A Flight Back

I have only one more thing to tell you about my trip to Helsinki, that is about the flight back.

During my pandemic travels, I learned that I need to plan whether I am going to eat on each of the flights. My flight from Helsinki departed at 7-20 AM, which means we left the house at 5 AM, and I didn’t have breakfast. When I was checking in, they told me that the flight is “almost full” (and for that reason, they checked my luggage, even though I had the “light” fair). That meant that I didn’t want to take my mask off on the plane, so I bought my breakfast at the airport and ate it in the far corner of the cafe.

It turned out that it was the right call to go back to the medical center and ask to fix the typos in my name: the certificate was checked at least four times! And each time, whoever checked it, verified my name on the certificate against my passport.

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Getting Tested In Helsinki

Two weeks before I left for Helsinki, I started to research where I can take a COVID test prior to my return. All my online searches ended the same way. After finding a place end trying to see how to schedule an appointment, it would bring me to the page, which would require identification with the local bank card (that’s how people in Finland get access to their medical records.
Natasha called them, and they told her that I do not need to go to the airport. I can call and schedule an appointment in the city. The cost of the test and certificate will be 265 euros, which is 315 dollars.
I came to Helsinki on Saturday, and on Monday morning, we started calling. Yes, the nurses speak English, but the automated system speaks Finnish :).
On the second try, we figured out what were the hours of operation and called later. There was a new message :), which asked – press one to call back. There was no option to “remain on the line.”

All was good, except we had no idea when they will call back, and Boris had to teach online for three and a half hours on that day. That was the reason why I chose Monday to meet with Natasha.
As we expected, they called during the class, but thankfully they called back one more time, and I was able to schedule an appointment for Wednesday. On Tuesday, we walked there to make sure we know where the place is. It was a good call because the testing lab and the medical office were in two separate buildings.

On Wednesday, I went for the test. On the phone, they asked me to bring a passport to put the passport number on the certificate. But they didn’t do it when taking the test; they only checked it to see that that was me :). Also, they told me that I would need to pay when I am picking up the certificate. And that I should not come back until I know I have a negative result.
All of this left me slightly worried – what if the result won’t be there on Thursday morning? However, Thursday morning, Boris received a text message: login to view your test results. Ha. I can’t log in! I do not have the banking identification!

We called them again; and, again, pressed one for a callback. An hour later, somebody called. I started to explain that I can’t view the results, and a lady said: yes, that’s why I am calling. Your result is negative, and you can pick up your certificate. But first, tell me your passport number so that I can put it on the certificate.

I went there, paid for the certificate, and we even stopped in the Fazer cafe for some salmon soup – that was the only day I was officially out of the quarantine, and also, we found a cafe where every other place was marked as “do not sit here.”

Funny story. When we were already back home, the medical center called back: did you call us? It turned out, that the nurse who called us in the morning, didn’t “call back,” but just called, because she knew I won’t be able to view the results 🙂

Everything was great. We stopped to buy some bread and dairy for me to take back to Chicago. Then we came home, and I went for one more short walk before starting my half-day at work.

I planned to start working at 4 PM (8 AM Chicago time) to do some coding before my first meeting at 9 AM. I printed the attestation copies, which are now required to enter the US, and took my certificate out of the envelope. I looked at it and saw that my last name was misspelled!!! Three characters off, which is not a surprise with the last name as long as mine!

I looked at my watch. It was 4:05. Boris said: three characters are OK for the airlines, but… I said: yes, not these days! The Aavo center was still open, and I hurried up there! It was -3F, and ai had to put layers and layers on myself. Fortunately, the tram came right away, and when I arrived, they told me to go to the second floor to the nurse. The whole thing took less than fifteen minutes, and I hurried back with the new certificate. On the way back, the tram driver saw me running to the stop and waited for me. I opened the apartment door at 4:58 🙂

Seurasaari

Today, I didn’t do any remote work at all, and in the morning, we met with my friend Natasha and her daughter (my goddaughter) Sonechka to take a walk on the island of Seurasaari. It is a huge open-air museum of traditional Finnish architecture, but you can’t enter the dwellings in winter. All you can do is walk around and admire them from the outside, which we gladly did.

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Helsinki Day 2

On Monday, I met with my friend Natasha, and we had a long walk. Let me tell you this: Boris does not like eating outside, and never did. I mean, he really dislikes eating outside. And I always loved it, and my kids love it :). It always surprised me, that in Finland, people love eating outside so much, even in a very cold weather. And they make it fun! I can’t imagine eating outside in Chicago at 10F temperature and not feeling miserable. But yesterday, sitting by the open fire at Regatta, I enjoyed it immensely!

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Flying Again, And New Rules Again

Lufthansa rules. They are making sure people do not sit together if they are not related. And this is way more important than having three different choices of meals (Lufthansa still has pasta with carrots:)). They allow only surgical masks on the flight and during onboarding/disembarkment. I am happy that this time, I checked that it is LH, not United! 

Remembering my last time experience, I decided to prepay for the seats (the ticket price was insane already, in any case). When I was choosing the seats, I felt a little bit nervous when I saw that almost all the seats are open, but it turned out that they are closing the seats adjoined to the selected seats. And they changed my preselected seat on the second flight to make sure people are set sparsely, even in the smaller plain. Good for them!!!

For the long flight, I chose the aisle seat in the middle section. I was taking notes during my previous flights, and I observed that there are higher chances that the will be no more people in the row if I sit in the middle section. It worked perfectly. There was one more lady in the same section (s seat apart from me), but she switched to the other empty section, so I had three seats for myself. In combination with the fact that there was no good internet connectivity, this extra space allowed me to have several hours of sleep. 

All the procedures changed again. It feels like each time I am flying I have to present my marriage certificate one more time. This time, it was four times: at the Lufthansa check-in in O’Hare, when crossing the border in Frankfurt, when boarding the plane in Frankfurt to Helsinki and in Helsinki. There is an additional makeshift border control point at terminal 2, right when you get off the bus. Also, they do not do a free COVID test in the airport; instead, they require you to have the negative test with you when you arrive, and then they ask you to take the test three days after arrival. 

There is no way to take it for free, as I found out, so I will only take the test to be allowed to board my flight back. 

But the good news are that I am here :).

What Finland Is Doing Right, I Don’t Know

People often ask me, “how is it in Finland,” and why Finland is doing so well with the pandemic.
I do not know what to say. Mask just recently started to be worn everywhere, and when I was visiting, people were still dining in, and I saw a lot of people inside bars and restaurants through the windows. Moreover, the number of tests is relatively modest. But somehow, they do it right; somehow, they know how to test the right slice of the population because the number of people in the hospitals, in ICU, and on the ventilators is remarkably small.

Finland’s population is 5.5 million people, which is a little bit less than half of Illinois ( 12.6 million).

At the moment, we have:
Illinois Finland
total deaths 14,000 414
current in hospitals 5,653 141
current ICU 1,134 21
current ventilators. 694 0 , although I do not have todays’

I already told you about the testing at the airport; this time, the result also came in 12 hours, and there was no line for testing. However, it was virtually impossible to get the second test three days after arrival, so apparently, that was already not in the national interest :). They have their models to follow, and as long as the results are as good as above, I thing they are doing the right thing 🙂

Glogg!

The biggest food/drink discovery of that visit to Helsinki – glogg! I have no idea why I didn’t try it before; it’s not the first time I am in Helsinki during the season. Perhaps, the previous visits at this time of the year were too brief, and also I could not imagine it is that different from what you can buy at IKEA… 

My only regret is that I didn’t buy any to take with me, although I had checked luggage. For some reason, I thought they might have it in a duty-free at the airport, and they didn’t…