Before I move on from the topic of Sister Cities, here are some final musings:
1. The U.S. is crazy with cell phones. In Järvenpää, I didn’t hear or see a single one. Ever. In Ludwigshafen I saw a couple of them from time to time but never heard one ringing -- I think people always had them on vibrate. I didn’t realize just now obtrusive cell phones are until I stopped hearing them. So put your cell phone on vibrate from time to time or let the voice mail pick it up. It’s amazing how much more aware of your surroundings you can be without this ever-present, permeating distraction.
2. We have the luxury in the U.S. of being able to debate climate change (it’s exaggerated; it’s not taken seriously enough; it’s caused by humans; it’s caused by nature. Yadda, yadda, yadda.) Cross-country skiing is the big tourist industry in and around Järvenpää, but that industry is all dried up now because it hasn’t snowed there for two years. Helsinki Harbor freezes over every day in winter, and huge ships break it up so commerce can continue. This past winter, for the first time in recorded history, the harbor did not freeze. The icebreaking ships sat idle.
3. Converting liters to gallons and Euros to U.S. dollars, gas in Järvenpää is about $7 per gallon.
4. In Finland, as in most other Scandinavian countries, cradle-to-grave social welfare for all citizens, provided by the government, is a fact of life. From health care to a college education, it’s paid for 100%. Or, as we were told over and over again, it’s free. But it’s not. Finland has a flat 30% income tax across the board, sales tax is 22% and there are countless other taxes that are through the roof.
5. We experienced plenty of fun examples of word usage that got lost in translation. When several of us were in Heidelberg, I sat for a few minutes at an outdoor café with our tour guide's mother who lives in that town. I explained that Mayor Bogaard had remained in Ludwigshafen for some down time. “Down time?” she asked. “Yes, he’s playing hookey,” I responded. “He’s playing hockey?” “No, hookey!” I gave her an off-the-cuff definition of playing hookey and she said, “Oh, I understand – he’s making blue.”
And with that, this Queen of the Blogosphere bids a final farewell to our wonderful sister cities and our fantastic hosts.
What’s the topic for tomorrow? You’ll have to tune in to find out!