Friday, November 30, 2007

Where Is My Mind?

So here's the rule: The more fun I'm having, the less posts there will be. The same is true for pictures. My picture gallery from the Ann Arbor visit is simply pathetic. I did get some help from Marie and Qian but in any case I don't think any picture gallery could be big enough to capture it all so I guess I just gave up on it altogether.

This was taken from the car window while Marie was driving us to the department one morning. It is not very succesful as a photo but it captures the light and the dizzyness and the warmth and the exhilaration of Ann Arbor and meeting good friends after too long time apart. I quite like the solitary black man (or is it a woman?) walking towards the light. If you look closely you can see that there is somebody coming to meet him.

During the last two weeks, every now and then when I've gotten stuck with what I've been doing I've wandered to a folder named Qian's Videos and then I've clicked on the boxes one at a time and watched all the videos once again – and again and again. Here are two screenshots from two different nights that will tell absolutely nothing to anybody who wasn't there but to those who were will hopefully create the feeling of the endless nights of dancing and music and fun and silliness. If you ask now where my mind is, it is there with you.

My grandmother who's a master traveller always says when she gets home from a trip that her soul is still in Venice or in Sorrento or wherever she has happened to leave it last. My naive cures are smells and music, they can transfer you back to far away places and old times in an instant. Whether that is constructive to your psyche can be debated.

But it really doesn't matter that I didn't get my Ann Arbor folder full of pictures this time. I have already several images painted tightly in my mind.

First the fall coloured trees on each sice of the road on our way to Ann Arbor and the first sights of familiar places: The road from Ypsi to town, the Whole Foods corner and then passing Trader Joe's to Stadium and Packard, and up to the department and then Espresso Royale where we went first. And then Kevin and Mario coming through the doors discussing math like nothing had changed.

And the Brown Jug pizza plates. And the bustle at Leopold Bros. And the comfy chairs that you rotate to make them lower or higher at the seminar room with the comfy chairs. And all the posters of paintings in the corridors. And the feel of Ann Arbor chalk on your hands and then the smell of Ann Arbor math department soap on them later.

And the yellow of the forest Marie took me to run to on Saturday morning and the squirrels. And the Michigan M's on peoples' shirts. And the dark trance of Qian's party. And all the baking of pulla and Karelian pies and finally the pumpkin pies in the middle of the night.

And the view from Unveiled Studio to the parking lot while practicing hip accents walking up and down the floor in two lines. And the back room all cleaned up. And the old mirrors and the tiny CD player and the feel of the wooden floor under your feet.

And the colourful leaves on Olivia and the sight of the street in broad daylight for the first time. And the five candles on the table in the green house. And painting with watercolours and playing Clue.

And the Daniel dance and the Pekka dance. And playing foosball and light wars. And drinking beer and watching videos and videos of us watching the videos.

And the last day with lunch in Raja Rani and tea at Sweetwaters and the last visit at the department to copy videos and Qian standing at her office door the light from the office behind her and the darkness of the corridor making her black against the doorframe.

And then Jana and Daniel waving from their front door hugging each other while we're driving away. And the gold of the leaves illuminated by the setting sun on each side of the road as we drive towards the airport and the pink of the sunset later. And last the flying water of the Detroit airport fountain against the still waguely golden sky.

Ultimately this is a blog about wanting to be in different places at the same time.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


So my mum just called me and said in the midst of something else: "And why haven't you posted anything on your blog? You need to post stuff so that I know how you are!" To which I retorted: "Well, yes, we only talk on the phone, what, three times a day?" But she was adamant and kept on: "But this is just everyday nonsense, you write on your blog how you really are feeling."

So my apologies for the slowness of the updates lately. But it doesn't mean that there's nothing coming. This is not coin tossing, you know, a long wait really means that it is more probable that there will be a huge post very soon.

Monday, November 19, 2007

It's Possible But You Have to Run

That's exactly how much help you'll get if you happen to have a 55 minute change in Amsterdam and your plane is delayed.

When I expressed my worries about catching my connecting flight on the plane the flight attendant simply noted that I would have to hurry. When she was leaving though she chirped encouragingly over her schoulder: "You'll make it!" It didn't quite convince me.

It took me quite a while to get out of the plane since I was seated in the far back of the plane and I had to wait for everybody else to crowd out first. And when I had found the flight display it was already showing "boarding" and I still had to get from terminal E to terminal C, which according to the helpful signs would take 25 minutes.

When I went through the customs I asked the lady whether she thought that I'd make it in time to which she answered: "Well, it's possible, but you have to run". What ever happened to getting in front of the line if you are in a hurry? And what ever happened to airport personnell running with you through the airport to make sure you make it?

When I was running the last stretch after the security check, the displays blinked already "gate closing". But I made it in time, quite out of breath and sweaty but just in time. Also quite predictably, my luggage didn't make it. So I got an extra practice in getting used to the time change: staying awake waiting to recieve the lost luggage.

When I finally got the bag it had a KLM-blue note attached to it: "Please accept our apologies..." Apparently I get a discount of 25 euros if I happen to fly KLM during the next 9 months.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Three Falls

This post is from Ann Arbor. But what did you expect? The name of the blog is Doubling Places, Ann Arbor – Helsinki – Reykjavík. And now you know that it's cyclic. After Reykjavík there is Ann Arbor again. Then Helsinki will be next and after that Reykjavík again.

While I have been travelling west it seems I've also been travelling backwards in the weather time. As a result I've seen three falls this year. Or rather I want to say three ruskas. Ruska is a Finnish word meaning the time when all the leaves change into fall colours. Here's a fall picture series travelling backwards in real time.

The Michigan Fall is warm, sunny and bright with colour. This is from Ann Arbor, taken today only a couple of hours ago. The building is the Angell Hall and you'll recognize the Ann Arbor street lamp.

The Icelandic Fall is stormy, rainy and windy with quickly travelling grey clouds. This is from Þórsmörk about a month ago. There had just been a big storm a couple of days ago so most of the leaves were already gone.

The Finnish Fall is cold and crisp with wet sidewalks and darkening nights. This is from Helsinki in late September and it's sporting the national tree, birch.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


I came here on Monday four weeks ago and already on Tuesday we went for a late night walk down to the lake in the middle of Reykjavík. It wasn't raining or even windy. The water was pitch-black in the night and we stood leaning on the railing on the Northern shore. The lights on the other side of the lake were reflected on the surface of the lake and there were always two lights of different colours side by side making a beautiful effect from where we were standing.

The water looked almost scary in the darkness, one could barely distinct the small waves. It was almost calm. Suddenly a white spot a bit right from us started moving and I realized that what I'd assumed to be a stone or a buoy was indeed alive and it was gliding towards us silently. When it came closer we saw that it was a swan. It swam right underneath us and stopped there. It was white and glowing against the black lake. And I don't wonder any more why swans swim in the river to the underworld in the Finnish mythology, so beautiful and unearthly was this swan floating beside us on the dark waves.

Soon we saw more swans swimming towards us. There were maybe four or five of them. They too stopped close to us and stayed there. We realized that they were come to see if we had any treats to offer. Also some ducks and geese came. But they didn't stand a change against the swans who ruthlessly took the best spots close to us. And more swans came. We were the only people by the lake, you see, they thought they might check us out just in case we had something. Before long more and more swans arrived and I think we counted well over twenty of them. In the end we had to move since I got almost scared that they would climb up and start biting our pockets.

We walked down the lake southwards and all the time this silent glide of almost thirty swans followed us close by. Eventually they got tired of us. Or maybe there were other people come to stand leaning on the railing on some other part of the shore.