My love for Finland started with my uncle telling me soothing stories about the Nordic countries. He even taught me an acronym for them: FINDS. Deep down I wondered if I’d ever get to visit at least one of them.
The odds weren’t promising. Travel isn’t exactly cheap from Nigeria. So I followed thisisFINLAND and Guide to Iceland accounts on Instagram and allowed myself to enjoy Scandinavia through social media. I was playing pretend, and it wasn’t too bad. But when FCP 2018 popped up on my Twitter feed, there was no question, I HAD to apply.
Look, this year has been tough. I’ve wanted to be a journalist since before I could remember, but kick-starting my career as a freelance reporter this year has brought a lot of lows. Rejected pitches, rejected stories, overdue paychecks; you know the drill. But once in a while, a ‘yes’ comes along. And this ‘yes’ has been by far, the most important ‘yes’ of my career.
I have goosebumps just thinking of the fact that Finland will be my home for the next month. That I’ll be representing Nigeria – a country I have an intense love-hate relationship with – at FCP 2018. That I’ll meet young journalists from 15 other countries with whom I can share reporting experiences: the down that comes with missing a deadline, the incredible feeling of bonding with a source, the beauty that is your piece after it gets published.
I want to say I’m ecstatic about this opportunity but I’m not sure the word quite captures how I feel, and it is an extravagant word, isn’t it? I am sure about a couple of things though: I’m ready to board a train for the first time and eager to understand how Finland’s transport system works because that’s something that we’ve never quite ironed out back home.
Finland has such an efficient transport system that owning cars become a redundant and unnecessary effort. Can you imagine that? In reality, Finnish transport must have a few woes too. Surely, something must make the country tick? I have so many questions.
I am greatly fascinated by the Finnish prisons system. Most countries barely have resources to cater for free citizens, talk less of providing amenities to inmates. What are open prisons like? Statistics say inmates are less likely to get back into the system. Who developed this brilliant idea? And how can it be replicated in countries like Nigeria, for example? Are there any flip sides to operating open prisons? Boy, I need answers.
Now, for the stunner. I’ll be meeting Daniel Amokachi, one of the greatest Nigerian footballers in history. Amokachi who is currently based in Oulu where he coaches football club, JS Hercules, is a legend in Nigeria. He scored a goal in the game that made the country the golden champions of the 1996 Olympics. To sit and interview someone whose victory embodied Nigeria’s greatness is going to be nothing short of life-changing.
And I can hardly wait to taste Finland. Fish and meat are a big part of Nigerian dishes, a similarity shared with Finnish cuisine that positively intrigues me. I’m excited to catch some of the sports that are unique to Finns as well: hobby-horsing, wife-carrying, maybe phone throwing.
It’s going to be a most Finnish summer in August. And what, pray tell, could be more awesome than that?