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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Friday

     Friday was our final day in Finland, and arguably the best. The day started with a final presentation at the Heureka science center, a culmination of our experiences in Finland. We were offered the opportunity to experience the activities in the center for one final time before our trip to Hvittrask, the Saarien family manor.
     Hvittrask is an architectural wonder, and a masterful presentation of both Finnish , and American architectural styles. The housing complex was once home to several famous Finnish architects, and the styles, art, and decor was represenative of of this unique circumstance.
     After our private tour we hiked to a beautiful bluff overlooking a lake, and some famous Finnish petroglyphs. Following the ordeal the group was rewarded by a traditional Finnish sauna by the lake. The next few hours progressed in a haze of relaxation, and pleasure as we enjoyed the Sauna, and a private dinner. 
    

Thursday

     Thursday started out like a usual day of school, we got up early, prepped and waited for the bus, except our bus was a tram system, and we were in the heart of Helsinki, but same stuff. We met our header for the morning Karki Havaste. Karki whom we met on our first night for dinner is a student at the local preforming arts college Kallio.
     We dropped our coats on hangers, and grabbed some slippers, for it was going to be a long day. Our fist class was perceptions in media, a class that focused on the American students in the back of the room on bean bag chairs. Our next class of the day was gym, which we promptly skipped to go cafe hopping. Drunk with euros and excitement the group spent the next few hours dinning at famous high society spots in Helsinki. But we had to return for our next classes, some went to math II and others went to Finnish studies. No matter we all met after our courses, to present once again for the Environmental sciences class.
     After school the kids went on to do more cafe hopping, and shopping!
     The day turned to night as the whole American group proceeded to (poorly) navigate the Finnish public transportation system to a dinner a Mikko Myllykosi's home.

Wednesday

Wednesday the kids went back to school. To help further educate us children, we were gifted with the opportunity to attend Svenska Normallyceum a Swedish speaking grammar school. Finnish schools operate on block scheduling, So the classes lasted for an hour and forty minutes. Our fist class of the day was an Foreign language class, specifically English. The group was asked to present, and teach in front of the classroom ( and to dispel negative American stereotypes). Following English we attended ethics of the judiciary system, we were also asked to present, and we did in fact learn a little bit about Finnish legal processes. This lead into our final class, Science!
     When the day was over the students were lead around the city by Pinja, to explore more of Helsinki's exquisite cafe culture. Cafe hopping soon lead into a meeting with Tommi, and the rest of the Demos think tank. For the next two hours American, and Finnish minds melded into one, to solve the complex issues surrounding Adirondack transportation issues.
     After our meeting with Demos, the group proceeded to attend a community activities group Dodo. The night was marked by presentations from bike enthusiasts, and global alternative economic leaders. But once again we were called to present before the group.
     After our meeting with Dodo we had an interesting dinner of Finnish Korean.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Dan's Post

     Today was ripe with knowledge, and fun. The team was woken early in the morning to run to city hall for a presentation by the Deputy Mayor of Helsinki Pekka Sauri. Seated in a regale, and ornate conference room we listened to the deputy mayor on topics ranging from city planning to central heating, and Finland's place as the world leader in innovation technologies.
     From the meeting the group briskly walked past the Presidential manor, to have a chance encounter with 2008 Nobel Peace prize winner, and former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari. Following our encounter the team attended a meeting underneath Helsinki in reguards to Finnish centrally located server systems, and the innovative techniques in effect for energy conservation. we also got a fist hand look at the underground tunnel system that in some places stretched in excess of 300 meters underground.
     For the rest of the day the team and I wandered around downtown Helsinki visiting local coffee shop, to coffee shop. Around dinner time we briskly walked several blocks to our dinner that would consume the next three hours, and the resst of the night

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Why is Finland so cool?

I really can’t believe another day has already ended. Today was another busy day filled with new experiences that led me to continue my praise of the Finns and their way of life. Our team awoke early this morning to get a jumpstart on the day. We had our first opportunity to ride on the train. Just to set the scene, I should tell you that Helsinki is a city of public transit. There is not any congestion in the streets because there are not a lot of cars in the city and there seems to always be a parking spot available if you are in need. The tram, known to Americans as the trolley, runs through throughout the city and is used by many. I was impressed to find that despite the large volume of passengers that use the trains, they were very clean. It’s far easier to have strong public transit systems in an urban area but even in the most remote areas of Finland like Isnas, there were numerous bus stops in the middle of the country.
            After reaching Vantaa, a part of the greater Helsinki area, we visited and Eco-school. Any school in Finland can become an Eco-school by paying a fee and meeting certain requirements. Eco-schools raise a green flag instead of a regular Finnish flag and are making efforts by managing their waste and enacting energy efficient practices. Even more interesting was learning about the Climate Strategy of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, just to mention one goal: the city of Helsinki plans to reduce 39% of greenhouse gases by 2030. That is a huge number but if citizens can believe it is attainable, what reason have I to doubt them? After interacting with Finns for the past few days I believe they are fully capable of reaching that goal and who knows, maybe they will even exceed it. The Finnish mentality includes the idea that the environment is to be protected; they learn from a very young age that nature is a gift and should not be reckoned with.
            The Finnish continued to amaze me when I visited Heureka Science Center, our host for this trip, for the first time. The roles were switched in the afternoon as members of the Adirondack team presented to directors and staff members of Heureka. It’s impossible for me to pinpoint my favorite exhibit but I can say that I felt as though I was a child walking into the best episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy. I bicycled across a tightrope and taste tested chocolate, the interactives were never-ending. After exploring the museum and it’s exhibits, we attended an evening event where we met the US Ambassador to Finland, Bruce Oreck.
            One question has crossed my mind too many times during this trip. It’s a little silly but each day I learn more possible ways to answer it. Today was no exception, so the question remains: just why is Finland so cool? 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Meadow's Food for thought


Time flies by quickly in Finland but our team continues to achieve a lot. Today, we awoke to sunshine and blue skies, not to mention, a tour of the city of Helsinki. Yes, the city streets charmed me again today and I soon found myself having an improbable romance with architecture. I’m sure you have heard of Eliel Saarinen, Onni Tarjanne and Theodore Hoije before? No?! In Finland, they are famous for their ability to create incredible architectural design. I could write this entire entry about all I’ve learned about Finnish architecture but I’ll stop and get to the roots of our project today.
Following our culturally stimulating morning we journeyed to Suomenlinna: a UNESCO World Heritage site and an island of around 800 inhabitants that hosts nearly a quarter of a million visitors each summer. We spoke with permanent residents and picked up some of the history of the island along the way.
Suomenlinna is very similar to the Adirondacks. Though far smaller than the 6 million acres Adirondackers call home, it is similar in that summer is the busiest time of year and acts as fuel for the economy. Suomenlinna is a protected historic area but though it is protected, guests are welcome to visit and live just as they are in the Adirondacks. However, there is a critical difference between Suomenlinna and the Adirondacks because there is an emphasis on sustainable development. While working to preserve their historic surroundings, the citizens of the island do not wish to keep it frozen in time but advance their technology by living in a very sustainable fashion.
The rest of our day involved a trip to the ship yard where large wooden sail boats are traditionally made. It became apparent as we learned of how the ships are built that Finnish carry so much pride in all their country has to offer. The ships they were building were seaworthy, some sleeping up to 25 in their bunks, and they were built using wood from Finland. Builders didn’t buy lumber that would have to travel thousands of miles, requiring gallons of gasoline and taking away from local markets. Instead, they capitalized on the natural resources available to them and it resulted in a quality product. Even our lunch was a traditional meal of fish soup (the best soup I have ever had in my entire life and I’m quite the picky eater) but once again the Finns were supporting their local market, something that Americans really should try to do.

As an importing society it sounds strange to embrace the idea of independence but America has so much to offer. This week, I challenge you: try to support local food and businesses. Do you know how many miles your food travelled before reaching your plate today? Well, that’s enough food for thought, literally.     

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Meadow's Post

Where do I begin? Today began after a perfect night of sleep at Kaarnaranta in Labby, located on the countryside of Finland. After an early start, we drove the roads of the countryside with quaint houses painted in traditional colors namely: red, sky blue, and yellow. We headed toward Lahti to see the mass start of a National Cross Country Ski Competition.

After the race, we visited Pro Wood where we learned about wooden products and the movement to encourage the use of wood in Finnish architecture. At lunch, salmon and duck were the meal options and we proceeded to have another delicious Finnish meal at Casseli, with a snow covered view of the lake. Following the meal we had a quick tour of Sibelius Concert Hall which was followed by presentations by Lahti City representatives. Lahti is the leading city in Finland for sustainable technology. Lahti City has taken strides with regards to waste management especially. Lahti City has managed to recycle and compost 95% of their waste.

However, the day didn't end in Lahti City. Our team piled into cars one last time to travel to Helsinki where we will stay for the remainder of our time in Finland. Our last commitment of the day was to attend a group dinner and met with Per-Edvin Persson, director of Heureka Science Center (another incredible meal-we're so spoiled).

After dinner we walked back to Hotel Arthur. From my short time here, I already can see what a beautiful city Helsinki is; with cobblestone streets, a passion for design and sidewalks that are virtually free of any trash. I've realized that I am very lucky to be able to call Helsinki my home for the next week. I can't wait for tomorrow!