My epic vacation to Finland Chapt. 3

I arrived back to Finland on July 6 and quickly assimilated into the life of a typical family with 3 children, off and away to a soccer game(Helsinki Cup) strait from the airport and I could not be more happy. I expressed to my hosts that I did not want to visit a museum or special site at the expense of spending family time. Does that sound too boring? Not to me, now I know people travel for different reason, to see new sights, and grow in intellect, and perhaps try something new, but my recent trips to Europe have been primarily about family! I have done my fair share of something new but within my short time with my hosts.

We broke bread with several cousins trying out the new grill, and that is always a good reason to bring friends over, food and fellowship. Good food; beef, chicken, salad, corn, new potatoes, and an apple rhubarb crisp with ice cream for dessert.
The next day was going to be long with soccer for the boys early, and a very traditional breakfast of yogurt, granola, fresh pineapple, cheese, breads, ham, cucumber, tomato and juices. It is a very filling breakfast, with much variety and everyone finds something they like even the little ones.
We stopped for some postage and a mailing. I had some items that I wanted to send home early rather than carrying them. As I was filling out my customs form, I mentioned that I had a magnet inside (a lesson is to be learned from this). The postal worker mentioned it was illegal to mail magnets……really??? As you sell magnets in your store, next to other postal items, and they are thin enough to ship, but you cannot mail them?? Do you post that on your magnet shelf??
Anyway, I reopened my package, took out the magnets, resealed it, and paid for postage and filled out a new customs form. WE laughed and laughed about that incident all day and the other failures of the postal systems, like you can’t ship batteries but if you order online, they get “mailed” to via the postal system…Marijuana is mailed via the post office, etc.
Off to soccer we went and arrived to the Helsinki Cup. Something for all ages and seemingly all abilities. After watching a few games of relative importance, literally, we were off to the Olympic Stadium and tower. 60+ meters tall, it was amazing to see the city, and whence we came from.  
As an observation, I was surprised at how comfortable the local country citizens allowed their children to roam free amongst a very diverse crowd and often sight unseen. Maybe I am in a safe country, with low crime, or maybe it’s not quite an issue here, but it did catch me by surprise and hold my admiration.
After that we visited the Sibelius Monument, my favorite place in Helsinki to visit because I have some sentimental reasons for seeing it. Sibelius, Finland’s most famous composer, who died in 1957, wrote Finlandia, Opus 26 as a symphonic poem.
We then traveled to a relative’s birthday party and enjoyed great beverages and foods of all kinds of traditional fare. From local candy to home made goodies to champagne.
From there we enjoyed a brief night on the town. We saw the Sea Cloud, a huge three (3) sail windjammer on cruise in the port of Helsinki, now that would be a dream voyage!
We have also done new things like visit Tommy Knocker Brewery in Helsinki. An Idaho Springs, Colorado, Brewery, with a Finnish location. I was happy to share this experience for the 2nd time since I have been in Finland, as I am growing consumers to the cause. As it turns out it is great beer and is new to Finland.
The 8th of July started later in the morning than expected and for a little bit I was irritated that I may have contributed to being late for the day. As it turns out, I wasn’t and we had a great day from the traditional breakfast, to seeing Jean Sibelius’s home in Tuusula, to buying some flowers for my next host, to sitting in Pornainen having traditional coffee and pulla. I was now effectively handed off to the next family, and we got right to work on “catching up”.

Musings from my epic vacay pt. 1

As the casual observer of what is hip here in Finland and in Poland. I have been amazed at how much English is used in both the beauty and the crass. American icons seemingly long gone from popularity in the US are still strong here in the EU. Izod shoes, Nike, Adidas, etc. are still popular. Now Nike is still a statement in the US, to the point of addiction, here it seems the casual shoe or maybe an earlier brand. Curse words are the norm on t-shirts. What is rarely spelled out in the U.S. is all too common place on post cards, stickers, shirts, caps and magnets. 
I met a young lady, a student from Hong Kong, and was surprised how freely she used the “F” bomb, almost as if it was a part of her normal day to day language. Though I should not be surprised as it’s pretty common in the U.S. as well. I have enjoyed meeting new people from other countries, the few that I have spoken to, the waitresses, the others on vacation, the ones who work in shops, etc. While in Poland I met several from Australia, UK, Netherlands, Mexico, and a gal from China who teaches English as a second language whose parents live in Boulder.
I was surprised while shopping in Tikkurila, Finland, that “New York” ball caps with the NY spelled out in script, were being sold in the local Wal-Mart style store. I thought that I would wear local shirts from CO to stand out, like most of my clothes seem to make me anyway. Only quickly to realize that there is so much apparel from all over. I was trying for the tourist look and realized I fit right in. 
When I was in the airport heading to Poland I wore my “Blues from the Top” t-shirt, from Winter Park, CO. I think that those that could read or understand English could tell I was from the U.S. but most could not. I was standing amongst a crowd of Polish, Korean, Chinese, Russian and I am sure countless other countries.
Many women were dressed to the 9’s in the square, maybe it was close to dancing time, or maybe they just wanted to look nice. Either way they did get attention, the men, as usual. Most men were very casual and a few dressed up like their gals, a few in wedding attire.
From skin tight jeans to mini skirts, the fashion seems to be the same around the world. A friend suggested that I wear casual shoes and not tennis shoes but I have been most comfortable in my running shoes. I wore them to the airport and easily passed through security without the ring of the metal detector. Security seems more at ease here and I don’t know if that is good or bad. Less stringent, but still the X-ray etc that is constant throughout. 
I was disappointed to learn this morning during breakfast that another guest in my hotel had issues with his AC. What!!!!! AC??? I didn’t event know if i had it, and upon checking out saw that the concierge had my remote. Shame on me for not checking, I just assumed that I did not have it, as most days were comfortable and my window was open when I entered the door. Next time I will check for sure! so many things that I have learned this time, and I certainly packed too many warm things. I am thinking of sending a few items homes, or I can use my other luggage to break up my baggage.
The airport in Poland is nice too, so many thoughts I had about this country have been challenged and changed. I thought of this Cold War country with depression and dirt and quite the contrary. Beautiful structures and architecture I have experienced everywhere. Beautiful homes with nice yards and mini farm fields. Very large homes for the well to do, and nice cars for the same. The old style architecture from the historic buildings were just as majestic.
An effective light rail system for around town was clearly evident in Kraków, I would stay in the Old town Historic Market area again, plenty of hotels to choose from, and plenty of great places to eat. I did not take in the music, the churches and some other sites, I was either too tired from the late nights and early mornings that I figure I will wait until next time. There will be a next time as my visit here was incredible. The food fantastic, the beer quite good and everything from people watching to the nightlife was quite fun!
What are my take-aways from my first few days in Europe? I was blown away with my experiences at Auschwitz and Birkenau. I read the history before, but I experienced it here, now, and even though this all took place 70+ years ago, walking the same paths, looking in the same barracks, walking where people exited rail cars, passing through the same gates, that over a million people who perished did, was really an incredible experience. Overwhelming sadness for the ones who were killed for no reason, other than having been Jewish and deemed a race that should not have existed.

My Epic trip to Finland chapter 1

I started the idea of this trip in September 2014 when I purchased my ticket Finland. It was a great price on Iceland Air, a radio host I listen to, suggested the best time to purchase European trips. I didn’t have any idea at that time what would actually take place but I decided that I must visit my extended family again and who knows when I would return for a visit. My last visit was in 2009 and I thought that visit was amazing, life changing in many ways, I wasn’t sure if this could top the last visit.

I shared my news with my cousins via e-mail, and kept in regular contact over the fall and no ernest planning until the new year. I am fortunate that I have been able to open lines of communication among my father’s and mother’s  nieces and nephews  and stayed in regular contact with them.

On this trip I decided to do something different, add a new country to my itinerary. After consultation with a few relatives, I decided on Krakow, Poland.  The highlight of this trip will be the visit to Auschwitz- Birkenau Concentration camp and the Wieliczka Salt Mine.  Both significant and historical on their own. I  have always been interested in this aspect of WW2. 

So I departed Denver, CO and had a direct flight to Iceland. From  Iceland it was a short flight to Finland. One of the amazing components to this flight segment was that my cousin Anita would be on board the same flight.  We used our charm to get close seats and then eventually, sit next to each other.

After traveling for more than 10 hours, I pushed through the night with walking, laughing, drinking and seeing the sights of Helsinki.  We spent part of our night enjoying live music and dancing to a few tunes. 

I was exhausted, I just didnt know that I would sleep t 10 hours.

I have a great host family and they have made sure that I am well  fed and taken care of.

The next stop today will be leaving for  Poland .   

Epic vacation Chapt 2- Poland

I was concerned that the time of my arrival, in the evening would some how cause issues with my trip. Nothing could be further from the truth as not only did I make preparations but I knew God was on my side. I have been praying thoughout my trip that God would workout all the details and that he would keep me, and he has, even out of the trouble that could be in my way…

As I debarked from my plane, which was the second time in two days that I needed to walk down outside stairs and the first time that I  needed to board a bus, like I suppose many do in a foriegn country.  I was wondering if my driver made it or not, I did not confirm in advance and we were early. After customs there stood a man with my name on my piece of paper and all of a sudden I felt important, though he didn’t lift a finger to help me with my luggage down the stairs.  It was the first time that I had someone wait for me with a sign. It was a quick trip to downtown, about 15 minutes in a Mercedes taxi just for me.

The Classic Hotel, near the market square has been a nice hotel, though no AC, probably not usually needed but its been unusually hot these last few days! The first night I got settled and went to look around, to get acquainted, I found a pizza place and had a beer and pizza.

Glad I did, it helped me in my bearings and what was around and near my hotel Bars, bars, and more bars. A few strip clubs, and misc shops, a market, and plenty of women’s shops, shoes, clothing, etc. Banks too, people need to exchange their money, though their fairness has come into question. 

My first full day included a trip to Auschwitz- Birkenau.  The bus ride to it, included a most moving video from a Russian Army officer who was in the first group to liberate Auschwitz. I mostly listened as the actual video footage was very graphic. Not that I couldn’t take it, but I didn’t want to watch, I heard what was being observed. This Army officer documented the war for the Rusians and to be given this task was incredulous as it was. I thought about buying the tape but I am sure I can find something similar to it, if needed.

The tour lasted many hours in hot buildings in rooms with much protection from the sun and outdoors in the heat. It was exhausting really, both physically walking the same grounds that a million + Jews and prisioners walked  and also  from the historical  facts being displayed and explained by our live guided tour. She was very good, her English was ok, but we all knew wat she was saying even when she wasn’t saying  the words right. I was irritated at times with her lack of word knowledge but I knew what she meant, it was just my  issue. 1,000 prisoners on average in the barracks, the handicapped immediately gassed, childen and women had indescribable experiments done to them, gold extrapolated from the teeth of the gassed and murdered.  I faded in and out of the guided tour, anxious to leave and yet anxious to stay. I had seen components of the tour from other museum locations, but it was more real here. More devastating. I hurt deeply for the Jews that were killed for the faith, heroes almost, for individuals standing for what they believe even more than modern day America. 

I’m angry that the human race would stoop to such horrible acts of crime in the face of dignity. All that Hitler wanted was greed and power. He had the Jews killed for their teeth, their property, the wealth, and genocide.  Mothers and children were told that they needed to bathe before being assigned to a barracks and a majority of them were killed almost instantly.  I was thirsty but we had a few breaks and I was able to quench my thirst. The pictures I took with my camera are for my memory.  We visited Birkenau the same day after 4 pm and it was all outdoors with a few indoor apperances.   This was the camp where the Germans tried to hide and demolish everything, they were not successful and because much was documented by this Russian video team, many soldiers were held accountable. Forensic Scientists were brought in to try to determine what happened as well as normal doctors to try to save those that were already emancipated. Hundreds still died from malnutrition even though  Russian doctors tried to help.  It was just overwhelming tour, to be in the same place where this happened 73 years earlier. Most of the van riders were silent on the way back to town either sleeping or contemplating. I did a little of both, very tired from the long day.

The Salt mines took place on Sunday, July 5th and this was a most interesting trip that went 135 meters below the surface. The mine, owned by the state, doesn’t excavate anymore, as there are other methods for creating salt though with hundreds of people visiting each day, I would think they don’t need the mine for the salt.  This was a big walking tour as well and our instructor spoke English well. Everything inside was created with Salt; bricks, sculptures, steps, tiles. Of course wood is a good protector of salt. If you are ever in Krakow, don’t miss either visits.

 It’s my last night in Poland. I enjoyed a nice dinner of herring and a Cesare salad and some beer and then I was on a search for the 24 hour post office which I found. I realized that my postcards did not have enough postage on them, a good lesson learned.  Tonight I mailed off 41 post cards, to old and new friends and family. Relationships take work, even the little steps. To me its worth it. I do what i think is right. Now to finish packing, and get ready for the AM, it wil be a busy day!

Historic but what now?

SCOTUS affirmed gay marriage in a landmark decision on June 26, 2015. It was historic but it was a 5-4 decision not completely overwhelming. It’s been a very volatile issue with many viewpoints and certainly a discussion amongst Christians. Max Lucado is a gifted speaker, teacher, mentor, man of God. This is what Max shared in his blog;

 Max Lucado’s blog June 26th……here is what he posted…

Prayer, Not Despair
June 26, 2015 Our society seemed to take a seismic shift today. The decision of the SCOTUS regarding same-sex marriage has the potential to leave many Christians anxious and troubled. While those of us who hold to traditional marriage have a right to be concerned, we have no need to despair. What we need is a good dose of this Scripture:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Ph. 4:6,7)

It may seem that the world is changing fast, but is it really? The headlines may announce a decision of the Supreme Court, but the actions of our Supreme God are unaltered.
He is still the Creator, blessed forever. (Rom. 1:25)
He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Heb. 13:8)
His years will never end. (Ps. 102:27)
He needs no counselor; seeks no advice. He is equally everywhere. He never wearies, sleeps or struggles. He has never been confused, thwarted or contested. He reigns supreme over every detail of the universe. “He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Dan. 4:35)
God is still God and His word is still sure. His sovereign grace never changes. Everything else may change. But He doesn’t.
So let’s replace our anxious thoughts with prayerful ones. “…in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known…” Now is the time for prayer and faith.
Something good will come out of this. Maybe now we can have this discussion where we need to have it. Face-to-face. In neighborhoods. Over dinner tables. Perhaps the hate-filled words will subside …
“Now is the time for prayer and faith”, don’t you love that? I understand the decision and this is about the law, not a moral decision. Justices are to make decisions based on laws. 

What I know is true, God doesn’t change. Everything else is relative. 

My Goliath

I didn’t know what to expect, it was my first deposition, and I spent the day before prepping for questions I may or may not get. To think of the best way to answer them and that Goliath would be in the room, “to cut my throat” “he wasn’t my friend” and he’s on a mission!

I was in foreign territory for all that I had experienced and I knew this day was coming, I just didn’t know that it would for sure. 4-5 before that dates were set and then canceled and with trepidation I asked “was this date still on, still taking place?”. I was assured that it was and my atty would be flying to Colorado and be here in person. 

I left the meeting overwhelmed having gone through 100’s of pages of material trying to understand the concepts and the new terminology I should be using rather than what I had been saying for most of my life. 

As I left, I was deflated, upset, tears welling up in my eyes, as I left my meeting with the atty. I was in a fog about what was before me. I had plans to see out of town relatives but the crazy traffic on I-25 only exacerbated how I was feeling. I called a few friends, asked for prayer, shared what I could, which wasn’t much. I looked for something to eat. 

I essentially went strait home, posted asking friends for prayers about a situation that I could not describe. I’m grateful to the many friend who responded to the request. What I love about my friends is that most are from varying faith backgrounds, but they believe in the power of prayer. 

I prayed that God would direct my steps, my thoughts, my actual words, that he would comfort me, I needed Him. One of my favorite verses is Prov. 3:5-7. I pray the concepts of this verse over and over again. 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the LORD and turn away from evil. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭3‬:‭5-7‬ NLT)

I went to be around 8:30, overwhelmed in my spirit but confident God would help me. 

The next morning, the day that I would meet Goliath, I asked for more prayers from friends, posted a request, and actually felt quite calm, a 180 from the night before. I experienced peace from God’s presence, assurance that He was with me. I remembered the important principals for my responses. I entered the room and this is what I saw. 

Modern technology would become even more real today. To see other attorneys witnessing this event. Seeing them, hearing them, and they see me. I was in a suit and tie, I expected to be video tapped, I was responding as if the jury were in the room, and yet Goliath was there, in person. 

I have never been deposed before, and for a tall guy like me, 6’5″, I was completely out of my comfort zone and yet completely at peace. 

At the end of the day, which ended early, which had no blow up, which was relatively calm, which went a whole lot better than I expected, was finally done!! Praise God!

I thanked my friends for their prayers, posted my relief, even helped my atty return to the airport. All this to say, God has never left my side, has not forsaken me, and when you upon Him he will answer. He’ll answer through his word, through friends. Through prayer. I’m glad that day is over! I may face this Goliath again, and I know who’ll be with me. 

Celebrate Mom!

 I live 2000 miles away from my mom, but I celebrate her today, and every day really. I’m in touch with her frequently and she expresses how “I have made her day” and the truth is, she has made my day. My siblings sent her flowers through one of my brothers, and I bring them every time I visit. 

My father passed away last year in March and I am surprised and thankful at the same time to see how strong my mother is, to have made it through a devastating loss, but they had so much love for each other and life. 

I have made some great traveling plans this year and every time we speak about them, she encourages me to go, search and discover while I’m single. She knows the sacrifices of married life. She raised four children, successful in their own arenas in life. She raised us with a love for music and the arts. To embrace culture and our heritage. To do well in all we do, to enjoy cooking, it’s a way to bring people together. 

Today I celebrate my mother, thankful for all that she has done for me personally. I love you mom!


Finlandia Foundation of Colorado

How important is heritage to you? Where did your family come from, what do you celebrate culturally?  For me my Finnish heritage is so important. Not sure that I have shared this before, but it is important. I just finished listening to Jean Sibelius’s Andante cantabile for String Quartet op. 56 in D minor. how great that a community of Finns in Colorado would gather to celebrate. Sibelius was a great composer whose music is celebrated internationally. 

  1. I’ve been somewhat absent from writing, mostly because of time but also because of focusing of getting myself back on track. I am a proud Finn, and today has inspired me to become more active in my heritage for which I am grateful to have grown up with. What do you think of your heritage or culture. While I agree that we live in a melting pot of cultures, it is our responsibility to maintain what is important to us individually culturally. Don’t blame lack of time for your failure for you make time for the things that are important to you, I know that I do!

New book instead of chapter(s)

I’ve decided to stop writing chapters in the old book and decided that it was time to write a new chapter, new book, with new determination that life ahead of me is better than what I am leaving behind.   We all have those chapters, and I read recently that I needed to stop turning the same old pages before I could really move forward.   That was   tough position to be in, holding onto what was, because there were some great times, and there were really shitty ones too. All too frequently I kept turning back to the old pages to see if there was something I was missing, maybe I overlooked something, maybe there was hope, a possibility??  But to be fair to the future, I can’t be looking forward if I am constantly looking behind me.  I need to press on, press forward, anticipate new beginnings.

I had been doing some exploration in some relationships to see if there was potential, did we have the same goals, vision for life, what about children, faith, love.  Where do you see yourself in 5 years, where are you willing to move to?  Do you vote, love music, travel? What are your dreams, ambitions.  Subtle questions in conversation and all at once it seemed, all the doors closed. I’m not angry or bitter, but thankful that I can move forward because I’m an investor. I invest in time. I make time for those that are important to me.  It was a good learning experience, because I realized that the one I need , needs to have the same ambition in many areas that I do.  Opposites attract, but similarities make for good partners. I’m not suggesting that it’s just how I fee, but what we can compromise on, especially on what is important; love, faith, future.  The little things, favorite foods, politics, sports, are all negligible. I still have areas that I want to improve in my own world, but I am willing, now more than ever to open that up to what lies ahead.

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