lauantai 30. toukokuuta 2009

Last photos from Valaam trip

The last photos of our Valaam trip are online in my Flickr-site.

Here´s some:

New layout

It was time to change the layout of this blog.

This time it is blueish. Maybe the top heade will change, but we´ll see...

perjantai 29. toukokuuta 2009

Off with LastFM

My free subsriction in LastFM ended, so I deleted the widget too.

I´m a happy Spotify user now.

tiistai 26. toukokuuta 2009

First photos online

I´ve added the first photos from the Russian trip to the
Flickr page. These photos are from Sortavala, the photos of Valaam island and monastery will be online in Thursday (Am I promising too much again...).

Tomorrow will be a football fiesta for me and my daughters. The long awaited Father-Daughter-Daughter-Football trip will happen tomorrow!

Korpiklaani: Pine Woods

lauantai 23. toukokuuta 2009

perjantai 22. toukokuuta 2009

Lutheran tradition in Sortavala

I'm currently in the bus, waiting in line for the customs. It's not so easy to travel to European Union. The customs officials in this crossing point are apparently much slower than in southern customs officials.

So far today the following two events have happened:

We visited the small Lutheran parish of Sortavala. It has about 130 members from more than 20 nationalities. It has a Finnish history, but after the war and burning of the old church, many people from different old Soviet states have joined. The parish is very poor but has excellent premises. The Finnish parishes have donated a lot of money there. So did we. A quite young vicar Anton is leading the parish very diligently.

One of the saddest moments of our trip was when we visited an old Finnish graveyard. Like a bad omen we encountered a dead dog beside the gates. Flies all over it. It was propably a result of a car hit. The graveyard was totally abandoned, shamed and forgotten. The headstones were broken, crosses were battered, anarchism graffitis etc. were sprayed in some stones. After the war in the early -40's the Finns were evacuated and the latest death-year I found in the headstones was 1939. After that the Soviet Union neglected it totally and nowadays Sortavala don't have the money to take care of it. It's very shameful still. Only recently there's been discussion between all the Churches in Sortavala that this matter should be rectified.

Now the customs is over (it took some time to write this, in small fractions of time), and we're travelling in Finland again.

Home is few hours away.

Valaam and Sortavala

After the wake-up, we ate some breakfast at the hotel. It was a good average morning breakfast. Nothing special but did it's job to give us the energy for the day. The air looked very cold and misty with freezing wind. We wondered what to wear. But the sun won after one hour and the day turned out to be very nice and sunny.

Some of us are worried about the water they use here. A friend of mine told that he knows a man who got some kind of tiny worm from the water and he lost more than 50kg weight with the treatment to kill the worm. We have to be extra careful about the liquids, juice etc.

The waterride to Valaam island was quite boring because of the weather. Very loud engines pushed the large boat off the port and the strong smell of fuel filled the boat. We couldn't see outside because of the mist but I talked with my colleague about Finnish comical TV-shows, so it didn´t matter that much.

Valaam island and the monastery were much bigger than I expected. Strict rules for women were instructed for the women of our group. They must wear scarves over head and a long skirt. Tradition. Four male singers from St. Petersburg sang for us old monastery church some Christian-Orthodox songs. Very moving, actually. They straighten our thoughts towards God in that small church. We entered the large monastery main church

As a Lutheran, I've been thought pretty straightforward in Lutheran way. I didn't know much about Orthodox Christianity, icons, common practices etc. The churches is Valaam showed me a different way to think and the strenght of tradition. And different ways to pray and worship. Not better or worse, just different.

I bought two small icons: Jesus the Pantokrator and the Valaam's own icon Miracle-Working Valaam Icon of the Mother of God.

In conclusion, Valaam was more than I expected, Sortavala was something different. The post-Soviet rubble and decay was known to me, but still the extent of it surprised me. Sortavala looks to me as a sad town. Houses were broken, lots of trash etc. The reason for that is that last governments have refused to give any money for the development. For decades! Industries have went bankrupt creating unemployment, social problems, alcoholism etc. Young people can't see any future here so they are moving away.

But there's hope. There certainly is. Tourism. In many places the people are strongly building on turism. In Valaam island that was very obvious. Not in a way of commercialising Christianity but emphasizing on it strongly. In next 5-10 years this place will be very different. The marketing is targeting on Finns and the rich religious people from Moscow and St. Petersburg. I hope that will happen and the area will start to develop into something else than misery.

Great day indeed!

keskiviikko 20. toukokuuta 2009


We arrived in customs at Niirala. Everyone had said that the Niirala border-crossing would take hours because of the European Union border control and Russian Federation's officials´ very slow habits. This was proved to be wrong, it only took us about an hour to check us in the Russian Federation. Olga, the customs official, smiled at me. That's not very common either.

Sortavala is a small Russian-Finnish town. It's almost totally Russian today, but it has a strong Finnish history for many decades before the war. Most buildings in the centre of town are Finnish tradition.

Of course the post-Soviet time was very present. The houses are broken and the look of the city is very poor. If something went broke, it just couldn't be fixed or repaired. Our guide said that everything the officials said to be temporary is always permanent.

The Stalin age brought here many people from different parts of Soviet Union: Ukraine, Belarus, even from Chechnya. They were forced to move here. Poor people didn't have a choice but to leave their homes and travel here.

The government has declined to give any money for the centuries to develop this place. Nowadays the reason is financial crisis in the world. So this city hasn't had a chanche to progress. And it is seen here too. With a little funding this could be a very active and developing city aiming for the future.

But there's still something nice about this town. It can't be explained, you must experience it.

From the bus

I'm travelling with my colleagues through the Eastern Finland towards the EU-border. Now we are in Joutseno. I've been reading a leaflet about the history of Sortavala and Valaam monastery. My expectations are growing... It seems that Sortavala isn't as small town as I thought, there's about 20 000 inhabitants. Leaflet warns about beggars and thieves, some colleagues seems to be a little afraid. I don't worry about these things, as long as I don't provoke anyone. I don't plan to. Bottled water is the only water to drink.

Later we will eat at some place nearby the border. Small hunger is approaching...

maanantai 18. toukokuuta 2009


Not the Alamo...

Next Wednesday the workers of Olari parish woke up early. At 8am we are leaving to Russia for a 3-day trip. I'm looking forward to it. I hope the days will be full of laughter (as we usually have), old Russian Orthodox history and going back to basic fundaments of the Christian faith. And silent prayer.

We'll be singing Finnish folk and religious songs and hymns during our trip. Me and one other colleague will be playing a lot of guitar. It's been too long when I've played a guitar for more than a few songs.

The town of Sortavala is the place where we are staying the nights. The town used to be in Finland, Finnish town before the wars. It'll be interesting too see, how much Finnish culture is left there. I presume the place will be almost all Russian now. But that's inevitable and I have no desires to get those areas back into Finland.

The old Valamo Orthodox monastery is the goal of our trip. That's the place what this trip is for. I have rather big expectations for the place, I hope I won't be disappointed. I'll write more when we get there, it's easier to describe it when I'm actually there, get the feeling of the place.

I'll shoot many photos during the trip, you'll see them later in Flickr.

This is the first entry of my blog that has no Finnish translation. From now on this blog will be in English only. I hope you can understand my decision. This will push me to write more often too. Perhaps...

Edenbridge: The Whisper of the Ages

Näytä suurempi kartta

tiistai 12. toukokuuta 2009

Planning - Suunnittelua

Last days I´ve been planning a gathering with my colleagues. That will be very interesting one, it will happen in June in Matinkylä. More information about this in our parish´ website. I hope I can translate more text in English, perhaps tomorrow. I hope and pray that the gathering will be a start of something new in our parish. I´ll report something here when it happens.

And I´ve received an email, which was very heartwarming. It encouraged me a lot. Thank you (you know who you are!).

Viime päivät olen suunnitellut kokoontumista Matinkappelilla kollegoiden kanssa. Se tulee olemaan jotain aivan uutta ja toivottavasti alku jonkun suuremman Espoossa. Lisäinfoa Olarin seurakunnan nettisivuilta, jonne olisi vielä tarkoitus saada vähän käännöstä lisää lähipäivinä. Kerron lisää sitten kun tapahtuma on ajankohtainen.

Ja sain tässä äskettäin sähköpostin, josta tuli tosi hyvä olo. Rohkaisi. Kiitos.

Our Viivi cat reaching to her Creator

Willie Nelson. Wont catch me crying

perjantai 8. toukokuuta 2009

Seminars - Seminaareja

This week me and my co-workers from Olari and Seinäjoki parishes and from SKTK (Finnish parishes in Germany) participated in a seminar together. We discussed the matters of confirmation school and planned together the Finnish-German confirmation camp in August. Four days of planning was great, we achieved much, but tiresome too.

Tomorrow I´ll be attending a multicultural seminar in Helsinki were the group leaders from many Christian denominations will take part and exchange ideas together. I´m looking forward of meeting the new people who are doing multicultural work in the capital area.

Tällä viikolla suunnittelimme suomalais-saksalaista rippikoulua yhdessä Seinäjoen seurakunnan sekä Suomen Saksassa tehtävän kirkollisen työn pappien kanssa. Rippikoulun leiriosuus tuli hyvin suunniteltua, mutta aivotyö väsyttää myös. Rippikoululaisten kanssa oli eilen mukava ilta.

Huomenna osallistun monikulttuurisen työn seminaariin, jossa eri kristillisten seurakuntien ryhmien johtajat tapaavat ja keskustelevat yhdessä. Olen vähän kuunteluoppilaana, mutta on mukava tutustua uusiin eri kansallisuustaustan omaaviin ihmisiin.

Radiohead: Lucky