First days in Finland

We have been in Finland for a few days now. I’ve pretty well lost track of the time thanks to the crazy sleeping schedule that jet lag has given me. I typically respond to jet lag by sleeping a lot, but this time I’ve hardly slept more than three hours at a stretch. My body and sleep have always had a strained relationship, but it seems they may be on the point of filing for division of assets any day now. Hopefully a little more time in country will get me straightened out—probably just in time to fly home and do it all over again.
We are staying in Helsinki with Lissu for the first week and then heading up north to Oulu. Finland in summer is a special kind of beautiful, even here in the middle of the largest city. Coming to Finland in the summer no longer brings with it the same sense of relief as when we were coming from New York, but it is still a pleasure to be here. E. and I have started talking in a speculative but serious way about buying an apartment in or near Helsinki so we would have a place of our own to stay when we come here to visit, especially now that we both have steady jobs that allow us some good vacation time and we might like to visit Finland a little more often. It is still an idea in the “what if” realm and if anything ever does come of it, it won’t be for at least several years, but it is something we’re thinking about.
On Friday, E. and I had a little jaunt around the center, visiting some shops and paying a visit to the Ateneum National Gallery. There is a special exhibit on now of art depicting or inspired by Kalevala, the Finnish folk epic. It has some wonderful pieces ranging from Classical-inspired works of the Romantic era to modern interpretations. The show contains just about all of the most famous works of Kalevala art, including my very favorite, Sammon puolustus, which shows the hero Väinämöinen fighting off the villain Louhi, who has turned herself into a giant bird to swarm his ship with her warriors.
On Saturday we attended Ropecon, the major role-playing convention in Finland (yes, we know what it looks like to English speakers; it comes from roolipeli, “role-playing game”). Since I’ve never been to a role-playing convention in the States, I can’t properly compare them, but Ropecon it at least very different from the stereotype of gaming cons. One of the wonderful things about gaming as a hobby in Finland is that it seems to have broader appeal than the niche it finds elsewhere. The male/female ration was somewhere around 50/50, by my observation and the age range was from young teens to adults, including a lot of couples, some with their own small children. The atmosphere was buoyant and lively.
Since the guests of honor who are brought in to speak and give presentations at the con often come from abroad, there was a fair amount of programming in English for me to attend, and what I heard in Finnish I was also able to follow pretty well, I’m delighted to say. One of the guests  this year was from Denmark, part of a school that uses role-playing as a key part of its teaching. I was fascinated by his talk and got several good ideas from him. Afterwards I was part of a group that spent some more time talking with him and we exchanged some information about our various teaching methods.
E. spent a good part of the day at dance practice and then dancing at a ball held in the evening. The evening also featured a parade of larp (live action role-playing) costumes and a short musical and dance performance based on stories from Kalevala.


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