Down East 2013 ©
Dave and Lacey Castro of Alfred are not related to Raul and Fidel Castro of Cuba. The Maine Castros have no record of engaging in tyranny, exporting terrorism to Latin American nations, or dressing for formal occasions in battle fatigues.
On the other hand, Raul and Fidel have never been linked, even by implication, to international wife-carrying competitions.
So, it’s about even.
Wife carrying is a major sport in some countries, such as Finland, where life is almost unspeakably dull. And Estonia, which may not be a country at all, but a stomach ailment.
But back to Finland, where the world championship of wife carrying  is held in the city of Sonkajärvi each July. Wife carrying originated in the 19th century, as an event called rape and pillage. Big, nasty men would show up in defenseless villages and carry off the attractive women. Feminist protests, not to mention a severe shortage of attractive women, eventually put an end to the more brutal aspects of the practice, and today, only consenting adults engage in the sport, which now involves a man lugging a woman over a course of obstacles, such as water, hurdles, and lingerie sales. The prize is the wife’s weight in beer.
Which brings us back to the Castros. The ones from Maine, I mean. In 2009, they won the North American Wife Carrying Championship, which was held at the Sunday River ski resort. They wanted to compete in the world championships in 2010, but couldn’t afford the trip to Finland. Since then, they’ve been saving their money so they can make it to this year’s competition. 
They’re getting help from Shaker Pond Ice Cream  in Alfred, which has created a flavor called Wife Carrying Crunch and is donating part of the proceeds from each sale to the Castros.
The Maine Castros. Not the commies.
Dave and Lacey told the Lewiston Sun Journal they think they have a real shot at breaking the world record of 55.5 seconds, currently held by Oög the Unsanitary, a 19th century Finnish barbarian, and his then newly acquired concubine, Sülagg, the Underfed.
No American has ever won the world championship, which has been dominated in recent years by the Finns and Estonians (in spite of those chronic stomach cramps). To be fair to the U.S.A., though, when was the last time a Finnish or Estonian team won, say, the NFL championship or the World Series?
But back to the Castros planned trip to Finland, which is a country most Americans know very little about, except that it’s somewhere in Asia. I’m unable to make a personal financial commitment to their efforts, but as an experienced international traveler – I’ve been to Canada and, I think, New Hampshire – allow me to offer the Castros (not the Cuban ones) some advice on assimilating to a foreign language and culture.
First, you have to understand that the Finns, like people everywhere (except New Hampshire) are not that different from us. They have the same hopes, the same fears, the same diseases of the stomach – except the government pays for all of their health care. They will almost certainly welcome Americans with open arms, because Finland is one of the few countries in the world that we aren’t currently bombing.
Let’s start with the language. Many Finns speak Swedish, which is basically English with diagonal lines through the O. Be careful those things don’t get stuck in your mouth and pierce your tongue.
Or as they say in Swedish, t-o-with-a-diagonal-line-through-it-ngue.
Unless that’s Norwegian. Never could tell those people apart.
Some Finns also speak Finnish, which is part of the Finno-Ugric class of languages,  usually spoken only by people with severe stomach distress.
Here are some useful phrases when confronted with a Finnish speaker:
This means, “I have no clue what you’re saying, because you’re speaking Finnish.”
“Missä on vessa?”
This translates roughly as, “Could you please direct me to the nearest toilet, because speaking your language has given me a stomach ailment.”
“Tämä neiti rouva herrasmies maksaa kaiken.”
This phrase is often heard during the wife-carrying competition. It means, “You have no chance of winning because your wife weighs more than the fabled kraken.”
“Ilmatyynyalukseni on täynnä ankeriaita.”
This actually translates as, “My hovercraft is full of eels.” Apparently, that’s the Finnish idea of humor. Or, possibly, dinner.
Other phrases you should get somebody else to translate for you before traveling to any foreign country include:
“Bring me a great deal of beer.”
“No, not this crappy local beer. I want a Bud or a Coors or something.”
“I should warn you before you attempt to physically remove me from this lousy bar that I am an entrant in the world wife-carrying championship, and I can crush you like the miserable peasant you are.”
“Didn’t you people surrender to the Communists after World War II? Well, I know a few commies or my name isn’t Castro.”
“Where I come from Leif Eriksson isn’t considered a great explorer, he’s just another tourist.”
“What do you mean Leif Eriksson wasn’t Finnish?”
“Well, officer, it was like this. Three big Finnish guys held me down while their wives stuck diagonal lines through all my O’s. It was – øuch – incredibly painful.”
Once you’ve been released from custody on bail, you’ll want to enjoy the many appealing aspects of Finnish culture. Such as … uh … well, apparently there’ll be eels for dinner. After the meal, most Finns like nothing better than sitting around and complaining about how much their stomachs ache. And let’s not forget wife carrying, which was practically invented there. That’s why you shouldn’t pass up a chance to visit the Wørld Wife Carrying Hall øf Fame, as well as the cave believed to be the birthplace of Oög the Unsanitary.
As for souvenirs of your visit to Finland, I recommend visiting a language shop and having the O in your last name pierced.
Al Diamøn is ønly kidding and hopes nøne øf his Finnish readers take øffense. He can be emailed at email@example.com . English ønly, please.