Helsinki port. Seagulls are cawing around flower stalls giving residents an early morning wake-up. The sea smell is spreading in the air. Back at the corner, a building block made of red bricks is warming in the summer sunshine.
Once it served as a warehouse for salt but nowadays it is the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. A classic design interior makes for a cozy atmosphere while young reporters are entering. Most of them will become my future friends. We still visit each other around the globe.
Memories are coming back while I am thinking of returning to Finland.
A decade later I can still feel the taste of Salmiakki, that powerful black liquor. Its magic used to give me a special performance. I could easily practice Finnish language, always trying to be a good student.
“Sinulla on kauniit siniset silmät” (You have beautiful blue eyes) was my first phrase. The answer used to be: “Anteeksi?” (Sorry?).
Yeah… not all Finnish girls have blue eyes. But again, Salmiakki. And its side effects.
For a young journalist, who recently had started to work for the international section of a newspaper, that Summer was a milestone.
Travelling from the southern coast of Turku to the northern deep forest in Lapland while talking to artists, indigenous people, politicians, writers, computer experts, or just drinking a coffee at the market square and chatting with a waiter gave me an essence of journalism – to go out on the street and watch the world through the eyes of a child.
I’ll always remember the words of our Foreign Correspondents’ Programme coordinator: “The biggest room in the world is one for additional knowledge”. In her mature age she started to learn the modern Greek language at home, after already speaking so many other languages. No surprise why Finland is so well ranked in education and gender equality.
Almost a decade later I am coming back with the same enthusiasm.
I am curious to see what is nowadays going on with the welfare state and if Marimekko has changed its own design. It will be great to feel a nice walk through a forest and by a lake. Nature is the place where Finnish spirit lives.
I am also happy to see old friends and to meet new ones. I am looking forward to rekindle some contacts. And who knows, maybe even Santa Clause and me become friends. Every year he loses himself on the way to my place. Probably due the global warming. Or he just doesn’t like journalists.
Anyway, I am sure Nobel Peace prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari could resolve this case.
As Finland always has some interesting stories and angles, my forthcoming visit will be also useful for reporting. Doubtless, it will be a nice opportunity to present the Finnish society to our audience. To shed some light on its hopes and fears, giving a voice to people who will preside the EU for the next six months.
For a foreign correspondent, whose first international spot was there, it will be challenge and pleasure.
In the end I have to apologize for sending these lines after the (agenda) deadline. Not very Finnish style.
But this is because while I am writing this, I crossed my fingers for the Finnish ice-hockey team which is just competing at the World Cup in Slovakia, so my typing has slowed down.
What football means for Croatia, ice-hockey means for Finland.
Well, I have no doubts, the celebration party will still take place when we go there. So go Finland, we expect the title! But please, keep me a glass of Salmiakki!