Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"And so I find myself ... conflicted"

[If you can identify that quote, you win a prize] That's how I would describe myself as I crossed the border from Russia back into Finland. I decided to save some money and take the bus to Helsinki last night instead of the train. It wasn't bad at all. There were a lot of very talkative old ladies who only spoke Russian, but that was to be expected.
I can't quite decide how I feel today. I'm glad to be moving on, that's for sure. But I'm not sure if it's due to my tendency to get fed up with staying in one place for too long or because the country was driving me up the wall. It's probably both. Russia is definitely an ... interesting experience. And coming back to Helsinki has accentuated how different it really is.
I didn't realize how much I like Helsinki until we pulled in this morning and I saw all the familiar buildings surrounding me. It's so clean and charming. And there is a lot more of a western feeling about the city. For example, I went to the grocery store this morning to get something for breakfast. I was completely oblivious to the fact that the produce section had those little self-service sticker-makers like we have at home and got in line to pay for my yogurt, [real] milk, and apple. When the checker lady saw that I didn't have a sticker she asked about it and I said I didn't know - she simply went to get one put on it. I was rather embarrassed and apologized profusely to the woman behind - who smiled understandingly at my inability to function in the western world. In Russia, the situation would have been completely different. The checker would have freaked out and run screaming from the register. Okay, maybe not. But it would have been a much bigger deal. In fact, I made a somewhat similar mistake one day in St. Petersburg and the results were terrifying. Also, if it had been a Russian lady behind me in line, she would have started yelling at me, and would have started yelling even louder if I said I was foreign and didn't know any better.
As harsh as situations such as this may sound, I definitely missing the uniquiness of St. Petersburg. It's a personality of it's own. I can't wait to go to Irkutsk. I have a feeling that it will be completely different, not only from St. Petersburg but from anywhere I've ever been.
But first, I have to survive a weekend in Amsterdam.
The countdown has begun. T-minus 17 hours and 45 minutes.

No comments: