Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Parliament. Opera Gala. Peat Bog.

Last Friday I was able to go with my host club president to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, where we met with another member of the Tartu Hansa club. We traveled to Tallinn (a 2.5 hour bus ride from Tartu) to welcome and spend the weekend with the members of the Zandzegge Rotary club from Bilthoven, Netherlands. ("Netherlands" is a very cumbersome name to write with by the way.)
This special weekend in Tallinn was planned by both of the clubs and the Dutch Consul to Estonia. The connection between the Tartu Hansa club and the Zandzegge club is that they are both women-only Rotary clubs, which seems to be a rare thing.

After arriving in Tallinn on Friday afternoon, the 13 ladies from the Netherlands, two ladies from the Tartu Hansa club, the Dutch Consul (a man!), and I took a tour of the Tallinn Old Town. It's one of the most intact Old Towns in Europe (I believe), and it was packed with tourists. It was cloudy unfortunately; the pictures are a bit lackluster:

In the old town there were a lot of old things.

Old yellow thing.

Old clock thing.

Land Rover.
After this stroll through the Old Town, we met with the Speaker of the Parliament in the Parliament Building. We then went to the Dutch Embassy where we met with the Dutch Ambassador to Estonia and had a short reception.

The next day we started by going to two art museums. First, the Kadriorg Palace, and then KUMU (Kunst Muuseum). There was a really interesting exhibit in KUMU all about networking, and in one part, you could actually scan your I.D., passport, etc. into a machine and it would search the internet for data about you and give you an overview of your life, essentially. Unfortunately all I had with me was my driver's license and that didn't work at all.

Behold: KUMU
After the art museums I had some free time, so I met up with some other Rotary students who are currently staying in Tallinn.
That evening, the 13 ladies from the Netherlands, the two ladies from Tartu Hansa, the Dutch Consul, the Dutch Ambassador and I went to an opera gala at the National Opera House. (A description of what we saw can be found here: http://www.opera.ee/51294). It was quite a nice show.

On Sunday morning we drove about 70 km east to Lahemaa Rahvuspark (http://www.keskkonnaamet.ee/lahe-eng), the biggest national park in Estonia. There we took a walk in the peat bogs.

Unfortunately we didn't see very many animals...

And by that I mean we saw one duck.
But there were quite a few people picking cranberries!

Berries and mushrooms are actually very popular here in Estonia, and they are often picked fresh from forests/bogs.

In the middle of Lahemaa was a giant wooden viewing platform from which you could see 360 degrees.

Then we walked back...

And finally, we had lunch in an old German manor and took a nice drive along the seacoast back to Tallinn. The end!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Miina Härma Gümnaasium

My last post was picture-heavy and text-light... This one is the opposite. It's also about school.
Proceed with caution.

September 1st is an important day in Estonia, as it's the day when all the students, all over the country, start school. Although technically it's the beginning of the new school year, you don't really have any classes on that day. At least, at Miina Härma Gümnaasium (http://mhg.tartu.ee/), they have only a welcoming ceremony, followed by a simple class meeting.

I was originally going to be placed in Class 12B (equivalent to the senior class), but instead the school decided to put me in 11C. Their reasoning was that the 12th Class has important testing during the second half of the school year, and since I am not doing that, it would be boring for me while everyone else is studying. That seems reasonable, and 11C is pretty cool anyway!

Here's my class' weekly schedule:

(Click it to zoom in)

At first, Nora (the other Rotary student in my city) and I were put into all the classes that the other students had, like Chemistry, Physics, Math, Art History, and Estonian (the equivalent of our English classes), which are all taught in Estonian. It was soon discovered that we don't speak enough of the language for any of this to be helpful... yet. Instead, we just go to English, Foreign Language (German, in my case), English Literature, British Studies, Gym, and a special Estonian Language class.
We will be attending the full Estonian classes once we get a better handle of the language, though.

Finally, I just have to say that English class is incredibly boring.

And a sunset, just because.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Yesterday I had the opportunity to ride along with my host father in a glider.
Obviously I couldn't pass it up... And naturally, I brought my camera with me.

The glider pictured isn't the exact one I flew in. We actually flew in a larger, two-person glider (see below) rather than that performance glider.

 I sat in the front seat...

It was a bit cramped.

Since gliders don't have engines, they are towed by a regular plane up to a certain height and then "cut loose". They then glide safely around with help from the pilot.

Sometimes newbies get airsick, but I was alright. At one point my host father asked if I was indeed feeling OK, and I replied with "Yeah I feel fine!"
He then did a parabola.

Parabola :(

You basically do a nosedive, climb again, do a nosedive, etc., all in a couple seconds.
I wasn't exactly expecting it, so it was a bit terrifying. ...But it was also cool to see my extra camera lens float up and touch the roof of the canopy...!

Being towed.

That's the plane that brought us up, after we were cut loose.

And a smooth landing.

I realized afterwards that the only reason my flight went so well was because the glider had been blessed by a British spy.