Just another day in Helsinki
Two town girls visit the city . My friend forgot to mention she isn’t a city girl and rarely takes the train. How was I to know? I’m sure we stood out. How can a 5’3″ American amongst a people of stature walk next to a dazed Finnish girl (both speaking English) and stand a chance of blending in? When I enter a big city, I tend to slow down. The world is racing past (literally) and I become Sid the Sloth. Not on purpose. It’s just stimulation overload. Nearly got run over in NYC a few years back.
Monday. Helsinki. Capitol of Finland. SO much fun. We took the hour train ride and started with lunch. That’s pretty typical of us. As long as the day included food and coffee we were set. Anything more would be a bonus.
We started at the food mall, choosing a place that served pita type sandwiches. Except for not knowing how to use my credit card (different kinds of machines in Finland, I promise) and staring at the man who was actually speaking English but with a hard to decipher accent, I did ok. Check one.
A bit of shopping afterwards. But here’s where the fun starting revving up. Unsuspecting, we were approaching her. The girl who would add an element of the “random” to my day.
This was my conversation with Maiju before heading out the door in the morning.
“Maiju, I can’t find my fingernail clippers ANYWHERE! My nails are chipped and need kindness. I hope no one notices.” (She couldn’t find hers either).
Back to the girl. She approaches me (on the left) full force and begins her speech. I realize immediately I’ve been intercepted. She sniffed out my “foreign-ness” a mile a way. Within minutes I learned she is an Israeli Jew selling products from the Dead Sea. I didn’t stand a chance. What does she do? She grabs my hand and takes out her fingernail buffer. This girl is buffing away at one of my raggedy fingernails (which I had silently prayed no one would notice). I’m not exaggerating, she actually went to town. Explaining about my cuticles and how to take care of my nails (humiliation!) with these
products she wants to sell me. I’m starting to laugh and cry and she’s enjoying it. I also learn while she’s carving away that she is half hispanic and half Israeli. That would explain the completely extroverted warm temperament.
Maiju? Does she help? No way! She reaches into my purse and starts taking pictures. Long story short. I bought two of what she was selling for the price of one. I was sold before I knew what hit me. Then there were hugs, I told her I know my Hebrew name, Elisheva–which I have no clue if that’s how it is spelled.
Other highlight of the day.
The tram. This is the little train that runs through the city. Public transportation at its best. But remember, I move in slow motion when others are in a hurry. We were to catch the tram. Suddenly Maiju yells, “That’s our tram” and takes off running. I’m not prepared to run, but I don’t want to be left behind. We jump on and then I’m frantically trying to count my Euros which I’m still getting used to. People are waiting to board behind me and I’m all flustered. I didn’t have time to “prepare”. Apparently, the tram driver was really irritated and was being extremely rude. I’m glad I don’t understand Finnish. He was not a nice man.
Then to top that off, we were to look for the numbers on the buildings. Maiju told me 57. Ok, I can do this. Well, we get dropped off around 62. Even numbers on our left. Odds on our right. Then Maiju says “oh nooooooooo! We should have been looking at the other side of the street. We are only on 15.” I know. It doesn’t make sense. So, we stood on a teeny patch of sidewalk with cars racing past us on both sides and I looked over at the restaurant near us. Gringos Locos (Crazy Americans). No joke. I thought “hmmm…that’s appropriate.” I realized it’s more american to want to ask for help so I told Maiju “call Jaakko and tell him that this crazy american wants him to pick us up RIGHT NOW. I don’t care if he’s in a meeting. I’M FREAKING OUT!” Ha ha.. I was calm within a few minutes. I just needed to rant. Well, we made it to our intended destination, enjoyed good company and Indian food with Jaakko and Jeff. Time to leave.
Back to the tram. We saw it go past and she does it again. Maiju takes off running! This is getting to be a pattern, I notice, so what can I do but run after her? And it’s raining. I was envisioning myself wiping out and getting run over by a tram. Needless to say, we did leave Helsinki that night and made it back alive. Good times.