Posts tagged “friends

Where I Cling To

Posted on 8 August 2016

Ten years ago I saw an empty city. The sun still glowed above the roofs, despite the hour, and brightened the grey streets that hardly anyone trod upon, apart from me, my family, and my friend. We looked for food and all that was open was a McDonald’s. I think I ordered an ice cream for dinner. And yet, in the photos I’m grinning, my cheeks almost uncomfortably wide, flashing a thumbs up. It was juhannus, midsummer, and it was my first time in Finland, in Helsinki. My first impressions of Helsinki were a bit weird, being based on the unusual reality of the city’s population clearing out for the holiday. Finland drew me in, to be sure, but my first visits were centered…

Steam Dark, Steam Light, Mushrooms, Night

Posted on 23 February 2015

The air was beginning to shimmer a warm golden grey as we pulled up to the summer home in Hämeenlinna. It sits by a lake, of course. Between the house and the lake are apple trees and a sauna. The light wrapped us, holding on a little longer, and then it departed. By this hour, dinner had been made, and we ate. And then, flashlights in hand, we walked down to the sauna and disrobed.     The changing room exuded the familiar sauna smell of wood, birch, damp. I stacked my clothes in a little pile. The lack of electricity emboldened me somewhat: we were girls and guys together. Despite being no sauna newbie, this was fresh to me. I had been camping…

What’s Mine and Isn’t

Posted on 8 February 2015

I don’t know why, exactly. From 2006 on, there has always been a tug. It can get severe. In 2007, on the departing train, I cried for an hour, by myself, heavily. I was leaving a place that wasn’t wholly mine, but felt like it should be. I was leaving a place that felt more like mine than anywhere I’d been before. Always the question: what if I were Finnish? What if I could stay? And when I am gone, well, there floats a weight of absence somewhere in my chest. It dimmed somewhat when I knew that I’d be back, just like the year before. Until I wasn’t. Until I sat at my computer, doing my graduate school work but really half examining…

Aitäh for the Genuine

Posted on 17 January 2015

I took one photo in Tartu, which stands opposing the whirlwind night and day I spent there. You see, Tartu isn’t undeserving of photos, but the hours I spent there were filled with people moreso than scenery, and we ran through the dark for more hours than we spent traipsing through the daylight. Travel expanded this day for me. I went from Riga to Sigulda to Riga to Tartu, Estonia. The bus pulled in at 11:15pm and Tiina, my BeWelcome host, was there at the bus station waiting for me. She brought me back to her place, fed me a snack, and then we set out for the night. Tiina had just finished her last master’s exam for her degree (Finno-Ugric languages—how cool is…

2014, Mountains of Everything

Posted on 28 December 2014

Dividing the year by months perhaps isn’t the easiest thing to do. This year, more than many others, stretched and shrank; some days did not end and some weeks flew by, for better and worse, all blurry and already past. My brain was not a reliable instrument. Some things it refuses to remember clearly. What happened to me in January, in February? It is hard to say. And then, what in August, in September, in October? Too much to say. Nonetheless, I split the year into twelve parts, simply because I like lists. January. The year turned over grey. February. I couldn’t hide. Everything was bleak was seemingly endless. That’s all I’ll say. March. It began with headaches, but gradually that passed. And I…

Pedal It Away, Pedal On

Posted on 6 December 2014

I have anxiety. Did you know? Not just the usual worries, the occasional nervousness. No. It has colored my life. It still shadows me, and not infrequently do I step onto darker ground. But. I was riding on a train to Klaipėda. I wanted to be there for a few days—enough to bicycle the Lithuanian length of the Curonian Spit. I had spent hours lingering over articles and photos of this place. But I was arriving soon, and I had no place to stay. Klaipėda isn’t very large; Couchsurfing and BeWelcome hadn’t panned out. I wasn’t totally unprepared: I had looked up how to get from the train station to a nearby hostel. And that was it. Maybe I had some little jitters, but…

A Story of Staying, of the Best Hosts

Posted on 19 November 2014

I am currently sitting in a hotel in Boise, Idaho. Hotels confuse me; they put me on edge. I feel kind of like an imposter. “We need to see your ID and your incidentals.” —My what? And I feel isolated. I have an enormous room, bigger than my soon-to-be apartment, and I linger in just one corner. I know there are people around but everyone is in their own rooms, their own strange bubbles. And all hotels look kind of the same. Last night I was in Laramie, Wyoming. The night before, Kansas City, Missouri. All entirely different cities, but I wouldn’t know from my lodgings. This is a result of me rapidly moving—as in, actually moving, my car is packed up with my…

Boggy Roots Hold Tight

Posted on 18 October 2014

Mornings came early. We reluctantly emerged from our sleeping bags, quickly trying to replicate their warmth by pulling on jackets and hats. Then, unzipping the tent and brushing against the dew, we emerged into the chilly Siberian day, still a shadowy grey under the trees. Warm kasha, porridge, of some variety waited for us in a big bucket under the green kitchen area tarp, along with bread, cheese, jam, and meat slices for the non-vegetarians. I fumbled with the instant coffee and topped its bitterness off with an overly generous helping of sgushyenka, sweetened condensed milk, my favorite. My thermos kept this gloopy beverage a little too warm a little too long, and by the end I was gulping it as to not be…

Lessons Learned From Camping In Siberia

Posted on 22 August 2014

Our little camp in southeastern Siberia truly began to feel like a home, like the place I should be. My sleeping bag was a great bed; I was untroubled by camping night after night for two weeks. I didn’t need an inside anymore. I was out in the world, and with a group of truly great people, at that. And if you watch the world, and listen to it, you can learn some things. Here is an assortment of what camping in Siberia taught me. 1. Life can be busy – and not boring – sans technology The camp had no internet, no cell phone reception, and even no electricity (unless a generator was turned on). And I was busy! I honestly found it…

Everything Converges

Posted on 19 July 2014

Oh, Bolivia. This is a place where everything converges—mountains, water, desert, cities, the sky, diversity, poverty, jungles, witches, surreal beauty, friendships. Sadly, Bolivia is often overlooked in favor of neighboring Peru, which is also incredible but certainly not a substitute for the two countries truly have different offerings. Bolivia is a country of extremes. The numbers seem to hold it back: it is the poorest country in South America, and it is landlocked. However, Bolivia also has the largest indigenous population in South America and is incredibly diverse—in terms of both its peoples and its landscapes. In other words, Bolivia has struggled, but it is truly a wonder. For travelers, there are some significant benefits to visiting Bolivia. The country is very cheap. It is…