Shopping Carts, Nightclubbing, Kemijärvi and Paprika Pringles

Heippa Ystävät!

Obligatory Scrabble Content: Find the anagrams of TOENAILS.

Why do I start off a sähköposti talking about toenails?

Because mine have been taking quite a beating since I’ve been here. You see, the shopping carts in this country are considerably smaller than the ones found back home. Yesterday I went grocery shopping for the third time at Maxi Hakaniemi, and each step I took it was BANG BANG BANG, the sound of my toes banging into the shopping cart wheels.

Next item to try for lunchtime sandwiches: reindeer coldcuts. I’ve tried the reindeer meatballs, now I’m going to see what poro tastes between slices of bread.

Saturday I spent my first night (er, morning, thus Sunday) at a Helsinki dance club. Club DTM, formerly called Don’t Tell Mama, is the city’s place to be on a Friday or Saturday night. I biked down Mannerheiminkatu, passing Finlandia Hall and the Eduskunta [1] on my way downtown to the club. Helsinki at night is a total buzz, a small city alive in the bright midnight sun. There is even a slogan on the buses here, which translates to “Have a good day this evening”.

Club DTM was just starting to get crowded when I arrived at 23.40, and the whole time there I did not hear one Finnish dance hit. English was the langue du deejay [4].

I left near closing time at 03.45 to find the city bathed in sunshine. Sun had risen and I was biking home at what could have been 3:45 p.m. At 04.00 I had Finlandia Hall all to myself as I rode around the world-famous concert hall with not a soul in sight.

I applied the Finnish I have learned to buy a train ticket (junalippu) to Kemijärvi [2], the farthest north you can travel by train in Finland during the summer. During my week off, in the last week of June, I shall be there. Kemijärvi is a town of 12.000 located just under 1000 km north of Helsinki. My return ticket cost only 500 markkaa, which works out to merely $125 Canadian. Try getting a train ticket from Toronto to Winnipeg for that amount!

Kemijärvi is in Saamilääni, and I might have to bring along that Finnish-Sami dictionary I just bought! 😉 Kemijärvi is located north of the Arctic Circle, and be that as it may, the mosquitos don’t care which imaginary line is drawn in the sand: This is summer and the mosquitos bite like crazy this far north. Since I will be so far north so soon after the summer solstice the sun will shine even brighter than it does in Helsinki. This far north does not experience anything remotely like a sunset for two months.

The train ride is fourteen hours long, and I surely will have my camera ready as I pass the town north of Oulu called Ii. Ii, the name believed to derive from the Sami for “night” [3], is joked about even in Finland. Here are two I’s we English Scrabble players could do without! Since Finnish is an agglutinative language, the case endings attached to Ii- make all of its inflections look visually awkward.

Meet me in MarlDOoM for some Scrabble games or real-life chat. I had a delightful game with Tracy Cobbs (MadMax) last week. Postcards have been mailed to seventeen of you already; I mailed seven more off on Friday. I am specifically planning on writing postcards from Kemijärvi just for the sake of getting a Kemijärvi postmark.

I wonder if I am just potato chip-deprived or if Paprika-flavoured Pringles Chips are a European thing? I had always thought pickle chips were available everywhere, but Tiffiny, the American girlfriend of Risto, told me that she would cross the border from Michigan to Windsor, Ontario, specifically to buy pickle chips. So… Does the rest of the world have paprika flavour and Canada does not?

[1] Eduskunta, with a lowercase “e”, is one of several Finnish words in the OSW.

[2] Haluaisin ostaa junalipun Helsingistä Kemijärvelle. = I would like to buy a train ticket from Helsinki to Kemijärvi.

[3] The Finnish word for “night” is also a two-letter word composed of vowels: . The -yö- diphthong is particularly hard for native English-speakers to master.

[4] Much later edit: During my summer of clubbing I never heard a dance song with Finnish lyrics, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t hear any home-grown music. Darude’s instrumental “Sandstorm” was playing in the club all summer. I only realized that the artist was Finnish when I talked to some clubgoers. “Sandstorm” would become a worldwide hit which I heard in Toronto clubs after I got back. Each time I heard it I was reminded of my summer at DTM.

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