esmaspäev, juuli 12, 2010

elu tulnukana

Sometimes I can't believe I am only 30 years old. Thirty. It sounds so young. But I don't feel young and I also don't feel old. I feel timeless, placeless. I feel like one of the UFO-like molecules that go zipping by your plane window over the cloud cover in the North Atlantic. Something catches your eye. You stare out at the wing and swear it was there. But it's gone. Gone, gone, gone. Nothing but a memory of something you once thought you saw, something you can't even bother to describe to the person seated next to you.

I'm in Viljandi now, and all I can say is that it reminds me of Tallinn and Tartu and just about every other Estonian place: the mishmash of medieval castle ruins, 1920s villas, Stalinist eyesores, and weeds growing through the cracks in the pavement. One guidebook I flipped through referred to Viljandi as a "gem," and our little part of it is certainly quaint. I informed Epp that we should make a coffee table book, a photo essay of Viljandi's spectacularly painted wooden doors. It would be called Viljandi uksed. I told her we could make "alotta money" (as my Virginian grandma puts it) on the book, but she was unconvinced.

Since my arrival, I've spent some time at the beach, maybe the only American there, but not the only foreigner: there were Latvians too and a Chinese couple. The radio played a very soulful version of "Proud Mary," so Ike and Tina were also there, at least in spirit. In Tallinn, the tourists somehow annoy me, but in Viljandi, I welcome them with open arms. I think this place is so bland, so homogenous, safe as milk, but everytime I go to the Tegelaste Tuba restaurant, there are people speaking English.

It was surreal to see so much life in what even Estonians consider a smaller town. At the beach, there was some kind of dance class going on: Estonian women were bobbing and weaving and kicking to Spanish pop music. The beach was thronged with naked torsoes. There was even a towering diving platform where young crazies could launch themselves into the lake. I began to realize that every tiny hideaway in Estonia has its own story to tell. You can drive through these places a hundred times and never actually know them.

I've been out of Eestimaa for exactly a month. When I left the mosquitoes were eating me raw, but now the heat seems to have tamed even the most insolent of summer's creatures. Instead it's just hot, all I do is sweat, all I do is drink. Our bedroom window faces the sunrise. The sun dries the sand in the corners of my eyes. I easily drink a bottle of water before I get out of bed, one of many I will consume during the day. The heat doesn't seem to bother the neighbors though. They don't need liters of water, for I am convinced that Estonians can survive on but coffee, beer, and strawberries. Estonian children meantime require only one thing to keep on moving: jäätisekokteil - "cocktails" of ice cream blended with fruit juice. I imagine that every night, all over this country, the children lie snoozing, dreaming about that one special thing.

Like a naive anthropologist I observed the tanned locals at the beach. I took note of the different types: the blond Scandinavians, the dark Inuits, the rolypoly Germanics. Estonia is both diverse and uniform. I've been to too many genetics conferences these days. I am aware of the perils of cosanguinity. And safe as milk Eesti is not so intimidating. Horror stories about intolerant Estonians abound online, but not one gave me nor has ever given me an awkward look. These people just don't care.

For me, at least, there are very few places in Estonia where I could even minorly feel "in danger," and here I think of a young Tom Hayden and the other "freedom riders" of the United States, traveling to Mississippi in the early 1960s to "get their asses kicked for civil rights." That was dangerous. Estonia in comparison is pleasant, genteel. At least until you see some middle-aged loser wearing a Panzerdivision commemorative t-shirt at the supermarket. I've heard the term "self-hating Jew" before. I gather such people are self-hating Estonians.

Here in Viljandi, I can't figure out if I'm in western Estonia or central Estonia or southern Estonia. It seems to network with Pärnu but also with Tartu. I guess it's its own thing or even the dreaded middle of nowhere. But Tallinn is nowhere too. And leviathan Finland? The navel of nothingness. Tallinn is to Helsinki as Viljandi is to what? Oulu? But Oulu has over 100,000 people. I can't keep up. Why even bother to compare? To many, cities are judged by the sum of their restaurants, hotels, boutiques, and museums. People take great pride in the place in which they live. When I was in New York, I met a gentlemen who was trying to sell me on Harlem. Harlem! Harlem! They've put up new apartment buildings, but kept the old, charming brownstone facades, he said. They've even retained the doormen.

"Do you really need a doorman?" I asked him. He had a pencil-thin mustache and suspenders. A real zoot suit riot.

"Of course you do! I mean, who else would get the door for you, or let you know if someone's left you a package?"

I took aliking to the Harlemite. He entertained me. I could imagine us as neighbors, sitting on a doorstep, swapping stories.

"Can you believe when I was in Mexico, a lady from Michigan asked me if I had seen any Olive Gardens there?" the Harlemite informed me. "I was like, 'Lady! You're in Mexico! You have your pick of great food and you're looking for an Olive Garden?' See, when my wife and I go on trips, we like to eat at the real authentic places. But people from Michigan, they go anywhere, even Rome, and they want to eat at an Olive Garden. You can't really hold it against them though. That's all they know."

Savory New York provincialism. I loved it. I'm so happy for that fella in Harlem. He seems to get out so much he needs a doorman to collect his packages. But me? I am an exile. Tallinn, when I lived there, was the apartment, the tram, and the office. Tartu on most days became my house and the local supermarket. Viljandi hosts the cultural college, which means that acting and musical talent finds its way to town; indeed I had a disarming experience at a Tagaq concert here, one that convinced me that it might not be a bad place to set up shop for awhile. But will I really go to those concerts? Maybe Viljandi will just wind up being our apartment and the lake. I mean, I wanted to be in Estonia during the winter so I could learn how to cross country ski, but the only thing I did in Otepää was consume some meatloaf at a local tavern. I bought into the idea of a Seto retreat so I could go hiking in the woods. So far I've painted and stained a lot of wood, but the forests have eluded me.

That's just how it is. Reality never matches your expectations. Every place I move I dream of different futures, but new ones always present themselves anyway. And, besides, I've no time for concerts. I've got things to do. I must finish a long-delayed master's paper on Estonia's June Communists, listen to Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes, and work on the second installation of Minu Eesti, trying the impossible, to marry Woody Allen and Rick Steves, in between slipping down to the lake for a dip.

Not a bad start really for a stranger like me.

33 kommentaari:

Piimapukk ütles ...

As hot as it is there in Estonia right now, you do not have to sweat in a 90 degree Farenheit heat at 2:30am like it is on the East Coast every summer.

luuletaja ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
luuletaja ütles ...

Viljandi actually used to be one of the hot spots for the summer during the First Republic. There was a huge program being lead by the Mayor for decade or longer and it really payed off, at least for the city. Thats why all the derelict summerhouses you see over there are the way they are. The Soviets killed the Mayor and the whole idea kind of died down, but the memory lives, and the folk is coming. So maybe its not totally forgotten yet, but reborn in another fashion.

luuletaja ütles ...

and its 73 degrees outside at the moment [7:48] which by itself sounds quite nice, promising a lovely 90 degrees for the afternoon.

Mette ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Mette ütles ...

Absolutely have to share these.
Enjoy! ;)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9k5pfM_g04

and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-dS6PA1yl0

Sharon ütles ...

I passed through Viljandi in a day. Got there at about 12pm one day, left at 12pm the next. By accident, rather than design, I was there for the first day of the Hanseatic festival, which was a fun way to spend a morning, but I usually find half-a-day is long enough to spend at such things. Moved on to Pärnu in the afternoon and forgot about it.

It wasn't until I got back home that the thought "I want to spend more time in Viljandi" came into my head and stayed there. By then it was on the other side of the planet, so that made things awkward. I occasionally find myself with an unaccountable desire to walk around the lake and explore the nearby satellite towns - not to mention just hang out near the ruins and the traditional music centre and see what ever might be there to see...

I also have the phrase "We all spend our holidays in Viljandi" stuck in my head. I read it on something (a line from a song used in some sort of tourist-guide thingy), and it's sticking around, toying with my brain cells and trying to convince me to spend a holiday in Viljandi.

Maybe I will. You never know.

趙筱婷terrifields汪華昕 ütles ...

成功多屬於那些很快做出決定,卻又不輕易變更的人。而失敗也經常屬於那些很難做出決定,卻又經常變更的人..................................................................

Martasmimi ütles ...

* I told Epp that we should make a coffee table book, a photo essay of Viljandi's spectacularly painted wooden doors. It would be called Viljandi uksed. I told her we could make "alotta money" (as my Virginian grandma puts it) on the book, but she was unconvinced.

Epp has different ideas about what might make "allotta money".
The childrens book in English...would I think do very well...

*I think it's a great idea..

Piimapukk ütles ...

Mimi, please take deep breath and go gently with this. One day she'll pull it off and your family will make millions on it. As a type A personality she simply needs to get a feeling that it is HER idea. Until then, you'd be knocking at a closed door with this good message. It is too good to be wasted like this.

I wish you the best.

Piimapukk ütles ...

BTW. Most Estonian women are alfas. You may be too, but wait until you meet an Estonian alpha.

Martasmimi ütles ...

Piimapukk ütles...

Perhaps you misunderstood my comments.
In this post Justin recommends that they, he and Epp make a Coffee Table Book...of photographs of the Doors of Viljandi.
Perhaps this would only sell in other countries like the US or Western Europe.
I only added that I thought it was a good idea.

My only suggestion was that her children's book, Martas Toes would sell quite well if published in English.
The illustrations are so beautiful,
and I am sure the story is wonderful ..(but I don't read Estonian).

I have no need to "hold my breath" nor am I even a bit intimidated by any "Alpha Estonian Woman"...so no need to coach me on this.

If a intelligent woman cannot respond to a good idea because she needs to protect some Alpha Estonian persona, then she not a very intelligent woman.

A good idea is a good idea no matter it's origin.

To reject it because you didn't think of it first is immature and frankly just sophomoric & silly.

Epp is an extremely intelligent woman...and I believe she values and respects my input as much as I value and respect hers.

Mimi

Martasmimi ütles ...

Piimapukk ütles...

BTW. Most Estonian women are alfas. You may be too, but wait until you meet an Estonian alpha.

*Please........
Go to Italy or New York if you want to meet the total personification of an
"Alpha Woman".
They will as we say here "have you for lunch!"

楊偉馨楊偉馨 ütles ...

Poverty is stranger to industry.............................................................

Martasmimi ütles ...

Piimapukk ütles...
As hot as it is there in Estonia right now, you do not have to sweat in a 90 degree Farenheit heat at 2:30am like it is on the East Coast every summer.

Almost forgot: BTW...
This is the hottest summer ever even in Europe it is sunny and 85 to 90 on most days..
It seems the same in Estonia as well
* But it's has never been 90 degrees here on the East coast at 2:20 AM.....where is this?

芸茂芸茂 ütles ...

人生有些波折,才能有些成長,所以不論順逆,凡是成長、成功的助緣,都應該心存感激。..................................................

張雅筑張雅筑 ütles ...

People throw stones only at trees with fruit on them.............................................................

盈廖生家秀蔡 ütles ...

男女互悅,未必廝守終生,相愛就是美的。.................................................................

Александр ütles ...

ADL: PLANNED MARCH IN ESTONIA INSULTS MEMORY
OF FORCED LABOR CAMP VICTIMS

New York, NY, July 21, 2010 … Saying it would “trample on the memory” of World War II labor and concentration camp victims, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) condemned a march, planned for July 31 in Vaivara, Estonia, to honor an Estonian division of the Nazi SS that fought in a 1944 battle against Soviet troops.

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor, issued the following statement:

Opposing Soviet repression is one thing, but celebrating the Nazi SS is quite another. Unfortunately, in the past we have seen Estonian officials participate in such events, rather than oppose them.

Vaivara should evoke mourning and reflection, not celebration. Twenty thousand Jews from across the Baltics were imprisoned in the Vaivara camps, as were other victims and prisoners of war. Every two weeks the Jews who were too sick or frail to work were murdered. Those who march will trample on their memory.

A telling choice once again lies before Estonian officials. They, along with responsible members of Estonian civil society, should unequivocally condemn the planned march in Vaivara.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

Piimapukk ütles ...

I've never been to these so called "SS celebrations" so I am curious now, is there even a hint of any celebration of nazism in those gatherings? I imgagine, at least, that these old guys get together to mourn their lost innocence, lost years of youth and fallen friends along with all the other victims of war. Even the russians who were on the other side of the barrel of the gun. Or at least this is what I would do. I don't know.

moevenort ütles ...

concerning the article from New York: looks like this nice and peaceful Estonian summer picture which was drawn here is not so nice and peacful as it seems to be. note: you cannot solve your problems by ignoring them or by creating a nice PR -image. the problems will remain their, they will not disappear until you don´t dicuss and solve them.

佳瑩佳瑩 ütles ...

文章這麼好,怎麼可以不踩!............................................................

Giustino ütles ...

note: you cannot solve your problems by ignoring them or by creating a nice PR -image. the problems will remain their, they will not disappear until you don´t dicuss and solve them.

The problem is that there is no clear, moral "lesson" from World War II for Estonia.

Both the Nazi and Soviet regimes (and the Estonians who served each) committed crimes against humanity against Estonian citizens, which makes them, if not equal, *very similar* in the eyes of the local population.

While most people respect the right of veterans to gather, the extreme ideologies of both Hitler's Germany and Stalin's USSR make any veteran gathering a lightning rod for extremism. That means that Estonian neo-nazis see such meetings through a completely different lense from an average person: they see it as a vindication of their ideology, while most people see it as a gathering of a dwindling group of aged veterans.

Modern-day Stalinists (and the line between them and neo-Nazis can be pretty blurry at times) exploit war rememberence ceremonies to the same end. Neo-Nazis and Stalinists are marginal groups in society, but under the cover of such ceremonies they can attempt to project their messages onto more people by using their aged grandfather and the "ideals" for which he fought as a propaganda backdrop.

Why are these extremists equally dangerous?: because they represent totalitarian ideologies whose gains merit the taking of innocent life. Nazis *had to kill* to cleanse society of racialy unpure elements. Soviets *had to kill* to cleanse society of unpure class elements. They had a plan for humanity and in the face of that plan, average human life, your life, my life, our childrens' lives, were insignificant. This is why I despise both ideologies.

I think most Estonians are holding their breath. Just like Arnold Meri managed to die before his trial could proceed, so to will these so-called marches very soon meet their end. But there will be no resolution of the "problem," because there is no comforting and ultimately false ideology to explain everything away. World War II will remain a mess for Estonia, and because of that, it will be less important in the long run for Estonian memory compared to, say, 1918or 1991. It's a tragedy that Estonians took part in on all sides. Try to solve or explain that!

Rainer ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Rainer ütles ...

Giustino, your explanations are waisted on moevenort. He is dead set on denigrating Estonia, obviously thinking he has found a riskfree outlet for all his own frustrations, insecurities and other issues. I'm sure he has a grudge against many a social group, but it's just not politically correct to say anything derogatory about them. The East Europeans, however (or Balts, or the Estonians in this case) are considered "fair game", because denigrating them does'nt count as racism (well, according to UN charter it actually does). Now add some Ossi inferiority complex to the mix ("I may be an East German, but I'm still better than you lot")and internet anonymity and we have a perfect storm called moevenort.

Rainer ütles ...

Wasted, not waisted of course.

Myst ütles ...

Rainer, it has to be said that Moevenort has a point. Just look at the comments to this article: http://www.postimees.ee/?id=293039 The rampant idiotic antisemitism is beyond disgusting.

Rainer ütles ...

What point exactly? That the Estonians invented Anti-Semitism? Or that they have the monopoly thereof? Or perhaps quod licit Jovi, non licit bovi?
And how does that justify moevenort? He is every bit as bigoted as those anonymous commentators.

Rainer ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
moevenort ütles ...

just btw:

the newspaper Haaretz from Israel publi9shed an interesting comment accusing Estonian president Ilves of trivializing the holocaust. they are writing:

"The Holocaust distorter from Estonia -
According to the Estonian president's distorted logic, the Jewish victims who were murdered by the Estonians during the Holocaust, and the Estonian hangmen who annihilated the Jews, are "partners."

the full article can be found here:

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/the-holocaust-distorter-from-estonia-1.299613

moevenort ütles ...

interesting is especially this paragraph in which they define what is meant with trivializing the Holocaust:


"This definition covers a new species of leaders in the Baltic countries, as well as in central and eastern Europe, who since the collapse of the Soviet Union have sought to rewrite history and draw an analogy between the Nazi occupation of their countries and the Soviet occupation. As far as these leaders are concerned, there is no difference between Nazism and Communism.

These leaders are trying to create a false equation according to which the Nazis' crimes in the Holocaust are not a unique phenomenon in history. Therefore, from their point of view, the Jews' murderers who collaborated with the Nazis and fought against the Soviet occupation are heroes. So the authorities have set up monuments and memorial sites for them."

Rainer ütles ...

Do you actually expect to be taken seriously after all the bigoted racist slur you have posted here?

Let's see how high and mighty you are after being stripped of the impunity provided by your anonymity.

moevenort ütles ...

@Rainer: well, guy. your comments begin to bore. try something else in the meantime. what exactly is your accusation? are you less anonymus than me here? do you post under you full name in internet blogs? so what are you accusing me than? are you once able to discuss about content insteat of making personal accusations? just a question, guy: can you show me one paragraph were I have insulted you personally here? no? you can`t find it? -the reason is that I am using arguments instead of talking on the same low and insulting level you seem to be like so much: all you do here is trying to insult me on a personal level. and than someone like you has the nerves to accuse me of anything? what kind of bigot stuff is this?
think about your own code of conduct before accusing others.