Talv on hea
Arvamus 05 Feb 2011 Justin PetroneEWR
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The morning after we got back [to Eesti] I went to unearth the car. It was like an archaelogical dig or one of those drilling endeavors in the Arctic. "Judging by these ice cores, an asteroid hit Earth 65 million years ago."

The vehicle was buried under a good foot or more of snow. Because there had been a thaw while we were gone, a layer of ice had formed in between the layers of snow. It took me two hours to get the car clean using a shovel and a brush.

I borrowed the shovel from my neighbor. When he came out, lighting a cigarette, blue circles beneath his eyes, I inquired as to why all the snow in the parking lot had been pushed behind my car.

"You were gone for a long time," he grunted, smoking. "We thought you had emigrated or something." Then he added, "The weather has been wild this winter." Actually, he used the word metsik which translated in my jet-lagged brain to "foresty" as mets means "forest." "The weather has been foresty this winter," he seemed to say.

Then I saw his domestic partner/girlfriend/wife/just friend (who knows in this country) and wished her a very big and boisterous "tere hommikust!" to which she replied with a very anemic "tere hommikust" and looked me in the eye for about a nanosecond. I was afraid I startled her. I felt as if I had been too forthcoming with my "tere hommikust." It occurred to me then that I was back in Estonia.

What to do?


When the girls got back, the first thing they did was put on the stereo, which still had a Christmas music disc in it. Estonian children's music. It had some kind of funky organ combo backing a chorus of little kids singing about snow being on the ground and birds going south -- linnud läinud lõunamaale -- and there was something so psychedelic about the recording. The organs. The reverb on the vocals. Music set in the middle of your mind. Estonian children's music is nutty. I haven't heard anything like it in the US or anywhere else. It's a big deal here. Taken very, very seriously.

I attribute this to masochism on the part of the adults. Their way of humiliating the children into obedience is to get them to sing complex, ridiculous songs, wearing silly national costumes. "Now, Krõõt, if you want a cookie, you'll have to sing radiridirallaa, pagane on valla three times and sing it like you mean it!""Joosep, if you want any Christmas presents this year, then repeat after me:

Taba-taba-taba-tamm, taba-taa.
Üks sula, kaks sula, talv on hea.*

Now, Joosep, sing it again and stand on one foot!"

*Talv on hea translates as "winter is good." And isn't it? I was hoping for all the snow to melt, but then I remembered that when the white stuff is gone, that just means it will start raining again. Hmm, snow or rain? What will it be? Maybe snow is good in this regard. Maybe the children's song is right.


At night, I shared a cup of coffee with my foreign Estonian friend and commiserated. "How does it seem to you just being back?" the väliseestlane asked. "Estonia, I mean."

"It's so quiet here," I told him. "All I see from my window is the lake and woods."

"I feel it everytime," he said. "Even going from Helsinki to Tallinn. Estonia seems so sleepy."

He's one of the good ones, this foreign Estonian. The Estonians themselves don't know how to regard their exile community. There is the perception that the exiles are stuck in the past. Probably true. Then there is the perception that the exiles, and those who have returned, have a propensity for talking down to the poor Estonians who had to actually live in the USSR. Also probably true. And then there is the perception that the exiles are fanatically conservative. Not sure if they are fanatics, but I would wager that a sizeable portion of the foreign Estonian community in the United States votes for the Republican Party.

I'm personally not a Republican, as every Republican who's ever tried to recruit me into the party has started his sales pitch with a little fear and loathing. Something like, "but would you let your daughter marry an illegal Mexican?" with an arm placed around my shoulders. To which I think silently, "I'd rather she marry an illegal Mexican than a guy like you!" Usually, I just blush and 'aww shucks' myself through these moments, maneuvering away from the uninvited arm. I am conflict averse. Better on paper or on screen than in person.

"I said 'tere hommikust' to my neighbor this morning and I think I frightened her," I confessed to my foreign Estonian friend as we drank coffee. "I forgot that people are a little shy around here."

"Oh, that?" he laughed. "I gave up on that a long time ago," he said, sipping his coffee. "That's why I don't say 'tere hommikust' to anybody anymore."

(Itching for Eestimaa, http://palun.blogspot.com/2011... )
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