Sunday, June 24, 2012

Midsummer celebration at Seurasaari Island in Finland

Midsummer's eve is the longest day of the year and one of the most festive Holidays in Finland.  This was going to be my first Midsummer experience in Finland, so I invited some good friends from the United States (currently living in Germany) to take part in the festivities.

Fortunately, it was a gorgeous, sunny day with endless blue skies.  The Finnish weather has been moody these last few weeks and this day was just what the doctor ordered.  We left Espoo around 6pm to head over to Seurasaari Island in Helsinki.  Seurasaari is one of the larger Islands in the Helsinki metro area and the island itself has been converted into some kind of open air museum.  Upon arrival via bus from Espoo, we purchased our tickets, then ventured across the bridge entrance while fighting the growing crowd of Midsummer revelers.    The path from the entrance to the main area was littered with cultural tidbits, arts and crafts.  For example, at one stop you could cut wood with an old saw and at another stop you could walk on wooden stilts or play tug of war.  Many folks were dressed in traditional Finnish gowns while they performed traditional dances on one of the small stages.

Midsummer is perhaps the most special Holiday in Finland, because it kicks off the Summer Holiday season and it is a time of relaxation, parties and reflection.  Not having partaken in any previous Midsummer activities, we all decided that Seurasaari, although touristy might be a good place to experience our first Midsummer.  The main attraction of the celebration is the lighting of the bonfires.  Not having anything to compare the experience with, I was kind of expecting some mammoth "Burning Man" style bonfire.  However, in reality there were about 5 smaller bonfires waiting to be torched.  Each one of these bonfires varied in style and design.  They had one "Estonian" style, one "Ingrian" style and a few other varieties of bonfires.  Although they were impressive and neat to watch light up, the burning of these didn't evoke feelings of mass euphoria.  I was however caught up in a Zen like moment with friends and family sipping on a few cold ones on a rock overlooking the Bay while the fires were burning.  It was a perfect evening to kick off the start of the summer season and to reflect on life.

We actually left Seurasaari just past 10pm which is quite early for Midsummer events, but with tired children and a 30 minutes bus ride ahead of us, it was probably the right call.  All in all, Midsummer in Seurasaari was a pleasant, though commercial experience.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What inspires you?

For the last 6 months or so, I have been blogging about my experiences living in Finland as well as comparing life in Europe to what I was used too back in the United States.  I think now is a good time to take a step back and reflect on life and what directs us through each day.  Some of us live life as if we are a rat running around the wheel in a cage and we re-live this same dull day over and over again.   My aim is not just to repeat old cliche's, but I am one who truly believes that every single minute is precious and we have only one chance in life.  So, everyday we must seek and fulfill the passion that drives our desires.  Inspiration can come in many forms and fashions.  It could simply be a pleasant exchange with a stranger or a heated political discussion with a coworker, or just simply pushing your child on a swing in the neighborhood park.  The point is we all need something to motivate and inspire us in life.

Family, friends and co-workers are all important in our daily lives, but to find fulfillment and passion, we need to look deep within ourselves.  We need to analyze and seek out the items in our lives that we are passionate about.  Maybe you are driven by your work and it stokes your internal flames, or maybe you enjoy painting art, or perhaps even rock climbing.  Everyone has their own favorites hobbies and interests.  The hard part is taking the time and effort to keep your passions alive and well.  The fact is that they can only be kept relevant through continuous drive, desire and determination.  This is your life, the time is now, get out and live your dreams.

Those reading this blog entry, I ask you to leave me comments on what inspires, drives and motivates you in your daily lives.  Hope to hear from you.

Dream as if you'll live forever.  Live as if you'll die today.  ~James Dean

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Moody Finnish weather

My intention is not to go on a negative rant about Finnish weather, but sometimes it cannot be avoided.  :)  We just hit the month of June and in Finland you would have thought it was the middle of Winter minus the snow.  A storm came to town for the first weekend in June and just in time for Graduation ceremonies which are occurring all over Finland this weekend.  Non stop rain overnight left swollen gutters and nasty surprises for those early morning drivers.  I know that the weather is not always perfect in Finland,  but they have had their share of warm summers, and Summer rain normally just means a small passing shower.  This weekend's storm caught me off guard to say the least.  Looking on the bright side, Finland which is about the same latitude as Alaska, is spared the very harsh weather by having the Gulf Stream warm up the air.  If it wasn't for the generous Gulf Stream, Finland's climate would be way less desirable.

Last weekend I did the Tour d' Espoo bike ride.  This 110 kilometer bike ride (cycling) featured nice views of the Baltic Ocean as well as scenic countryside and many lakes. The weather for this ride was just what the doctor ordered.  It was about 73 degrees and sunny, and I even got sunburned!  It was a really neat way to tour Espoo via bike.  Espoo is one of the largest cities in Finland in both size and population, but since Finland is so sparsely populated, even Espoo has it's share of open countryside and farms.

Anyhow, being a spoiled Californian, I could easily predict the Summer weather and seasons.  We barely had a drop of rain during the Summer and you could pretty much plan on having nice weather from early May through October without fail.  There are even streaks of warm (20 celsius or more) weather during February and March where I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I knew coming to Finland that I would have to make some sacrifices on the weather front.  They say that you can get used to things, but after 40 years of living in California, the adjustment has not always been easy.  So, when you decide to visit Finland, just remember that the weather is a bit of  "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde".  It can be restrictive at times, but with a good attitude, you should do just fine.  :)