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.”

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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.”

Tallinna Noortenädal – Day 3

After months long preparations, the end was coming near and we were still in shock to see that our Noortenädal was on its last day. On this lovely Friday, our schedule wasn’t so tight.

Fact: Everyone loves Michael Jackson. And we started off our last day with a MJ dance workshop! Our instructor was from the US, the youngsters (and also some of us) followed Jene’s lead, learned some of MJ’s trademark dance moves and danced to his famous songs. Continue reading “Tallinna Noortenädal – Day 3”

Tallinna Noortenädal – Day 2

On our second day of Noortenädal, our first show for the day was a puppet show, Sokisööjad. The target group was kids & youngsters between 5 and 12 years old, I am sure it was fun to watch as I was busy with my Estonian classes. Cons of not knowing the language.

Having many different events,I had to pick one of them and around 6 pm I took my time off of my duties and was set to watch Grete Gross’ solo performance. The performance was really touching.

Continue reading “Tallinna Noortenädal – Day 2”

Tallinna Noortenädal – Day 1

The last weeks have been hectic, I apologize for my late updates but our Noortenädal was amazing! Thanks to the ones who came by Kultuurikatel, we really appreciated it.
On October 21st, we started off with our street art workshop. Over 20 youngsters participated in – at some point we (volunteers) also chimed in, carved out stencils of the youngsters with the assistance of our stencil artist. It took us forever to complete the whole task but in the end the results were great. So long, my index finger. Continue reading “Tallinna Noortenädal – Day 1”