Sunday, September 21, 2008

On Our Way

We flew out of Salt Lake City airport on Saturday, September 6, stopping off at JFK and then catching a connecting Finnair flight to Helsinki.


  • JFK is a funky, difficult-to-navigate airport.

  • The food there is ridiculously overpriced.

  • But they do have decent reception, so we e-mailed the kids with Rob's iPhone.

  • Vermont chocolate (found at JFK) is quite good.

  • When rain is coming down hard thanks to Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes, planes are delayed.

  • When twenty planes are delayed, you may sit on board, waiting for take-off, for a good hour and a half. Not fun when you've already had a 4-hour flight that day.

It was a riot to listen to the captain's announcements in Finnish and actually understand the gist of what he was saying. The fact that he was telling us that it would be another 45 minutes of waiting, however, wasn't so fun.

Suddenly I stopped understanding the captain, and I wondered if my Finnish was really that bad. Then I realized that duh, he was now speaking Swedish. He went on to give the same announcement in English . . . after I'd just explained to Rob what was said in Finnish.

I sat next to a delightful Finnish woman named Päivi who lived in New York. She was intrigued by the fact that I was obviously American and yet also clearly understood the Finnish PA well enough to translate it. After a few hours in the air, we began chatting.

I told her about how long it had been since I'd visited Finland, how I understood some Finnish but no longer spoke it all that well. (My Finnish was pretty fluent—if accented—back in 87.) After discussing Finnish delights such as salmiakki, Karjalan Piirakoita, and how I make pulla for my kids every Christmas, she declared that I passed and am indeed Finnish enough. Yay!

After we arrived in Helsinki, she vanished for a few minutes, then reappeared from an airport gift shop with a box of salmiakki-flavored chocolate for my kids. With great dedication, I managed to not open the box until we returned to the States. (If you know how good Finnish chocolate is, you must be impressed.)

She promised to look me up online, and I certainly hope she does.

Considering we'd left JFK so late Saturday night, it was nice to land Sunday morning within an hour of our original arrival time. But then we waited at the luggage carousel for a long time . . . and only my luggage arrived. Ah, the joys.

Poor Rob had to make do without a change of clothes and much of anything else until the next day, but fortunately, his suitcase came on the same flight on Monday morning. Phew!

The highlight, of course, was seeing Mom and Dad at the airport. What a sight for sore eyes! I wanted to hug them both and never let go. We drove to their apartment at the temple's patron housing and had a great meal with the very Finnish lohi keitto, salmon soup. Ahhhh.

We rested and chatted, and that afternoon took a walk around the temple grounds. I love how the trees make the temple seem almost nestled in the Finnish woods. The landscaping is gorgeous, and the temple itself . . . wow. The workmanship just on the exterior is stunning. Some of the designs on the door and windows are very Finnish and hearken to designs from the Kalevala, the Finnish mythology and folktales. (We went inside on another day. More on that later.)

When I looked up and read the words you find on every temple, only in Finnish, Herralle Pyhitetty. Herran Huone, I got a serious lump in my throat. There's a part of my heart that belongs in Finland and can only be touched by Finnish. I felt like this was where I belonged.

By the time we headed back to the apartment, however (inside the patron housing, above), my vision was getting those tell-tale lines and fuzzy, moving edges that can mean only one thing.

Fortunately, I'd brought along some of my migraine prescription, so the headache didn't hit as hard as it could have. (I'm sure it was triggered by exhaustion and the whole biological clock thing being thrown out of whack.)

Mom rubbed my feet. Dad and Rob gave me a blessing. I have to say, even though a migraine wasn't the best way to start out our trip, feeling like a little girl again, and having my parents take care of me was such a comfort.

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