[From Beth] Today, Juhani and Helena introduced us to their friends Tarja and Kaarlo, who brought us to their island off the coast of Vaasa. The Island is shaped like a skull, and called Nalkasaari (Starvation Island) after a local legend of a group of women who were left there to die. The creepy factor ends there. The island is covered with lingonberries and blueberries and frequented by moose who swim out occasionally to share in the bounty. Although it’s rare for one family to own an entire island, many Finns have a home on one of the islands in the brackish waters off the coast, some islands are quite crowded.
We had the opportunity to meet Tarja and Kaarlo’s daughters Eva and Elina, and Elina’s husband Daniel, and darling boys Liinus and Luukas as well. After coffee, they invited us to tour the island with it’s 110 year-old original cabin. Then we enjoyed their wood-fired sauna, with the traditional birch-branch-beating, a quick jump in the bay (brrrr) and several repeats of the same.
Eva, Elina and Daniel work in Stockholm, Sweden, and like most Finns from this area speak fluent Swedish as well as English and Finnish. Elina’s boys (toddlers) still exclusively speak Swedish. Although most people of our generation and younger at some point learn English, the same isn’t necessarily true of the over-60 set and I’m sure Saara is tired this evening from translating rapid fire conversations that switched from Finnish to Swedish and back again.
Tonight we’re packed and ready to head back to Helsinki. On the way, we’ll visit Tempere and Saara’s brother and his family. From there we’ll take our leave from Saara. She starts school on Monday and we’ll be on our own for a full day before flying back to Boise on Tuesday. This was a wonderful way to cap our time in Vaasa.