Right now, we're doing our version of "camping without bugs." Our furniture and other household items were supposed to arrive earlier this week, but due to circumstances beyond our control (which I think will be a common theme the next few years!), they have been delayed by more than a week. We are making do with our new IKEA sofa sleeper, our new European TV (full of all sorts of American shows) and some basic kitchen necessities. Needless to say, I'd like my stuff. And soon.
Mike has been working this week and I have been recovering from jet lag and scouting the area. We live in a great neighborhood overlooking a former ship building yard and marina for sailboats and yachts. We live in a 9 story building that is one of the newest in Helsinki (built in 2003) and is quite nice. The first floor includes the S Market, which is a large supermarket chain, a pharmacy and a liquor store. We can get to all of them without going outside. As the high temperatures are only in the 50s (and it's the beginning of September!), I think this will prove quite useful in the winter!
View from our apartment
We have a tram stop right outside that takes us into the city center in about 5 minutes. I will be able to take the tram to IBM once I start working towards the end of the month. Mike will take our car to work each day. Speaking of our car, we picked up my Murano this morning in a small town about an hour outside of Helsinki. We took the train to get there and then drove home. We are trying to be really cognizant of the speed limits here as speeding ticket fines are 10% of your annual income. You may find this story interesting about the highest priced speeding ticket ever in the world. It just so happens the guy with this claim to fame is Mike's boss, Anssi.
My favorite story so far is about yesterday's adventure and I think is a perfect example of how two people can look at the same situation and have such different opinions about it. Mike and I are similar in a lot of ways, but we definitely have some key differences! Mike had inadvertently left his US cell phone on the airplane when he flew here in August. He checked with Lost and Found at FinnAir and was told he needed to register a claim with the Finland National Lost Property Service. If FinnAir found the phone, it would be turned over to this service. The service is actually used by most companies in Finland as a central Lost and Found repository. Mike had basically written off ever seeing the phone again. Lo and behold, we got a letter in the mail this week that said the phone had been found and could be picked up for the cost of 18 Euros or mailed to him for the cost of 30 Euros. I decided to take a field trip to get the phone. The Lost Property Service office is amazing. Hundreds of white bins with people's lost stuff. There was an umbrella stand that had at least 20 found umbrellas. I gave them our piece of paper and the woman brought back the phone. She knew when and where it had been lost. I paid my 18 Euros and left. I wonder what other treasures are there and what they do with the stuff that is never claimed . . .
Now for the funny part. Our take on the situation is very different. I was going on and on to Mike about how I think it is so great they found the phone and we got it back for only 18 Euros! That would never happen at home. Someone would have found the phone and kept it. (I am sure you can all hear me blathering on.) Mike's take on the situation - I can't believe that Lost and Found charged me 18 Euros to give me back my phone!
I think that story sums up what our overall experience here will be. It's different than home. How we both view it won't always be the same. There are parts that we will view as better than the US, worse than the US, or just different than the US, and we won't always feel the same. At the end of the day, though, we'll do it together and I think we'll learn a lot. Not just about Helsinki and the Finns, but ourselves, too.
On a side note, as if we haven't had lots of announcements already this summer, we do have a little bit more news to share. In about 6.5 months, we plan to welcome an addition to our family. We're expecting a baby on March 4, 2011! This little Sprout, or McBaby, will be a wonderful addition to this our lives and this experience and we are sure it will make it all the more exciting (and overwhelming and scary!!)! We couldn't feel more blessed.
We hope you stick around to hear more about our adventures - in Helsinki, and as parents.