Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Erected in the honor of the 50th anniversary of Finnish Independence. 6.12.1967"

Almost immediately upon my arrival to Jyväskylä a few years ago I got the impression that this little city could actually become my home. The process actually didn't take that long to complete. For quite some time now I have felt like this is where I want to live and occasionally I have been know to sing the praises of my city in the entries that I have made in this blog. As a resident of this jewel in the crown of Central Finland I also feel obligated to point out things that don't work so well, things that are in need of fixing.

Today is one of those days. Something in Jyväskylä needs to be fixed and I'm not talking about the city council and its decision-making process. Its a real, tangible item in despair. I'm talking about this monument which is located across from city hall. It is a flagpole with a black granite wall inscribed with the text "Erected in the honor of the 50th anniversary of Finnish Independence. 6.12.1967".

Already from a distance you will notice that something about this monument just isn't quite right. There is a gaping hole in the wall where a slab of black granite should be.

Upon closer inspection it could not possibly escape your attention that this monument is in need of a bit of maintenance or even a complete rebuild. The mortar is crumbling in the seams and as we noticed from afar, an entire slab of granite is missing.

I should mention that this monument is located across the street from city hall. It has been in this decrepit state for at least a couple of years now. I'm not sure about how other residents of our city feel, but frankly I find the condition that this monument is in to be monumentally embarrassing. I've translated the text on this monument for foreign friends on a few occasions and one, who shall remain unnamed, remarked - "That peace of crap is a monument to Finnish independence?"

Unfortunately the crappiness of this historical marker isn't restricted to its front side. The back of it is in an even more humiliating state of repair. The black granite is gone altogether and has been replaced with cracked and rotting plywood that has been painted black. This shantytown repair job has been in effect for as long as I can remember.

I wonder how long the city intends to neglect this monument? I think that if they took the time to put this memorial up, perhaps we could take the time to take care of it once and a while.

Jyväskylä is my city and I am rather proud of it. I sure wouldn't mind if our elected decision makers felt the same sense of pride and went on to show it by having this monument to the nations independence restored.

Maybe once the take care of this repair job the can get to work on the sauna that our city owns, down by the beach at the former campground at Tuomiojärvi.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Column in the New World Finn - Fall 2010

Here is a column that I wrote for the Fall 2010 issue of the New World Finn. It can be also found on page 16 of this PDF.

In case you didn't already know, the New World Finn is a Finnish-American quarterly published in the U.S. If you would like to subscribe to this great little paper, you can find information

Summer is pretty much over and fall is almost here. During our last visit to the cabin we spent the weekend in wool socks and sweaters, making sure to remember to add a piece of wood to the fireplace every now and then. Just a few weeks back we were enjoying morning coffee in the sun and the nights were so warm we slept with the windows open.

The approach of fall brings a sense of normalcy back to Jyväskylä. The students return and once again we get a real sense of how young this city is. There are 16,000 students at the University of Jyväskylä, 8000 study at JAMK (the University of Applied Sciences). The various trade schools in town take care of the education of additional 15,000 or so students.

Jyväskylä has been an educational center since Finland’s first Finnish-language teaching college was founded at the top of the hill back in 1863. The city itself was founded in 1837 by decree of Czar Nicholas I. The teaching college became the University of Jyväskylä in 1967. The university is just a small part of the Finnish educational system – an educational system that played a large role in the decision of a particular international weekly to proclaim Finland as being the best country on earth. Best country on earth is a mighty high title to live up to and it must be mentioned that some Finnish citizens may not quite agree with the panel that chose them to receive the honors this year.

I’m happy here. Finland is a great place to live. You do need to understand though, that it’s not all perfect. The unemployment rate for folks with university education is at an all-time high. School children across the country are studying in temporary modular classrooms while their schools are being renovated or rebuilt. Chronic mold infestations have made such steps necessary, both students and staff have suffered from mold-related health problems. Factories close down and jobs disappear. Construction sites teem with laborers being paid under the table. Populist politics have whipped up an anti-immigrant sentiment that at times is downright scary (if, like me, you happen to be an immigrant). All of the political parties are toeing the “I’m not a racist, but…” line. They want only “good” immigrants, immigrants who are here to work or learn. Almost as though they think that we have all come here with the intention of goofing off at the expense of our fellow taxpayers. Such sentiments are as ridiculous as the idea that we have come here to work for lower than honest wages, thereby stealing jobs from the locals.

My summer vacation is coming to an end. In two days I’ll be heading back to work - a Friday night shift. My classes at the university start next Tuesday. The laid back rhythm of summer is picking up and the march of fall with its “get things done before winter” tempo will soon be in full swing.

Carrots wait to be dug up. Acorn squash need to piled in the bike basket and pedaled back home. There are fish to be reeled in before the lakes freeze up. Winter coats to bring down from the attic and air out on the balcony. My graduate research project has been approved; part of it involves translating a novel by an author whose works have never been translated to English or any other language. This exercise should do wonders for my Finnish skills and hopefully will add a little something fresh to my English prose skills too.

Despite the lateness of the hour, the street below our window is full of life. It is Wednesday, known in these parts as pikkulauantai (little Saturday). Students make their way from the uptown pubs to the downtown clubs. For many, classes haven’t begun yet, so they have a few more nights to enjoy before have to start cracking the books for real.
The air is cool and the sky is dark, clear. The occasional car rolls along our street. The local weather page promises that my last day off will be a sunny one. Even if it rains I will make sure to enjoy it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Uno Cygnaeuksen patsas - Statue of Uno Cygnaeus

This statue can be found in a pretty little park in Jyväskylä which is aptly named Cygnaeuksen puisto (Cygnaeus Park).

Uno Cygnaeus (1810 - 1898) was a Lutheran minister, educator, and ultimately, the chief inspector of the Finnish school system (during the time when Finland was an autonomous Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire).

Among other things, Cygnaeus helped wrest education of the people out of the hands of the church, and established a revised folk school program.

His greatest influence in Jyväskylä (and perhaps in all of Finland) was the establishment of the first Finnish-language teacher training college, which ultimately became the University of Jyväskylä. A well-rounded educational system in the language of the people helped Finland along its path to independence. There are two schools in Jyväskylä which are named after this visionary.

Where to find the statue of Uno Cygnaeus in Jyväskylä:

Näytä Cygnaeuksen puisto - Cygnaeus Park, Jyväskylä suuremmalla kartalla

Cultural Assimilation Lesson # 234.2 - If you don't already know Finnish, here is another great reason to learn

Surprising, a lot of English-speaking immigrants in Finland never bother to learn Finnish, yet are more than happy to complain about the lack of employment opportunities available to those who don't speak the language of the land.

Half a chance in the working world isn't the only reason that one should learn Finnish. Without proper Finnish skills you will never be able to truly enjoy Finnish-language music - you'll be missing out on the cultural nuances and references that make Finnish society what it is.

Finnish rapper Paleface has historically rapped in English but on his upcoming album Helsinki-Shangri-La (to be released on September 15th) he switches things up and raps in Finnish (a career move that I highly respect - all too often Finnish musicians perform in English with the hopes of becoming huge international stars, but ending up just sounding like dumbasses). This video that I am posting for you features the title track, Helsinki-Shangri-La.

You'll notice that the musical style isn't exactly hip-hop - its in a more traditional Finnish format - sort of a political rillumarei. The lyrics touch on everything that isn't perfect in the Best Country on Earth.

Guest labor, elimination of cultural funding, useless celebrities, Roma beggars, disposable lifestyle, homelessness, chemical dependency, overextended credit, immigration politics, school shootings...

If you are a bad immigrant who hasn't bothered to learn Finnish, have your spouse translate the lyrics for you and continue feeling sorry for yourself. If your language skills have progressed to the point that you understand enough of what Paleface is singing about to get a bit pissed off - congratulations! You have what it takes to be a productive resident of our adopted homeland.

Here are the lyrics in for Helsinki-Shangri-La in Finnish:

Kun hyvinvointivaltiota Helsingissä luodaan,
julkisivuduunarit ne Tallinnasta tuodaan.
Mistä halvimmalla saadaan,
sillä niin me tehdään Helsingistä Shangri-La.

Hävitetään Lepakot ja muutkin parasiitit,
Eduskuntatalon eessä roihuu makasiinit.
huutaa nollatoleranssi,
juhlii vartiontiliikkeet ynnä FPS.

Yhteiskunnan yllä liehuu taantumuksen viiri,
turvakameroilla luodaan pelon ilmapiiri.
Holhoava esivalta,
putkaan tarranliimaajat ja talonvaltaajat.

Miksi kaikki tuntee Johanna “Maatalous” Tukiaisen,
niinkun Kolmensepän kodittoman romanialaisen?
Turhuuksien roviolle se on Seiska-päivää, Idols ynnä MTV.

Pissiksillä luottokortit valtavasti lainaa,
unholaan on vaipunut jo Veikko Hursti vainaa,
Heitä pois ja osta uusi,
Visa, pikavippi, karhukirje, maksuhäiriö.

Ja keväisin ne kodittomat sulatellaan jäästä,
katkokävelylle, mutaa katkolle ei päästä.
Suomen päihdepolitiikka:
pamit, pervitiini, Subutex ja sunnuntai.

Kurtze ynnä Puonti sekä Pynnönen ja Piippo,
juolahtaakin mieleen Lahti, Hemohes ja hiihto.
Vinkkimiehen viskipullo se on valeosto, vasikka ja KRP.

Maamme maahanmuuttopolitiikka kusee omaan nilkkaan,
jos Timo Soinin traumat takaa äänestyksen vilkkaan.
Halme, Halla-Aho, Jörg Haider, Ku Klux Klan.

Sekos ADHD-instituutin aivosähköposti,
kun Pekka Erik Auvinen kakskakkosensa osti.
Holmlundi haulikoille,
lahtas Kauhajoen Matti toistakymmentä.

Kun hyvinvointivaltiota Helsingissä luodaan,
julkisivuduunarit ne Tallinnasta tuodaan.
Mistä halvimmalla saadaan,
sillä niin me tehdään Helsingistä Shangri-La.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ween Maan Wilja 2010

The Ween Maan Wilja festival is going to be held on the 18th and 19th of September. We attended last year. Festival food, things for sale (agricultural products, hand-crafted items, and of course the guy who travels around from market to market selling vacuum cleaner bags [? - really!], and crowds of people. You'll find the festival near Paviljonki (across the tracks from the train station.

Here is a post I did last year after attending the festival:

With its cutesy old-fashioned W's instead of the more modern V, Ween Maan Wilja (the harvest of water and land) is best described as a harvest-type fall festival that intends for you to buy things. Food, handicrafts, more food, and a minimum of crap vendors. Lots of canned meats, baked goods, marinated garlic cloves. It will still be going on Sunday the 20th of September. Ween Maan Wilja is located down by the Paviljonki convention center.

A few photos from the day:

Baskets, both wood and plastic

Muikku (vendace) frying. Its just not a festival without muikku.

Fried muikku with vegetables and fried potatoes.

Wool and felt clothing from the crazy grandma clothing booth.

The only words you will need to survive in Finland.

Loimulohta ja pannukahvia. Flame broiled salmon and camp coffee.

The metrilaku (licorice by the meter) is always so cheerful looking.

Ween Maan Wilja Festival
September 18th - 19th
Jyväskylän Paviljonki