Episode 28: Summa Summarum
Last night, I went for a walk, the way I often do after staring at a monitor
all day long in my stuffy little cubicle of a room.  It was approaching
midnight and the street lamps lining the little forest path backlit the
leaves of the trees, making them glow dark green.  Crossing a field of
reeds I walked on a dock some 50 meters out in to the middle of Espoo
Bay.  Behind the drifting white clouds a strong, cold, white full moon
shone brightly.  It was calm, only tiny ripples from the east and the
occasional fish disturbing the stillness of the night sky's reflection
in the dark water.  In the horizon, the sodium orange pinpoints of the
lights along a bridge cast their own long, needle-like reflections in the
water. The only sound was the distant hum of traffic.

I sat down on the thoughtfully provided bench and pondered.  Half a year
ago, I had stood at that same point, looking at another full moon.  But the
one in March was crimson red, glowing low in the sky, in the east --
in the same direction that my plane would be flying the next day.  The omen
with its transparent references to the Land of the Rising Sun was so
theatrical that its very reality made it seem unreal.  Yet now spring and
summer have passed and fall is almost over, and I could already feel
the chill of the Finnish winter creeping into my bones.



Not that returning to Finland has been negative, far from it.  I was
actually surprised at the painlessness of the transition, and how much I
had in fact missed a number of things (and people) without realizing it.
While switching gears from the monotonous work I did at Nokia to the far
more challenging task of being a full-time student was a bit of a shock,
my motivation level remains higher than usual and my new part-time job as
assistant for an introductory programming course has been much more
rewarding than I would have thought.  Yet every now and then -- and right
now as I write this -- I become aware that what in the beginning seemed
like a dream has now become only a memory of a dream.

It took me a long time to compose this episode.  For much of that long time, I
intended to go for a "real" photo shoot at nearby Nuuksio National Park with
a friend, but a conspiracy of poor weather and two hectic schedules has so far
prevented this.  Instead, the 15 pictures under Week 28 are all from my humble
suburban neighborhood, the Helsinki U. of Tech. campus at Otaniemi.  This
also explains why collecting them took a while, as this mostly flat little
cape jutting out into Espoo Bay is not exactly known for its breathtaking
sights.  Just the same, I've scrounged up a few interesting shots, so take
a look at http://jpatokal.iki.fi/photo/j2j/28/.

Autumn colors

A lecture hall at HUT

Increasing Entropy
But let us take one last nostalgic trip down memory lane...

Top 11 most memorable Japanese experiences:

* My first izakaya visit at Komahachi.
* Kanamara Matsuri at Kawasaki Daishi.
* Many an obento lunch at Akasaka Hie Jinja.
* Earth Celebration at Sado-ga-shima.
* Early morning zazen at Motsuji.
* Staying at Ryokan Eisen in Naruko.
* Climbing Dewa Sanzan.
* Strong Sun Moon at Gifu.
* Climbing Mount Fuji.
* The shojin ryori meal at Daigo.
* My last day in Kansai with Chi & Nori.

Things that I wanted to do but never got around to doing:

* Learning to play the taiko drum and bringing one back with me. 
* An extended hike in Chichibu-Tama National Park.
* Visiting a really, really big onsen complex.
* Seeing the Tsukiji Fish Market and eating a sushi breakfast at 6 AM.
* Spending the night in a capsule and/or love hotel.
* Traveling more -- but I'd still write that if I had traveled for 6 months
  non-stop.  But I wanted to see Kyushu, Shikoku, Chugoku, Hokkaido, Okinawa,

Things I miss about Japan:

* A large steel dish containing a gigantic pile of smooth sticky tasty
  Japanese rice with ladleful of impenetrably thick brown Japanese curry
  and a generous dollop of orange curry-style pickles.  Drool...
* The constant barrage of noise and frenetic activity.
* Kaitenzushi.
* Decent ramen.
* Miniskirts and high heels.
* Innumerable cute things (and I'm not referring only to the above).

And that's it -- no more J2J.  I'd like to extend my thanks to all those who
took the time to write in, either in the Clearinghouse Sweepstakes (whose
prizes I still haven't mailed, sorry) or just as plain old e-mail.  (Hey,
it's never too late!)  The web pages have been given a major but largely
cosmetic facelift, I hope to get around to tweaking the content and linking
the text with the pictures someday.  [Ed. Done!]  Check them out anyway:

The J2J main page:     http://www.iki.fi/~jpatokal/travel/j2j.html
The J2J photo archive: http://jpatokal.iki.fi/photo/j2j/
Traveling with Jani:   http://www.iki.fi/~jpatokal/travel/
My new home page:      http://www.iki.fi/~jpatokal/

So long, and thanks for all the sushi!

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