HELSINKI, FINLAND – november 10th to 18th, 2014
This was the shortest stop on my trip. It was way too short, quite honestly. For one, I have too much gear to schlep to a new country for only 8 days. I may look like a backpacker on my travels, but being able to walk for only 15 minutes at a time with the full weight means I am far from a legitimate nomad. Oh well…. (next time.)
The other reason it was too short was because I really didn’t have enough time to connect with the tap dance and music communities. Part of that was because I didn’t coordinate my dates well in advance with my dance friends. Most of them ended up being out of town for the majority of my visit. Oops! That said, I got in a few visits, a dance music video shoot, and got to explore Helsinki for my first time. It was (really) cold. And (really) gray. But, you know what? I loved the city, and I appreciated my time there. Especially in hindsight. Here are some highlights:
1) Hibernation Mode: I think I needed a week of downtime at that particular moment on my journey. Some “me” time to refocus. The cold, gray climate sort of forced that period of stillness upon me, but I am grateful for it. Honestly, it was nice to experience the Autumn season. Reminded me of home, but just a bit colder. The first few days felt challenging, because I had to sit with a lot of internal movement, emotionally speaking. (See my Bangladesh post and this should make perfect sense.) Well, it was more than a few days, but I would say that’s when I felt the most emotional intensity, which was challenging to sit with alone in an unfamiliar place. Lucky I like a good challenge.
2) Cafe Culture: I didn’t want to fight my need to hibernate, so I took advantage of the plethora of stellar cafes around Helsinki. Each day, I would head into the city center to get all cozied up in a little shop, preferably by the window. I would often spend hours sitting there reading and/or writing. Journaling, to be exact. I wrote through a lot of my recent transitions, and once I felt ready to do so, flipped into “Create” mode to keep building momentum for myself professionally. I found a bookshop that had many English titles, too, so I quickly (albeit briefly) became a regular.
3) Transit: I stayed at a friend’s place about a 20 minute commute outside of Helsinki. The trains are really easy into the city, as all of them end in the center. I liked my chilly walk to and from the trains, only because I came totally prepared for the weather. This was the point on my tour when I got to pull out fleece, down, and wool from the depths of my backpack. Scarves, hats, mittens, sweaters and coats….
4) Reflecting on Wonder and Wander: My favorite thing to do in a new city is to simply wander. No agenda. No direction. No Have-to’s. Get a little lost, perhaps, but never for long, as there’s always a map or a wifi cafe or a friendly human nearby to help. Wandering is a great opportunity to watch the movement of one’s thoughts, too, as they scan across the mind like a marquee at a sports game. I find that it’s easier for me to notice my thoughts, sort through them, and disidentify while I’m walking around. Something about the physicality of movement to juxtapose such subtle internal movement. And I love being surprised every time I walk around a corner to see some awe-inspiring new architecture, park, shop, square, or skyline.
5) Dance Music Video Shoot: On my last day, I was able to do a quick video shoot with the lovely Hannaleena Markkanen. She suggested a great industrial site in Helsinki for the filming. This was the second country where I only had one other dancer in the video shoot (also Bangladesh). Though it would have been great to have a nice big group here as well, I’m happy that I can have the variety of a couple duets in the mix. It should be nice to have for editing purposes down the road.
Onto the Next: London
Thanks for reading!