Chief Editor's Note: Sensations of Home
A dreary November night; I’m walking past homes bathed in an inviting glow then reach the door to mine. Warmth greets me at the door. Water evaporates, twirling and enveloping me as I look out over the snow-covered lakeshore: my skin prickly, breath foggy and limbs immobile in absolute relaxation--the post-sauna nirvana. Christmas comes and with it all the tantalising aromas: cinnamon, clove, cardamom and spruce.
Then it’s spring. I’m gazing straight into the sun, disregarding the sting that sores my eyes because it’s been months since I’ve seen the wily yellow orb. Smiling at the first dandelions of spring knowing I’ll curse them in a month. Helsinki on May 1st: a sea of white caps and balloons. The whole city seems to bubble in competition with the sparking wine.
The sound of a midsummer bonfire crackling and the “swish” of beer cans opening. Summer twilight--blue and purple hued--the city is asleep as I bike on cobblestones. I'm a little drunk on wine but mostly the light. A lazy afternoon at mökki: I can’t help falling asleep to the soothing lullaby sung by birch trees swaying and waves lapping against the dock.
Fall foliage races by and morphs into a steady stream of robust tones on the high way. The ground oozes sweet decay, the apples are ripe and there’s a hint of winter in the air.
Feel familiar? These are my memories of Finland. Sensations of home etched into my skin. But at the same time they are collective. What I've felt on my skin, seen, heard, tasted and smelled is shared by everyone who inhabits this remote nook of the world.
As I’m writing this, we are ten days away from Finland’s Independence Day. Although the whole year as been a parade of centenary celebration campaigns I haven’t stopped to reflect on the matter much until now. The theme of the celebration year is 'Together'-- a fitting slogan for the times we live in. Unarguably, the past few years have been trying. Substantial budget cuts on the welfare system, the wave of asylum seekers, the equal marriage law and many other issues have accounted for an increasingly polarised public discourse. The core question seems to be: who are we and what do we stand for?
When it comes to culture and values Finland has been a relatively homogenous society up until just a few decades ago. In the 1980’s still 90,3 % of the population was registered as Lutheran. Everyone gathered around the TV set to watch the same seven o’clock news or a national sports hero win. The first larger groups of refugees didn’t come here until the 80’s and we’ve only been a part of the EU since 1994.
It's clear that in relation to many other nations, the conversation of who has the right to belong is new for us. It’s a painful conversation to have. It has unearthed deep prejudices and exposed divides. But it’s a necessary conversation because it defines who we will be in the future.
Instead of fixating on skin tone, culinary preferences, places of worship or mother tongue--the compilation of things that make us unique individuals--maybe we should focus on something else all together. Maybe if we began talking about collective memories; familiar sensations we all recognise we’d breach some of the gaps. Maybe we’d realise that there’s more that unites us than divides us. Memories bring us together--they make us kinfolk.
My hope is that when people speak of Finland they’ll say, “I was welcomed, it feels like home”. Achieving this will require an attitude shift on every level of society. As a media outlet, BTSB is and will be committed to championing an internationally-minded, open, diverse and egalitarian Finland. We hope our stories and thoughts contribute to a much larger conversation about cultural expression and identity.
On that note, let me introduce the new issue. In this issue you may ramble down the streets of Lisbon in Danielle’s short story or go with Eveliina on a literary trip around the world and Elina reviews the iconic Finnish novel turned musical: Myrskyluodon Maija. Reflecting on her own experiences, Milla explores cultures of empathy here and abroad. I kickstart a campaign against stereotypes about humanists’ employment opportunities in a series dubbed “Coffee with an Alumnus”. Finally, Teemu starts his BTSB career with a fascinating piece on lessons learned from skateboarding and the cherry on top of the cake is Anthony's poem, “The Storm”.
On behalf of the whole staff, I wish the hundred-year-old maiden Finland the happiest of birthdays and our readers the happiest of moments with BTSB!