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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Political Animals

End of day and our feet and backs are mighty sore. Lots of walking and then some more walking.

Our third night in Tallinn is drawing upon us as we prepare for our 7am bus trip to St Peterburg tomorrow morning. Tallinn has been very good to us. Here's the skinny:

- A tour of the old town on foot. Lots of pics here on the blog. A gorgeous medieval town that's been preserved and some places now UNESCO sites.

- A visit to the Estonian History Museum as they had an exhibit tracing the links of the East Siberian Aboriginal people and those of Alaska and the Yukon and North-western BC. Very, very interesting although sadly brief.

- 6th row seats at an Estonia-Croatia basketball game; qualifiers for the European Championships. An absolute nail-biting game as Estonia took an early lead, Croatia tied it up in the third period and took a nice lead, and the fourth period was neck in neck the whole way. Finally Estonia won with an incredible 78-77 when Croatia, with a 3 point lead, fouled the star Estonian player as he sank a three pointer and then got the foul shot to take the lead, less than 2 seconds on the clock. Incredible.

- A day spent at the county fair with traditional handcrafts, food, freshly churned butter, local breads, horses, sheep and all the rest. It was also "Chris and Miia" day at the fair - first Chris was invited not once but twice to join the folk dancers in traditional costume, then we were asked to play a game of fish can checkers with a quintessentially surly Estonian man, and finally were judged finalists in our drawing of fish! The checkers game was loudly broadcast by the MC to the crowd, we were Team Canada, and we were easily defeated by the above mentioned surly brute with about 20-30 people standing above us. Still, we came away with consolation prizes - a can of sardines and a can of spratz (no joke) and two fish magnets. We were ashamed by his clean victory but further humiliated when our fish drawing was announced as a finalist in a children's drawing competition (we didn't know it was a contest! we just wanted to draw fish like everyone else!). Luckily we lost that one to a 10 year old girl...

- A visit to the Kumu Art Museum to see some contemporary Estonian art. Some good, some not so good, but fun anyway.

- On foot tour of the city, a trolley ride, and a car ride with Katherine, Zinta, and Sophie. Interesting architecture from medieval to Soviet era to the shining new Stockman towers being built.

- Staying with Canadian friends of a friend and have had a very excellent time with them. The girls are terrific (4 yrs and 14 months) and their parents are cool too. Good talks too about the history of Estonia and Estonia-Russia relations.

All this aside, and all the fancy footwork behind us, I've been thinking some things over. One of the great times we had in Finland was in Jyvaskyla when we visited with my second cousin and her colleagues at the Immigrant Services office. We really got an insight into the country, the system, and what's going on. I'd like to continue in this vein, get to know the actors, the organizers, the people. The touristy stuff is nice and has definitely given us some real food for thought and more mainstream Estonian life (to a certain extent), but what I'd like to do more than anything is get to know Estonians, get to know local people, and get to know what are the issues, the struggles, the politics, and the systems that are here and that are different from what we've seen and known elsewhere.

I think Chris and I are genuinely political animals and so I think it's time to take this travelling a bit deeper as we now go into places where we no longer have contacts. Friends and family in Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Estonia have been great at sharing the places from their own eyes, but we'd also like to start to understand things from a different point of view... Building those solidarity networks that are so vital in the work one does.

A good resolution and hopefully we'll see it bear fruit in the days, weeks and months ahead.

Much love to everyone! Miia

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