Monday, August 13, 2012
Postcards from Finland
These are my vacation videos! Aren't you glad that I offer them to you. Sit down, over there and pay attention, now.
Just kidding. This will be relatively painless and quick. First, the sky there is a deeper color blue than here. I don't know the reason, but I spent delicious hours on a balcony watching the white fluffy lamb clouds sail across the bright blue eternity. While sipping nectar and reading useless and trashy books.
Second, the silence. This is both because of a sparsely populated country but also because Finns mumble.
Third, the food! How would you like a helping of nettle waffles with cauliflower puree and odd sauces? Followed by chocolate mousse, liquorice soup and blackcurrant leaf ice-cream? With one glass of champagne that will set you back only fifty Euros!
To be fair, that was the one fancy meal I had but all the locally grown food (my family's vegetable beds etc) was delicious.
An expensive country, most argue, and it can be, for tourists. But Finns get stuff for their taxes, including such trifles as higher education and universal health care, so any proper comparison of taxes between the US and Finland should consider the education and health care costs here. Tourists should note that the sandwiches and even full meals at gas stations and highway stops are quite decent and that the coffee is excellent (unless you prefer a pale beige liquid as coffee). If you go, contact me for more tips.
I didn't see any government enforced camps or any of the supposed horrible effects of socialism though I looked hard. They even have Clear Channel! Perhaps not quite an unalloyed joy, that.
On issues that are of interest for feminists: Mostly I was pleased with what I saw, in terms of increasing gender equality. Young fathers were out with their children a lot more than where I live in the US, and construction and road repair crews had more women than here. The women weren't just holding up those warning flags, either, and seemed well-integrated and accepted. The numbers of women were still much lower than those of men but greater than my observations suggest they are here.
On the not-so-pleased side of the ledger, I saw several Muslim Somali couples (Somalis are the main refugee group living in Finland) where the woman was completely shrouded, often including a face veil and gloves, while the man walking with her was dressed in hip-hop type street clothing. Religious rules about modesty appear to have different bases for application by gender. -- That's intended as a criticism of religion and not of the individuals involved.
The most central impression of my vacation was naturally the light. The light! The almost never-ending light! The evenings, in particular, were mythical in their charm. And after rain the frogs/toads were everywhere on the wet asphalt, for whatever frog/toad reason they might have had. I had to shuffle my feet not to squash them, but they were still a welcome sight, given the recent worries about what environmental pollution might be doing to our froggie friends.