Helsinki Holiday

I made it to Helsinki and was greeted at the airport by my friend, Nicole, who I know through improv classes in NYC. We chatted (me, grilling poor Nicole about Finland’s history, culture and politics), walked around central Helsinki, and ate some delicious pizza. I got to call my dad and wish him a happy birthday and sing the Swedish birthday song (yay!) to him, and then I sleeeept. And now I am going for a run to explore the islands here in Helsinki of Kulosaari and Mustikkamaa (yeah…I have pretty little idea how to pronounce those). Then I’ll be heading into the city to meet Nicole after work and go to the labor day festivities–tomorrow is Vappu, which is the Finnish/Swedish holiday to celebrate laborers. Apparently this is what we’re seeing:

So that should be fun. And then tomorrow, we picnic and celebrate. So I will be pretty immersed I think in Finnish culture/celebration, which will probably be overwhelming and fascinating.

I am struck, being here and thinking about past travels, by how many things are similarĀ everywhere else except the US. There’s obvious things, like using different measurement systems (kilometers/kilograms instead of miles and pounds), but also less obvious things, like yogurt/milk combinations that I found also ubiquitous in Mexico (though I didn’t see that in DR; I didn’t even see much of dairy products particularly). Additionally, even credit cards here have PINs, which was the thorn in the side of a help desk lady yesterday at the counter of the bus I took to the airport in Stockholm. “Why doesn’t the US have PINs,” she exasperatedly asked. Uh, I don’t know, lady. Let me just go ask my banker friends who make those decisions….oh, not friends with them? Whoops. Forgot. Anyway, I’m off for run #2 in country #2, which should be about 5km (3.1 miles for all you Americans).