Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

poem- light December 6, 2015

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:50 pm
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Candles glisten, blue and white

In the windows

and on graves across the land.

Memories of independence:

A declaration, an idea, a nation.

Quiet thankfulness and pride,

a flickering pinprick of light.

.

Itsenäisyyspäivä Suomenmaa.

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poem-there March 3, 2015

Midnight sun

your bright glow

matches my summer soul.

Midday night

your sky indigo

I hibernate and am made whole

Northern land

that journey long ago

taught me a heart has many homes.

.

.

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A rumination on my Rotary youth exchange year in Finland.

 Do you have a place that changed your philosophy and perspective?  Share your poetry or leave a comment about it at https://shawnbird.com/poetic-diversity-project/  

We’d love to hear your voice!

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poem- longing December 6, 2014

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 4:53 pm
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I light blue and white candles

bake cardamom spiced breads

and remember a home

far away.

.

.

.

Today is the 97th anniversary of Finnish independence.  

hyvää itsenäisyyspäivää kaikille suomalaisille

Runo Suomeksi:

Itsenäisyyskynttilät

pulla

muistan

ja olen ikava sinulle,

Suomen maa.

,

(I was an exchange student in Finland when I was 18.  I have been back a couple of times, but I’m still waiting for my Finns to come visit me in Canada!)

 

poem- remember June 4, 2014

Äiti was crying when I left

 hugging me close and weeping.

“Äiti?”

“Et unohta” she whispered.

Don’t forget.

“Muistat sinun Suomen kielesta,

en osaa puhua englanti!” she sniffed.

You have to remember your Finnish!

I can’t speak English!

“Minä muistan,  Äiti.”

I will remember.

Years dripped by

on memories and melancholy

but still

Muistan, Äiti.

 

Becoming ‘puoli-Suomalainen’ June 2, 2010

I have 5 mothers, 5 fathers, 17 siblings and two nations.

I am a returned Rotary Exchange Student, and my experience living abroad changed my life. I was blessed to live for a year in Kotka, Finland (Suomi to the Finns) and now my world is paradoxically both larger and smaller.

My first involvement with Rotary was with at a Candy Striper conference the year I was in grade eleven. Katy Jensen, a Rotary Exchange student from New Zealand, was a delegate from a hospital in her exchange community. She described her adventures in Canada and a world of possibility opened up to me. I decided to find out about the program.

I knew my high school vice-principal, Bob Lemon, was a Rotarian, so I asked him about the exchange. He told me to watch for information about interviews the following September. I have noticed since that a lot of students miss out on the opportunity because the interviews happen so early in the school year. If you’re looking at exploring an exchange, be sure you’re hunting for the application details the first week back at school in the fall!

It was a thorough interview process. A short application to start. Next there were interviews at the club level. A longer form. An intensive panel interview at district level. Then thick application form package. By October I had been chosen to represent District 5060 in Finland. Wow. I didn’t know a thing about Finland, so I had a lot to learn to prepare for a year there!

Many people wonder how I ended up in Finland. Short answer: by mistake. On my application, my 3 choices were Belgium (the only French speaking country the district was exchanging with that year), Japan (obviously about to explode in economic activity with Canada), and then…. I had no real interest in anywhere else, so I chose Denmark because it was near Belgium, and I really wanted to see the Vimy Memorial.

The district committee lost some paperwork and they phoned to ask again what my country choices were. I was out as usual volunteering or something. My mom knew the first two, but couldn’t recall the third choice. I had a Finnish pen pal at the time, so she said, “I think the third was Finland?” The rest is history. No one ever asks to go to Finland. No one even knows where Finland is! They were so excited that someone asked for Finland that I was a shoe-in. They happily phoned to offer me an exchange in Finland. What was I going to say? I went.

I tried to learn Finnish before I left. I’m good at languages. It was something completely new. Finno-Ugaric languages have very little in common with Romance languages! When I stepped on the plane with Karyn Engler I could say a few things besides the basics of please and thank you, hello and good bye:

“I’m a Canadian exchange student.”
“I don’t speak Finnish.”
“I’m hungry.”
“I’m thirsty.”

“I’m lost.”

“Where’s the bathroom?”
“Get your hands off me.”

“ice cream” and “Help!”

You’d be surprised just how far those simple phrases can take you! (By my first month in Finland I’d used them all!)

Unlike most of the other outbound students, I had not heard from my host family before I’d left Canada. All I knew about them was from the letter I’d received from my club exchange officer: their professions and family composition. It was very scary going off to a new culture and language with so little information, but it was an adventure and I was ready for anything.

After a week of orientation in Karkku my host father and sister came to get me. We had a few hours to drive to get to Kotka where they lived. I liked them immediately. They were quiet, intellectual and kind. My sister had a shy smile that won me instantly. It was when I arrived at their home though, that my true transition began.

As I opened the front door, a warm bundle of love grabbed me in a crushing hug and weepily exclaimed, “Tervetuloa! Velcome!” As my host-mom beamed at me with excitement and affection, I knew I had a new home. I was on my way to becoming half-Finnish “puoli-Suomalainen” in my heart.

.

PS.  Click on “Rotary” on the categories list to find my other blogs on being an exchange student.

 

 
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