Erika J. Waters
“Finnish Fulbrighters on the Road” was the surprising subject line in an email to me last September. Heikki Hietanen was writing from Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut, to tell me that a group of Fulbrighters was planning a leaf-peeping excursion through Northern New England. They would travel to New Hampshire and then to Maine, visiting Acadia National Park and Portland, and hoped to visit me along the way.
Last Sunday, Heikki Hieitanen and Minna Honkasalo arrived at my house in South Freeport, Maine, after a long drive from Acadia National Park. They quickly donned hats, sweaters, and waterproof gear and set out in our bright yellow tandem kayak. My husband Fran Waters guided them along the Harraseeket River, passing bright red maple trees and yellow oaks—it was peak leaf-peeping time. They paddled by charming South Freeport Harbor and out into Casco Bay, and then watched the sunset over the water.
Later, back at home, we enjoyed an outdoor, candle-lit dinner of Mexican chicken enchiladas (for a truly international experience), and we learned more about their experiences in America. Minna, the curator of the Moomin Museum in Finland—the children’s author and illustrator Tove Jansson created the world- famous Moomin characters—is examining issues of inclusion at similar museums in the U.S. She spoke of the extraordinarily generous people she’s met in America–one had even lent her a car for this very trip.
Heikki Hietanen, an ordained Lutheran minister, is an ASLA-Fulbright Pre-Doctoral Research Fellow at Yale, working on his doctorate in biblical study. We had a brief discussion on postcolonial literary theory, along with many reminisces of Turku, Finland, where he had lived and where I had spent my Fulbright. There was also talk of family left behind, an aspect of the Fulbright experience not often discussed.
The smiling faces in these photos reveal what a fun time the four of us had–at least I speak for myself here—and I thank you, Heikki, for making the effort. Over the years since my Fulbright Scholar award to Finland, I’ve looked for ways to engage with Fulbright alumni. Working with the Maine Fulbright Association chapter is one. Working as Book Review Editor of Fulbright Chronicles is another. Meeting new friends with shared experiences as we did this glorious autumn day in Maine was yet another.