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Jul. 27th, 2007 @ 06:45 pm Excursing in Estonia?
Maybe that one doesn't quite work.

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) and then to my first WWOOFing experience in Europe!
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Date:July 28th, 2007 04:01 pm (UTC)
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Wow, great to hear news from your exploits (excursions? expeditions? explorations? - fine, I'll stop *grin*) in Europe
How long were you in Delhi? That's fairly far north in India - you've made some impressive journeys! How's the weather / time difference between months in Asia and in Europe treating you?
It's amazing to think how close things must be in India... by comparison, when in Europe, it seemed less isolating than the US; we must be on the far end of the "live in our own little mental castles" spectrum. Sigh.

Wow, that's a huge stadium! Whereabouts is it? I'm sure you've picked up Estonian again - have you visited your former host family yet? (or plan to?)
I remember that church in Helsinki... yeys! It's quite wonderful from the inside as well.
Ouch - sorry to hear about the Academic Bookstore's prices - the one wonderfully inexpensive sort of book in a Kirjakauppa we found in Helsinki was a huge stack of classics in English that were something like 0.5-2 euros apiece. Ah, well - glad you had a good time anyway!

Whereabouts will you be WWOOFing in Estonia?

I'm still in awe of your travels - your ability to navigate such distances (and do it alone!) is beyond my comprehension :). Continued best of luck in Estonia, and happy wishes for a safe continued journey!
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Date:August 22nd, 2007 09:43 pm (UTC)
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Hey you!

Silly me, forgetting to check my LJ. It turned out I was in Delhi for only about 24 hours, which was probably a good thing, as I spent most of it lying on my bed panting and wishing I could get on the plane right then. The jetlag wasn't so bad compared to when I flew into Kathmandu and now it's almost like I've been "immunized" against the heat; all the Estonians were whining about how awfully and unusually hot it was there and I felt like I should be putting on more layers.

For me it's pretty amazing to think about any aspect of India, it seems so far away now. Even though I'm not yet home, I feel like I've already stopped traveling, which saddens me. Of course I can always save up money and go travel again, but I'll never again be the "crazy eighteen-year old alone in India". The adventure isn't yet over and yet I already miss it.

I planned to stay with the WWOOF host for only a week or so, but they turned out to be such wonderful people that I've been in the same place for three weeks now. I've now been in Estonia for nearly three months (which means I have to get out soon before I get kicked out!). I visited my host family when I first arrived here and plan to drop in again in a few days (Saturday, to be exact) to say goodbye before I leave for a rushed attempt at the rest of Eastern Europe. So far the plan is to mostly skip Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland and focus more on Hungary, Romania, and possibly Bulgaria. Of course, one of the many things travel has taught me is that nothing goes as planned, so I'll have to let you know in a month what actually happens.

Best of luck to you too with the heaps of learning you'll be doing again this fall. May you enjoy every single day!