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…

Biking In Helsinki

There is still almost no snow in Helsinki, and we were biking almost every day. The surrounding is still beautiful, although Boris didn’t give me any chances to stop to take pictures. Except of yesterday, when he lost me :).

My Helsinki bike is a city bike, not very fast, although quite decent. As for Boris, he has a new bike now, which is really fast :). So most of the time he has to slow down, or to stop sometimes to wait fro me. Yesterday, it started funny, but ended up not being so funny. I wanted to stop for a bathroom break; I knew that there were several places along the bike path, and I called Boris to stop when I saw one, and waved that I am crossing the street to the facility. Somehow he didn’t realize what was going on, and when I got out, I saw him biking back. I yelled, but he didn’t hear me. I could still reach him if I would hop on the bike right away, but I was absolutely sure he has his phone on him, so I called… Both of his phones. And when I realized that he has none on him, it was already late – I could not see which way he turned.

I knew how to get home, but I didn’t have a key! And I remember how I stared at my key when I was about to leave the house, and thinking: we are going together, I do not want to risk losing a key! And so that you know, this key opens not only our flat, but also the building entrance and the bike storage. And it was getting cold and dark, and I didn’t have a light on my bike.

It all ended well :). And I didn’t get a cold 🙂

How I Ended Up Being Away For Home For Thanksgiving

First, we were planning for a very small Thanksgiving, even probably in shifts. Even back in September, Boris and I were talking about him finally coming our way. By that time, I felt sort of in control of the situation and was sure that I know how to navigate the current situation, how to be safe, and what we can and can’t do. 

The last time Boris saw anybody except myself was last November, and he never saw Kira. So we drafted a plan, how to connect “in shifts,” and then cases started to rise, and then I think we all just got scared and were afraid that “it can become worse.” We all talked to each other for hours, and I am not sure who finally convinced me, but the result is that I am now in Helsinki. 

I got the ticket just five days before departure, and I booked it at the Lufthansa website directly, thereby not paying attention to who operates the flight. And even when I received my reservation confirmation, I didn’t look into details – there was a Lufthansa logo on the reservation email. 

On Sunday evening, when I realized that the check-in email didn’t arrive, I went to the Lufthansa website, and to my horror, saw the message: redirecting to the United website! Only then I realized that the flight number starts from UA! 

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Scenes from Kenosha, two months after the shooting of Jacob Blake

As I’ve commented before, we journalists have a tendency to swoop in when there’s a crisis/controversy, and then forget about it once the heat dies down. And that is something I’ve personally been trying to avoid, even when I don’t get paid for it.

Kenosha has been on my radar long before the shooting of Jacob Blake. I visited it several times – the first time back in college, in one of my “how far can the [then $5] Metra weekend pass get me” day trips. I wanted to see the only midwestern town within communing distance that had some form of tramway (a heritage-style streetcar loop that, as I quickly realized, was little more than a tourist attraction for the HarborPark development in downtown Kenosha). I visited it a few times since, because it’s the only way to go to another state on a Metra weekend pass, and while I don’t have as much inexplicable fondness for it as I do for Michigan City, it has its charms. I even visited Kenosha twice during the pandemic – once in May (when, by a strange coincidence, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the state’s stay-at-home order) and once in June.

So, when the shooting happened, I already had some context. I already knew that it was a manufacturing town those existence once revolved around several major auto plants (the aforementioned HarborPark development was built on the site of large American Motors Corporation lakefront plant). I knew that the city was home to more African-Americans than many people might assume, with some living there since the days of the Underground Railroad. When protesters marched on Kenosha County Courthouse, and when riots swept through downtown and Uptown areas, I had a pretty good idea where several of those streets were.

I originally planned to try to get to Kenosha on August 24, what ended up being the second day of riots (and the day before Kyle Rittenhouse killed two protesters and wounded another), but I missed the mid-day train. Because Union Pacific North Metra Line is running on a limited schedule in these pandemic times, it meant that there was no point catching the following train, since I would basically only have time to walk around for a few minutes before I had to catch the last train back to Chicago. Paying work kept me from making another attempt until Friday, August 28. By that point, the protests continued, but they were mostly peaceful, and National Guard was brought in

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Lingonberries

I smuggled several dairy products and a box of lingonberries from Finland. The berries were only sold in large containers, so I could not finish all of the while I was in Helsinki. But then I remembered that when I was a young pioneer in the summer camp, we would pick lingonberries and store them in the jars or just cardboard boxes until our moms would come to visit. I remembered that nothing happened to them.

I decided to pack the rest of berries to take home, and it work perfectly fine, especially because I genuinely forgot I had them in my luggage and with all honesty told the custom control that I have no fruits or plants with me:)

Finished the box just yesterday – so good! Or, and by the way, out of all dairy which I smuggled I only ate one, the pear skyr. Anna and Nadia ate the rest :). I should smuggle more next time 🙂