kolmapäev, september 01, 2010

kooli aeg

Estonian children's culture is so saccharine it will make your belly ache, replete with songs about everything wholesome and good, sung with gusto in a pre-pubescent soprano.

Christmas is typically the epicenter of such youthful clamor, but September 1 is a close competitor, for on September 1, school officially begins, and that means that children must look smart, stand with a straight back, and sing until their parents' eyes grow dewy with nostalgia.

It's not so military actually, but I can see it now, the same way I can see the blue, black, and white flag flapping in the air, a gentle breeze blowing across the land, the sun warm, the blue heavens tantalizingly close, and the children singing it all along, singing about how happy they are to be in school and how much they adore their teachers. I still can't believe it, but it's true: Estonians actually like school.

Our neighborhood in Viljandi is run by wild children. These kids are like outlaws from the Wild West. Each one has got a nickname, a scar, an agenda. "Hey kid, want to hang out later?" one pint-sized gunslinger will say to the other. "Come by my house and knock at my window at night. I'll still be up." And they really do it, like Tom Sawyer, like Pippi Longstocking, like The Little Rascals. It's so ideal, you would almost believe, given the local architecture, that you had stepped through some porthole to the 19th century. Then one of their cellphones rings.

I asked the little rascals today though how their first day of school went. Usually, their posture is sluggish, their manners coarse. But mention school and they change automatically, almost uniformly correcting their posture and clicking their heels together. "Hästi!" the little outlaws smile, beaming from the question. They are excited. They are ecstatic. They have been waiting for it all summer. Oh kooli aeg, oh kooli aeg, millal Sina tuled? they sing like angels. Mul on valmis juba pliiatsid ja suled.

On the way to the opening ceremony at my daughter's school, I was informed that my t-shirt was not appropriate for such an event. "You sure you want to go looking like that?" my wife asked, an eyebrow arched to drive the point home. And so I changed into a sober-looking lightweight black sweater. "Much better." You've got to take September 1 seriously. It's an important day. The start of a new year, a new school year. The flags must be whipping in the wind. The lumepallisupp should be frothy. I stand at attention and think back to my own school years. The freshmen on LSD. How so-and-so got an abortion and whats-her-name killed herself . Then I try to push it all out of my mind. "Why do I always focus on the bad?" I ask myself as the children sing and smile. "I'm tired of being bad," my eyes finally grow dewy. "I want to be good."

21 kommentaari:

Pierce Bacchus ütles ...

Interesting take on the new school year in Viljandi. Nice to see some Estonian children enjoy the day.

I was talking to a colleague of mine at work here in Tallinn who's children dread Sept. 1st every year. He went on tell me about calling his nephew today to wish him a "Happy Sept. 1st" which is kind of a sarcastic joke every year and the nephews response was a fervent "F*** You!"

He laughed and laughed telling me about that phone call.

Nice to read your post today or I would have been of the impression that all Estonian kids despise this day. Glad it isn't so.

Martasmimi ütles ...

I stand at attention and think back to my own school years. The freshmen on LSD. How so-and-so got an abortion and whats-her-name killed herself . Then I try to push it all out of my mind. "Why do I always focus on the bad?" I ask..

Justin:
*Did you write this so I would go crazy...
Wasn't your 1st day at school nice too?
Here we all sadly wave bye and put our children on the Big Yellow School bus.

http://il.youtube.com/watch?v=fjZK1x1GvqQ&feature=fvw

Piimapukk ütles ...

Here they lock the primary school main doors so that strangers can not come in. I could not have imagined something like that at my school growing up.

I imgagine if we had a metal detector at our school, that would have made big news all over the CCCP. We would have been so proud.

Giustino ütles ...

Did you write this so I would go crazy... Wasn't your 1st day at school nice too?

My first day of school was St. Philips in 1985. It was a sunny day, but kind of overwhelming. The school seemed gigantic, and everyone walked in lines. The older kids wore uniforms. I remember trying to remember my bus number at the end of the day, and fortunately got on the right bus, the one with my cousin Steven, but the bus driver wouldn't let me off at my stop and I had to get off at a different stop instead. It wasn't a bad day at all though.

When I got older, say 15, things obviously started to unwind. It was like an afterschool special.

KRISTIN ütles ...

Hey. As far as I know every Estonian kid hates school from the bottom of his/her small heart. I know I did. I think it´s very normal.

peedu ütles ...

I valued my school a lot and now I do so even more. I guess it all depends on the place and people, I went to the GAG in Tallinn and spent the whole 12 years with the same people who we started with together in the first grade. I got my best friends from there and all other class members feel like relatives, I could go and hug every last one of them without an issue.

Pierce, you are probably talking about older kids? Of course they don't like the fact that summer and free time is over.

But over all I'd say in Estonia kids like school. At least more so than I've personally seen the attitude be in other countries. :)

DGC ütles ...

I think they dont serve in schools lumepallisupp any more (already for more than ten years), because of the threat of Salmonella. Todays kids don't know what it is.

Doris ütles ...

well, for the firstest EVER school day, of course children are excited! it means they're no longer babies who go to daycare, it means they're now almost adults and don't need to take a nap at lunchtime.

I don't know if it's like this in every school but in my high school it was a tradition that on the 1st of September, teh smallest ones and the oldest ones would walk each other in - every 12th-grader got a 1st-grader (or two). I remember both - felt so scary but important that very first day, and the Big Kids were soooooo BIG. In 12th grade was all nostalgic: poor little buggers, they don't know what's coming for them :P The good and the bad - new friends, good grades and bad grades and having to study...

Martasmimi ütles ...

Doris ütles...

I don't know if it's like this in every school but in my high school it was a tradition that on the 1st of September, teh smallest ones and the oldest ones would walk each other in - every 12th-grader got a 1st-grader (or two). I remember both - felt so scary but important that very first day, and the Big Kids were soooooo BIG.

* It is much the same here although our Kindergarteners (5year olds) and 1st graders age 6 are assigned to a 6th grader for the year.
The older children help the younger ones to write in a book a weekly creative story.
They do this up and until a child can write by themselves.
They feel that this builds imagination, creative writing, and the simple ability to tell a story..
* after 6th year our children go to a middle school. After grade 9 to the High School.

I guess it works Justin is a very good writer...

*

Rainer ütles ...

"As far as I know every Estonian kid hates school from the bottom of his/her small heart."

vs

"But over all I'd say in Estonia kids like school."

Itching for Estonia - where parallel universes collide...

notsu ütles ...

Huh? School has been my most traumatizing experience in life so far, in spite of being a "good school" - it was a good one, learning-wise, but the traumas take a time to heal, probably with the help of a good therapist. Whenever I have problems now, it always helps to think "at least you're not in school any longer" - the suns shines brighter immediately.

notsu ütles ...

*the sun*, dammit.

jalkameister ütles ...

I think Justin is a good writer, indeed. Many times I can feel exactly as he is describing, and he can always make a fun post.
Our little niece is already in 2nd grade here in Estonia. I guess she likes school, but you can never get anything out from her. Whenever you ask how school was or did you have fun or what excites you at the moment, she just says "Hästi!"

Piimapukk ütles ...

Seems like the new crop of Estonians is a a far more exciteable lot for they use such an emotionally loaded word like "hästi" rather than regular and neutral "normaalne" as it has always been. Used to be, ask a teenager anything, and they say "normaalne".

Could be that a national psyche has shifted toward positive during the past 20 years of independence.

Puu ütles ...

Your daughter is 6 years old, so it's a little early for her to be getting pregnant or experimenting with LSD. I think drugs are not used in Estonian highschools, not out of any ethnic moral superiority, but because they aren't available and people don't have the extra cash to buy them. But drinking can be a problem. And teen pregnancy is a big reality... it is just maybe hidden by easy access to abortions.

Giustino ütles ...

I think drugs are not used in Estonian highschools, not out of any ethnic moral superiority, but because they aren't available and people don't have the extra cash to buy them.

It's like America. Just head to the "elite" high schools. Where one finds money and prestige, one also finds dealers. Seek and ye shall find.

Puu ütles ...

I don't think "elitism" neccesarily has much to do with it. Most of the injection heroin use ( which is racking up the HIV infection rates as well)is in places like Narva.Which hardly has the elite, unless being Russian makes you elite, which hasn't been true for twenty years.

Estonia got second place after Scotland for opiate drug use last year.

here

Martasmimi ütles ...

*Estonia got second place after Scotland for opiate drug use last year.

It must be to be related to their equally "lovely" weather.

Puu ütles ...
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Puu ütles ...
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Puu ütles ...

meh.