the summary of thoughts about finland, post-visiting.
weirdest trip ever: obviously, the trip was done for the interview. but to
go to a new country, a new city and not get out to all the tourist sites
and try to pre-plan where to eat/visit/do was strange. i wasnt going to visit, i was going to assess if i could have a life there. thus, i really
wanted to just "be" in the city and see how it made me feel. i wanted to
visit the playgrounds, walk the streets, visit the grocery store, do a
kid-friendly museum and maybe see a library. basically to attempt to
gain some insight into daily city life. i still felt like we happened upon several of the citys tourist draws, though of course several were missed. it was a new way to "do" a city though, and i actually
think it was liberating to not have had a checklist to run around and
feel like we needed to accomplish. i'll have to keep that in mind for
future travel to new countries/cities.
impressions of finland/helsinki:
- as i said, when the plane landed i felt "this looks like halifax" (and wasnt sure what kind of feeling to have about that)
- the drive in to helsinki from the airport was nondescript
- while we did have sun and decent spring temperatures while there, we also saw the grey, cool, breezy, rainy days that we so often see in halifax (happy point: helsinki gets less than half the annual precipitation that halifax does)
- the same flowers were coming up as in halifax (perhaps just a week behind)
- the city (what little we saw) definitely felt european but also just like a nondescript busy city. there was nothing that gave me a takeaway image of helsinki: the buildings are a mix of russian influence, highly modern, and historic facades.
- the mid-april light was already plentiful (something like 5:30a sun up, 9:30p sun down). my body was having a little trouble figuring out how to respond (although, to be fair, it was getting tons of mixed messages about when to sleep)
- the tram was easy to use (there is also a metro as well as trains and buses. none of which we experienced)
- basically everyone speaks english, but it doesnt make reading signs any easier
- people seemed happy to be at work
- tons of people are lactose-intolerant, and many others have other food
allergies, so the country is very capable of making food modifications
- there were tons of moms out and about, and they were not slowed down by the city pace or the weather
- everywhere felt very
kid-friendly (at one point, a girl actually stopped and got off her bike to coo at
X. and the hotel had put a crib and child potty in our room before we
got there and they had kids books in the lobby)
- playgrounds are nearby most clusters of apartments. good city planning, what a novel concept.
- im still trying to figure out how people ward off the damp cold (a process started in rennes, and one i have yet to master in halifax, perhaps helsinki could finally resolve the issue for me)
- i realized
that busy downtown city life likely isnt for me (or our pocketbooks), i like the action of a big
city, but i like to have a neighborhood that is a little more quiet and
"everyday" for real life. im not sure how far out of the city center you need to go to find this balance.
- X did a good job at the brunch and dinner we were taken to, but i dont really wanna do anymore restaurant dinners for
work with her. its exhausting and i cannot actually participate,
or when i do, something stupid comes out of my mouth and halts the
* fun fact: ann arbor is about 42° N, rennes is about 48° N, halifax is about 45° N, and helsinki is about 60° N. inching, inching, inching up the globe... *
summary of thoughts:
feeling like our previous experiences had all been leading up to this: the european
lifestyle/pace/experience wasnt shocking (thanks to rennes), the weather wasnt
shocking (thanks to halifax), the food wasnt shocking (we even managed to avoid all food
issues with X. no tummy aches or red bum. a first ever in travel), the grocery store and
"everyday" experiences werent shocking. and there was the sheer dumb luck of "meeting" hannah, my ideal "guide"
for the finnish. to choose finland...the action seems to fit on the path without much force (which is not to say without fear). i guess, the only problem was...nothing wowed me about helsinki. and my fear of the
darkness in winter (and accompanying lingering cold) still takes hold of my mind.
but, i figure, being healthy, and situated, and stable in helsinki would
be an entirely different experience (compared to how i was during the visit).
for me, i currently feel no "perfect" place exists. i dont feel a particular
pull to anywhere in the world (at least not one that would satisfy everyone and their work needs [damn you nyack]). i know lots about what i dont want
(though still not enough to make a confident decision), but a permanent move would be a
new stage in life and im pretty clueless about what i do want. im trying to view it as a positive.
during our tuesday "decompression chat" in helsinki i expressed to dave that i felt several concentric circles of confused feelings surrounding me. i feel lost on many levels. first (outermost circle), where am i
supposed to be, in the world?
second (next inner circle), who am i: in the world, in my world, to the world? (what do i
contribute, who am i to the people who know me [or who was i and am i
still that], who will i be, who should i be). lastly (innermost circle), what am i? (a mom,
a friend [if so, when and how], a wife, an employee. and what will
those "jobs" look like if i transplant myself, yet again).
beyond this, i
didnt formulate many other thoughts because
dave was wanting to talk to his trusted advisers to digest the job offer
further (oh, did i neglect to mention he got a job offer? sorry) so i didnt want to go full tilt "life in finland" mode ("say what?" you say, "she can chew over this more?" indeed. i can and i will). so, again, i
went in to a holding pattern. not convincing myself into or out of any
one lifestyle, yet. just letting it all marinate.
*side note: it took about 5 days in halifax to get back to some feeling of normal (non-jetlag). ugh, worst jetlag ive had.