The poem above reminded me of myself. My life and my experiences.
For what was has it been like to be me?
How has it felt to be like me?
I was born in a country far away from Finland and brought up in a country a lot closer to Finland.
As a child, as a teenager, and as an adult I have been from here and there, and from neither there or here. I was once a child of two cultures and now I am an adult with roots in two continents and three countries.
I guess I have never felt truly at home anywhere and the same goes for my two brothers. Having said that, I also feel at home everywhere, and, because of my experiences, it has been easy for me to adjust to new situations and new locations.
I may have lost my sense of belonging to a particular country and culture, but I have also gained a lot. For example, I speak three languages which I occasionally get mixed up. Once, having been to Finland for several years, I went to visit my parents who now lived in the country I was born in. I wanted to get a local SIM card for my mobile phone and marched into a shop explaining my need in length to the salesperson… in Finnish. The salesperson stared at me with utter puzzlement and it was my father who finally said: “What an earth are you talking about, and more importantly, what language are you speaking?”
And why do I speak Finnish? What had brought me to Finland?
I was in Finland and I speak Finnish because of love. Because I had met and fell in love with a girl from that tiny country on the edge of Europe. Met, fell in love and decided to move with her to Finland all those years ago.
My parents were not happy about my decision, they were aghast. My parents had had plans for me to continue my studies in an English-speaking country, the US, UK or Canada. They had never heard of anyone going to Finland for an academic education and didn’t know a thing about Finland’s universities.
I kept my decision though, moved to Finland, and started my studies and my new life with my Finnish girlfriend. I must admit I had moments of doubt and slight regret during my first year in Finland, but after a while, I settled in, integrated and found my own place. I also learned Finnish and many other things like riding bike in snow and freezing cold (I preferred using ladies thick stockings for insulation instead of those ugly and horrible “pitkät kalsarit”), enjoying joulutorttu and hillomunkki (or “hiilomunkki”, like I always said), being comfortable in a relative silence, ignoring the stares I drew in smaller towns, and loving the reliable and high hot water pressure.
It has now been a long time since my last hot shower in Finland, but my experiences and memories remain fresh and intact. Finland makes a part of me, Finland is a part of me and a part of me is a Finn.