My Fulbright Scholarship Experience (p.2)

So my research project revolved in part around ‘finlandization’. And while I made a good faith effort to stay focused on learning as much as I could regarding ESDP, Finnish defence policy and finlandization in the literal sense, I took much more enjoyment from the ‘finnishization’ that happened to me personnally, which I would characterize as the process of being immersed in Finnish culture.

Kesamokin ydäminen (Visiting the Summer Cottage)
One of the my first genuinely Finnish experiences occurred when I was invited by a classmate to his cottage (kesamoki – literally ‘summer cabin’) with an entourage of mostly foreign students for a weekend adventure. To get there we drove approximately one hour north of Helsinki. Finnish Cabin
One of the first things I noticed was how drastically the landscape changes outside of the city; unlike the US, where most places have been suburbanized, the Finnish landscape is untouched just miles outside of main cities. Forests, lakes, meadows, hills – all unchanged for 1000s of years (with the exception of roads and sparsely spattered bus stops). It is genuinely refreshing just to witness.

To summarize the weekend, we were introduced to Finnish culture in the following fashion:

  • vodka shots taken from hollowed-out sausage chunks (sausage had to be subsequently ingested).
  • excessive amounts of Koff Beer (black label – brought over typically from Estonia as it is impossible to obtain beer with alcohol content in excess of 4.2% in general Finnish stores)
  • Enjoying the a lake-side wood-fired old-fashioned sauna totally butt-ass-nude with a troupe of drunken Finns (and French, Spanish, Polish and others…) including diving into the refreshingly cold lake.
  • visiting a Finnish farm complete with sheep, goats and a rickety sauna near a frigid lake that was brimming with loud, naked old Finnish men.

Finnish Fulbright Program’s 50th Celebration
The next noteworthy experience occurred on November 20, 2003 at Finlandia Hall. To celebrate the 50th birthday of the US-ASLA Fulbright Exchange all current and past Fulbrighters residing in Finland were invited to a night at the symphony including drinks and hors d’ oeuvres.  The drinks, snacks and conversation were great. After months of relative cultural isolation, it’s amazing how fast a sense of kinship brews amongst Americans when assembled together for brief periods of time. Former Fulbrighter Leif Segerstam conducted a a rousing repertoire including Beethoven’s Leonore III & Jean Sibelius’ Symphony 3 (we needed this to combat the drowsing effect of his pre-concert speech which detailed nearly every moment of his life in excruciating detail).

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