Yesterday marked he halfway point of the program. It almost feels bitter-sweet. On one hand, only three weeks until I get to see my friends and family again. On the other hand, I only get three more weeks to enjoy this beautiful country. However, I am just trying to focus on the here and now and learn everything I can. I don’t have time to go through and retell every moment of the first three weeks here, but just as a recap, here are the top six “stories” from my trip so far:
This was actually a super fun event to celebrate the longest day of the year. Most of us went to Narva Castle to listen to some very interesting Russian pop/rock music, eat traditional “fair food”, and enjoy the company of the locals. Mid-way through the festivities, we all gathered around the large bundle of wood pictured above to watch the traditional dancers and listen to a passage read in Russian describing the importance of this day. If you ever decide to take a trip to Estonia during the summer, I would definitely recommend scheduling it during the Mid-Summer Festival.
2.) Baking Cookies
This may seem insignificant to mention in my top 10, but I assure you it is harder than it looks. My roommate and I REALLY wanted chocolate chip cookies. So what did we do? We went to the store to find packaged cookies or pre-made cookie dough. However, much to our chagrin, there was no such thing in any grocery store we checked. In hindsight, we should have predicted this because Estonia LOVES its healthier food options, but we really weren’t thinking that hard. Anyways, we ended up having a great adventure wandering around Prisma trying to find the ingredients when everything is written in either Estonian or Russian. In the end, we found suitable Russian substitutes, and the cookies tasted a little off from their American counterparts, but they did their duty reminding us of home.
3.) Narva Castle
This is one of my favorite excursions we have taken since I have been here. While I was in D.C. it was kind of a running joke that the castle would always be our meeting place and, although it is pretty far from our homes, it isn’t a bad idea. The interior has been renovated into a museum but still retains many of its same attributes from when it was first built during the 14th century. Surprisingly, it was mostly rebuilt after it was destroyed during World War Two. The view of Ivangorod across the river is amazing, it almost feels like you are in Russia.
4.) 5th of July American Independence Celebration
If you squint really hard, you can find me wayyyyyyy in the back next to the Estonian flag. To be honest, when they told me we were going to have a “5th of July celebration”, I really didn’t think much of it. We met Ambassador James D. Melville Jr. and got to have a private Q&A session with him. Afterwards, I was completely blown away when I saw hundreds of locals come to the college and jam with the U.S. Air force combo band to celebrate the American exchange students. It was an absolute blast. They made “authentic” American hamburgers and hotdogs and served cold coke cola out of glass bottles. Not to mention, they lit off a beautiful firework show, while setting off a few car alarms in the process. Shout out to Denis and Narva College for all the memories and friends that I made.
Tartu was one of the most fun experiences I have had while in Estonia. We went to a monestary (pictured on the left) and toured the city (pictured on right). We also shopped at the flea market and visited a very popular cake shop/cafe that was built in the early 1900’s. Overall, it was a super fun time, and the only time this trip when I wasn’t absolutely stuffed with food.
We actually went here today so I don’t know if it counts as the first three weeks, but it is my blog and I do what I want with it. It was so cool to tour this place. It is a Soviet textile factory which is still in very good shape. The buildings are still fairly preserved from what it used to be like, and they are looking to turn some parts of it into a museum. My favorite part was when we were less than 40 meters from Russian with only a small river and a few barbed wire fences in our path.