I am writing this from the library in Ivalo, a town of 3500 39 km south of Inari. I have just met Aslak
Näkkäläjärvi and his wife at the bus station, yet our meeting almost never occurred at all. The flight on Tuesday from Helsinki to Ivalo took ninety minutes. My right ear is still plugged up from that flight. I always go through agony as flights land. I go deaf from the sudden pressure and everything I manage to hear sounds as though it’s being transmitted underwater. Worst of all is the pain. It feels like long needles are being inserted into my ear canal and piercing my eardrums. I wonder if I should buy some really hard gummy candies for the upcoming flight back to Helsinki tonight. If I have to work my jaw hard as I chew, that might help.
The next bus from Ivalo airport to Inari was at 21.30–two and a half hours later. Fortunately I met a couple from Hungary and we agreed to share a cab ride to the centre of town, 12 km north.
The cab driver spoke Finnish and very little English and the couple spoke no Finnish and some English. As I sat with the driver in the front they would ask me in English to ask the driver some questions which I translated into Finnish. So I guess my reacquisition of Finnish isn’t so bad, although I do find myself reflexively ending chats and conversations with the Romansch tgau instead of the Finnish hei hei (both are the equivalent of “bye”) and saying “thank-you” *all the time* the Romansch way, engraziel. I guess I’ve forgotten the Finnish word for “thank-you”, kiitos.
The Hungarian couple were also staying in Inari yet at a different hotel. The driver wanted to drive us all the way to Inari, yet we balked because the cab fare would have been exhorbitant. He offered a deal: 60 euros for the whole trip divided three ways. The couple didn’t know what to make of it because they didn’t understand him. I told them that we should take this guy’s offer. It was also raining and I didn’t want to hang around Ivalo waiting two and a half hours. So then the driver turned off the meter and we all relaxed and watched the scenery, instead of the taxi meter as it rose euro by euro.
During the whole 51-km trip we saw reindeer on the road. Not just on the side of the road, but standing
motionless in the middle of our path. I saw more reindeer during this ride than in my two prior trips up north. It was probably nothing new to the driver, yet still a novelty for me.
When I arrived at Hotelli Inari the check-in staff gave me a note that Aslak had left for me. He could not meet me tonight, yet I was to phone him and arrange a time later.
Most stores in this little town of 500 are open seven days a week and until 21.00 or 22.00. Perfect, as after I checked in I walked around, took a few photos and bought some postcards. It was overcast and raining heavily on Tuesday night yet yesterday night it was so bright that I took many photos outside after midnight. At this parallel (68°54’00″N) the midnight sun is still bright and you will swear the time on my photos is wrong. Yes, I really took those pictures at 00.30.
I went to Siida, the Sami museum yesterday and I did indeed spend the entire day there. I was there from
10.00 to 18.15, looking at every exhibit and drinking in Sami culture and history. I even took a few photos
before being told that photography was prohibited. I honestly didn’t even see the signs forbidding this.
Naturally, I went nuts in the museum bookstore. I bought so many books, most of them in English, on the
Sami languages and peoples.
Following my visit I stopped in at the small one-room Inari library. It was open till 19.00 and I chatted in Finnish with the solitary librarian on staff. I always like to visit local libraries on my travels and meet library staff. I find that the librarians are quite surprised to see a visitor, especially since they wouldn’t exactly consider their place of employment a tourist attraction. I told the librarian that I always like to look around the entire library, and he, in all sincerity, asked me if I would like to see his work area and kitchen as well (off limits to the customers). I had a little laugh and told him no thanks.
By this time, all the handicraft stores had closed. Most of the stores, including the general store and the really big souvenir shop, are open late, yet the stores that sell handmade Sami clothing, made by real Sami (and not seventh-cousins-thrice-removed-Sami working an assembly line sewing on “Made in China” labels) were all only open till 18.00. I would have to go shopping for Sami clothing tomorrow morning as soon as the stores opened at 10.00.
And that’s what I did today. I arrived at Sami Duodji (the store’s name means “Sami Handicraft” in the Tunturi Sami idiom) shortly before 10.00 and waited outside until it opened. I was there until 11.30, looking at more books and trying on various four-pointed hats. There were four styles of hats for sale: Inari Sami, Utsjoki Sami, Enontekiö Sami and Vuotso Sami. Go to this link:
and see some hat photos.
If the link I gave shows photos in the same order every time, then the hat I bought, an Enontekiö four-winds hat, should be in the top left. I tried on about twenty different hats to ensure the right fit. I chose the Enontekiö hat because of its elaborate pattern around the base. I will wear it in the winter and will model it at my place if you’d like to see it before the first snowfall.
I checked out of the hotel ten minutes to noon. Throughout the hotel there are signs telling guests that checkout time is at 12.00 a.m. Now when I see 12.00 a.m. I think of midnight. And yesterday, I heard a guy lugging suitcases down the hall at 23.50. Could he have thought that checkout was at midnight?
There is no pay phone in all of Inari. I wanted to call Aslak to arrange a time to meet, yet no pay phone could be found. I asked at Siida yesterday where the nearest pay phone was and they said that there wasn’t one. And I couldn’t use their phone either. Okay, thanks for letting me know. My hotel room, by the way, had no phone in it.
I was getting desperate. I was heading back to Ivalo this afternoon to catch my flight back and I still haven’t seen Aslak, the Sami reindeer man who showed up out of the blue last Tuesday at my Romansch course. I simply had to meet him here. So I asked the hotel staff as I was checking out if there was someone who could lend me a phone. I even showed them the number I needed to call to prove it was local. Thank God one young woman said I could call from her cell.
I spoke to Aslak, who by coincidence (! again!) was right now in Ivalo. The next bus to Ivalo was leaving at 12.15, so we agreed to meet at the Ivalo bus station at 12.45 and I ran out to wait for the bus at the post office. The next bus after this was at 14.50. Aslak must be my guardian angel. He shows up in Laax, Switzerland, and just when I think I’m going to miss seeing him in Inari, he ends up being in Ivalo, the destination where I was headed. Had I called Aslak and he was at home in Inari, I would have met him in town and taken the later 14.50 bus to Ivalo.
Minutes ago I met him and his wife at the bus station and we agreed to meet up again outside the library, which is across the street, at 16.30. They will give me dinner and a ride to the airport 12 km away. Wow–guardian angel is right. I am in the Ivalo library now, just about 14.30 local time, writing this, then I will walk around the town. There are a lot more stores in Ivalo than in Inari, yet Inari is the cultural centre of the Sami community and all the craft stores are there. Ivalo just has your typical selection of groceries, bakeries, dry cleaners, etc.
I am back in Espoo tonight, and then my visiting begins. Tiffiny, Risto, Lumi and Joel, I can’t wait to see you this weekend!