Interview with a podcast
I have been listening to podcasts for years (since 2006ish! Thanks for starting me off on WWDTM, Jen!), and a few years ago I made a goal to someday appear on one. This week, it happened! I am on the latest episode (23 March, "Data. Data. Data.") of NPR's It's Been A Minute with Sam Sanders. My segment is from 17.10-24.10.
The story is: last Saturday when I was driving to pick up Magdalena from gymnastics, I was listening to IBAM as I do every week (it is a great way to keep up with the weekly US news cycle from afar). The subject of Finland being the happiest country in the world came up, which was so fun to listen to. It's not often I get to hear about Finland on my US podcasts (though 99% Invisible, for one, has a weirdly high amount of Finnish-centric episodes).
As they talked about Finland, one of the guests (Hanna Rosen from Invisibilia) tossed off a comment about Nordic countries always winning these things because they are so socialist and homogenous and anti-immigrant. And she's not...wrong, exactly, but I felt like I could lend a little nuance to that conversation and when I got home, I wrote the show an email telling them so. I was hoping for a spot on the show's Long Distance segment, where they call a listener somewhere in the US or world to talk about what's going on in their neck of the woods.
I didn't intend, nor do I now mean, to "well, actually" Rosen on this issue because she can't be expected to know the intricacies of the metrics of the World Happiness Survey off-hand at any given moment, much less during a live interview, but (well) the survey is (actually) primarily a tool to study immigrant happiness! And Finland comes in at number one for immigrant happiness as well. Plus, social welfare nets are not measured in the survey directly; rather, residents are asked if they have friends or family (NOT the state) they can rely on in hard times, and that is one of the areas where Finland and other Nordic countries scored so high. As far as homogeneity - well, Finland is getting more diverse by the year. I think my (and many Americans') perception of Nordic countries is sometimes stuck in the 1990s (maybe because of the Lillehammer Olympics?? I don't know) and the demographics have changed so drastically since then. Finland took in 32,000 refugees in 2015 alone and you guys, this country only has 5.5 million people in it to begin with. And even if you decide those numbers are still low, Finns in general are so welcoming of immigrants - there is no mainstream 'anti-immigrant' attitude here.
So that was the nuance I hoped I could add to the conversation. I got a response to my email and ended up having a few email exchanges with one of the show's producers over the last few days and she arranged for me to appear on the show!
Of course the first thing I did when I found out I was going to be on the show was WhatsApp my friend Jen in Boston to FREAK. OUT. She responded appropriately, namely in all caps. If you do not already have a Podcast Friend, I suggest you get one, because while Jeremy is supportive in all things and was certainly happy for me, he is not someone who Gets Podcasts and therefore could not talk me through this. Find your Podcast Friend, people.
I talked with the producer on Wednesday and we checked sound quality on both regular (well, mobile) phone and Skype. She asked me a few questions about myself and Finland and it felt like a run-through for the kinds of things Sam might ask me during the real interview.
After some complicated time zone wrangling and scheduling, Thursday night at 11.30pm found me sitting on the living room floor in the dark, talking with Sam Sanders about Finland! I was really nervous right before they called, but once we got to talking I calmed down (it's almost like he's a professional interviewer or something...). I was so grateful for that podcast thing where the host front-loads the question in the beginning part of the sentence so you have a few moments to throw an answer together by the time the question mark comes (now that I have pointed it out, you will notice this tactic everywhere).
Listening to the final, produced podcast, there are a few parts they cut from the interview. And they did a brilliant job - I need these editors to follow me around in real life and cut out all the dumb, irrelevant things I say! And of course there were completely normal things I said that didn't make it in the podcast, either. I talked about my students a bit and there was a brief moment where I mentioned ice swimming before we got to orienteering, neither of which made it in.
-you can hear me hesitate slightly before I pronounce "Turku." It sounds so different in Finnish that I have a hard time saying it in English. But I didn't want to be That Pretentious Person on a podcast so I gritted my teeth and Englishicized it. (Off the radio, I am totally That Pretentious Person and I pronounce it in Finnish even while speaking English.)
-after the interview was over, I realized it might have been more accurate to say we've been here 2.5 years instead of almost three. In my mind, though, I was thinking that I am almost done teaching my third academic year, so that's where the three years came from.
-one of the questions he asked me which did not make the final cut was how I keep up with what's going on in the US. And the honest, genuine answer was: It's Been A Minute with Sam Sanders! That podcast is my weekly sit-down with smart people who tell me everything that's been going on in my home country for the last seven days.
-I am more than thrilled that I got to talk about orienteering with Sam Sanders.
So yes. I got to be on a podcast!
Edited to add: a little while after I wrote this post, I opened up Twitter and saw this! At the end of the interview he asked me to send him a photo of what orienteering looks like, so I did.
Last week we talked about #Finland being ranked the happiest country in the world by @HappinessRpt. There was some contention over this ranking, so we decided to call up someone living there. That’s how we discovered #orienteering. Y’all heard of this? https://t.co/badoyNtbdQ pic.twitter.com/6CWtPJZq42— It's Been A Minute (@NPRItsBeenAMin) March 24, 2018