends performed the ritual of Varpajaiset, which historically have been used to celebrate the arrival of a new colt or calf or child to the household.

Varpajaiset are to be organized by the father as soon as possible after the child’s birth. The local canoe and kayak club operates a sauna at Lake Tuomiojärvi. Just minutes from downtown, their sauna is an affordable place to entertain ones friends in the summertime. I called up their go-to guy, an immigrant of Hungarian extraction by the name of Béla, and booked the sauna for later that same day. Fifty Euros couldn’t have been better spent. I sent some text messages to a few friends asking them to meet me later in the afternoon. On my way to meet them I picked up some lamb sausage and a few boxes of fine Finnish cigars by J. Sundqvist. Our son was celebrated into this world with sauna and good company.

cigars by J. Sundqvist

Reino and his mother spent 3 full days in the hospital before I was able to bring them home. Eight hours of labor, 3 full days of hospital care, meals included. I was a bit concerned about the bill until it actually arrived. The total came to 90 Euros. That’s roughly 130 U.S. dollars. Prenatal care was taken care of by the municipality. Future visits to the children’s clinic or lastenneuvola will also financed by the municipality. Of course this is all paid for by us taxpayers, but such is the price of living in a just society.

Summer mornings in downtown Jyväskylä are best when they include a trip to the tori (marketplace) for a cup of coffee, a couple liters of strawberries, and whatever vegetables look best. By the end of June, new potatoes are on offer in several varieties. In July I was able to purchase some wild strawberries which led me straight to some of my finest childhood memories – hayfields of summer with my mom, sometimes my grandma – searching through the leaves for the little berries no bigger than a child’s fingertip.

Strawberries lead to raspberries, and then come the blueberries. Currants, gooseberries, followed by cloudberries. Now fall is here and so are the lingonberries. Apples are offered by friends with their own trees. In fact Maaria just stopped by with a bag of apples from her yard.

wild strawberries


lingonberries, also known as lowbush cranberries

In a few days I’ll be applying for Finnish citizenship. I have lived here long enough, and have shown through standardized testing that my language skills exceed the levels required by law. The idea of dual citizenship appeals to me. I’m hoping to be able to offer this country as much as it has offered me.

The birch leaves are turning yellow. Now and then we see a splash of red from a maple. Cranes circle overhead, congregating before they depart for warmer climes. The students have returned for another year of study. I watch the teevee now and then to catch up with what’s going on back home and can’t help but feel the distance.

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