Posts Tagged ‘estonia’

when-the-doves-disappeared

I just finished reading Sofi Oksanen’s new book “When The Doves Disappeared”. “When the Doves Disappeared” is a story of occupation, resistance, and collaboration in Estonia during and after World War II. The novel follows the experiences of three characters: Roland, a principled independence fighter; his cousin Edgar, who will do almost anything to hide his secrets and maintain his connection to those in power; and Edgar’s wife Juudit, who is buffeted in turns by her love for a German officer, her fear of returning to her unhappy, unconsummated marriage, and her bond with the idealistic Roland.

The book is based on historical facts and switches between 1940’s and 1960’s. The biggest character is Edgar who is willing to do anything to stay in power and who collaborates with Germans in the beginning of WWII and then with Russians who also invade Estonia. Edgar hides all traces of him collaborating with Germans and starts to collaborate with Russians delivering to them lists of people who collaborated with the Germans. He is married to Juudit but in fact Edgar is homosexual. Edgar is a master at forging documents and making up backup stories. And he is also very paranoid about being discovered who he really is. Roland is a true Estonian man – brave, honest and loyal to his own country, he saves people when he can and has principles. Juudit is a complex character because she is unhappily married to a wrong man, then she starts an affair with a high German officer and then has a strong bond with Roland also. She also has a drinking problem and she stays with Edgar until the end.

This book is catchy because with every chapter you get a little piece of a puzzle and you just want to get the whole picture together and keep on reading. It’s also a complex story that switches through time and needs thinking along when reading. The ending is surprising and confusing at the same time. I think the reader must draw his/her own conclusion in the end.  I liked the story, I found the characters interesting and I had a lot to think about when I finished the book.

Here are some other reviews about Oksanens new book:

Oksanen masterfully constructs her world; paranoia and fear drip like sweat from the pages.

—   Me Naiset (Finland)

When the Doves Disappeared is powerful and convincing. Oksanen lives up to all the expectations… Oksanen unites political history, micro history, and fiction in an intelligent way. She explores how human kind adapts to ever-changing circumstances.
— MTV3 (Finland)

Sofi Oksanen’s new novel was worth waiting for… As in her previous works, the personal is strongly political also here. The individual, who is torn in the crossfire between different ideologies, crouches in the wings that conceal secrets, shame and fear. Although certain decisions can have terrifying consequences, they are not necessarily a result of evil. A betrayal can be the only route to survival. Oksanen is a master at rendering people in precisely those circumstances.
— Kaleva (Finland)

I definitely recommend this book. It’s something different 🙂

Day 12 – Sunset

  Pirita, Tallinn, Estonia

Today is September 17 and I’m starting a 30 day photo challenge. And today is the first day. Photo of the first day should be a self-portrait with 15 facts about yourself. So here it goes 😉

DAY  1 – SELF-PORTRAIT WITH 15 FACTS

30 day challenge

FACTS:

  1. I was born on April 28th 1987 in Tartu, Estonia.
  2. I’m a fan of heavy metal/rock music.
  3. I have interviewed Megadeth (Shawn Drover), Satyricon (Satyr), Tarot (Zachary Hietala) and Swallow The Sun (Juha Raivio).
  4. I am a history “freak” – I love history, I love reading about it, watching films about it etc.
  5. I studied political science and government in the university. I wanted to be a civil servant.
  6. I am terrified of spiders
  7. I love the sound a burning fire makes (the cracking sound)
  8. I hate the sound of metal being scratched against metal (screeching sound)
  9. I believe in karma and in the old saying “what goes around comes around”
  10. I am not a morning person. If I need to get up very early I feel like a “zombie” until noon.
  11. I am constantly over-thinking and over-analyzing everything.
  12. I may forgive you but I will never forget it.
  13. I love the smell of freshly cut grass, just printed books, menthol, nail polish, air after it has rained, the smell of sauna or a camp-fire (wood), coffee, hyacinths and herbal tea brewing.
  14. I always drink tea in the evening.
  15. People born on the same day as me include Jessica Alba, Ann-Margret, Penelope Cruz, Saddam Hussein, Carolyn Jones (she played Morticia Addams on The Addams Family), Jay Leno, Oskar Schindler.

I’ve been back from Scotland for almost a week now but I haven’t had the time to respond to emails, Youtube comments or just any other such thing. I was exhausted when I got back and mentally I arrived back in Estonia only today which is Saturday. This time being in Scotland wasn’t all fun and games so to say, it was tiring and emotionally hard for me. You can read about my previous trip to Scotland here. So here’s what happened to me in Scotland in the shortest possible version I can write.

Firstly, this time we chose to fly with Ryanair. And I have to admit I had my doubts because I hadn’t flied with cheap airlines before. I’ve always used some other companies but this time I chose Ryanair because it was the only way I could get a direct flight to Edinburgh. And I must say it wasn’t a bad experience at all. We had booked priority boarding which meant we could choose better seats and sit all together. The service was good and we got there on time. The only thing that was a bit weird was that all of us had a headache because of the flying. And not just only flying there but also during flying back to home also. I don’t know what caused it but it was the only negative thing.

When we arrived in Edinburgh we had to take a bus to the city center and then go to the train station to catch a train to Dundee. That all went really smoothly and after 1,5h we arrived in Dundee. For the first couple of days we had booked a hotel to live in because my brother first had to get the keys to his apartment and we had to tidy the apartment and then we could “move in” there. So the hotel we had booked was called Craigtay Hotel and it was located quite far from the city center and the train station. We took a taxi. And I’m glad we did that because the taxi driver was so friendly, welcomed us to Dundee and later when we had a problem with the hotel he came to the rescue. So a big thank you to the Dundee taxi driver who drove the three of us to Cragtay Hotel. When we finally reached the hotel we bumped into our first problem. We had notified the hotel that we will be arriving quite late but when we rang the doorbell nobody answered. Then we rang again and again and then knocked on the door and nothing. Nobody answered. The friendly taxi driver saw it and as I said, came to the rescue. He knew the phone number of the hotel and just called the staff there and notified them that they actually have visitors outside their hotel who would like to get in. Then finally the hotel door opened and we got in.

Getting into this hotel was the first problem but I must admit that the hotel itself was a problem in general. It was one of the worst hotels I’ve been in. It’s location was pretty far from the city center, at a first glance one wouldn’t see that building as a hotel, then there wasn’t an elevator there, only stairs. Then the key of our room was bent and the door didn’t open correctly, the floors were squeaky – every time you walked around the room it made the squeaky sound. The bathroom of the hotel was horrible. And then the breakfast serving. The following morning we had a meeting with the real estate agent through whom we rented my brother’s apartment but the service in the hotel was just so slow that I thought we have to skip breakfast in order not to be late for the meeting. And there weren’t many people there in hotel (the hotel had only like 16 or 17 rooms) and every morning when we were having breakfast there were maybe 2 or 3 people with us there. The food itself was good. But when we thought that the man serving us breakfast that morning was slow we were so wrong. The two following mornings we were serviced by two different women working there and the women were even slower that the man, I thought we would never get our breakfast. And then when we were checking out from the hotel the same woman who was serving us breakfast was in the reception desk and when we gave her the key she started asking money from us. I was surprised and asked for what it was. She said it was the hotel bill. I was stunned because our travel agent had booked the hotel and we had already paid for the hotel so  now it seemed we have to pay for the second time. Luckily some older woman came and explained to the younger woman that the bill has been paid and said to us that everything is ok. I was just speechless. In retrospect I can say that this hotel was exactly like the British comedy “Fawlty Towers” only without Mr.Fawlty. But everything else in the hotel was similar to that TV-show.

But I have to bring out that the letting agency (real estate agency) through which we got the apartment was really professional. My brother rented or as the British say let the apartment through Hamish Robbie Lettings and we got the keys from Mr. Hamish Robbie himself. He was really friendly and a true professional. So this was definitely a positive experience. The apartment at first surprised me a bit because it needed more cleaning and tidying up than I had imagined but after all the cleaning had been done I could say that it’s a nice place located in a nice surrounding. But all the cleaning we did, my God, I think I’ve never done so much cleaning on one day. We started from the kitchen (windows, floors, walls and all other stuff) and ended in the corridor of the whole house. I was drop-dead tired when we finally finished. But the end result wasn’t bad at all 😉

And then another problem came when we went to the bank to set put an account for my brother. I think I’ve never been so pissed about a bank before than I was there. The bank was called Royal Bank Of Scotland. And before I explain what the problem was I must explain how it is in Estonia to get a bank account. In Estonia when you want to open a debit card bank account you go to the bank, take a number, talk to a customer service person and get everything set up. And then the customer service person tells you than within 5 days you can come to bank again to collect your card and you automatically have internet banking. Easy to do. But in Scotland with the Royal Bank of Scotland….. It was just plain bureaucracy. When you went into the bank first you had to stop at the reception desk and had to explain what you want to do there in the bank. Then we were directed to a customer servant and he looked through our tenancy papers and said it wasn’t enough that we had to get some paper from the university to confirm that my brother is a student there and to confirm his Dundee address. He then booked us an appointment with an adviser.  We got the letter from the university and then had the meeting with the adviser. She looked through the papers again, my brother filled out some form and and she went to copy the papers. When she came back she said that my brother can’t open an account because he can’t prove that he lives in his current Dundee address. For evidence we had the tenancy agreement/contract, the first rent paid by cheque  and the university letter confirming him living on his current address. But no, it didn’t suit the Royal Bank Of Scotland. We left there feeling quite hopeless. I was actually pissed off. What the fuck? The bank account was so important to us because all the other contracts (internet, phone etc) depended on my brother having a Scottish bank account. The following morning I marched into the bank and informed some guy in the reception desk that the adviser had made a mistake and the mistake needs to be corrected. The man looked surprised and went looking for the adviser to whom we had a meeting with the previous day. The man then returned with an excuse from the adviser and said that he would deal with us instead. I guess the woman who had advised us the day before got scared of me. Yeah, I’m definitely a person to be afraid of 😉 Anyways, we started to explain everything from the beginning to the man and it turned out that he understood things better since he was himself actually an adviser specially for students who come and want to open an account there. He looked through the papers and said that the tenancy agreement verifies that my brother lives on his current address and everything should be fine. But advised us to go back to the university and let them re-do the letter that confirms that my brother has been accepted because letter started with “To whom it may concern….” but they needed it to be directed to them “To Royal Bank Of Scotland”. Ridiculous but we still did it. And then the man-adviser said that the account would be active in 24h and my brother would receive the debit card via regular mail within 3-5 days. We were happy that finally things were done with the bank. We left Scotland but my brother still hadn’t received his card. It arrived to him finally this week (exactly 5 days later) and at first it wasn’t the card, it was the codes card which one needs to log into their account. The real card arrived a day later. And the internet banking didn’t come right away, like after the account was active. My brother had to register himself online to start the internet banking. And this week when he wanted to do just that it was revealed that he needs some kind of activation code which is coming in another regular mail. So it seems that he still can’t use the bank account correctly and for example can’t transfer money from his Estonian account to his Scottish account which was the primary goal of opening the account in the Scottish bank.  I myself have an account in Estonia in a Swedish bank and as I explained the opening of an account in that bank is very easy. And that bank I’m in, the Scandinavian bank, is one of the safest banks in Europe (excluding Swiss banks). And I’m about 95% sure it’s more safe than the Royal Bank Of Scotland so all the hassle and the bureaucracy  was pointless and just a waste of time. In a long time I haven’t been so pissed about something than I was about this bank. What made me angry was the fact that everything could have been made easier and faster and in the end we had all the right documents with us – the advisers just couldn’t read them right. It was just sick. I really felt that we were being treated as second class citizens and that is something I absolutely cannot tolerate. I guess that’s why I, who normally am the quite one and say to others to calm down, was so “fired up” that I just marched in and demanded my rights. I guess it was rude but I couldn’t see another way. So yeah, my personal experience with the Royal Bank Of Scotland was extremely bad and I really felt like the bank treated us like we were second class citizens. It’s funny – usually banks compete with each other over clients because they want the money coming into their bank but it seems that the Royal Bank of Scotland doesn’t want money 😉

After the “battle” in the bank I was emotionally so drained. I drank a double espresso and I still felt tired. Then there were some minor other problems but they are not worth mentioning here. Then a fun fact when we were buying house hold things – in Scotland it’s forbidden for someone under 21 years of age to buy sharp knives. And when we took a taxi from the apartment to get to the train station the taxi company asked when our train is leaving and where are we going (with the train). I was like wtf? Why is this even important to them?

In the end my brother settled in the apartment nicely and we got some things done but all the things I was hoping to be done during the week I was there couldn’t be made because of the bank. This made the leaving even harder for me. I went along to help him settle and help with all the contracts and documents and almost all of the contracts he has to do by himself because I had to be back in Estonia. As I said I left with a very heavy heart. But it seems that my brother is coping really well and at the moment things are starting to resolve. But since the week in Scotland was exhausting physically and emotionally for me I felt like an even bigger burden had been put on me. Maybe I feel better when I visit my brother again in the beginning of September. And maybe then the “burden” will disappear.

End note: I want to emphasize that the people in Dundee in general were friendly and not everything was bad and negative. And the city itself is still beautiful and worth a visit 😉

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve made a more personal blog post. But this time I want to write on more personal matters. I wrote about my brother’s leaving in this post.  The date of his departure to Scotland has come  – he will leave for Scotland next Saturday. I’m going to help him move there and therefore there will be no “Heavy News” for the week of August 1 and August 8. I feel bad for canceling the news but as I have always emphasized – my family comes first.

For the past year I’ve been living with the idea of my brother moving to another country and now it’s finally here and I can’t believe it’s really happening. At the moment I’ve been occupied with work and preparations for his leave and I am going with him to be there for one week. But when it comes to the moment of me stepping onto an airplane in Scotland and flying back to Estonia – leaving my little brother there all alone…. Then I’ll truly “come undone”. But I guess it’s one of those things that has to happen and has to be lived through.

Lately I’ve been quite busy also. Μy day-job has been demanding and I want to make the news better also. But I guess all the stress and hassle has been taking a toll on my health – about a month ago I was so sick (migraines, eye infection etc). Now I’m taking things bit easier and trying to find some quality time for myself also. What made me really happy in the past few weeks was this – I can work for Μetal-Rules.com as marketing and propaganda/media person. I am so happy about it and really motivated to do this job. I love Μetal-Rules and it’s a honor to work for them. And if by any chance EvilG is reading this – thank you so much for accepting me 🙂 It seems that I currently have almost 3 jobs – my “real” day job, my news and also Μetal-Rules.com. I guess it’s enough for me at the moment 😉

So next Saturday I’m heading off to Scotland, Dundee. And if there any Scottish people watching my news that by chance live in Dundee and see me there or in Edinburgh and recognize me then don’t  be shy – come and say hello 🙂 I’d be happy to meet my viewers in real life also.

Estonia‘s Independence Day was on February 24 and usually on that day our president holds official celebration concert and after that an official reception for well-known and respected politicians and celebrities. And usually before the celebration concert our president presents his most important speech throughout the year. This year I think the president had an average speech – he spoke a lot about stuff he has spoken about previously also but one aspect stood out to me. He said that Estonia has come a long way – we are member states of EU and NATO and we finally have Euro as our currency. Now the focus should be more on people. He emphasized that we are no longer a slave nation that has to constantly think what other countries and other nations think about us. Now it’s time to think on ourselves, to be ourselves. I couldn’t agree more with his thought.

Why is it so important what others think about us? Do we define ourselves through others? Why do we constantly need others approval?

When I was a child I didn’t care what other people thought of the things I did. I only cared what my parents would say about that. Then in my teenager years all things changed. I have to admit that I wasn’t popular among my class mates at all and some of the meanest things were said to me during my basic school time. And it was at that time I started to care about what others might think of me. Even during high school I never said what I really thought of things because I didn’t know what others might say about it. I tried to fit in with others to get their approval. And it’s only now I see how wrong was that. And how stupid I was holding back my inner self. my high school years were pretty much ok and I got along with everyone. But as I said – I was afraid to speak up, to firmly stand behind my opinions and to do what I really wanted. I was afraid what others might think. I remember that there was one guy from our class that always used to comment on the shirts I was wearing (usually they had some text on it, generic text they put on to the shirts). Every time he would say to me something about it and to this day I can’t figure out if he was just joking or really mocking me. I usually just smiled and didn’t say anything to him. What I should HAVE DONE: I should have said to him something in line of “fuck you, if you don’t like don’t look”. But I never did that.

During the university time my self confidence started to grow and I wasn’t so held back anymore. Today I can say that I don’t care anymore what others think. It’s important how I think, feel and what I want. If I feel good doing certain things or wearing certain clothes then I’ll continue to do that. And if anyone has a problem with it – it’s their problem, not mine. Of course there are certain things/topics I’m still not so confident about and when given negative feedback on them I do care and I do feel hurt. But overall I can say that “what others think of me” is not my main problem anymore. When I finally reached that point when I could say screw the others, I felt liberated and free. Constantly living by the rule of “what others think of you” makes you feel like a chained slave. And I don’t want to be a slave, I want to be FREE.

I think that one of the best examples of not caring what others say about you is British king Edward VIII who abdicated the throne to marry a divorced American woman Wallis Simpson. He loved her and didn’t care even if he had to leave his position as a king to be with her. Another good example is Lady Gaga. I am not a fan of her music but I do think it’s kind of cool how she always wears these crazy costumes and doesn’t care what anybody says about them. And also British actor Helena Bonham Carter – she has her own style and didn’t wear a typical red carpet dress even at the Oscars. That’s something I admire – the courage to stand out.

I think more people here in Estonia should focus on ridding themselves of the constant need to get others approval. It doesn’t matter what your neighbor thinks about you/your family, it doesn’t matter if a gossip magazine says that your clothing style is not “in” at the moment, it doesn’t matter if you are doing a job you like but others disapprove of, it just does NOT matter. The only thing that matters is if you yourself are happy and content and want things to be the way they are. Then and ONLY then you can be happy.

On Saturday Estonia had the honor of hosting this year’s European Film Awards 2010. The EFA’s are equal to American Oscar’s. I’ve never really watched it before and since this year it was in my country I decided to do so. It was pretty interesting. The show itself wasn’t so grandiose as the Oscars but that’s what I really liked about it. For the Americans the Oscars are a big show during which some awards are given out. But the EFA’s were firstly an award giving event and then a show.

What bothered me was the fact that I didn’t know so many great actor/actresses that were there. Our TV-channels mainly focus on Hollywood films. Like only Hollywood films are the “true” films. Yes, many Hollywood films are great films but not all of them are great films. Some of them are really crappy. And I think that sometimes our channels should show some European films also. Actually the only channel that shows some European films is the Estonian National Television (ETV). And that’s a shame because there are really good European films out there. For example one of my favorite films ever is “Amelie”(French movie directed by Jean-Pierre Jaunet), then “Dancer In The Dark” (Danish movie, directed by Lars von Trier), “Pahat Pojat” and “Matti” (Finnish movies, directed by Aleksi Mäkela), “Fantomas” (French movie, directed by Andre Hunebelle), “Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez” (French movie, directed by Jean Girault), “The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg” (French movie, directed by Jacques Demy), “The Great Stroll”(French movie, directed by Gerard Oury), “Nikita” (French movie, directed by Luc Besson), “Paris, je t’aime” (French movie, directed by various people), “My Left Foot” (Irish movie, directed by Jim Sheridan), “Life Is Beautiful” (Italian movie, directed by Roberto Benigni) + countless films from the United Kingdom.

The movies that were nominated to various European Film Awards seemed to be pretty interesting. I’d definitely would like to see “The Ghost Writer” (directed by Roman Polanski), “The Secret In Their Eyes” (directed by Juan Jose Campanella), “Lebanon” (directed by Samuel Maoz) and “Cell 211” (directed by Daniel Monzon). And also very interesting seemed to be the documentary movie which won in it’s category “Nostalgia For The Light”(directed by Patricio Guzman).

As for the big stars that took part from this awards ceremony – Juliette Binoche was here, Roman Polanski talked through Skype, Bruno Ganz and Alexandre Desplait were here and many other famous Europeans also. Ewan McGregor was also invited but he was filming in Thailand and he sent only a video message.

I liked the ceremony and I really liked the hosts – German comedian Anke Engelke and our own actor Märt Avandi. They were both funny and I’m glad they were chosen as the hosts of EFA. What again bothered me was the following – too many Estonian politicians and not so many film people were at the gala. I was so mad when I saw a certain person – Peeter Võsa – appear on the Red Carpet. He is doing a TV-show on a commercial channel and his tv-show is about people who are homeless or drunks. He doesn’t help them in his show, he laughs at them and just brings out conflict. And he was invited to that big film event. Why? Because is a member of the Estonian Center Party (Keskerakond) and this party (along with Tallinn City government) was one of the financers of the event. And that was in my opinion wrong. This gala was about actors, film makers, operators, composers and other people belonging to the cultural elite. This was not an event with political undertone. That’s why it pisses me off that almost half of our parliament members were present at the event. That was a big fail.

But overall I was very happy that Estonia was the place where this years EFA’s were handed out and I am very pleased that the organizers managed to handle everything well and hopefully the whole event left a good impression.