October 19, 2005

Treasure Trove

At the moment one of my most prized possessions is the eleventh edition of the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the world, published 2003 and, as ever, dedicated to her to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
The book would be worth looking at even without the treasures it withholds - its size practically dwarfs my previous atlas (the Times concise Atlas of the World, which is still in Museokatu) in size and stature, and it's always a pleasure to majestically slide it inside its glossy and sturdy case.
And when it comes to maps, you can hardly beat this one. 67 huge pages of information about our planet and the human world, including satellite data, climate data, a list of the thirty busiest airports in the world (I've flown to eleven of them) and the 134 most populated cities in the world (only a pathetic 17 of which are in my travel log). 125 beautifully drawn and detailed maps covering the entire globe in a dazzle of colours, from navy blue (the Pacific Ocean) to white (Tibet). An index of microscopic dimensions (as far as the text goes) covering over 200 000 place names, from 1st cataract (rapids in Egypt, see also Ash Shallan al Awwal) to Zywocice (Poland).

It's the perfect escape: Open the atlas at any page and submerge yourself in the cartographic wonders of our planet. Proceeding through wildly imaginative dream journeys, there's no rush to flip through the pages like any Michael Connelly paperback - God forbid the slightest crease or grease stain to appear the next time the atlas is unsheathed.
Who would have thought that a map bigger than the size of 4 A4-sheets, called "Himalaya and Ganges Plain" can store so much information and so many places, each of which contains a thousands of lives. Here are some of my favourite maps:...
Pacific Ocean islands - thought you know all the world capitals? Think again. Bairiki sounds exotic enough, but trying to find flights from Helsinki with ebookers is like trying to convince scientists the world is flat.
Central Russian Federation - It's so easy to think Russia only has two big cities, the one with the Winter Palace and the one with the fairytale cathedral, but when you see the number of large cities in and around central Russia, you get a more realistic picture. I wonder what it would be like to live in a place called Ust'-Ilimsk or Novyy Urengoi.... moving on...
Norway North, Sweden North and Finland- this one is obvious. Nothing like examining your own home country on a map. A big bonus to the Times cartographers for getting the town names right, including Rääkkylä.
USA Washington, New York and Boston - journey through suburb to suburb and city to city and get lost in the bright lights (here painted bright yellow) of urban USA.

Time for bed.

October 08, 2005

Déjà vu

It's a shame it has taken me so long to get back to the comfortingly regular routine of blogging. I mean, saying goodbye to my glasses was tragic enough, but having a whole entry devoted to them dominating the front page of this blog for three weeks is surely giving them too much credit. Today, nothing special is on my mind, just bits and pieces from the past weeks floating in my sleepy brain. Why don't I try to put it all down in reversed chronological order.

It's Friday (today) and I'm lying face down on a long table, being professionally massaged for the first time in my life. It feels soothing and painful at the same time, and when my time is up we agree I have to come again a couple of times because 45 minutes is hardly enough for untying the huge knots I have all over my back and neck. An hour earlier, I am playing Mozart's variations on "Twinkle, Twinkle little star" on the harp for my teacher and she's telling me it's already a lot better than last week. Now it's the morning and I'm frantically rehearsing Mozart's variations on "Twinkle, Twinkle little star" for the first time since my last lesson.
Now I'm accompanying a rehearsal of Humperdinck's "Hänsel and Gretel" at our school, trying to understand how singers just don't know the difference between "one, two" and "one, two, three". I'm walking from down town to Ruoholahti, enjoying the marvellous sunny weather, but I'm also missing my brown hat I was so used to. Before that, I'm giving a presentation of Mäntyjärvi's "Four Shakespeare Songs" for our small group of 20th century music styles students, who are transfixed.
I'm dreaming a strange dream when I am woken up by the alarm clock, but I can't be very sure about this because it seems to happen all the time. However, I definitely know that it's another Monday, because the day before, I'm spending my Sunday sightreading Prokofjeff's "The Ugly Duckling" very badly at the English School's 50th anniversary in Tapiola-Sali and wondering how on earth I get myself into these situations.
Now I'm marching in late to Dominante's rehearsal, dragging a huge package from Suomalainen Kirjakauppa with me, and about eight hours before, I am deciding I'm going to start seriously saving money when I bump into the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World for a greatly reduced price. I'm feeling a little out of my frame because of the strong antibiotics, and also my stiff neck and back are feeling painful.
I have just finished conducting my first rehearsal with my choir, Lauttasaaren Laulajat, and feel extremely confident and happy about the way it went and especially about the open reception of the singers, most of whom are around fifty years older than me.
The doctor, whom I finally go to see after being sick for six consecutive weeks, tells me I have prolonged bronchitis and I forget my hat at his office. I'm feeling edgy and nervous about starting my new job in Lauttasaari the same evening.
Berlin is spread under my feet like a huge sparkling diamond dotted with rubies. I can't believe I am in the air,and that a thin piece of airplane is the only thing stopping me from flying way down into the black night.
I am stuck in the horribly crowded and unpleasant Habib Bourgiba International Airport in Monastir, Tunisia, because our flight back home is two hours late. Monastir is a beautiful place, much nicer than Yasmine Hammamet, where I have just spent the past week, and where we are now returning with a louage (shared taxi) after a wonderful day in Tunis, where I am now doing one of my favourite things when I'm abroad - using public transport. Far far away, Mikko is turning 20 but I'm not remembering that, just like he forgot my birthday completely. I'm in a freezing swimming pool, surrounded by women dressed in matching turquoise swimming suits, and some time before that I am exploring Hotel Dar Az Zakariya, where some of the rooms seem to be close to the Libyan border, and where it's now six in the morning and dirty, exhausted Finnish people like me are experiencing the delights of bureocracy and filling out their guest registration cards before either crashing onto their beds or crashing onto the breakfast table.
I've got around five hours before leaving home and it's a race against time to print and copy a couple of pieces of paper which have to be given out to the whole choir at the airport. On the same day, I see an unknown person walking towards me on Apollonkatu and find myself quickening my pace so he passes quicker, and half an hour before I am being hit on the stomach and the back by a drunkard in Ruoholahti.
It's Tuesday evening and I am publishing my latest blog entry called "In memoriam".

Now it's midnight and I finished writing this summary on the past couple of weeks. It's time for bed.