I think Kauhava, Finland, may be my paternal grandmother Lydia's girlhood home, possibly her birthplace. This old postcard is among the few from her collection that are in my possession. She probably bought this when she and my grandfather returned to the old country for a visit sometime in the 1950s-60s. The only Finnish relative living in Finland that I have met is Esko, her nephew. When his father died a few years ago I think that was the end of the sibling group that included my grandmother, Lydia. Esko lives in Lapua, which is not far from Kauhava. He is a retired teacher, having taught Finnish and Swedish in the school system in Lapua.
Using the map below you can see how close Lapua is to Kauhava, and how this district in the west is quite close to Sweden. I just discovered this Tagzania.com mapmaker, so this is its trial launch at Writerquake. The map of Kauhava opens up to a street view that seems meaningless without knowledge of the language. Kauhava is located by the red icon. The directional and sizing tools are at top left. If you click the bottom one (the negative sign) TEN TIMES you'll get to a regional view that gives the lay of the land in map view. I enjoy clicking on "Hybrid" to see what the landscape is truly like.
Kauhava is famous for the knives, or puukko, made by skilled artesans, Iisakki Järvenpää being the oldest (founded in 1879) and most famous knife makers in the country. The knives shown at the website (click on "The collections" tab) are so beautiful to me! Looking at them I recalled a part of my girlhood long forgotten. When in middle school (called junior high school then) I went to camp for the first time, and among the items listed for each camper to bring was a folding-style knife. I don't remember shopping for mine so perhaps my folks bought it for me, but I do remember being captivated by its utilitarian beauty. We split out into small groups to explore and scout around the woods at camp, a big deal because the groups included boys and girls. A couple of the guys taught me how to throw my knife so that it would land blade-into-ground. They were impressed how quickly I could do it (for a girl, you know.....girls have it better these days in sports), and they were really impressed with how much I loved handling my knife, pitching it out into the pine-needle- covered forest floor with a tough enough flick of my wrist to ensure the desired strong verticle plunge into the earth. Now I'm thinking it must have been the Finn in me .......
....... which only seems fitting that this post should end with the Finnish National Anthem. I found an unusual -- but strangely appealing -- rendition. A Vocaloid rendition, no less! (Wikipedia: Vocaloid is a singing synthesizer application software developed by the Yamaha Corporation that enables users to synthesize singing by typing in lyrics and melody.)
E5rael, the extremely talented
NOTE 30.8.2009: Quite a few people have commented that they can actually understand the Vocaloids' Finnish here without reading the subtitles. That's very nice to hear because generating understandable Finnish has been one of my main goals as a Vocaloid producer. Thank you so much for your positive feedback!
[Note: Once the video begins to play you can access English translation by moving your curser over the arrow at bottom right.....it will bring a pop-up with a "CC" that opens up translations.]