Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Farewell, Järvenpää!

It's never easy to bid farewell to friends.

Tonight was the official 25th anniversary celebration of the Sister City relationship of Järvenpää, Finland, and Pasadena, California. It also marked our last evening with our gracious Finnish hosts before we head to Germany.

About 25 people gathered at Kallio-Kuninkala, a graceful manor house owned by the Paloheimo Foundation. Some of you may know that Y.A. Paloheimo was the Finnish Consul for the southwest region of the U.S. who was married to the granddaughter of Dr. and Mrs. Adalbert Fenyes, who built the Fenyes Mansion that is now part of the Pasadena Museum of History complex.

Kallio-Kuninkala has been in the Paloheimo family for 110 years and now is owned by the Paloheimo Foundation. For more than 30 years Kallio-Kuninkala has been the site of Sibelius Academy courses for Finnish music students.

Shortly after our arrival, Mr. Lauri Paloheimo, a direct descendent of Y.A. Paloheimo, provided an overview of Kallio-Kuninkala.

We were fortunate to be entertained by Sibelius Academy students Ann-Karin Korhonen (left) and Meri-Tuuli Saarnio. They played a traditional Finnish song followed by a tune composed by Ann-Karin. The harp-like instrument is called a Kantele, which is uniquely Finnish.

Next came this wonderful songbird -- Enni Haaparanta -- who sang two short songs: one whimsical and the second a more serious number composed by Jean Sibelius. By the way, she was an exchange student in Pasadena when she was in high school.

Mayor Erkki Kukkonen spoke about the relevance of our Sister City relationship from his city's perspective, and Mayor Bill Bogaard did the same from Pasadena's perspective.

Then there was an exchange of diplomatic gifts. Mayor Kukkonen presented a tray by architect Alvar Aalto, who designed the Joonas Kokkonen home that we visited last night.

Mayor Bogaard presented a crystal award with an inscription commemorating the 25th anniversary.

Mr. Kimberly Hargan is the Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki (more about that below as I work backwards through the day). He was representing Barbara Barrett, the American Ambassador to Finland, who had a commitment tonight with some Japanese visitors. Mr. Hargan, who was raised in Fairbanks, Alaska, and whose brother studied on scholarship years ago at Pasadena Playhouse, made compelling remarks about the importance of public diplomacy and how sharing cultures broadens the world for everyone in it. He has beem in the U.S. diplomatic service for 20 years; this is his second year serving in Helsinki.

The final speaker was Ari Salmi, a former exchange student who spent a summer studying at Pasadena City College when he was 17 as a participant in the Telescopes in Education program. Now he is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Helsinki and his main field of study is ultrasonics. He related his experiences in Pasadena, where he did hands-on work at Mt. Wilson and JPL. I would swear I took a photo of Ari, but I can't find it.

We enjoyed a beautiful buffet dinner and visited with each other. Here's a high-level conference with the two mayors and Ilkka Holmila, the City of Järvenpää city architect.

The man in the middle is Pekka Luuk, a long-time member of the Järvenpää Ctiy Council and co-founder 25 years ago of the local chapter of the Finnish-American Society. To his left is Sheila Lamson and to his right is someone from the Jäarvenpää group whose name I don't know (sorry).

After retiring to the back porch for dessert and coffee, more gifts were exchanged -- this time between the Pasadena Sister Cities Committee and the Järvenpää chapter of the Finnish-American Society.

Ooh! Remember Ari who studied at PCC? That's him seated on the left!

I can't continue without giving a special shout-out to the fellow standing to the right of Ari. Pasi (pronounced POSS-ee) Ketolainen is the president of the Jäarvenpää Chapter of the Finnish-American Society, which of course is a voluntary position. His salaried position is as a physics teacher at Järvenpään Lukio, the local high school. Pasi is to be commended for being such an excellent teacher and mentor that one or two of his students qualify just about every year for the International Physics Olympiad. Pasi also has a keen sense of humor and never misses the opportunity to tell a funny joke with a decidedly Finnish twist. No matter what topic we might be discussing at any moment, Pasi can be counted on to say, "I have an anecdote about that!"

I don't have a photo of this, but at the end of our celebration Mayor Kukkonen presented each of us in the Pasadena delegation with a three-CD set of the the music of Jean Sibelius.

As a classical music aficionado who performed a recital version of "Finlandia" on the piano when I was a kid, the presentation of this gift brought me to tears. Besides, Judy Kent and I visited the Sibelius home earlier in the day (more about that below), which was an overwhelming experience. I will treasure this collection always.

As we prepared to leave this memorable celebration and head back to our hotel, two of the City of Järvenpää employees sent special greetings to some City of Pasadena staff: Leena Ritala, manager of international affairs, sends best wishes to Patsy Lane, director of the Pasadena Human Services and Recreation Department; and Ilkka Holmila, the city architect, extends a hearty hello to Pasadena Planning and Development Director Richard Bruckner.

* * *

The Pasadena group began the day today with a trip to the City of Järvenpää Technical Department, which oversees recreation, urban planning and internal services such as housekeeping.

The group got an overview of the department and learned about issues from, left to right, Jukka Laitila, city surveyor; Jyrki Meronen, director of the department; Hannele Portman, who oversees recreation programs; and Heidi Kawhanen, an intern.

The meeting took place at Järvenpää City Hall.

Next they visited the swimming complex, which includes swimming pools for athletes and children plus one for hydro-therapy; a water park; jacuzzis; exercise areas and more.

Judy and I played hooky! We just needed a little time away from the tight (although necessary) schedule, so we took a taxi to Ainola, the home in Järvenpää of Jean Sibelius, the most important composer in Finlands's history. It requires a bit of hike through the woods, but what a beautiful setting. Sibelius lived there from 1904 until his death in 1957.

"Finlandia" is his most famous work, although he is renowned for his many other compositions as well. While Finland was under Russian rule, "Finlandia" was banned in 1917 for being so identified with Finnish national aspirations.

Sibelius and his wife Aino are buried on the property.

Judy had her handy-dandy Pasadena Star-News with her, so we asked a docent to snap our photo at the entrance to the home.

* * *

We returned to the hotel, where we changed into "dress for success" attire and joined the rest of the Pasadena delegation (and some Järvenpää city employees as well) for a trip back to Helsinki for a celebration of our nation's independence.

We each got individual invitations.

Wow, what an impressive scene! The U.S. Embassy in Helsinki is massive, on sweeping grounds overlooking the Baltic Sea. Hundreds of people were there -- I had no idea there were so many Americans in these parts! Plus a large cadre of the international diplomatic corps was there to help us celebrate.

There was extremely strict security. Sadly, no cameras were allowed so I have absolutely nothing to show you. But it was a great scene. Barbara Barrett is the U.S. Ambassador to Finland, and I got myself into the reception line so I could greet her personally. There was a huge catering tent with all-American food and drink, including hot dogs, hamburgers, Pringles, m&m's, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, Miller Beer, Beringer wines from California, and on and on. The entire scene was decorated in red, white and blue. The program was very nice, with the colors posted by the U.S. Marine battalion assigned to the embassy, the U.S. and Finnish national anthems, and a short yet inspiring speech by Ms. Barrett about the significance of America's Declaration of Independence and its impact on the world.

Then it was back to the hotel for a couple of hours of down time before we headed to Kallio-Kuninkala, and now you're all caught up!

At o-dark-30 tomorrow we will head for the Helsinki airport and the flight Frankfurt, and then the drive to Ludwigshafen!

Sleep tight.


Miss Havisham said...

Wow. What a ride!

Aaron Proctor said...

Is there a Finnish Aaron Proctor blogger type guy who bugs all the city councilmembers in that town?

- AP

pasadenapio said...

Everybody on this side of the pond seems to know what a blog is, but apparently nobody has one. Reminds me of myself a few weeks ago!!! And now I'm loving it.

Alan Lamson said...

Dear Ann: A sharp collection of comments and pictures of the Pasadena Sister City celebrations in Jarvenpaa in June. Many thanks--Alan & Sheila Lamson