The wheel starts turning. My journey to the Silk Road has started. At last, a real blog about where I am and where I just was, as opposed to fake blogs about where I hadn’t gone yet but wanted to go. Maybe fake is a it too unkind, a bit too Donald. They were aspirational and inspirational, at least for me.
The flight from Dublin to Helsinki was about 30mins late but that was not a problem. They’ve done a good job on refurbishing Terminal 1 in Dublin Airport, I thought to myself so the wait’ll be grand. It allowed me time to have a proper meal. I rarely eat meat but the braised beef looked a treat so, naturally, I treated myself. It was delicious and the portions were huge. I was glad that my weight allowance was for external weight as including the meal might have topped the scales.
I tried to remember the last time I ate beef but I couldn’t. I think it was a steak I had several years ago. I remember that it laid in my delicate vegetarian tummy for hours until, well, you know, nature and all that. Say no more.
This one was different. When I disremembered that I was eating the carcass of a sentient being, I tucked in. Amazing the power of a little soucon of denial and suppression. I’m very good at this dark art! There was a lot of beef but I think it was braised for hours and was very tender. But, being meat, it was unsatisfying to me. The sauce was delicious through and was complex and spicy. The combination of the meat and the sauce worked. They also served spuds. A meal without spuds is not a meal. Bejasus, it’s not. They were sliced and deep fried. I know there’s a name for this but I cannot remember it. They were great. There was a red cabbage stewed with tiny berries whose name I cannot remember and this was delicious. It tasted Polish or central European. I had something similar in Warsaw last year and it was memorable. Not your Irish green cabbage boiled within an inch of its life so all that’s left is an enduring smell. Finally, they had a ‘medley’ of vegetables. What a daft word to describe boiled vegetables. As if they has some choice in the matter and were being artistic and quirky. They were nice through; a sort of ratatouille. Now, that’s a great name for cooked vegetables. Trust the French to excel in matters gastronomical.
I am training myself not to use any of my tech when eating and to just concentrate on the food and notice what’s happening around. It really makes the food taste better. It lasts longer too or seems to, when I’m being nominally aware of what I’m doing. I noticed several families around me, Dad, Mam and a few kids. There was one family of parents and 4 kids from a toddler to around 4 or 5. There was also a family of parents and three young teens. All seemed very functional and loving and all seemed to have friendly, mutually regarding relationships with each other. I reflected on what my life might has been like had I a similar start in life instead of the abusive and violent one I had. As I touched these memories I felt the same old sadness and accompanying shame flood into awareness. Emotions, shamotions. Then I thought, as I frequently do, that the word emotion consists largely of the word motion and suggests movement. I thought of the effort I had made to transform shit into rich fertile compost where fine roses now bloom. Then I had another mouthful of my fine meal and thought about something else. A complex aftertaste lingered.
The flight itself was pretty enjoyable. I don’t often use the word ‘flight’ and ‘enjoyable’ in the same sentence. This was because the plane was only about a third full. This meant that it was two thirds empty so I had a whole row to myself. It helped too that the the airline was Finnair so, lots of Scandinavian cool. This extended to the temperature too so no mosquitoes around! The journey was only 2hrs 25mins so I read and snoozed until we touched down in Helsinki.
When I first saw the lights of Helsinki as we were landing, I felt the old familiar fierce excitement I get when arriving in a new place. Woohoo, I’m travelling again.L
Being Scandanavian, the airport was pretty nice looking with lots of blond wood and sharp design. As I was walking towards passport control, it was now 11:30pm local time, I noticed that all the workers walking around in hiviz jackets were dark-skinned and that the people manning the desks wore suits and were blond. Modern Europe. Not that different in Ireland, I suppose.
My passport wouldn’t work in the automatic scanning machine so I walked along the line of border police kiosks and went to the one with the cutest cop. “My passport doesn’t work” I said to the this blond Nordic god of a policemen. He scanned it in his machine. “your chip doesn’t work” he said. “Must be my magnetic personality” I said to him but not the glimmer of a smile. Ah well, I thought to myself. Zest la vye….
I mentioned in an earlier blog that I had booked a sleeping pod in the airport because I didn’t fancy travelling late at night trying to find me hotel. Anyway, the prices were eye-watering. I walked around the silent airport trying to find the sleeping pod area but it was cunningly disguised. I get a kick out of seeing things from a different perspective and enjoyed the sight of the dim sleeping airport knowing how loud and manic they can appear when busy. It reminded me of visiting the primary school where my father taught when the school was empty. A silent school almost seems like an affront to nature. The absence of hundreds of children’s voices shouting with exuberance at the sheer joy of being alive and in the moment seemed to shock the air into frozen stillness. I could imagine the dust motes and chalk dust transfixed in the heavy silence.
I finally found a security guy, a cute you; beginning to notice a theme here? I asked him where the sleeping area was and he told me I’d have to check in to the Schengen Zone part of the terminal where it was located. How strange, I thought, I hope I can get back out again. I went back through security again and took my belt off etc etc. The metal detector didn’t ping this time. Good. I finally found the area and checked in and got ready for a good night’s sleep. But that was not to be.
The whole sleeping pod thing was an exercise in oddness and strangeness. It was almost as if a committee of well off folk, the sort who can can easily afford hotels and would never dream of sleeping in an airport, designed the whole thing. Nothing really worked properly or intuitively. Maybe they were Calvinists who believed, either explicitly or implicitly, that being poor was god’s judgement on your lack of moral fibre and that the poor, either deserving or undeserving, should suffer a thin gruel portion of charity. Or maybe they were incompetent or just cutting corners to get the best profit out of their endeavour. Whatever the reason, the pods weren’t very smart. Very different to what was advertised on booking.com. Very noisy too, as there was no partition separating them from the main concourse which came alive with piercingly loud announcements at 5am and Chinese people trying communicate directly with their kith and kin in China without the use of any technology, just good old fashioned voicepower alone.
Anyway, I was tired both physically and emotionally and was looking forward to a bit of bopeep, anywhere. I’d have gladly slept on a bed of nails. But sleep abandoned me and was immune to my entreaties. We were two hours later here so although my watch said 1pm, my usual bedtime in Dublin, my body clock said 11pm, middle of the afternoon, mate. I lay there awake and tired until 3pm-ish when I finally nodded off to an abrupt awakening at 5am by the above mentioned announcements. I soon nodded off again through and slept deeply until 8:30am. I got up, had some breakfast of delicious orange juice and endlessly refillable coffee. Very Scandinavian that. I went back to bed again at 10am and slept until noon. Blah, blah, blah.
I spent the afternoon in Helsinki rambling around and getting the feel of the place, as much as I could in a few hours. I liked the vibe of the place and the look of the people. Especially the blond ones. There were a lot of blond ones. I noticed, and looked again to make sure. Maybe an ancient ancestor of mine was pillaged and ravaged by the vikings way back in the day and I carry a viking gene but I sure like Scandinavians. Have I mentioned that before?
Lots more to say but I’m soon about to board my plane for Astana so will try to get this off ASAP. No piccies this time, I’m afraid, as I’m working on a tablet with low bandwidth.
More in a few days when I hit Kazakhstan. Hopefully not in a plane through.