Sun setting behind a rocky ridge somewhere near the border between Espoo and Helsinki in Finland.
Image: GrrlScientist, 18 November 2008 [larger view].
The flight back to NYC from Helsinki was fine; long, but uneventful. The crew were great and the plane wasn’t as jam-packed as the flight leaving NYC was .. I wonder why? Perhaps the children of Finnish immigrants are doing the same thing as the children of Polish and Indian immigrants are reportedly doing: leaving this country and going to their ancestral homes because the economic opportunities are somewhere close to nonexistent in America. Not that I blame them and in fact, I would eagerly do the same if I could.
Our airplane was flying into a headwind, so the flight, which left forty minutes late, took eight and a half hours, as compared to flying from NYC to Helsinki, where we had a strong tailwind that made the flight two hours faster. I’ll bet you can’t guess which direction I prefer to fly?
After my eight-and-a-half hour flight and two-hour subway ride, I finally stumbled into my apartment, thinking I would have a hot shower before vampire-izing my neighbor’s open wifi connection, only to find that my apartment didn’t have any hot water and the neighbor’s open wifi connection had disappeared. To add insult to injury (or perhaps in this case, injury to insult), the first thing I noticed upon entering my apartment was the disgusting aroma of .. a dead mouse that was decaying somewhere nearby.
Lovely. There’s nothing like a dead mouse festering in one’s apartment to remind an unemployable nobody like me about my true place in this country. Unfortunately, I’ve always felt like a stranger in the United States because my financial status, political beliefs and scientific interests have never been shared (and usually, not even appreciated) by my peers, and traveling has always underlined my suspicion that I’ve never belonged in America (although, sadly, I doubt that I “belong” anywhere else, either).
Adding to my feelings of alienation is the fact that, for the first time in my life, I did not feel I was being stared at when I was in Helsinki. The odd thing was that I had grown so familiar with being stared at in a negative, judgmental way that I forgot this is the typical situation for me in the States. Was this because there are so many tall blondes in Helsinki? Was it because being blonde is not automatically interpreted by the Finns as having a strong negative correlation with one’s intellectual capabilities?
Nonetheless, for the first time in my life, I did not feel I was being prejudged in a strongly negative way, and because I did not have a conversation with most of the Finns I saw in Helsinki (a logistical problem in itself since I do not know Finnish!), I can only attribute this to my morphological similarity to the natives.
After visiting Helsinki, I am determined to return for another visit and I am also determined to learn to speak Finnish!