Friday, 31 August 2012

an american in Helsinki

Mark hasn't stopped talking since we arrived and carried our bags up to his fourth floor appartment.  It's years since we've chatted to an American and we have forgotten what it's like.  It's like the movies. The flat is in a low-rise block, one of many, in that socialist utopian style we've seen in Sweden.  And, like Sweden, it feels and looks good.  We're out of the centre here but the bike paths have made it easy to reach.  Mark's appartment has been decorated by a graffiti artist - with a wall in each room spray painted to great effect - even featured in a magazine, which Mark proudly shows us.  Mark doesn't stop talking and it doesn't take long for Lily, his daughter, to also start chattering, and before we know it we're eating tea and feeling like we've known them for years.  Why are Americans so uninhibited? 

Perhaps this is the wonder of Couch-Surfing - we are hosted by someone who is ready to greet strangers into their home and life and although in the 'normal' world this would sound like madness, in reality it is the most natural and affirmative act.  Mark makes us laugh.  He tells us about his work as an artist - he's a photographer - and how he makes a living as a free-lance copy writer/editor, doing smooth American voiceovers (his voice is perfect for this), and also promoting the work of other local artists by connecting them with local businesses with work-place exhibitions.  He is undoubtedly a full-time networker, as he has to be, and has lived here for 14 years.  It's easy to see why - the city is wonderful.  Inevitably though, as with all the Nordic countries, we wouldn't envy the long winter.
Mark and Lily ready to join the fray on the busy bike paths

We ride into the city the next day with Mark and Lily, who has just started kindergarten.  We are shown the scenic route along the coast through green parkland before we join the madding crowd over a long bridge into the centre.
Gayle had to explain this to me: 8 bikes take up only the space of one parked car
We mooch about and act like tourists for a couple of days here.  There are still plenty of other tourists around and the cruise ships decant more each morning, but the city's big enough to cope and there are not too many 'hotspots' where everyone gathers and coaches stack up to belch out another mob of gawkers.

The mornings are misty and the days sunny.  By the time we leave on the boat to Tallinn, we are feeling very relaxed and slothful......

No comments:

Post a Comment