neljapäev, jaanuar 31, 2008

suusakultuur

Yesterday on my way into the center of Tartu, I met a younger relative of my wife's named Ken who was walking up Jakobi street towards his school.

Ken is about 12 years old and he keeps changing every time I see him, getting older, wiser, et cetera. He and I stopped to chat, and he informed me that he was on his way to a school field trip, a school field trip to Otepää, the 'winter capital' of Estonia, where he and his classmates would be forced by their instructors to ski and enjoy themselves.

Can you imagine? Skiing as part of the curriculum? Another cousin, a few years younger than Ken, also must fulfill physical education requirements by going skiing right here in Tartu. It's almost a chore. Something she has to do, no matter how badly she wants to stay at home watching Pokemon, or whatever kids are into these days. Estonian kids must ski, even if there's no snow.

Every winter I have spent here, save this one, has been polar. It's been freezing and the ground has been continuously covered with thick dark ice and fresh snow well into March. But this winter has given credence to rising global anxiety about 'climate change'. It has snowed several times -- most of November saw Tartu blanketed with a rich layer of white stuff -- but January has been more like an darker and very moist incarnation of October.

But that doesn't mean that the Estonian kids get a free pass. Instead they just keep the snow machines at Otepää working at night to ensure that every bus load of Estonian boy and girls has the opportunity to enjoy their homeland's bounty of winter sporting activities.

Epp -- my wife -- says that being forced to ski has killed her desire to go skiing again in the future. Every morning during the winter season the children of Karksi-Nuia, the community in southern Estonia where she grew up, would have to board the bus with their skis, school bags and other accessories just so that Estonia could be the land that skis.

And to think, I was going to buy Marta -- our eldest daughter -- a pair of cross country skis to take advantage of our proximity to Otepää. But with unseasonal weather like this, snow machines or no snow machines, I am starting to think it's better to rent than to buy.

This post has been corrected to reflect my wife's experience with skiing in school.

11 kommentaari:

E:r ütles ...

The possibility to go cross country skiing was probably the only thing that made me wake up without the help of an alarm-clock, at the sunrise of weekend days in the winter, when I was growing up in Saaremaa.

But competing against other kids while circling around the 250m school stadium really killed the fun.

Eppppp ütles ...

Justin, you misunderstood... Our busride to school was 10-15 minutes. But the "physical education" class aka skiing was 45 minutes. Too short... and often we had no time to shower and had to run back to other classes, sweating, after the hard skiing...
Yes, it really killed the joy.

Giustino ütles ...

Ah, ok. I will correct it.

Kristopher ütles ...

I hear you on the rental vs buy issue.

Granted, this is in warmer Tallinn, but I don't remember ANY winters lately that have not had depressing periods of thaw.

More and more, there's a week of early snow (September in 2003!), then winter comes late . And ends early -- it hasn't really snowed appreciably after March 21 in any of those years.

I remember a couple flakes of snow at the Viljandi lake run in 1997, which I thought was cool, and that's the last May Estonia snow I remember. .

Hansken ütles ...

Skiing in school was fun. Now, while living here in UK, I so totally miss it. Well, I miss winter in general - in this land of eternal Autumn.

Andres ütles ...

I didn't enjoy skiing all that much. I wasn't very good at it so I always had to spend more time in the forest than the faster kids because we usually had to do a certain number of laps. It seemed like a punishment. In high school our PE teacher was a little more understanding and only gave a period of time everybody had to ski. So I wasn't too much against skiing in high school but I'm still not a fan.

Lauri ütles ...

Compulsory skiing is fine by me, but the problem these days is, that the equipment is expensive. Long gone are the days when everyone had the same kind of VISU's and if my child should be made fun of because of "uncool" equipment, It's better to stick in the school gym.

tiiu ütles ...

Every winter I have spent here, save this one, has been polar. It's been freezing and the ground has been continuously covered with thick dark ice and fresh snow well into March.

Can not be. Marathon was cancelled in 2004 and it was doubtful last year - there was no snow until early Feburar I think.

But it is snowing right now :)

Giustino ütles ...

Can not be. Marathon was cancelled in 2004 and it was doubtful last year - there was no snow until early Feburar I think.

I remember when the marathon was canceled. But I also remember that there was snow on the ground through most of that winter, though it was milder than 2002-2003.

Last year we moved here on February 1, and it was "polar" up until around March 20th. It snowed the last time on May 2nd. This year's first snow came on Nov. 2. I have photos!!!!

Helen ütles ...

I remember the skiing lessons. very unpleasant. especially since the skiing class was not held as our regular physical education class but from our after or before school time at TPI (now TTÜ) spordihoone. and I remember one winter when there wasn't much snow but there was plenty of ice and water around TPI stadium where we had to ski laps to get our credit. no wonder boys gym teacher got the black eye every spring from the boys of graduating class.

Frank ütles ...

it´s compulsory in Austria, too.