a chronicle of life and school in Estonia and Morocco
Toole Castle on the Gulf of Finland [again, courtesy of the panorama setting on my camera]
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Entry V: Estonia's Greatest Hits [so far]
Some cool things about Estonia (with photo documentation!):
Love of learning. September 1st is the day students of all ages begin classes in Estonia, and it's a big deal. On my way to school, I got stuck behind multiple gaggles of students on their merry way, many of them bearing bouquets of flowers for their teachers. All of these young scholars were presumably more on-time than I was, as they moved very slowly, much to my frustration. Then, a few blocks from my classroom building, I stumbled upon a parade complete with a marching band and couple of military regiments in full regalia. There was no one lined up to watch, no fanfare surrounding them. It felt almost intrusive to take this photo. They blustered by and I continued on to class.
Lodi, docked at the boat yard on Emajõgi
Aivar and Riina above-deck on lodi
Boats. One Thursday morning, my host parents scheduled us a boat ride in a 14th century cargo barge, or lodi. This one-masted sailboat used to carry cargo like furs, wax, honey, and wood between Russia and Estonia, traveling on lakes and rivers. This particular boat is a recreation of these long gone barges. It is a short, squat vessel as far as sailboats go, measuring in at 12 meters in length and 7.5 meters in width. Stay tuned for more from the boat department, as I will be visiting a Viking village this weekend and possibly doing a little sea-faring in a Viking ship.
Walking home at about 4 p.m.
My daily walk home. The trek from my house to the social sciences building on Tiigi street is about thirty minutes or so, and fifteen or twenty of those minutes are spent on this path along the river. In the morning I pass old men donning windbreakers, baiting their fishing poles and opening their tackleboxes for the day. In the afternoon I pass these same men again, still reeling in catches. Some of them now have a beer in one hand, fishing pole in the other, with several empty bottles nestled in the riverbank sand at their feet. The afternoon is also the time for rowing clubs to practice in kayaks and shells, and for high school kids to hang out at small docks along the bank, backpacks strewn on the planks.
Dinner: peas, cucumber salad, potatoes, pickled mushrooms, and pig tongue
Food. Estonian food is damn delicious, and thankfully, my host family insists on feeding me a lot. This morning I finished my breakfast of pork dumplings, sour cream, and horseradish, cleaned my plate completely, and set my fork and knife neatly side by side on the dish, a customary sign that one is all done.
"Steven, eat more food," said Riina from the couch. (That's another nice thing about meals here: we eat in comfy chairs and couches. I don't think this is a cultural phenomenon, just a really awesome feature of my host family.) It wasn't a question, it was an order. Well, the dumplings were delicious, and there was plenty left, so I obliged. I am coming to realize, there is always plenty left to eat. I thought maybe Aivar and Riina would stop preparing such huge portions when they realized I didn't have the appetite of several lumberjacks, but the piles of food show no sign of abating, so I'll have to adjust.