Today is the birthday of Aleksis Kivi, Finland's national author and poet, and thus one of the flag days of Finland. Instead of in the US, where every day is flag day, the flag is only flown on public buildings on various national holidays. Kivi is significant in that he wrote the first novel in the Finnish language during a time when people generally only wrote in Swedish. The novel, called The Seven Brothers, is a story about rural brothers who decide that they really don't particularly care to learn how to read or become part of society, and are quite happy having their drunken clumsy shenanigans out in the forest. Eventually, though, they change their ways so that they can marry (for which literacy was - and still is - a prerequisite). It was tempting to celebrate Kivi day appropriately by wearing shabby 19th-century clothes and birchbark shoes, going out into the woods, drinking heavily and accidentally burning things down, but instead I spent most of today inside reading up on some articles for a class. Boring - but at least I got it done!
This week has also been a good week for shopping. The Finnish answer to Macy's, Stockmann, occasionally has a five-day sale called Hullut Päivät, or Crazy Days. The entire population of Turku can be seen walking around with yellow and black shopping bags, often 3 to 5 at a time, full of pillage and plunder. I was on the lookout for a belt and some cheap towels (having left mine on the hanger during a sauna evening, only to find that they had been snatched up by some mysterious used-towel thief!) and figured I would make my way downtown to see what Hullut Päivät was all about. The entire 3-story department store and adjoining mall were completely packed with people, making finding anything a matter of sheer luck, and the checkout lines were despairingly long. I gave up on finding a belt but did find some towels, some of my usual American shampoo for slightly-less-than-highway-robbery prices, and some tights to wear under my jeans when it starts getting really cold. There was nothing that could be considered in any way cheap, however. I finally found some actual good deals when I checked out the Salvation Army store, where I found the elusive belt (along with some shirts, mugs and a cute knit hat). The Salvation Army store is as large as any Goodwill in the States - and possibly clearner - and has quite a nice selection of stuff, so I think I'm going to have to check them out when I need something.
And now some school stuff: one of our courses is based on industrial cultural heritage, a subject that living in Pittsburgh for 10 years should already qualify me as passed. The work for the course is entirely a research project. It involves finding out what went on at the cotton factory in the town of Pori during its history based on a collection of 53 photos, and putting together as a team some kind of presentation to be delivered in January - in the actual building we are doing our research about (it's now the UTU campus in Pori). The Finnish girl in our group, who's a Pori native, will probably be handling all the local connections and history gathering, the lady who's worked for the newspaper and teaching business English to Finns will likely be doing the write up itself, and I'll be handling the tech side and likely putting together some kind of PowerPoint presentation. This is pretty exciting in that rather than just exist in a file folder somewhere, this is actual meaningful research that hasn't been done before, and may end up being a public presentation open to anyone hearing about the history of the university building! So while the topic of 19th century textile manufacturing seems a bit dull, the fact that we're creating something new and presenting it to the public is pretty exciting. I'm going to have to dust off my PowerPoint skills...
Well, it's free sauna time, so I'm off to partake. I'll try to not forget my towels again.