neljapäev, märts 22, 2007

A Day in Tallinn Part II

After I did my business on Pärnu maantee, I headed back towards the Estonian Foreign Ministry on Islandi Väljak. It happens that I am working on a piece about Icelandic-Estonian relations, and I needed a quality photo of the square, with the requisite shot of the plaque commemorating Iceland's recognition of the restoration of Estonian independence in 1991.

The plaque is in English, Estonian, and Icelandic. It's amazing how close you can get to the Estonian foreign ministry without arousing any dirty looks. I can imagine that if I did that at the state department in Washington that it would merit some questioning by a federal employee.

After the stopover in Iceland square, I headed for the Estonian television studios on Gonsiori. You see, I had been invited to participate on a show called Kahvel to answer questions about Estonia in Estonian, through mine American eyes. Joining me was Scott Diel, editor of the City Paper, older, wiser, and more fluent in Estonian than I.

Walking into a television studio is a surreal experience. Hey look! It's that guy I see everynight on the evening news. Oh wow! Here's Marko Reikop and there's Anu Välba. Can Tom and Anni from Lastekraan be far behind? There is a feeling that I am about to go on the Ed Sullivan Show. The Ed Sullivans in this case are Hannes and Kiur. Hannes is seated in the dressing room, calm and in black. He's on TV all the time. This is his life. Kiur is there as well. He is talking to me in Scott very quickly. It seems that Scott understands all, while I only piece together his thoughts then ask Scott for reassurance on what he said. I feel utterly immersed in Estonia at this point.

I ask a rock band that is sharing the dressing room "Kus pruugi kast on?" The answer comes back like clockwork. "Kuidas?" What is it with me. Why can't I get a sentence past the gates without my identity being discovered. Did I stretch a vowel too long? Was my "pruugi" not convincing enough. And to think, I am going on TV to speak in this language.

I won't reveal the dialog that transpired because the show has yet to air. It airs tonight at 10.10 pm on TV3 here in Estonia. Being questioned on TV is a bit nervewracking. I may not have answered some questions clearly because of the way it was set up, but I managed to get most of my points across in this language. Scott was also there to answer first if I didn't get the message the first time. When it was concluded I felt relieved. There was a bit of a high. It could get addictive. I can see why people do television. But after I wiped the make-up off my face, I felt whole again.

Walking through the streets of Tallinn on the way to the bus station, I wondered to myself how it was that I -- a boring Italian-American kid from Long Island -- wound up in the capital of this foreign land answering questions on an evening talk show about Estonia. And it occured to me that these magical turns of events are the reason that I keep coming back to Europe. You just can't make these things up.

Anyway, let me know how I did. And Hurrah for Tallinn. A welcoming place.

31 kommentaari:

Kaur ütles ...

The problem was that "pruugi" is imperative form of the verb "pruukima", which means "to use" (kasutama). The word you wanted to use was prügi (trash).

Giustino ütles ...

So I should have said the 'u/ü' sound a bit deeper and for a shorter amount of time.

Anonüümne ütles ...

can Kahvel been seen online?

Sten ütles ...

maybe later on WWW.TV.EE
but thats days later...

Giustino ütles ...

I half want you to watch, and half don't want you to watch.

Aivar ütles ...

Justin, have you wondered what it would have took to get yourself onto American television?

Sal-Saller has one song where he sings that in Estonia everyone is a star. :-)

I wonder if this also explains why there is so little tolerance in everyday life for those who are not exactly "stars" in the cultural context? Like pedestrians for example.

Looking forward to catch this Kahvel on www.

Vova ütles ...

Good luck, Giustino. In a sense, I even envy you. I spent three years in Eestima--a Russian-born American--and unlike you I tried to make a mark on the vene-DELFI portal only to be met with fiece resistance and resentment from Klenski and other national-patriots. They succeeded in placing a filter to ban all of my comments regardless of their content. In case you are not aware, DELFI is a very much FSB-controlled and managed outfit

Sten ütles ...

omg. can't wait for the show to begin!"

Flasher T ütles ...

Awwww. You look like a boyband refugee. ;)

Anyway, good job, mr. Estophile Yank!

ic ütles ...

I just started to read your blog and turned on tv. You did great, nothing to be ashamed of! :)

p ütles ...

Vaatasin Kahvlit. Minul oli Kiuri küsimustest raske aru saada.

Reinumag ütles ...

Damn, I just saw your post, 15 minutes too late. Let's hope TV.EE has it..

heli ütles ...

Justin, sa rääkisid VÄGA HEAD eesti keelt! Paremat kui Scott! Ma poleks uskunud, kui Kahvli maha maganud oleksin (: Jõudu ja jaksu edaspidiseks!

Giustino ütles ...

Scott on muidugi parem. Ära vale!

Giustino ütles ...

Awwww. You look like a boyband refugee. ;)

Ma pidin ajama habe maha. Tavaliselt olen rohkem Joey Fatone kui Justin Timberlake.

dresolve ütles ...

in Estonia everyone is a star

Reminds me of the one time I was on ETV. It was just a 3-second news clip. Of course I was completely oblivious to the camera that was filming me as I was taking part in volbriöö festivities (drinking a beer in one of Tartu's korporatsiooni/fraternity houses.)

However, when I got calls from Tallinn, Viljandi, and New York the next day (aunt in eesti called my mom) I found out I was a 'star', if only for 3 seconds.

I guess when there are only 3 or so Estonian channels, your chances of being seen are that much higher, maybe even more so than if you had been featured on a NY network channel. Heard on the radio yesterday that the average US household receives over 100 channels , of which only 15% are ever watched.

Please let us know if and when the intervjuu is featured on the internet. I'm sure I'm not the only current non-resident that would like to see it.

Sten ütles ...

the show is available now on TV.EE!

timbu ütles ...

Congratulations on your TV debut! And believe me, it won't be your last time, so keep practising!

Estonia in World Media (Rus) ütles ...

In evaluating language proficiency the important thing is the background, against which the person under scrutiny stands.

Trulla ütles ...

You did well and looked handsome ;). And I had a little inside giggle on your shiny-eyed mentioning of the beer-possibility. I just got curious about whether all that good Estonian you displayed comes from your current two-month-long stay here in Estonia, or is there also some influence from your previous experience with Estonia when you lived in Tallinn for a while? And has Epp tried to teach you some Estonian while still in the States?

Tiia ütles ...

Very nicely done indeed! Estonia looks good on you :) And your estonian has also improved by leaps and bounds. I would have been intimidated as hell in that situation - how much of what Kiur was saying did you not understand? The way he speaks is not the easiest to understand, I imagine, because his sentences and thoughts are kind of drawn out and need to be followed pretty closely...

Giustino ütles ...

"I just got curious about whether all that good Estonian you displayed comes from your current two-month-long stay here in Estonia, or is there also some influence from your previous experience with Estonia when you lived in Tallinn for a while? And has Epp tried to teach you some Estonian while still in the States?"

The first time here laid the framework. I took a class that laid down the grammatical rules. I also taught English, which forced me to learn Estonian to get my points across.

Now I am basically adding new phrases and vocabulary words each day. I learned a lot of words reading Postimees when we were in America. The hard part is that only about 25 percent of what I learn the first time stays put. I have to learn the other words again and then I need to hear them used a few times before I really learn them. That's why things take so much time.

Anonüümne ütles ...

I saw the interview and I'd say that well done ,)
Considering that Estonian is really really difficult, I'd say that You have done a good job!

ryan ütles ...

Way to go man. It will be years before I can say half of what you said on the show today.

P.S. my wife, an estonian, said that your accent is sexy. Just thought you'd like to know, boy-band refugee.

Kaupo ütles ...

Was nice to see You and to hear You speaking good Estonian, congratulation! You have done well!
And Your stories here are also good to be read...
Hopely You can see me too through tv.ee, before You'll get here maybe in summer...

dresolve ütles ...

sten: thanks for the update

estofiilile: hästi tehtud!

dresolve ütles ...

my wife, an estonian, said that your accent is sexy. Just thought you'd like to know, boy-band refugee.

I found it amusing when for a few moments the camera dwelled on Giustino's hands, wedding ring included. As if to say: "Yes ladies, we just want to confirm that this sexy-accented rockstar (trying to avoid overuse of that other term) is off the market!"

dresolve ütles ...

On another note, I found it intriguing how two representatives of the American perspective in Estonia also represented two different faces of English-language Estonian media. Scott, Editor-in-Chief of the ‘old media’ magazine City Paper, and Justin, who I guess up until now was known to most Estonians and those reading about Estonia primarily through the ‘new media’ blogosphere.

space_maze ütles ...

Good job, indeed - that seems like completely the situation where all my Estonian would have gone out the window.

I understood the questions, and could formulate answers in my head .. but I had the advantage of not being there. :D

I loved the caption .. "Scott: eesti keelel on üle 7 sõna"

And I think your pronounciation is better than Scott's, in any case - you sound less obviously american than him.

Not that I'm the perfect person to judge, having a horrid accent on my Estonian .. but a vastly different one. For my Austro-German-Estonian ears, you sounded a lot more Estonian than him, also if he was more fluent at times.

aivar ütles ...

Great interview. From the get go it seemed that Kiur tried to take you guys out to the ride and have some fun with you by insisting that as Americans you were sure to wear white socks.
I enjoyed Scott's gentle broadside when he mentioned that 'being an estonian is a full time job'. Kiur's line of questioning on how do we look to the others was symptomatic of it and it was great that Scott picked up on that. He might have put it even more bluntly than he did and say flat out that estonians are one big "nabauurija rahvas." Also, his mentioning of having to deal with the law and litigation in Estonia rather than in America, was very meaningful.

Justin was also very kind by saying that we are just like any other nothern nation (a la Danes). That is quite a lot of credit we must live up to now.

Very nice interview indeed.

space_maze ütles ...

The line of questioning reminded me of a great joke about Estonians I was told.

Ameeriklane, venelane ja eestlane on loomaaias ja vahivad hiigelsuurt elevanti.

Ameeriklane mõtleb: "Ilgelt lahe suur elukas. Viiks Ameerikasse näitaks rahvale raha eest saaks rikkaks."

Venelane mõtleb:" Ilgelt lahe elukas, viiks koju, hea oleks koos viina võtta. On nii suur ka teine, et kohe pähe ei hakka."

Eestlane mõtleb: "Huvitav küll, mida see elevant küll minust arvab?"