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Kainuu all night long

In the north of Finland, before Lappland begins, near the eastern border is a region called Kainuu. Characteristic to Kainuu area are wide stretching uninhabitated woodlands, hills and lakes. My friend Tuukka (our linux man) lives there with his family. And Sami's girlfriend grew up in a smallish village in Kainuu region. That is also where Sanna 'Litku' Klemetti grew up, and some of the places get mentioned on songs of their hit album 'Juna Kainuuseen'. The title track is about a pair splitting up, and the lady says 'if you don't believe in our love, I'll leave on the next train back to Kainuu'. Well, personally I'm not in a situation to leave a relationship, and I didn't take a train. But a week ago I drove to Sami, and from there on we continued the journey, picking up one more friend and driving to Kainuu. For there was a small music festival there, and Tuukka is a member of the organizing group.

The festival took place next to a sandy beach, on the edge of a cozy smallish village. There wasn't too much audience, but that also meant plenty of space to dance around =) In between each band Tuukka played LPs, and at one point I went for a refreshing swim. The sun was hanging lazily above the horizon, making the surface of the water to glimmer with golden radiance, the water was warm and it was great to slowly swim around listening to songs which Tuukka had chosen to play. I liked all the music. I'd like to mention two of the bands; Maustetytöt - two talented sisters who combine easy electro-pop with melancholic lyrics and a sense of humour performed with a straight face. The band name translates literally as 'Spice Girls', and that is definitely not the only pun they have, as the lyrics were dotted with funny references to various aspects of pop culture. And then there was Ninni Forever - a lady with a guitar and effects and unique vocals.

It was great to party together with a group of friends. We stayed up late, and had a plenty of time to discuss both humorous and serious topics. Also, someone from the organizing group had fallen ill, so they needed extra help to roll up after the bands. So we volunteered to help, disassembling stage structures, packing up and carrying stuff. For me that made the festival experience even more rich and full - not just dancing and enjoying what the others had done, but also participating with the practical work it takes to make a festival happen. As I've said so many times, I like this atmosphere when unknown people are momentarily connected by a common physical work. Some of the structures were so big that they needed four people to carry them, and we all needed to synchronize our movements, and there was that bubbling Eastern-Finnish sense of humour to keep the work going. When we had everything almost wrapped up it turned out that some of the musicians needed help with transportation - only one of the musicians was sober, and they were more than could fit in one car. Since I've realized that I enjoy dancing more when sober, I was good to drive so I offered to drive another car.

So, all of sudden I found myself driving a car in the mellow twilight of the summer midnight, offering a ride for a musician I didn't know (Tuukka was driving a third car, and all the band members and their equipment got unevenly loaded in different cars. Our car happened to have a lot of gear, stuff, equipment, rucksacks, bags, stuff and only one passenger.) The route took us to places mentioned in Litku Klemetti songs, and somehow the atmosphere was rich with that slight touch of magic just like Litku's songs are. We had a nice discussion with the musician, talking about depression and resilience, all the ways of living true ones inner dreams. We spotted a man cycling on the road, and instantly my passenger was filled with sympathy towards that unknown man - probably that man was cycling home in the midnight, after enjoying a few beers at the village pub or something, and there was a steep uphill ahead. The musician opened the car window and I slowed down. These two fellows exchanged a few lines like 'a beautiful night, isn't it?', and the musician asked if the man would accept a can of beer. The man didn't reject such an offer, yet he was astonished as why would unknown by-passers slow down to offer him a can of beer. We assured him that the only reason was our wish to share some refreshment, and to show a simple gesture of caring about fellow human beings. The man thanked, opened the can and started drinking right away. We continued driving up the slope of the Naapurinvaara-hill.

On Sunday it was Sami driving, and the rest of us napping, slumbering and occasionally having a small conversation. In my slumber I started to think that maybe I should write a blog post about this weekend trip. As everything happened I was just living in the moment, not reflecting on 'what I would tell about this'. But I realized that once again this festival trip touches on so many of the long-term themes of my blog. I remember how I've earlier described all the ways I tend to panic or feel uneasy when trying to socialize with unknown people. Or how, with friends, I often found myself repeating same old unnecessary patterns of hiding my inner self and being somewhat absent-minded - in which case it is no wonder if social interaction feels unsatisfying. Obviously, a lot has happened, and I've slowly got over the worst of panic. Gone is the nervous self-doubt which used to tell me 'something bad, something disastrous will happen if you drop the control, if you express your inner self'. Now I found myself leaping and dancing around, not being nervous about what others think or how they might judge me. I think it is that non-verbal sphere of physical presence (dancing, doing practical work together with others) which then has radiated new-found safety and joy also to my ways of verbal communication. I honestly did enjoy all of the discussions we had, both with friends and with random strangers.

One funnyish moment was late night after the festival, when we went to a local pub. The place was all crowded with people getting drunk. And the people of Kainuu, who stereotypically are reserved and not that talkative, were lively, noisy and quickly getting more and more drunk. I was all sober and fully aware that I'm not a part of that sweaty, noisy, intoxicated crowd which seemed to be having a lot of fun, greatly enjoying their being there. That obervation of I am not a part of this came without any judgement - I didn't feel miserable for being an outsider, I didn't feel a need to judge the behaviour of those other people, I didn't feel a need to justify or to validate my own way of being. I simply felt that I enjoy my state of peacefully sitting there with my friends, and I saw that crowd of local people enjoying their being in their own way. I had just enjoyed hours of spontaneous dancing to good music, and I was perfectly happy to chill down not drinking alcohol. I don't know, but maybe it is all these years of living alone which have made to forget to compare and to evalute myself against 'what is normal, what the others do'. I mean, I wouldn't even mention this theme for nowadays it feels so obvious and self-evident to me - but sometimes when I remember how I felt in my teenage years and young adulthood. As an adolescent I was still stuck with a habit of judgement and evaluation; I felt myself morally superior, and I entertained myself with theories proving why not drinking is better than being drunk. But as I kept on reflecting on my own ways of thinking, I started to realize that this kind of moral judgements serve no purpose and lead pretty much nowhere. So I was left with mere anxiety, in my young adulthood feeling myself uncertain and unsure, constantly scanning and anticipating the feedback of other people; 'is it OK if I do this thing differently than the other, what if the others will mock me, should I defend myself or should I adapt, or should I just seek to be alone so that I can freely do things my own way?'. It seems that the all-so-familiar anxiety has quietly evaporated - something which used to be the main ingredient of my daily experience is now only a faint distant memory of 'back in the day I used to feel that way, oh!'.

Oh well. After the festival trip, back at home it has been ordinary busy days. But now it is Friday again and I know I don't have to get up early tomorrow morning. So here I am, after a sauna bath slowly sipping mild red wine and writing this story. Maybe, at this moment, this is my version of handing a can of beer to an unknown stranger; for no other reason that the sheer goodwill and the merriment I'd like to share this little story with you, all the people out there reading - some of you I know, some I don't, but that doesn't matter, for deep down we are all worth the same as living beings. Cheers!

Ninni Forever
Ninni Forever
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