Finland: Work, Eat, Play in Helsinki

At the beginning of 2018, I received an email from a professor I had never met before (Prof. Hannes Bezzel). He kindly considered my published dissertation “an important monograph” on the subject of “prophecy and foreign nations,” so he invited me to present a paper at the EABS conference held in Helsinki in August, 2018. He informed me that his research group did not have the funding to cover the flights and accommodation of the invitees, but promised that all the invited papers were to be published in an edited volume. I did not plan to attend this conference, especially when it was held closely after the SABS conference in Indonesia, but then I succumbed quickly to the temptation of publication. As you may know, publication is very important for junior researchers. 😉


Therefore, at the end of my presentation and attendance at the SABS conference in Indonesia, I flew over half the globe to arrive at Helsinki and presented the paper at the “Prophecy and Foreign Nations” session on 01.08.2018. Here is the outline of the papers presented at the session (avaiable at the SBL website):


Prophecy and Foreign Nations (EABS)
9:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Room: P 724 – Yliopistonkatu 3, Porthania

Theme: Foreign Nations in the Book of Ezekiel

Hannes Bezzel, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Presiding

Uwe Becker, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Presiding

Lydia Lee, North-West University (South Africa)
The Tyrian Ruler in MT and LXX Ezekiel 28:11-19 (24 min)
Tag(s): Latter Prophets – Ezekiel (Biblical Literature – Hebrew Bible/Old Testament/Greek OT (Septuagint))

Reettakaisa Sofia Salo, University of Münster
Ezekiel 35: Tradition-Historical and Redaction-Critical Aspects (24 min)
Tag(s): 1 Esdras (Biblical Literature – Deuterocanonical Works)

Sarah Koehler, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Downfall Description: Doomed Edom in Ezekiel’s Speech (24 min)
Tag(s): Old Testament (Ideology & Theology)

Andrew Langley, University of Oxford
The Vindication of YHWH in Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations. (24 min)
Tag(s): Latter Prophets – Ezekiel (Biblical Literature – Hebrew Bible/Old Testament/Greek OT (Septuagint))

Micaël Bürki, Université de Lausanne
“I’m a God,” “I Made the Nile”: The Pride of Tyre and Egypt in Ezekiel 28-32 (24 min)
Tag(s): Latter Prophets (not including The Twelve) (Biblical Literature – Hebrew Bible/Old Testament/Greek OT (Septuagint)), Latter Prophets – The Twelve (Biblical Literature – Hebrew Bible/Old Testament/Greek OT (Septuagint)), Ancient Near East – Neo-Assyria (History & Culture)

In order not to go over time, I presented a shortened version of my paper at the session. One of the invitees (Micaël Bürki from Université de Lausanne) did not show up to present his paper, so all the other invitees were granted more time to discuss our papers with the audience. Prof. Hannes Bezzel planned to publish all the invited papers in an edited volume, so I submitted the complete version of my paper on the assigned deadline (31.12.2018). Three weeks ago I wrote to Prof. Bezzel and inquired about the status of the publication. He informed me that the editorial work on the volume is going on, but seven months after the assigned deadline, there are still participants who have not submitted their papers. Therefore, the publication has to be postponed until next year. Anyway, I have done my part and will let the other people do their parts.

All I can say now is that my submitted paper refines and elaborates on the argument latent in my monograph and theorizes about the “ancient literary development” of the Tyrian figure deduced from the MT and the LXX of Ezekiel 28:12b–15. In this paper, you will find references to and responses to some of the textual questions raised by Prof. Johan Lust and Prof. Christoph Nihan with regard to the variant textual editions of this fascinating Tyre oracle. Some technical insights gained from Prof. Michael Segal’s helpful Septuagint lessons at the HUJI are also incorporated in this paper.

I also went to listen to the other sessions during the conference. It is interesting to compare the EABS and the SABS sessions that were held around the same time. The strength of the SABS sessions is their willingness to explore the extent of the impact of modern social contexts on the exegeses of biblical scholars, whereas the plus of the EABS sessions is their attention to textual and linguistc matters within the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. Other interesting EABS sessions concerned the use of technology in the field of humanities (e.g., the digitisation of the biblical manuscripts/study resources).

One of the highlights of the EABS conference is the free concert in Temppeliaukio “Rock” Church jointly sponsored by the Center of Excellence Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions.



Water is probably one of the greatest natural resources in Finland. It is clean and you can drink it straight from the tap! How convenient!

There are generally no fancy Indonesian spices in the Finnish food, and the taste of some Finnish cuisines (e.g., salty liquorice, reindeer meat) can be a bit challenging….


However, the Finns made some of the best smoothies, meatballs, and sandwiches.


@ Fazer Café


@ Sea Horse

Ice-cream is also a Finnish favourite. We often bumped into cute little ice-cream cars during our short stay in Helsinki. I am not sure if this given statistic is still up-to-date, but according to Xenophobe’s Guide to the Finns (pp. 63–64), the ice-cream consumption in Finland remains high even during the winter:

Foreigners frequently wonder why the Finns would subject themselves to eating something cold in winter, but the Finns understand that sacrifices have to be made in order to maintain their ranking as the No. 1 ice-cream consumers in Europe (14 litres per person per year.


The Runeberg tart, a type of Porvoo delicacy, is said to be a favourite of Finland’s national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804–1877).



Our short two-week stay in Helsinki also allowed us to play around and gain first hand experience of the living standard and cultural atmosphere of the capital city of Finland.

Living Standard

The natural landscape in Helsinki is not that spectacular in comparison to places such as Drakensberg in Africa or Mt. Bromo in Asia. The weather in Helsinki can be extreme: During the first week of our stay there, the temperature rose as high as 34 degrees Celsius, and in the following week the temperature dropped as low as 17 degrees Celsius. Given those circumstances, the Finns still managed to exert their creativity and “sisu“*, so that a multitude of colourful buildings has risen above the austere landscape and the capital city is now ranked among those with the highest standard of living.

* The definition of the Finnish word “sisu” according to Xenophobe’s Guide to the Finns:

it is the sisu that prevents the Finns from calling for help when they get stuck waist deep in a swamp during their hiking holiday in Lapland. Instead, they will casually thread the sludge and retain their relaxed facial expressions until they have freed themselves eight hours later. Then they will finish the remaining 20 kilometres they had set out to do that day.


The lake itself is nothing spectacular, but the lovely coffee hut more than makes up for the austere landscape.





I had been to countries where public transport is almost non-existent, so the efficient public transport system in Helsinki was total bliss to me. My husband found the free and clean public toilets scattered around Helsinki most convenient.


Unisex toilet on campus

Both of us were impressed with the helpfulness and problem-solving skills of the Finns we have met. When we informed the landlord of our Airbnb apartment about some defect with the internet device, he replied immediately and solved the problem on the same day. By the way, the internet speed in Finland is among the fastest in the world. When we asked for direction to certain places, the Finns could always tell us the exact tram line or bus line we should take. Unlike some more conservative European countries, where English speaking can get the tourists bad services (feel free to ask me which those countries are), the Finns we have met had no problem speaking to us in English, and we saw other languages (e.g., Russian, Swedish, Chinese, Japanese) floating alongside Finnish at various places in Helsinki. To my amazement, it was quite common to receive friendly smiles from the Finnish shopkeepers and some of them were quite eager to help out even when we did not ask for assistance. The whole city seemed to exude a sense of openness and we felt welcome there.


Moomin story books @ Moomin Café


The Moomin Café we visited had story books in Chinese, alongside those in Japanese, Russian, Swedish, etc.

Cultural Atmosphere

Christianity is the main religion in Finland. However, religiosity in Helsinki seems not so palpable as in Malang, where you can easily bump into a sticker instructing the prayer direction and encounter statues of different deities, whether they are Jesus or Ganesha. Instead, the Finns seem to focus more on human achievements, as evident through the many statues commemorating different historical figures important to the Finns. Here are some samples of these statues:


The statue commemorating the Swedish fortress founder, Augustin Ehrensvärd (1710–1772) @ Suomenlinna / Sveaborg


The statue of Finland’s national poet, Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804–1877) @ Porvoo



The statue of one of the best loved Finnish artists, Albert Edelfelt (1854–1905) @ Porvoo


The statue of the “Flying Finn” Paavo Nurmi (1897–1973) near the Olympic Stadium @ Helsinki

Human statues also predominate inside the Helsinki Cathedral. Below are the statues of the 16th century Protestant Reformers (Luther, Melanchthon, and Agricola):



The statue of the Russian Emperor Alexander II (1855–1881) @ Helsinki Senate Square

Perhaps it is by chance, all the human statues I encountered in and around Helsinki commemorate only the males important to the Finns. Mmm….interesting. However, more striking to me are the diverse nationalities represented by all these statues. Finland was ruled by the Swedes from the 13th century until the latter ignominiously surrendered Suomenlinna / Sveaborg and subsequently the whole of Finland to Russia at the beginning of 19th century. It was occupied by Russia until its independence in 1917. It had fought alongside and then against Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Despite the rather tense relationship with these countries at times, the Finns manage to see something good in the people from all sides, so that the statues, such as the German Protestant Reformer Luther, the Swedish military officer Ehrensvärd, the Russian Emperor Alexander II, were erected and can still be found in and around the Finnish capital city.  In my very short stay in Helsinki, these statues offered me a glimpse of the Finnish humanistic and pragmatic attitudes.


Bonus picture: My manly husband was with me in and around Helsinki ❤️

About Lydia Lee liber noster orbis terrarum est; in eo lego completum, quod in libro dei lego promissum.

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