Korpela Salli and Asko:
To Repay What We Met in America as Fullbrighters

It happened one dark and chilly September night in 1974. I climbed up to the 7th floor in Topeliuksenkatu 7 and rang the door bell of the Darling family. I suppose that both John and Melva came to the door when I - in a hesitant manner - introduced myself and told them that we lived in the same house and would like to be of help if needed.


Asko, I and our two daughters, Salla then 7 and Sanna 5, had just returned home after an unforgettable year as Fullbrighters in Philadelphia. We lived there on the campus and the settling down of foreigners had really been made easy: there was a loan closet from which we could borrow household gadgets, there was a mothers' club, where we were taught how to make American food, English conversation lessons for those who needed to become more familiar with the language etc. Everything was so well organized, and we had the feeling that we were not left alone with our adjustment problems. We still remember with gratitude the Americans who made great efforts in order to make our arrival and the beginning of our American life smooth and safe. Later on we got through the University a host family who was always ready to help us and to make us feel comfortable. It was quite natural that we celebrated both Thanksgiving and Christmas with them.

When we returned back home in July 1974, we still remember the fresh smell of birch trees after a rainfall but also how the Finns looked unfriendly, because no one smiled or talked to us, how dull the street life was because everyone was white and wore dark coloured clothes, most people at the railway station seemed to be drunk - it happened to be the pay-day and so on.

Since our return was kind of a shock to us, we wondered how much bigger it must have been for the brave and open-minded Darling family who came to Finland in a fall that was unusually cold and rainy. How much more difficult it must have been for them because they did not know the language and English was much less spoken in Finland at that time. For example to order a taxi or to reserve the laundry in our apartment house could be a problem. It was our priviledge to become some kind of a host family to the Darlings. We had dinners and birthday celebrations together, I introduced the obligatory "pulla" receipe to Melva and she taught me how to make tuna fish casserole, which became one of Asko's favourite dishes. Through these small everyday experiences we very soon made friends: in fact Melva became so close to me that I started to call her my sister. Still today this feeling is true. By this most rewarding experience we have learned one important lesson of life: give out your love freely and it returns to you manifold. We consider this deep friendship and family connection as one of the great gifts in our lives.

[ Korpela Salli and Asko, Neighbors at Topeliuksenkatu 7A, 00250 HELSINKI ]

Asko Korpela 19990921 (19990921) o Asko.Korpela@kolumbus.fi o AJK kotisivu