Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Hunt

Although I come from a region where hunting is fairly popular, I never really thought I was going to be doing it myself until I got a phone call saying, "Tomorrow we go moose hunting."

So this morning I woke up extra early (6:00 am) and put all my warm cloths on, including my slighly-above-the-ankle-high winter boots--because winter boots are better than no boots--and was picked up by one of my host club member's husbands. Along the way, we picked up another hunter who'd be coming along too. We were headed towards an old, gigantic stretch of forest and wetland now used by the agricultural university for forestry research, where we'd meet up with about 20 more guys who are all members of this particular hunting club.

As we came nearer to where the central meeting point of the hunting club was, they began to tell me things about hunting. Things like how their club chairman was almost run down by a wild boar last weekend, or how one guy saw a mother bear and her four cubs last year, and that that means that those four cubs are probably living in the area or something. He also mentioned something about giving me an axe, "just in case". So you know, things like that. Luckily I had the sweet sounds of another guy softly humming Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" to soothe my nerves.

Wild Boar: Like Pumba, only more testosterone, 'roid rage, and daddy issues.

When we got to the meeting place, I was given the necessary supplies--a compass and a bright orange vest--and was told that I was going to be one of the "chasers" (the people who flush out the animals by walking in a sparse line and making a lot of noise; not sure what that's technically called). I was also told the plan of attack, which was to have a line a chasers start at one end of a certain area and have the hunters stand at the other side, waiting to get any moose that ran out of the bush towards them. If this failed, we would move to a new area and try again.
And thus began... The Hunt.

Round One
Weather: Clear. Blue skies.
Temperature: 43˚F/6˚C
Wind Speed: Slight breeze.
Direction of Movement: North-East
Status of Equipment: Like new.

Result: Nothing yet, but I stepped in a higher-than-slightly-above-the-ankle-deep puddle. :(

Round Two
Weather: Still clear. Blue skies.
Temperature: 46˚F/7˚C
Wind Speed: Slight breeze.
Direction of Movement: South-West
Status of Equipment: Slighty-above-the-ankle-high winter boots exchanged for slightly-above-the-knee-high rubber boots; new socks acquired.

These are the most stylish boots I have ever worn and the most stylish boots I will ever wear.

Result: Nothing, but my arm ended up in a puddle. :(

Round Three
Weather: Still clear. Blue skies.
Temperature: 46˚F/7˚C
Wind Speed: Little more than a slight breeze.
Direction of Movement: North-East
Status of Equipment: Left sleeve of jacket wet; left glove soaked. The left arm saw heavy losses. Feet are dry though. :D

Result: Nothing, but I didn't get anything wet. (It came pretty close though.)

Round Four
Weather: Slightly cloudy.
Temperature: 47˚F/8˚C
Wind Speed: Little bit breezy.
Direction of Movement: North-West with a hint of North-East.
Status of Equipment: Left sleeve more dried out; now wearing only right glove. (Feet still dry)

Result: Nothing. But I found some berries(!) and some animal scat. Didn't look edible though. I mean the berries.

Round Five
Weather: Cloudy and a bit gloomy.
Temperature: Kind of cold (and wet).
Wind Speed: Kind of breezy.
Direction of Movement: North-East... maybe.
Status of Equipment: Lots of little sticks and twigs in rubber boots; boots too tall and difficult to remove to be able to clear out twigs. Left sock somehow wet.

Result: Nothing. And my legs are tired.


Weather: Rain.
Temperature: Cold, wet and thirsty˚F.
Wind Speed: Cold, wet and thirsty mph
Direction of Movement: East or something. Then some North-East, South-East, then North-East again, then West, deliberately.
Status of Equipment: Both socks wet; left sleeve also we-- actually it was raining so everything was wet. And I had to go through a trench:

Wading through knee-high water in slightly-higher-than-the-knee-high rubber boots: Priceless (unless you slip).

Result: ....Nothing! Unless you count the fact that I got a little lost, had to backtrack to where the start was, and wait to be picked up for a little bit. :(

All-in-all it was a good experience though, regardless of whether or not the only wildlife I saw was some interesting fungus and the European version of a chickadee. And getting lost was only a minor issue, since I've been lost in Estonian forests before (Flashback: The Other Day I Went Orienteering).
In fact, I might even go hunting again in a few months!
Next time though, we're hunting wild boar.

Watch out, evil Pumbas.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Various Things

This post is mostly going to consist of random thoughts about experiences I've had so far... This is mostly because I don't feel like I'm able to adequately string unrelated things together without sounding too ridiculous. So prepare for slight incoherency!

Random photo of Otepää!

By now I've been around town enough to realize that what they said about Estonia being a very wired country is true... The other day I ate at a café in the center of town and went to pay with a 10€ bill, but the waiter didn't have any change... I had to borrow some cents from a friend.
Recently I received my residence permit in the form of an Estonian ID card. It's got my name, picture, birth date, etc., and essentially works like a driver's license. But the cool thing is that it's got a little chip embedded in it as well... This means that I could use the ID with a card scanner and be able to sign documents digitally, sign into my online school account, and access my Estonian bank account (if I had one). See what I mean about that wired thing?

And another thing about money: Coins actually matter in the Eurozone. There are one- and two-euro coins that you can really use without getting strange looks. The U.S. does have a one-dollar coin, but I think I've used it approximately twice.

Don't give me that look, Saca... Sakajaw... Saccagewe... you.

Estonia's a digital country.... Which is weird for me because I had little to no experience with credit or debit cards before coming here. So now I basically try to avoid using them at all costs (an irrational fear).

I've been making some progress in the language department. I can understand a good amount of basic structural words (it, this, here, and, because, etc.) and a lot more verbs/nouns/adjectives than I did at the start.
My two-year-old host brother can be an especially big help when I need to study my vocab. A few weeks back we were walking on some cross-country skiing trails in the woods and he picked up a tree branch and said, "SEE ON PUU!" ("THIS IS TREE!"). It's the little things....
And yesterday at dinner he pointed to a picture of a ladybug in one of his books and asked me what it was... "Lepatriinu!" I said confidently, while simultaneously hoping that the title of the book did indeed mean "ladybug" and not "ferocious face-eating monster beetle".
Luckily I was right.

It's gettin' chilly. Also, kind of dark. The sky is mostly gray nowadays, but I saw some blue last weekend.

I've started to take some courses in Estonian this quarter... I've got Ajalugu (History), Statistika (Statistics), and Hispaania keelt (Spanish) in Estonian. The rest of my classes are in English still.
I'm also taking an animation course at the Tartu Art School ( on Tuesday afternoons... Gotta keep busy somehow!

School Vacation
Last week we had a week off from school for Fall Break, so my host family and I drove up to Jämi, Finland to an indoor cross country ski track. Before we got there, they dropped me off in Tampere, Finland, where I visited with some exchange student friends for a few days. We had to take a lot of buses in those three days... and man, they are expensive... Makes me glad I don't need buses to get around Tartu!
We walked around the city like typical foreigners, went to coffee shops (where, embarrassingly enough, I had my official first cup of coffee) and played laser tag with a bunch of 10-year-olds (who beat us horribly). It was unfair though--they just roamed around in packs of flashing lights. I could only manage to take out two or three of them before I was overrun with lasers :(
It also didn't help that I naturally aimed over their heads... Those preteens were DESIGNED for laser tag....

The best thing about laser tag, though, is that when you're playing, you think you look like this:


When in reality you look like this:

And since 10-year-olds already look like this, they have nothing to lose.
They literally have no weakness.

Anyway, on Tuesday I took a bus up to Jämi, where we were staying. I got to try out cross country skiing, which was pretty cool, though it was a bit difficult to do in the confined area of the track. I'm sure I'll get to try it again when there's snow in Estonia though.
Here are some photos from that...

And finally, some pictures to make up for the above pictures:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Eesti Tuur

Traditionally Rotary's Eesti Tuur (Estonia Tour) has been for all of District 1420, meaning even the exchange students from the Finnish side of 1420 went, but this year they decided to change that. A few weeks ago, the five other exchange students in Estonia and I started our three-day tour.
Since we live all over Estonia, we gathered and started the trip in Tallinn. Our first official stop was at a medieval castle in Rakvere.

Inside the castle we had a guided tour. Our tour guide was dressed in period attire, meaning lots of leather, a black powder pistol, and other medieval things. Fortunately, they also had clothing available for us to wear: crusader-style smocks. So mainstream.
We had a few different medieval events in the castle too, like sword-fighting, jousting, archery, an alchemy show, and a "dungeon" tour.

Battle Royale
Those things around their waists are horses, by the way.
Soon after this I simply walked into Mordor.

The enemy horde!
Homemade gunpowder!
They had all the classic medieval animals too.

Just look at the smile on that goat.

These geese were jerks. And the one in the back hates the world.
After the castle, we went to our hotel. Coincidentally (actually, purposefully) it was also a giant spa, so we spent most of the night swimming and jacuzzi-ing. The next day we went to Viru to explore an old oil shale mine. Oil shale is one of Estonia's most important and unique resources, so there are quite a lot of mines in the northeastern part of the country. We were given the tour in broken English, so it was a bit difficult to follow, but we did get to ride on an underground train thing, which was cool.

Later that day we visited a very special community near Põlva called Maarja Küla ( It's a place for the mentally disabled to be cared for and taught in a communal setting. The village is partially funded by Rotary, so we visited and talked with the volunteers and residents. It is a very nice place... All of the residential houses are named after the country that donated the money to help build that particular house. So there's a Sweden House, Estonia House, Germany House... Sadly, no US House... yet!

And in order to break up that wall of text, here is a mushroom.

After the visit we drove to Tartu, where we stayed for the night. In the morning we attended a lunch meeting with one of the Rotary clubs in Tartu. We were able to watch a presentation given by an exchange student who had just gotten back from Colombia. Finally, we drove back to Tallinn, where we spent the night and caught a ferry the next day to Finland.

In Finland, District 1420 had it's District Conference. It was nice to spend the weekend with some friends who are staying in Finland and it was also nice to go to the conference, though all we did was stand up and introduce ourselves in our "native" languages (Estonian and Finnish). There are about 30 exchange students in my district, so it was a lot of fun.

All in all it was a good five days!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tartu (Pildid)

I fear that I'm becoming lazy with blogging... I have four draft posts started, but I just can't seem to finish them. I have Blogger's Block.

Anyway I'll try and get back on track with this post. Conveniently, I just realized that I never even made a post with pictures of my host city! I had all the pictures ready and everything... Sheesh.

Botanical Gardens

Tartu University building

My "extremely ferocious" dog