Best of May

1. Peasantman

Triathlon training has been an integral part of this spring. My 5-month-long Half Ironman training program with the DC Triathlon Club started in mid-February. The goal race is in mid-July. When I bumped into a friend at the pool in April, it was an easy job for her to get me excited about Peasantman. A friendly event at a nearby beautiful location during the first weekend of May was a perfect milestone half way towards the big day. And the laid-back reputation of the race reminded me of my first official triathlon at Kisko.

Without thinking too much about what I was getting myself into, I signed up for the Olympic distance race: 1.5k swim, 35k bike, and 10k run. I had raced this distance only once before in Kuopio in the end of last summer. At the time, it still felt like a nearly petrifying challenge (although it turned out to be fun). Now it felt just natural. I guess that’s what happens when one accumulates enough American confidence on top of Finnish perseverance.

My Lucky Water Bottle

We drove to Lake Anna already the day before the race to take the most out of the race weekend. It was my first visit to the Virginia countryside, and I loved every bit of it. It was quiet, it was green, and the weather was gorgeous on both days. On Saturday we had a chance to attend a bike clinic and an open water swim clinic. This was the third time basic bike maintenance and fixing a flat were demonstrated to me during my Fulbright year, and each time I’ve learned a few new tricks. The open water swim clinic by Denis from WaveOne was excellent. I loved his philosophy of turning tricky weather conditions to one’s advantage. After his motivational speech it was time for the first open water swim of the season. Magically I managed to convince myself that the waves were just being playful, not threatening!

Transition Setup

Saturday was rounded up by a relaxing pre-race dinner with friends getting ready for the first triathlon ever. Then early to bed, an early wake-up on Sunday, and soon the race was on! The lake was calm, and I finished the 1.5k swim in 34:28 – my new record. The bike ride was even more fun. Ever since I had a bike fit done by a local guru called Smiley, I am no longer afraid of road biking. With an ear-to-ear grin on my face, I was done in 1:28:58. The course was a little shorter than the official Olympic distance: 35k instead of 40k. Next I need to learn to drink and eat while biking instead of stopping for a picnic at each U turn…

The 10k run was by far the toughest part for me, mainly because it was so HOT. Well, for a Finn anyway… The temperature at Lake Anna rose to 28’C / 82’F in the shade, and there was almost no shade. If I had my way, I would always race in below 20’C / 70’F. I had to walk part of the second lap to keep my heart rate under control. After encountering a loose horse on the running course, I started to run again.  (Edit on Jun 20: A reader suggested that I would clarify that there literally was a loose horse running around that had ran away from the nearby stables. Others saw it, too, I was not hallucinating.) Finally I completed the “run” in 1:09:22. My total time of 3:19:44 was only a few minutes slower than my time in Kuopio, so I’m super happy. Such a great start for the season!

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2. Florida

Making my debut in the American triathlon scene was not the only objective of my Fulbright year that I achieved in May. Thanks to Finnair miles that were about to expire, I also finally made it to Florida. I had been dreaming of a roadtrip along U.S.1 to Key West for years. Ever since I saw An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary on Al Gore’s campaign to fight global warming, I’ve also been painfully aware that the future of Florida Keys is all but rosy due to the rising sea level.

The Southernmost Point of the Continental USA

It is amazing how much we saw and experienced during a 72-hour long mini-break. Already during the scenic drive from Miami to Key West we drove by a turtle hospital, saw tiny, cute key deer, and had a slice of key lime pie, a local delicacy. In Key West, we stayed in a lovely B&B worth recommending right by the southernmost point of the continental USA. (I actually visited the southernmost point of the entire country on Hawaii in October.) This part of the town is very nice and quiet, so very different from the loud and crazy epicenter of tourist traps in the other end of Duval Street. Another great find only a few blocks outside the tourist habitat was Azur, an excellent restaurant run by a guy who used to cook at the Italian Embassy in DC.

Hemingway's Six-Toed Cat

We visited the Hemingway Home (obviously) where the descendants of Hemingway’s six-toed cats stole the show and were definitely the most memorable part of the tour. We also went snorkeling (obviously). It was lovely to swim in the turquoise water and spot a few colorful fish here and there, but to be honest, the coral reef was quite a sad scene. More than 2 million tourists visit the reef each year, so no wonder it is suffering. After seeing the reef, it was also pretty obvious why the snorkeling tour operator advertised so heavily that an unlimited supply of beer, wine, margaritas or even rum was included in the price: to help people forget the damage they saw and contributed to… After snorkeling, we still checked out the somewhat surreal Butterfly & Nature Conservatory.

Bahia Honda State Park

On the drive back to Miami, we had a couple of awesome pitstops: At Bahia Honda State Park our main activity was supposed to be sunbathing. I naturally got impatient in the heat after about 10-15 minutes and improvised a small open water swim practise instead. The stop at the Everglades National Park was a success as well. When approaching the park, the first thing that took me completely by surprise was a puma warning sign. I had no clue that there are felines in Everglades! Quick wikichecking revealed that there is indeed a small Florida panther population (<100) that lives in south Florida. We did not spot any of those rarities, though, but we did spot all kinds of birds and numerous alligators. It was unbelievable to see alligators lurking in the water just a few meters away from the Anhinga trail.

An Alligator at Everglades

The last highlight of the trip was a yummy dinner at Michael’s in Miami Design District.

Check out additional Florida photos on Flickr.

3. Sailing on the Chesapeake Bay

Fulbright enrichment activities have made it to this blog several times. There is one more fantastic outing that simply cannot be omitted: A sailing trip on the Chesapeake Bay. The trip was organized in cooperation with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) on their skipjack called the Stanley Norman. The boat was built in Salisbury, Maryland in 1902. It was named after the original owner’s two sons, Stanley and Norman. We got on the vessel in Annapolis, a cute historical town that used to be the capital of the US for a short while in 1780s. In many ways, Annapolis reminded me of my home town Porvoo, the second oldest city in Finland founded in 1346.

Skipjack at the Dock

The friendly CBF crew did a great job in educating us on the past and the presence of the Chesapeake Bay. Oyster dredging used to be huge on the Bay. Skipjacks, like the one we were on, are single-masted vessels designed to harvest oysters under sail. In the late 1880s, there were close to 1,000 of them. Now there are less than 20 left. During our trip, we had a small dredging demonstration to understand how it happens. In no time at all we had a pile of oysters on the deck. After having been introduced to the living conditions and biology of oysters, eating them will never be the same again. The main destination of our trip was a local seafood restaurant where we had a huge lunch, not oysters though (as they are not in season) but delicious crabcakes.

Oyster Demo

Like I had suspected, the CBF crew took care of the actual sailing. For the rest of us this was a very relaxing day on the sea with lots of time to discuss and learn to know each other better. As always, the group was super international with participants from Armenia, Australia, Czech Republic, China, Finland, India, Japan, Pakistan, Russia, and the US. One thing that I noticed right away was how much everyone’s English skills had improved during the year. This helped to add depth into conversations, and that’s what I love. We were able to cover topics ranging from social finance and rehabilitation of child soldiers to environmental concerns and Muslim-Christian understanding. The sweetest thing was to see a 3-year-old Chinese girl chat with an Australian scholar in beautiful English.

At the end of the trip it was time for the first farewells of my Fulbright year as this was the last Fulbright enrichment activity for me. Big thanks for the Fulbright organization and our awesome Fulbright Enrichment Coordinator for making all these wonderful events happen!

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

PS. Some of you have already heard stories of another amazing adventure that I was a part of in late May. You may wonder why it is missing from this list. The simple explanation is that it deserves its own blog post and will be covered soon. Stay tuned!

Best of April

1. TEDxFulbright

I bet most of you are familiar with TED talks and have seen videos of e.g. Steve Jobs, Hans Rosling, or Susan Cain presenting their ‘ideas worth spreading’. So had I, but I had never had the opportunity attend a TED seminar in person before this April. TEDxFulbright, an independently organized Ted event, took place here in DC at the beginning of the month.

The day of the event happened to be one of the first sunny Saturdays of the spring, so it felt like a huge investment to spend the day indoors. Luckily, it was worth it. I had no idea how much one can learn just by listening to inspiring speakers in just one day. The speakers shared their stories of how they had dared to start to tackle social, societal, and environmental problems around the world. The tsunami of topics covered everything from carbon capture, open data, and drones to empowering street kids by teaching them ballet. All the speakers and performers were Fulbright alumni. It was incredible to see the amount of talent and geographic reach that the community has.

The finals of the Fulbright Social Innovation Challenge were also a part of the event. One of the finalists pitched over Skype from Lahore, Pakistan. I thought that was quite cool, but it was maybe even more memorable to see a grandpa pitching. My favorite finalist, a facilitated hitch-hiking service Lawrence OnBoard, did not get too many votes from the audience, but I definitely plan to stay tuned to how their story continues. After eight intense hours, the event ended with a champagne and cookie reception and further cross-cultural mingling. Just another day in the life of a Fulbrighter?

Grandpa pitching at TEDxFulbright

2. Getting Outdoorsy

I could not have been happier in April when even Americans started to consider the weather to be nice enough for all kinds of outdoor activities. One of the highlights of the month was volunteering with REI to clean up Kingman Island and prepare it for Kingman Island Bluegrass Festival. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there really was a lot to do for 100+ volunteers, even some serious pruning. Mom would have been proud, had she seen me using my raking and weeding skills developed as a child. And it was a proud moment for a Finn to see Fiskars garden tools in action. Once again, I also learned something new: Fiskars produces machetes! Finally, I should mention that all the volunteers – obviously – got a free T-shirt.

Volunteering with REI

Another great outdoorsy experience was the first hike of my Fulbright year. A friend of mine is a member of the Wanderbirds Hiking Club that organizes weekly hikes. Early on a Sunday morning, we hopped on a bus full of sweet old ladies and gentlemen. The bus dropped us of somewhere in Maryland, and we started our beautiful day hike along the Catoctin Trail to Gambrill State Park.

The Wanderbirds concept is brilliant: The leader of the hike leads the group and leaves red arrows to otherwise potentially tricky turns and crossings. Hikers can either hike with the leader, or at their own pace, like we did. Another experienced club member is a designated sweep whose task is to be the last one to make sure that no one is left behind and to collect the red arrows. This makes hiking safe and accessible for a wide audience, regardless of previous hiking experience.

Hiking with Wanderbirds

When it comes to food, Finns living abroad typically miss most rye bread, our national obsession. I’m not an exception. The only equivalent in the US market is rye bread made by Nordic Breads in Long Island City, NY. Their products unfortunately can’t be bought in grocery stores outside NYC. Thanks to my recent Finnish visitor, I happened to have my favorite snack available for the hike: Reissumies. If you ask me, nothing beats the taste of fresh rye bread enjoyed in a scenic spot and with great company.
Hiking with Wanderbirds

We spent about a little below four hours on the 10 mile / 16km trail. I loved every moment in the quiet and peaceful forest! After the hike, the group gathered by the bus and hung out for a while sipping recovery beers, eating chips, and chatting. I made lots of new friends with my secret weapon, Finnish chocolate by Fazer, hand-carried to me by another awesome Finnish friend. This icebreaker even triggered one of the hiker ladies to share that she had been on a business trip in Finland in the 70s when she worked for CIA in Paris.
Hiking with Wanderbirds

3. Major League Baseball

Americans love not only free T-shirst, but also their sports. Before coming here, I was pretty familiar with NHL, NBA, and NFL. My knowledge of Major League Baseball, MLB, was very close to zero, although our national sport is actually also called baseball, pesäpallo. That’s why I was delighted to be able to go to my very first MLB game as a part of the Fulbright Enrichment Program.

The biggest benefit of going to the game with the Fulbright group was that before the game started, we got a brief but incredibly comprehensive introduction to the sport. Our baseball guru could not have been more knowledgeable: Michael Gibbons has been the Executive Director of the Babe Ruth Birthplace & Museum in Baltimore, MD since 1983, so baseball really is his life. (Babe Ruth was a legendary American baseball outfielder and pitcher who played 22 seasons in Major League Baseball from 1914 to 1935.)

Mike summarized for us everything from the history of the game to rules, roles, and tactics. The way he illustrated his key points on a whiteboard made me think of an ice hockey coach. One of my key take-aways was that the role of the pitcher is far more important in American baseball than in the Finnish version. Our pitcher does not even have a pitchers mound! The shape of the field and locations of the bases are also somewhat different. Otherwise there are lots of similarities in the logic of American and Finnish baseball. That made learning the main rules relatively easy for me. For many, even the idea that the defending team always has the ball may be completely foreign.

After the thorough briefing, it was time to head to the Nationals Park. It was fun to see all the theory in practise right away. Washington Nationals seemed to completely dominate the game since the beginning. They ended up winning San Diego Padres 4-0. I leave summarizing the game in more details for someone more professional. Mercifully for us first timers, the game was exceptionally short, only 2 hours and 19 minutes. The average lenght of a Major League Baseball game is around 3 hours, but they can last up to 7 hours.

Major League Baseball at the Nationals Park

Best of January

1. American Cuisine

‘American Cuisine’ is my favorite Fulbright enrichment activity so far. This event raised of lot of interest already before it took place. Everyone who heard of it – American friends included – seemed puzzled: What is American cuisine? What would we cook? Pizza? French fries? Hamburgers? Would we go to McDonald’s together? Or to KFC? The answer was revealed at the beautiful home of our Fulbright enrichment coordinator in Bethesda on a rainy Saturday. When we arrived to her house, three expert home chefs had been working on the preparations for our cooking session for hours in the most amazing and well equipped kitchen that I have seen in a long time.

The menu consisted of popcorn soup, cedar plank salmon with maple glaze, Kansas City ribs, spicy Southwestern vegetable skillet, summer corn salad with champagne vinaigrette, and finally carrot cake for dessert. For me, the most unexpected item on the menu was “popcorn soup, a fanciful version of a traditional corn soup“. In addition yellow corn, popped popcorn was really used as a key ingredient, not only for garnish. Who would’ve thought? The soup was so delicious that I’m looking forward to making it for my American house mates. None of them had ever heard about it!

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Coming from Finland where smoked salmon is nearly a staple, another highlight was getting introduced to cedar plank salmon. Back home, alder chips or juniper twigs are most commonly used for smoking though, not cedar, and I had never heard of plank cooking. It turned out to be a pretty simple yet brilliant Native American technique to prepare fish on a piece of wood that gives the food a subtle smoky flavor. A key learning was that planks made out of untreated cedar specifically for cooking purposes are widely available in American grocery stores. Another great tip was to use greens of scallions under the fish to have some air circulating between the fish and the plank. Finally, I also learned that a giant golf umbrella is a handy tool for barbecuing in heavy rain…

Like advertised, the event was “a relaxing day of preparing, cooking, eating, and talking about good American cuisine“. Thanks to all the preparations made by the chefs, for the rest of us the session was indeed very relaxing – an eating class rather than a cooking class! Learning about the history, evolution and cultural context of American food was fascinating. And not only did I learn about American food, but also cuisines of Brazil, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan from our small but super international group.

2. Liberty Mountain

After taking a bus, the metro, another bus, two planes, a train, a bus, three more trains and finally a cab with my huge snowboard bag on my way back from Finland, I was determined to use the equipment as soon as possible. The opportunity arose already during the first weekend after my return as I managed to sell the idea of a day trip to Liberty Mountain to two friends from the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

We spent the sunny Sunday morning navigating towards Gettysburg. As a result of missing a turn somewhere in Pennsylvania, we first ended up to a small town called Waynesboro instead. The timing for getting lost could not have been better, though: Frank’s Pizza, clearly a favorite among locals, opened for lunch exactly when we randomly parked in front of it. Some 15 minutes later the restaurant was packed, but we were already happily working on our lunch special consisting of two giant “New York style” pizzas (that were enough for dinner, too).

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Eventually we also found the Liberty Mountain. It was a mountain in the same sense as “mountains” in Finland, but a fun setting for opening the season anyway. A little bigger than Messilä but a little smaller than Himos. A handful of chairlifts and a dozen of slopes with amusing names, such as Dipsy Doodle and Heavenly, kept us busy for a good couple of hours of relaxed riding. And a hot chocolate break on the sunny patio was naturally a vital part of the wholesome experience.

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3. Caps-Sharks (or rather: Sweden-Finland)

When a colleague of mine asked me if I would like to spontaneously join her and a bunch of other colleagues for ice hockey, my first question was “to play or to watch“. The answer – someone might say obviously – was to watch. I had been to an NHL game only once before in Montreal in 2004. I figured watching one every 10 years is probably a good idea, so I joined the crowd heading to the Verizon Center.

The teams playing were the local pride of DC, Washington Capitals, and an enemy from the West, San Jose Sharks. As there was little time for pre-game prepping, I just quickly checked the single most important fact: Are there Finnish players in any of the two teams? Caps: No Finns in Caps unfortunately, but there are two Swedes. Sharks: Bingo! The goalie is Antti Niemi from Vantaa. As there are no Swedish players in Sharks, in my mind the game quickly turned into a Finland vs. Sweden battle.

Despite Caps having more shots on goal than Sharks, Niemi played an amazing game and gave me lots of reason to be proud of my country. He was even selected as the best player of the game. We really got value for our money as the game went to overtime and eventually to shootouts. The last one from Caps who got to attempt to score was the Swede Nicklas Bäckström. As he missed, Finland won. The slogan of Sharks is “Fear the Fin”. For a moment, I thought it was “Fear the Finn”. At least judging based on this game that would be pretty fitting too.

You can find a more professional write up of the Caps-Sharks game here. You might also like a recent article by New York Times about how Finland, a country of 5.4 million people, has produced more NHL goalies than any other European country.

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PS. Finns were giving hard time to Caps also the night following the Sharks game: Pittsburg Penguins bet Caps 4-3 with Finns Olli Määttä and Jussi Jokinen responsible for the Penguins’ final three goals. Earlier in January, Finland won the Ice Hockey World Junior Championships in Sweden. What made that win even sweeter was that the final was against the hosts. Let’s see what happens in Sochi… Hopefully some exciting and eventful games between Finland and Sweden – and Finland and USA!

Enriching Experiences with Fellow Fulbrighters

One of the perks of being a Fulbrighter is getting to participate in the Fulbright Enrichment Program. DC is one of the six cities in the US where a dedicated Fulbright Enrichment Coordinator is in charge of organizing all kinds activities to enable us visiting scholars “to better experience America and to further the Fulbright Program’s goal of increasing mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and people of other countries”.

The 2013-14 Fulbright Enrichment Year was kicked off in early October with a reception at the offices of the Institute for International Education (IIE). After numerous emails exchanged to complete the immigration paperwork, it was great to meet Fulbright program administrators from the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) in person. In addition to them, we were warmly welcomed by the representatives of the United States Department of State. The diversity of the Fulbright community and the wide spectrum of Fulbright programs became very tangible when mingling with fellow Fulbrighters. For example, I met several Humphrey fellows who are here for a very cool program consisting of non-degree academic study and related professional experiences. A special highlight of the evening was learning that there is an awesome bike trail from DC to Pittsburgh.

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In the end of October, it was time for the next activity: a Symbolic Tour of Washington, D.C., a bus and walking tour around the city. Buildings, monuments and other sights looked great in the beautiful fall weather: Embassy RowGeorgetown Waterfront, the White House, Union Station, U.S. Capitol, Jefferson Memorial, and finally Lincoln Memorial. Out of the endless anecdotes that our guide shared with us, for me the most memorable ones were related to the statue of Abraham Lincoln. I learned that his hands symbolize his two opposite traits: power and strength (the closed fist), and peace and compassion (the relaxed hand). The guide also pointed out that a face is carved in the back of Lincoln’s head, potentially Robert E. Lee‘s – although the authorities do their best to bust this myth.

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A few weeks later, it was time for the third adventure: a visit to the Amish communities of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Amish are a group of traditionalist Christian churches. Their history dates back to the 17th century Switzerland. In the early 18th century, many Amish immigrated to the US. Today, the total number of Amish is 250,000-300,000. The biggest communities live in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. The Amish are known for simple living, plain dress, and no or limited adoption of modern conveniences and technology.

Before the trip, I felt a bit uneasy: Of course I was excited and curious to learn more about the Amish, but at the same time I was afraid that visiting them with a tour bus would feel impolite and intrusive, almost like going to a “human zoo“. During the day, I managed to convince myself that Amish people might actually appreciate a genuine desire to understand their faith, beliefs, and motivations. Our guide, a lovely retired teacher who has lived her life as a neighbor to Amish families, did a great job helping us build this understanding.

The most interesting stop of the day was at an Amish Farmhouse that now serves as a museum, surrounded by a real farm (as a consequence of which the bus smelled like goat poop for the rest of the day…). There we got to step into a one-room schoolhouse. It was fascinating to hear about the Amish approach to education: Most Amish children go to Amish schools until the age of 13-14 when they typically discontinue formal education. Thereafter children focus on working in the house, the farm, and family businesses, and learn the additional skills needed in life on the job. For Finns who are big believers in education, as well as for many Fulbrighters making a career in academia, the idea of uselessness of higher education and abstract thinking can be quite distant and thought-provoking.

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Amish are often said to be reluctant to adopt modern technology. To be more exact, the main difference between Amish people and most other Americans might actually be the deliberation that takes place before deciding whether to embrace a new technology, or to which extent to embrace it. For example, most Amish are ok with using electricity, but instead of getting it from the grid, they use diesel generators and solar panels, as they want to maintain a separation from the rest of the world. That’s why Amish houses can be recognized by the absence of electric lines. (Another easy way to spot Amish houses are their unique clotheslines that are up in the air and operated with a pulley.)

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Amish are also not allowed to drive cars – and also bicycles are prohibited – but they are allowed ride in cars if other people drive. Most commonly they continue to use horse-driven buggies, though, and those were a common sight on the roads of Lancaster. Amish way of life is very family-centric, and the reasoning behind all these rules and traditions is to “keep the family together”. In other words, it should not be made easy to end up far away from the family, or let anything distract family life. To read more about the Amish and their relationship with modern technology in particular, have a look at this blog post. And like always, Wikipedia is a great resource, both in English and in Finnish.

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The last stop before heading back home was at one of the many Amish farmhouses that have a gift shop for tourists. When I realized they sold jam made without sugar AND without artificial sweeteners, I filled my bag with jars of strawberry-rhubarb jam, blueberry jam, and apple sauce. The biggest hit was a hot, soft pretzel, though, possibly the tastiest pretzel of my life so far – and believe me, I’ve had many, especially in Germany. My first pretzel experience in the US must have been at Auntie Anne’s in New York in 2005, so it took eight years to learn that in this country pretzels are an Amish delicacy. Without becoming a Fulbrighter I would have probably never found out that also the founder of Auntie Anne’s has an Amish background!

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Cultural Exchange at the Office

One thing that I love with the American Red Cross is that people go to meetings without their laptops. Most colleagues also refrain from checking their email on mobile phones while in a meeting. The only tools used are a notepad and a pen. This increases tremendously the likelihood that people in fact actively listen to each other and contribute to the discussion.

At my previous workplace, Nokia, it was very common that even if people were physically in the meeting room, mentally they were not. The official explanation was that they had to multitask, and I must admit having been guilty to this one, too. The year here will be an excellent training camp for being more focused and present.

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Then again, what I miss most from Nokia is the lunch culture. At the Red Cross (and apparently in most other DC offices), most people only eat a very quick lunch at their desk, either something that they have brought with them from home or that they quickly grab nearby. Even when going out for lunch, at least coffee is drunk “efficiently” while walking back to the office. 

During my 21 quarters at Nokia, the occasions when I did not make it to a proper lunch at the beloved cafeteria can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The meals were tasty, healthy and reasonably priced, in other words perfect for refilling the energy reserves to stay calm, balanced and productive also during the afternoon hours, and to be able to exercise right after work.

Even more importantly, the lunch breaks were a nearly sacred ritual in the middle of hectic days: time to take some distance to the glowing laptop screen, sit back, relax, reset the brain, and chat with friends and colleagues. These discussions were a great way to learn what is really is going on in the lives of bosses, peers and subordinates, and what matters to them most. Even if the work topics were often not discussed at all, magically many problems seemed much smaller when returning to the desk.

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The Fulbright program was established to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries”. As much as it is an educational exchange program, also cultural exchange is in the heart of it. I hope my contribution can be bringing laptop-free meetings back to Finland, and taking the lunch culture here to a next level.

Objectives for the Mission

How does it feel to work full time on a hobby? What are the main differences between companies and not-for-profit organizations? Which are more efficient and effective: traditional massive organizations, or small agile nonprofits? And how much can one single person really contribute to changing the world? These and many more questions are to be answered during the next 12 months.

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When applying for the Fulbright scholarship, I defined three main objectives for my mission at the American Red Cross:

  • Support the American Red Cross in its important work through my pro-bono project. My project will provide the organization with documentation on its current fundraising processes, quantitative analyses on effectiveness of different fundraising methods and new ideas how to further develop the processes and enhance fundraising performance.
  • Gain valuable knowledge of the dynamics of the not-for-profit sector in the US and specifically about fundraising. This is of great importance for my professional and personal development, as my plan is to work full time in the not-for-profit sector in my future career.
  • Provide a useful case study on fundraising best practices for Finnish not-for-profits. Learning about the benchmark processes and ways of working in the US through my project could provide the Finnish Red Cross, Zonta clubs in Finland as well as other Finnish not-for-profit organizations with completely new tools and inspiration.

In addition to achieving these three official objectives during my year in the US, I plan to learn as much as possible about US history and politics, visit legendary places, like Hawaii, Florida and Alaska, and make my debut in the American running and triathlon scene.

 

The Mission Begins

After an exciting Fulbright scholarship application process last winter and an awesome 150 days of summer, on August 27, 2013, it was finally time to catch a flight to the US to start my mission in the world of NGOs: A year-long Fulbright Mid Career Professional Development project with the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C.

I was browsing Fulbright introduction materials on the plane. Somewhere roughly above the infamous Eyjafjallajökull glacier it hit me. In one of the broschures, Senator J. William Fulbright was described a “Man with a Mission”. That’s when I got the idea to call my new blog “Miss with a Mission”.

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