Friday, March 23, 2012

Bus stations, bus passes, and SSNs, oh my!

Well, the weather certainly did warm up for me, I'm happy to say. I think it reached a totally ridiculous 9 degrees C / possible low 40's F today. My Finnish teammate JMK (that is actually what we call him, since his name is relatively difficult to say and he has a lot of names, as it were) was telling me that Helsinki had an unusually cold winter (like lots of snow really early on), which would sort of be like the opposite of an Indian Summer (...Russian Winter?...the Finns have a national pride thing going on about how they beat the Russians in that one war by outlasting them in that one harsh harsh winter, but I'll not get into that this time), and now springtime is hitting hotter faster than usual. Something something global warming (or as they appropriately call it here, something something climate change). I didn't even have to wear gloves as I used my touch phone today outside. Total win. Bets are off for tonight as I navigate to a bar to meet some friends, but, we'll see. I'll be going prepared either way (I'm not that much of a Fool of a Took).

Today was a mix of relative wins and total confusions. Unfortunately I decided to go the lazy route yesterday and not check out the bus station ahead of time so I would know what I was doing this morning when I went to take it to work for the first time ever. Last time I was here I was happily whisked everywhere via free chartered hotel bus (they literally went from our hotel, to another sister hotel, to work and that was it) or by taxi (awesomely paid by work), so I learned absolutely nothing about public transportation. Luckily they have a pretty good site about their public transportation networks, so I knew, relatively speaking, about which buses to take and when (there are buses every 1-2 minutes that go to my work from where I am staying and it takes about 20 minutes, including the walking that I have to do to and from the places to and from the bus stops themselves). What I wasn't ready for, however, was the enormity of the actual bus station itself.

We are talking mega bus stations. MEGA. Imagine every Greyhound bus station you've ever seen in your life and times that by ten. And underground. And better organized...but unfortunately in another language and you're probably anxious and confused. Each bus is waiting at a gate (unfortunately not corresponding to the number of the bus, but at the very least lined up in numeric order from biggest to smallest bus number), and there are light up board signs in front of each gate telling you what bus it is and when it is leaving and what its end destination is (thereby telling you which line it is, I suppose). You then go through the gate to your happily waiting bus. There are about 45 of these gates. Since I am a total navigatory fail when it comes to stuff like this, it took me about 15 minutes to figure out instead of the normal-person five. But I did eventually figure it out. :) So I got to work 15 minutes late...but I did get there! :)

So, signed my work contract, got a free lunch provided by the design department (we get those once a month along with a guest speaker of some sort...it was hard for me to hear what this one was presenting about, unfortunately - I think it was about sushi since that's what we got today), and then met up with my Finland Relocation Services agent, Annika. Annika was totally awesome. For whatever reason I kept thinking of the Disney version of Cruella Deville. Not in the mean way, but in the super outrageously fashionable, drives sort of nuts way, and in general you like her and you think she's hilarious. She was wearing a gorgeous camel trench coat with the brightest orange pants I'd ever seen in my life which perfectly matched her sunglasses case. Fantastic. :)

Anyway we drove around town in her huge purple SUV and got the application for my Finnish SSN turned in along with a slightly discounted bus pass. Turns out you can get the cheapest bus pass prices by linking it to your Finnish SSN number - they'll also automatically terminate the card if you report it lost or stolen, and you can recoop any of the credit you have on it and transfer it to another card since you can appropriately prove who you are and that it has been stolen. Talk about an awesome system. I even got to choose the color of my card (green, blue, or an orange that matched Annika's pants...I decided to go with my people's Asian jade green):



...look at that hilarious little bus logo!

After running around for what felt like hours (it was only a few), I did what you weren't supposed to do and took a long nap. Sometimes, you just gotta give in and give your body what it wants. So, I'll sign off for now, and bid you adieu. Tomorrow - first real grocery shopping experience at the K Market down the street!

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