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.