Can You Tell Me Which Way is North?

by Mark Dvorak

Elovena is a kind of instant breakfast cereal. We’ve been calling it “porridge,” which somehow seems appropriate so long as we are in Finland. Elovena is produced by the Hetki Company and only requires some boiling water and one minute of your time. There is a graphic on the box of a lovely Finnish lass in her peasant dress and bonnet, somewhat reminiscent of the St. Pauli Girl, and she is carrying a bundle of wheat and looking out across the table at me. There are some red things in my Elovena, which resemble bits of dehydrated berries, and I have chopped and loaded on the other half of yesterdays banana and a half an apple. 

My throat is better today and my sinus has improved. I feel more rested than at any time I can remember over the last month and that is a good thing. The sun is out and it is warmer. We are scheduled to participate in a concert at the church at noon today, and we are scheduled to entertain in the saloon at the Wild West Village later today, also a kind of church. Familiar images of the American West have somehow taken root there and been reborn a curious hybrid of culture and stereotype.

It is a beautiful morning in the town where I am though I am still unsure of its name or where it is located. I have devised an impish little game for the purpose of my own entertainment and it goes like this. I will be walking and encounter another passer by. If our eyes meet I wave. If he or she waves back or acknowledges my gesture, I pause and ask, “Excuse me, can you tell me which way is north?” Sometimes the language barrier is too much. One guy tried to give me money. Most other times the guy will stop and look at the sky and then the tree line and point in this direction or that. I have pulled this ruse successfully perhaps a half-dozen times while here in the village whose-name-I-can’t-pronounce, and standing in front of the restaurant across the street from the lagoon I can now point you north in six different directions.

We are making do in our little duplex. On day one I blew the fuse on my adapter trying to recharge camera batteries, and have bungled many attempts at trying to access the internet with some ethernet rig Wasel has lent us for our stay. I have endured two cold showers before figuring out how to turn on the water heater and made a disaster of trying to operate the Mocha Master, a thing they call a coffee maker here in Finland. I have lost three flat picks and broken one string. The battery in my tuner died in the cold while on stage yesterday afternoon, and then after I put in a new one, the whole thing died in the cold during our pub show last night at the restaurant. I wound up giving it to a boy who was perhaps ten years old. I asked him if he could point in the direction that is north. Without hesitation he pointed straight up to the sky, by far the best answer yet, so I figured he deserved a prize.


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