Sunday, November 28, 2010

To keep you up to speed...

The month of November has been fairly uneventful, hence lack of updates. Anyways, recently, on the 18th, my school had its annual Moeshow or fashion show. Now, get this idea out of your head. It's not about the fashion, each year there is a different theme. This year's theme was Decades and as tradition the 10th grade organizes the whole show. Each class in the gümnaasium participated, each having 10 or so students to represent the class, and of course the 10th grade couldn't because they were busy organizing. With the Decades theme, each class had a different decade. My class's was the 1950's so we had an Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, house wives and a dance to the song 'We Go Together' from Grease. I didn't participate in the show; I just attended. But it was fun to see all the classes and all the costumes they had. Very interesting and some were just really goofy. Anyways, it was a pretty entertaining night. Before the show started, I had to go to school of course then hung around town with a couple of friends until the show started. We went to the different shops and visited the pub. It was the first time I had a hamburger in Rapla. Haha.
Since the moeshow was on a Thursday night, everyone was completely exhausted the next day because the concert after the show ended at 10. But nevertheless. It was nice. Definitely an experience.

Some of you may be asking how Thanksgiving was here.. Well, just to remind you Americans, Thanksgiving isn't an international holiday. Strictly American.. well Canadians kind of stole it from us.. So Thanksgiving Day here was just a Thursday. A really boring Thursday in school. My last lesson on Thursdays is gym, but since my teacher didn't come, we didn't have class and could leave. Great, just great.. So we got out around 2. Usually this would be a good thing, but here's the bad part. I was planning on going to the other gümnaasium's moeshow that night. I had so much free time afterwards all by myself because none of classmates could go with me to the show. I was really hoping they could go, so I wouldn't be alone, but they were busy.. Luckily my host sister could go, but I didn't see her after school to meet up with her. So we met later at the show. So for 3½hours I wondered around Rapla with a foot of snow on the ground. I first went to this place.. I'm not really sure how to describe it. Kind of like a court house? Anyways, I still have legal trouble here and had to turn in more papers. To my disappointment, it didn't even take 3minutes. So I was back on the streets. I looked through the shops and while I was cold and on the streets alone I realized something: It's Thanksgiving today, I'm hungry, I'm cold, I'm alone, This is so pathetic.. So to make myself sound like even more of a lonely loser and to make my tummy stop growling I went to a coffee shop and ate a pancake. It's funny, it doesn't matter which coffee shop I'm in. They all play Mexican Soap Operas that are dubbed in Estonian. But when I sat at my table with my pancake, knowing that I'm an English speaker, the lady behind the counter changed channels to an English speaking one. How sweet. So my Thanksgiving dinner was me eating my pancake, alone, while watching Australian soap operas. terrible. Afterwards, I started to make my way to the other gümnaasium. They had a different theme for their fashion show. It was Horror. It reminded me a little of Halloween, seeing the students in costumes. When I first got there it was really awkward because I've never been in that school before (that's one of the main reasons I wanted my classmates with me) and my sister wasn't there, yet. I talked to one of my classmates on the phone. Thanks, Greete, you didn't make me feel like a total loser there. haha.
It got a little annoying. Every class. Every single class played the song Thriller and the song from The Ring. Believe me it got old fast. I'm glad I went to see it. Again, it was interesting. I mean Justin Bieber made a quick appearance in it. haha. After the show I talked to a couple of friends and basically had my ass handed to me. My Estonian is terrible. Everyone refuses to speak to me in Estonian, so I don't have many chances to practice it. People would rather practice their English. So it gets really frustrating at times to think my exchange is almost half way over and I still can't keep a conversation for that long anyways. And when I do get people to speak to me in Estonian, they speak too fast for me to catch everything. If I ask for them to repeat themselves they just ruin it for me and tell me in English and won't go back to Estonian.. Schmeh.

I finally got to kind-of celebrate Thanksgiving on Saturday the 27th. I made a big lunch for the family. I made Buffalo Chicken, which was too spicey for their tastes, Macaroni and Cheese, Pumpkin Pie, and Rice Pudding. Everything turned out fine, except the Mac and Cheese. I put in too much flour in the sauce. Woops. Another example of my hatred toward the Metric System.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pictures of Halloween

I forgot to add these in the previous post.. odd. Anyways, Highlights of Halloween.

Our Jack-o-lanterns. The friend's, Halie's sister's, and Halie's and mine. They turned out well I think.

The first table of food, taken on Friday night. There we have two big bowls of candied popcorn, brownies, the big cake, rice krispy treats, and the cupcakes. That's not even all the food we cooked that day. Glad it's over.

The cowboy and indian.

So this Zombie and Post-crash Lance Armstrong and this vampire made this coffin.. and brought it?! Yeah, leave it to the Estonian men to bring enormous accesories to parties and then have trouble getting it back out. :)

Happy Halloween, e'rybody!

HEAD SÜGIS VAHEETAPIKS! HEAD REISI! = Happy fall break! Happy holiday/travels! :) or something like that. So, my school -like every school in the country- took a week long fall break. It was excellent. Here's what happened..
As we know, Americans love Halloween. Well, Estonians don't celebrate Halloween. Mm. I guess I should say, they don't really celebrate it. They don't go all out. Sometimes they just wear costumes and watch scary movies, but that's about it. No haunted houses, no apple bobbing, no trick-or-treating, no pumpkin carving.. etc, etc. Terrible, right? Luckily, there is another American here. Believe me, it's nice. Anyways, Halie and I threw a pretty big party on the 29th. About 50 people showed up. In costumes, too :) So cute to see them have fun with the costumes. Some were really creative.
Since Halie lives in Haapsalu, I rode the bus there on Wednesday.

WEDNESDAY- So I left Rapla at 10.00 and went to Tallinn, waited for half an hour, then hopped on the bus to Haapsalu. Took about 4 hours, but I made it there and we started to carve pumpkins. Can you believe the Estonians don't even make jack-o-lanterns? Gosh! So behind! :D So our pumpkins turned out to be amazing. And of course, we had to bake the pumpkin seeds. 2 of the pumpkins had white, normal seeds. We made those into spicier flavored seeds. The other pumpkin had green seeds. We weren't too sure about that one, but we ate it anyways, with a sweet flavoring. They were all delicious, though, the Estonians weren't too keen on them. haha. And the rest of the day was dedicated to decorating and planning of the party, searching for recipes, thinking of ingredients, and staying up way too late.

THURSDAY- Shopping day. Since we went to bed kind of late, we woke a little late too. Oh well. Anyways, we had to buy all of our ingredients. Ok, so it didn't go all that smoothly. :/ We thought we had to buy some milk. Turns out it wasn't needed. And note to my Americans reading this. Milk comes in bags here, not cartons/bottles/jugs/things with handles!! 1 liter bags! YEAH! So, anyways, I dropped one of the bags.. of course it popped. Crap. Luckily I dropped it in the refrigerator at the store. I left and got a new bag, bagged it with another bag and high tailed it out of that area. Gosh.
We went back home after our hours upon hours of frustrating ourselves in the store.. It did get frustrating. There were very limited supplies.
But we did manage to go back out to look at Estonian movies, books, cards, maps in one of the grocery stores. Halie bought Pride and Prejudice with Estonian subtitles. I think I will buy a couple of movies that are dubbed in Estonian, so I'll still be able to hear the language back in the US and hopefully it will be harder to forget it all. haha.

FRIDAY- Cooking day #1. Again, woke up a little late. But it was hectic. 9 hours in the kitchen. Cooking, baking, baking, cleaning up, baking, -UGH! So we baked all 5 cakes that day, plus brownies, made an awesome bean dip, and a few other goodies for Saturday night. :)
Basically, we stopped cooking at 12am, then cleaned up. Djeesh. :S

SATURDAY- Cooking day #2. Party day. Busy day. Oi, oi, oi.. Busy, busy, busy! Another 9 hours in the kitchen and cooking! I spent 2 hours just making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! haha. They turned out adorable. I cut them into ghost and pumpkin shapes. I used 3 full loaves of bread! So we made the icing for the cakes, decorated them, sent Halie's sisters to the store for us, made a huge bowl of punch, and CLEANED! Gah. Finally, we got ready ourselves and got into our costumes. I was an Indian (I couldn't resist. I saw this head dress in one of the shops and a toy drum :D) And Halie was a cowgirl. Yeah, we decided to go all Americana for an all American party.
Party time! So we weren't too sure how many people would show up. One of her sisters invited 10, the other invited 15. All of them confirmed. Then Halie's classmates showed up. All in all about 50 people came. It was really fun showing them American games and explaining what chip dip is. Even explaining what Rice Krispy Treats are!

SUNDAY- The last few guests left with their coffin at about 6am. Finally, we could sleep. I didn't wake until almost 4. I wish I woke up earlier, but man. I was tired of all the cooking, decorating, and everything. It was a little late for a bus, so I just stayed another night..

MONDAY- Not really sure why, but whenever the Americans get together we always start watching American tv shows online. Last time was It's Always Sunny. This time was Tosh.0. They don't have them here! We're forced to watch them online. So we stayed up until 2 watching that and Demetri Martin clips. Hilarious. But we didn't think it through that well. My bus left at 6.15am. I ended up getting 2½ hours of sleep. Great. I didn't have any complications on the bus, but I always seem to be right there in the middle of the drama whenever I travel, though, it makes me wish I knew what they were saying. At one of the stops, one lady walked on with an animal cage in one hand and a Jack Russel Terrior in the other. Why the dog wasn't in the cage -I don't know, but it was all squirmy when she was walking down the narrow aisle. Then the driver would keep pulling over to yell something at her. At the stop before Rapla, quite a few people got on. And one was pretty familiar looking. It was one of my classmates. Turns out she lived in the town near Rapla and takes the bus everyday. So we talked for a while.
We pulled into the bus station. I got off, but I didn't have a ride back home. I had to walk the 1 hour and 15 minutes, but it was alright. I needed to get some exercise from all the eating :) But I had 2 bags with me. They're not the best for walking a long time with. They tear up my shoulder. I think by the time I get back to the US I will have some serious neck, shoulder, back damage. ahaha. Tough, I guess. Anyways, by the time I reached home it was 9.20. I really didn't feel like walking the hour again back into town for school, plus I was completely exhausted. I spent the day sleeping. It was really nice.

So all in all, I'd say this fall holiday was a nice one. Definitely memorable. :)
And, I'd like to thank my Rotary club here in Rapla. They pay my allowances on time. I didn't have any kroons on me when I needed to pay for the bus ticket at 6 in the morning. Thank goodness for ATMs and automatic money transfers.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Eesti Tuuri!

Ok, so a few days ago, on Sunday, I returned to Rapla exhausted. Why you ask? Let me explain; let me go back to last week on Wednesday.

WEDNESDAY 9/29- It started as a normal day, except I was carrying a big, heavy bag. Ok, no. I gave my host mom the heavy bag before I went to school and she kept it at her work, so I wouldn't have to carry it around with me all day before I went to Tallinn.
So, this tour... it started in Tallinn at the Kalev Spa and Hotell. I left Rapla at about 4:30 and made it to the Kalev Spa around 5:30. Halie and I were the only ones there for a while. Eventually Heino and the other students came about an hour later.. ugh. Then we went to our rooms and Halie and I convinced Heino to let us go outside and walk around for an hour and a half. During our hour and half, Halie and I were starving and realized: we don't eat until 10.00!! We just had to get some munchies. So we walked through Old Town and went to a grocery store to buy some goodies :) after our walk we went back to our room and ate some, then went down to the pool to swim with the other students. There are some things you all should know about Estonians and their swimming habits. They are very comfortable with their bodies. Men of all ages and sizes wear small speedos; Women of all ages and sizes wear bikinkis. Yeah. Anyways, we spent most of the time in the steam room and jumped into the pool. After swim time there was a little down time, until it was dinner. It was a nice meal, of course there were potatoes, mushrooms, meat, etc. Just typical Estonian food. After dinner we had an hour to finish getting ready to meet the other students coming on the tour from Finland. So at midnight, we walked from the Hotell to the harbor to great the Finnish exchange students. Some we knew from our language camp in Karkku Camp in Finland, others were totally new. The new ones to us were the older exchange students. Most were from Australia, but one from South Africa. Anyways, it was a long day, and no one thought about going to sleep until well after 3am.

THURSDAY- We toured Tallinn a bit. Some of the Rotex in Tallinn gave us small tours of whatever. In my group the girl wasn't from Tallinn, so she didn't know everything about the city. Luckily Halie and I were there after staying in Tallinn for our second language camp just 3 or 4 weeks prior. We still remembered all of the stories and dates and years, so we showed the Aussies around. After our little tour we were on the bus to really start the tour. Our next stop: Rakvere. There we visited a castle and a reinactment going on inside the castle. It was really interesting to see, I must say. We toured the castle and ate a ''medieval'' meal. :) After Rakvere, we left for Narva. We didn't reach there until late afternoon. We were driven to this building. The paint job was really interesting with fusia and bright pinks and purples... Anyways, it was near a river. Across the river was Russia! Sadly, it takes a long time for anyone to enter Russia, even to visit for a few hours, so we could only look at Russia from afar. Still, it was cool. Right on the water is a guard tower. We got to take a tour of it. O my word! From the outside, you wouldn't think there would be so many stairs in there! But jeesh! Those knights really wanted to tone their legs! Anyways, we got to look around and walk through the archor's tunnels and go to the knights' chilaxing room? I don't know what its purpose was, but there were 2 swings in it and games. :)
Afterwards, we left for our hotel, which was right on the river, too! So Halie and I were roomates again. And we experienced the most horrifying, yet most hilarious thing. haha. We were given our room 602. So we went to the 6th floor, which was a little odd because all the other students were on the 4 and 5th floors. Anyways we get up there and notice what a weird layout the floor plan was. So we managed to find our room. It was in a hallway by itself, and just to let you know, Estonians don't believe in having lights in hallways. So it was totally dark and we're trying to figure out the key. We get in the room and find the beds aren't made... then we notice other people's stuff is in there. So we high-tail it out of there and march down to the front desk telling them our situation. They were totally shocked and gave us another room on the 7th floor. It was a bigger, nicer room than 602. :D
So we had some downtime before dinner. So what else do you do in Narva? Watch Ping-Pong championships on Eurosport! Yeah, it was Germany vs. Korea. It got INTENSE! when the match was over, we went down to dinner then just hung out until bed time. It was nice to finally sleep a bit earlier.

FRIDAY- After breakfast, we were back on the bus to visit a school museum and a small village before we made it to Tartu. At the school museum, we toured a very old, wooden school. In the school the teachers lived in bedrooms connected to their classrooms. Weird. And we took a lot of pictures of the very pretty setting the school was in. After the school museum, we went to a closed mine and toured it. I didn't like this so much. Because everyone just got filthy and it was just mining... so it was kind of boring. Though, we did get to ride a small train in there and scare us to death. :D After the mining museum, we went to a very, very small village. This village is one of a kind in Estonia. Rotary was one of the first sponsors for it. In this village, the only residents are mentally handicapped children and adults. There are workers that help them to become more independent and give them an education to help prepare them for possibly getting a job. It was so cute. You can definitely tell the residents are totally happy and absolutely love the workers and volunteers. There we had dinner, toured their classrooms, met some of the volunteers who rode the bus to Tartu with us, and left for Tartu. We made it to Tartu at night time, so we couldn't see anything but a few lights. At the hotel, Halie and I were roomates again, this time no going into stranger's bedrooms. :) So we get there, have dinner, and just relax. Well, kind of. After dinner one of the Australians came to our room and we watched about the Chilean Miners on the news. Then he left and we went to sleep.

SATURDAY- Touring of Tartu! After breakfast, we were to meet in the lobby. It took some people some time to get around to meeting us, so Halie and I snuck off to a coffee shop across the street and got some cocoa and hot blueberry juice. Delicious! So we started to walk around. We met up with Rotex in Tartu, but we didn't really follow them too closely. Halie and I found the square and saw something was going on. There was a band playing, vendors selling random things, and people were setting up a trampolene. We were drawn by this smell to this van. This guy was selling donuts. ahhahah. So we ate some donuts and walked to the main building of Tartu University and had a lecture on our studying possibilities here in Estonia. Believe me, it's a consideration. It's soo much cheaper here! Though, I can only get a Bachelors Degree, it can be transfered.. :)
Afterwards, we ate lunch at the cafe across the street. Then we left for Tallinn to get on a ferry for Helsinki. It seemed to take sooooo so long! It was only 2-1/2 hour ferry, but jeez-luuiz. We were tired and didn't arrive in Helsinki until late that night. We walked to our hostel and then went for a nightwalk. It was so dark! But we found our way to this area where a bunch of bear statues were lined up. They were each painted by someone to represent a country. America's was amazing, but Estonia's was awful. I don't know what it was supposed to represent at all. ahahaha :D
After the night walk, I felt a little queezy and decided to lay down and not go to the party all the other students went to. It was a party for exchange students in one of our rooms. I felt kind of bad and my roomate kep apologizing for waking me up and kept inviting me to go. She was really nice, but I didn't feel good.

SUNDAY- When I woke up I felt so much better, but so dirty.. I packed my things and went down stairs. There we got on the bus and went straight to the District Conference. Really, there was no point in the Estonians kids to go to Helsinki. At the conference we had a light breakfast. And we introduced ourselves, only saying our names and host-towns. (pointless, right?) then we had lunch there, which was a lot of fish! It was so good. But we had to cut it short and say goodbye to the finnish kids. We Estonians had to go back to Tallinn.
We were back on the ferry. We arrived in Tallinn around 5pm and then we said our goodbyes and went back home.

So on Monday, I had to go to school totally exhausted I fell asleep in all of my classes, walked straight home, relaxed, and went to bed around 8.30. So refreshing.
But I'm still not over the tiredness. I need to get some more sleep. :)

So today, I went to my first sewing lesson after school! I started to sew a skirt and I'm nearly done with it! I'll probably finish on Monday when my next lesson is. :D Next I'll sew a vest/jacket. After that a pair of pants.
I'm really glad to be taking sewing classes. Because it's an activity I got to choose, most of the things here are chosen for me. I don't like that very much. So I that I picked the sewing lessons and got to do them. Everyone is so nice there. Though, I'm the oldest, I don't care. Though, my teacher doesn't speak English, I don't care. It gives me a chance to use Estonian words and learn more. So I'm happy with this activity :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

What a weekend!

My weekend started pretty early, on Friday morning. All 6 of the exchange students were told to come to Tallinn with our YEO's to a YEO (Youth Exchange Officer.. basically our support people in our Rotary clubs) Training Day. Well 5 of us showed up, at least. We were to meet at the Kalev Spa and Hotell at noon. Well, my host parents could only take me to the train station at 8am. So I was wandering through Tallinn, alone, yet again. That seems to be a common occurence here, being rained on, alone, lost in Tallinn. Ugh. Hahaha. Eventually, after a whole 20min of walking.. yeah, I tend to find things rather quickly here... I found the spa, but I was 2 hours early. So I walked to a Kiosk and bought some snacks and a magazine and looked around in the stores that just opened for the day. Then I meandered my way back to the Spa lobby to wait. I saw many characters walk into the spa.. like 12 soldiers. That was a bit odd.
About 1/2 hour before noon, the other American exchange student, Halie, showed up.. We got to talking, then realized "Where is everybody? WHERE is Heino (the coordinator of all exchange students in all of Estonia)" So we went outside, called another exchange student and found out that they were on the Hotell side, not the Spa side. And that Heino is the most vague person... and has very confusing speech. After our 2 hour meeting he basically told me that I can't be with any boys with open eyes. I have to keep my eyes closed when I'm with guys here apparently? I don't know. I really have no idea...
After the meeting we had the option of swimming, but Halie and I said "nay" we went to Coca-Cola Plaza, instead to see Going The Distance. Coca-Cola Plaza really surprised me. There were NO swipers for cards (Estonian or American debit cards!) Everything was cash only. Thankfully, I still had American dollars with me and there was a money transfer around the corner, right next to a second-hand store. :) So we got to see the movie after all and buy some candy at the candy store.. But we were there too early, so we went around the corner to the second-hand shop. I didn't have a jacket until then. I haven't been out shopping to get one, so I jumped on my chance. because I really doubt a fleece will suffice now and during the winter. I need a hood. It rains all the time, especially in Tallinn and Haapsalu, since they are coastal cities. Weeell. I got my jacket. It was pretty cheap, everything was pretty cheap there. I liked it. After that we saw our movie. It was...memorable. haha. Russians do NOT shut up when movies come on! They just keep talking and talking, making random noises, and cannot stay still. They're like little kids. And of course, I was stuck right next to some.
After the movie, Halie and I split our ways and said good-bye. She went back to Haapsalu, I went back to Rapla..almost. I was dropped off at the train station, just 5min after my train left. UGH! So I had to wait around a couple more hours, completely alone, at 10pm, in a dark creepy train station.. no workers around. And did I mention the creepy people!? haha. I was standing near a bench and there was a Russian man passed out with a 1/2 empty beer bottle beside him. He stayed there a long time, then the police showed up.. wow, believe me that was really awkward for me. haha. The police were talking to him, set his beer bottle on the ground by his feet, then helped him up. The Police..van came. The guy was sitting back down by then and was feeling around where his beer bottle was, then tried to make a break for it, but he didn't realize just how intoxicated he was, so he was ridiculously slow. One of the officers just jerked him to the van and threw him in there. :D haha. When the van left, I could see an older man rummaging around in the bushes not far away. He quickly started walking toward me. I got scared, but stayed where I was. He trotted over the beer bottle, emptied it, then put the bottle in his bag. This night was one of the weirdest I've had here.. Then to top it off, almost every person in the country, it seemed, started talking to me. Which is really weird, because everyone here is very reserved and quiet.
FINALLY! I made back to Rapla around 11.30pm. But, there were a couple of girls around my age that sat near me on the train. They were going to Rapla also. When I found my host mom in the parking lot, I got in the car, but before I could close the door the girls were there! And they asked for a ride to the pub, because there was a big party there. (did I ever mention that hitch-hiking is very common here?)
I was so happy to be back home. I had quite the adventure that day and was exhausted. So I went to bed, but didn't let myself sleep in too late. I had to figure out my bus-route to Haapsalu because I was going to visit Halie. So I rode the bus from Rapla-Tallinn-Haapsalu all by myself AND I never missed a bus. I handled myself quite nicely, if I do say so myself :)
So I got to Haapsalu, turns out Halie's host-sisters are very outgoing and very social. They were going to a party, and Halie and I went to. It was so fun. In Rapla, since I live in the countryside and my host-family is very... introverted, I don't see that many people during the day, other than at school. But after school, it's a different story. So it was a nice change! Being around people! :DD Before the party really started, Halie and I walked to Konsum (a popular branch of grocery stores in Estonia) and bought a loaf of bread each. Believe me, Americans get more obnoxious by the numbers! Halie and I were walking around the store, giggling, trying to figure out what bread to get, squeezing the bread, noticing how much softer it is here! Wow. I think back now.. we must have been the craziest people they have ever seen in their lives. I'm sorry people at the store. So on our walk to the party, we were pinching off pieces of our bread. No joke, we each ate about half of our loaves. hahaha. Fat americans!
We stayed out until early morning hours, talking with people and hanging out.. we went home, went to sleep. When we woke up, we went on a mad search for It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia episodes. Sadly, Netflix and Hulu do not work outside the USA. So we had to go to some unknown website and died laughing. Then we shared the best Sci-Fi films. We both like to heckle them. :D
One of her host sisters is a student at Tartu University. She and a couple of guys were driving back to Tartu that day and going to pass through Rapla, so they drove me back. It was so sweet of them. So I got back to Rapla at a descent hour this time :)
Such an exhausting weekend, but the most fun and busy weekend of my exchang so far! :D

Friday, September 10, 2010

First full week of school: Done.

I feel like Gordon Ramsey saying the title. Ever seen the F Word? When he's in his own kitchen and making a quick recipe? He just calling out "Basil, Butter, DONE!" :)

This week, I found out a few things. I learned a few more Estonian words, words that I'll hardly ever use. But still, I'm glad I know them, just in case I need to describe...someone.
I also found out that some of my teachers didn't know I was an exchange student, guess I'm just that good at blending in here.
My Russian teacher heard my name and found out that I knew a little Russian, she was impressed, but she soon became unimpressed when I couldn't understand the rest of the class. I think she thought I was from Russian descent. She starting asking me why my name is Marina (a very popular name in Russia) and about my family.

But all in all, this week gave me much time to reflect to myself. Pretty much because I'm just in class, not understanding a word (just a few here and there) I've realized, it's hard being an exchange student. You really have to be out there, especially in Estonia.
Most people here are so reserved. At times it's a little odd. But once you strike up a conversation with the people, you'll find that they're really funny. This makes me so much happier. And the fact that my class is more comfortable with me. There are more students that come up to me and ask me questions. :)
And yes, I know I'm making a fool of myself everyday. Sometimes I walk into closets, thinking they might be a classroom. Haha.. That happened today. I was trying to find my History class. There is a room that combines the History and some other classroom. It's like a small teacher lounge type thing.. coffee maker, table with sugar and cream, etc. I opened the door, there were no lights. I knew I was in the wrong place. I just had to go the next door over. :D But at least I made it to the general area.

On Thursday, my class had our Class Picture taken. A bit different than in America. Here, everybody gets together for one picture. Then, if you want to, you can get a portrait taken or get a few friends together for a Friend Picture. I didn't get my portrait taken, but I was in a few Friend Pictures. One is probably the most memorable picture taken in Estonia so far.. They came up with the idea me holding a sign that reads, "SOS" while the other girls are pulling my hair, making creepy faces. They're inspiration is from the movie The Orphan. Thank you Esther for that fabulous idea. hahaha. :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Kool.. School

Kool is the main word for school in Estonian, or at least that is what I use, anyways.. As you might have guessed I started school today. The school system is so different here, it really is. As you know each student in America has their own personal schedule, but here it's not the case. You cannot choose if you take German, Russian, French -whatever. In Estonia you go until grade 9, then you apply to different schools to finish your high school career. And you don't have a personal schedule.. it depends on what grade you're in. In your grade you and your classmates are seperated into different classes. for instance 10a 10b 11a 11b 12a 12b.. you get the idea. At my school, Rapla Ühisgümnaasium, we're pretty small, so we have two classes per grade. I'm in 11H (basically 11A.. only H stands for Humanities, so we learn more languages than math and science :)) And students graduate at 12th grade, like in America, too.
Anyways today was a special day here in Estonia. Every school starts on the same day, usually on September 1rst. But we don't hop right into classes, no. Here we start the year with a ceremony, all ages attend. The school song started to play, which surprised me.. In America we have a really peppy song to cheer on the sports teams, here there isn't any school sports, so no need for peppiness. It was a pretty serious sounding song, on a cd, an orchestra was playing.. haha. It played twice, in the beginning and at the end of the ceremony when the flag was being walked in and out of the gym. So after the ceremony I had to find my homeroom class.
The school really surprised me. There are so many twists and turns, it's confusing! But I'm sure I'll figure it out by the end of the year.. Ha, hopefully.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's hard to believe I've been here for a week now.. and been away from America for two.
It's weird to say, "good bye America, bye Germany, see ya soon Finland... hello, Estonia"
Seriously, sometimes, when I look out the window it seems I'm just in Michigan, a few hours from home. But in reality, I'm barely understood, confused, tired, excited, happy, sad, laughing..... yada yada yada. so many emotions.

My host family is so nice. They keep me very well fed. haha. Sometimes too well fed. I make sure to put my dish in the sink before they tell me to take anymore.. if I wait, then I have to keep eating. ITS EXHAUSTING! hahaha.
These past couple of days have been big ones in Estonia and the town of Rapla. 2 days ago, there was a national song festival over the tv. It took place in multiple towns all over the country, but we all sang the same songs at the same time. They had a live view from Tallinn and a large group singing and dancing there. Yeah, I got to see a folk dance that everyone knows.. from 2 year olds to very old men that shouldn't really be jumping around. it made me little nervous. haha. In the same day the Rally in Rapla started. It goes on for days. It lasted in Rapla until yesterday. The road by my house was closed, the cars were whizzing by, tearing up the grass. We watched from the Forest. :) so estonian..
The other night, my host family had me watch a film called the Singing Revolution. It's a documentary about.. well the Singing Revolution. It was a great film, you should see it. And yes, it came out in the US a few years ago, so you Americans can learn about Estonia, too.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Home sweet home...

This week has been a full one. A week ago today, I and about 15 other students flying to Helsinki made it there safely. We made it there in Helsinki at 545 or so.. then we had a 3hour drive to Karkku, its where our camp was held.
So this was the wait in Frankfurt. We were all starving so many of us got sausages and pickles, because we could only use debit cards. No one had euros for vending machines. Anyways, the sausages were awesome and the mustard was so different! It has a different taste.
Now, I don´t want you to get any ideas... this was not the funnest camp ever that all of the finnish rebounds talk about. no! well maybe if you´re learning finnish, but I and 5 others were learning Estonian, so we were left out of a lot of things at the camp. It was a little pointless of going, we often joked about how it was like a concentration camp.

This was my dorm. my room was on the second floor, on the far right. I shared it with a girl from Washington state. She was pretty nice. She was learning Swedish and Finnish both.
So during the torturous language camp, we drove an hour to a bigger city of Tampere. There we had a few hours to shop. It was exciting for the Estonian group because there we met our new member, Juan. He is from Colombia and he had missed the first couple of days at the camp... lucky.

Russian Orthodox? I think so..
Probably Lutheran...

Ok, I'm not going to lie. Finland is beautiful. This was the lake that our camp was on. It was so nice to go boating for language class. =)
On the way from Karkku to Helsinki. So we could catch the ''ferry'' to Tallinn.

At the language camp. We were learning the body parts. They decided to have to 2 Americans draw the body parts, when the others said them out loud.

Now I'm in my host family's home. It's so nice. I live out in the country side, but it's peaceful. My teacher at the language camp, Sille, lives in Rapla also. I think I'm going to hang out with her fairly soon. Yay, a somewhat familiar face!

The class on the lake. We decided to skip class and go boating. It was rough getting started though. haha.

This is my and my host sister, Margit's room.

First view of Estonia (TALLINN!!!!)

This was the map of the ferry. ITS HUGE!! There were many shops on board. There was a nice perfume and jewlery shop. Everyone tries to buy the perfume there because it's tax free, so much much cheaper.

Friday, August 6, 2010

My last few hours. AH!

As you can read from the title, I'm in my last few hours. I'm supposed to leave the house in 6 hours.. dang. I should really sleep. But this good, now I'll be exhausted for my flight from Philadelphia to Frankfurt. I want to sleep then.

As usual, I'm not prepared.. I think I finished packing, but I'll have to check it once more to make sure I have all of my basics at least. :)

Then I should tidy up my room... I know my parents don't want to deal with it.

Today will start a new chapter in my life. I want to turn the page already and start!

Actually, this will be my first time flying. I have 2 flights by myself. I fly from Moline to Chicago and Chicago to Philadelphia by my little lonesome. Let's hope I can find my way around! But in Philadelphia I'll fly with about 15 other exchange students. I'm the only one staying in Estonia, the rest are staying in Finland. But when we go to the language camp, I'll meet the 5 other students going to Estonia. :)
So basically, I'm ready to go now! Maybe not completely... I'm still chilaxing in my pajamas listening to Depeche Mode, but I think you can catch my drift. I'm excited!

So all I have to say to the Americans reading this,

Saturday, July 31, 2010

My last week. wow.

Well, since today is basically over, it means I'm only 6 days away, right? ;)
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm leaving on August 7th, and my itinerary did change.
Leaving Moline, Illinois at 11:30am > Arriving in Chicago, Illinois at 12:22pm and leaving at 2:00pm> Arriving in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 4:57pm and leaving at 8:25pm > Arriving in Frankfurt, Germany at 10:20am on August 8th and leaving at 2:25pm > Arriving in Helsinki, Finland at 5:45pm... spend a week at the language camp in Karkku, Finland > catch a ferry ride to Tallinn on August 14th.
So, if you're good at telling times from around the world, you will know what I'm doing, whether it be wondering aimlessly in an airport, flying, landing... or possibly making awkward conversation with strangers about my blazer or Estonia. :s

I'm sorry if you're reading this blog, expecting to learn so much about a country unknown to basically every American. I mean, this blog is all about my year in Estonia, but I just don't have any Estonian experiences, yet. But, you can read all about the up's and down's of this exchange fairly soon. :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Today has been such a hectic day. Last week -maybe last week? I'm not sure with time during the summer, now especially, it just seems to be slipping through my fingers. ANYWAYS! Today and yesterday, my mom and I have been running around trying to schedule vaccinations, calling the travel agent and the Estonian consulate, opening my new international bank account, buying new clothes, visiting the grandparents -it's exhausting!

For any outbounds to Estonia during 2011-2012, I really hope you have an easier time than I have. Seriously, the application for the Residence Permit is crazy!

Since my travel agent has never dealt with Estonian students before, she can't help with much. So I've just been winging this whole thing. Though, I have asked the head of the consulate... he's not exactly sure, either. Dang. But! I was given the number of some guy. Apparently he is from Estonia, but he now teaches at the University of Illinois in Chicago, and visits Estonia twice a year. I have yet to call him, but I heard him and he speaks Estonian sooo fast! Before I sound like some crazy stalker of Estonian men, please let me explain. When I was on the phone with the head of the consulate (Mr. Harkna) He starting calling Dr. Soot (the Estonian man..who teaches) and they were chatting in Estonian. I just stood there with the phone in my hand, looking so puzzled and confused, not knowing what to do. at all. xD Oh, this is going to be fun year! hahaha.
Tomorrow I was supposed to have an appointment with Mr. Harkna at the consulate, but I guess it's not happening now. Possibly next week, but since he called me apparently I don't need to. Dang, I wanted to visit Chicago and the Finnish town up there.

Oh! Itinerary!
So this is only tentative. It can be changed whenever and however.
My journey will start in Moline, Illinois on August 7th. I don't know what time, though. I don't think it will be super early, though. :)
After Moline, I'll fly to St. Louis. Still, not knowing when I arrive or how long of a layover.
I'll leave St. Louis at 1:46pm to go to Philadelphia, arriving at 5:05pm.
From Philadelphia at 8:25pm to Frankfurt arriving at 10:20am on August 8th. I know, gross. An overnight flight. I'm guessing I'll have to sit next to some little kid or baby. Just watch, just watch. I'll be that sucker. bleh.
And from Frankfurt at 2:25pm I'll finally make it to Helsinki at 5:45pm on August 8th.
Now, you may be thinking, "Marina, I'm finding some conflict in this. Helsinki is in Finland, not Estonia" And I will answer that possible thought. :)
I'm staying in Finland for one week to go to language camp. When I arrive in Finland, I will be grouped up with the other Rotary students and we will be driven to Karkku, where the language camp will be held. After the camp, me and the 5 other exchange students going to Estonia (I know! there's only 6 Rotary kids, worldwide, going to Estonia!! crazy! :D:D) we're going to be driven to the sea port in Helsinki to catch a ferry to Tallinn Estonia on August 14th! Oh, just to throw this in here.. The water between Helsinki and Tallinn is the most traveled waterway in the world! Every hour, 2 ferries leave. :) And it's just a 2 hour ride. relaxingggg.
In Tallinn, we will meet our new families and go home with them. My new home is 55km from Tallinn, so not a long drive :) (so what is that? about 30miles or so? I think so.)
Exciting! xD

Monday, July 5, 2010

33 days

I know. I shouldn't really be counting the days, but I can't help it. I'm too excited! I don't really know what to expect, but since I've talked to my host family, I relaxed a bit. They are really the sweetest people. They speak English with me, and I attempt to type Estonian. Though, they make many mistakes, it's still easy to understand them. :)
I'm very lucky to be staying with them.

I still haven't made many pins. In total I think I've made 10 so far.. haha. FAIL!
I decided I take the pins my sister didn't take for her exchange in Mexico. They are the beaded safety pins that look like American flags. Well, we have about 15 of those left. But I decided to be a little different with mine. I bought ribbon... that looks more like the French flag. None the less it's red, white and blue! Then I will glue a penny and pin to it. I made it sound really, really lame. which is kind of is. But! They will look kind of cool.... maybe.

I leave for Grand Rapids, Michigan in 3 days. My parents and I will stay at Calvin College and attend meetings. yay? Yes, yay, indeed! Grand Rapids is so much fun. I'm happy I will be able to meet new people, get more advice, meet some Fins, and see my travel agent again. Hopefully she will have figured something out by now! I just hope that I won't have to get into Estonia late..

I've realised just now. I still have so much to do in 33 days!! I still need to get my vaccines, buy some new clothes, soaps, make pins, hang out with friends, have a going away party which I really don't want to have, -PACK! gosh. I need to get on it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

37 Days.

As you can guess from the title, I have 37 days left in the great ole' U S of A. It's kind of a bitter sweet feeling. While looking on the bright side, I see myself making new friends, going to a new school, doing new activities, trying new things, learning a new language, and traveling. But, there is always a downside. Like going to a new school, and flying by myself. I'm not going to lie, I have never been in a plane before... nor have I been out of the country. So this exchange will quite the experience.

So next week I leave for Grand Rapids, Michigan to attend a conference for Rotary Youth Exchange. It's huge! I went when my sister Michaela was a rebound. It wasn't much fun for me, because I was the little sister having to stay with her parents the whole time, but this time I'll be a student.... and the only student going to Estonia, I think. So I think I'll be in a meeting with the Finnish students :) Estonia and Southern Finland are the same Rotary district. So I get do all of the things Finnish students do.. except learn Finnish. I'll learn a very similar language though.

Anyways! I received my guarantee forms the other day. It took about a month to get here in my hands. I had to fax a couple of papers to my travel agent and I was good to go. Well, apparently I'm the first kid to go to Estonia with this travel agency since like 15 years or something crazy like that. So she called my dad and told him she doesn't know what to do. She doesn't know about the paperwork and all of the travel.. So maybe I'll go to Estonia?? Haha.. I'm sure she'll figure it out! It really confused her when I told her that I'll fly into Helsinki, Finland and not go on to Estonia. I'm going to a language camp in Finland for a week-That totally messed her up.

I just hope that I will get to ride the most traveled water way in the world while I'm in Estonia/Finland!! The water way I'm talking about is the Gulf of Finland! It is between Helsinki, Finland and Tallinn, Estonia.

Oh and in my informational packet, I found out my school! It's the same school as my host sister. In the pictures it looks so nice! Very different than United by far!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I have my destination!

I found out my first host family today. My host mum, Eha, emailed me. It turns out that I will be living in the country, just outside of Rapla, Estonia. I will be living with Eha, her 2 daughters (well 1 is studying at University in another town), and her mother. I am so happy that I have recieved some information. They said that I will arrive at their house on August 14th. It's coming up so quickly! :) It makes it so much more exciting, though!

I'm very glad I'm going to Rapla. It's a small town toward the center of Estonia. It's about an hour's drive from the biggest city and the capital of Estonia, Tallinn. Plus, by looking at the maps, I've noticed that Rapla isn't far from the resort towns along the beaches. :)

This exchange is finally becoming more real to me. All of this hasn't fully sunk in, yet. But I'm certain that after a couple of months of living in Estonia, it will become clear. It won't seem like a vacation, it will be me attending school, making new friends, meeting new people, informing people about America, speaking a new language.. all that kind of good stuff.
So this is the Rapla Coat of Arms.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Today, was the last outbound orientation. It's really weird to think my new friends and I are going to be seperated in well, 1 or 2 months. It is sad, but I don't regret this process. I'm glad I got to meet all of the inbounds and outbounds.
Well, the next meeting time for the outbounds is Grand Rapids conference. It will be great to see them again, and the inbounds one last time. It will be sad to see them off, but I will have new challenges to face just a month after Grand Rapids. :)
I know it will be tough, but I'm still looking forward to the new experiences. I feel more secure about it.
Oh, and I still haven't heard anything about Estonia. Many of the outbounds have recieved their welcome packages and emails from host families. I have recieved neither. It's making me anxious and pretty nervous, but it's all part of the experience I guess. :)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Recently my life has been struck with an unexpected wonderful change: I will be a Rotary exchange student.

Now I wasn't totally certain about this decision until October of 2009, but I'm glad I'm doing it. My older sister was an exchange student in Mexico, so I knew about Rotary since junior high. I was definitely interested in it. I think that is what really opened my eyes to foreign exchange. I applied in November with the hopes of being placed in Russia. Though it didn't work out with Russia (they aren't accepting RYE students this year), I was placed in an equaly -or more- fascinating country, Estonia.
I am very fortunate to be doing this, especially with Rotary. I'm not trying to sound cheesy, but seriously. Rotary is awesome. They really do help you as much as they can. They supply you with all of the knowledge you need to be a foreign exchange student and they let us meet with the inbounds, other outbounds, and rebounds. So much insight with this process and it's so helpful.

Whenever I mention my exchange to people, I always get the same reaction. Wide-eyed, head nods, and "uh-huh.. wow!" I know they have no idea where this country is, most people don't. So instead of typing up a whole geography lesson, I have posted a map. I just hope you all know where Latvia, Finland, Baltic Sea, and Russia are. :)

Here are some facts about Estonia that I found really interesting.

*Skype was invented there.

*They have the best preserved Old Town in the Baltic Area.

*The capital, Tallinn, will be awarded the Cultural Capital of Europe.

*Estonian language is not related to Russian at all. It's close to Finnish and Hungarian. So it is one of the hardest languages in the world to learn. Wish me luck ;)

*The Singing Revolution. It's incredible. You all should read about it; watch some youtube videos about it.. very interesting.