Saturday, February 4, 2012

Small Town Finland

February 4:

Valkeakoski is a cool little town.  The population is around 20,000 and it definitely feels that way.  The pace around here is slow and there aren’t a ton of cars everywhere.  Despite the fact that it’s -15 degrees outside, people still walk around outside.  The government or whoever is responsible for snow removal have done a great job.  It’s snowed about 2-3 inches in the few days I’ve been here and the sidewalks are still easily walkable.  I mean they’re still covered in snow, but the snow is packed down so hard that you don’t even need boots to walk on it.  That’s good because I didn’t bring boots and the cheapest pair I’ve seen are 80 euros.  While walking around town exploring a bit, I took this picture of the city center.

As you can tell, the city is quite small. .  The smokestacks (are those called smokestacks?) in the back are from the paper factory that is essentially the reason that Valkeakoski exists as a town.  It used to employ most of the residents and was a major financial backer of Haka.  In the 80s and 90s, Haka was the best team in Finland winning multiple titles.  The only club with more championships is HJK Helsinki.  However, the financial crisis was truly worldwide and hit Valkeakoski hard.  The paper mill was forced to pull most of, if not all of it’s money from Haka and the club ended up in really bad financial shape.  As the result, the club has had to get a bit creative in signing players.  Hence, they’re looking to their youth team and cheap foreigners (ie. Me) to build a competetive squad.  In fact, I’m the only new signing for the club that isn’t from the Haka youth team or Yknonnen/Division 1, which are the 2nd and 3rd tier of Finnish soccer.  Playing at a club that doesn’t have much money isn’t really a problem for me though.  In my previous two clubs, Harrisburg City Islanders and Crystal Palace Baltimore, we didn’t have money either.  They were different situations, but the idea is the same.  Some of the luxuries that players may expect elsewhere are not going to happen with Haka.  Luckily (and perhaps obviously) I didn’t come to Valkeakoski for luxury.
Enough about Haka, I’ll tell more of their story another time.  For now, I’m just trying to figure out how to get my American shows to play on my computer.  I’m gonna do some investigating and I’ll have “The Office” playing on Netflix in no time!

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