Monday, August 29, 2011

Today, at the request of many, I went to McDonald's in Helsinki to see what the difference is. (Mainly: price.) Lyndsey and I both got a burger called "The 1955" burger. According to (a website I will be visiting regularly now that I know it exists) McDonald's made up some crazy backstory about how this particular burger was invented in 19050s Chicago.

The thing was pretty much like a quarter pounder with a weird orange sauce on it. It wasn't Big Mac sauce. calls it barbecue sauce, but I would like to pointedly disagree. I mean I'm not a doctor or anything, but I feel pretty comfortable diagnosing what is and what is not barbecue sauce. Readers, this was NOT barbecue sauce. And it costs approximately twice what you would pay in the US. From now on if I am in the mood for a quick burger I'll just stick with a plain ol' baconhamburger.

Another Finnish misadventure: we brought quad band phones with us with the idea of getting pay-as-you-go service for them. Problem is, the phones are "locked." (I thought only Apple locked their phones?) So we had to buy new cell phones. And, as you would expect from a Finnish cell phone store, the phones are in Finnish. C'est la vie.

We found some really cool stuff, too. A little cafe/bar that does whiskey tastings, four whiskeys for seven euro, directly across the street from an awesome indoor market which is exactly like what Americans think of when they think of a small, tightly packed European market selling everything from coffee to sweets to beef tongue to fish. There were those cool little stalls with four tiny tables crammed together serving what I am going to assume was some awesome Finnish homecooking. Unfortunately we had just dropped 14 euro at McDonald's and we were feeling neither hungry nor rich (Helsinki is expensive, y'all).

Tomorrow I start my orientation. I'm super excited, and only a little bit terrified. It's suddenly dawning on me what I've gotten myself into, I think.

Monday, August 22, 2011

We are now officially residents of Helsinki. It's about 11 a.m. here, and I've been awake since I left Chicago at 6:30 am yesterday. Because I'm a genius, I booked us seats right by the bathrooms in the middle of the plane where the lights are always on. This, plus the constant parade of knee-jostling and fart smells made it impossible to snooze or to enjoy my private screening of Thor, although that may not have been possible anyway. Paul and Miller's Crossing were much more diverting and I hardly even noticed when the fat lady stepped on my foot.

When we were in Chicago two nights ago we got to have dinner with the person who we are subletting our Helsinki apartment from, which was really cool. She's an English philology student studying abroad in the USA this semester, which means her vocabulary is probably better than mine and anyone else who is reading this blog. She also gave us some great tips about Finland, one of which was unintentional. If all Finnish candy tastes as terrible as the kind she gave us, I'm going to have a hard time understanding this country. The best I can describe the taste is that it was like eating a tablespoon of salt with a raisin in the middle. Pauliina, if you're reading this, it was a joy to meet you but if you want to make friends in America I'd be careful who you give that candy to.

I feel like writing more but I also feel like if I don't get some sleep that I may lose my grip on reality. I can picture myself hallucinating that I'm back on the plane, dodging elbows and watching terrible movies like some vision of a Sisyphean hell right out of Camus, or Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

First post!

I got my itinerary for the orientation from the Fulbright people today. It lasts a full four days, and for most of it I am expected to dress in a "business" or "business casual" manner. I've never had a job in the for-profit (ie "square") world, and I am not quite sure what either of these terms mean or how they are different from each other. I'm assuming that business casual is what you would wear to work on Casual Fridays, so I'm packing pleated khaki shorts and a Hawaiian shirt for that part. For the other part I guess I'll just wear a tuxedo.

The orientation also includes a field trip to an ATM and a grocery store, which are apparently so complicated that people who have been awarded international travel research grants need specific instructions on them. I hope I don't commit some crazy faux pas like I did in Prague, when I neglected to print out the weight of my own apple before bringing it to the register. If that cashier's eyes had rolled any harder she may have gone blind.

I will also be attending something called the "Fulbright Alumni Association Buddy Event," which sounds suspiciously like the thing in 5th grade where they send you to middle school with a "buddy" who is supposed to show you the ropes, except this time there is hopefully very little chance that my buddy will get into a fight at lunch time and leave me wandering the halls by myself for the first part of 4th period.

One part of the week that I'm genuinely nervous for is a reception at the "American Embassy Residence," for which I am to appear in "business" dress. It very well may be the classiest event I will have ever attended. Note to self: learn something about US-Finnish relations that can be deployed in conversation but is also not boring. Possibly something about Nokia? Oh god this is going to be terrible.