Omenoita Äpyleitä

The past couple of days have been ones in which many ideas have been swirling around in my brain, and I have been considering how I feel about heritage, history, Finnishness and Finnish-Americanness and the place I have in all these pools.

Yesterday, Mikko sent us off for a weekend in the Turku area with his company minivan. A spacious and comfortable (and incredibly modern) Mercedes-Benz, it has been a fun car to drive. It is his company car, though, and so it advertises Aikamatkat, the travel agency that Mikko founded and of which he is CEO. Thus, the car is covered with decals proclaiming in English that people can follow us to the Northern Lights, and that Santa Claus approves of such travel. It is, in short, just the sort of quirkiness that I love to have. Being in such a vehicle forces people to stare, which they have done. It is funny to insert such a spectacle into people´s everyday and to see how they handle it.

The Paloheimo Fellows Road Show: Episode One with special guest Mikko Koistinen.

We drove to Turku from Tampere for a 2 pm visit to the Finnish Institute of Migration. This is a valuable site for Finnish Americans because the institute documents many aspects of Finnish American migration history, and as such, is a useful resource for genealogists, sociologists, historians, folklorists, and others. Though the original focus of the institute has been to document those who have moved from Finland, there has been a shift in focus to that of documenting those who have moved into Finland, a rather new phenomenon that has only been going on the past few decades in earnest.

Upon arriving at the institute, we met Miika Tervonen, a senior researcher who had agreed to show us around and to explain the work done there. It was fun to see what we could of the center´s doings. I have been acquainted with the work of the institute, as well as with several individuals who have worked there, since I started graduate school in 2003, and so it was nice to finally visit. The institute is housed in a beautiful, old-fashioned building in the city center, and it houses a lot of information. I know I must return again.

During a part of the tour where Miika introduced us to Timo, a volunteer who digitizes records of Finnish migration, including passport information and ship passenger lists, we were able to see directly the transposition of old, hand-written records into easily readable records available in both Finnish and English. The topic of my own Finnish heritage came up and knowing that I had seen some records concerning my family in their databases before, I knew we would come up with a hit typing their name into search boxes on the computer. First, I tried a few members of my family from Keuruu, a family called Wiideman but whose name has been spelled over the years in several different ways. That produced no hits right then (I must admit I tried alternate spellings) and so we moved on to my dad´s side of the family, the Pennanen family from Lapinlahti in the province of Savo. This produced several hits, including Paavo Pennanen, my great-great grandfather who came to the USA around 1902.

paavo pennanen
The passport record of Paavo Pennanen of Lapinlahti, Savo, Finland. Record from the Finnish Institute of Migration.

As we looked over the record, which was in Finnish, we came across a Finnish word listed as his occupation: loinen. I had previously read a translation of this record, which had listed his occupation in English as dependent cottager. That didn´t sound like a very good job back then. As we looked over this word, Miika and another worker from the institute were thinking of their own translations of this word. Miika indicated it wasn’t a very nice word in Finnish and his colleague said, “It’s like a parasite.”

Whoa. According to my students, I was good at responding to this in the moment, but it was a pretty weird thing to hear. The institute workers then tried to explain that it wasn’t a precise way to look at the word in that particular context, but that a loinen would have had one of the most insecure positions in the class society of pre-independence Finland because they would have worked directly for food and a place to sleep. Later, when I mentioned this in a social media post, others were quick to jump in and try to console me because, even though I know already that social inequity can be appalling, I was shocked that a whole group of members of a society would have been called such a word in official documents like that. Several of my Facebook friends who are active in genealogy were especially keen on making me see some nuance in a word that no one in Finland today would use to describe another social class. At least, no one that’s not a jerk.

I am not ashamed of coming from a poor background. I have known what it is like to be a part of the extreme bottom of the working class all my life and this position has informed how I interact with the world and how I advocate for my students, many of whom also have humble roots. Part of my fascination with Finland’s modern society comes from the fact that there is a sense of common good, and my students and I see this during our time here: their support of public education, libraries, open government, and recycling are several examples we have reflected upon just this May. For me, there is, and has always been a sort of cognitive dissonance when it comes to the Finland my family left and the Finland I see today. “Why would they leave?” I used to ask myself. The Hilary that has studied Finland’s past, however, knows the reason. They, at that time, had no future here. The famines of the late 1800s and the coming Russian Revolution and subsequent Finnish Civil War made Finland a place that would have devastated some of my ancestors. It could have killed them.

Sometimes, some Finnish Americans marvel at Finland’s success in many aspects of their society and express a little regret that their ancestors couldn’t have hung on just a little longer. I used to do this a lot.

Seeing this word loinen in a different light–translated into English through modern eyes–has made me realize quite sharply that doing this is not fruitful. It has also made me appreciate in a new way the relationship I have, and continue to develop, with Finland and its people.

Today was fruitful. We woke up in the morning and drove to the home of fellow folklorist Tuomas Hovi, a colleague at the University of Turku who has shared research interests and is always graciously willing to share his time with me and my students so that we may come to understand Finland in new ways. When I was planning this year’s itinerary, I asked Tuomas if he might be willing to join me and the students on a visit to sites associated with the pilgrimage route of Bishop Henrik, the legendary patron saint of Finland. Henrik’s is a complex story that Dana, Monica, and Gina have all recounted in different ways in their most recent blogs, so I will not do so here. He is interesting to me, though, because he figures into my own dissertation research on Heikinpäivä, a Finnish American winter festival that takes place each January in Hancock since 1999. It is an invented tradition that celebrates a local, unique Finnish American identity, and it takes place around the traditional Catholic feast day–and Lutheran name day–of Henrik, or Heikki, January 19.

The Paloheimo Fellows Road Show: Episode Two with special guest Tuomas Hovi!

For me, researching the deep past of this festival was a very exciting part of my dissertation because it connected to old Finnish roots, some parts of which come from the time before Finland had a written history and thus, come to be seen in the present in little glints and glimmers here and there. Bishop Henrik pilgrimage sites are glimmers that stand out clearly on the landscape. Though there is no proof that the historical man (whose existence continues to be disputed) actually was at these places, these sites reflect the fact that many people believe that he, and his alleged murderer Lalli, did exist and did exert influence on the Finnish cultural past, and on the Finnish landscape. As a folklorist, that is enough for me.

Visiting medieval churches with my students and Tuomas was really enjoyable and relaxing. There are not any similarly old structures to be seen in Upper Michigan, though early Native Americans did leave lasting marks on the land that we can see, interpret, and appreciate. The way in which these churches were flanked by a churchyard and cemetery, the common practice of creating memorial stones for Civil War White casualties and Winter War/Continuation War military deaths is remarkable to us. The fact that Red deaths are not typically similarly memorialized was not unnoticed by us either.

Photographing such sites is something I like to do. I find it interesting to look at how people memorialize their deceased loved ones with headstones, flowers, and much more. Helping students narrate for themselves these landscapes is also exciting. They start to notice more things and to do so without prompting.

In addition to churches and cemeteries, we also visited a statue dedicated to Lalli and a small, ornate building called a saarna huone which was built to protect a wooden structure alleged to have been a chapel in which the bishop was said to have preached before his death. While that is certainly not provable, some of the logs in the structure have been proven to have come from at least the 1400s and so it illustrates, at the very least, that many people have had a relationship with this structure and their religious social life that made such an attribution important. It was very touching. It was equally touching that this particular building was accessible by fetching a key from a business down the road and going to visit by ourselves.

This was the last site we visited before returning to Turku. My students retired to their rooms for rest, writing, and a self-determined dinner adventure while I joined Tuomas and his family (wife Kristiina and daughter Anni) for dinner at their house and an evening of really fascinating conversation. My brain has been churning in good ways ever since. What Tuomas, Kristiina, and I have in common–in different ways–are interactions with the idea of heritage that bring themselves out in personal and professional contexts. We deal with senses of loss and recovery through heritage in what we each do. One common factor we each have is the recognition of the role of human movement in this milieu. Often, as many social scientists have noted, heritage becomes important in the face of rapid change. As Tuomas pointed out over dinner, Finnish American writers have suggested since at least the 1930s that Finnish ethnicity in the United States was on the road to disappearance. And yet here they still are. It’s not the same culture, though. Finnish Americans have adapted because they have had to, and in some instances, such as Heikinpäivä, because they wanted to. As Kristiina pointed out this evening, this is the same for displaced Karelians–being evacuated during the Winter War and Continuation War forced them to create new ways to be Karelian without the land, that important part of what 19th century folklorists and philosophers considered to be central to a folk’s very existence.

One other part of tonight’s goodness was the fact that, once we arrived at Tuomas’s house, the language of the evening was Finnish. If I didn’t know or couldn’t remember a word, I largely had to pantomime my way though it. I had to remember to not try to translate things into English; by keeping my brain operating in Finnish, I can not only more easily keep up with the conversation but I can also contribute to it. I know this, but sometimes it is hard to keep up at first. At one point in the conversation, a simple distraction from watching Anni brush the mane of her beloved toy horse sent my translator brain back to English and I had to admit that I had to pause for a second so my brain could rejoin the conversation.

My interactions with Finland are not on the same terms as those of my torppari and loinen ancestors. They did what they thought was best at the time, and all we can do now is assume that it was. They made me what I am today, a PhD-holding member of perhaps one of the lower rings of the middle class. They also, somehow, made me appreciate the Finland of today with which I have really wonderful interactions. They made me a professor of Finnish & Nordic Studies, in short. As Bror Träskbacka commented on my rather upset Facebook post last night, “Being poor did not prevent our ancestors to seek for a better future. That shows something, doesn’t it?”

Tuomas showed me something at dinner. While Kristiina finished preparing ice cream and apple crisp for dessert, he pulled up some US census records he found about Paavo Pennanen out of his own curiosity–and perhaps kindness–following my upset Facebook post. The census records from 1910 showed Paavo and his wife and several children living together in Adams Township, Michigan, south of where I live now. Seven or eight years had passed since his passport was issued. The census taker recorded Paavo as the “head” of the household, which was common for the father of a family to be called back then. The United States did not recognize him as a loinen, nor would anyone else recognize him as that again. He broke away from that past. Maybe that was a good start.

Engaging in the kind of work I do can be difficult at times because it gets personal. People that I have interviewed about their traditions have died. People often engage with my work because they sense a loss that sometimes can’t really be recovered. People fear that their culture really will die out soon. Coming to Finland often makes me homesick for a place that isn’t actually my home. The Finland of today, with its general positive attitude toward social equality, butts up against the Finland that my family had to leave.

It is, however, also its own reward. I have connected people with audio recordings of deceased ancestors singing. I have found photographs and writings of other such people. I have helped people to see that their Pohjanmaa and Tornionlaakso dialect words are beautiful, living bits of what their ancestors have left them. I also get invited to eat lots of cake with people. All this just illustrates that it is important to people to feel that the past is real and rich somehow–we need to know our ancestors were people and that even if only in legend, that the old stories we tell have some sort of basis in lived reality. Today and yesterday, with the connections to medieval Finland and to my great-great-grandpa from Savo, were real. And they were wonderful.

Thank you to Dana, Monica, Gina, Bror, Tuomas, Kristiina, and my cousin Electra (who is stateside but on the internets and a Pennanen victory in her own right) for the past few days. I feel new sprouts coming in my brain. This is why I do this and I am happy to be able to share this with my students.



Museums and the story of Tampere

Today was the day, which I assign annually, when the Paloheimo Fellows visited several sites that would provide a deeper understanding of Tampere´s past and present: the Vapriikki Museum complex, and the Työväen Museo Werstas, which is a museum dedicated to local labor history. These museums are excellently-arranged, provide English-language interpretive texts, and do a good job teaching a lot about local history in a short amount of time. Though we spend a good deal of time reading about Finnish and Tampere history before we get here, these exhibits both reinforce and expand what we know. And they are fun too!

Sometimes when we go to Vapriikki, a locally-significant temporary exhibit is installed, and that was the case at today’s visit. Birckala 1017 told the story of human settlement in the Tampere area in the Viking and early Christian eras, with artifacts from approximately 900 to 1300 on display. Though I am not a specialist in it, I feel that understanding deep layers of history is important. As we walk around Tampere, it is useful to know that a human presence has been here for an incredibly long time, and it is interesting to imagine how earlier people interacted with the environment, before the rapids were harnessed for industry, before Finland was independent, and before the Tampere that we know today was even a possibility.

The Birckala exhibit took us to a time when local Finnic, Scandinavian, and Germanic interactions led to the cultural conditions that set the stage for the present. We learned about the difficult and uncertain lives people led 1000 years ago. Food came from the land around them, illnesses were a lot harder to overcome, and strangers approaching presented potential dangers. The exhibit incorporated artifact displays (weapons and tools, jewelry, and grave finds) with interactive components including a furnished house, a dress-up display complete with itchy woolen tunics and dresses, and even a Birckala 1017 Minecraft game. It is always interesting to see how people can interpret a past in which written records were quite sparse and we must use a lot of external information to understand the past. I was glad to be in Tampere when this particular exhibit was still showing.

The next two exhibits are the ones I always visit: the permanent exhibits on the general history of Tampere, and on Tampere 1918. As we were in Tampere 1918, I eavesdropped on a tour offered by Vapriikki employees to an apparent museum professional and learned that since the last time I visited, some aspects of the exhibit had been updated and that it had been on display already for 10 years. There is a parental warning at the start of the exhibit which I don’t remember seeing before. This warning is because there are some truly visceral images and sensory devices in the exhibit. At one point, (and something the tour leader told the museum professional was deliberate), visitors enter a section of the exhibit to find themselves face-to-face with a large number of guns aimed at their faces, much like someone would find themselves if they were about to be executed. I have already seen this device three times now, and each time is not any easier. It is important, though.

When we visited the Werstas Työväenmuseo, we saw another new exhibit, which was called the Freedom Museum, and explored the idea of freedom in Finnish history and society. The exhibit started with the notion of freedom from Russian oppression at the turn of the 19th century, when Finns in the lower classes faced the tangible negative consequences of being part of a failing empire: famine, high infant mortality rates, high work and low pay, and the collapse of long-standing industries such as tar production in the face of rapid changes brought on by continued industrialization and modernization. Freedom as a notion continues throughout Finnish history: it exhibits itself in separate ideologies during the Civil War, is suppressed by the Lapua Movement during the late 1920s and early 1930s. It is a unifying idea for Finns across ideological lines during World War II and into this century, expands to include freedom from poverty, freedom to have equality between the genders, freedom from barriers to participation among the disabled, freedom to love as ones heart leads them with the recent full legalization of same-sex marriage, and the freedom to express ones gender, which is an issue that Finland still struggles with. This exhibit was exceptionally well done. Periodic interactive screens invited attendees to watch a brief video in English or Finnish and then answer a question pertaining to freedom and the role of people in a society to find consensus. One such feature asked one to consider whether it is right to use armed resistance against dictatorial rulers such as Hitler, Stalin, Hussein, or Kim. Another asks whether it is the government´s responsibility to pay for learning materials for students in vocational and upper secondary schools. It was very thought-provoking, allowing a visitor to consider what they thought about issues of freedom for themselves and for Finland.

Between museum visits we had lunch alongside the rapids, which was lined with people soaking in the sun and the heat. We also spent a few minutes watching the end of the International Ice Hockey championship game between Finland and the US. Finland kind of creamed us, 6-2. Though their shouts of joy and clapping could be heard two blocks away, when the game was finally decided, the viewers clapped politely, and then a number of them got up from their tables at the outdoor cafe that had set up a large screen for the game and went about their business. Aivan suomalainen.

Tonight we enjoyed another night of copy editing, which I think is improving our blog writing. We not only catch any spelling and grammatical errors, but we also help one another write better descriptions and analysis. We are becoming more mindful of our personal assumptions as we write, which is good and important. It is difficult for anyone to take commentary on their writing, but in the supportive atmosphere we have created, it is great fun. I am very proud of how we work on this as a team.

And it is another late night for me. Half of me wants to go down to the rapids with my camera and photograph that eerie glowing blue of the sky that always seems to be there at night. But the other half of me knows that tomorrow starts soon and that I want to be well-rested, or at least coherent, for tomorrow´s visit to the Metso library. This will be the first visit the Paloheimo Fellows have made to this, or any, library, and I am really looking forward to it.

Takaisin Tampereella!

Anyone who knows about the stuff I do in Finland knows how much I love Tampere. Because of the work I do with the Paloheimo Fellows, I come to know more and more about this city each year, in ways that normal outsiders never can approach. This year reminds me of all the previous times I have been in Tampere, and it also continues to show me new things.

We stay in the central district of Tampere every year, within a few blocks of the city’s rapids, cathedral, central square, and museum complexes. Entering the city this year brought me immediate connections to a storyline we in the Fellows have been following the past few years: that of Tampere’s ambitious downtown development plans. During our first visit to Tampere in 2015, the plan was about to be set into action. This year, Hämeenkatu and several other main streets downtown are undergoing construction in order to build a tram. It is interesting that, at this late hour, I can walk over to my window and watch workers right now digging into the street. A backhoe is digging deep below the layer of bricks that used to be the surface of Hämeenkatu while lights on the equipment help the workers continue their progress through the late night.

This progress, as all progress, is something that has mixed blessings when construction is concerned. Many of the people we have met with so far have had a nearly apologetic attitude toward our interactions with areas under construction. This courtesy toward our impression of their city is nice, because it shows how concerned our friends and acquaintances are with our having a positive experience in their city. I am not at all surprised. This attitude has also been seen with the weather. When we first arrived to Finland, everyone marveled how lucky we were to come when temperatures were in the 60s and 70s and insisted that the weather was never so nice. Some joked that we must have brought it along with us and the general idea conveyed often seemed to be that people were glad we were able to see Finland in such a light. Today, however, with temperatures in the 80s, some were even apologetic about it being so hot. (Gee, Finland, can you turn down the sun?) Though this weather is as startlingly hot for us as it is for them, it just adds to the adventure.

Today found us visiting the Sampo Keskuslukio for the third year in a row. Once again, the magnificent Hilpi Luukkonen arranged for us to visit some class sessions and to see Finnish education in action. Just as with our visit to Perho, we were also able to chat with students and serve as English language practice aids. It was fun! Hilpi and her colleague Sanna Naskali joined forces for us to take part in three separate classes. I think the experience was very eye-opening for my students. Some things they noticed were that female students are not treated as though their choice of clothing should be a source of shame or controversy. They are trusted to wear clothing that is appropriate and male students are trusted to not allow their female peers’ bare shoulders (should they choose to have bare shoulders) to be a source of distraction. And they are not a source of distraction. They also noticed how beautifully the students spoke English. While some were quite shy about their language skills, others rattled off English as though they had been speaking it their entire lives…and that is not far from how long they have been speaking it. The students were trusted to leave the room to find quiet workspaces throughout the building and they were trusted to come back when Sanna told them to. And they all did this. During a coffee break, Sanna noticed that her students were starting to line up outside the room, and hurried to finish her coffee. She explained, though, that the students would wait for her as long as she took, and that once, during a particularly trickily-scheduled class, she missed being where she was supposed to be for class and the students waited patiently for a surprisingly long time. American students would have been long gone.

Our visits to schools are interesting to me because they give me ideas about how to shape my own teaching. Tonight, inspired by what we have learned in Finnish classrooms, we finessed our workflow for writing and editing the blogs we must complete each night. It incorporates individual writing, group editing, and lots of laughter. This group of Paloheimo Fellows has already taught me a lot about being a teacher and moving both myself and them toward a goal of good observation, good analysis, and good writing. I look forward to seeing how they develop the next few weeks.

After Samke, we had to rush to the main building of Tampere University to join the tour bus that Mikko had arranged for us and the Comparative Criminal Justice students. As I have said before, the guided tour of Tampere is something I look forward to each year because each tour guide tells a slightly different story of the same city. Our guide this year, Anja, was no exception. She showed us the typical attractions of Pyynikki and Pispala, the Tampere Cathedral, parts of the Finlayson and Tampella complexes, and the city square. She also showed us the harbor area, which isn´t always seen on the tour, and told us about the citywide rivalry between Tampere’s two hockey teams Tappara and Ilves. For the record, Anja comes from a Tappara family from way back, and “couldn’t imagine supporting Ilves.” These small details are puzzle pieces to what life in Tampere must be like. They are little bits that I file away as I get more and more ingrained in this city.

In the coming days, we will see more and more of this city. Everyone knows I love Tampere and there are a million reasons for this.

Family and Friends

Yesterday and today have been so busy, I have had to double up my daily report. Get ready because I have so much to tell!

The first thing I should say is that, each year, the Paloheimo Fellows Program exists through the generosity of the Paloheimo Foundation. This organization funds several cultural and educational projects and entities, and I am honored that we are one of them. I have gotten to meet several members of the board of directors, and their warmth and interest in the Fellows and our experiences in Finland is incredibly encouraging.

After receiving the most recent grant, a member of the foundation board suggested that my students and I might enjoy a visit to Kallio-Kuninkala, an estate a short train ride outside of Helsinki that was the former Paloheimo family home and now serves as a retreat center of sorts for Helsinki´s University of the Arts. In arranging for this visit, we were connected with Lauri Paloheimo, who holds a deep interest in Finnish musical culture and history. He generously offered to show us around the grounds, have lunch with us, and join us for an improvisation and evaluation performance by students in a French horn class. I was thrilled at this invitation! So Saturday, May 12 found the Paloheimo Fellows at the train station, purchasing tickets to the community of Järvenpää.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I adore driving cars and how much I fear making mistakes on public transit. I bought the tickets, but then had a little trouble understanding exactly which train we were supposed to get on. Therefore, we missed our intended train and had to wait for the next one. This was ok as I had budgeted in a little extra time, and we would, by my calculations maybe be a few minutes late.

The train ride to Järvenpää allowed the students to see more of Finland, including the countryside. As we rode toward the Järvenpää station, I realized that we would stop at Ainola, a station named for the home of Jean Sibelius, which was right there. I knew from emailing with Kallio-Kuninkala staff that Ainola was right near our final destination, so maybe it would be quicker to get off at Ainola. Right? As we approached the platform at Ainola, an outpost without a station, I noticed a path parallel to the tracks with signs marking Ainola and Kallio-Kuninkala. Clearly this was in walking distance.

We got off the train and began to follow the signs. The path was sometimes a one-lane road for cars, other times a bike or ski path. Though I was worried at the thought of keeping Mr. Paloheimo waiting, I was also enjoying the warm, warm sun and the smell of the springtime fields and forest. We saw a beautiful maroon-marked pheasant pecking through the grass. We felt the cool breeze of the forest. It was a nice walk.

We finally made it to Kallio-Kuninkala, sweaty and out of breath, to meet Lauri, who did not appear to be unhappy with our being a little late. He took us to the main building, Ylä Kuninkala and offered us water and the chance to sit on a veranda, talk, and rest. It was the start of a spectacular day.

Lauri Paloheimo (right) welcomes us to Kallio-Kuninkala and tells us his family’s story.

This estate was purchased and made into a home for the Paloheimo family at the turn of the 1900s when Finland was still a Grand Duchy of the Russian empire, but signs of changes to come were becoming quite clear. Kallio-Kuninkala became one of several homes inhabited by notable Finns on Lake Tuusula. In addition to the former Paloheimo home of Kallio-Kuninkala, and the previously-mentioned home of Jean and Aino Sibelius, other artistic families were drawn to the area. Soon, these families along the lake gained deeper connections when some of their children married one another.

Lauri described these connections. I knew already that Aino Sibelius was a member of the Järnefelt family that had established a home in the area. Having a little knowledge of other aspects of Paloheimo family history because of their connections to the Finlandia Foundation, of which I am a member, I knew that the Paloheimos had several children who had fallen in love with members of these other families and married too. For instance, Lauri explained, his grandfather had married Eva Sibelius, daughter of Jean Sibelius.

Wait, what? The back of my mind had already made the connection that this statement created, but it took a moment for the front of my mind to get the message. After he concluded describing the marriages of his grandfather´s brothers, I asked, “So I just want to make sure we understand this…Jean Sibelius was your great-grandfather?” “Yes,” he replied, very matter-of-factly.

This sent the course of the day in a direction that I had not expected in several ways. Before a delicious lunch with Lauri on the veranda, he took us on a tour of Ala-Kuninkala, a house that was located in the same yard as Ylä-Kuninkala. This house was used by various members of the family over the years, and it was the first time I had ever visited a house with museum elements with a member of the family that had dwelled in it as a guide. He provided personal details that otherwise we would have never known: the sensation of a ghost´s presence in a hall, the design details of a ryijy rug hanging on the wall, the design of the staircase to accommodate an elderly family members´failing hips and joints, summer evenings spent on a balcony overlooking Lake Tuusula.

We ate lunch and then chose a grassy spot on a hill next to Leonora-Sali, a barn converted into a performance and recording studio. French horn students stood outside with their professor and a long Alphorn, preparing for an improvisation exercise. Students took turns playing the Alphorn (surprisingly, to which the French horn is related), while their peers played backup on their French horns. It was wonderful to see the students working together to create something musical and beautiful on the spot. Students stopped when they felt ready to, often laughing at a note played that broke the rhythm of the group. Only when the students broke off playing did the teacher offer any commentary and advice. Lauri and I noticed this and discussed this empowering method of teaching. I observed that this approach seemed to allow the students to maintain a sense of joy toward what they did, and that it seemed this was a common approach in Finnish education. As we mused on this issue, the students moved into the performance space and one student, accompanied by a pianist, performed “Horn Sonata in F Major, Op. 17” by Beethoven. Everyone else listened intently. She completed the piece and then, one by one, each of her peers offered their constructive criticism, noting points in the song when she had particularly done well, as well as other points in which she needed to adjust something in order to make the performance better.

Next the professor,  Erja Joukamo-Ampuja, stood up and approached the student. She had noticed that the performance had seemed sometimes stressed out or distracted. She suggested that the student do things to clear out these emotions before playing because “with the joy, it is more fun.” That was particularly eerie for me as Lauri and I had just been discussing that.

After this, Lauri took us to to the Lottamuseo, which is dedicated to the memory of the Lotta Svärd, a female military auxiliary unit that was initially loosely established to support the White Army during the 1918 Civil War and forceably disbanded after World War II. Next, we went to Ainola, and as we had coffee and cake before going to visit the house, he again provided us with the personal details of someone for whom Ainola was very much the site of family memories. As he led us through the house, he recounted details of visits to his great-grandparents when he was a boy: being scared of a frightening painting that was either reminiscent of, or a depiction of, the death of his great-aunt Kirsti when she was a child. The thick smell of cigar smoke that used to permeate the house because of his great-grandfather´s smoking habit. A plastic watering can that was kept in the same spot it was left in when it was last used in 1969. A small chest of American silver dollars that Lauri likened to a treasure chest as a child. He asked the docents on duty if I would be allowed to look at a commemorative book made by a Texas-based Finlandia Foundation chapter. As we looked at a dried wreath, preserved since it was first presented to Sibelius in honor of his 85th birthday, I asked, “What did you call Sibelius?” He looked at me and responded, “Pappa.” “And Aino?” “Ainola-mummu.”

Wow. I don´t always think of people that are well-known as having bad habits, family nicknames, and inside jokes with children. Visiting Ainola with Lauri continued my ongoing work to understand historical figures and events from standpoints that incorporate the personal. For me, Sibelius is a person who composed several songs I really like and features in several paintings I also enjoy. For Lauri, he is Pappa, a man who had the role of great-grandfather. It was very, very touching.

Lauri later drove us to the train station in Järvenpää and made suggestions for future Paloheimo excursions, on which I plan to follow up. I most certainly hope we meet again, and I know that I and my students truly loved the day we spent with him and the students and workers at Kallio-Kuninkala.

I woke up on Mother´s Day to another full roster. The first order of business was to pack up my belongings and arrange for my students to meet me with our luggage at a nearby cafe at 1 pm in order to catch a charter bus to Tampere. Then, I took my first Metro ride to Vuosaari, east of the city center, to join Leni Palminkoski-Pihlamo and her family as they celebrated Mother’s Day at her parents’ home. As I arrived at the Vuosaari platform, I was greeted by Leni and her husband and two of her children, and we drove the short distance to her parents’ apartment overlooking the Baltic Sea. The apartment of Unto and Terhi Palminkoski was immaculately clean, beautifully decorated, and comfortable.  We drank a glass of sima and introduced ourselves. Soon, Leni’s sister, brother-in-law, and youngest son also joined us. As I may have mentioned previously, Leni’s grandfather Reino attended Suomi College, and so when we met last summer, I got to hear some of the story of his time in America and his eventual return to Finland. Today, I got the honor of sitting with Leni’s family, looking through Reino’s yearbooks and a photo album that told his story. We jumped back and forth between English and Finnish (everyone wanted the children to practice their English, and of course, I like to practice my Finnish), and I learned more details about Reino’s life and the development of their family to the present. Seeing photos of his life in America, looking at his Kalevan Ritarit membership card from Detroit, seeing the effect telling his story had on Leni’s family was very touching.

Mother’s Day Brunch at the home of Unto and Terhi Palminkoski.

Knowing that we were on a schedule to get me back to my hotel in time to catch my bus, Leni sped up the action and we all sat at a beautifully set dinner table. We ate a Mother’s Day brunch of asparagus and peas with Hollandaise sauce, an unusually delicious smoked ham, salad, broccoli, boiled potatoes, and elk meatballs, which were the result of a successful hunt by Leni’s brother-in-law, Ekku. We finished the meal with a berry and lemon custard tart. It was yet another magnificent and fun meal. I am thrilled that Leni’s family chose to share their special day with me. After a rushed discussion of Leni’s parent’s coming visit to the Copper Country to see Reino’s old stomping grounds, her family drove me back to meet the bus, which had just pulled up when we got there. I cannot wait to welcome Terhi and Unto to the Copper Country and I just hope I can repay their generosity and kindness when I see them again next month.

Bror Träskbacka begins our tour of his Tampere at the Tampere Old Church, at which he served as vicar from 1992 to 2003.

But that was not all. After catching the bus, picking up the criminal justice students at the airport, getting to introduce the students to the fantastic Mikko Koistinen (our travel agent who often figures into our story) and coming to Tampere, we had one more delight in store. Bror Träskbacka, who directs the tourism ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, and whom we had previously met in Hancock in the winter, met us at the Tampere Old Church, for which he was vicar from 1992-2003, and surprised us with a driving tour of some sites in Tampere with the brief hour he had before getting back on the road to his home in Helsinki. It was truly wonderful to see parts of Tampere through his eyes. We drove to sites that we will see again during our time here, and his introduction of these sites will influence how we see these places from now on. His observations and memories have added another layer to how we see places. From the park at the top of Pispala, we can see where he used to live along Pyhäjärvi, one of Tampere´s two main lakes. We meandered the maze of roads that serve the neighborhood in places that a tour bus just cannot drive. We stood in the park, looking over the lake in silence after hearing about Bror´s memories of living in Tampere. “We should show them the stone, shouldn’t we?” I asked. “Oh yes,” Bror agreed. We walked over to the memorial stone marking the site of the end of the Civil War, which took place 100 years ago, and together told a story to the students of Finland ripping apart in 1918 and then coming together 2 decades later once the Winter War forced Finns to choose how they would respond to Russia’s threat. The stone was strewn with red roses. Thinking of it now, I am getting tears in my eyes because this is part of how I love best to teach. Being somewhere where history happened and nearly mythological figures in Finnish culture and history lived and having natives of Finland tell us about it is something that doesn’t happen in the classroom, no matter how closely we can approximate it. The war has come up already several times and each time, my students get another page in a story that Finnish people are telling us.

The Paloheimo Fellows Program is what it is because of the incredible generosity and thoughtfulness of many, many people who have opened up their lives in some way to me and my students. Often Americans are rightfully considered to declare friendships with little thought to whether a connection beyond general friendliness exists. We will call people “my friend” long before that is appropriate sometimes. But the connections that we make with people here is a first step to friendship. They open their families, their workspaces, and their lives to us. This is something my students and I will always keep with us. I hope that the Finns who have done so much for us do consider us to be friends.

A day of wonder and delight at Perho Culinary, Tourism and Business College

One of the benefits of being the Finnish Studies professor at Finlandia University is the fact that we have a number of connections with people and institutions in Finland, which often helps me and my students when we are over here. Today was a case in point when we visited Perho Culinary, Tourism and Business College, a Helsinki-based college with which we have had an exchange relationship for several years. This was a comprehensive visit that lasted from 9:45 in the morning until nearly 8:45 at night and showed us not only their campus locations in the neighborhoods of Töölö and Malmi, but also took us into the applied training students undergo at this institution. Following a morning at Malmi campus and a classroom visit to faculty member Tiina Varis´s English class, we were treated to an examination of sorts in which three students took us on a guided tour of central Helsinki. Following this, we visited the facilities of the Töölö campus, which is the base of the culinary departments, and ended the evening at the Ravintola Perho, a student-run fine dining restaurant. It was one of those days I hope for when I plan our annual visits.

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Lecturer of Marketing Leni Palminkoski-Pihlamo (left) and rector Juha Ojajärvi (right) of Perho Liiketalousopisto in Helsinki welcome us to their Malmi campus.

I had previously come to know many of the educators at Perho last year when nearly 3 dozen made a visit to Finlandia University and I served as their tour guide during a road trip from Chicago to Hancock. Since that time, I have maintained contact with several of the faculty members, including most notably marketing lecturer Leni Palminkoski-Pihlamo, whose grandfather graduated from Suomi College (now Finlandia University) in 1922. Her story, of an ancestor who went to Finnish America for a time and eventually made it back to Finland, is not terribly uncommon for me to hear, and it creates a lasting bond between Finns on both sides of the Atlantic. Hancock has a special place in her heart and as someone who appreciates this, I enjoy knowing more of her story. Leni is a bright, energetic, gregarious person, and she made me and my students feel incredibly welcome. The college’s rector, Juha Ojajärvi, and every other faculty member we have met provided us with the best start to our fieldwork that I could

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Tour guides Kristi, Elina, and Janna end our tour at Senate Square.


Often, when we visit organizations and institutions in Finland, particularly educational institutions, the event is framed by formal presentations of the institution (its history, organizational structure, purpose, etc.) followed by tours of the physical facilities and an opportunity to watch the everyday action of the facility. We watch teachers and their students engage in the business of learning together. We also affect this process by our very being there. Our status as visitors and guests provides us often with very conscious looks behind the scenes which requires extra efforts on the part of students and faculty. They have to adjust their normal routines in ways that still make the situation valuable for their important work, and accessible for us as viewers.

The faculty and students of Perho did this perfectly. When we joined them in the classroom, it was a chance for the students to share powerpoint presentations and blogs about Finnish tourism interests. It was a chance for us to tell them what we have seen of Finland and to relate our interests to their career plans. We also served as tourists for a tour guide demonstration, in which three students took us into the city centre and showed us some of the sights. While some of these places were well-known to me, the students did reveal some new things I did not know and that I will tuck away in my brain. They have added to my understanding of a place that I want so much to understand.

One project that we could not directly witness but which we were excited to discuss, was the Culinary Caravan on the Move, a multiyear international education project funded by Erasmus + connecting Perho students with peers in Latvia, Spain, and Italy. In this project, the students work together both through internet-based cooperation and later through a project in which they run a food truck for a few days together, at an event in one of the students´home countries. In Finland, for instance, they served sausages and sandwiches at a Christmas Market in Helsinki. Later this summer, the students will serve food at a wine festival in Italy.

Such projects give students direct experience in the planning, operating, and management of a dining establishment, in a low-risk environment which will help them to become successful restaurant entrepreneurs. These students work across cultural and linguistic lines and they do so under the mentorship of teachers who allow them to steer the activity but are willing to advise as needed. It, much like the tour guide test we witnessed, prepares these students for careers in their areas of interest. It was really fascinating to learn about!

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I could have eaten these duck liver-rhubarb-seed crisp canapkees all by myself. Hands off, everyone!

We finished the evening with Leni over dinner at the Ravintola Perho, where we ate an astoundingly good dinner planned, cooked, served, and set by students themselves. The restaurant, in operation since 1935, is the oldest culinary school restaurant in Finland, and it is magnificent. We entered a room centered in a Nordic aesthetic of clean architectural lines with wood and glass as key features of the structure. The tables were set with bright green napkins and immaculate, high-quality dishware and utensils. Students expertly helped us navigate the menu, suggesting wine or beer pairings (the restaurant also has its own student-run brewery) and served us with the professionalism one wants when eating at a fine dining establishment. We were surprised by an exquisite appetizer of duck liver and rhubarb jam with mustard seeds on sesame and pumpkin seed crisps. (PS I could eat about 1000 of those. They rocked!) Our main courses featured expertly cooked ingredients incorporating fresh, seasonal ingredients. The dessert, I could have eaten for days. While there, we saw other Perho faculty members, one of whom had come in to eat on an apparent date night with her husband. When your employees want to have a date in their place of employment, you know you are doing something right.

It was wonderful to connect again with my colleagues at Perho, and I know that this will help us to continue to evolve the mutually beneficial relationship our institutions have with one another. It will also strengthen the friendships that develop between our faculties over time. I certainly cannot wait until we next meet.

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Leni, minä, ja Sibelius. (Leni, me, and Sibelius).

This visit, which was a marathon 11 hours of engagement, gave us a lot to think about. These students at Perho are young, some only 16 years old. The projects in which they engage are preparing them for a career that may possibly last the rest of their lives, or that may lead to the twists and turns that life takes them on. These experiential learning opportunities seem to empower the students and help them prepare for a future in which Finnish culinary, entrepreneurial, and tourism careers are rapidly changing. I cannot wait to read what my students thought of our day. I cannot wait to eat more of those duck liver and rhubarb jam crisps. And I definitely cannot wait to see Leni, Juha, Tiina, and everyone else that makes Perho a dynamic, interesting learning institution.

Helsinki Tourism Day

For our first full day in Helsinki, we hit a few museums that I love to visit and that I think are useful for the stories they tell about Finland: the Ateneum (an art museum) and the National Museum of Finland (a culture and history museum). Ateneum, as I have described before, is home to many of Finland’s most famous works of art, including works by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Albert Edelfelt, Helene Schjerfbeck, Wäinö Aaltonen, and others. It was particularly thrilling for me to walk through the paintings depicting scenes from Kalevala and to recount the stories each represents. The National Museum of Finland uses historical objects to tell the story of the nation. In addition to archaeological finds and historically significant artifacts (for instance, the throne used by Tsar Alexander I when he convened the Diet of Porvoo in 1809), the museum features everyday displays that tell something about Finnish culture (for instance a hallway lined with headphones from which visitors can listen to heavy metal music performed by a handful of Finland’s many, many bands in that genre). It is a well-designed museum with engaging, interactive components that attracted a very diverse crowd on this religious holiday. Children roamed with their parents throughout the building, many attracted by the visiting Barbie doll exhibit currently on display.

Part of what I try to accomplish with the Paloheimo Fellows Program is to help students make connections between what we see of Finnish American culture in Upper Michigan, what we learn about Finland in our classes, and what we see directly when we are here. As our time here continues, we will have points of reference within this visit to which to look back. I am impressed at the book facts that everyone remembers. As with any place, the built environment helps to tell the story of the people who live in it. Our days in Helsinki serve as a live-action pop quiz, in which countless features of the city force a question: “Who is this person depicted in sculpture and why are they important to Finnish history?” “Why might a construction company be named Ilmarinen?” “Why were two impressive cathedrals built in downtown Helsinki in the 1800s?” As our time continues in Finland, we will learn more and more from people themselves and hopefully, we will make connections between other things we already know, and develop understandings we don’t already have.

Another important part of the work of our group is the development of our own interpersonal dynamic. We must trust, respect, and help one another during our time here. We need to be able to work well together. We also, however, have a unique opportunity to develop stronger, more lasting relationships than are possible within the traditional classroom. We spend the vast majority of our day together and we work together to understand the novel, the fantastic, and the strange. One of my favorite parts of teaching this class is the folk culture we create for ourselves that no one else can understand like we do. Inside jokes are a lasting part of this culture, and this year’s group is no different. Already we have created our own plays on words, our own amusing narratives about historical happenings that didn’t actually happen (for instance, that Mannerheim had a decisive role in making Finnish baseball as spectacular as it is), and our own unique experiences of Helsinki that I won’t have with another class of Paloheimo Fellows. This type of class dynamic is not possible the vast majority of the time, and it is a pleasure to have it be part of what we do.

Tomorrow begins our shift into the more focused fieldwork when we visit with educators and students at the Perho Culinary, Tourism, and Business College here in Helsinki. We will listen to our hosts tell their story about this slice of their lives, and we will begin to integrate it into other things we know, imagine, and assume about Finland. I cannot wait to see more of my students’ impressions of Finnish culture and society and to watch how their ideas about Finland develop the rest of our time here. And with that, it is off to sleep for me.

Year Four Starts Now

Well, after a long plane ride that took us from Hancock to Chicago to Stockholm to Helsinki, we are now sitting in our hotel rooms after a jaunt around town and a nice outdoor dinner of pizza across from the Kauppatori (outdoor market square for those just joining us). Paloheimo Fellows Year Four has officially begun. The students have introduced themselves and the process of blogging begins tonight and tomorrow morning (I won’t be too strict as long as jet lag is a concern!).

This year brings visits to friends and places old and new. We will spend a longer period in Helsinki than in the past, and we will have a nice focused visit in Turku and the surrounding area as well. We will visit several academic institutions from high school to university level, we will see new institutions and people we haven’t visited before, and we will even take a trip to visit the sites associated with the pilgrimage route commemorating St. Henrik, patron saint of Finland, who features strongly in my own research on Finnish American folklore revivalist practices.

Being back in Finland with a new group of students is always an exhilarating part of my teaching career. There is nothing more interesting than to see Finland through their eyes and to learn about new aspects of Finnish society with them. Everything brings a new sensation from the sights and sounds of a busy street to using a Finnish bathroom (both public and private) to ordering food. My Finnish language, and actually my Swedish, have come back to me faster than normal, and we have hit the ground running.

Dana, Gina, and Monica will each curate their first impressions of Finland through their own blog posts, which I look forward to reading. I am glad to be here in year four, and I cannot wait to see how Finland affects them as scholars, travelers, and humans. Thanks for joining us on our journey.