pühapäev, veebruar 11, 2007

Üks, kaks, kolm, neli!

Well we just got back from Laulasmaa today. Laulasmaa is a swanky Nordic spa and resort about 35 kilometers west from Tallinn, and it seeks to combine modern convenience (wifi) with kitschy references. For example, the first song I heard when I walked in the door was Burt Bacharach's "The Look of Love". Later, I was soothed by the sounds of Sade, and even an Andean pan flute rendition of Whitney Houston's 1992 hit, "I Will Always Love You."

As far as food goes, it was excellent Estonian fare -- fish, potatoes, more fish, more potatoes. Estonians are in love with root vegetables and dairy products in general. If the local kaubamaja only sold leib, potatoes, pork, yogurt, and beer, I think that Estonians wouldn't complain too much. The catering at Laulasmaa was in this tradition.

However, we didn't go to Laulasmaa to relax. We were there to eavesdrop on a meeting of select Estonian citizens discussing issues facing the European Union today. I'll save that reporting for a real news story, but at night I managed to drink (a lot) of wine with regular Estonians and practice my Estonian skills, which are getting better with each passing day.

Somehow during the evening meal we got sucked into a dance by a dance instructor from Viljandi who has that rare gift of being macho and a very expressive dancer at the same time. Suddenly I was face to face with many middle-aged ladies named Pille and Malle and Ruth and I was doing the Estonian tango forward and backwards while Härra Viljandi yelled out "üks, kaks, kolm, neli!" I was shocked to learn that as modest as Estonian ladies seem on the street, if you get a few glasses of wine in them, they have no reservations about dancing the tango with you.

On occasion, my dancing partners looked at my name tag and noticed that I wasn't Estonian. I had to do the whole song and dance about who I am and how I learned Estonian, to which I was told I am tubli, et cetera. And, as always in Europe, I am not really American, I am Italian, even though I can't really speak Italian and I've only been there once. I don't mind it though. I am very proud of my Italian blood and I can't honestly say that I am not Italian, especially while looking at my nose in the mirror.

Anyway, your countrymen insisted that I drink more and so I drank more and more and more. And by the time I crawled into bed (1:30 am) I was trying to figure out how some Estonian guys manage to do this every night and still reach that magic age of 66, when they promptly drop dead. And they were still going strong when I left. These are some talented drinkers we're talking about. Luckily I had a few glasses of water before I tucked myself in to sleep, so the hangover today was relatively mild.

14 kommentaari:

kerho ukkonen ütles ...

I feel embarassed! There was absolutely nothing untoward in your post but my thoughts sort of drifted a bit. I couldn't avoid of picturing you doing the hot tango with a sizzling Estonian beauty and hearing her asking, if there is something in your pocket or is it just that you are very glad to tango with her? :)

Estonia visitor ütles ...

I know exactly how you are feeling! I had an Estonian friend come over from Tallinn this weekend and in the space of 48 hours, have drunk more vodka and beer than in the whole 2 or 3 weeks before. After I showed him a cheap local London pub where the prices were comparable (though not as low) as Estonia, he settled in like a pig in s**t and the drinking commenced. "üks veel" is the phrase I heard most this weekend. I have no clue how the Eesti poissid do this for hours and manage to walk afterwards.

Oh and this applies to the Estonian ladies, too, who seem to be able to handy brandy and vodka as well, if not better than the men.

notsu ütles ...

About roots and bread and dairy and meat diet: if one ayurvedically wants to eat both local and seasonal food, it practically IS the local and seasonal food you can get so far north in winter. Of course, there should be some fish thrown in... where is all the fish? and cranberries (they preserve extremely well)? why cannot we get local fish and berries in shops?

Tatsutahime ütles ...

What do you mean by defining yourself italian? You say that it is not of language or strong ties to the country - what is it then? What are those subtle or less subtle feelings or thoughts or behaviours of yours that you name "italian"?

Giustino ütles ...

What do you mean by defining yourself italian? You say that it is not of language or strong ties to the country - what is it then? What are those subtle or less subtle feelings or thoughts or behaviours of yours that you name "italian"?

This question could be answered in the form of a book. But these things happened in the Americas, and I mean, all of them, from Argentina to Canada.

Because Italian culture was not the founding culture of the United States, which was primarily an protestant, Germanic culture, we are defined as hyphenated Italian-Americans.

That means a few things. One, I am genetically from the Mediterranean region. Ie. when I was in Italy, people THOUGHT I was Italian too, because genetically I AM mostly Italian. Also, we have Italian names. My mother's maiden name is Abbatecola. How many non-Italians do you know that had a grandfather named Gennaro?

Two, despite the loss of language, Italian-Americans preserve the customs of Italian life. That means Italian food - lasagna, braseola, etc. - is OUR food. It's not some exotic food like Indian or Chinese. Mozzerella was something I ate at lunch, and, moreover, something I could pronounce the proper southern Italian way.

Also, we maintain the quintessential "Italian family life" of loud discussions (arguments), nosy relatives, unending negativity, and conspicuous obligation to family. So if you miss a big family holiday it's a big deal.

I could go on and on, but really, you consider yourself Italian because other people do. There are jokes about being greasy or connected somehow to organized crime. And people DO look down on Italians, who are stereotyped as these Sylvester Stallone-type "guineas" ie. good heart, not smart. Even in my family it has been the case that non-Italian spouses families have shunned or expressed dissatisfaction with marriage into the family due to our Italian heritage.

All of this stuff has its origin in being originally from Italy. There's really no other way to explain it. My Irish friends have all sorts of typical Irish issues (alcoholism in the family, loathing of England, etc.) You can't erase your whole genetic package in a generation or two. It doesn't work like that.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Does anyone in your family speak like they do in Sopranos? That would be so cool (and funny).

Martasmimi ütles ...

{Also, we maintain the quintessential "Italian family life" of loud discussions (arguments), nosy relatives, unending negativity, and conspicuous obligation to family. So if you miss a big family holiday it's a big deal.}

I think the dinner scene at the table in Saturday Night Fever depict's most accuratly an Italian family.
You can increase or decrease other lifestyle factors...money education,even geography but
"Italian" ...it's in your blood.
and there is quite alot of it in Marta Maria's blood...
It seems to over power all others.

Giustino ütles ...

Italian culture is very easy to identify with. The music and film for example, doesn't seem that foreign to me. It's very easy for me to relate to a Fellini movie, example, as odd as that seems. The folk music is soothing, perhaps in the same way that the Irish Americans I know have a soft spot for the Clancy Brothers.

Think about it this way. Estonian is totally foreign to me. These strange vowel sounds are hard for me to make. Even the rhythm is of the language is foreign to me. I can't even say the word "sall" properly, and forget about rolling the letter 'r' at the end of 'nurrrrr.' This is totally foreign for me. Italian is not.

Andres ütles ...

guistino, the letter r is one of the most difficult for young children to master. I only started to say it properly when i was like 5 or 6 and I still can't get the right sound sometimes, so don't worry, it just isn't that easy :p

notsu ütles ...

But you should roll your "r"-s in Italian too, actually... and have relatively soft 't'-s and 'p'-s and 'k's compared to English. The pronounciation of Estonian shouldn't be very hard for an Italian. At least, Estonians who have learnt Italian have usually quite a good accent (specially good when compared to German and Anglosaxon accent), it should work other way as well.

Tatsutahime ütles ...

Thank you for so thorough answers! Amazing!

As of language, italian and english are both indo-european languages (and italian is one of the easiest to learn), as estonian is not. So, I suppose spanish would be also much more familiar to you than estonian. Even if there are some theories of language being genetical.

But why I ask of all these things, there are basically two reasons. One is my scientific interest into immigrants and their identity; the other is my own emerging status as an immigrant in Italy. So "being italian" is something that is very important to me right now :)

So, I proceed with my endless questions and hope that you would find time to answer - or anyone else :)

Giustino, do you watch soccer? For whom you are?

They want to double US military base in Vicenza, Italy - even if at least half of the people are for example against war in Iraq. Still, this is a strategic location for US Do you think this enlargement is a good idea?

How do you relate yourself to catholicism? Religion as such? Communism?

Giustino ütles ...

Giustino, do you watch soccer? For whom you are?

I am always for Italy in the World Cup, but I am not really a sports fan. The only sports I like watching are winter sports, like skiing, and in those competitions, I route for Estonia ;)

They want to double US military base in Vicenza, Italy - even if at least half of the people are for example against war in Iraq. Still, this is a strategic location for US Do you think this enlargement is a good idea?

This decision is really up to Italy and how cozy it wants to be with the US. Obviously Greece is a no-go, they hate us there for the support of the fascist dictatorship in the 70s. But where to find a trusted ally so close to the region of immense interest?

Honestly, we have hundreds of thousands of troops in Iraq and we can barely control the place. What difference will American presence make for Italy? Maybe a boom to the local economy? That's the only benefit I see right now.

How do you relate yourself to catholicism?

I come from a very Catholic family. My parents are not that religious, but my grandparents were. I received communion as a Catholic, but we left the church when I was a teenager.

I am very attracted to the Catholic culture of feasts and celebration and eating lots of really good food. But the church is just wacky.

Communism?

The Italians really take it to a whole other level don't they. You've got fascists and red brigades, but in reality, Italy just keeps waking up and going to bed. It's still there. I find these ideological battles to be pointless. I think it is all part of the absurdity of being Italian.

I mean Italian-American family arguments generally have no point, and are all about getting excited and worked up and beating your chest and talking of suicide and/or murder, and then sort of calming down, like nothing happened.

plasma-jack ütles ...

I think communist views are OK in Italian context because (as I understand from my limited viwpoint) the ordinary people didn't have Soviets on their backs, but fascists, nobles, clergy and conservatives, which makes any normal people feel leftist. (Or so I've read)

Martasmimi ütles ...

(I mean Italian-American family arguments generally have no point, and are all about getting excited and worked up and beating your chest and talking of suicide and/or murder, and then sort of calming down, like nothing happened.)
**************************
.....something does happen.
each time this happens.
It goes into a vault of feelings.
At some point if the vault becomes full the good just better outweigh the bad.
Italian's tend to love their family like no others.
They may be loud
and emotional but make no mistake this love is not
unconditional...
I think they are willing to
take or do most anything for family ..but they are not "all forgiving" there is a price..
..and when enough has become enough...they will never look back.
Believe me I have seen this...
"He/She is dead to me"
might very well be the last words ever spoken or heard....