Lotta vei tarinat Amerikkaan – Elma Maisack December 6, 1918-April 16, 2019

Kaliforniassa syntynyt Elma Maisack (entinen Manninen) palveli lottana Suomessa talvi- ja jatkosodassa. Sodan jälkeen hän palasi Kaliforniaan. Hänen päiväkirjansa kertoo sota-ajasta yksityiskohtia, jotka tuppaavat muuten jo unohtumaan – kuten Hitlerin nimi. Tomi HinkkanEn teksti ja kuva.

by Tomi Hinkkanen

Elma maisack (os. Manninen) kotikadullaan Torrencessa.

Elma Maisack istuu kotonaan Kalifornian Torrancessa, ja hänen poikansa Gary tuo laatikollisen muistoja tutkittavaksi.

“Isänmaan nimessä ja puolustusvoimain ylipäällikkönä annan teille lotta Elma Viola Manninen sodan 1939–40 muistomitalin. Päämajassa 1940 Marsalkka Mannerheim”, lukee kellastuneessa kirjeessä.

Marski itse ei mitalia Elman rintaan ripustanut, mutta he kohtasivat kerran sattumalta.

Elma Maisack, omaa sukuaan Manninen, toimi lottana talvi- ja jatkosodassa. Hänen sotavieraskirjaansa tallentuivat tapahtumat kirjoituksina ja kuvina.

Elma manninEn lotan univor- mussaan sota-aikana.

Elma manninEn lotan univor- mussaan sota-aikana.

Maisack täyttää Suomen itsenäisyyspäivänä 97 vuotta. Elämän ehtoona nimet, paikat ja vuodet tuppaavat unohtumaan, mutta valoisa persoona on tallella.

Elma Manninen syntyi Fort Braggissa, Kaliforniassa. Isä oli maanviljelijä Savosta ja äiti Karjalan tyttöjä. Perhe palasi Suomeen Elman ollessa nelivuotias.

– Isä osti maapalstan erämaasta Mikkelin läheltä Läsäkoskelta. Siellä on saaria. Hän antoi niille nimet lastensa mukaan. Oli veljeni Väinön, siskoni Vienon ja minun, Elman, saari, nainen muistaa.

Talvisodan syttyessä Elma oli parikymppinen nuori nainen.

– Lähdin suojeluskuntaan lotaksi. Kukaan ei käskenyt, halusin mennä, Maisack painottaa.

sotavieraskirjassa on piirroskuva sotilaasta, joka yrittää soittaa sotilaskotiin, mutta numero on varattu.

Sairaanhoitoa opiskellut nainen määrättiin hoitamaan haavoittuneita sotilaita. Hän työskenteli Punaisen Ristin junissa. Lotat saivat valtiolta pientä korvausta, ruokaa ja asuinsijan.

Elma aloitti sotavieraskirjansa pidon noihin aikoihin. Hän on piirtänyt kirjaan kuvan sotilaasta puhelimessa. Kuvassa lukee: “Taaskin 64623 varattu.”

– Hän yrittää soittaa sotilaskotiin, mutta numero ei vastaa, Maisack selventää.

Välirauhan ajan Elma Manninen työskenteli Helsingissä konttorissa, asui oppilaskodissa ja suoritti Lotta Svärd -iltakurssit.

Jatkosodassa häntä tarvittiin taas junissa. Päiväkirjamerkintä tammikuulta 1942 kertoo:

“Hesasta se juna lähti, kaikkialla maassa nähtiin, Turkuun viimein saavutaan, laiva yhä viipyy vaan.”

Pitkä juna oli täynnä haavoittuneita sotilaita, jotka vietiin laivalla Tukholmaan sairaalaan.

1942 Elmalle myönnettiin lomatodistus Äänislinnassa (nykyinen Petroskoi) ukaasin kera:

Lotta Elma Maisack talking about her work in the Finnish Red Cross (rescuing and treating the wounded). During the Winter War some 100,000 men whose jobs were taken over by “Lottas” were freed for military service. The Lottas worked in hospitals, at air-raid warning posts and other auxiliary tasks in conjunction with the armed forces.

“Älä puhu rintamatiedoistasi junassa, äläkä kotona liioin. Vihollisen korva on kaikkialla. Sankaruutesi ei suurene leventelemällä. Näytä päättäväisyyttä ja lujuutta myös rintaman takana. Siis vaikene!”

Nainen palveli kotvan myös sotilassairaala Tilkassa.

– Siellä oli saksalainen vuodepotilas. Puhun vähän saksaa. Mies kutsui minua nimellä “meine kleine lotta”. Hän olisi halunnut minut mukaansa Saksaan.

Työ huomioitiin Saksan ylimmässä johdossa asti.

– Sain kunniakirjan siltä – mikä sen saksalaisen ukon nimi olikaan? Elma Maisack kysyy tarkoittaen Hitleriä.

Vuonna 1944 Neuvostoliitto pommitti Helsinkiä. Sota tuli lotan luo.

Kerran loppu oli lähellä.

Elma Maisack (center) working as a Lotta during WW2

– Erottajalle putosi pommi – hirmuinen täräys. Olin pommisuojassa antamassa ensiapua. Luulin, että se olisi viimeinen hetkeni, mutta siitäkin selvittiin.

Marsalkka Mannerheimin nuori lotta tapasi Helsingissä.

– Kävelimme lottaystäväni kanssa Kaivopuistossa. Mannerheim ja hänen adjutanttinsa tulivat vastaan ja tekivät meille kunniaa, Maisack myhäilee.

Sodan päätyttyä hän valmistui sairaanhoitajaksi.

– Suomessa oli köyhää ja kurjaa. Äiti itki hellan vieressä, kun sanoin lähteväni Amerikkaan.

Elma Manninen saapui New Yorkiin syyskuussa 1947 mukanaan matkalaukku ja lainarahaa. Suomalaistuttavat New Yorkissa auttoivat naisen Kalifornian-junaan.

Los Angelesissa hän sai töitä sairaalasta.

– Tapasin tulevan mieheni sängyssä, Maisack kujeilee.

Wallace Maisack oli tullut tyräleikkaukseen, ja Elma oli hänen hoitajansa.

Wallace korjasi sota-aikana Afrikassa venäläisiä lentokoneita.

– Nauroin, että hän korjasi venäläiskoneita ja me yritimme ampua niitä alas!

Pari meni naimisiin Las Vegasissa. Heille syntyi kaksi poikaa, Gary ja Greg. Wallace työskenteli kassakonefirmassa ja Elma sairaanhoitajana.

Pojat pysyivät poikamiehinä. Greg asuu nykyään äitinsä kanssa Torrancessa ja Gary Oregonissa. Elman rinnalla 60 vuotta ollut Wallace kuoli vuonna 2007.

Elma Maisack on käynyt usein Suomessa.

– Tapaan sukulaisia, hiihdän, kalastan ja uin. Suomessa on paljon mukavia asioita, mutta Amerikassa elämä on vähän helpompaa. Olen onnellinen täällä.

Happy Birthday Finland and Elma!

Elma and her son Gary

KATÉA’S BIG HOLLYWOOD DÉBUT

STORY & PHOTOS: TOMI HINKKANEN

Katéa in Hollywood.

Katéa in Hollywood.

Finnish singer Katéa was introduced to the Hollywood music professionals at the annual Musexpo music convention held at the Roosevelt Hotel across TCL Chinese Theatre. She made a splash at a showcase, in which she performed five of her songs to music moguls. Finntimes met with the singer at Musexpo for an exclusive interview.

The singer and the manager - Katéa and Sami Peura on Hollywood Boulevard.

The singer and the manager – Katéa and Sami Peura in Hollywood.

Katéa is escorted to the Rosevelt lobby by her manager Sami Peura. The experienced manager has been working toward this event for the past year and a half. There’s a badge that says ”artist” hanging on the singer’s chest.

Katéa’s real name is Katja Pihlainen. She was born in Vaasa, Finland 21 years ago. Since then she has lived in many places – Joensuu, Häneenlinna, Turku and nowadays she resides in Helsinki.

“I’ve always made music and sung since I was a child. I started writing music at nine. Since then, I have written and sung even more. This has been an interesting journey”, Katéa describes.

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She studied jazz under Taina Lehto in Hämeenlinna and classical music in Montana, where she spent a year as an exchange student at 15 some six years ago. Other than that, she is self-taught.

How did you end up in Montana?

“I looked at brochures with people running with surfboards on the beach, but I found myself in Polson, Montana, living on an Indian reservation (Her host family however, were not indigenous people). It was a really interesting experience. American culture opened to me there in a new way. It was also interesting to go to the Polson High School with my peers. It helped my career and I learned English there.”

Her host family were the Mattsons. The wife as working in a bank and the husband owned a mechanic shop. Their children had already flown the coop but there was another exchange student, a Norwegian boy also staying with the family.

“My ‘host-brother’ was a year older than myself. It was nice to have another Scandinavian in the family. Together we were able to discuss the things that were strange to us. It helped the culture shock.”

Speaking of which:

“People are quite different in Finland and America. Here, people are really social. I had to practice small talk at the beginning, so that it would come naturally. That year taught me to be a lot more independent. I learned to appreciate many things from Finland, and started to see the country with different eyes.”

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Polson High School was accommodating to her music.

“They had a serious work ethic. They allowed me to take singing lessons. I got a room at my disposal for an hour a day in which I was able to write and rehearse”, the singer reminisces.

A local school teacher taught her classical singing.

“He advised you should hang out with more talented people than yourself. If you play with musicians, make sure they are better than yourself. It has been a good piece of advice, which could be recommended for everyone.”

Although not a classical musician, she admires the genre.

“I admire the discipline and perfection. It cannot be done half-baked. I also like the work ethic. I like classical music, even though I would not do it myself for a living. I could practice it more. Classical training has taught me about voice and vocalization in many different ways.”

katea-10

After returning to Finland, Katéa enrolled in Juhana Herttua’s Performing Arts School in Turku.

“I composed a lot of music there. I got acquainted with musician and mixer Timo Haanpää, who owns a studio in Turku. We started collaborating, performing cover songs to gain experience in performing.”

Together they played at local clubs and rehearsed in a studio built in a bomb shelter.

“I started to bring my own songs to the studio. We discussed them and began to produce them together. Timo taught me about producing and technology. I spent a lot of time in there. I learned how to use a microphone, and what happens in the mixing process. I am a perfectionist and want to understand the whole palette. It was a fruitful time for me as a musician.”

At 18 Katéa moved to The Netherlands for six months.

“I worked, composed and got to know some rappers in Rotterdam.”

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She plays the piano and the guitar ‘sufficiently’, as she puts it in her own words. Her work method in the beginning was quite unusual.

“The text is terribly important to me. So, I wrote the lyrics first and then started to think about what kind of world it is musically. I didn’t realize that it’s a strange way to make music, but it suited me back then.”

Her process has since changed as producers and other professionals have entered the picture. Katéa has purposefully kept a low profile, finessing her art, fine tuning her songs. In fact the world had not heard of her until a song called ‘That Ain’t Love’ came about.

“It was born last December in Stockholm. I was in the studio with three Swedish producers and a New Zealand lyricist. The song was created in collaboration with this young production team called Money Bridge.”

katea-3

After presenting their demo for the song ‘That Ain’t Love’, the production team got a music publishing contract with BMG Chrysalis. BMG is a big international music company focused on the management of music publishing, recording rights and music distribution. The single came out in April and can be heard here: http://www.clashmusic.com/news/premiere-kat%C3%A9a-that-aint-love

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Katéa returned to America for the first time since her exchange student year. This time around she is accompanied by two Finnish musicians, pianist Joni Saukkoriipi and guitarist Antti Merisalo, as well as manager Sami Peura. ‘That Ain’t Love’ could be heard everywhere at Musexpo – at the café, by the swimming pool and in between panel discussions on the hallways. Katéa also performed it for a local LA station Radio Summit.

Katéa and Sami Peura

Katéa and Sami Peura

As the interview took place, manager Peura was preparing for Katéa’s big night – a 20 minute showcase at a studio instruments rental company S.I.R. stage on Sunset Boulevard.

“There will be representatives from record companies, representatives of the American and the international program office, TV, film and game industry people. Some of them have come specifically to watch the Katéa”, Peura, who has been in music business for 20 years, tells.

“I hope to pique people’s interest and to be able to continue to work with these people”, Katéa says before the big night.

Performing at S.I.R. Studios on Sunset.

Performing at S.I.R. Studios on Sunset.

And what a night it was. S.I.R. Studios was teaming with young and hip music people. Katéa’s showcase started promptly at 8.30 pm. First pianist Joni Saukkoriipi and guitarist Antti Merisalo appeared. The strong Southern California sun had taken Antti by surprise – he had painful looking sunburn. Then, dressed in a black top and a yellow skirt, her raven black hair tied in a bun, songstress Katéa took the stage. She performed five original songs – ballads and pop tunes, culminating with ‘That Ain’t Love’. It was a fantastic performance full of emotion, incredible range and interpretation. The material she was working with was also very high class. If one had to compare her with other artists, Björk and Amy Winehouse would come to mind. We will be sure to hear from this singer in the near future. Right now Katéa is back in Europe and making rounds in Scandinavia, but California has left an indelible mark in her heart.

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“Los Angeles is an interesting town with interesting people who have lots of stories. It has been interesting to hear them. I’m interested in human psychology and how people  think. It is a big source of inspiration for me and I will use it in my writing”, Katéa sums up.

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Advance voting in the United States for the parliamentary elections of 2015

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Advance voting in the United States for the parliamentary elections of 2015

Advance voting for the parliamentary elections of spring 2015 is possible in the United States on April 8 – 11. The parliamentary elections take place in Finland on Sunday, April 19.

Every Finnish citizen who has reached the age of 18 years not later than on Election Day (April 19) is entitled to vote in the 2015 parliamentary elections regardless of the place of residence.

A passport or other official identity card must be presented at the polling station. It is also good to take the notice of your right to vote with you, but it is also possible to vote without it.

A person entitled to vote who lives abroad will be notified by post if the register office of his or her last place of residence in Finland has the correct address.
List of polling stations and opening hours on the website http://tulospalvelu.vaalit.fi/E-2015/en/uap_840.html

 

Further information on the embassy’s website www.finland.org and

 

Embassy of Finland, Washington
Tel. +1-202-298 5800,

 

Consulate General of Finland, New York
Tel. +1-212-750 4400,

 

Consulate General of Finland, Los Angeles
Tel. +1-310-203 9903,

ANTTI KILJUNEN’S CHRISTMAS CALENDAR

Antti Kiljunen reinvented the Christmas calendar.

Antti Kiljunen reinvented the Christmas calendar.

Christmas, or Advent calendars have been around as long as anyone can remember. Antti’s digital Christmas Calendar especially customized for Finntimes readers can be found at the end of this story.

An Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count or celebrate the days in anticipation of Christmas. Many take the form of a large rectangular card with “windows” of which there are usually 24: one for each day of December leading up to Christmas Day. The doors are opened starting with the first one. Consecutive doors are opened every day leading up to Christmas. The calendar windows open to reveal an image, poem, a portion of a story or a small gift, such as a toy or a chocolate item. Some calendars are strictly religious, whereas others are secular in content.

An Advent calendar.

An Advent calendar.

Now Antti Kiljunen has come up with an updated version of this timeless classic. Finntimes is proud  to announce that our readers have been chosen as test subjects for Antti’s Christmas Calendar of the 21st century. And here is the man behind the invention:

-I’m 33 year-old guy, originally from Paimio, southwest Finland. I graduated from Turku University, earning a B.S. in Business Administration. I now live in Espoo and work in Helsinki in the Financial/IT sector. My current job title is “Solutions Specialist”. I live with my fiancée and two crazy dogs. Right now I am anxiously waiting for our child to be born. That should take place in about two weeks from now.

Antti Kiljunen brought the Advent Calendar to the 21st century.

Antti Kiljunen brought the Advent Calendar to the 21st century.

For the past three years Antti has been fine tuning his invention.

-In the beginning there was no software component in the concept. It was all about the physical calendar. Then I realized you can use either the physical or digital version of the calendar, or both. The idea was to create the ultimate Christmas calendar. It would be something different from the ones on the market – educational and as customized as possible. So, I ordered luggage locks from China and bought hinges and lots of wood from a local hardware store and built the first prototype.

Antti the inventor.

Antti the inventor.

 

Antti has already had some publicity for his invention in Finland.

-I contacted a radio reporter from the Finnish Broadcasting Company, the channel that I listen on my way to work. Why him? Because by coincidence one morning he was talking about his tradition of making a Christmas calendar “box” for his kids every year – a big locked box that has a new surprise in it every morning. That’s sweet, I thought. This guy will like my idea for sure. And he did. We met and I gave him a prototype for testing. It was a huge hit with his three boys. This Christmas the reporter will pilot the current version of calendar.

A nativity scene.

A nativity scene.

Antti is currently testing his calendar.

-Last Christmas I got nine more pilot families to test the physical calendar. Now that I have the software too, they will use that with the physical calendar. A few companies, families and communities will pilot the digital only version, since it can be used as “stand alone”, without the physical calendar. Companies can insert digital sales coupons, company info, or season’s greetings for their customers. Families can insert texts like “Good Mike! That is the right answer. Now look in to the upper left closet in kitchen.”

A lock box.

A lock box.

Parents have hidden candies, coins, or small items to be found by kids who know the right answers. The questions are adaptable to the children’s skill level, so the calendar can be used with kids of all ages. Questions can be educational or social, like: “What is the register number of Granddad’s car?” Seldom do kids remember that kind of things, but they must either visit Grandpa, or call him. Either way, Grandpa will be very happy that his grandchildren contact him. Using the combo of physical and digital calendar, when a kid has the correct answer to the day’s question in the digital calendar, he or she gets the right lock combination number : “Way to go Paul! Good job. Open the day’s lock with code 344.”

Antti Kiljunen in New York.

Antti Kiljunen in New York.

The inventor got some help from friends and colleagues in creating the software and drawings. He hopes his invention will catch on and be found in stores – both brick and mortar and the internet kind in the future. And how is Mr. Christmas Calendar himself going to spend the holidays?

-We are probably going to stay home with our newborn and ask our relatives to visit us at Christmas.

This is the front page of Antti's calendar. DON'T CLICK ON THIS BUT THE LINK BELOW!

This is the front page of Antti’s calendar. DON’T CLICK ON THIS BUT THE LINK BELOW!

 

HERE’S ANTTI’S CHRISTMAS CALENDAR WITH CONTENT FROM FINNTIMES. HAVE FUN!

PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW AND ANSWER THE QUESTION EACH DAY UNTIL CHRISTMAS EVE. THE PASSWORD IS FINNTIMES.  www.virikekalenteri.fi

IRINA WITH A FRENCH ACCENT

Irina Björklund's brand new 4th album is called La vie est une fête (photo Richard Dumas)

Irina Björklund’s brand new 4th album is called La vie est une fête (photo by Richard Dumas)

International actress and singer-songwriter  Irina Björklund has appeared in over 50 films and TV shows and released four albums. In the Hollywood thriller  the American she played opposite to George Clooney and in the war film Ambush she was paired with her true life husband, actor Peter Franzén.

For 14 years the couple was a familiar sight in the L.A. artistic circles. Many in the Finnish community went to see Irina perform on stage at the Hotel Café in Hollywood. She would sing songs from her albums and play the saw. Irina Björklund and Peter Franzén were also regular stars at the annual Scandinavian Film Festival in Beverly Hills, where many of their movies were shown.

A year ago the couple, along with their 7 year-old son Diego, moved to Southern France. Her latest album is called La vie est une fête. Exclusively to Finntimes Irina Björklund now talks about her new album and life in France.

Irina Björklund's 4th album consists of old and new Finnish songs sung in French. (photo Jonny Kahleyn Dieb)

Irina Björklund’s 4th album consists of old and new Finnish songs sung in French. (photo by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb)

1) La vie est une fête is the name of your latest album. It consists of Finnish songs from 1940 to 2012 that you have translated into French. Tell me about this album?

A few years ago, while still living in LA, one of my favorite song writers, Timo Kiiskinen contacted me, asking whether I would be interested in recording one of his songs, Kaiken Nähnyt, in French, one day. That triggered an idea in me: why not translate a selection of my own favorite Finnish songs through time to French language? So I started doing it, and asked the producer of one of my favorite French bands, Nouvelle Vague, to produce it – Marc Collin, along with the band’s singer, Liset Alea. Them having a 100% objective view and not knowing any of the tunes before, said it was like “opening a treasure chest of untouched pearls” that the world hadn’t heard before. That, to me, proved that Finland has some absolutely gorgeous, international caliber tunes, that have only been held back by language barriers. The arrangements of the album are the result of a truly international collaboration – my Finnish band along with French Marc Collin, and Cuban Liset Alea. To my great delight, my favorite French label, Naïve Records (Pink Martini, Carla Bruni, Tanita Tikaram) embraced the idea, and is now releasing the album world wide.

In this picture caption Irina Björklund is performing the song La vie est une fête by Samuli Putro in a music video directed by Maarit Lalli and photographed by Rauno Ronkainen.

In this caption Irina Björklund is performing the song La vie est une fête by Samuli Putro in a music video directed by Maarit Lalli and photographed by Rauno Ronkainen.

2) In the video for the title song you are laying on sawdust in a circus tent, dressed as a circus performer as camels walk by – tell us about this video and its production?

The title song, La vie est une fête (= Life is a party, originally Elämä on juhla by brilliant song writer Samuli Putro) , describes in one song a human’s life, from birth to the last breath, in a nut shell. Just an amazing text, sharp and honest as a razor. For the video, it gave me the idea of showing a dying person, going through her life in flashes. I find the circus ambience visually entrancing… and just thought of this idea of a tightrope walker who have slipped off her rope… together with Pete Eklund, my partner in crime at my Finnish label Kaiho Republic. Circus Finlandia gave us the beautiful tools to make the video happen. And director Maarit Lalli along with DP Rauno Ronkainen gave it life.

Irina Björklund (photo Richard Dumas)

Irina Björklund (photo by Richard Dumas)

3) Are you performing songs from this album to live audiences in France, Finland or elsewhere and do you have future plans of performing them  – if so, what has the reception been like?

Yes, we have been doing quite a few live concerts in Finland – the album has done amazing in Finland, and to my great awe the concerts have been sold out – what a treat to be performing for full venues – very gratifying. We are still starting out with the international scene, but have so far performed in France a couple of times – the international release was depending on the French critics, so I was happy to find out it made the cut, and that the French liked what they heard.

4) In Los Angeles you collaborated with Peter Fox on your previous albums – is he still in the picture or have you found new collaborators in France?

Peter Fox and I stay in contact, and the songs we created live on (currently in commercials in Finland and such) – however the distance between us makes active collaboration hard – he lives in New York now, and me in France. But I simply see us as in being on hiatus – I’m sure we’ll find an opportunity to work together again.

Irina played the saw at the opening of the Marimekko store in Beverly Hills in 2012. (photo Tomi Hinkkanen)

Irina played the saw at the opening of the Marimekko store in Beverly Hills in 2012. (photo by Tomi Hinkkanen)

5) Do you play the saw on this album?

The saw is on hiatus for this album, too – however, I like to bring it out now and then during live shows, for a song or two.

6) You have released four albums now but many people don’t know about your music career – what about your collaborations?

I have collaborated on quite a few albums or soundtracks as either a composer, singer or saw player with artists/bands such as Miranda Lee Richards, Garbage, Samuli Edelmann, Olavi Uusivirta, Latebirds, Edu Kettunen, Mikko Kuustonen, Phoebe Killdeer & the Shortstraws to mention a few.

Last year Irina Björklund and family moved to South of France. (photo Jonny Kahleyn Dieb)

Last year Irina Björklund and family moved to South of France. (photo by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb)

7) I think many people were taken by surprise that about a year ago you and your family packed up after 14 years in L.A. and moved to South of France – why did you make the big move?

We just finally woke up to the fact, that LA is extremely far away from family and work in Europe – something had to be done for the family’s sake. And my French record deal had a lot to do with it – I also wanted to be available when my big dream of releasing an album in France suddenly came true. And honestly – we’re quite conveniently located for traveling everywhere now – I’ve been working a lot in New York and Finland this last year. Not too far for going anywhere, really. We do visit LA regularly for work and friends, too.

Irina spent her teenage years in France. (photo Jonny Kahleyn Dieb)

Irina spent her teenage years in France. (photo by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb)

8) How is life treating you in France in terms of work, people, friendships and what do you  like and dislike about living there?

Even if I spent years of my childhood/teen years in France, everything is still new what comes to the region we live in, work scenes, friendships etc. But we take a day at the time, and are enjoying pretty much everything except the French traffic habits. Not that I very much enjoyed LA traffic, either:)

9) How have Peter and Diego settled in France?

I couldn’t be prouder of them – after all, the French language wasn’t new to me, and they are the ones who must work the most.

Irina Björklund performs at the opening gala of Marimekko store in Beverly Hills, 2012. (photo Tomi Hinkkanen)

Irina Björklund performs at the opening gala of the Marimekko store in Beverly Hills, 2012. (photo by Tomi Hinkkanen)

11) What are your future plans – any new movies in the works?

This year I’ve spent a lot of time in New York shooting a film by Emilia Ferreira – The Erotic Fire of the Unattainable. I was lucky to work with brilliant and fun actors such as Harry Hamlin, Kevin Kilner, Caprice Benedetti, Edoardo Ballerini and Margot Bingham.

I’m also preparing to play the lead in a Finnish/European movie about a historically important Finnish lady – Aurora Karamzin. The movie is to be directed by Maarit Lalli, who also directed my music video.

Irina Björklund (photo Richard Dumas)

Irina Björklund (photo by Richard Dumas)

12) What would you like to say to your friends and fans in Los Angeles?

Happy Thanksgiving!! Merry Christmas!! …..and hope to see you very very soon, again!!!

LINKS:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/la-vie-est-une-fete/id838277163
Physical copy:
http://www.amazon.com/La-vie-est-une-f%C3%AAte/dp/B00FJAKW4U/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413322895&sr=8-1&keywords=irina+bjorklund
Merchandise department, order in the USA:
http://www.recordshopx.com/merch/bjorklund_irina/la_vie_est_une_fete/
Music video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwSxU7ySkhE
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/IrinaBjorklundofficial

Irina Björklund’s albums:

Oh l’Amour – 2006

Vintage Espresso – 2007

Chanson d’Automne – 2011

La vie est une fête – 2014

TEEMU SELÄNNE RETIRES IN CALIFORNIA

Teemu and Sirpa Selänne at the screening of his biography, Sel8nne at USC. The movie is a part of the first  EUphoria Film Festival.

Teemu and Sirpa Selänne at the screening of his biography, Sel8nne at USC. The movie is a part of the first EUphoria Film Festival.

The all time greatest Finnish ice hockey player Teemu Selänne, 44, ended his illustrious career in August. “The Finnish Flash” began his career in Finland in 1989. He then played 21 seasons in the NHL for the Winnipeg Jest, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche. Selänne is the highest scoring Finn it the NHL history. Now he has come home to live at the Selänne family home in Coto de Caza, California.

Teemu Selänne in front of an audience. Programming Director Alex Ago moderated the Q & A after the screening of the documentary Sel8anne.

Teemu Selänne in front of an audience. Programming Director Alex Ago moderated the Q & A after the screening of the documentary Sel8anne.

Teemu Selänne and wife Sirpa Selänne are sitting in the Ray Stark Theater  of the University of Southern California, watching for the first time a full-length documentary “Sel8nne” , directed by JP Siili. The screening is part of the very first Euphoria Film Festival organized by the Finnish Consulate General headed by Consul General Juha Markkanen along with 12 other EU consulates. There are about a hundred people in the audience – most of them local Finns. After the screening there is a Q & A with Teemu Selänne and the audience. USC’s Programming Director Alex Ago served as a moderator.

Q: What made you decide to agree to this documentary?

TS: -At first I didn’t know how much I would want to open up my life. Then I thought it would be a nice memory when I’m old. I’m happy I did it. It’s a pretty honest story. I didn’t want the documentary crew to be around too much. I had a job to do too. the whole process took almost 2 years.

A bulk of Teemu’s interviews were done in the Summer at his house in Kirkkonummi, Finland.

TS: -Summer time was easier, I was able to be more flexible. We were landing in Helsinki (coming from California), and I told my family there was going to be a camera crew waiting. They are going to do the story of my life and you are going to be part of it. They looked at me like, seriously?

Q & A with Teemu Selänne

Q & A with Teemu Selänne

Selänne says the filming didn’t interrupt too much of the family’s life. The Selännes have four children – three teen-age boys Eemil, Eetu, Leevi and a six-year-old daughter Veera.

TS: -the cameras weren’t there all the time, just a couple of days here and there. Our life hasn’t been so private anyway, that’s why it was pretty easy to do.

The Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007. In one scene Teemu is seen pouring water from his Stanley Cup onto the rocks of a sauna stove.

TS: -There are some crazy stories about what people do with it. I heard some people let their dogs eat from it!

Q: How hands-on were you in the making of the movie?

TS: -I wanted to know what was going to be in the movie but did not want to involve myself too much. I didn’t want to open my garage door, but they wanted it. I’ve been very lucky to be able to collect those cars. Actually we drove my wife’s car here. (I only have one, Sirpa quips from the audience), It’s too fast for her anyway.

Teemu Selänne saw the Sel8nne documentary for the first time at the EUphoria Film Festival, USC.

Teemu Selänne saw the Sel8nne documentary for the first time at the EUphoria Film Festival, USC.

Selänne is said to have about 30 antique cars in his garage. In the 90’s Teemu also used to drive rally in Finland under a pseudonym because the team owners didn’t want him to jeopardize his life. He was involved in a serious accident in 1999 in which no one died but his friend Kalervo Kummola, the Vice President of the International Ice Hockey Federation, was seriously hurt.

TS:  – I haven’t driven after the 1999 incident. I don’t have time for it from playing golf.

Q: What are you going to do now?

TS: -I played such a long time and lived a disciplined life with a schedule. For a little while I’m not going to do much. I like it that when I wake up in the morning I really don’t have to go anywhere. I can travel and be more part of the kids’ lives. After a while I want to find something that is going to be more challenging. I have a restaurant in Laguna Beach which is going to keep me busy. For a little while I’m just going to enjoy life.

Teemu then jokes that his wife Sirpa better not boss him around too much.

TS: -If the to do list gets too long she knows I can always go back playing hockey!

Sirpa Selänne watched her husband's Q & A from the audience. She is happy to have her husbad at home after years of living on the terms and conditions of his hockey career.

Sirpa Selänne watched her husband’s Q & A from the audience. She is happy to have her husbad at home after years of living on the terms and conditions of his hockey career.

Q: How were you able to overcome a bad game?

TS: -Bouncing back from a bad night was the most difficult thing to do. It’s the same with golf. When you hit a bad shot, forget that, stay positive and focus on the next one. Hockey is all about confidence, staying positive and believing tomorrow is going to be another opportunity. That’s the only way to move forward.

Q: Would you have liked to have played in a town more into hockey?

TS: -I really enjoy the fact that people don’t recognize me all the time. I can live a normal life and enjoy privacy. Orange County and LA have been happy places for us. You can surf in the morning, play golf in the afternoon and go skiing at night if you want – it’s only a couple of hours away. That’s my kind of life!

Teemu says he would leave his work in the hockey rink.

TS: -My family couldn’t tell whether I played well or not. Some players don’t talk on game days. I can watch Baywatch before the game starts. That’s my approach.

Q: Would you like to do more charitable work?

TS: -I think so. It’s something I really enjoy doing. I am going to start a hockey academy in Finland and probably here too.

Q: There was some talk of you retiring after the Stanley Cup victory – was it the right choice to continue?

TS: -I am happy I didn’t retire in 2007. There were still many great years left. Obviously last year was pretty tough for the Ducks and Sochi Olympics were important to me. I am thankful the Finnish team gave me one more chance to play a big role. It was important to me.

Consul General of Finland, Juha Markkanen chats with Teemu Selänne after the screening. Markkanen was instrumental in bringing the Sel8nne movie to LA.

Consul General of Finland, Juha Markkanen chats with Teemu Selänne after the screening. Markkanen was instrumental in bringing the Sel8nne movie to LA.

Q: You were on a book tour in Finland, promoting your biography Teemu written by sports journalist Ari Mennander – are there plans to translate the book into English?

TS: -There are no plans right now to translate the book into English. Obviously I have to take some comments off (Ducks Coach), Bruce Boudreau – I’m just kidding. There are too many stories about Finnish games for American audience. It’s better I remain a mystery man here.

Q: There has been some talk about you going to Finland to play for the Jokerit – is there any truth to that?

TS: -Our oldest son is going to go to college next year. My middle one is going to play junior hockey in Wisconsin. So, going now to Finland knowing my family can’t come with me sounds selfish. Of course a part of me still wants to play but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Or something weird has to happen if I wake up one day and decide I’m going to play on that level again. I think it was the perfect time to go out. I’m ready for another chapter in my life.

From the left: Pascal Ladreyt, Juha Markkanen, Sirpa & Teemu Selänne, Heidi Luukkonen and Alex Ago at the EUphoria Film Festival screening of the documentary Sel8nne at USC.

From the left: Pascal Ladreyt, Juha Markkanen, Sirpa & Teemu Selänne, Heidi Luukkonen and Alex Ago at the EUphoria Film Festival screening of the documentary Sel8nne at USC.

MINNESOTA DIARY

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A group of about 20 people is about to embark on a journey to Finnish history in Minnesota. Our bus leaves Minneapolis promptly in the morning for a small town named Cokato some 50 miles to the west. Most of the passengers are Finnish-American retirees. We traverse trough rolling hills, fields and small woods. Then the bus pulls in front of the Cokato Museum. Inside, there are exhibits depicting life in the olden days, when Finnish settlers arrived 150 years ago. Next door at Gust Akerlund Photo Studio there are some old photographic equipment, a backdrop for studio portraits and black and white photos in which serious looking people look straight at the camera. A four-year-old boy in a coffin is also memorialized in a photograph before his final voyage to the beyond.

Lunch at the Temperance Corner

Lunch at the Temperance Corner

Our trip continues to the Temperance Corner – no boozing here! There is an old school house, a church and a smoke sauna there. We enjoy a box lunch of pasties and (non-alcoholic) refreshments.

Old Finnish Church in Pioneer Village

Old Finnish Church in Pioneer Village

Many of the Finns who arrived 150 years ago came from the Tornio River Valley in Northern Finland and the prominent religion there was the Lestadian brand of Christianity. But Finns are Finns and notoriously we require our own little groups where ever we go. Thus there are not one but two Lestadian churches in town – The Lestadian Church and the Apostolic Lutheran Church. Both look exactly alike and I never got a clear explanation as to what dogma or feud divided the congregation into two – something vague about the role of the clergy. Then it’s off to the cemetery, where many of the headstones bear Finnish names – some misspelled.

Cokato Cemetery where many Finns are buried.

Ben Wheeler, whose mother is Finnish, tours Cokato Cemetery where many Finns are buried.

What brought Finnish immigrants here starting 1864 was the Homestead Act that gave free land to settlers who were willing to clear the forest and start a farm. The area was a remote wilderness then that had no railroad access. In that sense the past has returned, since there is no public transportation whatsoever in Cokato. So, if you don’t have a car, you are out of luck getting around.

The oldest smoke sauna in Minnesota can be found in Cokato.

The oldest smoke sauna in Minnesota can be found in Cokato.

Cokato is advertised as the oldest continuous Finnish settlement aside from Delaware that was settled by Swedes and Finns in the 1600’s. In all reality, there is no longer Finnish being spoken here and no Finns that I could see, unless you count the descendants of the early Finnish settlers 150 years ago. I call them Americans. Traditions however, are alive. There is a quaint atmosphere here. You never get a short ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to any question, but a long-winded explanation. People speak the same way they do in the Coen Brothers black comedy Fargo. And they call us Finns ‘Finlanders’ here. To me the old-fashioned word evokes images of Aleksis Kivi’s novel The Seven Brothers set in 1800’s rural Finland.

Pioneer Village, where old buildings have been relocated.

Pioneer Village, where old buildings have been relocated.

Back in Minneapolis I look in on the preparations of FinnFest and attend the opening gala patronized by the Finnish Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde, her husband, Dr. Hidde Ronde and the Consul General of New York Jukka Pietikäinen.

Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde and her husband, Dr. Hidde Ronde nad Consul General of New York Jukka Pietikäinen attend the opening gala of FinnFest 2014 in Minneapolis.

Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde and her husband, Dr. Hidde Ronde and Consul General of New York Jukka Pietikäinen attend the opening gala of FinnFest 2014 in Minneapolis.

It’s a fun program of little bit of everything that was to come in the festival itself. I won’t bore you with details but just pick out one outstanding act – the Roman Hilja Grönfors Trio, which performed traditional gypsy songs.

Hilja Grönfors Trio - from the left Kiureli Sammallahti (accordion), Hilja Grönfors (soloist), Valtteri Bron (guitar)

Hilja Grönfors Trio – from the left Kiureli Sammallahti (accordion), Hilja Grönfors (soloist), Valtteri Bron (guitar)

Minneapolis on the Mississippi River has been called the Helsinki of The United States. There are similarities. Both cities are clean and progressive with excellent public transportation systems and a pedestrian friendly downtown.

The golden hour at Nicollet Mall

The golden hour at Nicollet Mall

Things missing from Minneapolis compared to Helsinki are old historical buildings and the sea. But there is a new convenient tram that takes me from downtown to my hotel in Midway in a half an hour.

Minneapolis from the Mississippi River

Minneapolis from the Mississippi River

In my brand new rental car Dodge Avenger I head up north in search of Findians – descendants of Finns and American Indians. I have managed to locate two but they have not responded to my interview requests, so I decide to pay them a visit. The first one is an Ojibwe physician Dr. Arne Vainio, who practices medicine at the Fond du Lac Reservation near Cloquet.

An Indian gas station at the Fond du Lac Reservation near Cloquet

An Indian gas station at the Fond du Lac Reservation near Cloquet

I arrive at the Indian clinic on a Friday afternoon. There are about 20 patients in the waiting room. After stating my business, Dr. Vainio’s assistant comes out. No, the doctor will not see me even to shake hands. No use waiting until his shift ends either, the assistant says. I get a hand-written email address but when I write the good doctor a note, my email comes back undeliverable! Later on I hear Dr. Vainio had delivered a lecture next day at the FinnFest. Why he refused to see me, I suppose I’ll never now.

The home of artist Carl Gawboy near Lake Superior

The home of artist Carl Gawboy near Lake Superior

Undeterred, I move on to my next victim…eh, potential interviewee. He is a Findian artist Carl Gawboy, who lives in a breathtakingly beautiful spot by Lake Superior. It’s a rural area but I manage to find it with a help of the navigator. Gawboy’s compound consists of six red cottages that are scattered on a lush green garden. I knock on every door but the only answer I get is from a tan colored cat meowing at me from behind a glass door. There are chicken and quails in the chicken house – but no Carl Gawboy. His neighbors tell me they normally see a car parked on the yard but it is absent now. I stick around for an hour, leave a note on the door and leave. I never hear back from either Dr. Arne Vainio or Carl Gawboy, but here’s a watercolor Mr. Gawboy painted. He specializes in nature and indigenous peoples scenes.

A Carl Gawboy watercolor

A Carl Gawboy watercolor

Duluth on Lake Superior is a spectacular looking town with many historical buildings on a hill. The town was the center of the timber industry and many timber barons built their mansions in town. Winters here are especially harsh because of the lake effect that generates snow storms. I take a short cruise on the lake.

On a cruise on Lake Superior

On a cruise on Lake Superior

The young guide tells us Lake Superior is the third largest lake in the world and holds 10 percent of world’s fresh water. We could use some of that in California, I think to myself. But there are also 350 ships at the bottom of the lake – victims of brutal and deadly storms. Duluthians have gathered to the shores to enjoy this beautiful summer day. Some are entertained by a blues festival on the waterfront.

Duluth from Lake Superior

Duluth from Lake Superior

As the sun is setting I head north and drive through some beautiful forests with lakes glistening with the last rays of the sun. A deer and her fawn look at me and then run away to the safety of the woods.

A deer and her fawn in a forest near Ely

A deer and her fawn in a forest near Ely

As I arrive in Ely it is already dark. Jim Bettcher is the proprietor of Shagawa Inn, my home for the next three days. He hands me the key to my cabin. The resort is by Lake Shagawa. Some late night fishermen return from their fishing trip on a boat equipped with lights.

You can rent a cabin at Shagawa Inn in Ely.

You can rent a cabin at Shagawa Inn in Ely.

The next day one of the fishermen is filleting a Walleye fish in the fish room. I have a date with David Kess, a local Finnish-American. Dave is a retired schoolteacher, who is active in a myriad of Finnish organizations.

David Kess in downtown Ely

David Kess in downtown Ely

We go to the Vermilion Community College, where Ely Winton Historical Society has a museum. It is compact and nicely organized in different sections that show how people here lived some hundred years ago. Finns came to Ely to work in iron mines. There were five of them in their heyday. All of them are closed now.

A 1920's kitchen in the Ely Winton Historical Society Museum

A 1920’s kitchen in the Ely Winton Historical Society Museum

Some people would like to start mining anew, since it was discovered that this land holds the world’s largest copper deposits. I see signs on people’s lawns that proclaim “I support mining”. I wonder if they would still support it if they saw what happened in Sudbury, Canada some 700 miles west. There mining destroyed the nature and the area suffered near total loss of vegetation, permanently charcoal black stained ground and acid rain. Ely on the other hand, is a paradise perched next to Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness – a million acre (4400 square kilometers) area in Superior National Forest. So my plea to Elyans: Don’t let mining destroy your pristine wonderland!

A view of Lake Shagawa

A view of Lake Shagawa

David Kess takes me to his vacation house aptly named Camp David. His brother Paul takes us on a boat ride on beautiful Burntside Lake.

David and Paul Kess on Burntside Lake

David and Paul Kess on Burntside Lake

Later that day I meet Sally Koski Fauchald, a nursing professor based in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. She commutes to Duluth 75 miles away several times a week. Sally plans to one day retire in Ely, where she and her brother own a cabin. In the winter there are days when the weather gets so bad that classes are cancelled. That’s when Sally turns her car around and returns home.

Sally Koski Fauchald teaches nursing in Duluth.

Sally Koski Fauchald teaches nursing in Duluth.

But not tonight. On this beautiful summer night Sally, Dave and I dine at a marvelous Grand Ely Lodge’s restaurant overlooking a lake. It is my best meal on the whole trip – a green salad with blue cheese dressing, chicken soup with local wild rice and prime rib with potatoes au gratin – hold the dessert! A beautiful woman in a designer gown and with an air of a socialite walks up to our table and makes our acquaintance. She had heard us talk and that I was an out-of-towner. After a little chat she glides away with her entourage. Later on Dave tells me she is the wife of a supermarket chain tycoon. Well, that’s never happened to me in LA!

A sunset in Ely

A sunset in Ely

On my last day I visit the towns of Aurora and Embarrass. The latter too has a Finnish heritage museum – this one run by the Sisu Society. On my way back to Ely I see a sign “North American Bear Center” and pull  into the parking lot. They have four live bears there. They live on a 2.5 acre spread that has a woodsy area, caves, a pond and a waterfall.

Lucky is the star of the North American Bear Center.

Lucky is the star of the North American Bear Center.

This is Lucky, a seven-year-old male bear. Lucky gave us quite a show, after which he disappeared into the woods.  That last night, as I have retired to my cabin it starts to rain. I hear loons make a commotion on the lake.

My cabin at Shagawa Inn

My cabin at Shagawa Inn

I take my last swim in the crystal clear waters of Lake Shagawa and head back to Minneapolis. As interesting as the whole trip to Minnesota was, I must say I lost my heart to Ely and its lovely people and nature. I will be back – some day.

The writer waves farewell to beautiful Minnesota.

The writer waves farewell to beautiful Minnesota.

Finnish Concert Mass in Santa Monica on September 7th, 2014

Finnish Concert Mass in Santa Monica on September 7th, 2014 featuring Gospel Star Pekka Simojoki, Music Director Terhi Miikki-Broersma, Concert Pianist Ruusamari Teppo and Pastor Jarmo Tarkki and the. What an absolute treat!

Pekka Simojoen lisäksi workshopissa sekä messussa ovat mukana pastori Jarmo Tarkki, kanttori Terhi Miikki-Broersma ja Dallasin kirkkomuusikko, pianotaitelija Ruusamari Teppo. Jos olet Sibelius-fan, niin tiedoksesi: Ruusamari on Jean Sibeliuksen tyttärentyttärentytär!

 

ANTTI WANTS TO SELL YOU A PIECE OF FINLAND

Antti Kosunen is selling small plots of land in Salla, the Finnish Lapland.

Antti Kosunen is selling small plots of land in Salla, the Finnish Lapland.

How would you like to own your little piece of Finland? Now almost anyone can. Antti Kosunen, 48, is an entrepreneur and a dreamer with an absolutely unique business idea: The father of five children is selling small parcels of land in the Finnish Lapland for 399 euros (543 dollars) a piece on the internet. Don’t worry about the paperwork – it’s all taken care of. And anyone can buy, but Kosunen targets his service mainly to ex-pat Finns.

Entrepreneur Antti Kosunen

Entrepreneur Antti Kosunen

Finntimes recently interviewed Antti Kosunen while he was on a trip in Thailand. This is how he describes the philosophy behind his idea:

-One should have a possibility to buy a dream – experience a place that you can visit every time you close your eyes. The most important thing is that it is something real – a place of your own that you can visit. This lot is yours – that’s the whole idea.

The name of his real estate business is Unelmaa.

-The word is a combination of a dream and land, Kosunen explains.

Antti Kosunen loves nature.

Antti Kosunen loves nature.

He is not new to business.

-I’m an entrepreneur. I have founded and the sold software companies. For the past ten years I’ve been a business angel. We also established our own fund two years ago. Currently I’m an investor investing in technology companies.

Marshland near Salla.

Marshland near Salla.

How did you come up with the idea for Unelmaa?

-It wasn’t really my idea. We are four guys – friends, and we all have an international background. We’ve been living in different places. I have lived in the United States and Asia.

-In the U.S. I lived a year in Silicon Valley in 2001-2002 and before that I was an exchange student in New York.

Antti Sihlman surveys the swampland in Salla.

Antti Sihlman surveys the swampland in Salla.

Kosunen and his business partners developed the idea together.

-The idea of having something permanent was something we were thinking about. There should be a possibility for people with Finnish heritage to have something by which they can show themselves and their families where their roots are.

543 bucks will buy you this piece of land.

543 bucks will buy you this piece of land.

-We decided to buy a big piece of land and divide it into a hundred square meter (1,076 square feet), parcels and sell them. That would give people a feeling that they are closer to nature and Finland and have something real.

Salla borders Russia in the Finnish Lapland.

Salla borders Russia in the Finnish Lapland.

Unelmaa Company’s land is located in Salla, Eastern Lapland, by the arctic circle and bordered by Russia. The vast municipality covers an area of 5,872.21 square kilometers (2,267.27 sq mi), but only has some 4,000 inhabitants. So, one is basically alone up there.

Salla is vast but sparsely populated.

Salla is vast but sparsely populated.

The partners started the endeavor a few months ago but haven’t marketed it yet. So far they have sold a couple of tiny parcels to friends. They have a capacity to sell a whopping 12 thousand lots!

-Frankly, we don’t know yet whether this is a business or a hobby. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Taiga - or northern forest in Salla.

Taiga – or northern forest in Salla.

What is going to happen to that land?

-It’s a piece of nature that stays there whether people visit the place or not. But we would recommend people to visit the land. Salla is a nice place. When you visit your land you form a bond with it. Somebody actually said he would like to place a plaque there – something that would be permanent. It should be a place that anybody could visit – have a cup of coffee, make a fire, camp for a day or just visit with a local guide and perhaps pick some berries on your own land.

A bird's nest in the forest.

A bird’s nest in the forest.

How does a person locate his or her particular parcel?

-With a GPS coordinator. We have been discussing with local people in Salla to provide different kinds of services for visitors – such as locating their parcel. Someone will take you there and help you set up camp, make fire, or have a glass of champagne – whatever you wish. And if there is an item – like a family heirloom – you wish to place on your property, we can also have that done.

Antti Kosunen mountain climbing in Finland.

Antti Kosunen mountain climbing in Finland.

Let’s say you are flying from the United States to Finland – how do you get to your property?

-You can fly from Helsinki to Kuusamo and take an hour bus or train ride that takes you to Salla. After a half an hour car trip and another half an hour walk and you are on your lot.

Summertime in Salla.

Summertime in Salla.

What kind of a connection do you have to Salla?

-I spent quite a bit of time hiking in Lapland as a kid. That’s where I get my warm memories of nature. I enjoy hiking and camping in the wilderness. I love to listen to silence.

What is the nature like there?

-It’s a forest and a swamp. There’s a lake next to it. And when I say forest, it doesn’t look like a forest in Southern Finland, the trees are smaller, but it’s a forest nevertheless.

Visitors can enjoy a lake view on their own land.

Visitors can enjoy a lake view on their own land.

What’s a good time to go there?

-Anytime is good. It’s always a very different experience. We acquired the land in the winter time when there was snow on the ground. At that time of the year you see reindeer and snow, hear nothing but silence, everything is white – it’s like a Santa Claus country. In the spring everything wakes up. I personally like the forest the best but foreigners seem to prefer the swamp.

In the fall you can see “ruska” – autumn colors as trees turn. In the dead of winter the sun never rises and in the summer there’s no night but you can experience the midnight sun.

Different seasons offer different treats in Salla.

Different seasons offer different treats in Salla.

-One of the most unique experiences there are the northern lights, aurora borealis or “revontulet” in the winter.

-We figure most of the lots would be sold to people with a Finnish heritage. Another group would be Asians – Chinese and Japanese, because Finland is exotic to them. And the idea of owning a piece of land is impossible in many countries. There’s mystique in it.

Kosunen might have just the gift idea for that uncle turning 50 or that aunt who already has everything.

-We are no longer collecting things – we don’t want stuff but on the other hand would like to have something permanent. We are hoping a piece of land would be that “something”.

013 UNELMAA

For more info go to: www.unelmaa.com

 

WACKY, WONDERFUL INVENTIONS

REPORTER : TOMI HINKKANEN – SAN DIEGO

Last week 73 inventors from around the world  – including Finland – gathered at the annual Response Expo trade fair held at the Bayfront Hilton in San Diego to present their products to the marketing people. They hoped to get their innovations to the consumer market. Only one out of ten ideas succeeds.

inventioms09

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office receives over half a million patent applications a year. Approximately 300,000 are accepted.

Dephillia McClenon invented the toothbrush holder.

Dephillia McClenon invented the toothbrush holder.

Larry Moad invented the T-Bone Luggage Handle Extension – a suitcase handle extender.

-Many of the handles for carry-on luggage are short enough to cause lower back pain. Also, you have to turn your wrist around, so that your wrist is facing forward, which is not an ergonomic position. It can create muscle fatigue, carpal tunnel, arthritis, etc.

Inventer Larry Moad and his Larry Moad and his T-Bone Luggage Handle Extension

Inventor Larry Moad and his Larry Moad and his T-Bone Luggage Handle Extension

With his handle the bag is pulled like a garden hose. The idea came to him at an airport cafe.

-I was between flights. I had lower back pain, because I had walked this long concourse with my bag. I was in a café and watching all the people walk by. One guy who stood as tall as I, had a bag similar to mine with wheels. He was carrying it under his arm like a briefcase. I thought he is having the same problem as I. They just don’t make those handles long enough, I thought. Then I looked over to the cash line. There was an older woman who was waiting for her sandwich. Her handle was extended, but she was rubbing her forearm like she has discomfort from pulling her bag, the inventor recalls.

There and then Larry outlined the first draft of his invention on a napkin, then chopped it into pieces and put the cutting in two trash cans –  just in case.

-I got home, went to the closet, took out a wire hanger, pliers, tin foil, McGuyvered up my first T-Bone. I still have it.

Then the real work began. Over time he designed and finessed the handle, applied for a U.S. patent and hired an engineer to do a three-dimensional CAD drawing of it. That was used to make the mold and out of the mold the actual handles were produced at a workshop in Mission Viejo, California. The process took eight long years and tens of thousands of dollars.

-I have 950 T-Bones in the garage ready to go. Last year I sold 80 and this year 30 handles at a price of $16.95 a piece, Larry says.

He rented a table at the fair with $300 in hopes of finding a niche on the handle. He got lots of media publicity – like an appearance of the local Fox affiliate morning show.

Telebrands founder and CEO AJ Khubami invented the slogan " " as seen on TV."

Telebrands founder and CEO A.J. Khubami invented the slogan ” As seen on TV.”

Over the last 30 years Telebrands has sold hundreds of millions worth of products in a hundred countries around the world. They are impulse purchases, goods which the consumer does not even know they needed, such as the collapsing garden hoses and a three-legged walking canes. At the end of each Telebrands commercial the consumer is asked to call a phone number or to order the item online. This selling method is called direct response advertising.

A.J. Khubani founded Telebrands right after college in 1983. The company finds innovative products, manufactures, markets and distributes them in 100 countries world wide. Some of the recent Telebrands successes include the Trusty Cane and the Pocket Hose.

-People who have an invention can submit to . We have a staff of people who go through all the ideas, A.J. Khubani tells.

He is a dark-haired man with an air of a high-powered CEO.

-If we like anything, we offer them a license agreement. It’s like a book deal for an author. The inventor is like the author and we are the publisher. We never ask the inventor any money at all. We invest all the money. If the product is successful, we pay them a royalty. A.J. explains.

Only a few of the ideas will sell.

– I would say that 10 per cent of them have a chance, AJ knows.

Mercury Media CEO Dan Danielson examines Larry Moad's T-Bone Luggage Extension Handle.

Mercury Media CEO Dan Danielson examines Larry Moad’s T-Bone Luggage Extension Handle.

At any given time one can see 30 to 40 marketing company Mercury Media’s infomercials play on TV channels across America. The company is based in Santa Monica, CA with offices in Philadelphia, Chicago, New York and Boston

-We do media placement with direct response commercials and infomercials on TV. We get a lot of inventors knocking on our door – we probably talk to an inventor once a week, Mercury Media CEO Dan Danielson says.

His company builds an advertising campaign around the product.

-Some inventors have money, some don’t. So, we help them either to find money or with the resources we have, use their money wisely, create an infomercial, figure out what TV station to put it on, work with the telemarketers, credit card processing, creating a website and all the digital marketing that goes on as well.

Danielson’s main job is to decide whether an invention has commercial potential.

-That’s the biggest decision we have to make. It’s a very expensive business to get into. So, if it’s not a product that is suited for TV, we tell them to go do print, radio, internet, multi-level marketing. We direct them to another channel of marketing, if it doesn’t meet the basic criteria of TV.

In order to meet the demands of TV, the product must answer “yes” to the following questions:

-Does the product appeal to a mass audience?

-Does it have a good enough cost –selling margin?

-Has there been success in that genre?

If a product retails for $30 or less, Danielson will sell it with a 1-2 minute TV commercial. If  it’s more expensive than that, a half an hour infomercial is required. A commercial costs $100,000 and an infomercial $200,000 to make.

 

The Multi-Function Glove is for people, such as open market vendors, who want to be able to write down anything quickly. It combines a glove, a pen and a notepad.

The Multi-Function Glove is for people, such as open market vendors, who want to be able to write down anything quickly. It combines a glove, a pen and a notepad.

Director Jessica Delich from the United Inventors Association advises inventors to do their homework before investing their life savings to the invention.

– Make a Google Patents search to find out if someone else has already come up with the same product. Patent the invention. Do not fall in love with your idea, but ask people what would you change to make it even better. And do not ask for it from your mother, who thinks that everything you touch is as good as sliced ​​bread.

-A good invention has to solve a problem that a lot of people have – a common problem. So, that when you are running media on it, people relate to it immediately.

Inventors should check the United Inventors Association website www.uiausa.org for useful tips.

The Fly Swoop - captures flies without killing them. Once you vae caught them, you can release them back to the great outdoors.

The Fly Swoop – captures flies without killing them. Once you have caught them, you can release them back to the great outdoors.

And now to those other  inventions.

Raymond Thomas’ Trunk Savior enables you to hang grocery bags neatly in your car trunk.

Raymond Thomas’ Trunk Savior enables you to hang grocery bags neatly in your car trunk.

Raymond Thomas from New Jersey was trying to sell his invention, the Trunk Savior – a rack to hang your shopping bags in the car trunk. The idea came to him from his own life.

-My wife and I do fresh juicing – vegetables, fruits. They come in a lot of shopping bags. I have a sedan. When we put it in the trunk, by the time we get home, the potatoes and watermelons are all over the place, so you have to dive in the trunk to get them, Raymond explains.

The Trunk Savior installs in the ceiling of your trunk. The hooks bend behind as not to obstruct the trunk space.

Kathryne Walker's ComfyTape helps women with high heels.

Kathryne Walker’s ComfyTape helps women with high heels.

Kathryne Walker invented ComfyTape – an adhesive plastic strip that gets rid of the rubbing shoe pain.

-With my product you can wear your shoes and be comfortable all day. Bandaid is our worst competitor but it only works on the friction part and doesn’t take away the pain. Comfytape is clear and reusable – you get 4-8 uses out of it. It also works on different parts of the foot, Kathryne tells.

Hanger Station promises to keep your clothes on the door and off the floor.

-It’s for or wet, just ironed clothes, or when you are staging an outfit or packing or don’t have a closet. The product is a strip of plastic. Each strip holds 8 articles of clothing. You take off the adhesive tape and stick the strip over your door and you can hang hangers, inventor Mike Owens clarifies.

Wine maker Stephen Sublett from the British Columbia came up with the Ultimate Box Clip. The little plastic clips easily seal and subsequently open any cardboard box.

-One day I was bottling my wine at home and wanted to close the cardboard flaps. I got frustrated tugging the corners in and thought there’s gotta be a better solution. I pondered it for 15 minutes and came up with a simple design.

Christine Charpentier from the bayous of Louisiana became an inventor out of necessity.

-I have a daughter who got poison in her baby milk when she was five months old. She is 35 now. I still have a 160,000 dollar hospital bill left. I’ve been paying it off 100 dollars a month for all these years, Christine reveals.

She invented Microwave Pot Holders – cotton mittens that you can heat your microwave food without burning them. The secret is the material in between the layers, which Christine won’t reveal. She sells them for $20. That gets you a assortment of three pot holders in different sizes.

Andrew Yaros of Solana Beach, CA pitches Trio, his all-in-one toilet paper and personal hygiene wipes system.

Andrew Yaros of Solana Beach, CA pitches Trio, his all-in-one toilet paper and personal hygiene wipes system.

Andrew Yaros’ Trio is a combination of two bathroom fixtures. He is looking to get a retail licensing deal for his brainchild.

-It’s a toilet paper and disposable wipe dispenser. You put it in a regular toilet paper mount, Andrew explains.

However, you can’t just use any old wipes – only three companies make biodegradable wipes that you can flush down the toilet, one of them being the Finnish Suominen Company, whose wipes Yaros uses in his dispenser.

Ryo Masukawa presents CordRite - different size sleeves to organize cords.

Ryo Masukawa presents CordRite – different size sleeves to organize cords.

Ryo Masukawa introduced the CordRite – a sleeve to keep all your electric cords in order.

-I was looking at the mess of my cords. I wanted to make it safer for people so that they don’t trip over cords.

CordRite offers different size sleeves for different size cords. They proved to be useful and easy to install in test use. The product is available at Amazon.

Lunch Sense neatly packs your lunch in a small bag.

Lunch Sense neatly packs your lunch in a small bag.

Many inventors have tinkered with kitchen items. Lunch Sense organizes food items in plastic boxes that fit neatly in a cube-shaped box. Lid Gripper is a tool to open tight lids.

Handle It - provides a quick to install handle to any bottle.

Handle It – provides a quick to install handle to any bottle.

Handle It provides an easy-to-pour handle to any plastic bottle. Calendar Sponge relies on the idea that the sponge is the dirtiest thing in your kitchen and nobody knows when to change it. Experts agree it should be changed every month, so  the way to know when to change it is to write the name of each month to the side of the sponge. Thus a 12-pack covers your full year.

Norman Strohdach and the Cats of Thrones

Norman Strohdach and the Cats of Thrones

Norman Strohdach’s eureka moment was to invent Cats of Thrones – a $75 system to train your can to use a human toilet.

-It teaches a cat how to use a toilet in an average of 3-5 weeks. You start with a full litter box and gradually train the cat in the six step system. In the final stage you only have a seat for the cat – a small platform without sand, you don’t share the seat with the cat. We tested this on 1300 cats and we have 100% success rate, Norman beams.

Antti Leppäkorpi introduced his Stem Maid weed guard. You place it around a newly planted tree to prevent weeds from growing around it.

Antti Leppäkorpi introduced his StemMate weed guard. You place it around a newly planted tree to prevent weeds from growing around it.

Antti Leppäkorpi from Jyväskylä, Finland traveled all the way to San Diego to try to distribute his invention, the StemMate weed guard to the American market.

-StemMate prevents the growth of weeds or grass on the base of the tree. When you plant a tree, you put StemMate around the tree. When the tree grows, it will grow along with it and finally breaks down. It does not kill the tree, Antti says.

The product has been tested in cold and snowy Finnish winters. Antti is selling the StemMate for $20 a piece. You can order yours by writing to:

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS 2014: ADVANCE VOTING IN THE UNITED STATES

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS 2014: ADVANCE VOTING IN THE UNITED STATES

The European Parliamentary Elections will be held in Finland on May 25, 2014. The advance voting is arranged abroad between May 14 and May 17 2014, the exact dates vary in different polling stations.

Entitled to vote in the European Parliamentary Elections in Finland is:

  • Every Finnish citizen who will reach the age of 18 by May 25, 2014.
  • Every citizen of another Member State of the European Union, who will reach the age of 18 by May 25, 2014 and whose municipality of residence is in Finland.

Voters are required to present valid photo identification to the election officer. It is recommended to bring along the notice of the right to vote, but that is not a prerequisite.

Information about the advance polling stations in Finland and abroad and their opening hours are published at the elections website of the Ministry of Justice, www.vaalit.fi, and on www.finland.org website. More information about the elections can be obtained also from the Embassy in Washington (+1-202-298-5800), the Consulate General in New York (+1-212-750-4400) or the Consulate General in Los Angeles (+1 -310-203-9903).

The following advance polling stations will be open in the United States:

 

Washington D.C., Embassy of Finland

3301 Massachusetts Avenue N.W.
Washington D.C. 20008
Tel.  +1-202-298 5800
Open:
May 14-16, 2014 4pm-7pm
May 17, 2014 10am-2pm

________________________________________

New York, Consulate General of Finland

866 United Nations Plaza, suite 250
New York, NY 10016
Tel. +1-212-750 4400
Open:
May 14-16, 2014 1pm-7pm
May 17, 2014 10am-3pm

 ________________________________________

Los Angeles, Consulate General of Finland

Consulate General of Finland
11900 W Olympic Blvd, Suite 580
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Tel. +1-310-203 9903
Open:
May 14-15, 2014 12.30pm-3pm
May 16-17, 2014 10am-1pm

________________________________________

Denver (Highlands Ranch), Honorary Consulate

10197 S Stephen Place
Highlands Ranch, CO 80130
Tel. +1 303 3462502
Open:
May 16, 2014 5pm-8pm
May 17, 2014 9am-1pm

________________________________________

Ferndale, Polling station

(WECU) Whatcom Education Credit Union
5659 Barrett Rd
Ferndale WA 98248
Tel. +1 360 961 4000
Open:
May 17, 2014 9am-2pm

________________________________________

Honolulu, Honorary Consulate

Chateau Waikiki
411 Hobron Lane
(5th floor party room)
Honolulu, HI 96815
(door code ##352)
Tel. +1 808 943 2640
Open:
May 14, 2014 9am-1pm

________________________________________

Lake Worth, Honorary Consulate

523 Lake Avenue
Lake Worth, FL 33460
Tel. +1-561-582 2335
Open:
May 14-16, 2014 10am-5pm
May 17, 2014 10am-3pm

________________________________________

Portland, Polling station

Finlandia Sauna Products Inc.
14010-B SW72nd Avenue
Portland, OR, 97224-0088
Tel. +1 503 684 8289
Open:
May 16, 2014 12pm-8pm
May 17, 2014 9am-3pm

________________________________________

San Diego, Polling station

House of Finland
2212 Pan American Plaza
San Diego, CA 92101
Tel. +1 619 993 4436
Open:
May 17, 2014 9am-1pm

________________________________________

Seattle, Polling station

Living Hope Lutheran Church
Finnish School of Seattle
7305 208th Avenue Northeast
Redmond, WA 98053
Tel. +1 425 885 7320
Open:
May 17, 2014 9am-4pm

 

ALASKA DIARY

STORY AND PICTURES: TOMI HINKKANEN – ALASKA

Kenai Peninsula in Alaska has breathtakingly beautiful scenery

Kenai Peninsula in Southern Alaska offers breathtakingly beautiful vistas.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 15TH, 2013

I am on a non-stop Alaska Airlines flight 157 from Los Angeles to Anchorage. Exciting! The estimated duration of the trip is 5 hours 45 minutes, but we start landing about a half an hour early at Ted Stevens International Airport. From the plane window I see snow-glazed mountain tops everywhere.

Snowy mountaintops near Anchorage.

Snowy mountaintops near Anchorage.

The weather is crystal clear as we touch down this state billed as the last frontier. There are stuffed animals – a bear and a buffalo – on display at the airport. Not in a million years would you see something that in the politically correct California.

Stuffed animals "greet" travelers at ted Stevens International Airport.

Stuffed animals “greet” travelers at Ted Stevens International Airport.

I march to the rental car counter. After refusing the obligatory sales pitch for insurance, I pull my luggage to a brand new red Toyota Corolla. This will be my sweet ride for the week. The weather outside is about 60 F / 15 C. Although it’s only September, it feels like October in Southern Finland (Anchorage is on the same latitude). I have an appointment in the southern outskirts of Anchorage to meet some local Finns at their club house. The streets are straight, wide and well-maintained. Suburban Anchorage looks like outskirts of any city in the U.S.

The scenery outside Anchorage looks nondescript.

I stop for a bite to eat at a fast food restaurant. It is about 4 pm and it looks like the sun is setting. I better get to my destination before it gets dark (As it turned out, the sun wouldn’t set for hours. At this time of the year, the sun in Alaska appears to be in a perpetual sunset position low on the horizon). The Finnish Hall looks exactly like dozens of others around the U.S. It could be a town hall somewhere in rural Finland. Birch trees in front of the building are starting to turn yellow. I park my Corolla and step in.

Alaska Finns have their own club house in Anchorage.

Alaska Finns have their own club house in Anchorage.

 

There are about a dozen people inside. Jyri and Riitta Larm are running a cleaning service. The are in their 40’s and have lived in Alaska for 20 years. As a result, their teenage kids don’t speak more than a few words of Finnish. The 70-somethings Seija and Matti Raja have braved the subarctic weather for the past 45 years now. Matti made his career in construction, Seija was a homemaker. Both are now retired. Tuomo Latva-Kiskola, 50, found a wife and career in Alaska. He is a physical therapist, who enjoys fishing and hunting in his spare time. The couple has three children and a beautiful house near a lake. Many of the Alaska Finns – there are said to be about a hundred in all – are from Western Finland. Oftentimes they first migrated to Canada and then found their way to Alaska. Many work or worked in honest-to-goodness blue collar jobs. Many felt they were somehow left behind in the Finnish system.

Inside the Finnish hall.

Inside the Finnish hall.

Winters here are awfully long and cold. One needs to keep oneself busy in order to maintain sanity in such harsh conditions. So people belong to church and different kinds of clubs. Anything to keep themselves occupied on those dark winter days. I am being escorted to my downtown Anchorage hotel by Ulla Rantalainen. More of this interesting woman later. Downtown Anchorage is ugly. There, I said it, but there is no other way to describe it.

Downtown Anchorage

Downtown Anchorage

One-way streets are lined with sterile 1970’s hotels and office towers. There is no street life. A massive 9.2 magnitude earthquake destroyed most of Anchorage back in 1964. After that, the city was quickly rebuilt with little thought for aesthetics. The city leaders ought to be ashamed of themselves! Everything quiets down at sunset and this city of 300,000 turns into a ghost town. My hotel is the Econo Inn on one of the main fares. It is a somewhat drab place that has seen its best days but it’s clean and hey, at 70 dollars a night, who’s complaining. Besides, I only intend to sleep in my room and it’s for two nights only. Since there’s nothing else but fast food places open, it’s a Big Mac meal for dinner. After watching the local news I call it a night.

Econo Inn in downtown Anchorage offers modest and cheap accommodation.

Econo Inn in downtown Anchorage offers modest and cheap accommodation.

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 16TH

This morning I have a date with Tuomo Latva-Kiskola, the physical therapist. He and his wife have a comfortable two storey house on the southern edge of Anchorage in the Sand Lake district.

Tuomo Latva-Kiskola in his yard. Tuomo enjoys fishing and hunting.

Tuomo Latva-Kiskola in his yard. Tuomo enjoys fishing and hunting.

Tuomo drives us to the lake where rich people have their houses at the water’s edge, complete with private seaplanes docked at the end of their piers, ready to take off at their owners’ pleasure at any time. In fact, other people are clearly uninvited to enjoy the lake. There are signs posted everywhere declaring it’s a private area.

Sand lake - the stomping ground of the Anchorage well-heeled crowd.

Sand Lake – the stomping ground of the Anchorage well-heeled crowd.

Only winter brings a little bit of equality to this affluent suburb. As the lake freezes over, the locals get to go ice skating and skiing on the lake. Anyway, by that time, most of the rich people have taken off on their planes to Florida or somewhere else for the winter. After I bid adieu to Tuomo, I stop at City Diner for lunch. At $16.95, the old-fashioned pot roast with mashed potatoes sounds a bit pricey but I decide on it anyway. After waiting for what seems like an eternity, my entrée is brought to me. It is delicious.  After lunch it’s time to explore the city. Not much to see in Anchorage, unless you’re into a mall or a museum. I find the charming little Elderberry Park at the end of the 5th Avenue. With a paper cup of hot coffee, I sit down at one of the park tables to write my assignment for that night, watching people walk their dogs and kids play at the playground. Another fast food dinner, TV and bed.

Tomi Hinkkanen in Eldenberry Park, Anchorage.

Tomi Hinkkanen in Elderberry Park, Anchorage.

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17TH

I am up bright and early at 6.30 am, since I have a long drive ahead of me. I am heading to Denali National Park, some five hours to the north. It is the shoulder season, so regular tours of the park are not offered at this time of the year. However, I have reserved a five-hour bus tour with Aramark Company, still offering some of the last tours of the year. I check out of my hotel, since I have another accommodation for that night. It is freezing outside. The rowan trees on the parking lot are full of blood red berries. Old-time Finns know it means it’s going to be a cold, snowy winter.

Rowan trees are full of berries in Anchorage - a sure sign of an upcoming cold and snowy winter.

Rowan trees are full of berries in Anchorage – a sure sign of an upcoming cold and snowy winter.

I head north on Glenn Highway. It’s starting to drizzle. After about 20 minutes I pass Wasilla, a small town perhaps best known for its one-time mayor, Sarah Palin. I fill the tank – wouldn’t want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere with an empty tank. After about a half an hour, the four-lane highway turns into a two lane country road. There are very few cars anywhere. The fall colors are spectacular. As I get close to the park, I stop at a vista point to take a picture of the mountains.

_DSF5020

The tallest peak in the entire North America is here – Mount McKinley. Most days the park is overcast, but I think I manage to capture it before the clouds set in. The Denali National Park is huge – six million acres. That’s over 24,000 square kilometers, folks – larger than the state of Massachusetts. As I enter the park grounds, I feel the same vibe as the in the Stanley Kubrick horror film The Shining starring Jack Nicholson. There’s even a hotel on a mountainside (The Grande Denali Lodge), that looks like Overlook Hotel in the movie.

The Grande Denali Lodge can be seen on the mountainside.

The Grande Denali Lodge can be seen on the mountainside.

As it turns out, my comparison is not so far-fetched. I and about 25 others that are taking today’s tour are one of the last visitors to the park this season. After that, the tours end for the season, the visitors center, hotel (buu) and most activities shut down. Only a small skeleton crew remains over winter as caretakers.

Denali National Park visitors' center.

Denali National Park visitors’ center.

Tour guide Caroline welcomes our group gathered in the visitors center. We are given box lunches and onto the bus we step. Caroline doubles as a driver as well. With a headset on, she narrates through the five hour tour, talking about the flora and fauna of the park.

Denali bus tour takes you through the national park.

Denali bus tour takes you through the national park.

The mammals that make their home here include bears, moose and wolves. It is a tough place to live. The temperature hovers around the freezing point and it’s only mid September.

Fall foliage of Denali.

Fall foliage of Denali.

The fall colors in different shades of rust are mesmerizing. Twice we disembark the bus and take a little walking tour through the wilderness. At the end of the tour we spot a moose by the road. Cameras click as everyone jockeys to capture the animal on their memory cards.

Tourists view Denali's natural wonders from a vista point.

Tourists view Denali’s natural wonders from a vista point.

After the tour I thank and shake hands with Caroline, who has been such a knowledgeable guide. The shy woman doesn’t want to be photographed. Even though I had an inkling of Alaska’s vastness, it still took me somewhat by surprise. I booked myself a cabin for the three remaining nights in Cooper Landing, located in the Kenai Peninsula, 200 miles (320 km) away. And we are not talking about freeway miles either. The estimated travel time is six hours.

IMG_2230

As it turned out, at this time of the year the road construction workers are frantically trying to finish repaving roads before winter sets in. So, I had to wait about a half an hour in one spot before we motorists were let to proceed. I strike up a conversation with two fellows, who had been moose hunting. Their catch lay in pieces in the back of the guys’ pick-up truck. This topic is definitely out of my comfort zone.

Hunters and their catch in the back of their red pick-up.

Hunters and their catch in the back of their red pick-up.

Even though it is already pitch dark as I get to the Kenai Peninsula, I immediately realize I have come to a very special place. At 1.30 am I pull in the parking lot of the Kenai Drifter’s River Lodge in Cooper Landing, a township of some 300 residents. The manager kindly comes out to hand me the keys to my two storey cabin named after the late George Nelson, a game warden, hunter and trapper.

Kenai River Lodge sign at night.

Kenai Drifter’s River Lodge sign at night.

My cabin has all the comforts of home. On the first level there’s a bathroom with a shower, a kitchenette with a stove, microwave and a refrigerator and a living room area with a couch, table and chairs.

The cabin has all creature comforts.

The cabin has all creature comforts.

A sliding door leads to a balcony overlooking the Kenai River. I stock the fridge with food items I purchased on the way. After a hot shower and a snack I climb upstairs and fall asleep in my queen-sized bed.

My cabin  Jack Lean on grounds of the Kenai River Lodge.

My cabin on grounds of the Kenai Drifter’s River Lodge.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18TH

After yesterday’s long drive, I wake up late. I walk down the path to the green Kenai River flowing fast by. This is a prime area for fishermen. In fact, the Kenai Drifter’s River Lodge organizes fishing expeditions that leave early in the morning. One such trip has just concluded and the happy fishermen walk past me with their catch. I have a chat with one of the lodge maids – a California girl from San Diego. She has spent her first summer in Alaska and intends to stay over winter at another resort. The River Lodge will close in two weeks for the winter.

You can rent a cabin at Kenai River Lodge.

You can rent a cabin at Kenai Drifter’s River Lodge.

Later on I see many places that are already closed. To me it’s a plus. It is peaceful and serene. I feel far, far away from civilization and all its troubles. I take a little drive, keeping the radio turned off, take in the breathtakingly beautiful scenery – and take lots of pictures. The clouds hang low on mountainsides. At one moment it’s sunny, the next it rains. A perfect time to cuddle on the sofa with a good book and to just relax.

Kenai River

Kenai River

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 19TH

I am on my way to Seward, a town an hour and a half away from Cooper Landing on the southern tip of the peninsula. Again, I run into some road construction and have to wait, but no worries, I have all the time in the world. Seward was named after the Secretary of State William Seward, who negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia for 7 million dollars in 1867. Seward was ridiculed for this and the deal called “Seward’s Folly”. It goes down in history as possibly the best real estate deal ever and Seward himself as one of the best secretaries of state because of it..

Seward is located on tip of the Kenai Peninsula.

Seward is located on tip of the Kenai Peninsula.

But Seward the town is a small place of some 2600 people nestled in an inlet surrounded by snow-capped mountains. In the nearby small boat harbor there are fishing vessels and tour boats ready to take you for a ride. It’s time for lunch. I settle for Alaska Nellie’s Roadhouse – a modest-looking diner on the town’s main drag. As it turns out, a big mistake. Without thinking twice or looking at the price, I order fish and chips (after all, one should have a sea food meal here). The food is mediocre, but the bill is not – 27 dollars for the meal and a Coke! So, with a small tip that comes to 30 bucks! As I leave, in front of the restaurant I see the manager (Nellie herself, I presume), talking to a friend about her plans to winter in Florida (Yes, with money from suckers like me, I fume to myself). I walk around Seward. At summertime this is a touristy town and also the cruise ships stop here. So there are plenty of souvenir shops and restaurants to choose from.

Downtown Seward is small and touristy.

Downtown Seward is small and touristy.

At the waterfront I run into an interesting bearded man. He is working for Nokia’s Here Business, mapping the highways of Alaska. Here Maps is a similar service to Google Street View. The man says it takes him five weeks to map all Alaska highways. Once in a while he runs into a bit of trouble in his business. In certain neighborhoods people don’t appreciate their homes being photographed. Ironically, the resistance normally happens in either very wealthy or very poor neighborhoods.

This man is mapping Alaska highways for Nokia's Here Business.

This man is mapping Alaska highways for Nokia’s Here Business.

I have a date with Tuula Hollmén,  a professor at Alaska University and bird researcher at the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward. The center is located in a foreboding-looking concrete building. My guess is it never won any architectural prices. The interior is more interesting. It contains everything you ever wanted to know about Alaskan sea life. Aquariums have different kinds of fish swimming about and there is a large pool for sea birds that the audience can see. Tuula Hollmén is a delightful woman in her 40’s. Like her subjects, she is tiny and bird-like herself. She has made a stellar scientific career researching sea life, sea birds and eiders in particular. I interview her for a newspaper story.

Bird researcher Tuula Hollmén sits outside Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward.

Bird researcher Tuula Hollmén sits outside Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward.

She is married to an American judge. They live in town. She has lived here for ten years and describes summers here as “cold Finnish summers” (Burrrr). The plus side is that since it is windy year round, at least there are no mosquitoes. Alaska is a bird researcher’s paradise.

Tuula Hollmén has carved out a career of researching birds in Alaska.

Tuula Hollmén has carved out a career of researching birds in Alaska.

Tuula can’t wait to embark on one of her bird expeditions that take her to all kinds of faraway places in this huge state. After saying goodbye to Tuula, I decide to take a long drive to the other side of the peninsula, to a town called Homer. After all, this is my last full day in Alaska.

The northern side of the Kenai Peninsula is sparsely populated.

The northern side of the Kenai Peninsula is sparsely populated.

My trip takes me virtually almost completely around the peninsula, the reason being that the road doesn’t go completely all the way around. The northern side of the Kenai Peninsula is even more sparsely populated than the south side. I drive miles and miles without seeing any human habitation, only scrawny small coniferous trees. Caroline at Denali National Park had told us those trees can be 200 years old but remain small due to the subarctic weather. I reach Homer at sunset and stop at a vista point to take this picture, which by the way is not altered or color enhanced in any way.

A view from Homer at dusk.

A view from Homer at dusk.

Next I head to the beach. There are some locals there, walking their dogs, but as it is getting dark, they too hurry to their cars. After my long drive, nature calls. There are plastic lavatories on the beach. I check into one of them. After finishing my business I try the door. It won’t open. I already envision the headlines: A man freezes to death in Alaska restroom. Is this the end for me, in a place that seems to be in the end of the world? Thank goodness, no. The door was just a little tricky. I get out safely.

Homer, Alaska seems like the most faraway place in the United States.

Homer, Alaska seems like the most faraway place in the United States.

Now I’m hungry. I drive aimlessly the streets of Homer, population 5,000, but everything seems to be closed. There are all kinds of houses of worship to satisfy any creed from Christian Scientists to Jehovah’s Witnesses but no place to eat. There is a roadhouse, but it looks kinda rough, and I don’t think I would fit in very well, so I pass. On the long trip back to my cabin I come to a town called Soldotna. By now it’s late and dark. I stop to ask a local man if there’s a restaurant nearby. He directs me to the Caribou Family Restaurant. There are only a handful of people in this cozy-looking place. I order a chicken dinner. It turns out to be the best meal of my entire Alaska trip. The satisfaction of a good meal washes away bad memories of Alaska Nellie and her outrageous prices. This dinner is half the price and ten times better. Again, I arrive at my cabin late and turn in.

This hungry voyager found a delicious meal at the Caribou Family Restaurant in Soldotna, Alaska.

This hungry voyager found a delicious meal at the Caribou Family Restaurant in Soldotna, Alaska.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 20TH

The final day. After packing up I go to the office to thank the manager of the Kenai Drifter’s River Lodge. It turned out to be a wonderful place to stay at a very reasonable cost of 150 dollars a night. The nature around the cabins is beautiful, the sounds of the river soothing and everything is very peaceful. The management didn’t make a fuss but left me alone, which is exactly the way I prefer.

Kenai River Lodge offers a peaceful place to stay.

Kenai Drifter’s River Lodge offers a peaceful place to stay.

My final date is with Ulla Rasilainen. Her story is the most interesting of all the people I met in Alaska. Ulla started her career as a streetcar driver in Helsinki but yearned to be a pilot. At 25, Finnair said she was too old for their pilot training! So, Ulla moved to San Francisco and got her pilot’s license there by taking private lessons. After working as an entrepreneur and flying FedEx cargo planes, Ulla moved to Alaska and worked as a bush pilot, delivering people and supplies in small villages in Alaska. About a year ago she got a job as a medivac pilot with a company contracted by the Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage.

Captain Ulla Rasilainen at the helm of her plane.

Captain Ulla Rasilainen at the helm of her plane.

She rescues sick people from dangerous and faraway places and flies them to the hospital. We tour her twin turbo engine plane at a hangar in Ted Stevens Airport. It accommodates a crew of four and there are two sick beds in the passenger compartment. She has landed this plane in -50 degree temperatures and inclement weather, rescuing among others, elderly cruise ship passengers, who have broken a hip or suffered a heart attack. It takes a special person to do this kind of a job and Ulla is that person. I truly feel we became good friends.

Ulla on a mission in Sitka, Alaska. Photo courtesy Ulla Rasilainen.

Ulla on a mission in Sitka, Alaska. Photo courtesy Ulla Rasilainen.

Then it is time to head to the passenger side of the airport, turn in my car (no accidents, thank you), and fly back home after a marvelous trip. Looking through the plane window the icy mountain tops disappear into the distance, I say to myself: I will return to Alaska.

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The Most Beautiful Christmas Songs – Kauneimmat Joululaulut

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CHRISTMAS SONGS

The Finnish Lutheran church services in L.A. culminated this year with the Christmas worship on the 8th of December at the beautiful St. Paul’s cathedral in Santa Monica. The theme of the day was The Most Beautiful Christmas Songs – Kauneimmat Joululaulut. Our pastor Jarmo Tarkki gave an uplifting cermon and the talented Terhi Miikki-Broersma from Washington State served as cantor. Finntimes videotaped the service and offers it now to our readers as a Christmas gift. Here it is in its entirety – The Most Beautiful Christmas Songs – enjoy!

Finnish Lutheran church services in L.A. Kauneimmat Joululaulut.

Come Celebrate Christmas at the Finnish Lutheran Church on 12/8/2013

Join us for a sing along of the most beautiful Finnish Christmas Carols at Santa Monica’s Finnish Lutheran Church on December 8, 2013.

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church is located at:

958 Lincoln Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 9040

Kauneimmat joululaulut

SIX LIVES OF GABRIELLA NEJMAN

Gabriella had to memorize 78 pages of dialogue for Ghosts.

Gabriella Nejman as Mrs. Helen Alving in Henrik Ibsen’s ‘Ghosts’.

REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – WEST HOLLYWOOD

PHOTOS: JONNY KAHLEYN

Gabriella Nejman is a lovely and talented 22 year old Finnish actress with an unusual background. Her mother is from Finland and father from Israel. Gabriella has lived in six countries. She is a classically trained dancer, who moved to Los Angeles a year ago to pursue an acting career. For the past year she has studied at the renowned Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in West Hollywood. Finntimes recently met with Gabriella and her mother Outi, as the young actress made her theatrical debut at her school’s production of Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts.

Gabriella landed the coveted female lead in Ibsen's Ghosts.

Gabriella Nejman as Mrs. Helen Alving in Henrik Ibsen’s ‘Ghosts’.

Gabriella Nejman can truly be called a citizen of the world, she  speaks English, Finnish and Hebrew.

She was born in Helsinki, Finland, and at the age of a year and a half moved to Israel. She also lived in South Africa, New Zealand and at the age of 17 she moved to Australia. Gabriella studied dancing at Dance World Studios in Melbourne. Then, when Gabriella was 19 she moved back to Israel. She took dance classes and met choreographers and they booked her for various events. She was in a production for six months, dancing and touring in a production called iFestigal. She describes the production as an amazing experience performing  four shows a day.

Gabriella with her mother Outi in the green room after the performance of Ghosts.

Gabriella with her mother Outi in the green room after the performance of Ghosts.

Were you always interested in dancing and acting?

“Since I was 15 I wanted to be a professional dancer. So, I went to train full time. I only saw myself as a dancer at the time. Everywhere I went it was dance, dance, dance. I was trained at Classical Ballet, Jazz, Contemporary, Hip Hop and Tap, I did some Salsa and Flamenco as well. It was only after I turned 18 that I discovered I wanted to be an actress. It happened while I was in Australia training to be a professional dancer. I went to a performing art school. We had singing, drama and other classes aside from dancing as well.”

Gabriella’s great uncle was a famous Finnish actor  Pekka Niskanen.

Gabriella shows a picture of her late grandfather, Yrjö Niskanen.

Gabriella shows a picture of her great uncle, Pekka Niskanen.

Gabriella tears up when the discussion turns to her beloved late grandfather Yrjö Niskanen. When she visited his house in Kuopio, she found an old photo album that had belonged to her great uncle, Pekka Niskanen.

“I saw the book and suddenly I recollected my grandfather always showing me that photo album as a child. It had pictures of different roles my great uncle was in – Romeo and Juliet, pictures of him in the theater and postcards made of him. They are beautiful pictures. I realize now that my grandfather was always hinting that acting has always been in my blood.”

The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in West Hollywood.

The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in West Hollywood.

How did you come to study acting here at Lee Strasberg?

“Well, I did my research before I came here. I went to see different acting schools just to get a feel of which one would suit me the best. When I came here, I audited a class – a method class taught by M. J. Karmi. 

A French man, Louis-Karim Nébati, who plays Pastor Manders in Ghosts, was on stage that day. He did a monologue about a rapist that I will never forget. He was living it. I believed every single word he said. I got so involved with it that I said to myself, I want to come here.”

Gabriella performing Ghosts with Louis-Karim Nébati. (photo Lee Strasberg Institute)

Gabriella performing Ghosts with Louis-Karim Nébati. (photo Lee Strasberg Institute)

Gabriella made her theatrical debut in August at her school. Tell me about the production of Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts?

“We started rehearsing seven weeks prior. First there was quite a big round of auditions for this. We had to prepare a monologue by Anton Chekhov or Tennessee Williams – one of the classics. I did a monologue from Uncle Vanya by Chekov. I did Sonya as an audition and got a call-back the next day. 20 girls and 10 boys. I got sides got sides for Mrs. Alving but also for Regina Engstrand. I went to the audition thinking I would be playing Regina. Then the director told me I would be playing Mrs. Alving (the female lead). I was thrilled.”

In the play, Gabriella plays a middle-aged woman, although she is only 22. Her birthday was April 5th. Amazingly, she pulls it off with flying colors. Her mannerisms, the way she talks and carries herself are all that of a 50 year old woman.

In Ghosts, Gabriella had to portray a middle-aged woman.

In Ghosts, Gabriella had to portray a middle-aged woman.

How did you prepare yourself to play a middle-aged woman? 

“I started to understand my character by breaking down the whole elements of who is Mrs. Alving – what has she gone through. I created her back story. Then, to be honest, my mother is that age. I was observing her – her actions. I am wearing her earrings right now to feel I am an older lady. That’s my secret!” 

After seven weeks of rehearsals, the play was performed for three times only. Do you learn lines quickly?

“I learned the 78 pages with great joy.”

Gabriella emulated her mother and wore her earrings to be able to play a middle-aged woman.

Gabriella emulated her mother and even wore her earrings to be able to play a middle-aged woman.

Tell me about studying at Lee Strasberg?

“Well, my first semester, I was in uncharted waters. I had no idea what relaxation and sensory was. In the first class we did the coffee cup exercise – getting the sense of the smell, weight, temperature, who’s the first person that comes to mind…these tools have become second nature to me now, and I will live and continue to grow as an actress within this working process each day. I’m so very grateful to learn and understand this ‘method venue’, and as actors, I realize our true size as artists is never finished; we simply develop more understanding and skill, as we continue to enjoy and survive real life.

Gabriella Nejman and Louis-Karim Nébati in Ghosts (photo Lee Strasberg Institute)

Gabriella Nejman and Louis-Karim Nébati in Ghosts (photo Lee Strasberg Institute)

The method class is four hours long. The first two hours we do relaxation and sensory. We relax the body. Sensory consists of different exercises. Then we do scenes from different plays. I’m here from Monday ‘til Friday. Some days I’m here from 9.30 am to 11 pm. Others are shorter days.”

Where do you live?

“I live in West Los Angeles area with my boyfriend he was a soccer player and now is studying finance and business at Santa Monica College.”

Gabriella Nejman with boyfriend Yarin Ohayon.

Gabriella Nejman with boyfriend Yarin Ohayon.

When she is not acting, Gabriella likes to dance.

“I did a performance not long ago for the EOTM awards here in LA. It was for upcoming artists. I also just joined a dance company called Keshet Chaim Dance Ensemble in Los Angeles.”

Cosmopolitan Gabriella is now on her sixth country. What are your future plans?

“I really want to stay in LA. This is my sixth country. I like it here, I love the people and the weather is perfect. Opportunities are here and I fell in love with this school.”

How often do you see your family?

My family visits me often and I normally go to Finland in the mid summer for Juhannus.

Kuopio, Finland will always be a home base fro Gabriella Nejman.

Gabriella Nejman as Mrs. Helen Alving in Henrik Ibsen’s ‘Ghosts’.

But no matter how many countries I’ve lived in, the one place where I have a base is Kuopio. That house was built  by my grandfather’s father and mother. They lived there. I’m very much influenced by their heritage and by the Finnish culture. It is something I put in this play.

Finntimes wishes Gabriella all the best in her life and acting career. Something tells us we are going to hear from this young, lovely and talented woman in the future!

SAN DIEGO NOKIA-FINN REACTS TO MICROSOFT DEAL

REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – SAN DIEGO

DATE: Sept 10th, 2013

Jari Juntunen has worked at Nokia's San Diego R&D for the past two years.

Jari Juntunen has worked at Nokia’s San Diego R&D for the past two years.

Jari Juntunen, 48, has worked at Nokia virtually his entire professional career – 21 years. The last two years he has been working at Nokia’s San Diego Research and Development Center. Along with his wife Agneta and a nine-year-old son Daniel, the family has made their home in “America’s finest city”.

Now that Microsoft has bought Nokia’s cell phone functions for 7.2 billion dollars (5.4 B euros), Finntimes went to San Diego to ask Jari Juntunen, what he thinks of the deal and how it affects Nokia.

Jari Juntunen’s job description is test manager. His team of about 30 people test out new cell phone apps.

-Many people here read Finnish newspapers, like Kauppalehti and Taloussanomat. All kinds of coffee table conversations have been swirling around for quite some time now, Juntunen acknowledges.

Nokia Research and Development Center in San Diego

Nokia Research and Development Center in San Diego

A lot is on the line. We are sitting at an outdoor patio of a German coffee shop. At the next table there is a group of Romanians, who have come to work at Nokia’s San Diego R&D Center, having previously worked for the cell phone maker in Finland. Juntunen estimates that people of at least 30 different nationalities work for Nokia here. Among them are some one hundred Finns. Their very livelihood was put to question as Nokia’s fortunes fell.

-We heard the news about the Microsoft deal simultaneously with everybody else. All of a sudden my calendar was filled with different in-house information conferences. They basically told us the same things that had already been stated in press releases.

-The message was that there was an offer to buy Nokia from Microsoft that was accepted. Then, they explained how the regulatory approvals will go and what will happen during the time before the authorities are expected to deliver an opinion. We will continue as before, and so will the design work, the engineer tells.

Juntunen is happy about the Microsoft deal.

Juntunen is happy about the Microsoft deal.

There were no Microsoft people at these briefings, nor was there any talk of lay-offs. The mood among the Nokia employees was upbeat.

-I would say that more than 90 per cent of employees were in a very positive mood. This was a very good outcome, if you compare options. We were aware of the cash situation of the company and the fact that there wouldn’t be enough money indefinitely. There was a limited amount of money to invest. And, unfortunately, it was also evident in the phase the Lumia products have spread. Now, we got together with a company that has money. Hopefully, the result is that the Lumia ecosystem will grow and spread further, Jari Juntunen opines.

Juntunen is optimistic about the future.

-I see a lot more positive than negative things . When you have been with the firm for more than 20 years, you’ve seen ups and downs. For me personally the discontinuation of the Symbian operating system three years ago was a bigger shock than this. We’ve been working with Microsoft  for about the same time now – three years. Our collaboration has steadily improved. By know we know how each partner operates. Now that we are one and the same company, we can talk freely about everything without certain bureaucracies.

How about possible lay-offs to eliminate duplicate positions between Microsoft and Nokia?

-I see this thing the other way around . Microsoft has always been a software house. I think that people at Microsoft are more confused than us at Nokia. Microsoft has now purchased the knowledge of what Nokia has to offer. The deal comes with hardware know-how and phone factories. They are totally new things to Microsoft. Press statements have told who will be the leaders of a new unit. Joe Harlow and Stephen Elop will continue. Microsoft will probably move people to the new unit. So I think that the confusion is greater there than on our side.

According to Juntunen, this is an unusual business deal.

-This is going to be exceptional to the normal transaction. The fact that the big chiefs from Nokia will continue and not be replaced by Microsoft people, I think, is a clear message that Microsoft has admitted that Nokia can make good cell phones. They don’t want to mess that up. Barricades have been removed and now we will be making phones faster and better.

Juntunen has worked his whole life in the phone business.

Juntunen has worked his whole life in the phone business. On his spare time he likes to play golf.

There is also a question of work visas, on which most foreign-born Nokia employees work in the U.S. – what will happen to these employees, including Jari Juntunen himself, when Nokia no longer is their employer but Microsoft?

-Our green card process is so far along that I think I will have it in my hand before the authorities approve this trade. Thus, the visa thing is not to touch me personally. There is no certainty yet how the immigration officials will see this. Since all the functions of the unit will move to another company, Microsoft, the most likely scenario is that the visas would follow along with it.

Juntunen is eager to continue working under the new employer.

– Of course it is a bit bittersweet to lose the Nokia name. After the completion of my studies, with the exception of a few internships, I have worked my whole life at Nokia. The company is familiar and so are the people. But I love the phone sector. It is a fast -paced business that never stops. I like it. If my contract continues, such as the higher-ups are saying, I see no reason why I should get into something else.

San Diego is a home to thousands of Finns. Many were brought there by Nokia. Now that the cell phone maker is no longer headquartered in Finland, will this stream of Finns to San Diego come to the end?

-I don’t think so. It has been stated clearly that the core functions of the phone business will remain here. San Diego is going to continue as one hub, even if the sign on the roof will change. Also in Finland, the R & D centers remain. I do not see any reason why the flow of Finns to San Diego should peter out.

NOKIA 2

NOKIA FINNS OF SAN DIEGO

Who are these rather insular people? A typical Nokia employee in San Diego is an IT engineer. He is a male in his 30’s or 40’s with a Finnish wife and two small children. The family usually owns a large, comfortable house in the San Diego suburbs, such as Escondido, Poway, Rancho Bernardo or Rancho Peñasquitos. The mother, who oftentimes herself is highly educated and was working in Finland, typically finds herself at home with small children in San Diego. She is instrumental in looking after them, driving them to school, hobbies, etc. There is not a whole lot of cultural or other “city” activities in these sleepy, far-flung suburbs, only houses, strip-malls and business parks. Typically all kinds of exercising is on top of their agenda. These elite Finns’ immigrant experience differs greatly from previous generations and the vast majority of today’s immigrants. The Nokia Finns start out with H-1B-visas (exceptional ability), arranged trough the company attorneys. Later on they will become eligible to receive a green card and citizenship. There is hardly any financial hardship, since the Nokia employees enjoy ample salaries and perks. However, that doesn’t help them assimilate into the American society any faster than anyone else. At least in the beginning, these newcomers tend to stick to other Nokia Finns and organize activities together. They also spend long vacation times in Finland, which prolongs the assimilation process into the American society. Eventually most Nokia Finns end up staying permanently in the United States.

Jari Juntunen chats with other dads while waiting for his son at Rancho Bernardo Suomi-Koulu (Finnish school).

Jari Juntunen chats with other dads while waiting for his son at Rancho Bernardo Suomi-Koulu (Finnish school).

PAULIINA HAUSTEIN’S SUMMER AT THE BOWL

STORY: PAULIINA HAUSTEIN

REPORTER AND PHOTOS: TOMI HINKKANEN – LOS ANGELES

DATE: SEPT. 3RD, 2013

Cellist Pauliina Haustein has been a part of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra during its 2013 Summer season.

Cellist Pauliina Haustein is a member of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra this Summer.

Hollywood Bowl’s summer season is soon coming to an end. The spectacular outdoor venue again hosted some of the music world’s biggest stars, starting with the opening concert that starred Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Patti Austin, and John Legend. The house orchestra of the bowl is called the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Finnish cellist Pauliina Haustein won the coveted position as a stand-in player in the orchestra. Finntimes met the young cellist to talk about her life and music career.

Pauliina Haustein, neé Pölönen, was born in Klaukkala, Finland 26 years ago. She was a musical child from the very beginning.

– I have been told that I started to sing before talking. In the morning, when my eyes opened, I started singing and continued throughout the day. At five, I knew lyrics of 60 songs – all the verses, Pauliina laughs.

Music was in Pauliina's blood from the very beginning.

Music was in Pauliina’s blood from the very beginning.

When she was four, the family moved to Corvallis, Oregon, where her father Ilpo did his doctorate in sustainable agriculture. Meantime back at the ranch, her mother Jaana took care of the children. In the often rainy Oregon, Pauliina became bilingual. A year and a half later the family returned to Finland. To maintain her language skills, Pauliina was enrolled at the Kaivoksela English language elementary school.

Pauliina's family came to see her perform at the Hollywood Bowl's opening gala. From the left: Mother Jaana, father Ilpo, brother Perttu and husband Martin.

Pauliina’s family came to see her perform at the Hollywood Bowl’s opening gala. From the left: Mother Jaana, father Ilpo, brother Perttu and husband Martin.

The Pölönen family has four children – Pauliina is the oldest. Her siblings are also musically talented. Sister Juulia is studying the 36 -string concert Kantele (harp), and brother Perttu film composing – both at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. Though he also has an ear for music, second brother Pietu became an economist. Pauliina studied the cello at the Conservatory and then at the Sibelius Academy, graduating with a BA in music.

In the summer of 2009, Pauliina and her cello headed to Sárospatak Christian music festival in Hungary. On her penultimate day, she met a German man named Martin Haustein, who worked there as a volunteer.

– He is a native of Wilkau-Haßlau of the former East Germany. He was 10 years old when the wall came down, Pauliina tells. The couple hit it off at first glance.

-I was living in Finland and Martin in England, where he was making his doctoral dissertation in Neurobiology. He found me on Facebook and Skype. During the first six months we met a couple of times in both countries. We found out that it was serious enough between us to begin to date, even though we couldn’t live together for the first year, Pauliina chuckles.

They married August 6th, 2011. At the end of the month they moved to Los Angeles, where Martin had gotten a job as a researcher at UCLA. Pauliina began house hunting. In addition to having lived in Oregon as a child, she had toured the United States with the Chamber Ensemble Halo, but had never been to Los Angeles before.

Pauliina practices the cello for several hours a day.

Pauliina practices the cello for several hours a day.

-I got daily panic attacks in the LA traffic. Even the idea of having to ​​leave the house and hit the road kept me awake at nights, she sighs.

Eventually they found a suitable apartment in West LA.

– Two days later I was sitting in the traffic and waiting at a red light. Someone rear-ended me at full speed. As a result, my car crashed into another vehicle.

It was a hit and run – the culprit fled the scene and was never caught.

– We had not yet paid for the car. So, every month we had to make payments on a car, which we didn’t have. Our insurance refused to pay for the damage that incurred to the other car. We had to hire an attorney and fight for almost a year before the insurance company finally agreed to pay, Pauliina fumes.

Pauliina suffered a whiplash injury.

-For several times a week for months I had to see a chiropractor. It took me six months to get back to the rehearsing rhythm, she recounts.

For a year Pauliina biked everywhere and through it learned the traffic patterns in different parts of the city at any given times. As we are driving toward Hollywood, she gives advise on what routes to take to avoid traffic jams as if she had lived here her entire life.

Pauliina has acclimated well to Los Angeles.

Pauliina has acclimated well to Los Angeles.

Haustein is practicing the cello up to four hours a day. She is also taking music lessons. Having recovered from the accident, she began building her musical career in the City of Angels.

-My friend, an Israeli-French pianist Pascal Solomon had married a woman who had a green card in the United States, and they had moved to Santa Barbara. We started putting together a concert program. Then I met local Finns. I got gigs through them, Pauliina gratefully acknowledges.

She then got wind of a TV series looking for musicians. There was no mention of the name of the show in the advert.

-I sent them an application with my picture attached. A month later, I got a call to come to the set of Glee at Paramount Studios. They sent me the song that I was to play the day before shooting. Based on that I wrote the notes for the cello, Pauliina explains.

Matthew Morrison is one of the stars of Glee.

Matthew Morrison is one of the stars of Glee.

The scene in question took place at the school’s gym. A string quartet played a song from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. One of the actresses sang.

-The scene was filmed with four cameras from different angles. We worked on that three minute piece for eight hours. We played for real, but what is heard in the final episode was prerecorded somewhere else, the cellist explains.

-The Actors were nice and interested in the fact that I am from Finland. I had not seen the show before, so I wasn’t star-struck. Only afterwards I realized that the guy I spoke with for 15 minutes was one of the main stars.

The gig paid $320. She has revisited the series twice since.

-The compensation was not great, but how else could I have been involved in a Hollywood TV series, Pauliina asks rhetorically.

Pauliina Haustein has gained success in California in a very short time.

Pauliina Haustein has gained success in California in a very short time.

She has worked at a steady pace – weddings, retirement parties, church concerts, and as an assistant in local orchestras.

Hollywood Bowl is an amphitheater that seats 17,000 people.

Hollywood Bowl is an amphitheater that seats 17,000 people.

Then, Pauliina heard that the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra was seeking musicians. Entrance exams were held at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. In the first round, 20 musicians played from behind a curtain, so that their appearance would not affect the jury. Pauliina and five others made it to the finals.

– At the end the jury applauded and congratulated us. Then they offered me an assistant position. I am now on  the list as an assistant to the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Pauliina smiles.

Pauliina's parents Jaana and Ilpo watching their daughter perform at the Hollywood Bowl.

The orchestra consists of musicians from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as studio musicians. To play with them at the world-famous Hollywood Bowl with 17 thousand people watching is definitely the greatest accomplishment so far in the young musician’s career. Pauliina played in the orchestra during the opening gala with Steve Tyler. The old crooner took a liking to the young statuesque Finn and winked at her. The summer 2013 season at the bowl concludes later in September.

Pauliina Haustein spent the Summer 2013 performing at the Hollywood Bowl.

Pauliina Haustein spent the Summer 2013 performing at the Hollywood Bowl.

JARKKO SIPILÄ’S LIFE OF CRIME

REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – SANTA MONICA, CA

DATE: 7/5/2013

Crime author Jarkko Sipilä in Santa Monica, CA.

Crime author Jarkko Sipilä in Santa Monica, CA.

Crime pays – at least if you are a successful crime fiction writer like Jarkko Sipilä. And he knows what he is writing about. Jarkko is also a crime reporter working for the Finnish TV network MTV3. The author is currently on a U.S. tour. He recently appeared at FinnFest in Hancock, Michigan to publicize his latest novel, Cold Trail. Finntimes caught up with Sipilä on Independence Day in Santa Monica, California.

He is a big and tall guy of 6’4’’, who cuts an impressive figure walking down Ocean Avenue. When some writers express themselves better on paper, both in his books and in person Jarkko comes across clear and concise. He is a story teller. Jarkko and the family are about to finish a tour of The United States that took them among other places, to the Great Lakes region.

Jarkko Sipilä's book tour took him to the Great Lakes region.

Jarkko Sipilä’s book tour took him to the Great Lakes region.

-I came to Minneapolis about three weeks ago. We did some book promoting over there. It was ten days of work, work, work. After that, my publisher let me have two weeks off in California, so I’m here now.

-I have written 18 books in Finnish, of which four have been translated into English. In addition, two books have been translated into German and two in Italian.

Which books were you selling at FinnFest?

-I have written four Helsinki Homicide books. The latest one is called Cold Trail, which came out in April. In Finnish they are called Takamäki Books and they are about a detective by the same name, who works at the Helsinki police department’s Violent Crime Unit. Hence the name Helsinki Homicide.

Sipilä's latest book translated in English.

Sipilä’s latest book translated in English.

What is Cold Trail about?

-In Finland, Cold Trail was the seventh in the Takamäki series. It’s a story about a convict, who escapes from his guards at his father’s funeral. It’s up to the Helsinki PD’s homicide unit to bring him back to prison. They start digging into his story and the crime he was convicted of and find strange things. The question that arises is: How far can you go to take the law into your own hands.

In light of the Trayvon Martin murder case, it is a very American as well as current question, isn’t it?

-it is a universal topic.

Sipilä has been touring the U.S. with his family for three weeks.

Sipilä has been touring the U.S. with his family for three weeks.

Scandinavian crime literature is red hot right now in the U.S.. Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy has been made into movies. When are you going to see a movie version of one of your books?

-Hopefully some time. I actually met with some Hollywood producers in Burbank. They have been reading my books, as well as Harri Nykänen’s crime series. They are trying to pitch them to TV networks and film companies. Maybe something will come out of it, or then not.

-The company is called New Wave Entertainment and it is akin to an agency. I met with one of their producers. We had a nice hour long chat.

-They have read Cold Trail and three other books of mine and they like them, but you never know… These are police stories and a lot of such stories have been made into TV series. But at this time we don’t have in the U.S. or anywhere else, for that matter, this kind of very realistic story telling. Stories and characters we see currently on TV are exaggerated and eccentric. In my books, the plot lines and characters are more realistic. The events could happen in real life but are still exciting.

If Cold Trail was made into a movie or TV series, could it be set in the U.S. or would it work better if actually shot in Finland?

-I don’t think it matters where you set it. It could be set in LA,  Northern Minnesota, Texas or even Johannesburg, South Africa, because police officers’ mind set is pretty much the same all over the world. Not every cop is corrupt, but want to get to the truth instead. That’s what good cops are made of.

Jarkko Sipilä's crime fiction has universal appeal.

Jarkko Sipilä’s crime fiction has universal appeal.

You have a brother who is your partner in crime – tell us about him?

-My brother Jouko Sipilä used to work as an investment banker on Wall Street in New York and got out of that business in 2008. The next year he moved to Minneapolis started a publishing house called Ice Cold Crime, which publishes Finnish crime fiction in English. In addition to my four books, we have two Harri Nykänen’s books and one by Seppo Jokinen. Anja Snellman’s Pet Shop Girls is coming out this summer and next fall we will probably have Jari Tervo’s Among Saints (Pyhiesi yhteyteen). So, we have very good books coming out.

Jarkko is always on the lookout for good story ideas.

Jarkko is always on the lookout for good story ideas.

What’s next for you – are you perhaps researching for a new book here in America?

-We did one book with my brother’s friend, who was also a New York banker. It’s a story set in NYC at the eve of the financial crisis. It’s a detective story about two bankers – how they handle the events leading to the crisis. I wrote the Finnish version of it. In the U.S. it is published under Scott Stevenson’s name. It’s called Decay Time. You always think about stories when you are on vacation.

Have you seen any crimes taking place here?

-I saw police helicopters circling above our hotel. You see policemen everywhere here. You don’t see that in Helsinki.

The mindset of police officers is the same everywhere in the word, says Sipilä.

The mindset of police officers is the same everywhere in the word, says Sipilä.

Are there differences that you have seen between the Finnish and American police?

-Like here, in Helsinki every cop has a Glock or another type of a gun. Maybe not the detectives but street cops. In terms of crime, Finland is quite similar to Minnesota. We have about as many people (5.3 million), and homicides as Minnesota does. The cold and snow cool people down, unlike here in LA where it is always warm.

You are not only an author but also a crime journalist – tell us about that?

-It kind of works hand in hand with the writing. You get a lot of ideas from working at MTV3 network’s news. I’ve been doing crime reporting for over 20 years now. At first for the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper and since 1996 for MTV3.

Why is crime so interesting to you?

-It’s not that it is interesting to me but to the TV audiences, readers, web surfers and radio listeners. I think people need and like to know about bad things that are happening in the society. Crime is a little like a magnifying mirror that you have for applying make-up and so on. That makes all the bad things appear bigger as well.

Unlike Wall Street's Gordon Gekko, Jarkko Sipilä says greed is not good.

Unlike Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko, Jarkko Sipilä says greed is not good.

-Greed is a big problem these days. You have criminals that are greedier than before. If you have a lot of violence in a society, like in the U.S., with wars going on, then crimes are also more violent. It maybe one of the reasons we don’t have that many violent crimes in Finland or Europe.

What’s your take on gun control?

-Well, of course you have to realize that shooting is an Olympic sport. In Finland it has some historical value with the long eastern border and wars with Russia. Finns used to think it was beneficial to have lots of guns in case of an enemy invasion. Putting up a militia type of resistance would be easier. If you don’t shoot as a hobby or you are not a hunter, maybe you really don’t need a gun.

If you are not a target shooter or a hunter, perhaps you don't need a gun, the author suggests.

If you are not a target shooter or a hunter, perhaps you don’t need a gun, the author suggests.

What kind of sentences should be handed for violent crimes – harsh ones like in the U.S. or light ones like in Finland?

-It depends. Maybe we should have tougher sentences for repeat offenders in Finland when it comes to violent or sex crimes. Sentencing should escalate more than it does nowadays in Finland. But being in prison really doesn’t make anyone a better person. The rate at which ex-convicts end up back in jail is high. Maybe the best way to control crime would be prevention, helping some of these people before they commit crimes. They are doing it in Finland. But of course you have high youth unemployment and that can lead into criminal behavior. That and drugs are a big problem in Europe. In my opinion, they are only going to get worse.

Where can people buy your books?

-The best way is to go to Amazon.com.

Are you working on a new book?

-My latest one was published in Finland about a month ago. It’s called Valepoliisi (Fake Cop). It may take until fall before I start working on a new one.

Finntimes publisher Tomi Hinkkanen and crime author Jarkko Sipilä in Santa Monica, CA.

Finntimes publisher Tomi Hinkkanen and crime author Jarkko Sipilä in Santa Monica, CA.

HELLO AND GOODBYE

Kirsti Westphalen and Juha Markkanen welcome Andrea Hautala-McAleenan to the residence.

Kirsti Westphalen and Juha Markkanen welcome Andrea Hautala-McAleenan to the residence.

REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – LOS ANGELES

DATE: 5/23/2013

At the Consul General’s residence in Bel Air, a change of guards took place Wednesday night. Kirsti Westphalen, who has served as Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles for the past five years, bid a fond farewell to the local Finnish community and friends of Finland. Then she introduced the new incoming Consul General, Juha Markkanen. Finntimes was there to record the memorable evening and to interview both the incoming and outgoing Consul Generals.

Outgoing Consul General Kirsti Westphalen introduced her successor Juha markkanen to the audience.

Outgoing Consul General Kirsti Westphalen introduced her successor Juha markkanen to the audience.

The nature of the event was evident already at the front door. Both the old and new Consul Generals were there to meet and greet the guests. They then mingled in the crowd. People were eager to say farewell to Kirsti Westphalen and to meet her successor.

Susanna Golche and Ava Anttila

Susanna Golche and Ava Anttila

Henry and Eeva Syvänen, Kirpi Uimonen-Ballesteros and Tiina Purtonen

Henry and Eeva Syvänen, Kirpi Uimonen-Ballesteros and Tiina Purtonen

 

Scandinavian Film Festival director Jim Koenig and actress Irina Björklund

Scandinavian Film Festival director Jim Koenig and actress Irina Björklund

David and Mira Scott

David and Mira Scott

The new Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles, Juha Markkanen, will assume his post September 1st, 2013

The new Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles, Juha Markkanen, will assume his post September 1st, 2013

Juha Markkanen has had a long career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland. He has worked in the  EU secretariat and the embassies of Tokyo and Bonn. His latest post was in the Embassy of Stockholm, where he served as Minister. He has also worked as Editor-in-Chief of the trade policy magazine Kauppapolitiikka and as Director of Information in the Department for Communication and Culture. He is married with Tuula Markkanen. She will be working on her Master’s thesis in education while in Los Angeles.

Juha and Tuula Markkanen get refreshments at the residence.

Juha and Tuula Markkanen get refreshments at the residence.

We sat down with Juha Markkanen for a chat.

Please introduce yourself to us.

-My name is Juha Markkanen. I think I’m going to use the name JP Markkanen – it’s easier here. I’m the new Consul General of Finland as of the first of September here in LA.

-I am 50 years old and I’m coming from Stockholm, Sweden. I have been in foreign service for the past 22 years. I hope to be of assistance here in promoting Finland in various ways and deepening the Finnish – U.S. relations. That is my task and I need co-operation with the locals. Let’s make this a win-win situation!

What did you do in Stockholm?

-I’m the number two at the Finnish embassy in Stockholm – the Deputy Chief of Mission. That work entailed a lot of administration and also reporting on various subjects.

-Here in California, I will also deal with Arctic issues, since Alaska is one of the states under the Consul General’s territory. In Stockholm I was evaluating the Arctic perspectives.

-Last week in Kiiruna, Northern Sweden, we had a ministerial meeting that the Secretary of State, John Kerry attended.

Juha Markkanen with Abdellatif Moufakkir, the spouse of Kirsti Westphalen.

Juha Markkanen with Abdellatif Moufakkir, the spouse of Kirsti Westphalen.

You couldn’t come to a more different place than that – Los Angeles – have you been here before?

-No, unfortunately I haven’t. We have only been here since this past Sunday – four days.

What are your first impressions?

-It is an enormously interesting and challenging city and state – huge traffic problems, but very friendly people.

Juha Markkanen will become the next Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles.

Juha Markkanen will become the next Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles.

Tell me about your family?

-I have two children – daughter Maria, 16, and son Juho, 18. We are now seeking high school options for my daughter and a college or university for our son. We have considered both public and private high schools. I have asked people’s opinions tonight and I also learned about a couple of schools nearby.

Your son could complete his undergraduate studies during your four-year term?

-Yes, that’s his wish. I think Santa Monica City College will be his starting point.

When you formally start this fall, what are the first items on the agenda?

-I need to have a chat at the office, because we have moved to a new, more affordable premises. Kirsti Westphalen fought for the survival of the Consulate General of Los Angeles (that was under the threat of being shut down). I need to meet with many people to gain knowledge on issues in order to start my work.

You don’t come in with a set agenda?

-No, no. I need to learn, I need help from my friends – Finnish and U.S. citizens, the media… This is a collaboration.

Is there anything that surprised you upon arriving here?

-Well, I knew that people would be friendly here, but that turned out to be an understatement. I have been received very warmly – also at the schools I’ve been evaluating for my children. After having spent four days in California, I am starting to understand how it is up to oneself to accomplish one’s work. You are on your own.

-I had a chat with the former Consul General Maria Serenius two months ago in Helsinki and got good advice from her. I highly respect both Maria Serenius’ and Kirsti Westphalen’s work here. We have had two excellent ladies here. Now it is a man’s turn here and I am trying to do my best.

-I am enormously excited!

Honorary Council of San Diego, Kathryn Mautino, gave Kirsti Westphalen a picture depicting San Diego.

Honorary Council of San Diego, Kathryn Mautino, gave Kirsti Westphalen a picture depicting San Diego.

An endless stream of well-wishers inundated the outgoing Kirsti Westphalen and her husband Abdellatif Moufakkir. I finally got a change to catch up with Kirsti at the end of the evening.

Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles, Kirsti Westphalen with Finntimes publisher Tomi Hinkkanen.

Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles, Kirsti Westphalen with Finntimes publisher Tomi Hinkkanen.

We are sad to see you go. Thank you very much for the wonderful five years that you’ve been with us here. Now you are heading toward new adventures as the Ambassador to Thailand – your feelings?

-Well, we are going to be really sorry to go. We are going to have wonderful memories of California. And I’ve got to tell you: California is going to follow us in our footsteps. I have a life-long interest in anything that is new, dynamic, progressive, sustainable – that is what California is to the United States and to the world.

-So, I am sure I will be following this sort of dynamics, wherever I will be in the world.

Kirsti Westphalen with real estate agent Janice Hiltunen.

Kirsti Westphalen with real estate agent Janice Hiltunen.

Over the years, what has been the biggest surprise to you here?

-I had lived in California as an exchange student, as a youngster. I was always fascinated by the diversity in California. Through this more professional approach, it has not been a surprise, but I have been so grateful of the fact that I have gotten to know so many talented people. I have learned so much of the direction that the world is going to take in the future – how people are going to consume, how they are going to behave online, what the world is going to look like and what direction it is going to take and what California is going to predict for Finland as well.

Ava Anttila and Christel Pauli from the Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce Pacific Chapter handed a plaque of appreciation to Kirsti Westphalen.

Ava Anttila and Christel Pauli from the Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce Pacific Chapter handed a plaque of appreciation to Kirsti Westphalen.

-It has been tremendously rewarding working as a liaison, communicating what is best in Finland to California and to the United States – for example, education. But also communicating vice versa, because the world is not a two way street. The world is a place of networks. Where the best brains, that counts. And that’s where the Finns should be.

And indeed you have been very active in communicating with other countries as well, in addition to Finland and the U.S.?

-This has been a particular honor that has been bestowed upon me last year, when I became the dean of the Los Angeles consular core, where we have the representation of 98 countries altogether. Virtually the entire world is present here in Los Angeles diplomatically.

Actress Lisa Niemi and Kirsti Westphalen

Actress Lisa Niemi and Kirsti Westphalen

-Part of the honor of representing the consular core is that you have the opportunity to take part in so many events and that you meet people from all of these countries. And you meet important Californians. You get to hang out with the mayor and the governor!

Tell me about the new premises of the consulate?

-We, as a part of the Finnish government, are counting our pennies. We want to make sure that where we use money, it is wisely used and invested. So, the premises have been changed to more modest and smaller ones.

-This has brought on important savings of taxpayer money. So, while we can cut down on fixed costs, like rent, we are able to retain the basic core functions of the consulate – servicing our Finnish community nearly ten thousand strong in 13 western states.

-And the important political tasks that we have here, in communicating what is best in Finland, whether it’s education, science and innovation, clean technology, sustainable solutions, whether it is supporting our creative Finns in the “Silicon Beach” kind of thinking that is so important to the growth of Los Angeles, California and Finland in the future.

Is there a particular item that you were able to accomplish that stands out that you are proud of?

-Perhaps I can say that the new way of doing things in a wider Finnish foreign service and Finnish public service – the team Finland thinking, in which all of us have to pull together to achieve results. That is what we have done here in California – not only during my time, but the time of my predecessors.

-I’m very grateful to see that the rest of Finland is going California way!

Abdellatif Moufakkir and Kirsti Westphalen are getting ready to move to Thailand.

Abdellatif Moufakkir and Kirsti Westphalen are getting ready to move to Thailand.

And now onto the new challenge – what do you know about your upcoming post as the Ambassador to Thailand?

-Well, I wish I knew more. Our embassy in Thailand covers countries of Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. This is a new part of the world and our employer is so kind as to always offer us new challenges, which I really will have in front of me. I have lots to learn.

-You referred to the fact that the consulate here was in danger of closing and we have been able to save the consulate through savings. I want to thank you personally, Tomi and Finntimes and all your efforts in getting the Finnish community organized and in communicating the strong desire of the local Finnish community here in supporting the activities of the consulate. Not only its service functions, but the fact that we are doing important work for the success of Finland here. So, I’m very grateful of that.

And I’m sure I will speak for all Finntimes readers in saying that we are glad we were able to help.

The Finnish community toasts Kirsti Westphalen.

The Finnish community toasts Kirsti Westphalen.

 

REFLECTIONS ON FINNISH-AMERICANS

REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN DATE: April 8th, 2013

-From snowbirds to oddbirds, there’s a Finn for every occasion.

Finns gathered on the grounds of Hauli Huvila near Reedley, California in the early 1970's.

Finns gathered on the grounds of Hauli Huvila near Reedley, California in the early 1970’s.

There are approximately 750,000 Finns and people of Finnish heritage living in the United States today, according to official statistics. It is an understatement to say that it is a very heterogeneous group of people scattered across a vast geographical area. There are Finns living in every state of the union, as well as a handful of pockets with greater numbers, such as in Minnesota, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Florida’s Lantana – Lake Worth and the Bay Area. Also big cities like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles – San Diego have sizable Finnish populations. 006 LA JUHANNUS 2012 In a totally unscientific way, I have identified the following six main groups of Finns in the U.S. and  given each group a nickname:

1) ORIGINAL FINNS: Those later generation Finns, whose ancestors immigrated to the U.S. between the late 1800’s and 1920’s.

2) POST-WAR FINNS:  Finns, who immigrated after WW2 in the 1940’s, ‘50’s and ‘60’s.

3) SNOWBIRDS: Florida Finns, who arrived between the 1960’s and ‘80’s.

4) ODD BIRDS: People like myself, who came to this country between the 1980’s and ‘90’s during low immigration years from Finland.

5) OFFICIAL FINNS: The staffs of the embassy in Washington DC and consulate generals in New York and LA plus other governmental agencies, such as Tekes, Finpro, etc.

6) COMPUTER NERDS: The latest crop to land into the country are the IT-people. They immigrated in the late 1990’s to present day. As you can surmise, these six groups of Finns are very different from one another. Each have some connecting characteristics.

The Simpsons producer Bonita Pietila hails from Minnesota. She grew up in a totally Finnish family but was never taught the language.

The Simpsons producer Bonita Pietila originally hails from U.P. Michigan. She grew up in a totally Finnish family but was never taught the language.

ORIGINAL FINNS:  As a rule, they don’t speak Finnish, even though I have run into such Finnish speaking Finns in the oddest of places – like in rural Montana and a mountain village in Utah. Amazingly, also many older U.P. Finns still speak it, though many of them have never even visited Finland. These Finns are as American as Apple Pie and you would never be able to distinguish them from the rest of the population.

Taisto Liski with his alter ego. Taisto immigrated to the U.S. in 1967, built a successful car mechanic business and retired after 30 years. He lives with his wife Helka in Signal Hill, California.

Taisto Liski with his alter ego. Taisto immigrated to the U.S. in 1967, built a successful car mechanic business and retired after 30 years. He lives with his wife Helka in Signal Hill, California.

POST-WAR FINNS: They not only speak Finnish but also retain many of their Finnish habits and traditions to date. I have friends who belong to this group. Visiting their house is like going back to Finland. This generation often worked in blue collar occupations, such as maids, mechanics and construction workers and earned their living the hard way. This aging group is disappearing fast. Their children and grandchildren are now adults and usually do not speak the language.

Finntimes publisher Tomi Hinkkanen with singer Eino Grön in Pasadena, California. Eikka has lived in Florida for over 30 years with his wife marjatta. He still entertains people on both sides of the Atlantic.

Finntimes publisher Tomi Hinkkanen with singer Eino Grön in Pasadena, California. Eikka has lived in Florida for over 30 years with his wife Marjatta. He still entertains people on both sides of the Atlantic.

SNOWBIRDS: They live in Florida and are mainly retirees, although there are also some entrepreneurs and a few very wealthy business people in this group. They of course speak Finnish but oftentimes the retirees’  English skills are poor. Therefore they tend to stick together and organize activities among themselves.

Jouni Passi's Burbank Spa & Garden is a luxurious massage parlor in Burbank, California, frequented by Hollywood stars.

Jouni Passi’s Burbank Spa & Garden is a luxurious massage parlor in Burbank, California, frequented by Hollywood stars.

ODD BIRDS:  This group speaks Finnish, although those of them who don’t practice it, lose it. Oftentimes they tend to be female and married to an American spouse or divorced from one. They can be found across the country in a variety of occupations from governmental positions to private entrepreneurs. They blend in the rest of the population. Many of them never attend any Finnish events.

Kirsti Westphalen is the current Consul General in Los Angeles.

Kirsti Westphalen is the current Consul General in Los Angeles.

OFFICIAL FINNS: These government officials rotate in and out of the country every four years. Their language skills are excellent in Finnish, English as well as Swedish, they retain all their Finnish habits, build connections with Americans, oftentimes socialize with one another and after their time is up, move to the next country.

Niko Ruokosuo, CEO of P2S Media Group Inc., a photo sharing business.

Niko Ruokosuo, CEO of P2S Media Group Inc., a photo sharing business.

COMPUTER NERDS: They are mainly men, who bring along their families, highly educated, speak fluent Finnish and English and are employed in the high tech sector in high paying positions. Sometimes they are on an assignment but oftentimes end up staying in the country. They frequently travel between the U.S. and Finland and maintain close ties with their friends and family in the old country. These Finns can be found in California’s Silicon Valley, Dallas – Fort Worth and San Diego areas. These people tend to have families in which the wife stays at home with small children.

The shoe manufacturing mogul Sari Ratsula with husband jussi and son Aku in Orange County, California.

The shoe manufacturing mogul Sari Ratsula with husband Jussi and son Aku in Orange County, California.

Epilogue: Finnish-Americans hail from different eras, experiences and socio-economic backgrounds. Like all people, they are a sum of their genes, environment and experiences. Against all odds, many second, third and later generation Finnish-Americans retain surprisingly strong ties to their heritage. For them being Finnish is an inner journey to one self. Understanding their background helps understand themselves – their stubbornness, their quiet ways, their fondness for coffee. The present day Republic of Finland is a totally foreign country to them and in their festivals and gatherings they rather wish to remember Finland as it was in the days of their forefathers.

Actress Lisa Niemi, neé Haapaniemi, was born to a Finnish immigrant family in Texas.

Actress Lisa Niemi, neé Haapaniemi, was born to a Finnish immigrant family in Texas.

But it would be a grave mistake to dismiss them as merely American. They are as Finnish as members of any other Finnish group. Environment affects political views. You will find that a Finn living in a small Texas town is likely to be more conservative than a Finn living in Hollywood. The whole immigrant experience varies greatly between generations and individuals. Those hard-working original and post-war Finns got the full experience of what it is like to start from scratch. The IT-engineer hired by a Silicon Valley company directly from Espoo, Finland, not so much. But whatever the background, place, experience or generation, all of the above are Finns in the true meaning of the word. It is the task of Finntimes to try to bring all these various Finns together to celebrate our rich history and heritage.

A Finnish gathering in North Hollywood, California.

A Finnish gathering in North Hollywood, California.