Europe current locationThe terminal in Helsinki was extremely modern looking, and as soon as I stepped out, I fumbled with my camera bag to get the point and shoot out. This seemed easier than attempting to try and get the lens on the EOS. It was very obvious that was in a new place; all the signs were in Finnish.

Let me just say, Finnish, to the untrained eye, appears to look the most like pure gibberish out of every language I’ve ever encountered. The hard part, I’ve heard, is that you can *read* the characters, unlike say Japanese or Korean, so when you look at the word, you feel like you should be able to get at least some vague understanding of what it could mean. This is completely not so. Simple formula: take a consonant, pick a vowel, double it, add a double consonant, then another vowel (or two). Repeat this process a couple of times, add some double dots over the vowels occasionally and end with T. You have probably created what looks very much like a Finnish word. I’m not in any way slighting the Finnish language; I’m sure it’s a very rich, ornate language and I have all respect in the world for it. This is just an observation by a native English speaker. It’s also not a Latin based language, so the percentage of words you can look at and maybe get a semblance of what they mean (i.e. like in German) is pretty low.

I followed the signs towards the baggage claim, some of which thankfully had English on them, as well as an icon, which helped a lot. Everyone on my flight was gathered down the end, so I joined them. As I did so, I realized that I was once again understanding what I was hearing. A group of older Japanese tourists was there, calling to one another. They were on a search for their luggage, and one had located it in the corner. I guess they were late. The old man waved frantically at his travel companions, using the typical Japanese “come” mime, which flaps the hand facing down, two and from you. They got someone to put their bags on a cart, and they left the area.

As we all waited for the conveyor to turn, two men went in the back and started taking out all the dogs that were on board our flight. There were at least 6 of them, and a man was checking them one at a time to make sure they were okay. One dog was very happy to see anyone, and his tail was banging the sides of the crate. He also kept pawing at the door; he wanted out! Once the bags started, mine was relatively near the front, and I yanked it off, then headed out the exit marked “Nothing to Declare”. I expected some sort of Customs, but there was none.

Anjanette stood waiting for me outside the exit. She smiled and gave me a big hug. She asked how the flight was as we walked through the exit into YIKES piles and piles of snow. I mean a lot of it. There were cars literally *buried* under three feet of the fluffy white powder! She led me through the slush to her familiar blue Honda CR-V, which was in the back of a parking lot. She was going to have me carry my bag through a large slushy area, but I noticed there was an easier path on the sidewalk behind it. I still ended up walking around her car, but that was preferable to walking across the watery lot. When we got inside, I was greeted by the familiar bunny-eared Garfield figure, and I said, “I know this car!” Anj and her husband D’Arcy brought her car from Texas to Finland, as it was cheaper to do that than buy a car here for two years.

She drove out of the lot, and I noticed a light snow was still falling. I also noticed how bright it was – it was well after 9PM now, but everything was easily visible. Anj said it was probably because of the overcast sky and the snow – the light was getting reflected by the ground back to the clouds, back to the ground, and so forth, illuminating every nook and cranny with a diffuse glow. The snow, she also told me, had only started on Wednesday! Two days, and the place was literally buried under it. Amazing.

As we drove away from the airport, I noticed dozens of lights on poles in the median between the two sides of the highway. These, she said, changed color in a long moving wave, and were very cool to see. We eventually ended up in Helsinki proper, and to me, it didn’t look all that different from Germany. She said that it had a lot of Russian and eastern European influences, so it was likely that it would look somewhat like Dresden. We arrived at her apartment building a few minutes later, and this was only about fifteen minutes since she picked me up. Helsinki isn’t very big. She pushed a button, and a door opened to an underground parking garage, which we drove down into.

“It’s totally worth it,” she said, “and if we decide to stay here longer and move elsewhere to pay a little less rent, we may have to decide if we can stand losing the garage. We might end up staying here just because of it. It makes things so much easier.” We found her space, a reserved spot, and backed into it. I pulled my things out of the trunk so she could get closer to the wall. She led me through a door around the corner which was right in front of someone’s Ford Mustang. I said how Rayko would love this car.

Up the elevator we went to the fifth floor, and she opened the first door to the right, which was emblazoned with their last name. As she did so, I could hear D’Arcy’s voice call out from the living room, welcoming us home. He came out to greet us, standing next to the 360 degree photographs of two areas of Shibuya station in Tokyo (D’Arcy’s old company was there – I love those photos!). He’d died his hair blonde, which really threw me for a loop, but otherwise looked as I remembered. His friend Rich was over from the States, and they had just been chatting in the living room. Anj gave me the fifteen cent tour of the apartment (including the sauna!), showed my my room, and then we joined them on the chairs. Their apartment is very Scandinavian cool, with light hardwood floors and modern furniture. They have dual 3/4 size refrigerators, and a Bosch stainless steel dishwasher, which my sister is getting in her new house. A glass enclosed balcony houses their bikes and exercise bike, and you can unlock the glass and slide it open to see the area behind their building. This, of course, was covered in snow. They leave this generally open (the glass isn’t sealed all the way anyway) most of the time that they’re home, giving a nice but chilly breeze access into the house.

We talked about the trip and whatnot, and then, since D’Arcy works for Nokia, I pulled out my Razr. He and Rich were fascinated, and went through every menu on the phone, flipping it open and closed, and listening to it. “This thing has a just fantastic speaker,” D’Arcy noted, listening to the built in ring-tones. Apparently, the people at Nokia are very jealous of the design of this phone, and he even asked if he could take it to work with him to show it off! Rich left not too long after, but the remaining three of us continued to sip wine and talk. I got out my laptop to show some pictures, and ended up talking to Deb in Austin real time. Anj worked with me for nine years at my company, and so she’s also friends with Debbie. Even though it was nearly 4:30 PM in Austin, and her week was almost over, Deb said she was very jealous of us sitting in Helsinki, sipping wine.

Anj made us a small frozen pizza, which we all shared. They showed me their Vonage IP phone which has an Austin number and I could use with impunity, and also said the WiFi router was available for my use. Yay! I feel so disconnected when I can’t get to information now! Having a solid Internet connection that didn’t cost money was line manna from heaven. Anj and D’Arcy both went to bed after midnight, and I took the opportunity to call my parents and let them know I was there safe. Lizzie was very jealous of all the snow. Hehe.

I worked on my logs for previous days, but called it quits pretty early. I was tired from all the plane rides. I went to bed in the guest bedroom, using sheets for the first time in two weeks.