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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Kay's Stayacation

I keep wanting to say, "Ferris!  Ferris Bueller!"
(Reference for you Americans who are a "certain" age.)

Since I had a long-planned appointment and a lot of downtown errands to run, I decided a few days ago that today I would play hooky completely.  It is absolutely amazing to me how liberating that feeling is!  Don't get me wrong, I've taken days off since I've been here; in fact, over the holidays when I was sick I took more off than I'd wanted to, but there's a difference between not working because you're sick or because you just realize about 2 in the afternoon that nothing's going to get done that day.  It's made me realize that I need to get a little more formal about my holidays instead of spreading my work week to all week with just lighter days on the weekends. 

But today I played!

So what does playing in Helsinki involve?  Well, first of all, after my usual morning ritual with Ted, I took a book downstairs to breakfast and dawdled.  Yep, multiple cups of coffee and oj and even a cookie or two (yes, there are always some cookies next to the coffee maker here for breakfast).  I'm currently reading Jon Ronson's The Psychopath Test, which I'm finding really fascinating and am trying NOT to devour--as is my wont.

Then I came upstairs and played domestic goddess: did dishes, folded the 5 tons of laundry I did last night, dusted the window ledges (somehow the staff never does them), gave myself a pedicure, etc.  I know that doesn't sound very recreational, but with the exception of the laundry, none of those is a particularly big project in this apartment and I love how the place looks afterwards.  Also, it's fun to fold laundry when part of the challenge is seeing how many socks Ted can steal from the laundry pile.  Myself, I just couldn't believe that I had 12 pairs of socks in the laundry and wasn't out of socks.  Man, how many socks DID I THINK I'd be wearing in Finland?!

About 11 I doodled my way to the tram trying to walk more quickly and with longer strides, that is, trying to channel the zen Finnish goddess that must allow my friends here to say that the snow isn't slippery.  I was feeling very proud of myself that I made it fine despite it being -14F out with wind chill (Let's hear it for the NOAA's wind chill calculator, one of my new go-to websites!)  I smiled at the snow and got a few snaps of Finnish snow clothes (a long-promised entry, I know) before I got on the tram to sit across from 2 lovely elderly ladies who were chatting away about the weather, gloves, etc. and trying to include me in the conversation even though I told them I didn't speak Finnish and they seemed unable to or afraid to try.  We had a nice time, watched the police drag (literally) a drunk off the tram, and mimed the evils of drunkness.  They even said "bye, bye" and waved when I got off the tram.  Big smile for me.

Then I went to InterSport, a major sporting-goods chain here, to look for new ice cleats for my boots.  Boy, was that useless.  Not only did they not have anything that looked in any way effective, but the guy I asked to help me was just too cool for school.  The nice part is being old enough now that I laugh at such snots, especially when, as I was walking out of the store, I slipped and almost fell on some of the ice that I'd been trying to buy cleats to help me with.  Can we say textbook definition of irony?

Next stop was a brief foray to my office to pick up my Nordea (bank) credit card that I'd left there (long story).  On the way out, I saw two of my favorite people in the student cafe, and we had a brief chat.  Two very nice men.  (I was about to write "nice guys," but does that really hold for men in the 30s with families?)

I then chugged down the hill towards the Esplanades with serious spending in mind.  I'd promised myself some of the Kalavala jewelry, and today was as good a day as any!  The Kalavala is the Finnish national epic, and there's this wonderful jewelry store that does unusual pieces based on it and in general showcasing Finnish design and designers.  When buying Barbara's Christmas present there, I'd noticed that there were some lovely things I might be able to afford once I decided that I might actually spend some money on myself this year!  After having done a rough version of my tax return last weekend, I figured I could have a treat.

Well, today was money spending day, so I went into the shop and bought myself two lovely scarf clasps and a pair of earrings.  I also got a very nice necklace for a friend of mine, and everything was in sterling or bronze.  Even better, I found that that they really do give a 10% discount to members of the university.  First time I've actually used my university id card since I got it in September!  Saved me over 30 Euros so I'm a happy lady.

With that cheery experience in mind, I got down to the port without sliding (much to my amazement; the sidewalks on the 2 main streets are heated and dry, but the cross-streets and the crosswalks are pack ice by now since we haven't had snow in 4 days and they get constant traffic down there).  One of my colleagues was telling me how his wife had to take an ice breaker (yep, a boat designed to break ice) to work every morning because she worked on Suomenlinna, and this I had to see.  It's true.  The ocean really is frozen there.  Frozen ... ocean ... I'm astonished.  (Actually, I'm amused.  I'd expect it in Alaska, but here I'm astonished--there's absolutely NO LOGICAL reason for such different responses.)

From there it was another walk down the road to Stockmanns, where I had to do all sorts of fiddly shopping (nothing fun but I spoke with more nice people including a store clerk who jokingly battled with me for my chocolate).  On the way I stopped at the Kamp Cafe.  The Kamp is one of Finland's poshest old hotels, and the Cafe gets its ambiance from that.  Glad I went, would do it again if someone wanted, but don't feel a huge urge to do it again myself.

Once in Stockmann I had this hysterical conversation on the elevator with a young Finnish mother when I finally got my moxy up to ask if she spoke English.  She had her baby in one of those ultra-quilted outfits in one of those ultra-quilted strollers that I find both so hysterical and adorable here.  After explaining that I was from San Francisco (it's the easiest point of reference I have and close enough), I confessed how much I loved seeing the kids in those, how cute it was, etc.  She was flattered and amused, especially when I started joking about wanting to take pictures for my blog but being afraid parents would think I was some crazy stalker.  That really cracked her up, and I'm sure that if I had thought quickly I probably could've gotten a primo photo.  Unfortunately right then the elevator got to her floor.  We both had a great laugh, though.

Then about 2 I got to enjoy my real reason for going to Stockmann's: a hour and a half head and body massage at the fancy Thann spa they have there (my Christmas present to myself).  The verdict is still out if it was really worth the money, even though I got it at a discount rate.  I mean, the massage therapists at the Collegium are lovely and I do get 2 1/2-hour sessions free a month, although the ambiance (a small office on the ground floor) is not the same in the slightest.  That being said, the  therapist was a nice Thai lady and my body just absorbed the oil she used!  One thing I didn't realize is that part of the head treatment was applying the same oils to the scalp AND hair.  All I can say is that I'm really glad I had a hair band with me and I kept my hood up on my coat until I got home!  Now I REALLY need to wash that down coat.  The problem is that I need it all the time.  Ugh.

But Kay's day off wasn't about to end.  I then braved the underground passages, something I'd never done before, to make it to the next shopping mall where there was a pet store (needed to buy probiotics for Ted).  To be honest, it was kind of creepy.  There was no one there at all; it would be like walking through subway passenger tunnels that had been abandoned.  I managed to find everything, though, with no backtracking.  Yippee for me!  To be honest, I'd do almost anything to keep from going directly from the spa to -16C!

At the pet store, a girl I'd met before was working and she recognized me, so we had a bit of a chat (I guess being a large American in a giant Burgundy duvet stands out. :-)  ).  Nice girl and another Golden Retriever owner.  Even better, she translated the directions of the probiotics for me, since they were only in Finnish and Swedish.  I was dreading how long it would take to get through them on Google Translate!

And now I'll summarize the rest of the day. :-)  Was incredibly grateful that I only had to walk a block and wait 3 minutes for the tram; took Ted out for a walk where he was given the stink eye by another big dog who another smaller dog was trying to attack.  Since I was away from all of that, I found it amusing that yet another dominant dog thought Ted was the one to watch despite having the psychoit only a couple of feet away.  Had a nice chat with Mervi for about 15 minutes until we'd decided we'd tortured Ted enough and I really should feed him.  Now that Ted's fed, and this blog entry almost over, I figure the rest of the evening will be spent with trashy television and chocolate in some other form (been drinking cocoa as I've been typing) with maybe some phone calls or something else ... whatever I want.  Maybe I'll just curl up on the floor with Ted and give him some rubs.  I'm sure he'll support that.

Yes, it's a middle-aged version of Ferris Bueller but one I'm quite happy to have enjoyed.

And, by the way, three Finns told me it was slippery out today, and I DIDN'T PROMPT THEM! :-)

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