Helsinki Journal Part 2

Post was created on July 18th, 2011

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Photos by Irene Chia & Dave Hironimos ©2011

June 17
Got about 6 hours sleep then headed over to the Finlandia Hall where the Congress is taking place. Sat in on a constitutional workshop session, sang “Women of the World” to wrap up the session – everyone got up & sang along! Ended all the business sessions with the song and every time, people stood up to sing & dance along. After that, headed back to the hotel room for another couple hours of much needed sleep. Then it was time to get ready for “show” time!

The Opening Ceremonies took place at 7PM back at Finlandia Hall which is a huge auditorium and it was impressively decorated with flags from countries around the world. BPW International is represented in 97 countries around the world and 60 of them came to the Congress. – about 600 women.

There was a lovely young singer who played an instrument that resembled an autoharp but larger along with a violinist representing the “new folk music” of Finland. There were speeches and awards and a native folk dancing group who did the most intricate weaving in & out dance moves I’ve ever seen – it was so fun to watch.

I sang my quadrilingual version of “Women of the World” and was thrilled to see people responding to the song! So many people came up to me after the show to say that play the song “all the time” to keep them motivated – they were from all parts of the world. Those who spoke French, Italian & Spanish were particularly pleased to know that the full versions of the song are available on the souvenir special edition “Women of the World” CD produced for the 2011 Congress.

Unfortunately, the shipment of the CDs was delayed and will only be here on Monday. But I will be singing it at various workshops & business sessions so maybe we will do great sales by the time they arrive on Monday!

June 18
Spent most of the day in business sessions & workshops that start at 9AM and end around 5PM with a ½ hour for a quick bite to eat.

That night, we are bussed to the harbour where we get on a cruise boat that takes us to a casino for the “Friends & Fellows” dinner – a select group of delegates who can bring along their spouses for an evening of fun, camaraderie & good food. There was a white grand piano in the centre of the restaurant so I sang “Women of the World” with a “choir” of women who joined in. I think we entertained the other patrons in the restaurant too as we sang out with gusto!

Oh – a note about the “bus” – It had a “side” door halfway down the bus where people could get on & off. It also had a door which led down a few steps to a washroom in the bus!

June 19
Again it was all day in business sessions then we all went to different restaurants for the “Dine Around” evening – you pre-select a restaurant from a list of recommended eating places in the host city. We chose the Seurohonne Restaurant which had a buffet-style feast and was delicious. At one point, some women stood up & started to sing songs in their native language, then other women did the same then someone came over to get me & brought me to the middle of the restaurant to sing – you guessed it – Women of the World – & everybody joined in singing out in full voice!

June 20
We had the usual business sessions but today they wrapped up early because it was “Gala” night! Everyone will be dressed in their finest for tonight’s elegant dinner in Finlandia Hall.

The meal was scrumptious and they had a lovely program of entertainment which included a male tenor singer as well as a fabulous Korean dance complete with gorgeous costumes & fans.

I debuted my new song “Women of Spirit” which was well received. I also sang “What Would I Do Without You” and there were people dancing to it in the aisles! But the best part of the whole night was when I sang “Women of the world” – 600 women rose up & danced/sang along with me. They also had 2 jumbotrons so I was on these 2 big TV screens, people were dancing in front of the stage, all over the room and singing out the song. WOW – it was one of the best performing nights ever for me. It was such a thrill to see a sea of women, elegantly dressed singing out with such enthusiasm. It was the perfect song for the perfect group and I was caught up in the magic of the moment along with everyone else.

It’s like having a child & watching that child grow up, interact with the world & watch how the world reacts to that child. You kind of beam with pride! That’s how I felt.

Video by Anastasia Safarian ©2011
View Anastasia’s blog here:

June 21
The final day of business sessions wrapped up with singing Women of the World again – it was nice to see that they weren’t tired of the song!

That night, we were bussed to a restaurant for the Farewell Dinner & we had a fabulous buffet that was so good, I went for seconds. This was the night that everyone could just relax and enjoy themselves having worked so hard on ratifying their Constitution. Not an easy task with delegates from 60 different countries. The International President, Liz Benham, was superb as she facilitated all the sessions and kept decorum, respect & civility all round. I have much admiration for her and I am not the only one.

I was invited to sing Women of the World and this time, the stage was filled to capacity as women in their bright colours joined me on stage to sing. In front of the stage was a crowd of people singing out & waving their arms in the air. It’s their song now!!! They embody the spirit of the song and I am humbled by the ability of song to unite people of different cultures, different languages.

I met many people who could not speak English but they would see me & say “Hey Hey Hey woman!” and do their best to sing along. I keep telling people I felt like a rock star in Helsinki! Everywhere I went, people wanted their photos taken with me, we exchanged business cards, they told me they play the song to start their meetings or even to start off their day. People from Germany, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Switzerland, Italy, France, various countries in Africa, Egypt – it was just incredible.

That wraps up Part 2 of my Helsinki Journal.  Next installment next Monday will be about my trip to Paris from June 22-28, 2011.

4 Responses to "Helsinki Journal Part 2"

  1. Lyne Depatie says:

    Just wonderful Jeanette! Let’s make a repeat of this rock star performance! 😉

  2. Hey Hey Hey Woman….

    Excellent description, we are there with you!



  3. Yes! I am looking forward to your 60 million girls benefit event on November 19th! Can’t wait to blog about it too.

  4. Hey Hey Hey there friend! I relived it while writing it – can’t wait to go back some day.

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