Greetings from behind ua1d64.elisa.omakaista.fi.
The .fi at the end stands for Finland, of course, which is to be my home
for the next few weeks (months?). Two weeks ago, who woulda thought we’d
see me plodding through snow-covered streets to see what I could see? I
think I’m getting a bit ahead though, let me go back to the beginning.

Friday night saw me successfully catch flight LH573 to Frankfurt
Airport, albeit by the skin of my teeth. After queueing for 20 minutes,
the credit card gods decided not to honour my banking facility at the
monetary exchange area at Joburg International. This was, of course
directly related to the spending spree which took place the day before.
What ensued was a dash to the bank, to withdraw the necessary cash at
the teller, which involved standing in a queue for another twenty
minutes. Another ten minutes back at the forex counter before the
computer systems decided to crash. Time to go queue at a different forex
counter… another 15 minutes.

So I got the cash, said abbreviated goodbyes and moved through to the
customs area, where in true South African style, just to remind you that
you have not left Africa yet, behold another 10 minute queue. A minute
or so after slipping thru customs, there it went – my trip flashed
before my eyes – as I heard something along the lines of “Mr Dewberry is
requested to board immediately at Gate 22…”. A second later I was at
the gate, the target of a handful of “you’re late, punk!” eyes. More
eyes upon reaching the plane (A special bus was commisioned for myself
and one other late gentleman) – This time the eyes were saying “Sie sind
später Mutterbumser” or something like that – I couldn’t translate the
German properly.

Anyway I was safe on the plane and nobody was gonna stop me now, that
much seemed sure.

Two movies and a coupla whiskies later I thought I would be sufficiently
ready to pass out. Not so, said the cattle-class seat under my extremely
numb ass. Despite me fortunately having a little extra leg room being
behind the galley, my chair did its utmost to prevent me from any
semblance of sleep. Fortunately I had the company of a pretty, young
(married) South-African-turned-German girl through the flight. Well, I
had the company of her and her 7 month old child.

The food on the flight turned out to be quite good. Good for prison
food, that is. The taste improved immensely after a swig of whisky.

A number of bleary-eyed hours later we descended at 5 in the morning
upon a misty, cloudy Frankfurt Airport. Extra security had been put in
place especially for my arrival, but this just involved a quick glimpse
at my passport. And then it was off to find a spot to chill and read my
book on “Terrorism : The new world war” in the middle of a high-alert
facility for a few hours. The whole airport is enabled for wireless lan
– there is so much bandwidth in Europe it is scary.

Fortunately my experince at JIA taught me an important lesson – find
where you need to be early!! So just over an hour before my boarding
time I headed off through customs in search of gate A28.
And am I glad I did – it took nearly half an hour to get to the gate for
my flight. The gate was also moved twice after I found the right one,
but in the end I found a plane to Helsinki.

Landing in Helsinki was amazing. As we descended all one could see was
the odd house or factory in between the trees, and white snow coating
everything. Fortunately it was a beautiful sunny day which just made it
even more spectacular.

The airport turned out to be tiny, with a handful of planes parked
outside. We were quickly off the plane and out to collect baggage and do
the customs thing again, which was basically a non-event.
Fortunately, despite my lateness and the changing of the terminals my
suitcase managed to find me quite easily.

A short taxi ride found me in Espoo, at the Scandic Hotel, a first class
hotel with indoor swimming pool and four saunas on the sixth floor. They
are also running a wireless lan for any guest to use – broadband speeds
(up to 2 Meg/s) for 15 Euros flat fee. I really should’ve bought a card
before I left, but time beat me on that one. A scary thought is that the
network is unencrypted. Very bad, in my opinion, but its not my problem yet.

I think that is where this episode ends. Be sure to catch the next
installment – featuring Shaun catching a snow-covered train, how to buy
a wireless lan card in finland, and how to get a bus to stop when you’re
waiting at a bus stop. Look forward also to an account of Helsinki, the
capital city, and information on why your cellphone and credit card
probably will not work in Europe.

Here’s hoping your weather is worse than mine…

Regards to everybody,

Shaun.