laupäev, mai 03, 2008

teeme ära

Today I took part in the Estonian garbage clean-up campaign called Teeme Ära which means something like "get it done". To be completely honest, I have no idea who organized the campaign, although I am fairly sure that the Tartu rapper Chalice had something to do with it (see advertisement above).

As an Estonian resident the campaign reached me via online media, radio, television, newspaper, and word of mouth. I had heard stories that the mysterious organizers behind Teeme Ära, including perhaps Chalice, had used high resolution satellite imaging to pinpoint every last empty bottle of Laua Viin in the forests of Eestimaa.

Maps were organized with larger dump sites. The Teeme Ära supply chain was activated, so that sometime around 9.45 am this morning we rolled into the village of Koosa northeast of Tartu to meet up with local organizers who would direct us to the trash and give us the correct bags to put it in. In our car were Ilona and Leena. Ilona is the same age as me and a mother of two. Leena's age could not be guessed, but seeing as she was introduced as being somebody's grandmother, in Estonia that would make her around 35 or older.

Maybe I was tired, but for whatever reason I just couldn't understand what Ilona was saying in Estonian. This happens sometimes. I understand the woman on the radio. I understand the contents of the article. I can read the ingredients on the cereal box. But some people I just can't follow. They speak too quickly or they slur their words. So Ilona, instead, practiced her English on me.

The road to Koosa is surrounded by a mix of leafy forests and farm lands. The tilled earth of the farms is black and pungent. For weeks now the days have been sun-kissed and today was no exception. When we reached our destination there were two guys there, neither of whom I could understand well, who haggled with Ilona about bags and directions.

It must have been a bad day for my language skills. I tried focusing on their lips, but all I heard were vowels tumbling out. Infrequent consonants, which might have acted as linguistic signposts to let me know that this word starts with 'k' or that one starts with 't', were given the once over. Instead, it seemed like 90 percent of what they were saying was either Õ or Ö.

We were sent, along with a caravan of other people bedecked in old, paint-marked clothing that said "I'm here to clean some shit up", to a place called Keressaare, where it turned out there was no garbage. Then, we turned around and went back to the gas station at Aovere, which was a few kilometers back. You see, the map had said there would be a gas station in Koosa, but it was closed. The map also said that there was a gas station in the neighboring village of Vara, but according to the clerk at the store I stopped in -- who I understood perfectly -- it wasn't there anymore.

On the way back, we started to get restless. It seems pathetic, but I could tell my passengers, Leena in particular, were dreaming about being directed to a huge, smelly, unhygienic mound of garbage. They didn't come all the way out to Koosa to eat a sandwich and visit a gas station. No, they came to "get it done." This, in a way, is a very Estonian thing. The British have the joy of sex. The Estonians have the joy of manual labor.

After yearning for heaps of bottles and dirty diapers our prayers were answered by a site halfway between Vara and Koosa at Sookalduse. Here Leena and Ilona were put to work clearing bottles and glass while I was called on to haul old tractor tires out of the marshy woods. At last, my hands were dirty. We were getting what we had come for. And then ... it was finished. That's it? I thought to myself, as I ate another pastry my wife had bought for me the night before.

Ilona instead directed our prügikonvoi to another site, this time in Peipseääre vald, which, with 981 residents, is mostly forest and field. The road in Peipsiääre vald was unpaved, and traffic by larger vehicles had left a hump in its middle littered with larger rocks that unpleasantly scraped the bottoms of our cars. One member of our caravan had their car breakdown because of this, but with a little mechanical prowess he was able to get it back on the road.

Teeme ära had been here too. Someone had already cleared this garbage site. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that we greeted the lack of garbage in Tartumaa with some sadness. We had come to haul car batteries and old couches, and all we had to show for it were some broken bottles and tractor tires. There simply was not enough garbage to sustain our enthusiasm. Discouraged, we drove back to Koosa.

In the parking lot, Ilona again haggled with those who were supposed to know things, while Leena, her thirst for garbage picking unquenched, proceeded to pick up small pieces of broken glass from the adjacent lawn.

By this point my head was hurting because I had mostly been immersed in a real Estonian language environment for several hours and my brain was getting tired of breaking down verbs and looking up meanings from my internal sõnaraamat. "Could you imagine speaking Estonian all the time?" I thought to myself. "Could you imagine if the word tõenäoliselt (probably) set you apart in the world?" It seemed the more words I learned, the less fluent -- in my own mind -- I became. The goal posts were forever moved. I would never be able to say the word pärast (after) the correct way.

I remembered how our friend David told us that when he first moved to Estonia and began working in Estonian, and often in Russian as well, that he felt like icing his head after a day at the office, the way football players ice their limbs after a brutal game. After several hours submerged in eesti keel my brain needed a little Bengay too.

We finally found a place to contribute to Teeme Ära several kilometers west of Koosa. There were already others there, gradually cleansing the roadside of bottles and cans and old bags of chips. We parked and joined them. Somebody had a radio on in their car that was playing swinging Estonian country music. In between the songs, the announcers gave updates on how many tons of garbage had been collected and how to sort the garbage you found.

I thought at first that it was a worthless job and that the place had already been picked clean. But then I noticed a bottle. Then another one. Then a can. Then a shoe. It seemed I couldn't walk ten feet without finding more garbage. I couldn't figure out where it all came from. Did people just launch their empty bottles of vodka from the car as they sped through here at night? Who dumped all those used Libero diapers near a creek? How did a pair of flip-flops wind up this deep in the woods? Were all of Estonia's forests like this? Did every pristine forest floor really conceal the discarded plastics and rubbers of our disposable civilization?

While the stretch of roadside we cleaned today is certainly looking better, I couldn't help but think that we could keep going on like that, from Koosa to Tartu and from Tartu to Viljandi and from Viljandi to Pärnu, picking up trash from the side of the road. It was a sobering thought.

55 kommentaari:

Andres ütles ...

Oh yes. The heaps of used condoms and baby diapers. Luckily I'm not easily traumatized. Also cow skeletons, huge tractor tires, medical inhalators. We were totally ready to find a corpse as well, but fortunately we didn't.

Andres ütles ...

Oh and by the way Chalice didn't have more to do with it than being a famous face for the TV commercials. The initiators were one of the founders of Skype as well as the founder of Microlink and Delfi. The mapping software was coded by Skype's engineers.

martintg ütles ...

These kinds of initiatives are an effective answer to the "ansip malaise" you described earlier. Bravo to all involved.

Seems this initiative has been noted on the various news sites. My favorite quote: "Russia would never dream of a campaign like that. USA, way too sloppy. Even Sweden Finland and Norway would be hard put. Ultra-tidy, public-spirited Switzerland maybe, but gee whiz... who are these people?" from:
http://blog.wired.com/sterling/2008/05/estonias-digiti.html

Eppppp ütles ...

One of you funniest stories ;).

Rainer ütles ...

Andres, corpses were found from various places. Two full skeletons and five individual skulls to be exact. Right now there's no telling how long they had been there. And why. Only one found in Klooga seems to make sense, since there was a concentration camp there during the war.

Jim Hass ütles ...

In the US we have a movement called "Adopt a spot" where volunteers clean up sections of highway in return for bragging rights on a sign, My favorite sign is on interstate 15, where the trash is "made to disappear" by the comic magicians Penn and Teller.

Some sociologists refer to the "broken window syndrome, where order or disorder is maintained by the community, and is seen by all as a cue to the values and behaviour of the community.

timbu ütles ...

We found one live human in the shrubbery.

Jim Hass ütles ...

did the human want to be found in that shrubbery? Timbu did you help her out?

Martasmimi ütles ...

martintg ütles...
Russia would never dream of a campaign like that.
USA, way too sloppy.

Hey..Hey..
We have always done these cleanups...25 years of
"Beach clean ups"
Train Station Clean ups" and planting flowers...
We in the USA have Adopt a Road or Highway programs where groups or individuals sponsor a section of road for on going clean up..
We have imposed huge fines for littering.
If you bring your children to these clean ups you will raise a generation of kids who will put their candy wrappers in their pockets or the trash not on the ground.
Keep up the good work Estonia!!!

Kristopher ütles ...

Even if it is unenforceable, seeing the threat of a $1000 fine posted, as in California, will make you pause.

All down highway no. 101 at rest areas we saw developmentally disabled folks wearing orange jackets who would inform us how many cigarette butts they had "searched and destroyed" and such -- they seemed to take pride in what they did.

Something to think of for the argipäev.

Jonas ütles ...

Interesting. You did your bit today for the society. Always feels good in a strange way. Now that you're done, would you mind coming up here. We still have some of the after-effects of valborg/30 april showing! ;)

News of this rubbish collection even reached (at least) the radio news here in Finland.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Some jurisdictions in the U.S. are now curbing back the popular highway adoption programs due to widspread parental abuse. Also, there has been criticizm from certain circles on gays and blacks being allowed to adopt highways.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Did you pick up any dogshit? We need more people who'd be willing to do that with the smile.

martintg ütles ...

Martasmimi ütles...

Hey..Hey..
We have always done these cleanups...25 years of
"Beach clean ups"
Train Station Clean ups" and planting flowers...
We in the USA have Adopt a Road or Highway programs where groups or individuals sponsor a section of road for on going clean up..
We have imposed huge fines for littering.


Adopting highways and cleaning beaches is only scratching the surface, what about the rest? Scaling up Estonia's effort to the USA, would be equivalent to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs initiating a campaign with 9 million volunteers...

Anonüümne ütles ...

It's a great thing that Estonians finally decided to clean up their country. At the same time thinking that it's anything special speaks for itself. Looking forward to regulations in Estonia that would make littering more expensive than garbage bills. Only that would clean up the country like the rest of the civilized world.

timbu ütles ...

the human said go away and let me sleep.

Alex ütles ...

It was a sobering thought.

Something about using the word sobering while writing about Estonia strikes me as funny.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

This cleaning up event brought journalists from the States to Estonia. He is working on a book about Korea and Estonia and others, and met the President in Tallinn:
Cyrus Farivar

Doris ütles ...

I was in a similar thing back in 2001 (oh god, has it been 7 years already? must be, I still have the T-shirt "Tee puhtaks (Make/road clean) 2001") and by then that action had been going on for at least 2 years. i know because earlier I had been too young to go.

Anyway, that was primarily a highschool-children thing, paired two to a side of the road for a certain stretch. I had the bit going out of Tartu towards Narva. And my my what kinds of stuff there was... from assumably used needles to perfectly fine and mostly unbroken china to several sets of car windows...

But this action I really wish I could have taken part in. One thing is the general littering, which, of course, is bad. But it is a whole another level of evil to drive your garbage into a forest and just dump it there. Littering is usually spur-of-the-moment when you have something in your hand and you don't have any place to put it but the forest dumps are pre-meditated. for those you need a truck, you need to load it up, you need to drive to a secluded spot and unload... grrrr.

Waffa ütles ...

So great, that people take a part of this campaign, and so sad people trash estonian woods and roads like that...
I take it really personally if someone throw garbage around roads or streets, so none of my friends have done it lately (at least around me). One time i made a guy stop hes car and drive back to pick up a bottle, damn he was thinking what a aashole i am...

Estonia in World Media (Rus) ütles ...

You have to be strong

Anonüümne ütles ...

Hey Jens San, why do you keep pushing this Korea shit all the time? Although I kinda understand, I once had a Korean girlfriend myself. She was a juicebox I'm tellin ya. A screamer. Can't forget her. Estonian women are not like that at all.

So keep it comin. It's alright.

Puu ütles ...

Anuumne, you seem to be suffering from a lack of love. Is there someone special in your life?
Don't give up hope and mask your bitterness towars women with misogynistic commentary. There is someone out there for you. But you seem to be going into real racial stereotyping behavior. Which is fascist. Or something. What if some koreans were reading this blog. Or estonian women for that matter. They would feel uncomfortable I would imagine Anyway I hope your love life improves but in the meantime don't take it out on everyone. I know loneliness is hard, but you are just alienating people.

Giustino ütles ...

Is 'juicebox' a colloquial term for 'feisty'?

Giustino ütles ...

Puu,

A women recently told me of her ex-husband, who was a jerk and uncommunicative with her *until* he met someone else who returned him to his former, non-misogynistic self. The answer was obvious: once the love tap had been turned back on, her ex-husband returned to normalcy.

Being a single male is something like trying to sell something you don't even want to sell yourself (toothbrushes?) and getting the door slammed in your face until you hate your potential customers before you even meet them.

Let's just hope 'anonüümne' finds a customer soon so that he too can return to normalcy.

Giustino

Jens-Olaf ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Jens-Olaf ütles ...

anonümmne, I just want to add another perspective. Some Asians know about Estonia. And
Estonians
coming here.
My first Estonian-Korean related article is from 1994. I am living in Korea now. And, for example, there is a Korean journalist called perkunas who is writing regulary about Estonia on Ohmynews. The last post was about a kind of symposium about the April riots last year. And he mentioned a German colleague from Deutsche Welle who compared the Turkish minority situation in Germany with the Russian one in Estonia. Germany as a model. I've read this info via perkunas. Obvisiously he knows even the language... .

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

O.k., and forgot there is an article
serie in Eesti Sõnumid from 1994 to 1995 about Korea. One piece is here. http://estland.blogspot.com/2006/10/korea-kriis.html

John ütles ...

If anonymous hadn't showed up, my afternoon would have been much less interesting with a lot fewer free associations.** This thread was stuck at 20 comments -- everyone was musing along toothlessly, basically in agreement that trash should be picked up and was.

Thank you, anonymous.


** 1) Wasn't "juicebox" from a Who song? "Momma's got a juicebox", "poppa can't sleep at night", etc.

2) I remembered how Steven Malkmus at the end of Pavement's "Cut Your Hair", a song about garage bands, starts screaming "Career, career..."over and over (i.e., is he saying "Korea"?!!!).

Anonüümne ütles ...

Google "female ejaculation", those of you who wonder what I meant by juicebox. Some lucky me, I had no idea what I had stumbled upon. Bedsheets soaked, neighbours rattled, breathless, naked, after 6 times in a row ... Calling in sick. Eh-eheh.

My shy Korean orchid. Cheers to you Eun Sook, wherever you are!

Undforgetten.

Puu ütles ...

Against my better judgement I am going to once again add to this thread. Just because it reminds me so much of teaching middle school, something I get nostalgic for time to time. In something a bit unrelated I went to the Pen foundations event sponsered by Believer magazine( other way around actually I think) featuring " Scandinavian Writers", which was wildly entertaining. And they talked about stereotypes of Scandinavian men and women.And the stereotype of Scandinavian women is that they are gorgeous and easy and that of Scandinavian men that they are gloomy and sullen. The mostly male panelists noted that given the gorgeous easiness of Scandinavian women it was a small wonder that Scandinavian were sullen and gloomy. The mystery of Bergman and Dogme 8 solved.... and swedish sex tourists to Thailand. The amazing abilities of Korean women aside, has anyone, like Jens Olaf actually read Kausaar. I'm not sure about her. I guess she's a hip chick and all, her book was a little strange.. Anyway I could say some other things.. Like do people realize( more completely , thanks to the illuminating emtymalogical explainations of Anuumne) that the SNL hit skit #**% in a box is actually a double entendre... there was a parody called Box in a Box... but apparently Anuumne is hankering to produce a SNL skit entitle My #@*% in a juice box... They sell juice boxes ... like Motts Apple juice to go with school lunches ... If Justin Timberlake gave a %@*% in a Motts Juice box it would mean he was especially good at bringing sexy back....I'm not sure what sort of juice boxes they sell with korean lunches, Lychee maybe... So go anuumne we are very proud you did some scoring with korean women.Anyway I'm sure Lenny Bruce would be very proud of all this utilizing of 1st amendment rights...Since we have already sunk so far below the belt with porn and eighties references it might be noted that the driving force behind the Scandinavian womens gorgeous easiness could be best summarized by the Pixies song Gigantic from the ultimate alt rock album Surfer Rosa.. Maybe all the scandinivian women want is a big big love.
But in the theme of this post, anuumne lets put all your girly mags, used bottles of lube and condoms in the trash bag and keep this site clean.
Thanks.

Colm ütles ...

I think it's a great idea to clean up the forest and I'm hoping that soon a campaign will take place to clean Ireland's countryside, especially around the towns which do not have the resources to put towards urban cleaning that cities do.

It's a sad thought though that as I was driving to Tallinn from Saku, only a few days after May the 3rd that I could see rubbish in the woods around Männiku.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Puu. How's the thrapy going?

Anonüümne ütles ...

Puu, you're in Balmore, hon? Right? We'll go see a good movie. It'll do you good. I'll paste it it here form the email I got. It's a must see film:

Dear Friends,

We’re excited to tell you that the feature documentary The Singing Revolution will be opening in Baltimore, MD for a full week run May 30th - June 5th at The Charles Theatre!

We are writing to you because you live in the greater Baltimore region and indicated an interest in The Singing Revolution by signing-up on our website. Thank you! We think you will be inspired and energized by the remarkable events in Estonia in the late-1980s.

For theater information and to see the full list of cities and theater openings, go to: www.singingrevolution.com and click on “Theater Listings”. More cities are added each week!

The New York Times made the film a coveted “NYT Critics’ Pick” and alludes to Casablanca when describing The Singing Revolution: http://movies.nytimes.com/2007/12/14/movies/14revo.html

Martasmimi ütles ...

martintg ütles...

Adopting highways and cleaning beaches is only scratching the surface, what about the rest? Scaling up Estonia's effort to the USA, would be equivalent to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs initiating a campaign with 9 million volunteers...

Hey...Hey. again..
This is a big country and Bill Gates lives 3000 miles from me
and by the way he is one of the most philanthropic people on the planet.
Years ago the woods and streets were always littered with cans and bottles but a .05c deposit was put on all cans and bottles and people stopped throwing them away.
Huge fines of $1000 are a deterrent.
I must admit that when I see trash on the road or in the woods it is glaring because it is rare to see now.
When my suburban NY community does
clean ups it is much like what was done in Tartu.
If we bring along children we inspire them to litter less and to tell their friends to stop trashing our towns.
If everyone does their part in their little part of the planet
it can't help but make the Earth a better cleaner place.





4:51 AM

Puu ütles ...

Actually I'm in NY York Anuumne and the only therapy I do is Aikido....But if you are in Baltimore maybe you can go and pick up some strippers on the block because you are obviously in need of some release. Jeez Louise... Estonians are the biggest bunch of bitchy queens I know.

Puu ütles ...

I think that one of the positives ( they do exist) from the Soviet area ( or even older ) is the concept of communal land, everyone always had a plot in the country. It makes for community responsibility for the land. Look at how the community garden movement has cleaned up lots of vacant lots in cities all over the county ( then to be exploited by real estate developers, but that's another story). Estonia has the communal mind set ( which has lots of positive aspects) and it reflects in an exemplary fashion in programs like these.

Anonüümne ütles ...

puu, you make my head ache!

Puu ütles ...

How can I possibily make your head ache Anuumne?
Either you have some sort of a genetic condition or you've been drinking.I tend to lean toward the latter theory, especially if you are an Estonian man as they are all alcoholics. In either case you youself are responsible for you headache, not I.

Puu ütles ...

Though he seems to know me ( the rigors of celebrity) I, for the record, have no fucking clue who Anonuumne is.I sincerely hope he doesn't start stalking me. But I think the exchange has demonstrated the reasons, lack of big big love not withstanding, why lots of Estonian women marry Italians, Irish and Dominicans rather than Estonian men.It denegrates into a Honeymooners episode before the Honeymoon. Let's try to take the high road
shall we, such a little nation can't afford so much in fighting.

Giustino ütles ...

We've gone from The Who to the Pixies.

Puu ütles ...

That's because the Pixies rule.

Kristopher ütles ...

Real-life talk show dream panel I would like to see: one taciturn Estonian male from the countryside; Puu; Dominican male and Puerto Rican male from Washington Heights, one each; a Korean female, one anonymous 17-year-old Estonian Internet commentator; and a Russian from Brighton Beach. Topic: anything at all about Estonia.

misty ütles ...

Guistino...

Enjoyed following your site the past few weeks as I'm considering a move to estonia. Now I'm sitting in Tartu at the cafe Catwalk on the street using wifi and think it's a beautiful place. My friend sveta and i walked all over the city yesterday and kept mentioning how shocked I was by the cleanliness and orderliness. I've been living in Russia since 2005 and constantly annoyed as I see people littering.

This language though...oh my goodness. I think I need a little break in between attempting to figure out Russian and jumping into this language...yikes!

I'll enjoy keeping up with your writing, regardless of my decision to move to Tartu. :-)

Anonüümne ütles ...

kristofer - this panel is already happening here. It has always been that way. G is the host. And he's constantly completely blown away. :-)

Puu ütles ...

Kristophe I think think your idea is great and hope you please ignore Anuunonme's constant attempts to turn the blog into an imitation animal house for loveless middle aged estonian alcoholics.
Misty. Don't be afraid of estonian, it's not that bad.And if you master some you have this secret language to use on the subways or something. You can be like a Navajo code talker.
Anuunomee, if you are so concerned about blogs, why don't you start your own, or stop fooling around with korean girls or whatever and move to estonia.

Puu ütles ...

Sidenote on psychlogy. It's been my experience that lots of estonian men ( especially Valis Estlased) are really agressive towards any women who does anything more than traditional gender roles. I think that this is because subconciously they blame their mothers for saddling them with this weird language and cultural identity where basically men have been field workers and cannon fodder for a couple hundred years, often descending into alcoholism while watching their women get sleazed by various invaders. Why can't they be a macho manly language and nationality they ask themselves, and then proceed to take it out on the women and the dog, because history has proved them unable to keep the country on the battle field. It's very sad, but definitely a feature of estonian culture. I think it will improve though.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Puu, blog police?

How much do you weigh?

martintg ütles ...

Puu ütles...
Sidenote on psychlogy. It's been my experience that lots of estonian men ( especially Valis Estlased) are really....


Holy cow Puu, where did you get your misandric views from?

Puu ütles ...

Specimens like anuunomne. I am saying it with some sadness though, but spend any extended period of time in a rural place in Estonia ( or a urban one ) and you get exceptionally bitchy men. It's like a country full of guys from a family of all sisters. Lots mature into lovely human beings, some remain forever trapped in the pulling pig tail stage.

Giustino ütles ...

This language though...oh my goodness. I think I need a little break in between attempting to figure out Russian and jumping into this language...yikes!

I have American friends in Russia and I feel the same way. Think about this. How would one write the Russian word for 'man' in the Roman alphabet? Would it be "Mooj", "Muush", "Moozh", "Muwszjh"?

That's why they invented this intergalactic writing form known as Cyrillic. So they can write "МУЖ".
I don't know how they learn Russian so fast. But they do.

Machista ütles ...

It's "mouche." Short for scaramouche, which is what they are.

Anonüümne ütles ...

There you go, see how easy it was for puu to label me bithcy. Eh? See guys, that's EXACTLY what what I am talking about!
It's simply unbelieavable! This is what keeps all the divorce lawyers fat and happy. :-)

martintg ütles ...

Anonüümne ütles...
There you go, see how easy it was for puu to label me bithcy. Eh? See guys, that's EXACTLY what what I am talking about!
It's simply unbelieavable! This is what keeps all the divorce lawyers fat and happy. :-)


Anonüümne, you need to keep your women fat and happy, not the divorce lawyers. It's the key to future prosperity, both for you and Estonia.

anonuumik ütles ...

I was cuckolded by a Dominican. I blame my mother. She gave me a choice -- go off to war or, go into the fields with your sisters. I chose the fields. I didn't know they worked in the fields. It was in the fields that I fell in love with my oldest sister. I found out later there was no war. I could just have gone to Tallinn and made something of myself. Now I drink and pull pig tails. My own.