My most recent column to be published in the New World Finn.
The New Year is well under way. After an unseasonably warm and rainy December, the temperature has ﬁnally dropped below the freezing point and there is some snow on the ground, although not as much as we have been used to over the last few years.
Presidential elections are being held in both of my homelands this year. The ﬁrst round of the Finnish elections will be held on the 22nd of January. If one of the nine candidates on the ballot receives more than half of the votes cast in the election, that candidate is elected President. If nobody receives a majority of the votes cast, the elections move on to the second round. The second round will then be betweenthe two candidates who received the most votes in the ﬁrst round of voting. Thecandidate who receives the most votes in the second round is elected President.
This system of democracy is quite different from that which I accepted as the norm when I was still living back in the States. For starters, being able to choose between 9 different candidates/political parties is still a bit on the overwhelming side for me. One of my main complaints about the two party system in the U.S. has always been that voting for president feels more like buying a hamburger along the freeway than electing a leader. One can choose between McDoofus and Burger Chump, but what kind of choice do you have if you’d rather not have fast food? You don’t have one really, or at least that is how I have felt for most of my life as a citizen of voting age in the United States. I do have to admit that the two party system has kept things running
rather smoothly, but recently it seems that a lot of people are starting to realize that the game is rigged like a crooked carnies’ wheel of fortune and if they don’t get some real change and some real choices, these folks just might decide to ﬂip the carnies’ trailer over.
So the headlines in the news these days lean towards the political, but politics isn’t the only thing on my mind. My journey as an immigrant has been going on for close to a decade and I’m still learning things about my new homeland every day. We’ve moved from an apartment and into a house and I’ve entered an entire new conceptual area of Finland that I haven’t been to before. Real estate agents, loan ofﬁcers, plumbers and electricians, hardware stores and gardening centers are adding new concepts to my social and linguistic vocabularies. Heating with wood and shoveling my own snow. Setting mousetraps and wondering why the chimney sweep hasn’t called me back yet. Figuring out which valves shut what off and hoping that the gutters don’t fall off before I can replace them in the summer. Wondering if my wife will go into labor tonight or in a few days time? Things that are far more relevant to my life than whoever wants to be in charge. Finland will
have a new president within the next few weeks. The U.S. will decide its presidential question at the end of the year. I've seen presidents in both countries come and go. I’m thinking about putting in a few more
apple trees in the spring.