Dead Presidents / Lunch with Joel / Room to spare

I have just arrived back from Finland and am writing this from my friend Andi’s place in Zürich. There is a major Scrabble tournament taking place right now in Dayton, Ohio, and the first thing I did once I got in was log on to the web site of the Players Championship and I see that my friend Mark is leading Division 2! Wow! Good going.

On Saturday I visited new and familiar parts of my beloved Helsinki. During this past winter and spring I was on a Finland reading binge. Two of the books I read were about the Winter War and about Finnish war hero and President Mannerheim.

I decided that I would finally visit the cemetery where Mannerheim, as well as many other Finnish presidents, are buried. This cemetery, the Hietaniemen cemetery is in the northwest part of the city.

At first I could not find any of the presidents’ graves, so I asked a worker who pointed the way. There I saw the graves of Urho Kekkonen, Risto Ryti and Juho Paasikivi. Mannerheim was not in this presidential area so I asked a family if they knew where he was. They thought about it yet could not tell me. And they were extremely embarrassed about it, telling me that they were ashamed and devastated not to know where Mannerheim was laid to rest. So I hunted down another maintenance worker who pointed the way. And who should I see at Mannerheim’s tomb yet the very family who couldn’t show me the way. It was funny because in my two interactions with this family I said not a word of English yet they talked to me in English only on our second meeting. They told me that Mannerheim was “the Finnish hero”, pronouncing “the” with a long E. The above link shows Mannerheim’s tombstone if you scroll down. I sat facing Mannerheim’s grave and wrote all but the last one of my postcards.

Yesterday I had lunch with Joel Melasniemi, the guitarist with the band Scandinavian Music Group. Joel and I went to Bali Hai restaurant, which is not an Indonesian place as the name might suggest.

We chatted about books, the new SMG album, the video for the first single, which you can watch here:

and did all this between bites of a delicious salmon-steak sandwich and sips of coffee. I am now the proud owner of an advance CD of the new single “Vieläkö soitan banjoa?”, which in English translates to “Do I still play the banjo?”. Joel had to meet Terhi immediately after our meeting. I was happy to spend an hour and a half with him, which is precious time when you’re putting together an album. I even got to see some sample album cover designs and sample titles. I’ll give Joel my private vote later.

I took my smaller suitcase to Finland, leaving the larger one back in Switzerland along with most of my clothes and all my Romansch books. I am relieved to report that yesterday night I managed to fit everything, including every last book I bought in Inari, in the smaller suitcase. I was so worried that I’d have to cram everything in it and if it meant I’d end up crushing my Enontekiö Sami hat, I was determined to wear it if it wouldn’t fit inside. In the end I just carried it in a plastic bag as carry-on, along with my backpack.

The smaller suitcase weighs 23 kg, which I learned is 3 kg over the limit for flights within Europe. I managed to get it through baggage check without a problem. If I was not allowed to check it I simply would have traded books for clothes, as my light backpack was stuffed only with clothes.

My flight leaves for Toronto tomorrow at 09.15, and I am thankful it flies there nonstop. It’s almost 23.30 here right now and I have just a little bit of sorting to do with my larger suitcase, then I’m going to bed. I should be at home tomorrow shortly after 14.00 Eastern Standard Time (scheduled time of arrival at Toronto International Airport is 12.00).

Back to work on Wednesday and back to the Scrabble Club on Thursday. See you all then.

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