To HEL and .. Eventually .. Back

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The Gates to HEL.

Image: GrrlScientist, 17 February 2009 [larger view].

This is a photo from near the beginning of my epic journey (the beginning was when I finally managed to catch the subway to JFK in the first place -- a two hour ride!).

A friend has flown me to freezing cold Helsinki! My flight to Helsinki on FinnAir is a nonstop red-eye from JFK. This is great for those who like to save on hotel costs by sleeping on airplanes, but for those who cannot sleep on planes, like me, this is rather challenging. Especially since I was also unable to sleep the night before I flew because I was worrying all night long about all the details I needed to take care of before leaving my birds.

Nonetheless, the flight was both uneventful and uncrowded, so nearly all of the passengers were able to spread out into the nearby seats and relax. This was great since the flight is roughly 8.5 hours long. Interestingly, I somehow managed to be upgraded to business class, even though I purchased an economy ticket, which meant little in practice, except that I had to walk farther to get to the back of the plane to use the bathroom. But I did get a window seat with a view that was not obstructed by the wing.

The flight went well, so well, that I almost forgot that I am sill sick -- until the plane began to descend from 34,000 feet, that is. It was then that I realized my eardrums might possibly rupture since I couldn't get the pressure to equalize regardless of what I did; yawning, coughing, chewing gum ..

I did survive the landing without screaming or passing out or having blood spurt from my ruptured eardrums, although it was rather painful. I spent most of today being unable to hear very well, although my eardrums have finally normalized this evening.

The weather here is breathtakingly cold. This morning after I deplaned, the temperatures were minus nine degrees celsius. How do you dress for such cold weather if you are not a resident here? Not even my handwarmers were powerful enough to keep more than just my hands form freezing.

Anyway, I plan to post short updates each day for you to read, along with longer and more informative photoessays of my adventures while I am overseas. Already, it appears I will be attending at least one departmental seminar about birds at the University of Helsinki, and I will probably also be attending the annual 3-day graduate student seminar, where most of the grad students in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department give short presentations to the public about their dissertation research (and of course, there will be a party afterwards!). Besides the fact that this seminar will pleasantly remind me of my own grad student days, I hope to write about these presentations on my blog for all of you to read and learn from.

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1) I find it funny that I read this and then a commercial comes on in the background for Sesi Ford. "Sesi" means "strength" in Finnish and they're a local Michigan dealership.

2) -9C isn't all that cold. That's 16F.

yeah, yeah, it's not that cold, at least not to most finns and NYCers, but you are talking to a displaced seattle native, which means that for most of my life, the closest i got to 16 degrees/minus 9 degrees is my freezer.

I didn't know Seattle was so warm. I'd always figured it must be cold in the winter since it's at that latitude.

As for staying warm in such cold conditions, the basic schema is to wear an absorbent underlayer, possibly with a waffle polar weave (like thermal underwear, they'll also wick away sweat), then a warm overlayer (like a wool sweater and jeans or even an undercoat), followed by a wind-impermeable top layer (like Neoprene and Gore-Tex).

Of course, conditioning helps, too. -2C doesn't even feel cold anymore at this point in the Michigan winter.

Have fun in Suomi and don't forget to try the pulla!

Well, this is a bit odd first post but what the heck...

Welcome to Finland and hopefully you enjoy it!
Too bad I (probably) won't have time to attend the Spring Symposium, but maybe I can pick up something from your blog.

Is it btw. Kim Jaatinen's seminar you're attending?
Not that I'd have time to come there either, since I'm a few floors up scraping owlnests :P But just out of curiosity. I kind of know him and he's a "birdguy", so I figured he might have a topic on birds.

As I said, I hope you enjoy it here. And hopefully the weather will keep as good (= cold & snowy) as it has been for a while now.

Cheers! NB

PS. Toaster, where did you encounter the word "sesi"? Sounds funny and I haven't stumbeled on it, but maybe it's dialectal. Or then, as I a teeny tiny bit suspect, it might be a mangeled up "sisu".

Niko, my sense of Finnish has been mangled all too well by a Finnish immigrant father who insisted we NOT learn Finnish, so I can't even really talk to Ukki or Mummi. Looking more closely at it, it does indeed look like "sesi" is a corruption of "sisu", although it is also possible that it has something to do with an East Karelian dialect? I'm not sure...

Cold? I've been grumbling of not having had a decent cold spell yet this winter, when there should have been at least two events of 5 to 10 days of below -25 °C by now. Yes, it was a bit nippy earlier this week, but a really refreshing really cold air mass? Not yet, I'm afraid.

Don't worry, Juuro. Grrl is just a wimp. A decent cold spell would be welcome - it might be to cold for her to whine...