My adviser, Tuula, grew up in Sotkamo. She invited me to join her family for their New Years festivities. We drove for about six hours through Kuopio, on some pretty rural roads. Matti, Tuula's husband, kept complaining about how lame it is to drive on roads with so little snow. "We dump so much salt all over the roads that it makes almost summer-like driving conditions. We can't have summer roads in the winter!" he complained. I personally was very glad that he was driving and not me.
There was one point when we came up on a car that was driving very very slowly down a rural road. "Any idea what's wrong here?" Matti asked.
"No snow tires?" I guessed based on previous experience in Tampere a few months before.
"Oh no," Matti and Tuula pointed out that it's against the law not to have snow tires on your car. "Everyone must have snow tires." Right. I sometimes forget how diligently people in Finland follow the rules, compared to Americans.
"This driver is probably drunk," Tuula told me, matter-of-factly. "We have to be careful way out here in the middle of nowhere." Hmmm, I always thought that drunk driving illegal.
It was quite interesting to hear everyone's opinions about their hometown and its history, especially in relationship to the fast changing EU policies. Her family used to have a small farm (on the order of five cows). With the new EU subsidies, small farms became very expensive and could no longer afford to exist, leaving only a much smaller number of larger farms in Finland. Of course large farms in Finland are much much smaller than large farms in the States. None the less, it's a bummer that Tuula's family had to stop farming.
The EU subsidies have allowed the community to build a community center, where Tuula and I enjoyed the brisk night air.
Tuula's mother still lives in the house that Tuula grew up in. Not only did Tuula grow up in it, but several generations before her also grew up in this very traditional Finnish house. There's a wood burning stove in the center of the house, as well as an old wood burning cooking stove, still used by her mother.
Since they live in such a rural town, they said that they have to rely on their neighbors for help (cleaning up after huge storms, hoisting tractors out of rivers, etc.). Matti said that he's glad that Tuula's father and grandfather were so helpful in the community because it's made the neighbors more willing the help him when he needs it. Can you believe it? Intergenerational neighborlyness?! The dads did most of the fireworks. As you can see, we were not hindered by limits on our explosive supply (by the truckload of fireworks depicted below). You're allowed to set off fireworks for one twelve hour period in Finland (6pm New Years Eve to 6 am on New Years Day). People really go crazy. Though, if you look closely you can see the kids were wearing safety goggles. Safety first!Tuula taught me how to make snow bonfires. OK OK, this little snow lantern is only 20 cm high, but with some trick photography looks much more impressive.
This is a moose hunting tower. A group of folks track and find the moose, somehow convince it to come back to this tower, and then get out of the way while the person in the tower shoots it. Hunting seems to involve much less shooting that it does in the US.
Behind the house the family stores all of this weird stuff in the "museum." There are old typewriters, skis, all kinds of good stuff. No electricity though, the open window provides the light!
Thanks Tuula and Matti!!