Well, I made it home safely from what has become my annual trip to Toronto to shop at the Estonian Girl Guide Christmas bazaar, nibble on tasty soul food and also to meet face to face with the editor of Estonian Life . This year was special because I also finally got to meet Estonian Life’s well-known political pundit and recently turned arts critic, Adu Raudkivi in person.
One of the things I try to do when in Toronto is to walk up Yonge Street from Union Station. This was my first glimpse of Canada as a youngster when we left Sweden. Sure, I had seen fleeting glimpses from the train window on the way from the dock at New Brunswick but nothing like Yonge Street. The walk always does me good and takes my mind back to our family’s early difficult years in Toronto.
The lakeshore sure has changed but Yonge Street feels much the same. The same three story buildings seem to be there as I remember them. The Eaton Centre, or whatever it is called today is new and it seems that most of the cinemas I remember being brightly lit up have survived and become live theatres catering to affluent tourists. There are still the solid old former bank buildings, all looking like ancient Greek temples, now vacant and fenced off with chicken wire, covered in pigeon poop and perpetually for sale or rent.
The people though have changed and the streets on either side are now filled with huge tall buildings. While I wasn’t overly concerned about being an accidental victim of a drive by shooting I certainly felt I was in a large city inhabited mainly by visible minorities. The sound of constant ambulance sirens all around can be quite disconcerting.
The big hall at Estonian House was as I remembered it except that I sensed that bazaar attendance might have been down a bit from previous years with many familiar faces absent. The food was as good as ever, especially the sauerkraut and wieners. It seemed that there were lots of new young faces in the booths but the leadership hadn’t changed much. The coffee shop downstairs which years ago seemed to always be open now seems to be always closed.
Things have changed vastly from the refugee days when exile Estonian language papers were published — some even semi-weekly — in the free world. The number of subscribers at the now sole viable publication keeps steadily dropping yet apparently the number of hits on the internet version of Eesti Elu/Estonian Life is phenomenal. I understand from talking to internet editor Vaado Sarapuu that there are more than ten different computers visiting the site for every printed copy. I gathered though that not everyone appreciates the significance of this.
Anyway, we discussed this and the possibility of setting up a gossip column in Estonian Life, something to spice things up a bit with little tidbits of what goes on at Estonian House and Tartu College. This probably will not fly though because since most of the readership is middle aged or better, their main interest in life now is food and drink, singing or artistic pursuits rather than hanky panky. Oh well, it was just a thought…
While we were engaged in our deep discussion concerning the future of the paper I noticed that the grandmotherly type sitting across from was glaring at us with increasing disapproval. Finally, unable to contain herself any longer she blurted out “Miks teie ei räägi eesti keeles!” (Why don’t you talk in Estonian!).
Yep, some things change and other things don’t.
Some things change, others don’t (7)