Life in Võru
I come from a small town in southeast Estonia called Võru. Võru has a population of about 13,000 people. It is a very quiet, beautiful town, but sadly has become a bit stale since a lot of youngsters started leaving (including me).
Despite the lack of economic activity, Võru is still a place to experience and visit, especially during the height of summer or winter. I think Võru people are quite unique with their own traditions like the smoke sauna, which is a sauna heated for hours with smoke going into the room. The tradition of smoke sauna has nearly died out though, but some good Võru people are keeping the tradition alive and are even trying to get it listed as cultural heritage at UNESCO. Võru people also have their own dialect, which, if spoken properly, is not understandable to those who do not speak Võro, as we call it. I find Võru people to be quite down to Earth and more in touch with the nature than your average Estonian.
Võru is the hilly part of Estonia, but if you come from any country but the Netherlands you will not notice the hills. You will notice slightly winding roads, kilometres of forest and a landscape peppered with lakes, which in summer are frequented by swimmers, but are frozen over in the winter.
We had no jobs and no home of our own when we arrived back from China via India and the UK. So we spent a lot of our time in Võru looking for jobs, contacting people, getting stressed and annoyed. We also spent hours in the sauna, resulting in temporarily wrinkly skin. We went back to my grandma’s sauna, where David’s brother, Laurie, once burnt himself and as a consequence became a local celebrity. Estonians couldn’t believe that someone could actually get so burnt in the sauna that they have to be rushed to the hospital. I hope they forget, because I do not want to be seen as the importer of people, who do not know how to behave in basic life situations. Sorry Laurie 🙂
My little sister got a dog while we were in China, so we went for a lot of walks and tried to teach it not to eat all our shoes.
We celebrated vastlapäev, which is pancake day or shrove Tuesday in the UK and mасленица in Russia. We would normally go out sledging on this day and eat pea soup, pigs feet and cream buns. Due to lack of snow the cream buns had to suffice. I tried to give up sugar and all desserts for the lent, but I have so far failed miserably.
We also celebrated independence day on the 24th of February. The news in Estonia is that the prime minister of 9 years has just resigned and, of course, the events in Ukraine remind people events in Estonia just before we were ‘admitted’ into the USSR.
Life in Tartu
I do not know what life in the second largest city of Estonia is like, because we only moved here this Friday. We both found jobs here and are now ready to immerse ourselves in the 9 to 5 lifestyle in Estonia. I have never held a job other than a student job in Estonia, so I will probably have to get used to different ways of doing things and brush up on my professional Estonian.
I will start as a marketing specialist at Tartu University tomorrow. I need to persuade Estonian students to stay and study in Tartu instead of going abroad. Ironic, I know.
David will also start tomorrow at a company called Fortumo as a project manager. They provide software for making purchases with mobile phones.
Our flat is in Tartu old town in a building built in the 18th century. It is a perfect home for me and David and it takes me less than a minute to get to work. David has to go quite far, approximately 4 minutes.
I shall tell you more about Tartu next time, but for now it is time to get ready for tomorrow.
It must also be said that I sometimes miss China. David does not. Yet.