Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Start to Finnish (2): Getting there, errr, here

Mom and Pop- you’ll be prouder of me: I’m washing my second load of clothes (the whites which I carefully separated from the colored ones) while my first load of clothes are already in the dryer. Washing clothes entail paying one euro per load, which is a bit steep if it were converted to the Philippine peso (1 euro = about 63 pesos) but it’s pretty cheap by standards here in Tampere.
Ian at the Keskustori, the Central Square, in front of the Old Town Hall of Tampere.

I’m currently in Tampere (TAM-peh-reh), about 160 kms from Helsinki, the capital of Finland. We’re just five hours behind versus Manila time. We got here the Sunday before the last after more than thirty hours in transit:

Manila to Singapore- 4 hours + 5 hours waiting time between flights
Singapore to Paris – 12 hours + 4 hours waiting time between flights
Paris to Helsinki – 3 hours
Helsinki to Tampere – 2.5 hours by bus

So far, everything is worth the looooooooooooong travel-

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I last encountered Changi Airport last June en route to a seminar in Jakarta- but we stayed in the airport for less than thirty minutes. This time, though, our five-hour stopover allowed us enough time to explore the airport further. And the more we explored, the more I felt it was a mall rather than an airport with a whole gamut of shops, restaurants, and a bevy of, for me, nontraditional plusses, including terminals where the internet can be accessed without payment (if you chance upon a working computer that is) and a cactus garden.
Photo of our entire team going to Finland, from the left, clockwise: Lester Geroy, my classmate and eternal groupmate from UP med, city health physician in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon; Johann Leonardia, my classmate also from UP med as well as roommate for four years, rural health physician in Concepcion, Iloilo; Yas Villanueva, UP Medicine Class of 2002, municipal health officer of Quezon, Quezon, and; Elizabeth Paterno, one of our professors in Community Medicine from the UP. This shot was taken by Jess, an OFW we met while waiting for our connecting flight to Paris, on his way to the USA.
Cactus garden adjacent to the Burger King store in Changi.

--==+==--

It was my first time to travel via Air France flight. From the opportunity to use my decade-old rudimentary French from college as I was greeted at the door by (someone who I assumed to be) a native speaker to its sleek and chic cabin look- there was something definitely French about this leg of our trip to Finland.

I tried to read the required chapter for our first day of class but the inflight entertainment available lured me elsewhere. I saw two movies, played HANGMAN, tried to get some sleep (with not much success), attempted to read again- similarly with not much success. The flight was long, but there was an open bar of nonalcoholic drinks, replete with eat-all-you-can Asian noodles-in-a-cup and ice cream. Most remarkable about that segment of our trip was The Most Succulent And Flavorful Piece Of Lamb I Have Ever Tasted which we had for dinner. (No photo, sorry! I was too preoccupied with savoring the experience… Excuse me while I wipe the drool off of the corner of my mouth).

--==+==--
We arrived in Paris’ Charles De Gaulle (CDG) Airport at around 6am local time. While the flight afforded to us something truly French, to actually step on French soil was a bigger source of excitement. After all, I was in the city that is in my list of top ten places I want to explore before I die! But given our rather tight schedule- our boarding time was 10.15am- we opted not to explore Paris even if there was a train from the station beneath Charles De Gaulle’s Terminal 2 that will take us directly to the city center which was a mere 45 minutes away.

Only our professor who was traveling with us was gutsy enough to take the impromptu Paris city sojourn- she went to the Cathedral of Notre Dame and took BEAUTIFUL photos of the rather quite streets of Paris on a Sunday. I was too scared to miss our connecting flight to Helsinki hence my reluctance to get lost in the so-called City of Lights. But Paris hasn’t seen the last of me…

(Goodie! My first load of clothes are out of the dryer. The second load is still in the washer. Did you know that water in Finland is SO clean that we can drink the water being used in the washing machine- prior to the addition of our soiled clothes and detergent, of course- and the water which flows from almost all toilet taps?)

We we’re thus contented with exploring the different terminals of CDG, taking curbside photos of the little bit of Paris we were able to enjoy, and buying some overpriced but nonetheless quintessential mementos of our Parisian pause.

--==+==--

The FinnAir flight to Helsinki fulfilled what I thought shall be my introduction to Finnish culture- tall, blonde, blue-eyed human beings in the form of flight attendants, male and female alike. It was a rather uneventful flight, marked by some turbulence and by my record consumption of the airplane food served (Read: I WAS SO HUNGRY! And the eternal cheapskate that I am, I did not want to part with any of my euros, save for a bottle of water, the most expensive 500-ml mineral water I ever tasted at 1.5 euros).

We were welcomed to the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport by a light drizzle, a surprisingly hassle-free collection of our bags, a curious Finnish art piece (above) and a very tourist-friendly mother and son pair who gamely answered our queries about Finland while they, too, waited for the vehicle that will take them home to one of Helsinki’s suburbs. Our bus that was supposed to take us from Helsinki to Tampere promptly arrived at 4.30pm at Platform 13, all our bags ably hauled into the cargo hold of the intercity bus by a lady Finnish driver.

And we were off to the next five weeks of our lives in Finland, a place that was just five time zones away from the Philippines but could readily pass as a country on another planet altogether… Our arrival in Tampere, with the cab that took our teacher to her hotel (yes, it is a Benz- most cabs here are!)
With the E150-sized cab that took the four of us to our hotel… Which turned out to be not more than five hundred meter from the bus terminal behind me! Note the time on the clock attached to the building's edifice: yup, it's almost 7pm and the sun is shining as though it was 4pm =]
Sneak peek into the reception area of our home for the next month, Hotel Iltatahti
And the view from the window of our room…
Next time: Meet The Class

4 comments:

  1. Hey doc!

    Kainggit naman. Ako, 'gang Changi lang.. ikaw you're on to a great Finnish!

    More pics, doc!

    Danikook

    ReplyDelete
  2. Talaga naman! Jetsetter ang dating! Kaiinggit...

    ReplyDelete
  3. No wonder you haven't posted for quite some time. Busy ka pala kaka-pack ng luggage mo hehehe.

    Tampere looks like a very peaceful and relaxing place =) sarap siguro manirahan dyan. I can't wait to read about your adventures in Helsinki! And I hope you get a glimpse of their president Tarja Halonen who is famous for being Conan O'Brien's look-alike.

    Take care and stay safe =)

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  4. i am just SO blessed to be in Finland, as you may have read already with regard to my travails to be here =0

    tampere is a benign, peaceful place. i thought it was TOO benign for comfort. but when we went to Helsinki last night to attend the annual Night of the Arts festival- i yearned to be in my benign Finnish homebase soon after!

    i'm having a little trouble updating because of some internet and wifi access here. will update again i a few, with more pics of course =)

    kiitos (keee-tohs) [thanks]!

    ReplyDelete

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