Suomi Five! A Repeat Visitor

Guest post by Chris Sanders – an almost Finn…

Ok, so the title of this entry requires some explanation….Suomi means “Finland” in Finnish – its how the Finns call their country.  So where does the “Five” come in? Well, let me explain…

Recently, I was pondering all the places I’ve visited outside of the US since I started traveling abroad in 1991.  For a while in the early days of “exploration,” I was accumulating two trips abroad a year!…as I tried to recall all the destinations, I decided it best to grab pen and paper and start a list. Starting in sequence, I began the list…England, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Finland, France, and so on and so on…when the list was complete, I began to add up the number of times I’d been to individual countries…I couldn’t wait to see which country had the highest number of visits…much to my surprise…at the top of my list was…not France, not Italy, not Ireland…no, it was…are you ready???  SUOMI…with five separate and distinct visits! 

 

 

 

 

 

So, how did I come to visit this Nordic county of 5 million people…this home of Nokia…this land of Conan O’Brien lovers – so many times??? Well, here is what I remember of the five times and how they came about…

  1. My first visit occurred in 1996 while I was an exchange student at International School of Economics (ISER) in Rotterdam. As part of that experience, I met a couple of Finns with whom I became friends. After the semester ended, they returned to Finland and I decided to visit. During that visit, I was actually able to see several cities and towns including: Helsinki, Lappeenranta, Mikkeli, and Kouvola.
  2. My second visit happened in the winter of 2000.  I remember considering various places to visit…and thought Finland would be great – after all, at that time, it had been 4+ years since I had visited with my Finnish friends. I don’t recall much of the visit, except that I stayed a few extra days and I ended up going into the local office of the firm for which I worked.
  3. The third time I visited Finland was in 2001. At the time I was working on a consulting gig in Stockholm and – get this – in order to obtain my work visa, I had travel to a US Embassy outside of Sweden…Finland just next door was a likely choice. As usual, I took the opportunity to visit my Finnish friends. This visit was lively – I remember meeting several friends at the Helsinki Club (http://www.helsinkiclub.com/). I also remember catching a live comedy performance of an American comedy troop – a bit awkward.
  4. 2001 saw yet another visit to Suomi, my forth – to explain how I came by this visit deserves a set up. You see, while living in Stockholm, I  joined a jazz band (attempting to revive the trombone skills I developed – and sadly left – in High School). The band’s name was Mercblecket – it was associated with the Stockholm School of Economics…so there I was, in this band in Stockholm…attempting to remember how to play the trombone during weekend jam sessions. During one such session, I learned the band actually had an upcoming gig…yep, we were going on tour…and guess where??? Yep, Suomi. We loaded the band on the overnight “party ferry” to a town called Turku (or Abo in Swedish). We played a great concert at a small college winter formal event – and it was a blast! I dont think I slept for more than 3-4 hours the whole weekend. Incidentally, some of the folks I jammed with went on to form a band called the Turkish Jury – look them up…http://hoverby.com/turkish/index.html
  5. Ok, so now we come to number 5 – the “5” in “Suomi 5″ – my fifth visit to Finland took place in 2003 – when my wife and I traveled to Helsinki for the wedding reception of one of my Finnish friends…it was fun! We were only there a few days (we combined the trip with a visit to Italy)…I remember most fondly dancing at a jazz club called Storyville Jazz club (http://www.storyville.fi/). My wife tells me that several hour into the night, I paid $50 to hear Georgia on My Mind…and I apparently bought a round of bourbon and coke’s for several new friends…ahh, those were the days…

So there you go, five times, five visits to Finland – the Suomi Five!

Have you been to Suomi? Tell us about it!

Chris

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