esmaspäev, august 25, 2008

eile nägin ma eestimaad

I was asked a funny question recently, "Do you have any Estonian friends?" And I wasn't sure how to answer.

My wife has friends, who are by extension my acquaintances. They, in turn, have husbands, who are glad to help and chat when in proximity. But actual sõbrad? I am not so sure.

My "Estonian" friends are typically other foreigners in Estonia, or, oddly enough, eestimaalased, like our friend Flasher T. But if you check my mobile phone, you'll find few Priits or Reins or Urmases. For some reason, Estonian friends have avoided me. That's not to say that Estonians are not capable of having passionate relationships. Just look at Ruja.

I went to see this "rock opera" last week having no idea what to expect. I even thought it was a legitimate rock opera in the vein of Tommy, authored by a band and committed to vinyl. Instead it was a dramatization of the career of Estonia's best known progressive rock group set to their music.

It was solidly enjoyable, and I say this as someone who has experienced all kinds of east coast theater -- Broadway, Off Broadway, Dirty Basement on the Lower East Side. I've even been in musicals before. And this one, Ruja, was good.

Good how so? First of all, superb acting. It literally took several scenes for the naine and I to recognize Priit Võigemast behind his spacey and music conductor-like rendition of principal songwriter and organist Rein Rannap. Then there was Sergo Vares, known to me from his role on Kodu Keset Linna, as mustachioed lead singer Urmas Alender. For me, it's a great thrill when I do not recognize an actor on stage. Also, the cameo of Tõnis Mägi as a rock-singing, stairwell drunk was welcome. And to think I just saw him at the öölaulupidu. Härra Mägi gets around.

Second, in addition to great lighting, costumes, and stage design, Ruja benefited from great camera work. The geniuses behind Ruja decided that not everyone would be able to pick up on the interplay between the actors on stage. Instead, a large screen was centered between the lights that allowed intricate camera work to bring out the action in the script, so when guitarist Jaanus Nõgisto is practicing in the toilet while a drunk Alender urinates, you can actually see the stream; or when Alender falls in love during a duet with the väga andekas Evelin Pang, you can watch him slice off a piece of vorst and share it with her.

Third, Ruja has an honest script. How many performances have you seen with bogus finales? Ruja is not one of those kind of, er, rock operas. Instead you get a genuine look at an Estonian rock band battling with Soviet censors; with the internal disagreements within the band; and with their effort to become big in Moscow that ultimately leads to a decline in the quality of their material and the group's disintegration. A mix of musical performances, chaotic scenes, and actual footage of the band help tie the show together.

And the thing about the total Ruja package is that the fellows in the band, as well as on stage, seemed not only to get along, but to get along passionately. They, despite their bickering, were at least sometimes friends. In this way, Ruja taught me that friendship with Estonians is possible, even if observed second hand.

7 kommentaari:

LPR ütles ...

As we get older, we are all less likely to make new friends. Likewise, we realize at the same time the the friends we thought we had were not such good friends to be begin with. And many of them were not even friends then as they are less likely to be now.
Many of them are an embarrassment to look at and you are truly happy that they are out of your life.

You gotta live your own life as all life forms fossilize on different schedules.

I live in US and can tell you the same thing. Not that many new friends. It is something I blame on age rather than anything else.

Colm ütles ...

I know well that culture shock of moving from Ireland to Estonia. Estonians are cold, cold, cold just like the wind and the snow during the depts of winter. They are also very direct and harsh and do not hesitate to tell you to your face what exactly they think of you. However once they accept and know you they warm up and they can be the most loyal and trustworthy friends.

An Estonain once told me that the greatest compliment an Estonian can give you is to visit them into their home.

Irish people on the other hand are so jovial and warm and friendly but once you turn your back they'll tell others what they think of you. And they're less likely to stick with you when the going gets tough.

Kristopher ütles ...

Someone on the Airtrain at JFK started a conversation with us yesterday and although the person was probably normal, I entertained the thought that she was pooletoobine. This simply never happens in Estonia, to me anyway.

There has been more hugging, though, including male hugging with husbands/partners of my wife's acquaintances. Very surprising. Nothing ironic (as in imitation of the wives taking their leave or something), and nothing weird. Just surprising.

Rainer ütles ...

At the risk of drifting off topic - the term "pooletoobine" is a huge favourite of mine. It expresses so many things.
Something or somebody that desn't quite "measure up".

AndresS ütles ...

Estonians can be very hard to befriend. After a number of years here I have a lot of acquaintances but few real friends outside of the valiseesti community. I find that most of the time I have to initiate with people, invite them over, suggest a night out, etc.

Maybe people just don't like me? :)

Lilyta ütles ...

I think Estonians have learnt through occupation time: not to trust anything foreign. Now the strict standard is melting. Also, e.g. i felt exchaustion of the Soviet period & ongoing battle with Soviet thinking people. However i am open for new frikends regardless their nationality. Being conservative & living in cocuun helped us to keep our culture & language live. We must get over of that complex & see the prospective & benefit of having friends with different backrounds, it's rather enriching :)

Kaisa ütles ...

Vello Vikerkaar has a similar post about the problem of TALKING to Estonians. I can completely understand the frustration. Although it could also be just a gender thing, if you are to believe Dylan Moran -