The last couple days have been very Finnish. I know that might seem like a bit of a “duh…?” type statement, but here’s the thing. As I’ve written about in the past, studying abroad has been about learning about and meeting people from all over the world. So the fact that I’ve done so many expressly Finnish things lately has been pretty exciting!
Last Thursday was a free hockey game for students and when I heard “free,” I said “Yes!” The game featured the local rivals Liikunnan Riemu and D-Kiekko. All I can tell you is that one team was red and the other was blue and their mascot was a big dog. I rooted for them because their jerseys were pretty.
The good news is the blue team won!!!! 2-0
Also, a group of figure skaters performed after the first part of the game and they were beautiful.
The game play was a bit different than home. Most notably, there was no blood or punches thrown. Honestly, I’m not a huge hockey fan. In fact, I’m not really a big any sports fan. My sixth graders at the school ask me about American football and I just shrug. But, I figured, it’s free and I am in Finland! I might as well. And it turned out alright!
The experience was actually pretty enjoyable – even though the announcers were speaking Finnish, I understand enough about the game to know when good stuff was happening, and I had some friends explain a couple of the whistles to me. Behind the announcers though, there was American music! So I was dancing and singing along all night. Much to the dismay of the people sitting closest to me muahaha!
Oh oh oh! And the red team brought their pep band! It consisted of a couple drums and a couple other noise makers, but it was nice to see something I could appreciate. Also, this was the first time I’ve seen Finns actually get visibly excited about a thing. Concerts just aren’t good enough, I guess. Only sports team points rackin’ up truly gets a Finn to stand and make some noise! Ps, I’m sure that’s not entirely true but that’s been my observation haha.
Tuesday night, I spent the evening with my Finnish quasi-host family. My Finnish dad made dinner and then I baked American Toll House chocolate chip cookies with the girls while their momma made us joulutorttu or “Christmas tart.” It basically is flakey dough like a crescent filled with prune jam and sprinkled with powdered sugar. It was delicious.
Making the cookies proved to be an adventure. The girls are getting so much better at speaking English! (I’m excited for them because I know it’s something they are really working hard at.) So, discussing the recipe was easier than it would have been a month ago. However, we were fighting the measurements because Europe doesn’t do butter in sticks like the US and their measurement lines are for grams instead of cups. But we figured it out and crushed it! Also, there aren’t chocolate chips in Finland – at least not in most grocery stores, so we had to creatively hack a chocolate bar to pieces. It was messy but it turned out fun.
One universal about baking: eating the batter is the best part no matter where you are.
Last night, I attended Jyväskylä Sinfonia, the city symphony orchestra (bet I didn’t have to translate that one for you did I 😉 ) for their Suomi 100 performance. The evening was part of the year long centennial celebration of Finland’s independence. I am so happy that of all the orchestra performances I could have attended, that this is the one it worked out for me to see.
The first piece was Sibelius’ Rakastava (The Lover). Sibelius is a big deal in these parts. It was really nice to hear something that wasn’t Finlandia to be honest haha!
Next was a medley from the movie Under the North Star (based on a book trilogy). Until this performance, I had never heard of the movie, so I didn’t have any expectations. But they played clips to match the music on the big screen above the orchestra to help give context. The movie follows a family through life in budding independent Finland, and it really gave context to the upcoming Independence Day celebrations (December 6). Finland celebrates their independence day quietly, which is a very stark contrast to the BBQ, loud speakers blaring 80s classics and country music, and fireworks into the night seen coast to coast on July 4 in the US! But this piece, and the accompanying movie clips, really showed exactly why Finns take Independence day so seriously: a lot was lost in the fight to win freedom.
Finally, a new piece was premiered! It was a concerto of a bunch of different Finnish folk songs and wow was it amazing! There were a bunch of traditional instruments to accompany the symphony and their performers dressed in traditional Finnish clothing to match. And! The local legend, Jorma Kalevi Louhivuori, was there to perform a solos throughout the piece. This guy is a serious talent. Look him up, you’ll be glad for it.
The music ended just like a concert should, full of sound in a big wave. I wished it could have gone on another hour (although, the three pieces alone were 2 hours). I was swept away in the journey through the folk music, and the history.
There is something to be said about the universal nature of music. It doesn’t matter your language, your culture, your anything. Music in an intrinsic human experience. What starts as a heart beat evolves into symphonies and nothing can stand in the way of its beauty.
It’s been a good last few days. With only a month left, I can tell that I’ll be taking a bit of Finland home with me. And in the next few days, the American crew is going to leave a bit of ourselves in Europe! Thanksgiving is next week!
“You are what you love, not what loves you. ” ― Charlie Kaufman