While on a cruise ship to Estonia I was already feeling quite lethargic. The week prior, our contingent had attended an annual convention in Barthelona and we went through all the required tourist spots, consuming gallons of sunblock in the process. After about four days in Spain a small faction including myself then quietly slinked away, took the Norwegian Airlines to Helsinki, went on a 12-hr train ride to Rovaniemi, and trekked to the mountains to see the Northern Lights that didn’t really appear. If it sounds like I am such an experienced traveller, I am most definitely not– everything was organized by Monakiki and Jaimz. I am the most ligawin person of all, so ligawin in fact that I still get lost in Glorietta. I can’t imagine directions in my head so I always need visual cues to guide me, just like an albino rat. Oxali and I made it a point to contain our whines about minor inconveniences to ourselves because, to use the most popular word nowadays, wala na nga kaming ambag. All we needed to do was make sure that Monakiki and Jaimz were within our line of sight always and we should be okay.
We were about 15 minutes into disembarkment when we noticed that Oxali was looking quite flushed. Apparently while she was making coffee in the pantry this European guy suddenly started making small talk with her. She didn’t think much of it, until the guy followed up with more questions, and the questions were quite probing. “How was your day? Where are you going? Can I have your number?” Oxali managed to escape this situation, beads of sweat forming on her forehead. We applauded her resolve and told her it was the right decision, because obviously it was some lecherous middle-aged Eastern European guy straight from the sequel of Taken. And then, while we were walking to the exit, a guy quickly walked past us and tapped Oxali on her shoulder and said “Hello again! Nice meeting you!”.
“Sya?” we chorused, “Sya si BEH??!” –it was a well-dressed, cute college student with brown hair and blue eyes, with the nicest smile in all of Estonia. “Habulin mo! Habulin mo bilis! Picturan mo!” we screamed. Oxali didn’t rush after him, but on our way back to Helsinki we retraced his steps around the cruise ship, hoping that he would somehow emerge, with coffee, flowers, and a wedding proposal. Back in Helsinki we celebrated Oxali’s birthday with a dinner in the most local, most Finnish restaurant of them all, Hard Rock Cafe. Blue-eyed Estonian should have been celebrating with us that night, but no such luck. We sang Happy Birthday and got served cake with fireworks for candles that almost burned the celebrant’s head off.
It was our last day in Europe and patients’ messages were starting to pile up. I assured them that I would be back in Manila in about 2 days. We met a Filipino utility worker in a mall, who was quite pleased to see us and gave us the most hospitable treatment of all by giving us the key code to the restrooms for free. We listed all the places we’ve already been to in Helsinki and asked for his suggestions, to which he replied with what would seem to punctuate with finality this rare, two-week respite from the hospital: “Yun na yun!”