5:30 a.m. I get up chirping away and turn on the TV to once again see Michael Jackson’s fans go hysterical in jubilation. It appears that there is plenty of time to spare before I need to leave for the ferry terminal. I take a while in the shower, carefully pack in the bedlinen and bodycare items from the night, preparing soon to bid farewell to the country of my residence over the past nine months. Moikka, Suomi! The difficult moments of goodbyes are gone through, memories of time spent with church friends tearing up my heart in shreds. What a great community – thank you, St. Nicholas of Helsinki. This morning though, my mind is set on the imminent departure. The shadow of Riga is looming over, and I am still sure there is tonnes of time left for various morning rituals.
6:45 a.m. I should sort of leave as soon as possible, as 70 kg of luggage are patiently awaiting in the hall, the hair is wet and quite certainly undone, the floor is un-hoovered, the Michael Jackson fans are still rejoicing, and oh – my weight’s not enough to get that suitcase to close. Inviting a neighbour to help might not be a good idea, and after a while I reach the desired outcome by jumping up and down on the suitcase. Something inside cracks. I hope it was not my keyboard rubbing against the iron.
6:55 a.m. I take out the computer in despair. It can wait to be picked up next spring. 70 kg of luggage may be fine when a few people are travelling, but a frail 21-year-old female could be struggling. In addition, I gain a few square decimeters of luggage space for last moment items like hairdryers, towels, yesterday’s outfits, and favourite toy sheep called Dolly. She does not fit in and has to be stuffed into the separate plastic bag for the down blanket. Why on earth have I not taken it to Riga earlier? Now I will be walking around Helsinki with sheep glaring out from just behind my shoulder. Lovely.
7:00 a.m. I am out of the door, and, hesitating, I leave the key inside for my friend to pick up. Now all bridges are burnt, and I begin the camelling work downstairs. 70 kg is much heavier than I have thought, and the walk is bulky in the least. The situation is hopeless, and I carry only two suitcases at the time, returning for the big bag and the sheep’s bundle afterwards. The double distance for every meters adds to the pressure. It is well past 7 a.m. and there is no sight of me getting into the metro yet.
7:15 a.m. Just as I am dragging all bags into the lift to get down to the trains, the door shuts into my face and I see the cabin moving down at the speed of a flegmatic snail. Excuse me, but half of my stuff is already in. Knowing Finns’ general curiosity, I can only imagine how long it might take for whoever gets my “parcel” downstairs to figure out what to do. It takes ages indeed, and finally a typical Finnish lady walks out with a bicycle, but there is no sight of my bags. Oh sorry, she has left them downstairs not knowing what to do. Crooked smile across my face, and a “kiitos”, which is probably the most heavily used word in Finland. Thank you, miss, I just hope my bags are still there and not in some drunkards’ home by now.
7:20 a.m. I am supposed to be miles away from here boarding a bus to the ferry terminal this very minute, and get incredibly nervous. I am stuck outside the centre of Helsinki, having just missed a metro, already bleeding and screaming at the outstanding weight of my belongings, being stared at in the best Finnish fashion (nobody likes to stand out from the crowd, while a young girl dragging a horseload certainly does, shame on her), and frantically designing a plan B. The plan is soon ready. I will get off two stops earlier, walk up to the Rautatientori (Railway Station Square), and try for another bus, No 15A. This one might still be running to help me make it in time for the ferry. The ferry leaves in 40 minutes. Plenty of time. Or is it?
7:30 a.m. I arrive at Rautatientori, and, of course, I have not a slightest clue where the lift can be. By this point, I have developed a horrifying cough, which I blame on the same weight all over my aching shoulders, back, and arms. The last thing I want to do is die in Finland half an hour before my path to freedom, so I try to be a man and take a lift up. Unfortunately, this lift is only halfway up, and there is a maze of multiple escalators, entrances, and exits in front of me… wait a minute, also behind me. I know Helsinki well, but the lifts definitely make up a lacuna in my experience. Where can one be? I wonder off to the northern part, scare off some kids with their parents, but Finns do not like to ask questions. My magic phrase, “Missä on hissi?” (“Where is the lift?”) is met with suspicion and incredible procrastination. I do not blame the people I see. I would be suspicious enough seeing a shaking girl with suitcases twice the size of her, coughing like an old sea captain, tears all over the swollen face, and pathetic Finnish language attempts. Add the blood on the inside of her elbows for the full picture, and you almost get a perfect junkie stereotype. Maybe that’s why the vartija / guards get interested in me, and I am finally shown to the lift. Aha, it is actually at the opposite part of the station, but the guards help me a little. We get out, and I see the taxis lined up ahead. That could be a solution. Bye, guards, and kiitos.
7:40 a.m. The price to the Länsiterminaali is bearable, and I get inside, although the driver seems unhappy having to pack my things inside his trunk. The car begins its wonderful journey of short hauls from one traffic light to another. I freak out at every stop, and soon the driver looks worried. Sorry, sir, I cannot help it, I have Russian roots and am generally emotional and hate being late. Enough explanation? Why have you turned here? There is a traffic jam ahead, and it might make sense to drive for over 1 km to overtake it. What a Finnish way of sorting things, for goodness sake, runs through my head, but I am too weak to react.
7:55 a.m. We are out of the traffic jam, and the boarding was supposed to have ended 10 minutes ago. I tell my driver to better stop and kick me out, or else I might suffocate in tears and the overall lack of sleep from the previous night. It does not work.
7:59 a.m. Finally at the ferry terminal. Past experience has taught me never to look for lifts again, and I load everything on the escalator, praying that it might not collapse under me. Second floor, rush to the check-in desk, I am most obviously late, am I not? No, you are not, says the blond Finnish girl, gives me a smile and exchanges my ticket for the boarding pass. This cannot be true. I run to the passport check, lose my passport and ticket on the way, get it from a helpful old Finn, shock the customs with all particulars already described, and see the door to the ferry passage shut. Not properly shut, as it turns out, and I am soon out facing a long corridor, leading to the – ferry. Through blood circling in my eyes, I can only see men in bright orange overalls walking to the ferry entrance to bolt it. The next second, I scream No! Wait! Stop! Help! Ei! Odota! I run with 70 kg for several tens of meters and feel the floor disappearing underneath. Then I see the familiar Eckeröline stewards running out, taking the bags out of my hands, hurrying me into the entrance – to the ferry! – pushing me inside, and the door shuts behind, and the ferry starts moving.
8:05 a.m. I wake up from a short collapse. Everything hurts and the bags are in a bit of a mess around, but there is Dolly looking at me with her toy look, there is plenty of water in my rucksack, there are hazy images of Helsinki outdoors, and the emotionless voice on the receiver begins its trademark “hyvät matkustajat…”.
And then I know that I have made it, despite own stupidity and poor planning. That deserves a loud outcry of joy!