Late night sunset, Selkie, Finland

Late night sunset, Selkie, Finland

It has been over six months since our last travel blog, but we are happy to report that our recent return trip to Finland was a great success. While this trip wasn’t as long as the last, we accomplished quite a lot (24 hours of daylight may have had something to do with it).

The purpose of our return trip was two-fold: first, our agreement with Snowchange and the village of Selkie included a return trip to preview a rough cut of the Finnish version of the film.  (In case you missed it, you can watch the trailer for Jukajoki [pronounced Yu-ka-yoki] here).  And second, we collected additional footage and interviews for the feature documentary, Our Place on Earth, and Jukajoki.  An unexpected bonus to our trip included meeting Kimmo Pohjonen, an internationally renowned Finnish musician, who – we are happy to announce – will be contributing to the soundtrack for Jukajoki (more details to follow).

 
 12:15 AM, Joensuu

12:15 AM, Joensuu

 
 Sunset and rain, Albuquerque, NM

Sunset and rain, Albuquerque, NM

Tuesday - Thursday

We departed Albuquerque, for our long, 48-hour journey to Selkie, accompanied by an amazing sunset. We flew  through Denver, New Jersey, Stockholm and Helsinki; then by train to Joensuu (about 500km north of Helsinki), where we picked up our rental car and made the final 20km trip to Selkie.  

Tero Mustonen, Snowchange founder and Selkie Village President, and Antero Turrki, our host extraordinaire and well-known Finnish architect, greeted us at 11:45pm with smoked Bream, crackers, and tea; we immediately felt at home, back in the converted studio.

 

Friday

Our arrival coincided with the mid-summer holiday, Juhannus, which was a lovely way to overcome our jet lag and settle into the Finnish summer.  After a mid-morning meeting with Tero to map out our schedule for the coming week (of course over coffee, light sandwiches, and baked treats – we never worry about access to great food in Finland!), we were off to participate in the festivities.  Juhannus, is a national holiday, originally a celebration of the summer solstice and eventually named after John the Baptist.  One of the mid-summer traditions is the lighting of lake and seaside bonfires (“kokko”).

Our first kokko was at 6pm in the neighboring village of Mönni, after which we were invited to a dinner of fresh fish (from Tero’s fish traps – more on this below), vegetables and new potatoes (we quickly learned that new potatoes are a large source of pride in the early summer). Dinner was followed by another kokko in Joensuu with our host Antero.  This bonfire was considerably larger and, lined with old boats, was lit under a bright sky at 11pm.   After a late night tea we headed back to our place after 1am – hardly aware that we had been up for over 15 hours.   

 Kokko, Mönni

Kokko, Mönni

 Kokko, Joensuu

Kokko, Joensuu

Saturday – Sunday

The next few days were packed with site visits, filming, and interviews, including a few return trips to the Linnunsuo wetland unit (you can read more about the wetland unit in a blog post from last fall).  The wetland unit looked considerably different compared to last October, with much higher water levels.  This wetland successfully slows the water and particulate flow into the Jukajoki and also filters iron sulfide, which has caused much damage to the watershed.  The site also attracts  an unexpected number of rare animals and supports an increase in biodiversity in the area.  (There was a sighting of the rare Terek Sandpiper at the wetland the week before we arrived and a local bird watcher mentioned a rare wolverine spotting the same week.)

We also returned to one of our favorite locations – Kalevi Hämäläinen’s home in Alavi, Selkie’s neighbor village.  Kalevi welcomed us with a delightful spread of fresh fish he and his grandson had caught and smoked the day before, cheese, Karelian pies, coffee, sweet rolls and lots of ice cream served with raspberries, picked last fall in Selkie. (There was some mild teasing about berry stealing between the neighboring villages.) Kalevi spoke about the unique partnership between the villages as they continue to lead the Jukajoki restoration project, as well as the changes he’s seen in the health of the watershed.

 Mosquito attacking Tom's Camera

Mosquito attacking Tom's Camera

On Sunday we had the pleasure of reconnecting with Tarmo Tossavainen, Karelia University of Applied Sciences, as he walked a stretch of the Jukajoki, taking notes and sketching many diagrams on future restoration efforts for the river.  The mosquitos - who we got to know very well during this visit - were out in full force. As we learned, it is quite difficult to capture the subtle forest and river sounds when surrounded in a cloud of mosquitos; they also make slow panning shots a painful experience (see Tom’s camera hand after our walk along the river).

Tom managed to fall off a log crossing the river, but luckily he and the gear were not hurt.  Tarmo used this opportunity to measure the depth of the river – thanks to Tom’s willingness to be a human measuring stick.  (Unfortunately, we don’t have any footage of this – since our cinematographer was the one to fall in the river – but we do have some audio, listen below.)

 Tarmo taking photos of tom taking video of tarmo

Tarmo taking photos of tom taking video of tarmo

 Tom's Mosquito Hand

Tom's Mosquito Hand

Monday

Monday started early – we met up with Tero at 4:45am and were off to the commercial fisheries at Lake Puruvesi.  During the hour drive Tero described the long, unbroken history of fishing on the lake and the immense value of the traditional commercial fishery, both for the local communities and the preservation of Finnish traditions.  Lake Puruvesi is one of the cleanest lakes in the world and seining (net fishing) on the lake has been a tradition since the 14th century.  In 2013, the commercial fishery that operates on the lake was given the EU designation of a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) – a designation that recognizes and protects culturally, geographically, and traditionally produced food in Europe.  The designation not only protects the economic value of the Puruveden muikku (vendace) caught in the lake, but it also protects this cultural tradition and the pristine lake ecosystem.  The vendace from lake Puruvesi - which have distinguishing features, attributable to the clarity and cleanliness of the lake water - can only be caught by seine nets, fyke nets and net fishing.

 Seining on Lake Puruvesi

Seining on Lake Puruvesi

 Seining on Lake Puruvesi

Seining on Lake Puruvesi

After a successful catch, we brought home 4 kilos of vendace for our hosts – a treat we all shared that evening for dinner.  But before we could settle in for the night, we were off to do interviews with local hunters, a community elder who donated his land for a small man-made wetland unit (part of the broader restoration project), and Pekka, who we first met in the winter.  Pekka and Tero took us to their personal fish trap, a rysä (small fish trap) on the Jukajoki delta.

 Nuin-Tara, rowing

Nuin-Tara, rowing

During our visit to Tero’s fish trap, I (Nuin-Tara) rowed for the first time, which was more difficult than I anticipated.  The water was calm, but being unfamiliar with rowing, making very subtle and specific turns was a bit more advanced than I was ready for; on top of this, I was very worried about catching my oars on Tero’s one-of-a-kind Katiska.  Tom tried to give directions while he filmed but we were not quite in sync, a fact Tero and Pekka noted from their boat as they calmly held position. Finally, we managed to get some footage, a wonderful interview with Pekka parked in his boat among the marsh grasses, and a few more kilos of fish – this time Ide and Bream.  

 

After we got back to shore Tero informed us that rowing was the number one reason for divorce in Finland – at least Tom and I made it through, relationship intact.  We then settled in for a wonderful celebratory dinner of fresh fish with our hosts and headed off to bed just after midnight – another long day, full of fish and wonderful people.

Tuesday

In preparation for the community screening of the Jukajoki rough cut, we spent most of the day working on translations.  We did take a quick trip to an intact wetland, Vehkasuo, which has never been ditched or drained, where we sighted our first Cloudberry (unfortunately we were too early for the berries).

 Vehkasuo, Winter

Vehkasuo, Winter

 Vehkasuo, Summer

Vehkasuo, Summer

We also returned to Tero’s fish trap, this time with Tero’s wife, Kaisu.  Luckily neither Tom nor I had to row.  Tero expertly brought us to the traps to get some additional underwater footage of the rysä and fish.  We came home with a few more kilos and headed in for some final edits to the film and a relatively early night.

Wednesday

 A productive discussion while reviewing the rough cut and potential musical pairings with Kimmo and Kaisu

A productive discussion while reviewing the rough cut and potential musical pairings with Kimmo and Kaisu

Wednesday ended up a surprisingly productive, yet leisurely day that resulted in an exciting partnership with the musician Kimmo Pohjonen.  Kimmo lives and records in Helsinki, but thanks to Tero’s hard work securing funds from Rospuutto, a Finnish production company, we were able to arrange a short visit to discuss a potential collaboration for the Jukajoki soundtrack.  Kimmo, who performs ten months out of the year and has composed for and performed with the Kronos Quartet, is enthusiastic and brings an inquisitive energy to his work.  It was immediately clear we would enjoy working with Kimmo – especially when his eyes lit up at the possibility of going to Tero’s fish nets once we got through the business of discussing music and potential contracts.  

After all this work, we went back out to the fish traps – this time Kimmo rowed – and we caught another substantial batch of Perch and Ide.  After enjoying the famous Finnish Sauna, we all sat down to another wonderful dinner. While we weren't sure what to expect from our meeting with Kimmo, we are excited and honored for this collaboration.

Thursday

After taking Kimmo back to the airport in Joensuu (he unfortunately couldn’t stay for the screening since he needed to prepare for a concert), we prepped for the community screening later that evening.  

The community screening – the central purpose for our return trip – was a success.  While we were told that a Finnish response might be rather subdued and very polite, we got some wonderful feedback on the film and better understood some of the more controversial or sensitive issues in the film, especially related to the tensions between resource use and conservation.  While we weren’t nervous per say, it was a relief to have such a successful screening; we are immensely grateful for all the honest and thoughtful feedback. 

Our night ended with a very special celebration at Kalevi’s house.  Kalevi prepared a meal rivaling what he prepared for our last two visits, but this time it included a sauna and a dip in the cool, clear lake, just off his dock.

 Summer, Alavi

Summer, Alavi

 Winter, Alavi

Winter, Alavi

We spent many hours taking turns in the Sauna, eating and talking.  As with our first visit to Kalevi's cozy hut for a winter feast, our return visit was just as festive and we look forward to many more visits on his lake.    

Friday - Saturday

Our final days in Finland flew by as we wrapped up the last interviews, collected a few more sounds and images, and took one last sauna.  After our final meeting with Tero and Kaisu on Saturday—where we discussed the next steps for completing the films, possible distribution options, and maybe a glimmer of an idea for future collaboration—Tom and I were off for our long return home.

While we don’t have any immediate plans to return to Finland, the partnerships with Snowchange and the villages of Selkie and Alavi are far from over.

 Nuin-Tara and Tero

Nuin-Tara and Tero

 View of our hosts, Antero and Seija's, house, Selkie

View of our hosts, Antero and Seija's, house, Selkie


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