Wow, so my second month here is finished now! Only 9 months left, time must be somehow passing faster in Estonia!
October held a lot of interesting activities, experiences and things for me. That includes...
O as in Orange leaves
C as in Coldness
T as in Travelling
O as in Opening event for student companies (and Other stuff I did)
B as in Birthday party and Brain game
E as in Eating in good pubs and bistros
R as in Random people talking to me in Estonian
Well, not only orange but also yellow, red, brown and green – but I think you get the point. October was the month autumn arrived in Estonia.
And to be honest, it was the most beautiful and colourful autumn I have ever experienced. Of course, we also have autumn in Austria and I’m sure it’s also really beautiful there, but somehow I never really noticed it. It seemed like this autumn was the first one I actually experienced. Every time I went outside I was fascinated by the colours anew and couldn’t get enough of them. But it all went by really fast and soon almost all leaves were gone already and on the ground.
And then I noticed something I haven't really seen before: The people here started putting all the leaves together and burning them. What? Why? I just don’t understand why you would even want to remove them, it looks so pretty with all the colourful leaves on the ground!? Maybe someone can explain that to me, I’m super curious!
Anyway, unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to see Sigulda (a little town in Latvia that apparently has a great view in autumn) as I was planning. But, instead I could hike up the highest mountain of all Baltic states – Suur Munamägi, the big egg-mountain – and enjoy the beautiful autumn-view from up there. If you want to know more about our hiking adventure you can read it on Gabriel’s blog, by the way. He has a very detailed and accurate description of it!
Even though there still were some surprisingly warm and sunny days – especially in the first part of the month – all in all it was obvious that summer was over already. However, I was in denial and still wearing my thin summer jacket throughout most of October. The first time I actually wore a winter jacket was when we did a trip with some youngsters from all over Valga county to a mining museum in Eastern Estonia. And I’m really glad I did! I probably would have frozen to death otherwise, because we were spending quite some hours outside, doing an orientation game, driving in a very cool truck in very cold rain and wind and seeing the (also very cold and wet) coal mines in the underground (we also got lunch down there, which was a new and interesting experience for me). And even in my winter jacket – and with another extremely warm and huge jacket in the mines (and also funny helmets we got to wear) – I was freezing already.
But the mining museum was not the only trip where I felt winter coming: Towards the end of October on some days it was even impossible to go outside without a hat, scarf and gloves. And on quite some of these days I was spending a lot of time in the coldness as I was exploring different places. This already leads me to my next paragraph which is about (you guessed it)…
So, October held a lot of opportunities for me to see places all over Estonia. First of all, as I already mentioned, I could visit Suur Munamägi. I went there with some other volunteers and combined it with a very nice trip to Võru, where I also went to the cinema for the first time in Estonia (we watched Winnie the Pooh and it was really great!!). Another thing I already talked about was the trip to the mining museum in Eastern Estonia, more exactly in Kohtla-Nõmme. It is kind of on the other side of Estonia compared with Hargla, so the bus ride took ages and we had to start early in the morning and I wasn’t back until after 11 in the night. But it was a really interesting day anyway!
Furthermore, I visited Valga and Valka a few more times and surprisingly got to see something new and experience an adventure every time I went there. The most travelling, however, I did when my parents and brother came to visit me in the end of October and I took a week off from work. At first, of course, I showed them the nearby places like Võru, Valga, Gaujiena and - most important - the beautiful Hargla. But since they had a car we could also go to places that weren’t so close. We visited Pärnu, which I really, really loved! Luckily we had a nice and sunny day and could actually enjoy the sun and watch the sunset at the beach. I’m definitely planning on coming back there in summer, so I can take a swim in the sea.
The next day (which was technically already in November, but yeah) we also drove all the way up to Tallinn and explored the city centre. Unfortunately, we could only spend one day there, which is waaay too short to see all of Tallinn, but I’m sure I will have the chance to come back there for a longer time. Anyway, the things I did see there were super nice, especially all the colourful, ornamented houses fascinated me.
The best part about this week, however, was finally seeing my family again and being able to spend some time with them!
This was the first event in October and it was a two day meeting in Kääriku, a small place near Otepää. Youngsters from all over Valga County were there and collected first ideas for products or services to create their own ‘minifirma’. It was super interesting to hear about all the creative and different ideas they had! In the next months the students who took part will have some more workshops and eventually start to actually produce and sell their products, for example on fairs all over Estonia. And to be honest I’m already really excited for this. Especially because one of the two groups from Hargla Kool want to do Austrian cookies (Vanillekipferl and Linzer Augen) – so let’s see if they will taste as good as at home!
The 'other stuff I did'-part includes the first Parkour-training (very different from gymnastics!), my first crafting club (went even better than expected, but made me realise it's impossible to help 8 kids with folding, cutting, etc at the same time), riding lessons (very nice!), helping with the repair of the Hargla bus station (couldn't really help so much, but I had Gabriel and Ivor, one of the youngsters, to talk to, so it was fine), the tantsuõhtu (you can read about this in Gabriel's blog), a board game evening, and probably a lot more that I can't even think of right now, but the blog post is already waaay to long, anyway.
In October the youth centre had a party to celebrate its 15th birthday and on the same day the brain game, a general knowledge quiz, took place. These two were the main events to prepare in the first half of October as a lot of thinking and planning had to be done for them. On 12th of October the day had finally come. After some important people gave a lot of gifts and speeches (which I didn’t really understand because they were in Estonian, duh) and a magic performance by Siiri, the event started with the brain game. There, basically groups of youngsters and grown-ups had to answer questions about different topics (for example sports, music, birthday and – my favourite – tasting food). They get points for each correct answer and in the end the group with the most point wins (oh really, what a surprise) and gets a prize.
After the brain game everyone except for the youngsters went home as they were having an overnight party. The party included opening all the presents (loooooooads of sweets!), a huge cake with their pictures on top (even I was on one of the pictures hehe), a night walk to the Mustjõgi, some card game competitions, a Just Dance competition and a lot more. At 3 a.m. the party was kind of over and I was really happy to see my bed. But unfortunately not for long, as I had to wake up at 6 again because I was going to meet with some other volunteers in Valga.
Most people who know me also know that food is very important to me. That’s why I’m dedicating a whole paragraph to just eating. In this aspect, October was a great month for me. I got to know quite a lot of good pubs, bistros, cafes, etc (and also some not so satisfying ones – I’m kinda disappointed with Hesburger: We tried to order breakfast there twice but they just don’t seem to want to sell it to us).
I visited most of these places while my family was here – which was great for me, because I didn’t have to pay for anything – and some I discovered while travelling with other volunteers. The one eating place I was most positively surprised about was the (attention: product placement ahead!) ‘Rozmarins’ bistro in Valka, the Latvian part of Valga. They sell really cheap food that’s actually super good tasting and you can even create your own meal! I’ve been there twice already and I’m definitely going there more often throughout the next 9 months. Some other places I liked a lot are the ‘Pubi nr. 17’ in Võru and the Pub ‘Aleksandri’ in Pärnu, so if you ever happen to be in one of those places, definitely check these out!
I’ve been in Estonia for two months now, which seems to be plenty of time for learning some basic language skills. So yes, I do know a bit of Estonian already. But still, I’m not good enough to actually understand and have a real conversation. And even though I try to learn as much as possible, there’s almost always something going on that keeps me from studying more. So most of the things I learn these days are from listening to Estonians speaking and trying to pick up some new and useful words while talking to the youngsters.
I guess it needs time to learn a new language, but it’s not very motivating to have a random person say something to you in Estonian and to realise that you didn’t understand anything of what they just said. Which happened to me more times than one would expect throughout the last month. That’s why I’m trying to focus more on the language learning in the next time, so soon I’ll hopefully be able to actually understand what people are telling me!
Nun ist also auch mein zweiter Monat in Estland schon vorbei. Am meisten wird mir Oktober wahrscheinlich als ‚der Monat, in dem es kalt wurde‘ in Erinnerung bleiben. Aber auch der wunderschöne Herbst und die vielen Ausflüge und Events waren super und ganz besonders der Besuch meiner Eltern und meines Bruders am Monatsende! Ich bin froh, so schnell Freundschaften mit den anderen Freiwilligen in meiner Nähe geschlossen zu haben und freue mich schon auf unseren Riga-Trip (hoffentlich) nächstes Wochenende! Auch die Arbeit im Jugendzentrum und im Sanatoorium, einem Art Waisenhaus, in dem ich jeden Donnerstag arbeite, ist nach wie vor spannend, vor allem weil man vorher nie so genau weiß, was heute so auf einen zukommen wird.
If you have any questions about my EVS experience, feel free to contact me on Facebook (Melina Springer) or Instagram (melina.saltara) :)