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The Last Trip Outside

Welcome of Camp Corona, my personal writer’s retreat rooted in self-isolation due to the global pandemic. I’ve already been writing about what’s going on, from my perspective as an American expat in Central Finland. This is apparently going to go on for a while, so I decided the series needed a catchy name.

Day 0

My original plans were to stay home today. Katie sold a few pieces of artwork over the weekend, which she needed to take to the post office and send off. While she was out she wanted to get a haircut, and then work from the library for a few hours. That was before Finland announced a state of emergency, and that things were going to officially be shutting down starting Wednesday.

Some of the announcement was clear and precise, but other bits were vague. I attribute some of that to the fact that officials hadn’t locked things down yet in a situation that seems to change from hour to hour now. Part of it was a combination of the limited amount of Finnish news available in the English language, and my embarrassingly deficient Finnish language skills.

We know schools are closing, along with museums, libraries, and other public places. Gatherings of more than 10 people are banned. What we don’t know is if the buses will be running, or if they’ll be on a limited schedule as they do on holidays. While we expect Finns to be more calm and orderly about things than Americans, we live in an international community and have no idea how people are going to react.

So it was decided that I’d go with Katie to the Posti, we’d see if the nice Thai lady who cuts her hair was open, and then we’d do the grocery shopping originally planned for Thursday. Yes, we had in fact just gone grocery shopping yesterday, but we planned (there’s that word again) to pick up a few extra essentials. Here’s a quick recap of the day.

Outside Again

  • The post office, which is typically busy on weekday mornings, was dead. There was one teller, and no customers other than us.
  • The nice Thai lady is closing the salon for a couple of weeks to see how this all plays out. Katie was her last customer.
  • While Katie was doing that, I stopped in at the Turkish market. Best place to buy bulk beans, rice, and powdered milk. It was the busiest place I went, with 4 customers including myself.
  • We stopped in the mall because there is a small Target-like store with good prices on soap, shampoo, and other toiletries. No toilet paper panic buying evident.
  • We hit another store in the chain  that’s in the midst of remodelling several locations. Construction workers outnumbered the customers. Full toilet paper aisle.
  • Even though my debit card has a chip that allows me to tap the machine to pay, I still insert the card and punch in my PIN out of habit. Most places wouldn’t let me do that today. They don’t want dozens of people touching the machine.
  • All service people were wearing latex gloves. All of them were exceptionally cheerful, too, which is weird. It’s not that Finns aren’t friendly, or that they never smile. But they tend to be stoic. Everyone was outwardly expressive, happy even.
  • The bank was closed. People were inside working, but the doors were locked. A sign on the door advised people to use the ATM, the website, or call. If you want to meet with someone face-to-face, you have to call and make an appointment.

Camp Corona

This post has gone long, so we’ll pick this up tomorrow. I’ll explain how this is going to be different from my normal hermit-like ways. I want to share my plans and aspirations for this series over the new few posts. The tl;dr is that I feel like were at an important moment in history, and to not document and comment on things, from the most mundane to the biggest global events, feels somehow irresponsible.

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