Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Weekend with the Sydänmaanlakka Family

The whole idea of the Fulbright program is to increase global understanding between America and the world's people.  This weekend the American teachers were invited to spend time with our Finnish friends the Sydänmaanlakka family in Kerava, north of Helsinki.  They are a Finnish family we met during the Fulbright orientation in Washington, D.C. last August when the Sydänmaalaka family were first starting their portion of the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching program; they moved from Finland to Maryland for August - December 2012 so Marianna could conduct her Fulbright research project and their three children could attend American schools. To get acquainted again, the Sydänmaanlakkas served us coffee with cookies.

On the table were mugs from a Finnish book series called Muumimuki (Moomin in English), a book favored by the Finns because children enjoy a wonderful story about interesting characters and the adults find their own adult humor in the message. The Sydänmaanlakka's gave each of us our own mug.

From the left side of the table is Marianna (Finnish Fulbright awardee) and Olavi Syänmaanlakka, American Fulbright awardees Laurie Eldridge, Amanda Siepiola, and Karen Lee, and the Sydänmaanlakka's daughter, Iiris.  

When Marianna was in the United States she studied how teachers use iPads/technology to teach their curriculum.  While in Finland, Laurie will be researching how the Finnish indigenous people, the Saamis,  are taught their native culture through art, Amanda will be studying how Finnish pre-school children are taught problem solving through creative play, and Karen will be studying how problem solving is taught through the Finn's vocational school curriculum.

Iiris (age 16) and Saana (age 14) Sydänmaanlakka

Marianna and Olavi listening to their daughter tell how she wrote the former Finnish president Tarja Halonen about her concerns about climate change.  (Iiris received a personal letter back from the President's office.)

Otto (age 11) and Saana Sydänmaanlakka watching TV.

What's left of the korvapuusti - Finnish cinnamon rolls

Olavi making mätivoileipä, a Finnish specialty.  Mätivoileipä consists of dark rye crackers topped with sour cream, salmon eggs and finely sliced red onion.  These were incredibly delicious - and I say this from the perspective of someone who always stays away from fish eggs.  No longer will this be true!  This combination is very, very tasty.

The ingredients of mätivoileipä.

In the morning we went to the local recreation area to try sledding, or what they called sleighing.

Olavi brought along some hot chocolate, fruit juice, and reindeer sausage to cook on the grill when we were done playing on the hill.  

Cooking reindeer sausage with wooden sticks over the campfire.

Another surprise - enjoying the tasty treat of reindeer sausage!


  1. Glad to see that you all were able to get together -
    I think we have those very same little rye crisps at TJ's. You will have to introduce us all to this new appetizer when you return.


  2. The reindeer sausage photo of you is adorable. Your hat wins all the awards.

    Ronn's going to an Apple class on Tuesday about iPads and education. They are supposed to be showing the next big thing.

    Best thoughts,


  3. I was just wondering about the status of their indigenous people. Let us know what you discover about them -- cultural, school paths, and so on.

    I love the fur hat. Looks a bit porcupine. And there's that famous Janet smile!

  4. Hi Janet I loved this picture of you and the reindeer sausage looks very good. The pictures are wonderful! I liked hearing about the kids in the class room. You take care, I will continue to look up and see where you are.

    Love, Cathy

  5. Janet: Finally sat down and read your whole blog. What an opportunity. The country looks fabulous, and so do you. Can't wait to read the next chapter. Love, penny