The Group Study Exchange team from Rotary District 1410 in southwest Finland is spending four weeks in District 5830, which includes 45 clubs in Northeast Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Steve Dean and Anson Young flew them here from Mount Pleasant for the Tuesday program.
Setting the stage for their brief personal talks, Anna Schukov, 26, sang the Finnish lyrics to Finlandia, adapted as a national hymn from a longer work by Jean Sibelius. Literally translated, the words tell of the nation’s turbulent history, climaxed in 1917 when it became independent.
All the young people used PowerPoint presenations to show pictures of their homeland, their friends and families and hobbies, which predominantly had to do with outdoor life in their region, which borders the Sea of Bothnia and the Sea of Finland.
From the young speakers, the Gilmer Rotarians learned that Finland has two official languages, Finnish and Swedish.
Johanna Molin, 26, of Turku, speaks fluent Spanish, among several other languages, and works as an interpreter and translator. She likes to travel and surf, and showed photos of her home town, Turko-Abo, with its medeival castle and a cruise ship on the river.
She explained that Finland has 5.3 million people and 180,000 islands. Wildlife includes bears, lynx, reindeer, elk and swans.
Showing photos of various Finnish products, she said that design is important in Finland. It is the home of the pioneer Nokia mobile phones, of which the Finnish peple own 5.2 million.
Lasse Aspback, 33, is a lawyer involved in corporate finance. An outdoor enthusiast, he showed photos of the frozen sea in winter and the midsummer celebration when the sea is an important part of entertaining.
He told about how Finland was predominantly agricultural until the 1930s, but industry has been growing in the last 10 to 15 years. Wood and paper products are exported and the nation’s economy is one of the best performing in the European Union, he said.
Pekka Liukkonen, 28, is a chief of management accounting for a cleaning and mantenance company. His photos showed him playing ice hockey, among other outdoor sports, and he had pictures of a paper mill and a Kone plant, which makes escalators and elevators.
Anna Schukov, a music teacher who plays accordion, piano and ukulele, enjoys winter sports, including skiing in Lapland. She enjoys hunting mushrooms and berries, traveling and cooking and baking.
At her home in Salo most people are Lutherans, she noted. Education is free through the university level, but there are no school buses, most students walking to school. By law, anyone can walk anywhere, except in private back yards, she said.
The Rotarian leader of the team is Pekka Kanervisto, CEO of the Turku University Foundation and a past president of the Turku-Abu Rotary Club, second largest in the country. He and his wife are the parents of four daughters ranging in age from 9 to 23, so things have always been lively around his house, he said.
The Finnish team is spending the rest of this week in Austin, where the Gilmer Rotary Club arranged for them to meet with State Rep. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) and, if all goes according to plan, to meet Gov. Rick Perry.
The Finns presented a banner from the Turko Club to Gilmer Rotary President Randy Hill, who in turn presented each of them with a banner from the Gilmer club.
A team from District 5830 has visited the Finnish district as part of the Group Study Exchange.
District 5830 Gov. Steve Brown was a guest at the meeting.