In case you haven't noticed, I don't look like an Estonian. That's because most of my blood comes from here and here, and also a bit here and here. But today, standing in the supermarket at Eedeni Keskus in Tartu I was approached by an older lady who saw me joyfully kissing my daughter's cheek while my wife went to hunt down some taignas(dough).
"Tema nimi on Anna," I replied.
"Mida?" She said looking at me with curiosity.
"Anna," I said.
"Mida?" she replied.
"Anna, nagu Anna Haava," I tried again. Anna Haava was a famous luuletaja (poet) for whom several streets are named in Estonia.
The old women looked puzzled, perhaps not remembering who Anna Haava was, but finally digesting that the kid's name wasn't Kadri.
"Ah," she said. "Väga armas."
On August 16 and 17 the foreign ministers of Eesti, Läti, Leedu, Soome, Norra, Rootsi, Island, and Taani will meet . The five 'Nordic' [rich, cradle-to-grave welfare giving] countries and the three 'Baltic' [less rich, ok, poor, your on your own, don't ask me for free dental] Baltic states, will be meeting in Turku, Finland as the Nordic-Baltic 8.
The last time they met was last August in Norway. Fortunately for all eight FMs, the menu this year will likely include fish and potatoes, as it did last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. Topics of concern will likely include energy issues, including the grotesque plan of Germany and Russia to build a giant gas pipeline right next to Estonia, Finland, and Sweden's most awesome coast lines.
Ed Lucas has of late been recommending that Georgia join NATO ASAP to prevent its descent into the pre-2003 Kremlin hell hole where everybody is Russia's stooge. May I suggest that the boldly dressed FMs of the Nordic countries do something reasonable -- think about making one or all of the Baltic countries part of the Nordic Council. This would address the reality of Estonia's inclusion in the nordic space, and allow the right-thinking trio of Fredrik Reinfeldt, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and Matti Vanhanen, to do away for once and for all with the idea that social democracy is the nordic countries and nothing but.
Finally, I am currently writing my last piece of August before I head off into a sunset of vacation time. It's a freelance story for The City Paper about Tartu korpi life and the extent that it influences Estonian political and business culture.
While the Korp! life is certainly interesting -- imagine rules for drinking beer! -- I am having a hard time getting to the bottom over whether or not it pays to be in EÜS if you want to be Minister of Agriculture one day or not. The Korpid have been telling me that they are apolitical, but I didn't see a lot of Keskerakond symbols around election day here in March.
It would be very helpful if you contacted me or told me in the comments section what you know about the influence these ancient institutions have on the wheels of Estonian life. Is it all it's cracked up to be? Is the feuding (EÜS vs. Sakala) for real or just for giggles? Do the female corporations matter? If you join EÜS will you get to get wasted with Tõnis Luukas in the basement? And what's up with those hats? Let me know what you know. Then we can go and tell the world.