Sunday, March 27, 2005


Easter Witches

Hi Everyone,

I promised to tell you about Finland’s Easter witches. It all started when I began to see little witches everywhere – florist shops, stores, the doll show we went to, on greeting cards, everywhere! At first I thought they were a version of our kitchen witch. But they had appeared so suddenly and were so pervasive I knew they had to be something special.

One day on a flea market sortie with Marja-Liisa, I stumbled across a table runner decorated with Easter bunnies, eggs, chicks, spring flowers, and – yup – witches! “Why witches,” I asked.

“You mean you don’t have Easter witches?” she replied.

I allowed as how witches were probably the last thing I’d think of in connection with Easter. She shrugged. “We’ve always had witches,” she said. “The kids dress up as witches and when they come to the house on Palm Sunday we give them candy.”

WHOA! Halloween on Palm Sunday???

So off to my local internet I scurried, googling madly to find answers to my latest Finnish conundrum. And you, Dear Readers, are the fortunate recipients of my new wealth of knowledge…

It seems that in Finland, as in most cultures, folk, pagan and Christian traditions have converged over the centuries to produce modern day practices that are taken for granted. Like most early peoples, the Finns of yore were deeply superstitious, and believed that when Christ was in the tomb between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, evil in the form of witches flew through the land. Not so long ago, people hid from Good Friday until Easter, not even cooking or heating their homes for fear that witches would see the smoke and be attracted to the house. However, they often set huge bonfires on the Saturday before Easter to scare off the witches. Go figure…

Coupled with the Christian tradition was a longing for spring after a long, long winter. With the literal rebirth of the earth and Christ’s resurrection, it was time for a blessing and wish for prosperity in the coming months. Thus, people would cut willow branches, force the early blooming of catkins, decorate the twigs with streamers and feathers, and playfully switch at their neighbors to wish them good health. They would give these decorated willow twigs to their friends to save until the cattle were driven to the summer pastures. If the herder used the decorated switches, the cattle were also given a blessing.

OK, put all this in the cultural Cuisinart, whir for a few centuries, and here’s what modern Finnish children do to prepare for Easter:

About 2 weeks before Easter, they cut willow branches and put them in water to force catkins. At this time they also plant Easter grass where the Easter bunny will hide eggs and candy. Yes, it’s real grass, sold in all the stores in seed packets decorated with chicks and bunnies! We had to try it, of course, with great results! Much more fun than the plastic confetti stuff we put in Easter baskets in the States!

They also plan their witch costumes during this time and learn a verse to “bless” their neighbors. A day or 2 before Palm Sunday, they use bits of tissue paper, feathers, and streamers to decorate the willow twigs which by this time have turned into pussy willows. These decorated switches are called virpovitsa.

On Palm Sunday (Palmusunnuntai), starting at about 10:30 a.m. and continuing all day, kids dressed as witches come to the door and follow a ritual called virpominen that must date back centuries. They wave the willow twigs (the modern version of switching their neighbors) and recite the following verse:

Virvon, varvon,
turceks’ terveeks

tulevaks’ vuodeks!
vitsa sullepalkka mulle!
Rauhallista Pääsiäistä

For fresh, for health
for the coming year!
The branch for you,
the treat for me!
Have a Peaceful Easter.

Then they give the branch to the neighbor, and collect their reward. We read that people give candy or coins. Roy never takes change with him, and empties his pockets as soon as he comes home, so we had an abundance of change for our witches, though we saw that most people had given candy. We couldn’t tell if the coins were a treat or a disappointment, although one pair of witches stopped outside after they left to count their money, and we got a picture of them through the kitchen window.

When we asked (in English, of course) if we could take their pictures and waved the camera at them, all were obliging, and a few of the older children even said, “Thank you” and “Bye” to us in English. But I’m sure they thought it weird that grown-ups would want to record this “run-of-the-mill” holiday for posterity.

We had only 2 “warlocks” come to the door. I suppose pre-schoolers all dress up as witches, but as boys grow older they just steal their sisters’ loot when they come home. I don’t think it has dawned on them that there is such a thing as warlocks that they could become to get treats!

There appears to be a standard “witchy-poo” look for the celebrants. Most had bright spots of rouge and scarves tied for a “Babouska” effect, and all sported aprons and a sprinkling of drawn-on freckles. Only one had a standard issue witch hat like witches in the U.S. wear.

However, teenagers seem to have updated the witch tradition. We saw 2 girls at our grocery store waiting for a ride to a Palm Sunday witches’ party. Both had affected a Goth look in black leather, with stylized black eyeshadow and lots of silver chains. Come to think of it, maybe they were just headed downtown for the movies…

The days of Easter Week have special names and customs that most modern Finns may not even know about. For example,

If sheep are sheared on Easter Monday (Malkamaanantai), the wool will be abundant for the next shearing. If girls cut their hair, it will grow faster.

On Easter Tuesday (Tikkutiistai) people carve sticks to burn for good luck in their fires.

On Easter Wednesday (Kellokeskiviikko) bells are put on the cattle to protect them from the Easter witches.

Easter Thursday (Kiirastorstai) is cleaning day, and if you make a lot of noise while cleaning, the witches will stay away. If the weather is good on Kiirastorstai summer fishing will be good.

Friday and Saturday (Pitkäperjantai, Lankalauantai) are the worst days of the year. Evil abounds, and in days of yore you could not visit even the closest neighbors. As I mentioned before, no fires were lit, and it was forbidden to eat milk and cream.

Easter Sunday (Pääsiäissununtai) brings with it omens for the coming year. For example, people receive the personality of the first animal they see on Easter morning for the coming year. If you see a cow, you will be lazy. If a horse comes into view first, you will be strong. It is also believed that the sun dances on Easter morning at dawn in celebration of the resurrection and the coming of spring. Since we’re "springing ahead" with Finnish daylight savings time that morning, we decided to skip the sunrise dance...

We heard there would be a bonfire on the Saturday evening before Easter sponsored by the local Lions Club (!), so of course we had to go with our friends Marja-Liisa and Markku to help them chase the witches away. The bonfire was on an island near city center, and when we arrived we saw that expert fire setters had built a tower of saplings and branches some 14 feet tall.

The Lions Club was selling coffee, homemade tea cakes, and sausages the Finns eat without buns and which taste like our hotdogs. Loud speakers played children’s songs, and we recognized the tunes of both “Ten Little Indians” and the “Hokey Pokey” although the words were decidedly different! A platform had been set up where they were staging a contest for little witches before the bonfire. Each little girl had an interview with the emcee and had to perform a song or poem for the appreciative crowd.

Finally the fire was lit, and rose rapidly until flames, ash and sparks towered at least 50 feet in the air. We all crowded closer to the fire than was probably wise, since the heat and light were welcome in the falling temperatures of the evening.

Easter morning dawned grey and cold. But after reveling in the goodies the bunny had left, we dressed up for only the second time since coming to Finland and headed to the Easter service at the Lutheran cathedral downtown.

First, let me describe the cathedral itself. Built in the late 1800’s, it is painted yellow with white trim, and has the classic shape of a cross. The interior is both elegant and austere in its simplicity. The floors are unvarnished oak planks, and the grey painted pews are “gated” at the ends of the row and designed to instill wakeful attention in the congregants. The uncushioned seats are very narrow, while the seat backs require you to remain bolt upright throughout the service. Beautiful chandeliers and a lovely handmade sailing ship hang on long cords from the 3 story ceiling. Since Oulu residents have made their living from the sea for centuries, the ship at once serves as a reminder of bygone days and inspires a special concern and blessing.

The back of the cathedral has clear windows, but stained glass surrounds the altar. The walls are quite plain, with pictures of various scenes from the life of Jesus. The arch over the altar is especially lovely. Against a deep blue background, salmon fingers of daybreak are depicted in the east with a simple cross in the center and the stars of night in the west. A single lily plant on the altar was the only Easter decoration in the sanctuary.

What really amazed us, however, was the attendance at the service. At the main Sunday service where a very fine choir sang, three ministers presided, and communion was served, there were less than 200 people in a sanctuary that would seat 800. Somehow we had expected a turnout like we had experienced in Oxford at Christchurch Cathedral where we literally had to have tickets to attend the Christmas Eve service, but obviously this is not the case in Finland. People were not particularly dressed up, and there was not an Easter bonnet to be found! The congregation appeared to be older, and there was only a handful of young couples with babies and toddlers.

The service itself was quite formal, with the minister even singing part of the liturgy for communion and making the sign of the cross over the bread and wine. The sermon was read with little inflection and few gestures. The offering was taken with velvet pouches attached to long sticks which were proffered into the aisles. An old man sitting on a bench near us was reminded to give with a nudge of the offering pouch by an usher.

In fact, the only signs of Easter we could find were the lily on the altar and an anthem proclaiming “Alleluia” at the end of the service. We concluded that although Finland is perhaps the most ethical country we have ever lived in, it may not be a particularly religious country. Our other conclusion was that Garrison Keillor might be accurate in his assessment of the “somber” Lutherans…

Easter afternoon we took a walk to the Baltic Sea, which is only about a mile from our house. The walking path was slushy since the temperature has been above freezing all week, but the ice was still thick enough on the bay to support all manner of winter sports. It will be fun to see the change spring brings to the beach and the bay.

In keeping with Finnish tradition, we had lamb and mämmi for supper. Mämmi is a dark brown porridge, served cold with sugar and cream. These days mämmi is offered at the grocery store in a cardboard box decorated like birch bark – the fast food version of the traditional birch bark baskets mämmi was originally cooked in. Mämmi tastes like a thick, grainy pudding made with blackstrap molasses although there isn't any molasses in the recipe. Mämmi has a decidedly odd, old-fashioned taste but we both liked it! To see a recipe for mämmi, click here.

What a wonderful adventure we’re having!

Our best wishes to you for a springtime filled with virpovitsas, green grass, chocolate eggs, and a few little witches!


Monday, March 21, 2005


Sarah's Parallel Universe

Hi Everyone,

Time for another update, and in this entry I’ll concentrate on my life in Oulu. For while Roy has been enjoying the heady world of academe, I have been adopted by the doll makers of the city.

It all began when I sent an e-mail message to a listserv of 700 doll makers from all over the world, asking if anyone knew any doll makers in Finland. Lina from Sweden (who longs to someday visit Nashville and pursue her dream of becoming a country and Western singer) wrote back with two names for me, and both lived in Oulu! When I arrived here I sent an e-mail to each one. I think I told you about hearing from Eija, who invited me to a craft show she was in. Eija received a very large order for her dolls at the show, so although we have met a couple of times for coffee, she has been hard at work cutting, sewing, stuffing, and delivering her handiwork.

Meanwhile Toini, the other doll maker I had written to, gave my name to her friend Marja-Liisa Ahosola, who contacted me and asked if I would like to visit Toini’s with her. Toini, it seemed, was shy about her English, and since Marja-Liisa speaks 5 languages fluently, she took on the job of translating.

Marja-Liisa and I visited both a class that Toini was teaching on making portrait dolls from a prototype through the mold making process to porcelain (a 90 hour course!) and in her home, where she let me “adopt” one of her wonderful elves named Iitu for my collection. She teaches all kinds of doll making – soft sculpture, needle-felted dolls, sculpted dolls, porcelain – the works! In fact most of the doll makers here work in several different media. I'm taking Toini’s felted doll class in April.

Those visits were only the beginning of a friendship with Marja-Liisa that is sure to last many years. In addition to doll making, Marja-Liisa is accomplished in many other fine crafts – weaving, china painting, Finnish tole painting, and all aspects of needlework. Not content with merely doing life-sized work in these areas, she is also a miniaturist, and received the distinction of becoming a Fellow in the International Guild of Miniature Artists (IGMA) several years ago for original design in lace – which she makes with a single strand of silk thread! This summer she will teach in Maine at the IGMA Guild School demonstrating the construction of one inch tall needle-felted teddy bears. The prototypes she has shown me all are wearing tiny crocheted hats and vests and dresses made of silk thread using the smallest crochet hook they manufacture. Absolutely incredible work!

With Marja-Liisa as my guide, I have seen and done things in Oulu that would be impossible without her help. We’ve visited antique stores and flea markets I’d never have found on my own since the Finns hide them at the end of lanes and in the basements of apartment buildings. She arranged a tour of a wonderful crafts school located on Pikasaari Island, where the best artisans in the region vie for places to learn woodworking, silversmithing, graphic arts and print making, dress design, weaving, pottery, and even restoration of Finnish landmark buildings. Marja-Liisa took a three year course of study there in weaving, and was greeted warmly by her former teachers. Later I learned that she had been named the school’s outstanding student when she graduated. (Well, of course she was!) The 270 students at the school learn their crafts on state-of-the-art equipment, and all supplies and even lunch every day is free of charge. Eleven cities in the region and the state fund the program.

Through Marja-Liisa, I also met Rauni Huttunen. We visited her class in doll dress design, and she invited us for an afternoon of hat-making in her home. Little did I know that I would be treated as an honored guest at a luncheon, where courtly etiquette combined charmingly with boisterous good fun as I tried to learn a tongue-twisting toast in Finnish. We did finally get around to hat making, after a “tour” of Rauni’s beautiful miniature doll’s house, where an exquisite handmade bustiére rested on a hand-crocheted coverlet waiting for the Victorian lady of the house to dress, and the basement scullery was equipped with minute towels hand-woven for Rauni by Marja-Liisa. Rauni had made and upholstered most of the tiny furniture herself, even making petit point cushions, rugs and table runners. Every room was in perfect proportion, with attention to detail that was amazing!

And then, of course, there was the class I taught last weekend. Marja-Liisa had asked me if I taught a class how many students I would like. Well, 2 days after saying that I was really hesitant because they wouldn’t be able to understand me and that probably I could teach 6 or 7, she had a venue, 7 students (including Toini!) and was urging me to get a supply list ready so she could translate it for the group. Yikes! Pictures of our intensive 2-day foray into translated instruction show a group as intent as any I’ve taught in the States, and some great results in heads and hands. We’re going to have a follow-up class to put the doll together after they’ve constructed legs and sewn the bodies. My technique was quite different than what they have done before, so it will be fun to see how they incorporate some of these new ideas into their own work.

As an aside, the craft supply scene in Finland is abysmal, and a million dollar business venture awaits me if I could bear to leave kith and kin to establish the first Finnish Hobby Lobby…

This weekend brought yet another adventure, as 8 of us traveled 3 hours by train to Seinäjoki for a doll and antiques show. I had met only 3 of the women before the trip, but by the time we made our giddy way home by train, we were laughing like old friends and even exchanging childbirth stories -- a universal bonding ritual, it seems, among women!

The adventure will continue next week at Rauni’s English class. It seems she is attending a large miniatures show in London next fall and decided some time ago to brush up on her English before her jaunt. So she practices with me every chance she gets, and enlisted me to come and “talk about America” with her class. Should be fun!

And my friendship with Marja-Liisa will continue next summer when she and her husband Markku, who teaches English, visit us in Colorado after their trip to Maine. I’m not sure we can ever repay the hospitality we’ve been shown here, but we’re inspired to try! We kid that Marja-Liisa should bring one suitcase for nothing but embroidery floss, since the same floss we buy in the U.S. for 20¢ is a whopping $1.49 a skein here! She will be a kid in a candy store when she sees Michaels and Hobby Lobby! I have contacted the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys to let them know she will be in town, and her status as a Fellow in their international organization should make her an authentic visiting dignitary!

When we went to dinner with Marja-Liisa and Markku last week, we learned that Markku is a train nut, and goes train spotting all over Europe when he isn’t playing with his model railroad in their basement. So we’ve promised him a trip on a narrow gauge and visits to model train shops and museums. There’s also a baseball game on the docket, and of course a couple of days at the cabin. If any of you have more ideas for their visit, please pass them along!

My next entry will involve Finland’s Easter witches, so stay tuned!


P.S. We now have over an hour more daylight than Denver -- 14 hours of visible light a day -- and are gaining light at a phenomenal 7 minutes a day! Midnight sun, here we come!

Monday, March 07, 2005


Winter School

Hi Everyone,

The day after we arrived home from Rovaniemi, we packed up again to attend Winter School. Roy is involved as a mentor in a virtual doctoral program run by Kalidescope, a European Union funding source like the National Science Foundation in the US. The University of Oulu received a grant from this organization to provide an international course exploring the core theoretical issues and empirical questions in different subfields of technology enhanced learning. Although the semester-long course is online, where students from 11 countries have a series of assignments, internet chats, and one-to-one online mentoring with professors from 6 countries, they came together for an in-depth 4 day session here in Oulu called Winter School. The goal of Kalidescope, through their virtual doctoral program and meetings like this, is to form alliances and collaboration among the member countries’ scholars. Roy was the only American taking part.

Winter School was held at Oulu University’s Bothnian Bay Research Station on Hailuoto Island, about 7 kilometres from Oulu. The Bothnian Bay, at the northern end of the Baltic Sea, does not have the saline content of deeper parts of the sea, so the bay freezes solid in the winter. There are 2 ways to get to Hailuoto. A ferry keeps a slushy path open across the bay with the occasional help of a mammoth-sized Icebreaker, and there is also an ice road marked with little pine branches stuck in the ice to show the way.

When our van, piled high with luggage, beer, food for evening parties, more beer, and two other participants drove up to the ferry dock, I breathed a sigh of relief that we were taking the “safe” ferry route, and were not motoring across on the ice. Then I saw our travel companions waiting with us to board. Two enormous trucks filled with rock, a city bus, another university van, and about 20 cars intended to sardine together on what seemed a ridiculously small ferry. But I didn’t feel any sway at all as the boat crossed the bay. Since the ice on either side is solid, there are no waves in the ferry lane, and thus, no sway. It was like being in a hovercraft, except for the sound of ice grinding under the bow.

The 20 minute drive to the research station on the island’s only paved road took us through pine and birch forest and past scattered red and yellow houses belonging to the 800 island residents. Occasionally we saw “Moose Crossing” signs reminding us that most of the large island is a wilderness park. The island’s economy depends on summer tourism, some fishing, and reindeer moss farming. This moss is actually a form of lichen and is used – yup, you guessed it – to feed the reindeer herds in Lapland.

At the Biology Research Station at the far end of the island there is a cluster of old, beautifully maintained cottages and dorm accommodations, a lighthouse, equipment for ongoing study of the bay’s ecology, 3 enormous windmills that furnish all of the island’s electricity, a wood-fired sauna which (showing Finnish priorities) was the first structure built at the research station, and a great expanse of frozen sea. I had expected the sea’s surface ice to be smooth, but it looked like it had been caught and frozen mid-wave producing a craggy, silent moonscape as far as the eye could see.

The doc students at the gathering were truly impressive. The meetings were conducted in English, and only 2 of the 24 had any difficulty with the language, though both were fluent in three or more other languages. Since I had no formal duties (and Roy was preoccupied with sessions, presentations, and talking up the doc students), I volunteered to take pictures for the group, and they literally forgot I was there as they broke into different interest groups where the concentration was palpable, and the discussions were spirited and insightful.

During the evenings, we had social gatherings including a Finnish hot dog roast in a log building with a large indoor firepit, an evening of guitar playing after a wood-fired sauna (pronounced sow-nah in Finnish), and a finale which included skits, songs, and poems performed by all of the participants.

A highlight on March 1st happened at breakfast, when Desislava, a Bulgarian doc student, gave us all simple candy-striped yarn bracelets and explained the custom of “Martenitsi,” when people give their friends variations of the bracelet to wish them good luck and health for the coming year. The custom is to keep the bracelet on until you see a stork (although mercifully Desislava said we could substitute the first spring flowers), when the yarn should be tied in a fruit tree so the birds have nesting materials. After I came home I found a Peace Core teacher’s account of Martenitsi and its homage to Baba Marta, or Grandmother March. For her account, click here.

Although none of us thought we could survive 4 days without e-mail and the internet, at the end of the conference we all agreed that we had gained more without electronic connection to the outside world. Friendships were forged, mentors were cubby-holed for their insights into the students’ various research projects, and all of us went home with a greater appreciation of our connection in a global community. As Roy told the group during one presentation, “You’re here with the people who will be your colleagues for the next 40 years. These are the people you’ll see at conferences, the people you’ll publish with, the ones you’ll send your graduate students to and the ones who will send you their brightest and best.” The importance of the European Union and its challenge to unite Europe to improve life and better compete not only in commerce but also in the world’s intellectual life was really brought home to me in this meeting.

At the same time, I am afraid that over the next generations the age-old customs of individual nations may fade. We talked with students about the ease of travel within the union, and of the many marriages that have occurred already between people of different nationalities. Although only 6 of the 30+ participants at the conference were native speakers, all were expected to speak English to participate. Most of the academic journals worldwide are in English. This “hegemony of sameness” is at once comforting and disturbing. It made me wonder how many years it will be until practices like “Martenitsi” will be forgotten.

Enough philosophical ramblings. Hope you're all doing well.


Thursday, March 03, 2005


Visiting Santa

Hi Everyone,

Time for another update. Last Friday Juha, Roy and I drove 150 kilometers north from Oulu to Rovaniemi for a meeting at the University of Lapland, the northernmost university in the world.

Along the way we stopped in Kemi, a city known for its Ice Castle where people can spend the night in an ice hotel room, have a drink in the ice bar, and even attend church services in the ice chapel. It is open from shortly after Christmas until April, and is made more elaborate and spacious every year.

After a meeting with the Vice President of the university, Juha took us on a tour of the city. The rivers in northern Finland become secondary highways in the winter, and in Rovaniemi, there are specially marked “roads” for snowmobiles, and trails for cross country skiing, hiking and sledding. They even have a municipal golf course set up on the river where golf bags are caddied on sleds and the players use red golf balls! Of course there are ice fishermen on the rivers as well who set up shelters very much like a Native American tepee, and build fires on the shore to keep warm.

We also visited Finland’s national elite sports complex where coaches receive specialized training and literally every sport from ski jumping to volley ball is represented. As we watched from the car, a biathlete skied past, stopped to fire at a target, and took off down the trail. After our tour, Juha headed back to Oulu, and Roy and I set off to visit Santa Claus.

You see, although Santa has his workshop and home at Korvatunturi Fell, a mountain on the Russian/Finnish border that is shaped like an ear so he can hear the wishes of boys and girls all over the world, he has an office conveniently located about 8 kilometers north of Rovaniemi at the Arctic Circle. This office receives over 40,000 visitors and about 350,000 letters every year, and as we can attest, Santa makes his visitors feel right at home.

Shortly after 4 p.m. Roy and I were ushered into Santa’s office where the shelves have huge books with titles like "The Winter Traveller’s Guide," "Sleds And Their Runners," “Chimneys,” “A Short History of Elves,” and “Reindeer Husbandry.” A fire crackled in the stone fireplace, and Santa was seated in a comfortable chair at his desk. He was wearing his everyday clothes – a linen shirt with a hand knitted vest, corduroy knickers tucked into hand knitted striped stockings, and sheepskin slippers with turned up toes. He seems to know the language of all the children he meets. We heard him speak Swedish to 2 little boys who we could tell were promising to be very, very good, French to a little girl, and of course English to us. He shook our hands, then looked puzzled, remarked that we looked familiar, and asked where we were from. When we told him, he said “Of course! I met you last Christmas Eve!”

During our visit he took out a large atlas, explaining that he gets a new one every January, and by the next Christmas he has it filled to overflowing with the names of boys and girls he needs to visit. We looked up the Colorado map, and from the circle we put around Denver we drew a line out to the margin and wrote “Layne and Tess” so he would know where the grandchildren lived. We feel sure that he’ll pay them a special visit on Christmas Eve.

From Santa’s office it was just a short walk to Santa’s Post Office, where the postcards (and even your passport!) can be stamped with his special seal. It was near the end of the day, so as we sat and wrote our postcards, we heard the elves using the big stamp which thump, thump, thumped every letter with his postmark.

And of course no visit to the Arctic Circle would be complete without a picture by the sign proving to one and all that we were there. We had taken the Travel section of the Denver Post with us, since they publish pictures of Denverites who travel hither and yon around the world and have their pictures taken with the Travel section. So we posed at the Arctic Circle sign with the paper. Then we posed by the big globe. Then Roy took a picture of me by one of the giant snowmen near the Arctic Circle sign. Then, since the finest selection of Finnish handicrafts is available at Santa’s place, we spent lots of money. In fact, if you hadn’t known better, you’d have thought we were tourists having a fabulous time at the top of the world! We topped off the evening with reindeer steak topped with lingonberries. Alas, we have no shame.

The weather in Rovaniemi was beautiful – about 18 degrees and bright sunshine. So the next day, after taking pictures of the gigantic municipal ice rink which replaces the city soccer field in the winter, we walked around town, taking pictures of snowpiles, sledding, and the ladders which grace nearly every home in Finland.

You see, even the peaked roofs in Finland occasionally need snow removal. The very tall buildings have a pulley-like contraption that travels along the peak of the roof. The shoveling daredevils, who undoubtedly have the most dangerous job in Finland, hook their belts on a rope attached to the pulley, and then shinny down the roof to clear away the snow. Roy saw one house that had a shovel still on the peak, and bare shingles the general width of a derriere leading down the roof and over the eaves to a giant pile of snow about 12 feet below. I suppose they’ll find the shovel’s owner by May…

We came back to Oulu by train Saturday evening, but not before we found a grocery store whose name might not make it in the U.S.

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