Ideest Projektini

It is cold. But it is colder in Tartu.
Having been recently back, with a tight schedule, I’ve been thinking to myself if I were pushing my limits with being on the road for 2 weeks and going to the other places where the extremities are up for questioning. Change of weather always gets the best of me, and the drastic temperature change was inevitably tiring. Being a southerner I am, I’ve been asked this question so many times upon my return: “How is it going?”

To be honest, it is going pretty well despite the temperature, my body needs a couple of days to adapt. Winter in Estonia is far from being desperate, but beautiful.

January is a busy month for the ones who would like to write and submit Erasmus+ project for the February deadline. Personally, I’ve always wanted to write international projects but failed to find a good time to do so. Being surrounded by the people who are in this field is encouraging enough to undertake this responsibility. But I am, of course, not alone.

In order to have a jumpstart, we applied for this training course about project writing and on January 8th, we headed for Tartu. The sessions were intense, 26 groups were writing and exchanging ideas, feedback for the whole weekend. We’ve managed to write one third of our whole project and mapped out the upcoming days until the deadline. Having already received positive feedback on what we’re doing is already amazing, I can’t wait to see the execution of our project.

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The Art of Serendipity

Serendipity has been chosen as one of the hardest words in English to be translated into another language. It is known as “dumb luck” but the origins of this word is coming from.. A fairytale.
This fairytale is about three Persian princes from the Isle of Serendip, who possess superpowers of observation. This old tale contained a crucial idea about human genius: “As their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.” And then serendipity was introduced to the English language by this Persian tale. At its birth, serendipity meant a skill rather than a random stroke of good fortune.

Now I am back home after two hectic weeks on the road. Squeezed 16 cities into my 14 days, in which I highly focused on North Rhine-Westphalia and The Netherlands. As I had already been to these places a couple of times before, I felt like having to delve into their subcultures and their mentality & attitude towards the major changes in their societies. As a serendipiter with an extra luck, I’ve had the chance to encounter and engage in fruitful conversations with the locals, minorities, kids, the ones in between… My inner compass has led me to find these people, the answers to my questions were hidden in the details of daily life. Visiting my favourite places and seeing my beloved ones were extra cherries on top. I already miss you dearly.

Flying back home on my birthday had a big advantage, I had two cakes. Jokes aside, as I had already missed my people in Tallinn, I longed to be back with my refreshed mindset. Was welcomed with a frozen flower in -22 degrees, was really cool to be back. (Pun intended.)

As it’s considered to be a turning point in life, I needed to look back a bit on my 25th birthday and I reread the first book I’ve ever read, The Little Prince. After these two weeks, the things I’ve come across, the faces I’ve met; after 25 years of an adventurous life I couldn’t think of a better ending to my journey and a better beginning to my adult life.

“And here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

 

Happy Holidays!

Since Christmas and new year is coming near, we’re busy with getting into the holiday mood. Decorating our place, getting/making Christmas cards for our beloved ones, skipping meals with munching on loads and loads of gingerbread, booking flights and my flatmates’ endless quest of holiday planning…

In order to make our place a little bit cosier and friendlier, my flatmates are tirelessly trying to change and decorate, which is something I’m absolutely terrible at. Of course there’s no better time to decorate the whole house than Christmas, so we were already looking for a decent Christmas tree. Last weekend, we were supposed to go and visit the Viking village in the outskirts of Tallinn, unfortunately I had to skip due to some sudden sickness.
Late afternoon, Aylin woke me up saying “we’ve got a baby tree!” That’s something you don’t wake up to every day. Being surprised and puzzled I am, I was introduced to our little baby Christmas tree (which was sort of taken from the forest as a souvenir, vabandust the spirits of the forest!)
We planted our baby tree and decorated it for Christmas, it’s in good hands! And blessed us with the chance to consummate the whole “being home” feeling.

I’m just a person with no plan, so I will be on the road for 2 weeks. I don’t know where I’ll be heading for, but it’s usually the way I travel and so far it ceased to disappoint me. Wherever you go becomes a part of you, is something I keep telling myself, so that’ll be the only thing that I’ll be following for the next two weeks.

I hope you guys enjoy Christmas and what this 2016 will have to offer. Häid jõule ja head uut aastat! Continue reading “Happy Holidays!”

“A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.”

November 19th

Quite a brave statement from an international: Being an international in such a reserved country as Estonia is a tough nut to crack.

It was all fun and games in the first month, we were ridiculously naive but eager to get whatever we can get out of our experiences. The most positive side of it was probably being surrounded by open-minded and tolerant Estonians who were willingly giving proper answers to our thickheaded questions.

Well, I’m a quick learner. After the first month we were settled down, started off our lives as proper local people. Wasn’t really easy, especially in a country that is so proud of their language, I came to terms with the bitter fact that I was never going to be able to be one of them unless I spoke their language.

Language is the most visible cultural trait, so my discovery led me to push my chances to explore the other traits of this overlooked culture.

As I was willingly pursuing this treasure hunt, sometimes my discoveries left me appalled, sometimes amazed, sometimes bitterly shocked.

Accepting and appreciating a culture is pretty much similar to making new friends. It takes a lot, of time, of energy. If lucky, it’s an amazing experience, but comes with an enormous baggage and full time demand.

Little science fact: Throughout time, people tried to come up with research methods to name, categorise and measure cultural traits but up until Industrial Revolution, followed by French Revolution, this wasn’t prioritized for social sciences. With the brand new world order, social sciences were rising as a phoenix again, and it became crucial to being able to read into cultures.

In 1970’s, this guy, Geert Hofstede came up with cultural dimensions theory which enabled people to read and analyse different cultures based on a certain methodology. So, today we are a bit closer to delve into this thanks to Dr. Hofstede.

Having studied communication sciences, I personally follow and implement different methodologies into my cultural researches, for the past months basically I’ve been actually studying the Estonian culture for my personal endeavours.

Along this long journey, you always appreciate honest companions, thankfully I have been blessed with a few of those, and this will lead us to the actual topic of this entry.

I would like to call her as a friend, Ilona, as she has always been ready to help me understand and analyse Estonian qualities. Dearly appreciated.

She’s a lecturer at Tallinn University (at the Youth Work department), a fellow human rights defender and an amazing teacher. Although I can barely see her at the office, I tend to not skip any chance to talk with her and educate myself more about this country and its people.

One day, she invited me to one of her lectures to share my experiences in multicultural youth work and personal experiences with her students alongside Kelly Grossthal from Estonia Human Rights’ Center and Heili from our department. Mrs. Grossthal shared her latest research with us, walked us through the phases and outcomes of her research (which left us in indefinite shock) but dear Heili had good news for us as she shared her work and experiences with the refugees & immigrants in the UK, which definitely restored our faith in humanity. I would like to refrain from sharing my personal opinions regarding this subject but would like to stress this out, there’s a LOT to do in Estonia and I would love to be a part of this mess.

Let me wrap this up with a few beautiful words from one of the most beautiful souls that came across this universe;

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”

Let’s talk about business

A week ago, I was assigned to monitor Leaders for A Better Future by my organisation and I joined in this group for one day only, without any foreknowledge of what they were up to. Was adventurous I would say.
A little thing, I prefer to stay away from economy and business administration related things. Having worked at several companies for a couple of years, seen how they worked made me realize it’s actually not my cup of tea, but still I am a professional even though I dislike it. So this conference-ish meeting was going back to my roots.
Let’s talk about them a bit.
Ja Alumni Europe is an umbrella organisation for the European alumnis, their main aim is to help them grow and develop, improve their impact in their societies, encourage young entrepreneurs and startups, help them find resources and creative ideas. Each country either goes with JA Alumni’s name (ie. JA Alumni Czech Republic) or they have their own name (ie. SENT stands for JA Alumni Estonia)
This year Estonia’s SENT is celebrating their 10th anniversary.
On November 20th, all of the participants were divided into 3 groups and our group started off the day with paying a visit to Garage48.
Garage48 is a startup consultant NGO that is based in the centre of Tallinn. At their place, on the first floor, they have their “free room” which is equipped with wireless internet connection and couches, also a spacious kitchen that visitors can use for free. The daily offer is 6 euros for the ones who would like to benefit from this free space. Garage48 also offers monthly/yearly memberships, these members can use the offices and equipment upstairs. Their most important event is called Hackaton. During Hackaton, the participants have to come up with a creative startup idea and make a business plan regarding their idea within 48 hours. At the end of Hackaton, 3 ideas will be chosen among approximately 50 ideas and will be supported by the consultants. Garage48 is well-known with their support to the famous Estonian startups. They also collaborate with other organisations and organise Hackatons in different countries.
After our visit to Garage48, we headed for Kesklinna Noortekeskus for the workshops. During icebreaking, European board members of JA Alumni introduced themselves. Following, each alumni presented their two of “best practices” that they have done during the year and shared their statistics, problems, exchanged ideas with the other alumnis. We finished off the day with one last workshop. The participant countries were divided into groups and each European Board member had 2 to 5 countries. The alumnis discussed their issues with the board members and exchanged creative ideas about their local activities.
So, all in all I’ve had a good and productive day with this alumni group, refreshed my mind about the business stuff and had the chance to observe their way of working. Joyeux anniversaire, SENT. Keep up the good work.

 

 

 

Jumpin’ jumpin’

Although Beyonce was saying, “It’s 11.30 and the club is jumpin jumpin” this time I took it to another level and literally jumped.
Not to worry, I don’t dance to Destiny’s Child anymore. Here’s the story though;
My flatmate Femke is kind of interested in extreme sports and she arranged this rope swing for me and a couple of other volunteers at Lauluväljak. We weren’t stressed out much in the beginning, but when the day had come… Exchanging farewells with our beloved ones and contemplating about our lives… Just kidding, but we were legitimately nervous, so to speak.
So it was a rainy and windy day in Tallinn, and we were on our way to JUMP. We lined up, I missed my lucky number, we were ready and set… and we went for it. I almost negotiated with the guy who was helping us up, but on my way up to the place I was already scared as I wasn’t tied up to anything, it was slippery and dangerous. For this case, the most logical thing was to jump than to bail and go back to the arena by that slippery way. I still can’t bring myself to recall the moment I jumped, but wow, I did it. Somehow reminds me of the very last line of the 9th doctor of Doctor Who, “you were fantastic, and you know what, so was I.” 
The feeling was indescribable. But most likely I would never do it again.
I’ll just leave the video here, parental advisory: contains inappropriate language. (And you might want to turn the volume down.)

Spordihommik

(Not so) fun fact about Northern countries: It gets dark in winter. Really dark.
I was caught off guard when my body was desperately trying to adapt to this new form of darkness during the day as I had never experienced this extremity before, safe to say it’s still giving me hard times. As my people are enjoying 20 degrees way down in the south while I’m here, I talk to my best friend, Naz as she also suffers the same in Stockholm, exchange some tips about how to cope with the darkness but we usually end up saying “we need hot coco and blanket for this.” Still, we’re all set to win this game, North!
But this doesn’t only apply to the southerners, so my organisation, Tallinn Sports & Youth Department prepared this Sports Morning (Spordihommik) on November 10th. The aim was obvious, our desperate fight against the darkest times of Tallinn was on, and we had to MOVE. So, at 7 in the morning, the Tallinn people went to the closest gyms and exercised for the whole morning. They were given some smoothies afterwards, even though the trophy doesn’t sound like a big thing, the achievement was the only thing that mattered. People moved as they were dancing under the sunbeam.

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Back at school!

So, I’m going to some high schools in Tallinn for some lectures and so far it’s been real fun!
For me, high school years were oh, good times. Built up lifelong friendships, had a real blast that I wouldn’t trade a second of. Still though, it was years ago and time has taken its toll on me, apparently it has become harder for me to communicate with the youngsters. Having this sudden realisation broke my soul but not my spirit! Walked down on my memory lane, talked to my dear high school friends, reminisced about the golden days, rekindled our spirit of youth. Thank you Tallinn youngsters for bringing the good times back.
My lectures are about my background and my actual profession, afterwards I talk about Erasmus+ opportunities for youngsters and share my E+ experiences. So far, especially the 12th graders seemed to be keen on the topic as they’re preparing themselves for their future endeavours. Can’t say the same thing for 10th graders though, but oh well, aren’t we having a bit of fun instead of taking a boring math class?
I’ve really enjoyed my time at schools and I’ll keep giving these lectures. Hopefully I could be a tiny bit of help and use for you.

“We are sun and moon, dear friend; we are sea and land. It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each the other’s opposite and complement.”