As unlikely as it sounds, there has been some relation between Finland—some of its people―and I. Some mysterious connection: a part tragic, but mostly wonderful. This is the story of my Finnish experience.
It all began before I actually left Colombia on my trip to Sweden. Just a few months before my travel, I saw in Bogotá The Man Without a Past by Aki Kaurismäki. This was around summer 2004. At that moment I didn't even know where Finland was, I didn't even know the movie was Finnish, and as a matter of fact, I didn't even know it was spoken in Finnish. I did notice that people in the movie behaved extremely weird, on the 'way below average' part of the spectrum of social awkwardness. They were like robots with a very limited capability of expressing human emotions. I left the cinema wondering if the people in that country really behaved in such an unusual way... it wasn't until spring time 2005, that I met the first Finnish people. I was in Riga taking an international course on Biohydrogen Systems Analysis. Talking with them I found out for the first time that Aki Kaurismäki and his movie were Finnish and came to the realization that unlike the movie, Finnish people seemed pretty normal.
Later during the winter of 2006 (at the beginning of the year) I was sent to Turku, by the Finnish west cost, to join a laboratory for a couple of weeks in order to learn some new techniques. In this laboratory I was going to be trained by a Chinese senior PhD student, who I'll call here Miss MaoMao; she was on her early thirties and was always on turbo mode. There was also another woman that instructed me, this one from Russia, probably late forties or early fifties, let's call her Mrs. Stalin, she had short hair, probably more muscular than I was, she reminded me of a soldier, no one ever taught her how to smile. As you might have started suspecting, my days in Turku suddenly became a torture, thanks to these two women. About twelve hours of work a day including Saturdays! My only repose was when I arrived home every night exhausted.
For some unexpected reason Mrs. Stalin hated me at first sight. The first thing she said to me when we were introduced was: “here we are very clean!” I can still see her rigid stony face. Then I had dreadlocks... the reason of her hatred? You don't need to be very open minded to be a scientist, I concluded. Later on, I was going to use a piece of equipment to measure the pH of a buffer solution. The machine was switched off and because I was a stranger in the lab I didn't dare to use it on my own. To my misfortune the only person in the room was Mrs. Stalin. I asked her: “Excuse me, Mrs. Stalin, do you know how to use this pH-meter?” She turned red, she was furious, walked towards me with huge strides and yelled waving her hands in desperation: “TANAI! YOU DO EVERYTHING WRONG!” I was startled. What was wrong WITH HER?
At the same time Miss MaoMao didn't give me a break. She would repeat every five minutes: “it is not like that, that's wrong.” The last day at work I was about to explode in anger. If it was the middle ages I could have probably cut them half with my two-handed great sword of justice! I still don't understand why they hated me so much. Perhaps they were overwhelmed with my amazing personality or maybe they were intimidated by my blinding handsomeness? I'm not really sure.
It was not all bad. There was somebody that made my days a little lighter. Let's call her Josephine. She was the stereotypical Finnish woman, thirty years old but you wouldn't really know, blond, blue-eyed. She was slim, cute, nice for a change. Besides, her Spanish was perfect, she told me she was in a relationship with a man from Ecuador and had visited South America a few times. She was really kind and invited me to join her to a salsa night on a club. It was a Latin night and she was going with her Peruvian girlfriend, who was a salsa instructor. In the nightclub we met her students. The salsa students were hilariously awkward, they came straight out from a Kaurismäki's movie.
At that time I was going out with this Swedish girl. We had a very special connection and I was very attracted to her. She was not your stereotypical Swedish girl, she was brunette, her skin was darker than mine, very prone to laughter, exceedingly hot. We flirted a lot but nothing really happened between us because she had a boyfriend in San Diego. We hung out very often, yet she had to wait for me to go to Finland to send me a text message saying the following: “Tanai, I have feelings for you”. I couldn't believe my eyes when I read that message, it drove me crazy... in my inexperience, I answered that I also had feelings for her. She replied to that: “but it can not be because I have a boyfriend.” Bullshit... I concluded she was just playing with my feelings.
I left Turku without any more crazyness. I met Miss MaoMao and Mrs. Stalin many times again at international conferences. Contrary to my first impressions Miss MaoMao was a pretty nice woman, a little out of her mind, but nice... I think Mrs. Stalin still throws knives to a picture of my rasta face every night before going to bed.
A year later, there was a conference in Uppsala organized by my lab. All of them were there, including Josephine. I was never interested in her, however I was about to discover that she was infatuated with me even though she was seven years older. During the entire conference I paid her almost no attention at all, but she had a plan... there was a banquette the last night of the conference, and once the dinner was over she made her move and invited me to dance. I accepted gladly not knowing her true intentions. After that we and some of the young people went to a bar to continue drinking... she got drunk and very bold. I don't have to describe what happened later... that night the boy died and a man was born. She was that good.
A year later, more or less, I met another Finnish woman. She was friends of friends. This time just six years older than me. I remember when I saw her eyes for the first time, I was stunned, I had never seen such color before, her eyes were yellow, as if made of gold, really beautiful. It was midsummer day, we ended up wasted on wine. I ended up at her place but we were way too drunk for any real action to happen. After that I invited her for dinner at my place, I tried to reignite the fire, this time sober, but she rejected me. Nevertheless, things didn't end there... a pattern started to arise: we always met at our friend's parties, got wasted, danced, made out, but nothing really happened. We never got any more serious than that. I don't know for how long did that happened. In any case, she became a good friend, she had a hard exterior but inside she was very sweet.
Yet all those past memories are shadowed now. Shodewed by the sun of my days, the moon of my nights, the woman I love, she who was born from ice, the Finnish woman that stole my heart. I told you before, dear reader, how I met her. She was on holidays in Paris and the day we met simply love was. How unusual is that? How unlikely? Montería, Tornio, Paris. It's extraordinary and amazing because, regardless of our different cultures and radically different origins, it's as if we always knew how to love each other right. When could I have imagined I was going to find that on a person from Finland? Now she's changing my life in unpredictable ways.
So the Finnish experience goes on.