pühapäev, august 30, 2009

teeme juurde

Thick gray clouds, fat and fluffy. Like migrating birds, they always seem to find their way to the Gulf of Finland at certain times of the year. I could feel the grayness of northern life consume me as soon as we got into Helsinki.

At first, it was sunny, but then the clouds began covering Vantaa as we waited for our plane. The shiny Moomin souvenirs and reindeer cold cuts and Marimekko plates; all were suddenly calmed by the serene clouds. The Finns are such stylish people, even if they are oppressed by the gray, even if they can't help but crack a perverted grin when they serve you at a café. Their mouths say "kiitos," but their translucent eyes hint at something more sinister. It's their subtle way of letting you know that everybody in that country is secretly nuts.

The gray followed us to Tallinn, but here other details caught my attention. While the Finns are stylish, many Estonians are garish. Supposedly, an Estonian man's kroons go first to the car, then the house. I would venture that an Estonian woman's most cherished bling is her expensive manicure. First the nails, then the hair.

I spoke to the cab driver in Estonian — the best way not to get ripped off, I'm told. His name was Sergei. I noticed his name when I saw his ID card in the car. He helped us with our bags, crammed with less- expensive clothing procured during a spree in the US, and was mostly polite, but he didn't say a word, even when I paid him or thanked him. Not a word. Not a 'How was your trip?' or 'You're Estonian's pretty good. Some people have been living here for 50 years and not one word.' Not a smile or even a grimace. Nothing. Sergei gave us nothing except a silent and efficient ride to our address. After a few weeks of warming up in the US, Sergei to me signaled that it was time to cool down. I was back in Tallinn and summer was coming to an end.

***

And then there were blondes. This subgroup of humanity walks the sidewalks of Estonia, totally unaware of how strange it looks to outsiders. We have words for these odd flaxen-headed creatures. We call them Vikings or Nordics or Scandinavians or Germans or even Aryans, but to me, these towheads are just different. Blondes. They make everything better. They look good. When Estonians need to print up travel brochures or postcards and they don't know what to do, they usually put a blonde on the cover. Come to Põlvamaa, they entice would-be tourists, we have blondes! And the people come.

Still, negative stereotypes do belong to groups of people, even the blondes. And even in Estonia, some people think the fair-haired are dumb. For example, the Estonian term sinisilmne – literally 'blue-eyed' – is a metaphor for 'naïve.' Blue-eyed Estonians use it regularly and don't get the irony. Once on Taarapuiestee, a minor boulevard in Tartu, we almost got in an accident with an erratic driver who ran a STOP sign. By the way the car blew through the intersection, I thought it was driven by a big drunk man, but when I saw the person through the windshield, I noticed it was a small, seemingly sober woman.

"Did you see what I saw?" I asked my wife.

"Yep," she answered. "She was blonde."

And we both knew what 'blonde' meant. In this scenario, it referred to a group of people that is unable to operate heavy machinery. No wonder there are so many traffic accidents in Estonia. It has one of the highest 'blonde rates' in the world.

***

"Teeme juurde, teeme juurde." When I first went to the local Säästumarket to buy some bags of milk, I accidentally said 'thanks' to the cashier before I corrected myself and said aitäh instead. I knew then that it was time to adjust again, to slip back into Estonian life and speak the local language.

And so here we were in a used furniture store on the outskirts of town, haggling with the proprietor who promised to build us a set of bookshelves for our growing library. Epp did 90 percent of the talking. I rifled through a Soviet-era book on Finland. Did you know that the 'ultra patriotic' right-wing Lapua movement got the Finns into a war with the Soviet Union twice, in 1939 and again in 1941? According to that book, published in the late 1960s, that's how it all went down. I'm keen to read about the rest of world history as the Soviets wrote it. Maybe it should be compiled into a single book, perhaps a new Russian history book for high school students?

But teeme juurde – that's what the shop owner said. Teeme means 'let's make it' and juurde, well, that means literally 'to the root.' 'Let's make it to the root?' No, that can't be right. It makes no sense. "It means 'let's make more,'" Epp explained. I struggle to grasp how the word for 'to the root' turned into 'more,' but who can figure out the etymology of phrases in this language where somebody's place is their 'root' -- Ma olen Jaani juures is 'I am at John's place.'

I close my eyes and try to imagine roots. What do they look like? Some are big and others small, but most are underground and twisted into terrifying shapes. Only the tree-minded Estonians would be able to fully understand how they've managed to give the word for 'roots' so many other meanings, but, whatever, teeme juurde, let's make some new shelves.

***

When I left to go the Konsum today, it was sunny. On the way there, it got cloudy. While in the Konsum, it began to rain. I asked the girl at the Apteek for some rubbing alcohol. Or at least I tried. This is what transpired:

Kas teil on alkohol mida ma saaks mu näole panna? (Do you have alcohol that I could put on my face?)

Puhastamiseks? (For cleansing?) She gives me a puzzled look.

Juust. (Exactly)

Jah, üks hetk palun. (Yes, one moment please) She pulls out a key and begins filing through a drawer.

Asi on see, et putukas hammastas minu tutre ja ma tahaks, et see amps läheb kiiresti ära -- (The thing is that a bug bit my daughter and I would like that the bite goes quickly away)

Ah, nüüd ma saan aru. (Ah, now I understand) The clerk looks delighted and hands me a bottle of Mentool Piiritus.

'Mentool Piiritus'! See on täpselt mida ma tahtsin osta. Teate, et ma just tulin tagasi Eestisse ja -- .
(This is exactly what I wanted to buy. You know, I just came back to Estonia and --)

Pole hullu. (No worries) The clerk smiles and rings me up. I guess it's obvious that I am a foreigner, but I was understood.

On the way home from the Konsum, it stopped raining. When I pulled in the driveway, it was sunny again.

39 kommentaari:

Eppppp ütles ...

'You're Estonian's pretty good. Some people have been living here for 50 years and not one word.' - this is not what Sergei would say :)

Giustino ütles ...

See oli nali, Epp. Ha. Ha ha.

Rainer ütles ...

Pole hullu - "no crazy". Don't you find that one just a bit weird, too?
As for juur/juures/juurde, it's something that seems to blow all non-Estonians away.

Eppppp ütles ...

pole hullu = no worries?

MikkS ütles ...

I suggest reading the series Välispanoraam. One book covers one year of world events. Really entertaining read, especially the economics section with all sorts of tables and charts showing how capitalist collapse is imminent.

http://www.raamatukoi.ee/cgi-bin/raamat?69892

Martasmimi ütles ...

Justin said:
And then there were blondes. This subgroup of humanity walks the sidewalks of Estonia,

If you are in a country that has more blue eyed people then any other in the world, you are very likely to have many more "Blondes" as well.
To equate this with mindlessness is rather subjective.
Many stereotypes do exist ..but at least here, where we have so many people from so many countries, you can on any given day find an appropriate stereotype for any nationality. As a Blonde, "a sub group of humanity", I find this very comforting. ; ) Mom

Tatsutahime ütles ...

"Teeme juurde" - let's make one more there where something already is or once was. Let's make the same thing at the root of its "ancestors" is the idea. I am always imagined this as someone making something new growing from the old root...

puolimieli ütles ...

And even in Estonia, some people think the fair-haired are dumb. For example, the Estonian term sinisilmne – literally 'blue-eyed' – is a metaphor for 'naïve.' Blue-eyed Estonians use it regularly and don't get the irony.

I'd like to know where the stereotype that blondes are dumb originates from. I think it's possible that it's simply something Hollywood has successfully propagated. Did the stereotype exist in the Soviet Union?

'Blue-eyed' means 'gullible' or 'naive' in Finnish ('sinisilmäinen'), German ('blauäugig'), and probably some other European languages, too. It is said that this metaphor was invented by 19th century critics of (German?) Romantic literature, where the heroes were often blond, blue-eyed naifs.

'Blue-eyed' as a metaphor is different from the idea that blondes are stupid in that it does not connote that the person is somehow worse than others; it simply suggests that he or she is too trusting of people. Moreover, no one thinks that blue-eyed people are more gullible than others, and someone may be called 'blue-eyed' even if they have, say, brown eyes.

Martasmimi ütles ...

RE: puolimieli ütles...

In the US I think this goes back to the Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield days.

It is the Bottle Blondes and the "dumb blonde" roles, they played both in their movies and in their daily lives, that are the sterotype here, and that I find the most offensive.

Andres ütles ...

The stereotype of blondes being stupid comes from simple everyday life and the facts of it, I presume.

Bea ütles ...

I thought the fake (died) blonds were the "root" of the stereotype that blondies were dumb.
People might have found it dumb as such to die the originally really dark hair blond. And some persons who follow fashion blindly get the idea to die their hair blond foolishly easily as lots of their friends have already done. To become blond is such a dream of those who aren't born blond. :)

Martin-Éric ütles ...

As Thomas Dolby sung:

"My friends think she's a dumb blonde, but they don't know she dyes her hair!"

As for juur/juures/juurde, think of the expression "to the root of the matter" and you'll get it.

Brüno ütles ...

Not that shimple, dear Eric ...

So lets talk 'juurde' ...

juurde ... down to, next to, beside, close to

examples ...

Juurde maksma ... pay extra
juurde võtma ... gain weight
juurde lõikama ... cut extra
juurdeehitus ... annex
juurdehindlus ... markup
juurdekasv ... increase, growth
juurdekirjutus ... additional note-entry
juurdepääs ... access
juurdevool ... inflow


and most interesting ...

juurdleja ... drumroll ...


investigator!

If you keep all that straight in you head like Estonians do ... you too can be a genius!

Kristopher ütles ...

If you're in the countryside, you should use "man" instead of "juures" and "manu" insted of "juurde".

"Kahtlane maik man." -- "Something smells bad about this".

You could use it any word -- manuehitus, manuhindlus...

Kristopher ütles ...

What's also strange is that so many places in Estonia are "on the edge" of another place. Sürgavere means on the edge of Sürga, Rakvere is on the edge of ... I don't know, Rak?

Nothing is smack in the middle of anything, it's always veere pääl.

Giustino ütles ...

The use of 'root' actually reminds me of mathematics as well as plants, and there may be some connection there.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Hmm, check out what "ruutjuur" means.

Merike ütles ...

"Juures" goes well with "kõrval" and "peal", which also literally mean "on my ear" and "on my head", respectively.
Beside the literal meaning, they also mean "by my side" and "on top of sth".

ESeufert ütles ...

So does the 'Sõprade juurde' restaurant's name mean 'Friends to the root'? I thought it was 'Friends close by'.

Brüno ütles ...

It means "To the Friends' Place".

notsu ütles ...

"Into the friends' root", literally.

Sharon B ütles ...

It's an idiom, and idioms were never meant to make sense. Not on a literal level. You need to think poetically.

One of my favourite quotes on the subject (I can't remember exactly who said it atm) goes something like this:

"Grammar is the bones of a language, vocabulary is the flesh, but the idioms are the soul."

It all comes from some weird word association that dances through vague emotions and half-observed impressions in order to create a kind of silent assonance between things that don't, at first glance, have anything to do with each other.

It's just that, on one level, at some point, in someone's mind, these ideas and concepts feel like they belong together.

Don't try to make sense of such things, for you may as well be chasing after the wind. Just feel the poetry in the language and enjoy the challenge.

Sharon B ütles ...

I've always wondered whether the whole "dumb blonde" thing is actually vaguely complimentary.

I don't know about other cultures, but in the Western culture there's an understanding that you don't have to be smart and pretty at the same time - if you are beautiful, you are allowed to be daft. It's not only forgivable, but also expected.

If, on the other hand, you're stupid and ugly, well then there's no love for you.

For some reason blonde hair and/or blue eyes are easily and readily acquainted with "pretty", thus almost automatically entitling the bearer to be as daft as they please.

By association, if blonde equals stupid, then stupid must equal blonde...

I wonder if similar stereotypes exist in other races where blonde hair and blue eyes don't occur naturally - if there is another trait that simultaneously represents "pretty" and "not that bright".

Do daft people in China, for example get called "cute nosed" or something similar?

Brüno ütles ...

Do you have a "tööraamat", G? Are you eligible to have one? Just wondering. Heard recently that Estonians all have "tööraamatud."

Kelle juures sina töötad? :-)

n-lane ütles ...

Taksomeeter tiksub
nagu tiksuks pomm.
Juht on venelane.
Вот здесь мой дом!

© tihomir-e

Lingüista ütles ...

Spatial/structural metaphors like "juures/juurde" are quite frequent in languages. Not many people realize that English "ahead" contains the word "head" (just like "peal" in Estonian); and the word "back" as a body part seems now to be totally independent from the word "back" as an adverb (as in "put it back on the table!" or "give it back to me!"). To a Portuguese speaker, "ahead" and "back" sound just as funny, witty, and somewhat "revealing" of "deep cultural values" as Estonian "juures/juurde".

What I like is words that are hard to translate, or that seem to combine a set of meanings in themselves that in other languages belong to different words -- these seem to be really giving you a different "map" for the world of human impressions or experiences. One such word in Portuguese is "jeito" (do you know it, Justin?). In Estonian, I quite like "meel", which means apparently "spirit", "soul", "internal/mental life", and even "memory" ("Mulle tuli meelde..."). Another one I like is "mõte", apparently 'thought', but also used in "elu mõte" 'the meaning of life' (not, I suppose, "elu tähendus"?).

Bea ütles ...

Lingüista,
'elu tähendus' would be more related to 'elu tähtsus', I think. More related to significance of my life to others.
While elu mõte is more related to the living person self and how his or her head works and sees the life.

I thought about the Lithuanian equivalent of meaning of life. It would be gyvenimo prasme - sensing of life, comprehension of life, personal taking of life, personal understanding and knowing how to live. Prasme is related to the word protas - reason, sense, mind, intelligence - the thing with which we all are trying to comprehend reality and then make something of it. The comprehension and thought comes first inside you.

Sérgio Meira ütles ...

Bea, I find what you wrote actually very interesting.

The usual English term "meaning of life" does seem to suggest that something is "meant" with life -- i.e. either semantically, or in the sense that life has a "purpose" (someone, say God, 'meant' life to be...). In my native Portuguese, we would say "o sentido da vida", which is slightly different -- "sentido" sounds more like 'direction', as if life were going somewhere and we wanted to know where -- but the sense of a "goal" or "target" is still sufficiently similar to the English case.

What I thought was funny about "elu mõte" was that this "goal" or "target" seemed not to be there; the literal meaning seemed to be something like "the thought of life", i.e. "how life thinks", "what life feels like" -- or as you put it, the living person and how his/her head works and sees his/her life. That's an interesting difference, isn't it?

The Lithuanian "gyvenimo prasme" also goes in this direction -- 'sensing or understanding of life', with "prasme" coming from "protas" (is this related to Latvian "prast" 'know, be able to' -- "es protu latviski", I know/speak Latvian? There's also saprast 'understand', literally sa-prast 'with-knowing'). Maybe it's a Baltic phenomenon that the equivalent expression to "meaning of life" has little to do with "where life is going" or with "a plan, a purpose" for life and more to do with how life is felt/understood/sensed/experienced by the individual him/herself.

Interesting, isn't it? (Does anyone happen to know how to say 'meaning of life' in Latvian?)

Colm ütles ...

As for juur/juures/juurde, it's something that seems to blow all non-Estonians away.

No, not really....Perhaps what is strange is that the original reference is to something that occurs in nature, but hell, what do you expect from the Finno-Ugrics.

It's hardly stranger than English phrases such as: 'at the FOOT of the mountain' or 'at the BACK of the house'. The interchange is just from human to human's environment rather than with juur, nature to human. One last example - the literal English translation for the Hungarian for 'internal' as in 'Ministry of Internal Affairs' is 'intestines'.

Bea ütles ...

Yep, Sergio. What you said about the Latvian 'prast' is true and adds the 'know how' to my concept of the Lithuanian 'prasmė' (which is almost identical wit the Latvian 'prasme' - knowing how and having skills to do). If you don't know how and have no skills to live, you'll have no life nor its meaning either. And that makes me think of suicides among Lithuanians as of kinda tradition from pagan times. The Latvian 'saprast' and the Lithuanian 'suprasti' both mean 'to gather the sense' or 'to bring together all the understanding'. And look at the English 'understanding' now. It's what ever stands there under. 'Su' as a preposition means 'with' or 'together with' and is used as a prefix for gathering/bringing/puting/smashing etc. something together with something else.

I know that Latvian for meaning of life is 'dzīves jēga'. It would be equal to Lithuanian 'gyvenimo jėga' - life force, life power, life potential. But Latvians use their 'jēga', 'jēgt', 'sajēgt' for comprehension and perception, almost same as 'prāts', 'prast', 'saprast' in their modern language. Probably 'saprast' is just more clear logical perception than 'sajēgt' now. They use the 'jauda' (from Estonian 'jõud') or 'spēks' for 'force', 'power'.

Brüno ütles ...

Juurutama - to introduce

Juurima - to uproot, to extract


Have your collective non-ugric heads exploded yet?

:-)

When will you give up? :-)

Brüno ütles ...

Juurutama - to introduce

Juurima - to uproot, to extract


Have your collective non-ugric heads exploded yet?

:-)

When will you give up? :-)

Lingüista ütles ...

Brüno -- never! Non-finno-ugric heads are tough, too! :-)

It would be very interesting to do a study of how certain "complex" meanings are derived in other languages -- things like "introduce" (which in your Estonian translation comes from 'root', and in the English form actually comes from 'put into' (intro-ducere). Yes, if I were to do a little map of how words and meanings are derivationally related in Estonian, that would be one interesting map...

Bea, I find your ideas very interesting. (I'm the same person as Sérgio Meira, by the way -- I have more than one account and got them mixed up :-) Do you see a contrast between the "goal-orientedness" of the English (and Portuguese) expressions which is not there in the Baltic ones? I mean, if you ask in English "what's the meaning of life?", this always sounds like a question of purpose; something like: why are we alive? what for? (You could answer, say, "love", or "happiness".) Would a similar question in Estonian ("Mis on elu mõte?") or in Latvian ("Kas ir dzīves jēga?") also sound like a target-oriented "why are we alive?" question? Could I answer "armastus!" or "mīlestība!"? Or would the question sound more like "what is the essence of life?" "what is it like to be alive?" "what does life feel like"? Your description suggests to me the latter.

You make me feel like learning some Lithuanian too, by the way. I haven't tried yet, mostly because Latvian and Estonian are already enough to keep anyone busy, but also because of Lithuanian's famously difficult grammar. (Actually, what I fear most about Lithuanian is not so much the grammar, but the moving stress -- I find it so refreshing that both Estonian and Latvian almost always stress the first syllable, and I had so much trouble with Russian moving stress when I was learning Russian, that I felt like avoiding it in the Baltics, at least for a while...)

Bea ütles ...

Lingüista,

Now, it feels no different from 'what is the meaning of life?'. There are just language freaks like me who dig for such deep ancient meanings. 'Gyvenimo prasmė' becomes simply 'life skills' to me. And hair - 'plaukas, plaukai' become related to 'plaukti' - 'to swim' 'cause in folk songs there is mentioned a ritual - a girl letting her hair to swim to her dear guy telling: 'plaukit, plaukeliai' - 'swim, nice hair'. :D These are surprises, not obvious to anyone.

It's so special and lovely that you are learning Latvian and Estonian.
You point out the two difficulties of Lithuanian which had stopped me from learning English (sic!) and Finnish for so long time. I didn't want to learn English because it seemed too hard to learn (on my own) how to really read each and every word, and it sucks to learn a language like Lenin - not to be able to speak anyway, without knowing how to pronounce it. And I stopped before Finnish when I discovered it had some grammar even more complicated than that of Estonian.

If you would listen to a lot of Lithuanian and read the accented texts, you would just get used to the language. Anyway, it's really good to make a pause between learning of two close, but not extremely close languages non of which is your native. Otherwise, you risk mixing words and their meanings and making a mess of both.

It's interesting, btw, that even when you know that a language shall have certain one syllable accented in all words, you stumble before you get used to that, if your native language has it differently. :D

Bea ütles ...

Closer to the juur, teeme juurde and juurutama is the Lithuanian daigas - sprout, shoot, seedling, daiktas - thing, daiginti make new roots or new little plant grow of a part of an old plant for the purpose of multiplying it and then diegti - juurutama, instil, install, implant, introduce it.
See, every thing has to have roots, every thing comes from a sprout or seedling for Lithuanians as well. ;)
The Latvian for thing - lieta is something that was cast, moulded or, alternatively, - no idea, which is right - something that had been watered after seedling to grow.

Lingüista ütles ...

I'm a bit surprised, considering the origin -- so "Mis on elu mõte?" does really sound like simply asking what the purpose of life is? Oh well.

I note that the English word "implant" also has a vegetable source ('plant') just like Estonian juurutama -- so such metaphors are not infrequent in Indo-European languages as well. (Of course, it is often difficult to see the metaphorical origin; only an etymologist can see it. Estonian is in that respect not really so different from Indo-European, only a bit more transparent in its derivation.)

The things you say wound like music to my ears -- I have exactly the same kind of relationship to languages, their words and their origins. You are probably right that I could get used to Lithuanian moving stress after a while -- I did get used to it in Russian (but it took quite a while, and I'm still making stupid mistakes all the time, like confusing rúki 'hands' with rukí 'of the hand' (genitive)...). I'll have to wait a couple of years at least, till I get sufficiently used with Latvian and Estonian; or else, as you say, I'd probably end up mixing up Latvian and Lithuanian.

I'm glad you are so interested in languages, words and their history. These topics have always fascinated me, which is why I am now a (professional) linguist. Maybe you know a book by American AI guru Douglas Hofdstadter, "Le ton beau de Marot -- in praise of the beauty of language"? Judging by what you wrote, you probably would enjoy reading it.

Does your interest for Baltic languages come from being Lithuanian (which you are, aren't you?)? I've never been in the Baltic area; to me, Baltic languages (including Estonian) feel exotic and alluring, like a far-away island. :-)

Lingüista ütles ...

I'm a bit surprised, considering the origin -- so "Mis on elu mõte?" does really sound like simply asking what the purpose of life is? Oh well.

I note that the English word "implant" also has a vegetable source ('plant') just like Estonian juurutama -- so such metaphors are not infrequent in Indo-European languages as well. (Of course, it is often difficult to see the metaphorical origin; only an etymologist can see it. Estonian is in that respect not really so different from Indo-European, only a bit more transparent in its derivation.)

The things you say wound like music to my ears -- I have exactly the same kind of relationship to languages, their words and their origins. You are probably right that I could get used to Lithuanian moving stress after a while -- I did get used to it in Russian (but it took quite a while, and I'm still making stupid mistakes all the time, like confusing rúki 'hands' with rukí 'of the hand' (genitive)...). I'll have to wait a couple of years at least, till I get sufficiently used with Latvian and Estonian; or else, as you say, I'd probably end up mixing up Latvian and Lithuanian.

I'm glad you are so interested in languages, words and their history. These topics have always fascinated me, which is why I am now a (professional) linguist. Maybe you know a book by American AI guru Douglas Hofdstadter, "Le ton beau de Marot -- in praise of the beauty of language"? Judging by what you wrote, you probably would enjoy reading it.

Does your interest for Baltic languages come from being Lithuanian (which you are, aren't you?)? I've never been in the Baltic area; to me, Baltic languages (including Estonian) feel exotic and alluring, like a far-away island. :-)

Bea ütles ...

I'm a bit surprised, considering the origin -- so "Mis on elu mõte?" does really sound like simply asking what the purpose of life is? Oh well.

It may sound like that, indeed. Estonians are Europeans, they are not real pagans in the woods for long enough already.
It may still be more like 'What is the idea of life?' and orient Estonians to thinking, revising their own thoughts first of all, and then also possibly somebody's else thoughts about life.
So is the Lithuanian prasmė and the Latvian jēga, but most Lithuanians are Catholics now so they are likely to think of 'God' and all that story first of all. For pagans, I am sure, there was no meaning of life as an abstraction imposed and set ahead of them. They saw life-cycles that they were supposed to learn and fulfill to the fullest if lucky. To live and reproduce the race was the sole meaning of life.

---

I don't know that book, but my dream would be to have some Lithuanian or Indoeuropean etymological thesaurus at hand. I can't go very far nor dig really deep with the most usual dictionaries I have.;)
It's still fun to associate laukas - a field (a huge vast boring empty place) and laukimas - waiting (huge wasting of one's futile, "empty" time), for example.

---

Yes, I am Lithuanian and my way goes around the Baltic sea, I only craved to get to know and understand my neighbors. I learned all those languages before I dared to approach English. :D Now, they deteriorate a bit as I'm trying to improve my English.

Your case sounds more like a miracle. Have you been to Russia at least?

Lingüista ütles ...

To Russia, not yet, but to Ukraine, yes. My wife is Ukrainian; I met her because she (like many a grad student) wanted a source of extra money and started teaching her native Russian to other students who wanted to learn, and I was one of them. Now that we're married, Russian is pretty much the everyday language in my household (and one of the three native languages of our 6-year-old daughter).

Foreign languages to me were always like Mount Everest: something incredible and impressive that was right there, in front of me, attracting and seducing me with its presence, slowly whispering "learn me if you can..." And to this day there is nothing in life that I can quite compare the exquisite pleasure of trying to see the world through the eyes of a new language/culture.

Currently, Latvian and Estonian fascinate me -- I keep cruising the web in search of new sites to help me learn more about these languages. I can't quite carry a conversation yet -- but with some luck I should be able to at some point during next year.

It's just so much fun to do this!