Old Photographs

The past few weeks were great weeks.  As a result of research done by the Karstula parish in Finland, I knew that my great great grandmother Mathilda had come to America in 1901.  Her husband had died, and she remarried and had another girl Ottilia at the age of 43.  Her new husband had already come to Ohio, and she was now following with her infant daughter and 19 year old teenager (my great grandmother).  Sadly, Mathilda died about six months after arriving, but my great grandmother found a husband, and here is their photograph circa 1902.

The only reason that I have this photograph is because I had been doing genealogy research before I came to Finland.  And so I researched the descendants of baby Ottilia and discovered that her descendants were living in Ohio.  That was great, and so I called some of them up just hoping for a return call.

They did call back and are very nice people.  And, in fact, they knew my great grandmother and some of her offspring.  When the eldest daughter of the people in the photo died, these descendants of Ottilia had the task of cleaning out her home, and they found the four photo albums and kept them safe.  FOR 50 YEARS!  Some photographs probably have no remaining duplicate.   REMARKABLE.  I have much to thank for my cousins’ careful attention to the matter.

This cautionary tale is reason alone to make this post.  Before you toss old photographs, consider whether there may be someone else for whom the photos may be invaluable.  That alone is enough.   But there is more.

As I flipped through the photos, I saw a photo of my son looking from the pages.  It wasn’t, but it was.

If you know my son George Hokkanen, then you will immediately recognize how remarkable the resemblance is between my cousin Tom and George of the same age.  ASTOUNDING.

My mother had opined (in that funny way that Finns may share their opinion) that George did not look like any of the Hokkanens.  There were multiple interpretations of that remark, some better than others if you know what I mean, and it was very much like her to make ambiguous remarks like this.  But she was certainly correct in the most literal sense–at least with respect to the family photos that we had, George made no appearance.  But we didn’t have the photos of Ottilia and her descendants!

Gene expression is a funny thing.  You get two copies of every gene, one of which may be domant until it isn’t, and gene sequences can pass for many generations unimpacted. And so your doppelganger may just be 2nd or 3rd cousin.

Coffee Time in Helsinki

In deference to the culture which I am now in, I went out for afternoon coffee at the neighborhood coffee shop.  (Usually I only have coffee in the morning.)  In further deference, I selected a piece of pulla to have with my coffee.

The taste of the finely-textured, semi-sweet dessert bread with the distinct taste of cardamom brought back memories of mummo Anna (i.e., Grandmother Anna)  that would make it at my house several times a week when I was growing up.  This was some sort of specialty pulla given related to the upcoming Easter season, and this had both berries and a glaze and a splash of powdered sugar.  I had never eaten a pulla like this, but it was quite a treat with the coffee–which, in deference to my origin, was an Americano!  Note to dad: I did not, however, dunk the pulla in the coffee.

 

Welcome to Finland!

I am one who appreciates irony more than most.  And to an already richly ironic life, I added yet another one of those vignettes in life that seem to define it…..

I spent a healthy effort in moving to Finland.  As one may have seen in previous posts, I had to research my genealogy to get my grandparents’ birth certificates, obtain my parents’ birth certificates with Apostilles, fly to Finland and tender my application to remigrate (as they call it) for permanent residency.  Later last year the Finnish Immigration Service sent the card to me in Bulgaria, and finally I made my flight reservation to Finland a week ago.  These efforts spanned over a year and thus were spread out before, during, and after the election and its profound polarization.  My observation that America was undergoing a hellish period of history was a central reason for my obtaining a remigration permit!

And so I landed a few days ago and immediately called the Population Registrar (known as the Maistraatti) to activate my residence.  The person who answered the phone could not have been more welcoming or pleasant.  She asked who I was and what kind of a card I had, and when I told her, she mysteriously sounded more happy than many Finns and told me to just come down to the office any time I wanted to check in.  And so I rode the bus into downtown Helsinki, and went up to the second floor and into the office.  This was GLORIOUS!  Over a year’s effort had come to fruition!  I looked around and saw that they called numbers, and with the excitement of a ten year old, I went over to the ticket machine, pushed the button and grabbed my ticket!

I was already feeling somewhat of a flood of emotion (for me anyway), and my ticket did nothing to stem it, and indeed, it sort of made things go sideways for a few seconds.  I am not someone to interpret the world in metaphorical or supernatural terms, but if there is a deity who intervenes in peoples’ lives, he definitely has an ironic sense of humor!!

Hanging Out at the House of the Dancing Parrot, Estepona, Spain

My good friend Boris offered to let us stay at his “House of the Dancing Parrot” on the Costa del Sol in Estepona, Spain. What an great location! Here’s the view off the back terrace where we had our first cup of coffee in Estepona.

dancingparrot

San Diego looks a lot like the Costa del Sol, and I even saw names like “La Costa” (name of a Carlsbad, CA subdivision) on the drive from Barcelona. Basically, always sunny and almost no rain. January usually has about 10 cloudy/rainy days. It’s about 65 degrees outside right now and penetrating sunlight everywhere. If you are in the sun, it’s warm even with the constant ocean breeze. I can’t imagine a more perfect place to work on statistical analytics for the winter! Without any clouds, the evenings get cool.

Kate is planning activities for the next month. We have friends from Denver who came and visited us at our Diamond Head home in Hawaii, and they are planning to visit us in January here.

kateonsofa

Christmas in Barcelona

Barcelona is a spectacular way to spend the Christmas holidays. It’s not the kind of over-the-top Christmas that one sees in American cities where the holiday season begins before Thanksgiving. In Barcelona, the decoration is contained, more or less, to the street banner lights that create a festive scene as one walks around. The Christmas festivities include all sorts of performances. For example, we went and saw the music and water performance at the big fountains one evening.

fountain

On Christmas eve, we went to two events. First we saw a flamenco performance at a marvelous performing arts center that was impressive and a UNESCO world heritage site in its own right. Then we went to the late mass at the large city cathedral where the choir performed a piece of midieval music that has been performed every Christmas eve for hundreds of years. That was truly a show. In between we had tapas and cocktails at one of the many tapas bars that was open that evening.

arc

I can’t really say enough about how grand this city is. It has a feeling like Paris in that it has grand boulevards, parks, sculptures and interesting archictecture at every turn. Take a walk of a few kilometers and you will see things that are just awe inspiring. Their Arc de Triomph is such an example. At least for me, that’s the same sense that I get when I walk around Paris. The Catalan food is also fabulous and appeals to the same elements as Italian food with tomatoes, olive oil, bread, and meats taking center stage. I did not have a bad meal here. A wonderful holiday, and a city deserving of a stay of a month or two. Tomorrow we head towards Estepona, Spain.

Split – Swanky Croatia With Great Customer Service

Apartment Link: Garden Apartment (Use them!)

What Dubrovnik has with old-world charm, Split has with vibrancy. Split’s history is older, with its Roman buildings dating back to the 4th century. Here is an image of the Roman Emperor’s retirement home (which sported 700 servants). Some of the buildings are remarkable given their age. The construction was massive.

diocletians_palace

In addition to the ancient buildings, there’s just a lot of commerce. As a port, one sees lots of travelers moving about off the ferries which go up and down and across the Adriatic to Italy. Many restaurants. Food is a lot less expensive than in Dubrovnik, and Kate and I bought a 12″ pizza and a foot long sandwich yesterday for a total of about $2.75. Coffee costs about $1.25 per cup and is excellent.

Finally, I want to give a shout out to my Apartman Garden apartment building where we are staying. These people are FANTASTIC! Super responsive and FRIENDLY! Our Dubrovnik experience was mixed, but these people understand the ways of customer service. Let me give two examples. First, they had an espresso machine inside the apartment. I had some trouble operating it, and the assistant manager came over. He had some trouble with it, so they brought a second one. While we were working to set that up, the manager noticed that we were missing a little ring to create pressure on part of it. So, he got an extra ring, and I was in business. AWESOME coffee in the morning.

My second example relates to the wifi. They have several wifi routers, and I had no problems the night before. But for unknown reasons, my machine was having some trouble this morning. I had noticed an Ethernet port on the wall, and asked about that. The assistant manager asked, “Do you want that turned on?” I said, “Heck yeah!” and pulled out my Ethernet cable. Within five minutes I had blazing speeds out to the Net.

What really impressed me about this was the manager did not give me any grief about needing to help me. HE WAS HAPPY TO HELP ME so that I could get my work done. He was HAPPY to hear how happy I was with the Internet speed. Of course there can be issues anywhere you go when you travel. All you can ask is to have helpful problem resolution. In 7 months of travel, I haven’t seen any hotel or guest house as friendly and customer service as they are. HIGHLY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Here’s a link: Garden Apartment And just a 3 minute walk from the old town.