Friday, May 17, 2013

"Rakastan Sinua" Means "I Love You"

I'm starting to think that every day is beautiful on this journey but I know that's not true.  Some days I am lonely, but when I get myself outside and interact with the Finns, interesting things always seem to happen.

In  the late afternoon I took Tuula's bike out to see if I could take some pictures of the new green leaves.  Just this morning, Dennis sent me the link to the song, "Good Day, Sunshine" by the Beatles so there it was, again, rattling around in my head.  (Click on the link and play it in the background for the full effect of this blog post.)

So I'm biking along the trail, singing this wonderful song and thinking to myself, "This isn't very Finnish to be singing out loud like this" but I couldn't help myself.

I hummed, and I sang, and then I hummed the words I didn't know.  (I did know the chorus, however.)  I passed a Finn or two, and then ...

I rode up behind two older people walking through the forest; she had her walking sticks and he walked alongside. 

 I passed on the left and kept humming, knowing that it would probably fall upon ears not accustomed to hearing singing in the forest.  

 About 30 meters in front of them I found a picture I wanted to take with my camera so I pulled over, got off my bike, and took it.  The couple walked up alongside me and she said something in Finnish that I couldn't understand.  I smiled and replied in my very limited Finnish, "I'm sorry, I don't speak Finnish.  Do you speak English?" 

She looked at me and said, "No."

She smiled and looked at me again, and said quite sincerely in English, "I love you," clearly referring to the fact that I had been singing and riding a bike in the forest.

I smiled back, and said, "I love you, too."  I paused, and said, "That's all that matters."  I reached out to hug her; she hesitated...and hugged me back.

We smiled, and smiled again, and parted ways.  I rode off on my bicycle and they continued their walk.

Another beautiful and surprising day in Finland.


Earlier that morning I went with Auli Pulkki to Hammaslauden School in Hammaslahti, about 30 minutes outside of Joensuu by car.  We visited the teacher Anne Karttunen and her class of children with special needs, aged 7-13.  What I enjoyed about this class was the relaxed atmosphere and how the students seemed so comfortable in their school and their classroom - they were attentive and ready to learn.  The teacher had obviously been doing valuable work with and for her students.

The class worked on a project that helped the students understand facial expressions and content by using pictures, not words.  It's a program called Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment and many non-traditional learners struggle with either reading or the ability to read expressions - both of these challenges can make it very difficult for the child to communicate with others.  

The teacher showed the top of a picture and gradually revealed it from top to bottom.

As she revealed the face, she asked them questions about what they saw.  At this point the children said they thought it was a dark-skinned person,

and that it probably wasn't someone who lived in Finland.  

When she asked where they lived, they said the person probably lived in America or Africa.

She asked them to tell her more about what they saw from the forehead and his eyebrows but unfortunately I don't remember what they said.

When she revealed this much of the face, the students said they thought he was happy because of the curve of his cheeks.

After they discussed the picture of the man, the teacher asked the students about a second picture and what the child felt about being lifted up by the man.  

At first they said the child was glad, but that it was also possible that the child was in danger, or even in trouble.  
The Feuerstein method seemed to be a valuable way to help these children learn in non-traditional ways and the children's questions and statements, perceptions, and even potential errors in judgement could be discussed in the open.  I should say, however, that the children were spot-on, and showed no indication of prejudice or tendency to judge someone for their skin color being different than their own.  (Or if they expressed it, it wasn't translated to me.)
Auli and I had a chance to talk with two of the students and they were delightful.  It reminded me of how much I miss my own students!  :)

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