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Three score and ten or more

Monday, October 30, 2006

Before the tale today begins, a report of more serious matters. When I walked into my sweet wifes room today (Oct 30) she was working a cross word puzzle. Not her usual New York times level puzzle, but a cross word puzzle. She also, using a wheeled walker walked almost sixty feet, twice. She spent much of the rest of the time using me as a secretary to outline her next book.
That WAS impressive. She still confuses her dreams with reality (stroke you know) but the doctor says we can go home Nov. 13 (we'll miss the elections but what the heck) and she will go as a wheelchair travelor rather than a stretcher patient (saving me about 9000 Euros that I don't have anyway. It even looks like my supplemental insurance company may decide to allow the hospital to bill it directly, saving me another 90 plus thousand euros output (that I don't have. The world is good.

Back to October 1, the next morning

Ah the next morning we arose early dressed ourselves appropriately for a church service and set off nonchalantly to find such a service in our faith. Short journey.! As I backed the car down the drive that had served so well using only gravity, I got a little too close to the edge of the drive and the car slid about a foot to the right.. The automobile ceased its movement down the drive. All the wheels would now do was “spin” I got out of the car walked around to the passenger side, and groaned.
A friend of mine who is a geologist once told me that Finland is one of the worlds largest granite slabs, covered over with two or three feet of dirt. Right under my passenger side door was a portion of that slab that had penetrated the three feet of dirt, and stuck up about fourteen inches under my right hand side frame. I was “high centered” to a fair thee well.
Trying to protect my best suit (in fact the only suit I brought to Finland), I knelt down on a piece of cardboard to survey the problem. I found a solution. In fact by the time the darn car was moving again, I had found about four different solutions: First I jacked up the front of the car and tried to get a pile a cardboard I found in a convenient shed (probably a recycling center) under the front tire when it was jacked up a bit. When the power was applied to the wheel over the cardboard, the wheel shot the cardboard some twenty feet forward. Deciding that the problem was one of direction, I replace the cardboard, re-applied the power and the cardboard curled up in an almost impenetrable pile between the wheel and the rotten darn miserable rock that was secretly snickering in some mysterious Scandinavian troll language. (You know that trolls turn to rock in the light of day, but that doesn’t rob them of their sense of humor. Somewhere inside, I suspect that said rock/troll had been planning this since he first saw me gravitationally backing down the drive way). Then, with a flash of insight I determined to dig down and remove the rock. Using a coal scuttle and a convenient snow shovel, I dug down the side of the rock for about four feet (in spite of the plastic snow shovel’s tendency to bend double when any serious pressure was applied. It was at that moment that I remembered my geographer friend’s description of Finland as a vast slab of granite, and realized that my troll/rock friend when the sunlight hit him had fused to the core of the earth. Finally, I jacked up the entire right side of the car, and, using every piece of rock bigger than two inches and less that fourteen inches in sight (at least every one that I was man enough to carry) I built a solid track from a point about a foot in front of the front time to a point about two feet behind the rear tire (I was planning on going backward again.) This was done so skillfully that it was hard to differentiate between my rocks and the monster troll. I then jumped in the car and backed slowly down the hill, stopping only to get out, walk up to the stone, and, tempting fate, put my thumb to my nose and said NYAAA, NYAAA, NYYAAAA.
I then put my sweaty overweight seventy plus year old body, still encased in a suit that had looked quite reputable in the beginning, back in the car, and we drove away. It was about an hour and forty minutes later than I had planned to drive away, but away.
This was a conference Sunday. To those unfamiliar with Mormon customs, twice a year, once in April and again in October the church holds a General Conference. This means that on Saturday and Sunday the church holds two meeting a day that are broadcast live to virtually every Mormon center in the world. If the meeting were at 8:00 AM, the broadcast would be at 10: AM in New York City, or in Georgia, my home base. It is broadcast by short wave radio, by commercial radio, on Cable televison, on satellite television (the way most Mormons watch it) and even on the web, so that if you have access to the web, (We didn’t, good computer, no hook up) you can stay home put up your feet and watch your computer. We hadn’t carefully worked out the conference broadcast time table, but we figured we could find a ward(congregation) meeting house, and the schedule would be posted.
First task, zap into Helsinki where we know there are two or three or more ward buildings. When the zap was completed we stopped at a Shell station/ Minute Mart and collected all the local phone books, white pages and yellow, and looked for a church and an address. I couldn’t find a listing, neither could the two young men working in the place, for whom we became an informal project. We checked Yellow Pages under Churches (in Finnish of course) Congregations, Faiths, Sects, Religions, Social Services, and found none. The two young men were a little non-plussed to discover that they couldn’t even find phone numbers for the Lutheran Church, which is the State Church of Finland.
Okay, I remembered three addresses from my time as a missionary; one was on Pihlajatie, one was on Ullankatu, the other on Neitsytpolku.
After investing eleven euros in a Helsinki map with a good directory we quickly found Pihlajatie. It was only a few blocks from the Shell station, so we went there, drove up and down the street several times and found nothing that could be a Mormon chapel, not even a little one. We did find a nice Lutheran Church with facilities for Finnish Speaker and facilities for Swedish Speakers (Finland is an official bi-lingual country, and most Finns speak both languages, at least to some degree.) People were leaving the building so we stopped an elderly couple and asked if they knew of a Mormon church on Pihlajatie (I actually used the official name, but typing Myohempien Aikojen Pyhien Jeesuksen Kristuksen Kirkko over and over again is beyond my patience and skills, especially when the first “o” in the name is supposed to have two little dots over it, and I never can remember the formula for typing that, either). The lady replied in somewhat halting Finnish that there was none, but that they had built a new temple in Espoo which was beautiful, she had been out to see it. We actually knew that, since seeing the Temple was one of our purposes in coming here, so we looked up Espoo on the map, and we were off to Espoo (after having successful shifted into reverse to leave the parking place.).
When we found Espoo, we drove up and down all the streets we could find, and, no Temple. Since the lady from Helsinki knew where the place was, we assumed that some citizens of Espoo would also know. We asked several, and they all gave us the same directions which led to a smallish meeting house with the right name in front, but no one around. (It was the Espoo ward chapel, and it DIDN’T have an announcement on the door relating to the time and place of conference meetings.
We then decided to try for Neitsypolku or Ullankatu. For what it’s worth it has always been entertaining to Americans speaking Finnish that one of the principal Mormon meeting houses, and the headquarter of the Finnish Mission are on Neitsypolku, which means , in English, Virgin’s Path. (Actually it could be translated Virgin Path which could be a path that has never been traveled on, etc., but that’s not as much fun to talk about.)
I actually had some clue as to the placement of Neitsytpolku, since it was the building where my family attended church in 1966-67, but I had underestimated the difference between traveling on streetcars (then) and by auto (now), although we finally found the place only to find that the stairs leading inside had a locked gate in front. Muttering, to say the least, I walked around the building looking for back doors and found a basement room occupied by a custodian (not of the church, the meeting house and office occupy three floors of a multistory building. ) He shrugged and indicate that he didn’t know how to get in, so I walked back to the front of the building (where we were parked, illegally, I think) and was sorting out a few six pence, one penny and other coins left over from Great Britain, to throw up against the second floor window where I could see lights on, and occasional movement.). I had just cocked my arm to throw (which is an exaggeration since I am not really sure that my seventy plus old arm would actually succeed in throwing coins against a second story window), when the custodian came dashing out the front door to unlock the gate and show me how to open it by putting my hand through a slot and turning a handle. (I had known that something like this had to be possible, you don’t really lock the door to a church on Sunday very often.) After wandering through the building, I found the stair to the second floor (there was no notice of conference meetings on that chapel door either, what is the world coming to?) wandered up and found an American couple just a few years younger than I (isn’t everybody) sitting in an office taking telephone calls (I wonder how the callers found the number) Brother and Sister Johnson (great name, huh?) from America greeted me effusively, gave me a map to the temple site, and informed me that the only site receiving the conference down link was one in Haaga. (I had never been there and was about out of the urge to seek it out, but said “Thank you” and left.). We determined that, as the day was waning, we would follow the map out to the Temple site, drive around it, so that we would be sure to find it the next morning when the open-house was held, and then go back to our lodge in Isnas.This we did, finding the temple exterior rather remarkable and beautiful, then driving home where I hung up my now ratty suit, we made a meal of wonderful Finnish cheese and bread, indulged in a sauna, and went to bed, ready for the morrow

Sunday, October 29, 2006

To Britain and Finland part II.
Not quite on the ball, but, at least knowing where the ball is.

After our late wakening we began our day with a dose of kaura purro, (oat meal cereal to those who eat in English) with raisins and some toasted hapantaa (sour dough) rye bread and Edam cheese, continuing with an exploration of the area. I can’t for the life of me remember all the names, but we went down all the roads from this area to the next village or “kyla”. Our travel was, in part, dictated by the need to find places where I could turn around, since I still hadn’t figured out the reverse gear deal, but it was fairly extensive and we had a wonderful time. The leaves on the birch trees were just thinking about changing and trying on small bits of yellow and even showing bright caps of yellow at the crowns. Some of the other trees, maples, I believe were deep into change, appearing as bright balls of red scattered on the fringes of the yellow and green.

We took the “short” road into the town of Porvoo, reputed to be the second oldest in Finland. In part, I was looking for a bank where I could change some money in an ATM. ( I have long ago learned that ATM service charges don’t approach the service charges in the “money changer” booths.) in part, I was looking for the “old town” kept as a living museum and cluster of craft and antique shops. What I found was an ESSO station and minute mart flanked by McDonalds. ( Oh the Americanization of the rest of the world. So many of them hate us, but try to be us at the same time – an American trait if ever there was one.)
We crossed over the bridge, below which was an example of almost every conceivable small and medium sized boat, flanked on one bank by red apartment building, on the other by fish processing sheds. We went over to the Tori (outdoor marketplace that exists in every Finnish town of any size), but most of the booths were closing at the end of the day. We finally decided to head back home on our “short” road ( the long road is E18, a typical superhighway, but with the entrance fourteen twisting kilometers away; the short road is a two lane, beautiful little hiway, curving, twisting and going up and down through three tiny villages, with the destination (Porvoo) 24 kilometers away.

On the edge of Porvoo is a large Volvo dealership that had lights on and possible mechanics at work, even on Saturday, so I turned in, determined that even a Volvo mechanic would know how to shift this Chevrolet car into reverse. Alas, no mechanic, but some poor innocent young man was getting into his car out behind the dealership. I quickly cut him off so that he couldn’t go anywhere (I am sure he was expecting a car-jacking or worse) got out and walked to his driver’s side window. (He had managed to get in the car even as I cut him off.) I looked as innocent as a bearded foreigner in a red Chevrolet Kala (by the way, kala means fish in Finnish, for whatever use that information might have.) could look and asked him in what little of my remaining Finnish I could use if he knew anything about cars. Realizing that my Finnish was about expired, he replied in English that he was not a mechanic, and didn’t think he could help me. In polyglot Finglish (desperately trying not to go completely tourist) I tried to explain that I couldn’t get the car into reverse. He clearly stated that reverse gears were the domain of transmission mechanics, and they wouldn’t be back till Monday.

Giving up any pretense of Finnish I said “I don’t need a repair, I just need to know how to shift the gear into Reverse.”
A long pause, followed by an insulting chorus of he-haws that would have done justice to Mr. Ed preceded his smiling exit from his car. (he will never know how close to a real car-jacking he was at that moment, though it wouldn’t have done me any good because I probably wouldn’t have been able to get HIS car into reverse either.)
He sat in my driver’s seat, and indicated the “boot” around the gear shift. He showed me that there was a small metal ring at the top of the gear shift boot. If one takes that ring in hand and pulls upward a bit, the gear shift goes easily into reverse. After demonstrating, SLOOOOWLY a couple of times he smilingly returned to his car, backed up enough to swing around us and gaily went on his way. I can imagine that, most of the following day, he was describing to his mates the stupid American Senior Citizen that couldn’t shift his car into reverse. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up a folk orsoft-rock song on whatever is the Finnish equivalent of the top ten tunes.

I had, earlier, tried pulling up on the gear shift, pushing down on the gear shift, pushing every conceivable button in the car, (by which process I discovered that this mini-economy car has “seat warmers”) but I hadn’t thought to pull up on the gear shift boot. We drove back into town just to go to some places where I would have to put the car in reverse. Each time we did it, we giggled like little kids, and the local Finns were probably bemused by the foreigner who shouted each time that it was true “The car is in reverse”. After short period of such silliness, we wound our way back to Isnas, parked the car where it was indeed downhill, but where I might need to put the car in reverse to ‘start’ down the hill.

After a short meal of good Finnish breads and cheeses, we watched television in Finnish (Jan actually read a book) because I had formed the fallacious opinion that if I watched television in Finnish for an hour every evening, some of my language skills might return. Fallacious activity completed we went into the sauna, perspired, showered and prepared for bed.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Janet is out of ICU which is a mixed blessing, she got more attention in ICU, which benefited her. She is getting physically stronger all the time though the stroke has left her with some degree of confusion that is sporadic. We hope to leave for home in November. It would be more fun if any of our insurance seemed to be doing much to help. When you travel overseas, even for a little while, get Med X or a similar travel health package. Our latest quote on the trip home was about 9000 Euros on British Air. (Jan, traveling as a stretcher patient). She may be able to travel by wheelchair by then, which would be a lot better. I am going to start posting some stuff about the trip, more generally, but Jan is never really out of the picture.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Things are getting better. Jan is conscious now, and has had the breathing tubes and stuff like that removed. We found that she had had a small stroke in between all the other stuff, but she is coherent, moves all her limbs etc. I got to feed her today. She had juice, four or five spoonfuls of soup, some energy drink and turned to me and whispered(that is all she can do) I need a coke.
The nurse let me go upstairs and buy a pepsi(that's all they had) and she drank over half of it.
I am still concerned, but not high as a kite. Thanks for all the good thoughts and prayers.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Just the latest thing on Johnson Finland activities. Dear wife is still unconscious. Her surgeries were on October 3, but she has not yet recovered consciousness. She is nearing it with rem movement under closed lids and a lot of mouth movement. She had a coughing spell today, which the nurse tells me is good, because it indicates feeling sensation, but a CT scan today also inidicates the possibility of a small stroke. My daughter came over Monday to see her mother. I just pray that her mother is awake before she returns home on Monday.

I have been trying to finish the travelog up to the illness, but my heart isn't in it. When I drop completely out of sight it will be a good sign because when Janet gets out of the hospital I will move to a different house where I won't have internet access. I haven't followed any of my friend's blogs, as I said, my heart isn't really in it. Thanks for the good messages.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The copy below is out of keeping with the soberness of my current feeling, but it was more or less a journal of our travels in the beginning. Since I already had it in Word, I thought I would post it while it was timely. If things get better I might forget it, and if they get worse I would probably throw it out. Thanks for the wonderful messages you have sent.

To Britain and Finland, 2006

When we first discovered that the LDS Church was going to build a temple in Finland in 2005 and 6 we began to think of the possibility of going there to see it. We, after all, have been planning to return to Finland almost since we left in 1967, but it seemed unlikely that the government was going to finance a second trip, and, following the first trip, it was not high on the financial priority list. After all, when we returned to the U. S. to try to incorporate all of the data I had picked up in Finland into, what had seemed before I received the Fulbright Fellowship and went to Finland, to be a finished (pun not intended, but slightly there) dissertation, we were faced with finances nearing zero, no impending employment and all my assistantships and fellowships long since used up. I had hoped to be able to finish the dissertation and find a teaching position in the months between our arrival home and the beginning of the fall school term but it took most of my waking hours just to find a position, so the completion of the dissertation had to wait a couple of years. After spending two years at the State University in Oneonta, New York, I had most of the dissertation complete, had officially left my position, and had found a new job. Unfortunately the new job, as jobs in academe tend to do, didn’t start until fall, and I had accumulated, in addition to a completed dissertation and an interesting two years of experience, a sixth child (Beth-Anee, one of the sweetest of the sweet) and a somewhat temperamental Labrador retriever. Since University of New York salaries were paid over a nine month period, and my salary ended in May, one of the professors in English and I set up a workshop for Finnish teachers of English to come and make their spoken English more fluent, and to give them tools to make the spoken English of their students more fluent as well. It was a wonderful experience both for the Finnish teachers and for those of us who ran the workshop. It also financed the family till we could get to my new job in Georgia as well as intensifying my desire to return to Finland.

Instead of returning to Finland we moved to Carbondale, Illinois, where my poor family camped (with the dog) on a lakeside while I traveled back and forth to the Carbondale Campus of Southern Illinois University preparing for, and completing the defense of my dissertation (which was much easier than I expected it to be, largely because of a wonderful thesis advisor named Archibald McLeod.) When the defense was completed, we packed up our big white Econoline van and headed for Georgia, where we had decided that we would spend no more than two years at the most.

Thirty nine years later, after retirement from Georgia Southern University, and after saving some money by doing some theatre workshops, and by Janet helping to found a Charter School where she taught for a year, we determined finally to set off for Finland.

We were pleased, when we were shopping for tickets to find that British Air, in addition to having the best prices at the time, were giving away two free nights in a fine London hotel at the beginning of the trip, so we made reservations not just to Finland but to London, which over the years has been one of our favorite destinations.

I was sad to discover that London is not as much fun when you have reached the age when walking is difficult, and that, in spite of a nice bus and tube system and lots of expensive taxis, London is a city that, for most things, requires a lot of walking. I suspect that Janet and I walked more miles in London than we had walked in a long time.

I was bemused at the explanation by our driver (we had booked on line a company called Hotel Links which was scheduled to meet us at the gate, guide us through the airport and transport us to our hotel, something they did very well) as we dashed through back alleys to our hotel that London has a truly unique process for attempting (in futility) to limit congestion near the center of the city. They have cameras stationed at many points in the city that take pictures of private cars (and as the Al Qaeda train bombers discovered, a lot of other stuff as well), and if you have the temerity to drive a private car into congestion zone (almost all of down town) those cameras snap pictures of the driver and the license plates, and quickly notify the drivers ( I didn’t full understand the initial means of notification) and you must pay a fine of eight pounds (about seventeen plus dollars) to one of the kiosks around the town. If you don’t pay within twenty four hours the price goes up to sixteen pounds, and after forty eight hours they send you a formal notice that you owe the City of London one hundred pounds (figure at the current rate about $2.26 per pound) and that doesn’t count any parking or speeding tickets you may have accumulated as well.

One would think this would limit congestion, but just the busses (large), taxis, trucks and official cars of one kind and another keep the streets jammed. Think of millions of (large) cars going at high speeds, in both directions on streets that were designed for horseback riders, or buggies, at best. Total traffic chaos required a lot of foot power from the stranger. In spite of seeming millions of busses, one can be sure that the only bus stop where one’s appropriate bus will stop is at least a quarter mile away. The tube (subway to us Americans) is much faster and convenient but who wants to spend an expensive day in London rubbing shoulders (and butts and behinds and fronts and whatever else) with rushing strangers who may or may not have bathed that day, and staring at the inside of a car or at a crowd in the station.

The buildings and the parks are still scenic and the people generally friendly and helpful, but to take full advantage of these things one must still walk, and I for one don’t do that very well anymore. Being theatre people, we found our way (after considerable bus trauma and tired feet, ) to the Globe theatre restoration just in time for a matinee performance of Anthony and Cleopatra (which was my first professional theatre experience playing Pompey in the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego California in 1958 or thereabouts.). Unfortunately we were not able to see the performance, but I was able to wander around, take some pictures and chat with the staff. It was quite wonderful.

When we had exhausted the souvenir department and run up and down the stairs several times, we found a lift (elevator in British English) to take us down and we wandered out along the Thames. Right at the exit from the Globe there was a pier at Bankside that marketed boat rides along the Thames so we got a couple of tickets and floated out on the Thames under the Millennium bridge, which is strictly a pedestrian bridge, meaning that we weren’t meant to cross it . Further down we saw the art museum and a great sightseeing ferris wheel and another bridge or two. When the boat turned around, reached a pier on the opposite side of the Thames, and the captain invited us to leave, I explained that my ticket was also supposed to take us up the other way to London bridge and the Tower etc. He said something consoling and informed us that if we would do “this” and “that” that the ticket would be honored.

This brings up another problem. I have discovered that reaching coothood with terrible hearing makes it very difficult for me to understand British spoken English. I miss the higher registers and just don’t understand much. This was never true before. When I was younger, when I heard Britspeak I tended to just shift my own accent to Britspeak (after all, what are all those voice and acting lessons supposed to do?) but it just doesn’t work anymore. Fortunately Janet was able to understand somewhat more than I, and translate. Were it not for her, I probably would still be standing lost somewhere at Gatwick airport wondering about the latest announcement. (Britspeak is enough of a problem in person, coming out of a public address speaker makes it impossible..) As it was, neither Janet nor I figured out what “this” and “that” was, so we left the boat which was now on the opposite side of the river and decided to go to 0000000000 Square. We found a bus stop and asked the apparently Vietnamese driver if this bus went to the square. He grinned and said “Just walk two blocks that way mate, and you’ll be there. It would be a shame to waste a bus ticket”. We took his advice and walked there, passing, as we went, a place named Garfunkel’s restaurant. It had a sign outside offering a fresh fruit sundae, and so we entered, and had, culture and scenery be darned, one of the best experiences of the day. As tired and hot as we were, it was almost a kind of resurrection machine. Go there, try one, you’ll love it.

We wandered the square, taking pictures of the children playing on the great stone Lions, Wellington’s statue and the great government buildings, then, as our feet were about to play out we set about finding the bus stops for the number 13 bus that seemed to be the one going in the direction of the Marriot Regency Hotel (which was not near to any street or area called Regents or Regency, but by any name had some of the most comfortable beds and lovely meals in the world.) We circled the square (I love to say that—more than I loved doing it) until we could find the “T” stop, got on the bus and wended our way home. We had planned to finish the day by supping at a pub near the Marriot which the concierge guaranteed was the best pub in London, but we were physically exhausted and opted for a sandwich in the hotel ”chat” and a half hour of water aerobics in the hotel pool. It was wonderful, though it led to my only criticism of the Marriot. Entrance to the pool required going down a long bit of narrow stairs to the dressing room, then climbing a still narrower circular stair to get to the pool. It was immediately clear that the designer of the pool had no problems with either age nor arthritis and didn’t give much of a damn for anyone who did.

A serial narrative would conclude with the timely arrival of the Hotel Link bus, an equally timely delivery of our tired bodies to Heathrow, and a speedy flight to Finland on a lovely Finnair jet managed by British Air. All these things happened, but I read some things in the Times of London that I had to make note of.
1. A law has been proposed or passed that “muggers and thieves to be fined 100 pounds on the spot”. It seems that the police, the courts, and the prisons are so overloaded that the justice system hopes to keep hundreds of thousands of offenders for such crimes as assault, assault on a police officer, threatening behavior, all kinds of thefts up to the value of 100 pounds, possession of cannabis, and drunkenness out of court and out of the prisons by simply fining the miscreants an immediate fine of 100 pounds. One assumes from the text that if the mugger or thief doesn’t have 100 pounds on his/her person that they will receive a “ticket” requiring rapid payment. The penalty for lack of payment is not clear from the article. It must be noted, in fairness that the Magistrates Association is opposing this system, but all in all, doesn’t that give the old and arthritic tourist a sense of safety and protection?

There were other interesting articles about the problems faced by the European Union’s four newest recruits, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia where both economic problems and Ethnic ones are undercutting the governments, but one of the most interesting pieces was the scrapping of a Mozart opera by the Deutsche Oper in Berlin for fear of an Islamic backlash. It seems that the opera Idomeneo contains a scene where the decapitated head of Muhammed (along with those of Jesus, Buddha, and Poseidon, the worshipers of whom must be regarded a sanguine about the performance).
In the column by Nick Hume it is mentioned that no Muslim had issued a word of protest. It seems that one anonymous operagoer who saw an earlier production told the police that he/she felt that Muslims might be offended. I loved Hume’s comment that “Who needs book burners or theatre-door protesters when Europe’s cultural elite is prepared to tear up scripts or turn out the lights? Should we send the sensitivity police into the libraries and theatres to weed out all references to religion in general and Islam in particular?”

Out of the books and back to the trip. We had a lovely flight to Finland with only a few minor and embarrassing episodes at its conclusion.
First embarrassing moment came at arrival in Finland. I rented a car, a little bitty Chevrolet that is not marketed in the U.S. I went to the Avis counter and where I had one reserved (My brother keeps telling me that I should use Eurocar, but I always get a pretty good price break from Avis.) We wheeled our absolute surplus of luggage out to our car (which seemed to be hiding from us, but we finally found it, piled in the luggage and drove away. When we had gone along for awhile I found the need to put the car in reverse. Now, I have to preface this confession that I have driven Chevrolet cars of all sizes and configurations including “five forward”, and I have driven multiple foreign cars with several differing shift patterns. On these, the reverse gears have been configured in a variety of ways. For some you push down on the gearshift before shifting; on others
You pull up on the gearshift before shifting, others have buttons on top or the front of the gearshift, and I even drove a French car once that had a button on the steering wheel that had to be pushed for shifting into reverse. I tried all of these. We even got down on the floor and looked for secret pedals. Of course there was no owners manual in the Jockey box, or elsewhere on the car. Finally I wiggled into a space where I could turn around going front wards, (with the wheels only going a little bit up on the grass.) Did I turn around and drive the fifty kilometers back to the airport and scream for an owners manual? Of course not, I am a male, even if I have reached coothood and a male has pride, even an old one. (male, not pride--- or maybe both). Besides, we were almost to our timeshare. Or Not. The maps in the jockey box were pitiful. The descriptions from RCI of how to reach the place were deceptive. We drove sixty kilometers in various directions trying to find this place which had an address that included a village six blocks in diameter. Of course some of this distance was the result of having to drive to an intersection or bus stop to find a place in the road wide enough to turn around in without using reverse gear. Our situation would have been eased if we had had a cell phone that worked in Finland but that was not the case. There were no landlines or phone booths or anything like that within miles. We found the place, a really lovely little cottage with its own sauna, two bathrooms, a dishwasher, and TV, and with a loft and six beds, of which we were to use only one. It seemed like a waste. I wanted to run down the street and find someone to be a guest. We were in the boundaries of a village named Isnas, on the edge of a thirty six hole golf course, in a wooded section with a restaurant and marina about sixty yards away, and a beach (in Finland, in September, that is a somewhat over rated facility). Fortunately it had a driveway that went up hill so that if I needed to back out of the driveway, I had but to put the car in neutral to do so. We had stopped at a minute mart along the highway, eaten a delicious sandwich, and picked up some dinner supplies for the future, so we moved in and unpacked. We decide to watch TV for a little while (I’m hoping that doing so will help my Finnish language come back a little faster) then take a sauna and go to bed. This would have been more successful if I had been able to figure out how to turn on the sauna, but we had a pleasant evening and fell fast asleep.

We had every intention of attending a church service in Helsinki (fifty kilometers away) at about eleven the next morning. When I woke up and stretched, I looked at my watch, and it was three eighteen PM. We had slept about fifteen hours. I guess Jet lag and a good bed will do that to you, but it was still a bit irritating. My first urge was to jump back in and try for a full twenty four, but hunger ruled that out.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Here I am in Finland. I have taken pictures and kept a journal for our entire trip through London and into Finland, intending to regale you with my traditional witty repartee. Unfortunately things have turned very serious. Monday morning Janet and I attended the open house for the new Mormon temple in Helsinki, which was really a major reason for coming to Finland (Other than the fact that ever since our departure from Finland following my Fulbright grant here in 1967 we have said, almost every year that this is the year we return to Finland. Following that, we went shopping, sightseeing and generally had a good time. In the evening we went back to our rented cottage, ate some sour rye bread with cheese, took a Sauna and went to bed. About two AM I heard a sceam beside me in the bed, and Janet was sitting up in the bed clutching her chest. Dooctoor was all she could get out of her mouth. Unfortunately there was no land line telephone in our cottage, and our cell phones are useless in Finland, so I managed to get her into my rental car and we took off for Porvoo, twenty for kilometers away by a winding hilly country road. I drove that road, flashers flashing and horn blowing ar between 80-one hundred kilometers and hour (insanity, but I was desperate. ) When I got her to the Porvoo hospital, they gave her an EKG, measured blood gasses etc. but all were in the Normal range. It was finally decided that she might have an aortic aneurism, so they popper her into an ambulance and took her away. I was given driving directions to the hospital in Helsinki (Meilahden hospital) to which she had been taken, and carefull following the directions I was given I drove the fifty kilometer,only to end up driving, lost, around Helsinki for about two hours. I arrived at the hospital just after she was taken into surgery.

I called one of the people from my church, with whom I have had an email arrangement, and Jaana (the Finnish friend) came out to sit with me in the hospital (and to translate in those moments when my own Finnish was inadequate ). After about six hours the doctor who had treated her came in and explained that they had replaced and repaired a large section of her aorta where it connected to the heart, and she would be down to ICU in about fifteen minutes. After about forty five minutes he came to the waiting room to explain that, just as she was brought into ICU she began to have ventrical fibrulation on which the electric paddles were not effective so he had opened her up again and massaged the heart manually. We went into the ICU to see her, but minutes after we left she had more ventricular fibulation so they took her back to the operating room where she had her third surgery in seven hours and they gave her a dual bypass which opened up the blood flow and prevented further fibrilation.

Ed, Janna's husband came home, and after having taken me back to the cottage to recover our gear, is now putting me up. (or putting up with me). My dear Janet was stable all day yesterday, though they have not closed the incision in case of emergency. If she remains stable they will close the incision tomorrow and wake her on Saturday. I wrote my journal on my laptop, and Ed and I have not managed to get the laptop and his router to play nice with each other so I may or may not post anything more sometime soon. We were supposed to fly home Saturday, but I have already changed our tickets to November 6, which is the Earliest time she may be able to travel. I may have to change them again.

I am so grateful to our church, through which I made contact with Ed and Janna, and even more grateful to Ed and Janna and their ´children who have put themselve out, a lot, to take in a stranger and give me a place to stay while Janet is in the hospital. To those of you who pray, I ask your prayers, to those who don't I ask good thoughts.