Helsinki is a place where I have found myself again.
Melissa Linsa is an artist, photographer and dancer, and is an active member of the ballroom community. Helsinki has given Linsa the freedom to realise itself.
Melissa grew up in Vaasa and Turkey. She moved to Helsinki at the age of 20 “in pursuit of new dreams”. She has not missed living in the northern Finnish city of Vaasa, as she has found what she is looking for in Helsinki: freedom and like-minded people who provide the necessary peer support.
Compared to Vaasa, Helsinki offers a lot more to do, and as a brown person, Melissa considers Helsinki's multiculturalism to be vital. Here she has discovered the BIPOC community and feels she belongs more than she did in Vaasa. She still carries memories of Vaasa, but Helsinki has enabled so much more that moving back has never occurred to her.
“I moved to Helsinki in a hurry in 2018, and suddenly I found myself in Kontula, which is the best that could have happened to me at that point of my life!”
Helsinki for Linsa means openness and an opportunity for discovery. The ballroom culture has become an important part of her life.
“The balls themselves are hard to describe. It’s practically a competition with judges and a stage, although in the end it’s all about the atmosphere. The music is loud, and it feels like being at a club. If you are interested in getting involved, then follow us on Instagram, for example @melissa_linsa or @finlandballroomscene. The balls need to be experienced in order to understand what they represent.”
Next summer, Linsa plans to realise the bucket list she has created with friends. As a person belonging to a minority, she feels it is important to be able to romanticise and enjoy life. It’s easy for her to do it here, for example in the form of Sunday brunches. Something Melissa feels is missing from Helsinki could be “somewhat unrealistically, Turkish bazaars.” Also, Melissa feels there can never be too many different representations of art in Helsinki.
I moved from Kontula to Kuninkaantammi near Paloheinä and fell in love with the surrounding nature. I spent a lot of time during the pandemic walking and meditating by the Vantaa River. People easily forget that we are also part of nature. Personally, I rediscovered my connection to nature there.
The maritime side of Vaasa is unique, and I have tried to find a place in Helsinki that would remind me of it. The Lapinlahti area comes closest. I remember when the Covid restrictions began to be eased in the summer of 2020 around the time of my birthday. We had a wonderful picnic there with friends until sunset!
I am trying to adopt a vegan lifestyle and have been looking for good vegan restaurants in Helsinki. I like to discover and be inspired by vegan food in the hopes of discovering new recipes. Bun2Bun on Vaasankatu serves vegan burgers and is currently one of my absolute favourites!
I attend festivals for the music. I’ll never forget Flow Festival in 2018 and the performance by Kendrick Lamar. Festivals brings lots of people together. I can spend time with friends and talk about all kinds of things, plus I get to wear my favourite outfits!
I like to look for MENA restaurants, and Levant has been a wonderful discovery thanks to both its food and atmosphere. The food cultures in Middle Eastern and North African countries share many similarities. I can get a step closer to my own culture, and it helps ease the longing. Levant has several locations in Helsinki: on Bulevardi, in Töölö and at the Redi Shopping Centre in Kalasatama.
I discovered the Pagan Autumn Fair through a friend. Spirituality is a big and important part of me, and my personal growth. I visited the fair the first time in October last year, and it will be held again this year from 22 to 23 October at the Hotel Rantapuisto. The event offers everything from lectures to sales stands, and you can even get yourself a tattoo as a souvenir!
Helsinki has beautiful nature. I discovered a particularly lovely spot at Suomenlinna quite by chance, and I love returning there in summertime just to relax and meditate. I don’t remember the exact coordinates, but it’s a small area surrounded by trees and has a swing facing the sea. It’s like a secret garden, and I don’t think many people know about it. You can really hear the relaxing sounds of the sea there!