Finland. The land of lakes, saunas and Santa Claus. Unfortunately, I only had time for one of these things during the four days I spent in Finland’s capital, Helsinki. And, also unfortunately, it was not Santa Claus.
First up: The sauna
The most difficult part of traveling alone, at least for me, is finding my way to and from places. I have no sense of direction. I also walk with my head down, moving very fast and turning into random alleyways, looking very much like a perp in a crime novel trying to escape the law. As a result, I spend a lot of my traveling time lost. It took two correct train rides, a few wrong bus rides and finally a panicked taxi ride to find my Airbnb. But it was worth it once I got there.
After the stress of finding the place, I imagined relaxing in a sauna, while I daydreamed about the people I’d meet at Worldcon, and the funny conversation I might have with George R. R. Martin. As it turns out, I do not know how to work a sauna. I know you sit naked in a small room. I know there’s heat and steam. But sadly, that was the extent of my sauna knowledge.
After reading the complete history of the sauna on Wikipedia, I went into the bathroom and ran a hot bath instead while the sauna looked on, mocking me. I now know that you turn on the rocks, and pour water over them but knowing me, something would go wrong. I’d be trapped in the room and cooked to death. Somehow I’d turn the entire apartment into one giant sauna. The room would catch fire. In the end, I’ll have to put it on my ‘next time’ list, right in between count all the lakes in Finland, and find Santa Claus.
I was in Finland for Worldcon but I picked my airbnb based on its proximity to the ocean, and the inclusion of the sauna. As a result I was a few train rides away from the convention center. If you recall my adventure just getting to my Airbnb, I’m sure you can imagine the nightmare that was getting to and from Worldcon. Side note; thank you to all the strangers who I forced to help me. And thanks for not kidnapping me.
I don’t have much to say about Worldcon itself, mostly because I didn’t do much there. That’s not to say it was bad; there were many parts I really enjoyed. There was a large trade hall, where I bought stickers and comic books from independent artists. There were interesting classes on publishing that I attended, and although I didn’t make any lifelong friends, the majority of people were friendly. And of course, there was meeting George Martin. (R. R.)
I waited two hours (a fact which utterly astounded my mother) to see the man himself. I talked Game of Thrones theories with the Finnish man behind me and the time passed quickly enough. Then it was my moment. I walked up and handed my book to George. He said, “How are you?” and I said, “I’m good, how are you?” Riveting. Then he kind of nodded and handed my book, now signed, back. His assistant ushered me along and I was on my way. Two hours for less than thirty seconds and still worth every minute spent waiting.
Now: The not so good.
Okay. I am trying to be positive but I also am sharing my honest experiences, and I feel morally obligated to share the bad. It’s just truthful journalism.
- The food. I don’t know what I ate most of the time in Finland. My translator app hardly worked and I don’t know Finnish, so my grocery shopping involved a lot of “Yeah, this looks like it could be alright.” I still don’t know if the milk I bought was 2%, whole, or coffee creamer.
- SOME of the people. I have to reiterate the ‘some’ because I don’t want to offend the Finnish. But during my short time in Finland I was pushed, snapped at and even called fat by one charming Finnish boy. After all this, I bought some of my favorite Neil Gaiman and went to a park to read.
Five minutes later a man walked up with a leaf-blower and blew approximately half a pound of dirt in my face, while yelling something. Point taken. In the spirit of defending these people: I was likely pushed because I would stop in crowded places, upon realizing I was lost. I was probably snapped at by frustrated employees whose simple questions and instructions I couldn’t understand. As for the Finnish boy who called me fat, maybe I simply misunderstood. But the man with the leaf-blower? Fuck you.
- Finland was the only place I ever felt lonely by myself.
That’s all my complaints. Overall, I had a nice time and I will be back for a rematch with the sauna. To end on a high note, here’s a picture of the little balcony where I spent so much of my time, staring out the window as I’m prone to do.