July 29, 9:04pm

I’m on my way. It feels a bit strange, like it isn’t happening. It’s only a two week trip, yet it feels a bit surreal. Yet, my bags are checked, and here I am at Gate 31 in Terminal 3 of Pearson International. The flight leaves in an hour. It’s Air Transat, kind of a no-frills airline, but I figure as long as it gets me to Gatwick, I’ll be fine. It’s only a 6 hour flight.

I think maybe my feeling of disconnection is due to the fact that I’ve had very little buildup to this trip. I didn’t do endless preparation like I did for Thailand. I basically just threw stuff in a bag and left.

That’s not to say I’m not looking forward to the trip. I’m excited to be going. In fact I’m pretty hyped. I think there will be many adventures ahead.

My stomach is full. Dad felt he should contribute to my survival in the two countries renowned for their poor food by taking me for a Chinese dinner in Mississauga en route to the airport. Thanks Dad! I think I’ll make it at least 12 hours on this meal before missing food with flavor again!

July 30, 1:45am

I’m here! I landed in Tampere at around 9:30, about 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Previously I had been pronouncing Tampere as tam-PEER, but I had forgotten that Finns are exact about language like they are about other things that have rules. So, Tampere has no silent letters. It’s tam-PEER-uh with a roll on the “R”. The airport at Tampere is cute. It’s hard to describe it in any other way. It’s like the entire thing was purchased from IKEA. Everything is a little smaller than you might expect, but tidy, unadorned yet somehow cozy too. Tampere is about 150km from Helsinki, so Arttu and Jen came to pick me up.

The trip was not easy. I think Air Transat had to specially order the miniature seats they packed onto the Airbus 310 that brought us from Toronto to London. I had to battle the big Nigerian sitting next to me for space on the armrest, and legroom too. The small English Literature student from McGill sitting next to me found it cramped too. She was twisted into all kinds of weird positions trying to get comfortable during the flight. Eventually I managed to get a few minutes of sleep by folding out the tray table and resting my elbows on it, and my head in my hands. I had hoped to write some journal entries, but if I put my laptop on the tray table, there wasn’t enough space for me to put my hands on the keyboard. The computer was pressed too close to my body. Typing was impossible. I had to operate the touchpad with my thumbs because there was no room to use my fingers. It was almost comical, if it wasn’t so painful.

Finally upon arrival at Gatwick Airport I was able to stand up. What a relief! I cleared British customs, then found the National Express bus ticket counter and bought myself a ticket to Stansted for 24.50 pounds sterling. Little did I know it would turn out to be a four hour trip. My ticket said I’d arrive there at 2:15, but because of traffic we didn’t arrive until 3:40. It was ok though. That was enough time for me to jump through all the hoops Ryanair wanted me to jump through to get my “overweight” baggage onboard. Ryanair only allows 15kg of luggage, which is pretty skimpy. My suitcase was 20.8kg. For that they would charge me an extra 27 pounds sterling. RIght. I moved a bunch of stuff to my carryon luggage, but was still 3kg over the limit. I had to stand in another huge line to pay 13.50 pounds sterling for that extra weight. The flight to Tampere was uneventful. The seats were small again, but I was on the aisle this time so there was less difficulty squeezing in.

So now I’m here! It was totally worth the journey. It’s so great to hang out with Jen again. I got a brief impression of Helsinki through the windows of the car on our drive in, and it seems like a lively and fascinating place. I’m looking forward to exploring. I’ll keep you posted.

Oh… and a note to myself: in the future, don’t try to save a couple of hundred dollars on discount airfares for long trips. I’m somewhat grownup now and can afford to avoid the aggravation.