Thursday, August 22, 2013

My Exchange... in Panoramas!

Yes... it's been a while, I know. (Only a year, right?) I've been meaning to post something, but... I could never think of anything to talk about.

Well, I've finally come up with something to share.

Throughout my year in Estonia, I took pictures that were really meant to be panoramas. The problem was that I had no way to put those photos together on my computer... Until now. Unfortunately, the panorama-making program is good, but it's not that good, so there are a few panoramas with major "glitches in the Matrix". Therefore some scenery may look out of place and/or impossibly blended together.

I now present to you... in a somewhat chronological order... Random Panoramas from My Exchange:
(Click on the pictures to see larger versions.)

August 13, 2011: Taking a stroll around Lake Pühajärv on my first day in Estonia. (See related post here)
September 18, 2011: Lahemaa rahvuspark - "Lahemaa National Park" (See related post here)

Early December, 2011: The cold winter wonderland of Lapland, Finland. On the other side of the river is Sweden!

January 26, 2012: The field I walked across everyday to get to my second host home. I would first walk from my school to downtown, then take a bus to Lõunakeskus (a shopping mall), and finally end up here. (Related post)

March 24, 2012: The great iced-over river in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Related post)
May 27, 2012: The view from the shore of Lake Peipus, the lake that forms most of the Estonian-Russian border. (Related post)

June 10, 2012: Misty mountains in Grenoble, France, during Eurotour. (Related post)

June 11, 2012: Sisteron, France -- a quick stop on our way through France. (Related post)

June 12, 2012: A beautiful view in Monaco.

June 12, 2012: Another area of Monaco.

June 16, 2012: Alps in Bellamonte, Italy. (Related post

That seems to be a pretty good visual summary of my exchange... If I find some more panorama-worthy photos in my archives I'll dust them off and post them up.

In other news... I've been busy this summer. I spent two weeks on Martha's Vineyard, then one week in New York City, and two more on Long Island, NY, at my grandma's house. Now I'm home in New Hampshire, but soon I'll be heading back to Montreal, Canada for my next year of college. A few weekends ago I went zip-lining in Vermont, and last weekend I hiked part of Mt. Ascutney, also in Vermont. Here are a few pictures from that hike:

Maybe I'll just stand back here....

And, of course, I can't not share some recent macro shots from my backyard:

Before I end this gigantic post, I have one more thing to add: This year, an exchange student from Vermont (in my Rotary district) is living in Tartu and being hosted by the Tartu Hansa Club (She's lucky!). Her blog can be found here: Check it out!

I plan on making a post about Montreal and McGill when I'm back in the city in a few weeks... No promises, but I strongly intend to put something together.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Täna: Ameerikas. Homme: Kanadas.

I've been home for a little less than two months, but it feels as if I haven't actually been in New Hampshire much at all. Four days after I arrived in the U.S., I left for Martha's Vineyard, a small island off the coast of Massachusetts. I spent two weeks there with my parents and a few good friends just swimming, kayaking, and eating all the seafood we could. I've been going to this same spot for eighteen years, so it's a place that I know very well. Being on the island was also a good way to get integrated back into the nicer side of "small town American life" in the sense that I was surrounded by quaint houses and friendly people with Boston accents, rather than Walmart, McDonald's, and big Ford trucks.

There have been things that were easy to adjust to again, but, even in this small span of time, there have been difficulties as well.

By far the most difficult was losing my grandfather, who passed away shortly after I returned. I was able to see and talk with him about my experiences abroad in the short time before I left for Martha's Vineyard, which I am incredibly thankful for. He always had a good understanding of what it's like to live abroad because he himself was a world traveler. He and my grandma have traveled nearly all over the world, to nearly every continent, and to uncountable countries, so it was easy to relate and share stories. One of my favorite stories of his is illustrated by the following picture:

He was in St. Petersburg, Russia, and as you can see, he was dressed properly for the winter. He and my grandma were enjoying some music and the Russian conductor came up and asked my grandfather--the tourist--for a photo. Apparently the conductor thought my grandpa looked a lot like Lenin, and naturally, wanted a photo!

The other difficulties I've had have been generally more superficial... On my first or second night home I was sitting at the dinner table, enjoying local pizza, mindlessly watching the local news on TV. I think I lasted two minutes before I had to just shut the television off--the commercials were simply obnoxious! Even the national news stations seemed dull and superficial, and ultimately unwatchable!

I also feel inclined to say that if you are an exchange student just coming home from abroad to the U.S., never ever go to Walmart. Seriously. I've been there twice already, and both times I was depressed for the rest of the day! Definitely learned my lesson.

On the flip side, it has been really nice to reconnect with old friends and see some familiar scenery--especially the mountains and lakes. I've yet to go hiking or kayaking in New Hampshire since I've been back, unfortunately, but I can still admire from a distance! It has also been nice to be able to eat some of the food I missed last year, like bagels and cream cheese, local pizza and Snapple iced tea. Being able to drive again is also certainly a plus, and it's nice to have that level of freedom.

A sunset over Mount Monadnock, just because.

I was able to bring back some specialties from Estonia and show them to my family and friends, and by far, the most popular things have been Sinep (strong mustard) and Turakas/Potti (a card game)... Potti is great for when you're bored with friends (but sinep is even better!). I also brought home a bottle of kali (a drink made from fermented bread), which seemed to be well-liked. And of course, multiple bars of Kalev chocolate!

The last weekend in July was my district's Rebound Weekend, which gave all the exchange students who lived abroad last year (Rebounds) a chance to reunite and share stories from their years. It was a lot of fun to be able to see some familiar faces again, and to see how they had changed, if at all. Most of all, it was amazing for me to hear all the different languages people learned! Chinese, Swedish, Turkish, Portuguese, German, French, Spanish, Thai... And most importantly Estonian. ;)

So, on Saturday we had a potluck and sleepover just for the Rebounds, and on Sunday we had a more formal meeting where we each got up to talk about our experiences in front of future exchange students, Rotarians, and parents. Here's a picture of the Rebound Exchange Students at the meeting, plus our Outbound Chairman:

Overall it was a great weekend, and I certainly had a lot of fun, but I still couldn't help feeling a bit bittersweet at the end of it. I had been looking forward to this weekend for a long time (in fact, ever since I attended last year's meeting), but I didn't realize until it was over that it symbolized, in my mind, the official end to my exchange year. Although I had been "home" already for nearly a month, I still had this one big event to look forward to, so it almost felt like my exchange wasn't yet finished. Additionally, August 6 was the one year anniversary of the start of my exchange, and on the 9th I gave a presentation about my year in Estonia in front of my sponsoring club.... Things are all wrapped up!

After my presentation, I was presented with a care package that I unfortunately didn't receive during my year... Inside: A lifetime supply of Twinkies! Jackpot!

Now that the Rebound Weekend has passed and it's officially been a year, I can consider my exchange truly complete!


So, now I look toward the future.... Tomorrow I will move to Montreal, Canada, where I will attend McGill University. I'm planning on studying Linguistics, which is essentially the study of languages and how they are learned/created/used. Although I'll also be studying some new languages (next on my list is French, then... who knows?), Linguistics focuses more on the structure of languages in general, which is something I've always been interested in. I'd also like to get back into German, as I definitely feel it has taken a hit after learning a new language for a year. Luckily McGill has a good German program, in addition to a great Linguistics one.

Oh yeah, Canada!

I can't say yet whether I'll be keeping another blog in Montreal, but I assume I will be a lot busier and perhaps there just won't be as much to write about... But we'll see! If possible, I'd like to do another exchange year through McGill. At this point I'm convinced I'd like to go to Germany/Austria/Switzerland, but things may change!

Also, allow me to just promote an awesome Estonian band for a moment... I'm hoping to go see Ewert & The Two Dragons in either Toronto or Cambridge, MA, on October 22 or 24, respectively. So if you're a fan, want to become a fan, or just want to meet Estonian people, go to one of their upcoming US/Canada shows!

Finally... a few recent shots from the garden to finish off this post:

Wish me luck in border crossing!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Üksteist kuud hiljem... Mu "aasta Eestis" ülevaade. (Eestikeelne versioon)

Click here for the English version of this post.
Vajuta siia, inglisekeelne versioon lugeda.

Peaaegu üksteist kuud tagasi ma kaisin lennujaamas Ameerikas, lendasin Euroopasse, ja mu vahetusaasta hakkas. Kui lihtne oli!

No, tegelikult, mu aasta Eestis ei olnud hakanud sellel hetkel... Esimene nädal mu vahetusaastas oli Rotary keelelaagris Soomes... kus mitte keegi rääkis eesti keelt. :( Ma tahtsin eesti keelt õppida, aga kõik oli soome keeles. "Kui imelik keel see on," ma arvasin, "Miks nii raske on? Eesti keel oleks muidugi lihtsam." (...ei olnud...) Aga varsti keelelaagris meil (need kuus vahetusõpilast Eestis) oli eratunnid, niiet me võiksime eesti keelt õppida--ilma soome mõjuta! See oli mõnikord igav, tavaliselt informatiivne, aga alati lõbus.

Nädala pärast me läksime Eestisse--lõpuks meie maale! Me kaisime laevaga Tallinnasse Helsingist. Kuna oli meie esimene kord laevas, toit oli nii hea. Sellel aastal me oleme olnud nii palju korda laevas, et... no, toit on nüüd lihtsalt normaalne.

Ma mäletan oma esimene õhtu Eestis... Ma sõitsin Tartusse autoga, väga pikka reisi pärast, ja uniselt vaatasin aknast ühe uskumatut päikeseloojangut. Hetkel ma arvasin, et oli parim loojang maailmas.
Nüüd ma tean, et iga päikeseloojang Eestis on maailma parim.

Niisiis, ma olin Tartus, mu linnas. Augustis ilm oli nii hea... soe ja päikseline... ja mu uus linn oli nii ilus suvel. Palju turist jalutasid kesklinnas--mina olin ka turist sellel ajas, aga nüüd... ei tunne nii.

Varsti kool algas. Tegelikult kool algas minu sünnipäevas, esimene september! Õnneks mu klassikaaslased oli sõbralikud, laulsid mulle, ja soovisid mind "Palju õnne sünnipäevaks!"

Mu kool, Miina Härma Gümnaasium.

Miina Härma ja... Miina Härma.

Hiljem ma kaisin perekonnaga traditsiooniline eesti restoranis. Muidugi sõin traditsiooniline eesti söök... või proovisin süüa... nii palju toitu oli! Lihsalt vaadake pilti!

Esimene viga: kahvli ja nuga kasutamine.

Hea päev ja parem söök!

Edasi... Septembris tuli sügis, ja külmem ilm. Mul oli võimalus purilennukiga lennata, ja muidugi tegin! (Lugege veel sellest siin.)

Eesti taevas on ilus!

Hiljem septembris me (Rotary vahetusõpilased Eestis) tegime Eesti tuur. Käisime Tallinnas, Tartus, Rakveres ja veel... Eesti tuur oli väga hea elamus, eriti koos kuus vahetusõpilast. (Lugege veel sellest siin.)

Suht norm Robin Hood.

Varsti tulid oktoober, november, detsember, jaanuar, veebruar... ja ikka külmem ilm. Aga kõik oli korras--mul oli need eesti talveriided... paksud sokid, paksud kindad, paksud kingad, ja veel paksud asjad edasi.

Ja siis oli kevad Eestis tulnud. Lehed kasvasid puid peal, ja roheline oli tagasi maailmas tulnud. Mõned lilled oli ka aias kasvanud, ja siis tulid teised värvid Eestisse.

Lõpuks, suvi tuli jälle. Mu lemmikaastaaeg. Tihti ma istusin sõpradega pargis või emajõe kõrval, lihtsalt head ilma nautimine. Kool on lõpetanud, ja ma tegin Rotary'ga see suur EUROTOUR. Me reisisime Euroopa umber (palun vaadake siitsiit, ja siit rohkem info meie Eurotouri eest).

Pärast Eurotouri, lihtsalt puhkamine Tartus, kuni tänaseni. Allpool on natuke pildid Tartust veel...

Aga nüüd, mul ei ole aeg veel Eestis. Homme, teisipäeval, ma lähen viimast korda Tallinnasse, lennujaama, ja siis koju Ameerikasse.

Ma ei saa täpselt kirjeldada kõigest, et ma tegin, et ma vaatasin, et ma õppisin, et ma kogesin, et ma tundsin... sest nii palju on sellel aastal juhtus. Aga mu blogi kaudu, ma niikuinii proovisin näita mu aastat teile. Ja ma tahaksin teid tänada, keda on mu blogi sellel aastal lugenud. Mõnikord oli natuke raske kirjutama, aga ma proovisin midagi tavaliselt teha... isegi kui ma lihtsalt panin pilti või mõned lauseid lehel!

Ma tahaksin ka natuke veel inimest tänada...
Esiteks, aitäh Rotary International, sest ilma vahetusprogrammita, ma ei oleks vahetusõpilane.

Teiseks, aitäh eesti sõpradele, klassikaaslastele, ja vahetusõpilastele, sest teie on mu aasta unustamatu tehtud!

Kolmandaks, aitäh oma eesti perekondadale, sest te olete olnud nii vastuvõtlikud ja kasulikud! Te olete mu aasta väga lihtne tehtud.

Neljandaks, ma tänan Keene/Elm City Rotary Klubi, sponsoreerimine eest. Ilma nendeta, ma ka ei oleks vahetusõpilane. Aitäh!

Ja lõpuks, ma tänan Tartu Hansa Rotary Klubi. Ilma nendeta, ma ei oleks vahetusõpilane, mul ei oleks kuskil sellel aastal elada, ja kõige tähtsam, ma ei oleks Eestis. Suur, suur tänu!

Ma usun, et ma olen muutunud pärast sellest aastast. Võib-olla mitte väljastpoolt, kuid sees. Ja ma ei tea täpselt, kuidas ma olen muutunud, lihtsalt et olen. Loodan, et millal ma olen tagasi Ameerikas, ma tõesti mõistan.

See vahetusaasta oli uskumatu elamus. On aasta, et ma ei saa kordata tulevikkus--on päris kordumatut! Ja ei ole võimalik ette kujutama, enne vahetusaasta, kui elu tõesti on teises riigis. Sellepärast, ma palun teid, et, kui saate, te teete vahetusaastat üks kord elus! Üks Rotary nõuandja Ameerikas ütles mulle, et, kui iga inimene maailmas teeb lihtsalt ühe vahetusaastat, ei oleks sõjad maailmas. Ma arvan et tal oli õigus.

Enne minu vahetusaasta, ma ei teadnud midagi Eestist. Tegelikult, ma ei teadnud palju maailmast. Pärast mu aasta Tartus, ma ei tunne nagu turist, mitte nagu Ameeriklane, aga ka mitte nagu Eestlane, kuid nagu mingi... vahetusõpilane, et enam ei tea kus ta kodumaa on, aga võib küll elada kõikjal!

Kokkuvõttes, ma loodan, et teile meeldis mu blogi, ning meeldivad mu jutud ja pildid. Mulle meeldis blogi kirjutamine.
Ei tea, kui ma tulevikkus ikka kirjutan sellel blogis, sest mu "üksteist kuud Eestis" on vist lõpetanud.

Siiski, järgmisel aastal ma elan Montrealis, Kanadas, ja õpin ülikoolis....
Võib-olla seal on võimalus uue blogi kirjutada?