Act one 


Being faithful to reality is a matter of taking part in it, of allowing it to take part in us, rather than making a pronouncement on it. (Paper Boat Collective 2017, 23).

The morning of September 8th begins with a Tough Viking competition in downtown Helsinki, which cadets are taking part in. The first thing I notice when I arrive is how their uniforms give them a particular visibility: camouflage is an aesthetics of exceptionalism, and more: a maker of fetishism. I meet with the commander, kind and helpful beyond my expectations, giving me the opportunity to take part in the march which follows the competition. He tells me that the cadets compete in sixteen groups of about eleven cadets each. I literally follow the commander, and other officers, in following the competition. 

The result of the Tough Viking competition determines the marching order of the groups. The march is conducted as an orienteering competition towards the Santahamina military base in Helsinki: cadets follow a track marked out for them on a map and perform tasks along the way at control points. The entire walk is about 30 kilometres, finishing well after midnight. 

While one group after the other finishes the competition, I wait. I look at the cadets undressing and changing clothes. They do it casually, not hiding their bodies, as if they were public property anyway.

I do not want to talk to anyone at this point because they are tired and half-naked. Because there are so many of them, I couldn’t even decide whom to approach. The commander proposes a group which I can join and tells the group leader that they will take me along. I am so glad he assigns me to a group, because I wouldn’t manage to approach anyone to ask if I can go with them. I wonder if they see me as a burden and a nuisance. After I have learned which group to follow, I keep my distance, roaming nervously around not to lose sight of them, but not knowing what to do exactly.

We finally leave the competition site and begin marching towards Hietaniemi cemetery and its military section, for the cadets’ lunch break. 

I stay at the back of the group when we begin marching. I do not know where I am supposed to be. Do I walk with them, as one of them, or at some distance? Every step matters, every step is a possibility, and I am losing a possibility every step of the way. The group quickly takes the formation of a line in pairs, and I notice the cadets are an uneven number. I move slowly and carefully closer to the cadet walking without a pair.