30 June 2012

Adventure in Flight

One of the big things I've learned throughout the whole process of being an exchange student is that I'm psychic. Yes, I've come to the conclusion that I am psychic. I predicted my email the day I received my host family, and I predicted my email the day I received my travel information. Today I received my travel information! And I'll tell you all about it after I update on one other thing- my visa.

In the blog post pertaining to my visa information, I said that I'd either go to the honorary embassies in Anchorage or Seattle to do the visa process. Little did I know that Finland had recently updated their visa requirements, adding on a bit about biometrics- instead of Anchorage or Seattle for my visa I had to travel all the way to Los Angeles to get my fingerprints scanned and put into a database for the European Union. I think the whole process of quickly finding tickets for L.A. was very stressful for my mom, but I really liked that I got to go to a city I'd never been to for such an important document.

My family was originally planning on going down to Seattle in the last weekend of April because my youngest cousin was having her first communion. We thought that was the best way to easily access Los Angeles, and we had just enough time to fly there on Sunday for an appointment on Monday and leave later that day. The appointment on Monday was very fascinating. The Finnish consulate in Los Angeles is located in a large, black glass building in the middle of Century City. We drove there and valet parked in the parking garage below the building (all parking was valet parking, and it makes you feel wonderful) and went up two different elevators to the 26th floor. I stepped out of the elevator and looked the wrong way, wondering where the embassy could be on such a floor as this. My mom had me turn around and there I saw giant doors with a giant crest of Finland on it. We knocked on the doors and were let inside and I realized, after seeing all the posters and signs on the walls, that I was in Finland. I was, by any means, in the middle of Finland, and it felt amazing.

The appointment itself was very quick; about 15 minutes if I remember correctly. We sat down with a woman, gave her all the necessary documents -information forms, passport photos, copies of other papers- and she did the rest. There wasn't too much of an interview or anything, and once all the transactions had been made the appointment was over. Just as we left a Finnish woman came in with her children and started speaking in rapid Finnish. I thought to myself, "Hopefully I can do that someday too."

The papers were sent to Finland and the embassy approved my application. After a month and a half my residency permit arrived in a FedEx envelope at my house. Would you like to see my residency permit? Please excuse the dopey face I'm making, because I never was one for glamorous passport photos.

                                             My school photos always looked like this too. It's great, really. Trust me.

Now time for another story. I was at work today and I was terribly bored (there was no one swimming today), so I checked my email. I've been a bit cynical lately, convinced that I wasn't going to get my travel information for a while, and so when I logged into my email today my quick thought of, "This one email is going to be my travel email." seemed really absurd right after I thought it. I had had that thought a few times already, but I seemed more confidant in that thought today more so than normally. And when I clicked on the "1 new email" button I found that I was, indeed, finally right. Look, guys, psychic abilities.

For a while now I've been wondering what the connecting city between New York and Helsinki would be. My best guess was Copenhagen, because that's where the Finns from previous years went through. But I was wrong... and my flight itinerary pleasantly surprised me. I'll be going from New York-JFK with a layover in London-Heathrow to Helsinki-Vantaa. I'll leave in the evening of 23 August and arrive in Helsinki in the evening of 24 August. I don't know when exactly I'll get to Kuopio, but my host sister says it's a 30 minute plane ride or a 5 hour train ride from Helsinki. So I'll get to Kuopio later that night and meet my host family.

And the whole adventure will have begun.