Monday, March 19, 2012

First Night and First Day: 1/2 a world away, closer than you think

First Night in Kauhajoki Finland

I stepped out of the car, it was late, and the father of my host family Passi Linna was there to greet me. Immediately met with a warm welcome, he invited me in to his home, introduced me to his four daughters and wife, Anna Maria. Pizza was waiting for me in the kitchen, while his two miniature doberman pinchers were trying to figure out who I was and why I smelled like I had been in NY for two days without my baggage.

The classic tourist trip that you take with your family, or the images of a foreign country that you see on TV, only allows the mind to form surface thoughts about another culture -- providing a narrow paradigm with little opportunity to break stereotypes.

As I walked in seeing orange juice on the table, American Idol (Finland) playing in the background, and dogs and kids stirring about -- it was the realization that we are 1/2 a world away, but closer in mind and in spirit than what anyone would think. It is impossible to describe the experience over a blog, you just have to see it with all 5 senses engaged.

The reminder of my first night was spent partaking in the traditional Finnish sauna. Passi and I went into a stone based sauna, built by his very hands in one of the main bathrooms in the house. After the sauna, we walked outside in the snow and jumped in the "Hot Springs" (Hot Tub). The experience was surreal. We are in the middle of a forest, with no city lights for miles, the stars and nature in full swing -- drinking a local beer. Nothing better than sauna after 36 hours of travel as described in my last blog post.


Kiitos to Adam and Karl who covered the first day very well. I only add a couple of bullet points of my impressions:

- The Finnish people are intuitive entrepreneurs: Within an area that is comprised of about 25,000 people, there are hundreds of unique manufacturers, boutique shops, and very few chain stores in site. Why? Tradition partly, but also because they grow up in an environment that: (a) places value on creativity through music and the arts; (b) develops cutting edge vocational skills such as design and robotics; and (c) embodies a unique sense of freedom and equality, that any individual, whether rich or poor, can use his mind and body to to innovate and be an active participant in the marketplace.

- The younger population is moving from rural to urban areas, small farmers are being taken over by large farming operations, local governments and the judiciary are being examined for consolidation, school funding for professional development is virtually non-existent, and the growing aging population, particularly in rural areas, will completely change the dynamics of health care needs. Sound like Kansas? Yes. These were the top challenges identified by the Vice-Mayor in today's presentation at Kauhajoki Town Hall. A 1/2 a world away, but closer than you think.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Kauhajoki, Finland

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