Our time after David’s parents’ visit has gone by pretty quietly. We’ve gone to Võru nearly every weekend to swim in lakes, bathe in the sun and collect food from grandma’s garden supermarket. This is my yield for the last two weeks: It’s been raining for the past week, so the forests are laden with mushrooms…everything from chanterelles to porcini (I don’t know any other mushroom names in English 🙂 ). So our house now looks like a mini factory. I have also been baking lots of rye bread – a very lengthy two day process, but worth it!
There are mushrooms and chillis drying, mountains of potatoes and beans, jams and juices being made and everything that is left over is pickeld. All this is then put in the cellar, which every self-respecting household must have. All this self-sufficiency is another remainder of previous tough times, when supermarket shelves and wallets were empty and people had to make do with what they could grow. After a sudden change in people’s lifestyles after the USSR broke down people are now starting to get back to growing their own food and trying to eat organic. A similar trend to that in the UK, I believe.
Life in a Soviet prison
Some time ago I wrote about my grandpa, who was condemned to prison for putting up an Estonian flag at the age of 15. I finally got to visit the said prison, now a museum. It was very far from a conventional museum namely because there weren’t any exhibits, guides or displays. The prisoners and the staff left and the prison was left as it was.
The walls still have photos of naked women and 90s TV starts on them, there are books lying around, mattresses and pieces of clothes and shoes on the floors.Visitors can walk around by themselves in damp cells, climb the very rickety watchtower and wonder about everywhere. The place felt extremely eery and the conditions in which prisoners had to live until as late as 2011 were appalling.
The lack of information was somewhat frustrating as I really wanted to locate my grandpa’s cell, but at the same time the state of the prison probably helps people get a better picture of what it was like to live in those conditions.
We recently (re)visited Kuremäe convent located in Eastern Estonia. The convent was started when some peasants had a vision from the Mother of God and later found an icon under an oak tree (believed to have been found in the ruins of an old chapel). An orthodox chapel was built at the place and it soon grew into a convent. The convent served as a typhoid hospital in the 20s and was made into a concentration camp during WWII.
It is now a fully-functioning convent complete with a hospital, guest house, a school and these huge and famous stacks of wood:
I usually go for the submerge when I visit, however this time was different. A little wooden house is built on the spring with an opening in the floor with steps leading into the water. I usually go in there alone, but there were so many visitors this time that people had to go in big groups. It was really a wonderful experience. I went in with about 15 other women, mostly Russian speaking. We all got undressed and as women started to go in the water all the other women started to chant prayers. I was quite dumbfounded at this, but really fascinated at the same time. So I went in the water and said the only prayer in Russian I know – Господи помилуй – Lord have mercy.
We swam in a waterfall! We went to a wedding and ate very little sült (meat jelly). However, David had the honor of being the wedding’s ‘kibe’ caller. Kibe means bitter and as soon as the word is called out (and turned into chanting) the bride and groom have to find each other and kiss. David took his job very seriously and kibe was called nearly every 15 minutes. But then David got drunk on vodka and only called kibe every half an hour.
I’ve been hanging out with former prime ministers. Due to the smallness of Estonia we are actually able to hold discussions with our leaders and express our opinions. Quite remarkable, I thought. We are trying very hard to be like Scandinavia, where such events are quite normal. Oh, did I mention my meeting with Barack on Wednesday?
Due to our similar history and geographical position the Ukrainian events are very heavily broadcast and discussed in Estonia. The analysis of the events is at times unnecessarily unnerving and many people are truly worried about our beloved Eastern neighbour’s impudence. So Obama is coming to pay us a visit show America’s solidarity.
And finally…some news
I have a new study table, which I worked on for two whole days to make it look good. Why I need a study table, I hear you ask? Well, as of tomorrow I am going to be an MA student, reading international relations at the University of Tartu. The course lasts for two years and then I shall be clever. I am looking forward to studying very much and think it’s really nice to finally study something I am interested in. Education, including higher education, in Estonia is free and very good quality as well. I will keep my full-time job and will study full-time, so there are surely busy and stressful times ahead.
However….David is moving to the UK, where he has a new job. So once again we are living the life of long-distance marriage. But not to worry, this is only temporary and we will make a new plan once I have got my MA. Luckily England is only 2,5 hours’ flight away and the time difference is only 2 hours. Nothing we haven’t done before.
Remember strange things from China, here are some strange Estonian things
That is all for now. I hope to hear from some of you soon.