Looks like it's time for an update. I do have an excuse for not journaling, mostly that I wanted to wait until I actually had something worth writing about. I still don't have anything too exciting, but here goes. Delhi was pretty insane, but I managed to escape in one piece (though perhaps a few pounds lighter from all the fluids I lost; I felt like I was literally swimming in my own sweat for 24 hours straight) and made it safely to Estonia (via London, where I met some interesting people who were stuck sleeping in the airport like me. Travel always seems to connect the strangest people). When I first re-entered the "Western world" I experienced some major culture shock. I spent the longest time just staring around me, amazed at how big and green everything was (mostly big: bigger houses, bigger cars, bigger streets and, I hate to say it, bigger people) compared to India. By now I've pretty much readapted to Western life and strangely, I miss the culture shock. As the name implies, it is of course rather shocking, but also exhilarating. It allowed me to see the world (or one particular part of the world) through fresh eyes for a time (until I surprisingly quickly readapted--it's amazing how adaptable humans can be).
Estonia was pretty foreign when I first came here as an exchange student but now, compared to India, it seems rather bland to me. The people by comparison are so cold and distant--here it's possible to sit on a bus touching legs with a stranger for three hours and never manage to make eye contact with the person. In India they'd have my name, age, income, occupation, and marital status within the first two minutes. While I do enjoy being able to drink the water and walk down the street without being hassled, I've already started to miss the countries I left behind.
While here I've tried to get out and see some of the cultural events I missed out on last time I was here. First was the Eesti Noorte Laulu- ja Tanstupidu--Estonian Youth Song and Dance Festival, that is. Imagine a huge stadium, packed full of singing Estonian youth. Add to this a crowd of about 100,000, mostly dressed in traditional clothing, and you can get an idea of what it was like. Of course, 100,000 isn't much compared to some of the crazier Indian festivals like the Kumbha Mela--a religious pilgrimage held every four years which attracts close to 70 million--but it's nearly a tenth of Estonia's entire population. I didn't sing, of course, but just observing was very powerful.
And some of the costumes:
After that was Mytofest, as sort of Scandinavian-themed Renaissance Fair. It was pretty tiny compared to the ones I've seen in the US, but still interesting, with traditonal crafts being taught and a grand battle between armored sword-fighters (being cheerd on in three different languages). Unfortunately, I didn't get to hear the traditional music groups they were hosting, as I had to hitch-hike back to town and chose not to risk doing it in the dark.
Then a one-day trip to Helsinki. I got to see these lovely buildings:
but only from the outside. As I found out a bit too late, all the museums are closed on Mondays. But fortunately for me, there was the Academic Bookstore to make up for it! Bigger and better than any Barnes and Noble, this bookstore boasted not only the biggest travel section I've ever seen, but also the worst prices (32 Euros for a $20 book)! All in all it was a good time, though, and I managed to not get lost, mugged, or rained on while I was there.
This Sunday I'm off for good, first to Viljandi for the Viljandi Folk Music Festival (http://www.folk.ee/2007/about.php)