This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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In Southeast Estonia, of all places

tartu-3In Tartu today. How surprisingly charming this little Southeastern Estonian town is. Perhaps little for me, but it is the second largest city of Estonia after Tallinn, boasting a population of about 95,000 people. Yes, really. And who knows how many students.tartu-2The vibe here is historic, hip, and smart. There are hipster cafés, cool murals, old wooden houses, and an almost Cambridge-y breeze in the air.  Naturally I am here for the smarts and the science. It’s in the air, too.tartu-1(Tartu, Estonia; May 2017)

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balloon-1One sunny eve in May we all gathered on my home island. The task was to put together the largest hot air balloon in Finland. With a basket like a small bus. It lived in a van the size of a large bus. balloon-2There were four burners and, naturally, Tibetan prayer flags. Because the pilot had been ballooning around Annapurna some time ago. balloon-4First we blew the balloon full with cold air. Then we followed with hot air from the burners. balloon-7It really was an immense bubble of air, even only half-full. And somehow, somehow it rose upright slowly and controlledly, without flying off with us all hanging from the mooring ropes. It waited nicely until we were on board.balloon-6My home island looks so friendly from the air.
balloon-8The amusement park looks friendly, too. Like it was built for dolls. balloon-3The wind took us East of Helsinki-Malmi recreational airport. But somehow, like magic, we found a wind layer blowing West, and in all that air going Northeast we drifted West, into the airport, and touched down spot on the runway. How it happened is beyond me.

In a traditional champagne ceremony all the adult ladies were given the honorary title duchess or empress. I was given the title princess, along with all the little girls. I quite liked it. And I liked the fact that most of the champagne ended up in our glasses instead of being poured over our heads.balloon-5(Helsinki, Finland; May 2017)

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At the EU HQ

eu-2At the EU Parliament in Brussels, one can spend an entire morning learning about the twists and turns of the history of the EU. Did you know for example that French war general and president Charles de Gaulle initially vetoed the UK’s entry in the 60’s – twice? And now some say he was right all along…

Finland joined in 1995, after a supporting referendum with 57% yes-votes. Geographically, the Northern two-thirds of Finland did vote against joining, but were outnumbered by the major cities in the South. Glad we did join. Otherwise I would need to get a new passport every year due to all the stamps required.
eu-1(Brussels, Belgium; May 2017)

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The future was great

atomium-1Once upon a time the future was all about space, both outside of planet Earth and in the minds of people. It was about scientific progress, with a joyful look at the future of humankind. This time was before anybody spoke of acid rains, holes in the ozone layer, the end of oil, and how tobacco kills. atomium-2Future would be great, and the progress of science was great. It was as if the human mind was too youthful to worry about the heavy responsibility we carry towards our planet and every living thing on it.

Sixty years later, in the world of uncertainties regarding nuclear threat, fossil fuel, and the use of the power of genetics, stepping into the Atomium in Brussels feels like a happy memory from a time I never experienced, left behind by people with an unwavering faith in the future, and total ignorance about the effects of their actions.atomium-3(Brussels, Belgium; May 2017)

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Interlude: tidy spaces

konmari-2“After some thought I realized that the WC is the most public space in the home, even more so than the kitchen. But toilet supplies are the least inspiring things of any home. The guests may rarely see them, but if they are displayed in an untidy fashion, your reputation is ruined. This is why esthetics is essential especially when it comes to storing toilet supplies”.

Marie Kondo never fails to make me laugh – just before she slaps me with a new insight barely a second later.

(Helsinki, Finland; May 2017. Excerpt freely translated from the Finnish version of Spark Joy by Marie Kondo)