teisipäev, veebruar 01, 2011

talv on hea

The morning after we got back I went to unearth the car. It was like an archaelogical dig or one of those drilling endeavors in the Arctic. "Judging by these ice cores, an asteroid hit Earth 65 million years ago."

The vehicle was buried under a good foot or more of snow. Because there had been a thaw while we were gone, a layer of ice had formed in between the layers of snow. It took me two hours to get the car clean using a shovel and a brush.

I borrowed the shovel from my neighbor. When he came out, lighting a cigarette, blue circles beneath his eyes, I inquired as to why all the snow in the parking lot had been pushed behind my car.

"You were gone for a long time," he grunted, smoking. "We thought you had emigrated or something." Then he added, "The weather has been wild this winter." Actually, he used the word metsik which translated in my jet-lagged brain to "foresty" as mets means "forest." "The weather has been foresty this winter," he seemed to say.

Then I saw his domestic partner/girlfriend/wife/just friend (who knows in this country) and wished her a very big and boisterous "tere hommikust!" to which she replied with a very anemic "tere hommikust" and looked me in the eye for about a nanosecond. I was afraid I startled her. I felt as if I had been too forthcoming with my "tere hommikust." It occurred to me then that I was back in Estonia.

What to do?

***

When the girls got back, the first thing they did was put on the stereo, which still had a Christmas music disc in it. Estonian children's music. It had some kind of funky organ combo backing a chorus of little kids singing about snow being on the ground and birds going south -- linnud läinud lõunamaale -- and there was something so psychedelic about the recording. The organs. The reverb on the vocals. Music set in the middle of your mind. Estonian children's music is nutty. I haven't heard anything like it in the US or anywhere else. It's a big deal here. Taken very, very seriously.

I attribute this to masochism on the part of the adults. Their way of humiliating the children into obedience is to get them to sing complex, ridiculous songs, wearing silly national costumes. "Now, Krõõt, if you want a cookie, you'll have to sing radiridirallaa, pagane on valla three times and sing it like you mean it!""Joosep, if you want any Christmas presents this year, then repeat after me:

Taba-taba-taba-taba-taba-tabatinna.
Taba-taba-taba-tamm, taba-taa.
Laba-laba-laba-laba-laba-labakinnas
Üks sula, kaks sula, talv on hea.*


Now, Joosep, sing it again and stand on one foot!"

*Talv on hea translates as "winter is good." And isn't it? I was hoping for all the snow to melt, but then I remembered that when the white stuff is gone, that just means it will start raining again. Hmm, snow or rain? What will it be? Maybe snow is good in this regard. Maybe the children's song is right.

***

At night, I shared a cup of coffee with my foreign Estonian friend and commiserated. "How does it seem to you just being back?" the väliseestlane asked. "Estonia, I mean."

"It's so quiet here," I told him. "All I see from my window is the lake and woods."

"I feel it everytime," he said. "Even going from Helsinki to Tallinn. Estonia seems so sleepy."

He's one of the good ones, this foreign Estonian. The Estonians themselves don't know how to regard their exile community. There is the perception that the exiles are stuck in the past. Probably true. Then there is the perception that the exiles, and those who have returned, have a propensity for talking down to the poor Estonians who had to actually live in the USSR. Also probably true. And then there is the perception that the exiles are fanatically conservative. Not sure if they are fanatics, but I would wager that a sizeable portion of the foreign Estonian community in the United States votes for the Republican Party.

I'm personally not a Republican, as every Republican who's ever tried to recruit me into the party has started his sales pitch with a little fear and loathing. Something like, "but would you let your daughter marry an illegal Mexican?" with an arm placed around my shoulders. To which I think silently, "I'd rather she marry an illegal Mexican than a guy like you!" Usually, I just blush and 'aww shucks' myself through these moments, maneuvering away from the uninvited arm. I am conflict averse. Better on paper or on screen than in person.

"I said 'tere hommikust' to my neighbor this morning and I think I frightened her," I confessed to my foreign Estonian friend as we drank coffee. "I forgot that people are a little shy around here."

"Oh, that?" he laughed. "I gave up on that a long time ago," he said, sipping his coffee. "That's why I don't say 'tere hommikust' to anybody anymore."

49 kommentaari:

Ranno R ütles ...

Tere hommikust!

OK, a bit late in the day for that, but I'd say You just have unfriendly neighbors - such basic politeness among neighbors seems normal on the other side of the river :)

Metsik rather translates as wild, so that should make more sense in the context.

Giustino ütles ...

The neighbors aren't unfriendly. They just aren't used to long periods of eye contact.

tartumaaponderings ütles ...

Our neighbours are the same. We've given up any form of 'tere' around here, it just frightens people.

Marcus ütles ...

[sigh] If all Republicans were more like Colin Powell, I'd jump the political fence in a heartbeat. Welcome home. If you found a mummified mastodon in all that, I want pics.

Rein Batuut ütles ...

It's ironic that while foreigners do their best to blend in with the Estonian populace, what they're actually doing is levelling themselves with Estonia's working-class mentality. And this mentality is, unfortunately, dominant, so I understand you. But there are people all around the country who try to make a good example. Take Tõrva, a town where it is (at least used to be) common sense to greet passer-bys on the streets at all times.
This väliseestlane you describe better put his hands on and stop stereotyping native Estonians like they're a lost cause:)

viimneliivlane ütles ...

I've been corrected about saying 'Tere hommikust'. It seems you say that first thing in the morning when you wake up, but after that it's 'Tere päeva´, so 10 or 11 am when you see your neighbors try ´jõudu tööle´ if you see them digging out their cars mid-morning . . . I think that´s how it goes. When in doubt, do as the natives do - try a simple ´noh´ now and then.

Do I detect some mental weariness in your blogs? Not appropriate when you haven´t yet cracked the code about political leanings. Exile Estonians may be stuck in an anti-FDR time warp which by default aligns them with the Republican party in the US, but the natives here have yet to crawl out from under the ´silent era´ mentality of the Päts years that if nothing else got reinforced by the 50 years of silence under the occupation . . . I don´t even know where the thread should go from here. All that singing certainly keeps the children occupied in organized acitivities so their minds don´t wander into what else is going on around them . . . ditto for sports for those who can´t carry a tune.

Giustino ütles ...

Do I detect some mental weariness in your blogs?

I am suffering from weariness in general.I have managed just a few hours sleep for the past few nights. Part of it is work, the other part is jet lag, and the other part is small children ...

I agree about the Päts references. The Victory Monument in Tallinn is certainly something Päts would have dedicated.

Giustino ütles ...

Actually, I think the Estonian mood is improving these days. People around me seem generally happier. Probably has to do with the fact that it's now February and that means that winter can't last forever.

Puu ütles ...

Well. It seems like the honeymoon period is over... :)

notsu ütles ...

About greetings: I think "tere" is the safest option in any case. "Tere hommikust" or "tere päevast" to a stranger sounds like overkill or a direct translation from a foreign language.

Piimapukk ütles ...

Since you cannot change Estonia - has Estonia changed you? As we all change, how many of these adaptive changes would you be able to attribute to Estonia rather than to slowing metabolism?

I think America has changed me.

For example - I could not get Americans to stop smiling and "howdy-ing" so now I do it myself. :-)
Have you perhaps started "nohh-ing" and "pakaa-ing" or "davai-ing"? Or have you started to warm up to the general notion that smiling demonstrates some sort of weakness?

Rainer ütles ...

"Have you perhaps started "nohh-ing" and "pakaa-ing" or "davai-ing"?"

That is exactly the working-class twang Rein Batuut wrote about.
Like using expressions like "init" in English.

Giustino ütles ...

I have never said davai. It sounds great in Russian, but in Estonian it sounds awkward. It's like Estonian pizza -- covered in all sorts of unusual toppings, sometimes edible, sometimes even pretty delicious, but don't try to convince me it can compete with the genuine article.

So davai just doesn't work for me. Noh, on the other hand ...

Giustino ütles ...

[sigh] If all Republicans were more like Colin Powell, I'd jump the political fence in a heartbeat.

I could imagine voting for someone like Eisenhower, for example. But the membership of today's Republican Party pretty much excludes me from ever supporting them. Only if I was a Wall Street social darwinist or a "permanent revolution"-endorsing neoconservative could a person with my background find a place in that party.

I mean, I don't especially feel like voting for Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi. I didn't vote for some of the Democrats in November. But when you are a writer like me, a journalist like me, you don't want to see the rightwing empowered. When they had the Presidency and the Congress and the Supreme Court locked down last decade, their minions started going after academics and journalists and musicians. I'd much rather have them throwing mud at Obama than at me, if you know what I'm saying. Let him tire them out.

viimneliivlane ütles ...

I´m getting the sense that working-class Estonians are somehow under siege by these commentaries and to me that is simply a bit of 'blaming the victim'.

Lest we forget, you are looking at a society that within memory had its political and business leaders, as well as its cultural elite and intelligentsia, rounded up and executed or deported to Siberia. Some few escaped to the West.

A tyranny by and and in the name of the proletariat ensued. Even Estonians are amazed that some cream has managed to rise again. I am not surprised that some of them do not have bourgeois manners.

I am further surprised and of course delighted that the Russians who have emigrated here are learning some manners as I recall being jostled and rudely bumped around by them during the occupation. So to them - keep the 'davai's coming -

As for the children - keep them singing as that teaches them to express their emotions through song. We know that the Singing Revolution was not a spontaneous demonstration in the manner of the present-day Arabs but took generations of preparation. . .

And I hope that Giustino soon returns to his crisp self.

Joshua ütles ...

"Lest we forget, you are looking at a society that within memory had its political and business leaders, as well as its cultural elite and intelligentsia, rounded up and executed or deported to Siberia. Some few escaped to the West."

But how well cultured and intelligent was that cultural elite? I'm just thinking that while Tõde ja Õigus IV takes place in 1920's, things can't have changed that much. And imo, the society parodied in Tõde ja Õigus IV is almost exactly like modern Estonia. It's like nothing has changed.

I think one of the problems is that estonians don't appreciate thinking estonians. We have had a lot of intelligent people in our history with a lot of interesting ideas and writings... but no one cares. And I think no one cared even back then. Or ever.

Mart ütles ...

Joshua, you are conflicting business (and in some cases, political) elite with cultural elite here.

Tammsaare himself would be an example of the latter - and if you think that no one cared of what he had to say then you are mistaken.

Giustino ütles ...

The Estonian political elite does share the 'musical chairs' phenomenon that the pre-war elite did. Every election they play the music, and the same class swaps seats. "What will it be this time? Foreign minister? Minister of justice? Minister of culture?"

Go look at the list of prewar state elders. It's the same ten or so guys. Päts, Strandmann, Teemant, Rei, Tõnisson, Birk, Piip, Kukk, Akel, Eibund/Eenpalu. Did I leave anyone out?

viimneliivlane ütles ...

Tammsaare was an excellent social critic, well appreciated in his own day and still is today. Writers, as you know, hold a mirror up to society, not a blueprint.

viimneliivlane ütles ...

Eye contact / that's a thorny issue. Theater director Merle Karsusso has made the observation that after the war choirs continued to function however community theaters disbanded. She attributes this to the fact that when you sing in a choir you look straight ahead, but theater requires eye contact . . . at this point there's no telling how many generations you will have to wait for eye contact.

Joshua ütles ...

"Writers, as you know, hold a mirror up to society, not a blueprint."

But that was pretty much my point. If the mirror shows a same picture 90 years ago and shows the same picture today... then how worthy the lost elite was at all?

And individuals of worth don't always an elite collectively make.

Martasmimi ütles ...

viimneliivlane ütles...

I´m getting the sense that working-class Estonians are somehow under siege by these commentaries and to me that is simply a bit of 'blaming the victim'.

Lest we forget, you are looking at a society that within memory had its political and business leaders, as well as its cultural elite and intelligentsia, rounded up and executed or deported to Siberia. Some few escaped to the West.


* This has been explained to me a (non Estonian) by other
Estonians and to younger Estonians by their same age (as me) parents.
But it's much like other cultures some choose to be endless victims because it simply works as a reminder to all future generations of the horrific things that happened to them or their older generation family members...
In other Asian cultures it is not thought of as productive to do this.
Perhaps all this rudeness is just good cover for their deep rooted lack of interest in being social.
Too many cold and dark rainy, snowy days and nights of hibernating in dark homes make Estionans just not a very "Sunny" happy people.
Sadly some are born inherently "sunny and sparkly" and become victims of their day to day environment, becoming grouchy and sullen...
...and now to fend off the onslaught of rebuttal coming my way.
New York has been dreadful this year, cold & very snowy so I can tell you that although we have bright blue sunny skies on most days ..the on going endless snow and the process of being shut in is making all of us and our businesses very, very, cranky.

Joshua ütles ...

"In other Asian cultures"

I like how you talk about estonian culture and then say "in other asian cultures" part very much. :D

Yup, we're asian. Asian pride brothers! Mongols before aryans, cause mongos be bros and aryans hoes.

"Perhaps all this rudeness is just good cover for their deep rooted lack of interest in being social."

Perhaps. The only time when being socially active in a sunny way is accepted, is when you're on a bar tour. You just have to be intoxicated for your happines be forgiven by the society.

Martasmimi ütles ...

Joshua ütles...

"In other Asian cultures"

*actually I had forgotten that there was an Asian connection in Estonia

Perhaps. The only time when being socially active in a sunny way is accepted, is when you're on a bar tour. You just have to be intoxicated for your happines be forgiven by the society.

* I guess that is the reason for the so very high levels of alcohol abuse.

It enables the "sunny" to get out. ; )

Meelis ütles ...

"Yup, we're Asian"
Really?:) Good joke indeed.

viimneliivlane ütles ...

There´s more here than meets the eye. We know that alchohol abuse continues through the summer when the days are overlong - much longer than anyone in the US can imagine.
The more stable people, those you don´t hear about, have developed their coping methods which include reading, concerts, handicrafts - you name it - for the rest, affluence has allowed trips to the sunny southern climates.
I´m not sure what the problem is here. I do remember that February was routinely the worst month for me in New York, no matter what the weather... probably a combination of totally expended internal resources and non-receptivity or non-availabitiy of external stimulation... Please note that no opera singer of note sings at the Met during February.

DGC ütles ...

I was afraid I startled her. I felt as if I had been too forthcoming with my "tere hommikust." What to do?

It's ok to say "Tere hommikust" in whatever manner to anyone and also all possible responces are ok. I think this little thing is not worth any serious analysis. During that blink of the eye the possible thoughts in Poker Faces tribe girl mind may vary from "damn this guy is pretty" to "I will never ever drink any more". Seriously.

To english word "Wild" best translation is "Metsik". Similarity of mets and metsik gives us understanding how language once developed, and not so much about meaning of words. But. If you are interested in such details then probably even more surprising in Estonian language are ancient sayings from pagan times in everyday use of modern people, like: "hinge heitma" ("ejecting the spirit" = to die), "vaimusilmas" ("in the eye of [my] ghost" = in my imagination), "meelelahutus" ("blending the mind" = cheap entertainment, wasting of time)... When you notice them, you'll s$€t bricks.

viimneliivlane ütles ...

Actually my rebuttal to Martasmimi was taking a whole different direction – I was running down a list of what do Asiatic cultures have to teach us about ‘forgive and forget’ when the evening news said that Japan is still miffed that Russia is occupying their Kurile islands...

No forgive and forget going on their. Asiatics are as territorial as anyone else. We think of the Chinese as being even-tempered because they have this vast ancient philosophical cache to draw on. But didn’t they at one point decide they really had had it with those pesky Mongolian invaders, and decided to build a great big wall to protect themselves rather than live in peace and harmony with their invaders. North Korea has isolated itself and that has turned them into freaks.

I don’t see a lot of forgive and forget going on. Maybe among the Polynesian islanders – a lot of cruelty has been imposed upon them but I think there may be something about living on an island that makes them feel territorially protected. For me the jury is still out about the Filipinos, and how about those muslims in Indonesia?

viimneliivlane ütles ...

Back to the emotional toll foreign invasions take on a population and why some can find it difficult to forgive and forget. Anne Applebaum recently allowed that she thought that people who have lived under Communist terror for a long time have developed a desensitization to pain. I think I can go along with that because with any prolonged unpleasant stimulus a sort of immunity to it can be built up, but you have to work at it. Is it possible that Estonians have concentrated on working on their singing for so long and so hard that they have ignored the fact that there are people out their waiting to be forgiven?

There is one population segment that you should be aware of, and that is the Repressed – mostly people who were deported to Siberia, survived, and have returned, but with a sprinkling of Metsavennad - all told those who have suffered most during the Occupation. You might expect that they are a bitter, gloomy bunch who spend their time plotting revenge. Why I know about them is that I have been after some local ones to write their memoirs, but they just don’t want to reflect on any unpleasantness. They get together regularly and they party, party, party. I backed off when I realized that a key element of their survival was a heightened awareness of the importance of sociability - of keeping each other’s spirits up, of having regular social interaction and everything that goes along with that.

Yesterday there was a major meeting of the Repressed in Tallinn and the television coverage indeed was not of a morose crowd, but rather of octogenarians milling about and chatting, obviously delighted to be alive. We don’t have to look to Asia – we have people with the right formula right next door.

However this does not change the political (read territorial) picture. As long as Kremlin types keep up their soviet-era legacies I don’t see Estonians dropping their vigilence, and the super-sociable Repressed will be the first to tell you why.

viimneliivlane ütles ...

Looks like it’s going to keep snowing for a while and that will keep me at the computer so I may as well tackle this unpalatable topic of Estonian politics.

Giustino / I don’t have the sources at my disposal to do this research myself and don’t know if you do, but it seems to me that one of the analyses that hasn’t been done but is crying out to be looked at is political leaders’ fraternal affiliations.

While for those on the inside a fraternity is a source of people you can depend on and trust through thick and thin (as well as a punitive structure for anyone who breaks the rules), for those on the outside it is an impenetrable inner circle.

We know that in the early 1990’s Lennart Meri recruited heavily from EÜS because he knew that he was guaranteed to find young men who had not been tainted by the communist system. We are surprised that those young men who are now middle-aged haven´t done the same, suggesting that ´trust´ can get you stuck in your generation grouping as well as your social grouping (Fraternities are often formed on the basis of birds of a feather flocking together – for instance pre-war Vironia was composed of bankers and banking hopefuls. Banking is one area that requires a lot of trust and mutual respect. Post-communist era we have had banking mishaps where very clearly trust has been misplaced).

Pre-war we know that Päts and most of his cronies belonged to the same fraternity (Estica I think), or so goes the lore. Lore also has it that Korp Sakala set out to break Korp Vironia´s hold on the banking industry, and did so by charging them with corruption, which suggests that there was some optimism about busting up an inner circle.

While I can´t imagine Savisaar belonging to any fraternity, he does seem to be working with this same model of inner circle of trust, but he is actively recruiting young members. Worth considering?

Piimapukk ütles ...

Savisaar modus operandi is to recruit young inexperienced peopole, quickly promote them to the positions to which they do not qualify and then control them by fear and intimidation.

It is a common practice in Estonia though. Is it good or is it bad to have child-bankers, child-polititians, child-businessmen?

Eventually, everyone grows up, right?

memetsu ütles ...

Well they do grow up, but I am afraid they will not represent anything that could be called a democratic political culture.

Political culture where one is motivated by the will and favor of "patry patriarch" does not bring about the rise of intelligent and creative leaders in the political hierarchy. It will simply produce more insecure authoritarian jerks who are afraid of debate and opponents who question their policies.

And with a few exception most of the talented intelligent and creative young Estonians seem to be avoiding Estonian politics like the plague and prefer to get jobs elsewhere - often outside of Estonia in places where showing their intelligence is an asset and not a liability.

Lets just hope that some of those people return to Estonia when they have secured themselves and then enter politics. If they are otherwise materially secure they would have no need to be a party soldier and their only motivation would come from whatever ideals they happen to support.

Giustino ütles ...

To english word "Wild" best translation is "Metsik". Similarity of mets and metsik gives us understanding how language once developed, and not so much about meaning of words.

I like the word 'habelik' - which means old fashioned or conservative, but literally means 'beardy' as 'habe' translates as 'beard.'

During that blink of the eye the possible thoughts in Poker Faces tribe girl mind may vary from "damn this guy is pretty" to "I will never ever drink any more". Seriously.

She wasn't unfriendly. It was just the reaction that was different. Remember, I had just come from New York via Madrid and Stockholm. Each time I come to Estonia I notice this taciturn quality to some of the people for the first few days. I imagine the day when some Estonian who is completely sober will bound down the street, smiling and whistling because he or she got laid the night before.

Rainer ütles ...

"I like the word 'habelik' - which means old fashioned or conservative, but literally means 'beardy' as 'habe' translates as 'beard.'"

Invent new words much?

I believe the word is "häbelik" - meaning shy, timid, bashful. derives from the word "häbi", literally "shame".

viimneliivlane ütles ...

It is downright scary how Savisaar recruits and grooms young people. What will happen to them when he is gone and they realize they represent no one else but the alienated Russian immigrant?

The right wing, on the other hand, has had two instances when young professional people have gotten together and formed their own party: the Reform in the 1990s and Res Publica in the 2000s.

If this is to be the way we experience the passing of generations in politics then Memetsu may be on to something and we can expect a Talendid Koju party in the 2010s.

Is any of this of any help in understanding Estonian politics?

Indrek ütles ...

Rainer, I think Giustino meant 'Habemik'.

risto ütles ...

And then there's also the word häbe... but I am too häbelik to talk about it.

Giustino ütles ...

Invent new words much?

I believe the word is "häbelik" - meaning shy, timid, bashful. derives from the word "häbi", literally "shame".


If I present to you the image of a blind foreign buffoon who is feeling his way through the darkness, then good, because I am, exactly. I haven't read this word before, only heard it. It did sound like 'häbelik,' but the context of the story was that 'vanad eestlased oli häbelikud, ei käinud segasaunas' or something along those lines. And I took häbelik/habelik to be related to the word 'habe,' as I don't know the word 'häbe' and 'häbi' (which sounds more like 'äbi' when people say it) didn't make sense (old people were shameful?) So I made my other interpretation that way, which, by the way, actually made sense. At least to me.

I am completely thrust into a foreign environment. Most people around me don't speak English very well. I don't have spare time to learn thousands of words just so I can try and match them with the various grunts and mumbles tossed in my direction. Oh maybe he mumbled this, or maybe she grunted that.

Sure, Estonians learn English well enough to write eloquent blog commentaries, but let's drop a few of them off in east London or Glasgow and see how well they manage. God, I don't even understand what the hell those people are saying.

Rainer ütles ...

Giustino, I get your frustration completely, no need to get mad. It's just that you are famous for your relatively good comand of Estonian, and one has come to take that for granted.
I wasn't baffled by your mishearing/misspelling a word, I was baffled because you had managed to build an entire theory around a misunderstanding.

viimneliivlane ütles ...

Cranky, are we, this language defies even the natives so not to worry. More bothersome is your expectation of seeing people walking down the street with a lilt in their step - not going to happen with icy conditions. A better indicator of if people´s intimate life is in order would be, as you look out at Viljandi järv, to see if men are out ice-fishing.

The folksy philosopher Vladislav Korzets (clear asiatic connection here as his mother brought him to Estonia from Siberia when he was an infant) advises that if your marriage is going through a lull to go ice-fishing... take some buddies along but never your wife.

Piimapukk ütles ...

Happiness in Estonia is and has always been in short supply. People have learned to guard it jealously and not to reveal it by superfluous gestures. This is the secret how we have survived against the tides of hostile times and also the reason why there are not so many of us.

Giustino ütles ...

Giustino, I get your frustration completely, no need to get mad.

Rainer, the frustration is with myself. It's one thing to know or not know a language. It's another thing when one person talks to you, and you understand everything, and then another person steps up and says something that you don't understand at all.

This happens to people who speak English as a foreign language too, I'm told.

viimneliivlane ütles ...

How could I forget Tibet - the number 1 Asiatic tribe teeming to be free - worse yet, how come no one caught that . . .

viimneliivlane ütles ...

How could I forget Tibet - the number 1 Asiatic tribe teeming to be free - worse yet, how come no one caught that . . .

memetsu ütles ...

Well the thing about China and Tibet is that it's not at all like Estonia and the Soviet Union, at least in historical perspective.

First of all during the Tang dynasty they were both quite big and Tibet was a serious Empire on its own right. At the end of the 7th century Tibetans almost managed to take the city of Chang'an on one of their regular raids from the mountains to the lower plains.

Add to that the rule of the Mongol Yuan dynasty (during which the Chinese population fell from about 120 million to 60 million) and the Manchu Qing dynasty. The Manchu people, by the way, had a very similar shamanistic Buddhist tradition to the Tibetan one. Add to that that the Manchu rulers were also the ones who were asleep at the wheel when the British screwed China over and some of the worst decisions of that time can be attributed to Manchu rulers (mainly opposing modernization in an attempt to hold on to their power and underestimating the military strength of the British).

So - considering all that, it is hardly surprising that the Chinese are not very keen on Tibetan culture, freedom and rights, or that of any other of their minority peoples, as throughout their history, rule by or strong influence of non han-Chinese minority peoples has always been somewhat disastrous for them.

Not that what is going on in Tibet is right in my opinion, but I just like to point out that this whole thing goes a lot deeper than the People's Republic of China vs Tibetan Buddhism and the Dalai-Lama (which is a title invented by a Mongol ruler Alan Khan) and that the whole dynamic is very different from the Estonian Russian dynamic.

viimneliivlane ütles ...

Thanks for the explanation - almost makes you feel sorry for China - imagine having two hostile neighbors - and England too.

Estonia has had to fight off mainly Germans and Russians, also Swedes and Poles (and an occasional fracas with the Latvians), though there are those that argue that if Estonia declared war on England and surrendered immediately we would be taken into the British Empire with all the protection that provides.

Timbu ütles ...

Back to the introverted Estonians: the snow and cold argument fails to convince me, since we still have the rather more sociable Finns to our north! I have this issue with a few relatives, with whom I'm sometimes unable to break the ice - including my sister. We've always been like cat and dog, reacting very differently to our shared growing environment, gotta be that she inherited some gene that I didn't.

viimneliivlane ütles ...

Timbu you and your sister both have Estonian genes - undoubtedly the most interesting genes on earth as centuries of foreign invaders have passed through raping and plundering . . . my relatives who have been working in Finland for over a decade actually find the Finns boring and are homesick for the more interesting Estonian social environment.

Recently the remains of some of Napoleon´s soldiers were uncovered in Lithuania. I know of at least one Estonian family that can trace its roots back to Napoleon´s army. Sometimes unrecorded history is the more telling - for myself I had always assumed the high rate of desertion during the difficult retreat from Russia took place somewhere around Poland.

All told, Giustino shouldn´t be concerned about introducing Italian genes - they should feel most welcome in the gene pool - hope that frees you up to concentrate on the language.

keyboardwarrior ütles ...

On the topic of "grumpy" estonians..

It's just a matter of inflitrating that huge comfort zone of estonians. :)

Once you're in it, they're friendly and glad to help and what not.

So eh, I wouldn't say estonians are grumpy / angry / dug-in little goblins.. We simply have a.. Large comfort zone that seems to have a larger shell than other "westerners".