25 A Zip Code Error
Sometimes I wonder if I was sent to the wrong country. What if the mail delivery service got it all wrong when they sent me here? Maybe the tag said “Fiji” but I was sent to “Finland”.
I think of this possible error when I struggle to keep the icy wind on the outside and the warmth of my body on the inside of the jacket.
I think of it when I wake up in the morning and see the ever higher piles of new snow, freshly layered on the old coat of white.
In the Finnish language, there are over a hundred different words for these small ice crystals. The fluffy, huge snowflakes have a different name than the tiny small, weightless snowflakes. New snow is called one thing, old snow another.
For instance, the snow that stays on the ground or on the trees has different names depending on how it stays. If the wind is strong, the snow that falls is called tuisku. If you can’t see through the snowfall, talk about pyry.
But for me, most days, the snow is just snow. There’s more of it, there’s less of it. It’s piling up, it’s melting away.
I watch the snow from my kitchen window, how the white flakes fall from the sky, their lightness enabling them to descent in a frolic matter, inviting me to play with them.
If I were the kind of person who enjoyed snow activities, such as ice skating and skiing, I would love it here. So many months of cold weather make excellent conditions for winter sports! But for some reason, I’m more of a runner, a biker, even a swimmer-in-the-sea kind of person. A fact that makes me think that there must have been some sort of delivery mistake made at some point – someone got it wrong.
My longing for Spring and Summer comes at odd times. Once, I was standing on the street, waiting for the pedestrian lights to turn from red to green. As the light turned green, my ears filedl with the loud sound of car tires trying to grasp the snowy, slippery road to get going – but without succeeding. I breathed in the smell of gasoline and enjoyed it because it made me think of Summer. It reminded me of all the youngsters on their motorbikes who roam the streets loudly, leaving behind them the smell of fuel and an odd silence.
Snow is a part of the Finnish identity – more than hundred names for the white fluff proves it. It’s also a frequent topic in the newspapers: how much snow will fall, how cold it will be, and if compared to the previous fifty years, is there more or less of snow, is the temperature colder or warmer than before.
For many, snow and snow-related activities are some of the best things about the four seasons of the North. The fluffy dogs love rolling around in it, the kids shriek with excited laughter as they go sledding down the hill.
Sometimes I like all the whiteness, how it brightens up the darkness and makes the sounds of the world softer. As I lie in bed under the warm blanket, another body pressed against mine, I like the snow. But even then I think, if I lived in Fiji, I could still experience this as a tourist, of my own choice.
I’m almost certain there was a mistake made by the mail delivery service back in time, 24 years ago. Why else would I think of these things? You see, Fiji doesn’t use zip codes but if you must include one, for online orders for example, you can use the code 00000. I was sent to Finland, with the zip code 00100.
A simple error in the zip code.
No wonder I’m here instead of being there.
Only a one-number-difference – a humane mistake that made all the difference.