Jul
8
2010

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Back in Business

by Tara

…continued from Where is the Wallet!?

By now, the worst is over. Thanks to all of our parents, what could have been a massive ordeal has become just a small bump in the road. We pack up our things, feeling relieved, and head out to the car. There, we make one last Skype call, this time to Tyler's mom. As we chat, and we realize just how much we miss our families, most of the remaining tension from our morning disappears.

Before we say goodbye, Jodi agrees without hesitation to collect our replacement cards and drivers licences. She'll be standing by, waiting for an address in Finland when we find one, ready to send everything off when it arrives. Thank you, Jodi!!

Our work isn't over yet, however. Now we have to catch the 5:30PM ferry to Helsinki. If we miss the sailing, the Moneygram office will be closed when we arrive. Just as when we were racing through Vienna on our bicycles attempting to make it to the station before our train was scheduled to depart, we feel like we're on the Amazing Race!

We leave the hostel with no idea where the ferry port is. Tyler points the car north, reasoning that we'll find it if we head to the sea. I am practically hanging out the window, pointing at signs and shouting "There it is! Just past this roundabout, go straight, and there it is!" We arrive with forty minutes to spare before our ship will leave.

Coming to a halt in front of the passenger's waiting area, Tyler stays with the car while I run inside. I wade through crowds of people, scanning the departure and arrival boards to find which company services our sailing. I gulp when I read that there is no 5:30 ferry, and that the boat leaves at 5:00!

I run to the booth, and ask how much two people and one car will cost. She punches it up on a calculator and flips it around to show me. It will be €66, or 1,000 Estonian Kroon. Phew, our emergency cash will get us there!

"Do you take Euros?" I ask the woman. She shakes her head, no, then smiles. "You must change!" she says, "And hurry! The boat is loading—lines seven and eight. You can buy your tickets at the check-in office on your way." She points her finger generally left, showing me where we'll board.

"Okay thanks!" I shout over my shoulder as I hurriedly make my way to the money-changing booth. I flop our Very Important Bag (full of the only IDs and cash to our names) onto the counter. I fish through it until I find €70, then slap it down, asking the woman working for kroon. Seconds later, she is shoving Estonian currency towards me through the little slot under a wall of glass that separates us.

Money and Very Important Bag in hand, I run back out to Tyler, leap in the passenger's seat, and tell him to drive. "Where?!" he asks. "Number seven and eight, in that general direction!", I say, pointing across the parking lot to the left just as the woman at the ticket booth had done. Laughing, Tyler does a few laps of the parking lot until we find the loading gate.

With minutes to spare, we put ourselves in line number seven. There is a man in front of us buying tickets. I hope the boat won't leave while there are people still in line. The man finishes his purchase, and wheels forward. We pull up to the booth, and I get out. "Hi, do you speak English?" I ask. "Yes of course", the man replies. "One car and two people for that ferry please!" He asks for our passports and 1,000 Estonian Kroon exactly. I hand them over, he prints us tickets.

For the first time ever, we are in a car while boarding a ferry. As we wait in line, we realize we should be excited about traveling to a new place. Instead, we feel like we've been put through the wringer: tired and overwhelmed. We make a pact to snap out of it and enjoy the ride, for when else will we ever take a ferry to Finland again? Our turn in line comes up, and we are ushered on board.

Ferry Loading

Once we are parked, right by a door marked with an apple, we pack ourselves a backpack for the two-hour journey. I have an iPod, and Tyler has a new book, Anathem, by Neal Stephenson. Together, we walk up the stairs and wander through the ship until we find a quiet patch of floor to call our own. Next to a cuddling French couple, and many groups of what look to be Finnish teenagers, we settle in.

As I look around, I notice how different people on this boat are from anywhere else we've been. I guess the closest resemblance would be the statuesque flight attendants on Iceland Air. Obviously not everyone fits the stereotype, but at least 50% do: tall and slender, bright, shining blonde hair and steely blue eyes. Both men and women are beautiful, glowing and tan. They somehow manage to radiate both eternal sunlight, and deep, icy chill. Holy crap, I realized, we're going to Finland!

As we pull away, I leave to photograph the ship. One floor above us, there is a live band, drinks are flowing, and a dozen couples are ballroom dancing!

Finnish Ferry Ballroom Dancing

Outside, the party continues. I begin to notice that many, many people, instead of carrying regular luggage, are toting roller carts filled with cases of beer. Maybe its cheaper in Estonia?

Chillin' on the Ferry Chillin' on the Ferry

After making the rounds, I rejoin Tyler and we listen as the captain tells us that our estimated time of arrival is in one hour. Wait, it is already 7:15, which means we'll arrive at 8:15 and by the time we get off the ferry it will be 8:30! The Moneygram service closes at 9:00! We must have gotten the slow boat, for the "two hour ride" we were expecting is more like three, not including disembarkation.

Ferry Life Boat Ferry Lifeboat Life Boat Approaching Helsinki Arriving in Helsinki

Sure enough, at 8:15 we are instructed to return to our vehicles. As expected, we wait for quite a long time, and then slowly everyone is herded outside. As we pass the customs officers without issue, we cheer. We might actually make it!

Toyota Corolla XLi Helsinki Roadsign

Out we go at 8:40 into a Helsinki traffic jam, and once more "put our game faces on" for the ride ahead. Tyler has the Moneygram affiliate in our GPS and it looks to be pretty close by. As we drive, we pass the usual McDonalds, H&M, and other chain stores that grace most capitol cities' streets. I wonder if we will feel any affinity for this city.

Tyler finds the office—it is located in a pedestrian-only area, so he pulls into a Taxi waiting zone, and I grab the laptop (where we have the confirmation numbers) and our Very Important Bag, and leap out into downtown Helsinki.

I scan the buildings for their numbers, and quickly locate our destination: number 52. It looks like a sketchy apartment building. I walk in, and find a plaque with every office and its floor listed. I seem to recall that the name I'm looking for is "Forex," not Moneygram. My finger glides along the names as if they are braille. Forex, Forex, Forex… there it is! 8th floor.

I press the button on a nearby elevator and head up to the eighth floor, where I emerge in a very swanky financial center. All around there are offices and banking services. I find the one that says "Forex" and I head on over.

"Hi, um, I have some money to pick up?" How does one say that? The man understands regardless of my delivery, and in perfect English, informs me that I am too late. In two minutes, at 9:00 sharp, his computer system will shut down and he won't be able to do anything about it. Then, with a smile, he says "Is it urgent?" and I say, "Yes it is, could you please try?" He does.

I fill out a paper while he punches in numbers, and then a second later says, "Whew! We did it!" YES!" He takes out a yellow ziploc bag and counts out the bills for me. "Thank you!" I say to the man, and he smiles and waves as I take the elevator back down. Money in hand, I give the thumb's up to Tyler from a distance. I get in the car and tell him the whole story, and then we drive off towards a campsite just out of town.

Forex Money Pouch

What. a. day.


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6 comments

Felix says it´s too late for him to read your lastest entry, but not for me and I read all your baltic entries in one go! (He will tomorrow, at work, most probably, bureaucrat)
Big hug! Nadine
Posted by Nadine on July 12th, 2010 at 10:20 PM
Glad you guys made it in time! Seems like you all are doing a great job of keeping in good spirits during these troubling events, and amazingly still finding time to post journals! Best of luck with everything!
Posted by Will on July 13th, 2010 at 1:14 AM
Phew! I have been worrying about you guys, so glad you are safe.
Posted by Yvette O'Dowd on July 13th, 2010 at 5:54 AM
Glad you made it! What a terrible spot of bad luck, but all's well that ends well.
Posted by Tony on July 13th, 2010 at 8:47 AM
Oh, man! What a tale! Congratulations on your excellent crisis resolution =)

It makes a great story!
Posted by Michael on July 13th, 2010 at 9:37 AM
This note is a bit late in coming, but THANK YOU for the kind words of support, everyone!

Thankfully, all is settled now. It was a pretty crap morning, though. :-)
Posted by Tara on July 28th, 2010 at 4:01 PM
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