Aby-a-Day – February 9: Suomalainen vaihto

One thing I absolutely love is things from foreign countries. Since my mother’s family all lives in Canada, I’ve always known people outside of the States, and I’ve had good friends in Canada and Sweden for decades. I’ve always been fascinated by the everyday things that are just different from the things we have in the States. Sometimes better (like coloured money and tomato sauce in plastic tubes like toothpaste), sometimes worse (like public toilets that cost money) but just…different.

When I went to visit my friend Björn in Sweden, he asked me what I wanted to do, suggesting museums, castles, monuments…and I said I wanted to go to a grocery store. I love just shopping at ordinary places in other countries: pet shops, drug stores/pharmacies/chemists (not at all the same thing depending on where you go), supermarkets, places that tourists tend not to go. Some of my best experiences travelling have been the pet store in Tokyo, the supermarket in Seoul, the homegoods department in Amsterdam, and the Saturday Björn and I spent at the IKEA in Jönköping.

I’ve also been fascinated by Finland since I was in high school. My “internet name,” Talonväki” was originally my “household name” when I was active in the Society for Creative Anachronism; it was a bit of a joke since “talonväki” means “household” but looks and sounds so very exotic.

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So when my Abyfriend Sanna-Leena complained about the dearth of good cat toys in Finland and discovered my love for Finnish rockabilly music, we swiftly concocted an exchange. I sent her some great American cat toys, some Boston souvenirs (especially Boston Bruins stuff because Tuukka Rask is Big in Finland, but some Red Sox souvenirs found their way in there, too) and some other things that you just can’t get over there…and she sent me a wonderful box of similar goodies from Finland. We spent months collecting cool things we thought the other would like before sending our boxes to each other towards the end of December.

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I got my box from her this week, and it was so exciting!

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Of course I had help opening it…

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…although I’m not sure “help” is really the right word.

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Jacoby was actually more interested with the toys than with the treats, for a change.

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(Which doesn’t mean he was entirely oblivious to the crunchy treaty goodness that Sanna-Leena sent, of course.)

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Jake was fascinated by all the cat toys…

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…but was love at first sight when he found the “flat cat” (aka the “pelt”) toy, though.

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This was clearly his favourite thing in the box.

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My favourite thing? So hard to choose! There was Finnish candy, gum, rye nachos, CDs (I now will be requiring every annual copy of the Iskelmä Gaala CD, I’m afraid, and Anssi Kela is wonderful), a Moomins book, and a fabulous Aby/Somali calendar published by her cat club.

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Sanna-Leena took some of the photos and her two boys appear in the calendar, too!

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Sanna also included a little pedestrian reflector, something I fell in love with when I was in Sweden but which are virtually unheard of here in the States. Pedestrian reflectors were actually invented in Finland in the 1960’s, and the Scandinavian countries have the lowest per capita rate of traffic accidents involving pedestrians. Since I don’t drive and walk a lot, I love this.

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The fact that she included this packet of buttons amused me endlessly; I’ve only recently discovered that Angry Birds is a Finnish invention (and it makes so much more sense now)!

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One of the very best things Sanna-Leena sent was two leather cat harnesses by Arja’s Art. These things are works of art – gorgeous leather, great design (including reflective piping)…and they are so inexpensive! Only €17,50, which is around $25 in US or Canadian dollars.

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And the leather is sooooo soft. Like butter. Only softer.

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Jake’s is metallic copper, and he was only too happy to model it.

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Angel’s is peralised purple, and it’s just the perfect shade for her red fur.

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She was slightly less happy about modelling it, though.

Sanna-Leena has three Abys: Ruddy Kossi, Fawn Sketsi and Red Kiipa. You may remember Sanna-Leena from her marvelous Aby tattoo featuring her two boys. Jake’s actually distantly related to all three of them through some common ancestors, notably Tinbat’s Morgan’s Passing, whose daughter, Mellowmews Tia, went to Finland.

Since Finland gets a bit cool in the winter, one thing I sent was hats…

one for Sanna-Leena

and one for Sketsi. I think she liked her hat better than he did his!

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But thank you, kiitos, Sanna-Leena, Sketski, Kossi and Kiipi! We loved everything – and we should do this again sometime.

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Jake especially wants to thank you for the pelt…

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Sheesh! Get a room, you two!