Last from Finland 16-5-2011


It all seems a dream. Its been a month that we left India and Finland has become our new home, with so many friends, relatives of soul and extended families. I profusely thank Rotary International for this wonderful GSE program and Rotary e club, esp Rtn Suryanarayana garu for nominating me and the Rotarians of District 3150 of AP and 1400 of Finland. 30 days just flew away. Today we gave our last presentation and after packing my luggage I sat to write the last blog from Finland.

We had been to the steel factory Outa Kumpu, one of the largest in Europe. It was a highly restricted and protected area and the Rotarians managed the permissions and took us around in protective gear. We saw the huge machines make steel from scrap, roll them in hot boilers into sheets, then cold boilers and then polish, roll, cut and pack. We were taken in a bus that had a mike and the Rotarians explained the city of Tornio, city of Kemi, the industries, history, the oldest church of Kemi (1902), the city hall, youth center, State office to start enterprises, Spa and beauty business and a Candy store in Sweden. The candy store had different varieties of Candy that people bought in Kilos. We got some for the kids back home. Its a funny situation at Tornio and Haparanda. Sweden is an hour behind Finland and when u cross the river Tornio you are an hour behind, and when you come back to Finland you are an hour ahead. More interesting is the Golf course thats half in Tornio and half in Haaparanda. You put a ball and it comes an hour late or an hour early depending on which half you are at and into which half you put the ball. The two cities also have strong Ice hockey craze! Its like our India Pak cricket match.

Finland won the Ice hockey championship yesterday after 1998. Old Finnish grand moms who watched that match went to Haaparanda, opened champaign bottles at the city market square and shouted that Suomi, (Finland in Finnish) is the champion. Many youth from Tornio went into the streets of Haaparanda and celebrated. Even today Helsinky is totally in jubilant mood with the victory. Like Indians they gave their heroes a grand welcome and sang songs. There were 80000 Finns gathered in Helsinky. Morning we went to Tornio RC and exchanged the flags and evening we had RC meet of Kemi club where we gave our last presentation. We thanked every one, took pictures and came home.

Nostalgia is filling us. Finland has taught us patience, inner silence, hardwork, perseverance, conserving Nature, wild life, giving importance to Family and state, enjoying whatever Nature gives, live life, take things slowly and relax. Tomorrow our hosts are going to take us to Oulu airport and from there we go to Helsinky. we planned to tour Europe for another week and return home on 25th of May, 2011. Its going to be a 2 hour drive and we need to start early. Our hosts have packed us some food too- just like our parents do.

Continents apart, countries apart, with different languages, cultures, food habits, life styles what I experienced and realized is the lesson from Finland, that essence of human beings is their ability to love, care and relate to. We are all the same, with same emotional, physical, societal, spiritual needs.

Well, thats my last update. Thank you for reading through my experiences, itineraries and diary.


Bangla Bharathi

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

From Finland 15-5-2011


Two more days to go…for the GSE programme to end. Its come so quick! This morning we left Rovaniemi. Rtn Sakari and Anne made special breakfast for me and wished me good luck and invited me over during winter. We then went to Tornio. It was an hour and half journey. Tornio and Kemi are twin cities and the next city Haaparanda is in Sweden. so the borders on maps and paper are not seen here.

Shashi and I were received by Rtn Heikki who drove us home in Kemi. Päivi, his wife was waiting us they had recently celebrated 32 yrs of marriage! Their children are grown up, their son Anso lives in Germany working for the Stora enso factory of Finland while their daughter who was married on the New years eve lived in Helsinky working in the HR of govt. BTW the family has a small toy poodle with a Finnish passport and his name is Onso. he is 6yrs old. Carrying pets across the border needs a passport for pets too we were told and RTn Heikki has a summer cottage on the swedish side. Päivi gave us a great lunch, showed the family pictures, garden and after resting a while we went to their summer cottage in Sweden.

Today is the Ice Hockey world championship finals between Finland and Sweden. we are told that when Finland wins, people in Kemi go with Finland flags and celebrate on Haaparanda, the Sweden and when Sweden wins they come to celebrate in Kemi with Sweden flags. It would be a great amount of shouting and public display of celebration. Its just a small bridge and the river Torneo under separating them. We crossed the bridge and it was like going from Deepak theatre circle to chikkadpally with the little bridge separating two areas. We stepped on the swedish country side and Rtn Heikki’s cottage was by the river Torneo. On the Finnish side was Päivi’s parents home and we could see who was fishing, who was driving et al. There were a lot of Swans resting and Rtn Heikki tooks us on his rowing boat into the river. It was a different experience to row the boat and be in two countries at the same time. No Indian must have traveled this way. We then helped Heikki to fence the Raspberry plants, did a little gardening and came indoors. The toilets at the summer cottage were eco friendly and old. It was fun! And it started to rain. After the rain subsided we started home to watch the ice hockey match finals.

Home, food again, sauna and the finals- Finland beat Sweden by 5-1. We also watched Anne’s wedding CD. Its late and we have 2 RC meets tomorrow. Day after we would be going to Oulu to board a flight to Helsinky. It would be the last update here about Finland. Thanks to Rotary for giving me a lifetime opportunity to be in Finland and extend my family. The bonds we made are forever and the good will we brought may it forge new partnerships between the two countries.

Stay tuned then for the last update!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

From Finland 14-5-2011


Hello there, I had become a kid once again. I met THE SANTA CLAUS!!

To start from the beginning, we reached Rovaniemi Santa Claus hotel and went on a walking tour to the museums we were introduced to yesterday. Rtn Eero was our guide who had so many surprises for us. We saw the upcoming science center that would be open by June and then went to ARCTIKUM, the only museum cum study center of the Arctic circle. It had History of the land and the mankind of Arctic circle. The different cultures, tribes, languages, fights that people had, the Finnish reconstruction of their cities, etc. Its heart rending to see how their cities were burnt down completely, youth killed, property plundered and even after that the Finns survived. They built themselves up, brick by brick, log by log while using their resources and conserving them. Rtn Eeros is an excellent guide as he brought to life those times. We also watched an excellent film on Aurora Borealis, the northern lights. It was a different world there at the museum. but time was running out so we had to rush.

After lunch at the museum we went to Santa Claus’ office! Yes, and he lives there and sees visitors all the year. His official post office, workshop too are in the same premises. We took a lot of pictures and the moment we entered the village, we turned 6yrs old. Rtn Eero took us to the Arctic circle that passes through the Santa’s village. We crossed it and got our certificates. Yippee! Then it was time to meet our childhood magical Godfather, Father Santa Claus. we went slowly, being positive and thinking of only good and we went through the winding stairs, dark tunnels into a huge hall with a gigantic pendulum thats moving. We were told that the pendulum is connected to Earth’s axis and Santa slows it or reverses it to have enough time to distribute presents all over the world. As we waited for our turn…we were told Santa’s office gets the pictures and we could buy the photographs from them. No, photography was not allowed inside. We walked in as an elf led the way and lo there was Father Christmas, the Santa Claus sitting on his chair and we ran to him. We forgot our age, professions, statures, everything that makes you an adult and let our inner child wake up and hug Santa. He gave us a warm hug, asked how we were enjoying the trip and conveyed his Love, Good will, blessings from the Lord and wished all peace, joy and prosperity. He promised to visit India, esp Hyderabad with more presents this Christmas. He asked us to sing a Hindi song and we all sang in great chorus the beautiful song that we learnt at school- Honge kaamyaab, hum honge kaamyaab….! we didnt want to leave and so kept saying something or the other and Sam gave his family photo to Santa, I gave him a key chain, Rtn Ramesh gave him his club pin and Santa was happy. He said it was his day as its usually he that gives gifts and today he’s receiving them! We had to leave and so we came, collected our pictures and the Rorary Club of Rovaniemi gifted us the video of our meeting with Santa.

We went to the wooden walking trail in the forest over the Rapids of River Kemi to the camp place. And another surprise! Rtn Eero lit a camp fire, taught us to do with metals, the ancient Finnish way and like Santa pulled out so many things from his backpack- bread, sausages, capsicum, kettle, forks, knives, tissues, paper cups, glasses, tea, sugar, sauces, pepper, salt,….God!! We baked our capsicum- bread and ate full. Then we put all garbage into the fire, tins into backpack, doused the fire and walked back to the parking lot, got into the car and reached the hotel.

We girls, changed into saris and the RC meet happened. we gave a detailed presentation that lasted more than an hour and came home. My host Anne Maria was so impressed by the sari that when i offered to put it on her, she immediately got her camera rolling. Lil Ansku tried half saree and well, it was a great day!

Tomorrow we are going to Tornio and Kemi, the border towns of Finland and Sweden. We are told that the border is open border and there are locals on either side. More tomorrow….stay tuned!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

From Finland- photos

Hey, I met Santa Claus at his office.

He wished India and all its people love, good will, blessings from Lord and wished Joy, peace, prosperity and promised to visit India with more gifts this Christmas.

Please do see the photos on Facebook and picasa of his office. The photo and video with him…will be uploaded on the You tube soon!

I am very excited and very tired too. will update more tomorrow after we reach Kemi. Till then stay tuned.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

From Finland 13-5-2011


Yippee, Im at Ravaniemi, home town of Santa Claus!! Santa has his official office here and I am living on the Arctic circle. Its 2 degrees celcius. But the sun was bright and warm! I wished he stayed that way till we reach India and then cool down back home. Home….mmm started missing, buts its ok. Morning Rtn Sakari left me at the Santa Claus hotel where we met Sanna Kortelainen who is the managing director of Rovaniemi Tourism. She tols us about Rovaniemi, the history, the legends, the tourism, the packages, santa’s office, future plans and a lot more. She also gave us souveniers from Tourism dept that included brochures and a pendrive…wow! She said last december Gul Panag, Indian actress was here and they selected her as their brand ambassador for India. She wondered why Indians are not visiting Finland. I wanted to shout- Its because you dont speak ENGLISH every where and do not have vegetarian food that suits us, but i didnt.

We then had a city tour. We saw the historic places, learnt how the poor Finns after being plundered and their villages burnt to ashes by Swedes, Russians, Germans rebuilt their homes, cities and towns. Its a story of hardwork, labour and perseverence, I fell in love with them and understood why they prefer to live in solitude. The architect of the city has planned Rovaniemi in the shape of Reindeer’s head and the structures are amazing. the city library is unique as it has excellent natural light and excellent utilization of space. Our libraries, if going for renovation must take this design into consideration.I shall put those pictures on the net very soon.

After lunch, we had our vocation tour. I went to Iskelmä radio thats beside the court on the main road. The building was bright and there was an old Army truck with Iskelmä painted stood on the road, it was their OB, Outdoor broadcast van. RJ Henna and Honnu received me warmly and showed the space. Its like our Mirchi Reception hall, i mean that smal in area. There was just a cardboard partition to the studio. The RJs were speaking and the office work was going on noisily in the background. But their mikes didnt catch it at all. Iskelmä radio was based in Tampere and this station had most of the programme broadcast through satellite from that city. They have taken the station on lease and when ever they feel like they put in the local interviews by removing a song. They do it so well that it sounds as if its a huge radio station with many people working there. 23 hours of Tampere programme and 1 hour local is the content of Rovaniemi station. RJ Honnu went out on the road and started doing it live from there. I was interviewed at the studio, live again for 6 continuous minutes. My god, Finns talk a lot on Radio!!!

We then went to the Fish market thats like a small exhibition at Peoples Plaza and we went in that 19th century Army war truck, it was German. As we got down…no, we didnt get down but we bungee jumped out of it, all the people stared at the truck. Younsters started taking their pictures there and Henna was glad that their OB van has become popular. She tried to do a live broadcast but the signal broke down like in India and she did the update on phone, as we do. Then the signal connected and she had interviewed a fish stall owner who was selling smoked fish that kids love a lot. bla bla bla …the talk went on for 7 long minutes and she said, back to studios and it ended. People watched us curiously and she kept introducing me as RJ from India.

We were treated to fish. I said I am a vegetarian and the fish stall owner offered to give me some sauted vegetables. He pulled the spoon from the fish frying pan and served me vegetables on a plate, put the spoon back to fry the fish and wished me Bon Appetite. Ramaa Vasudevaa Krishnaa Hari hareeeee… I had to eat as he was looking at me for a positive response. I should have won an OSCAR for my expressions! I usually never waste food. But I did today as the vegetables were smelling of fish. We came back to the studios, transfered th pics to the system, selected the best ones and uploaded on the website. Radio Iskelmä put my profile under pages they like on facebook. It was a great experience. They offered me fruit and then we walked back to the hotel where my host was waiting. we shopped and after coming home i made potato, peas curry with tomatoes and had Finnindian food.

Tomorrow is going to be hectic as we are going to visit Santa Claus. Now im going to the SAUNA. Till i update again, stay tuned!!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

From Finland 12-5-2011


Hi, Its been a great day. Morning we packed our luggage, bade goodbye to our hosts and went to visit the Oulu University. it was established in 1958 and has  been growing since. the university’s core cpmpetence is Science. And as thermal projects, coal mines and steel industries are planned for the coming years in Oulu, the university is planning a courses in the same from next year! The university has many exchange students and they provide each student a Finnish pal and if the students desires, a Finnish family to spend their free time with. They have Free mover students from different countries with an agreement with Professors at Research level. The education is free for foreign students too. but they have to have living expenses borne by them that amounts to 500-700 euros a month. All the books are provided by the University library, Internet is free, great food at the Canteen for 2 Euros, free health care… and they wondered why Indian students were not coming to Finland. The international student relation officer gave us the material and the website where you can find more details. We promised to spread the word. I too didnt know why Indian students were not interested in studying in Oulu. But I did find 3 Indian students…hmmm i think they might be from Pakistan/ Sri Lanka/ Bangladesh….we all look alike!

We then visited Oulu Univ library. It too was automated and had about 8 lakh books. Rtn Päivi was the director of this library and she showed us around. We had our lunch at the Rauhala Rotary meeting and after our presentation went to the railway station to catch the train to Rovaniemi, home town of Santa Claus. The station was like our MMTS stations and reminded us of home. Our hosts came to the station to see us off. we got in with our luggage and reached Rovaniemi at about 6pm. The moment we stepped on theplatform we were greeted by the cold winds and we literally froze. We were received by Rtn Seppo who led us out to the parking lot where our new family was waiting. Rtn Sakari Pyhajarvi came with his 10 yr old daughter Ansku, a junior state level football player. We first dropped Anna Marie thats Ansku at the football stadium where Rovaniemi Vs Yliveska match was on. Then we went home at Karvonranta. ‘Karvon’ is old house, ‘ranta’ is by the river. There was an old cottage by the river in that locality which is now preserved by the state and the area is named after it. My new home faces a mountain and river Kemi flows in the backyard. Rtn Sakari works in the thermal power station while his spouse works in the Open University administration. They have 3 kids, elder son is in Helsinky doing his college, second son Santeri, is 13, in 7th class and Ansku in 4th class. I was feeling down and exhausted with cold due to pollen allurgy that i acquired when i sniffed beautiful flowers at a flower shop. Fresh air of Finland has made me sensitive! I wanted to rest and so I said i cant come to watch the football match but would stay home and watch Finland Vs Norway Ice hockey quarter finals. Finland won. I took an antibiotic.

I helped Ansku with her English homework and uploaded pictures on facebook and Picassa and trying to sleep with the sun shining bright in the sky. Tomorrow is going to be great as i am going to visit Radio Iskelmä. More tomorrow and till then take care.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

From Finland photos

hey all, I am at the Iskelmia Radio station. check my photographs!/media/set/?set=a.166708630055591.43117.159712730755181

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment