Estonian Pals

While I came to Estonia on my own, I have certainly met several wonderful people and made some great friends here in Tallinn. Many of these friends have come from church. (For all the complaints I have heard from people over the years about organized religion, I have never been so grateful for the "organized" aspect of my church as I have been this summer.)

Me and Marii
I have also been trying to get in touch with some more cousins, though many have been too busy or out of town on vacation. The one cousin I have had a chance to meet is Marii. In case you were wondering, our names are pronounced the same way. Marii's grandfather and my grandmother were brother and sister. We're working out a trip to visit where they grew up, which I'm thoroughly looking forward to. This girl is awesome!

One of the first people I met at church was Matthew Crandall. From Idaho, it made it easy to understand what he was saying and he taught the English Sunday School lesson that first Sunday. He introduced me to his wife, Maris, who is sweet and was great company at the Open Air Museum and a great cook. The night I went to their place for dinner she showed me a box of old photographs that she had from her family. She made the comment that Estonians never seemed to smile in pictures, so when we were at the Open Air Museum we had to take an "Estonian Picture". (The girl in the middle was one of Maris' students from this past year of school)

Left to Right: Sister Ivanova, Sister Robinson, Triinu, Karolina, Me
There are a whole group of girls that go to all the planned activities and FHEs, who I have gotten to know fairly well. For one we all went to the beach together. It has also been fun to get to know the Sister missionaries (who are serving in the mission I had been hoping to be called to). A new sister just got here from the MTC last week too. She was a little overwhelmed on Sunday. It didn't help that her companion ditched her to come translate for me... they're really good eggs to say the least. As for the other girls, they have all been wonderful to take me to places I might not have thought to go see on my own, like down in N├Ámme and little forest areas, etc...

I have also had several people I have asked to be in photographs for my project. They have been helpful and enjoyable to have along with me. One is a girl named Riina. (When I told her I had a cousin named Riina she was surprised.) Riina wanted to learn some photography, so when we went out I taught her a little as well as used her for modelling.

The lovely Grete is one of the girls mentioned above that goes to many of the activities. On top of seeing her at these, though, I had one of the best evenings with her. After photographing, we somehow started with singing and playing music. She is a talented talented pianist. Not only can she play, she can play by ear and improvise beautiful music. We spent a good hour finding songs we both knew (many old gospel hymns like Amazing Grace) and goofing around. At one point I did get out my camera (remembering it could video tape) and recorded a couple songs.

(Go ahead and ignore my voice on this one... the piano is beautiful, but especially my high notes are rather out of practice and rusty)

Last is my boy Siim. I met Siim my first Sunday. This kid is a riot and I'll just have to give you a few stories to illustrate:

1. When Siim is not going around after church using the English he learned from TV (sucker! Shut up! What's up?) he's using a glove to do the Spock hand and making other people do the same hand gesture before high five-ing him. (Note: Estonians can't do the Spock hand as readily as Americans. I'm guessing they don't grow up practicing this skill as we do.)

2. I'd already talked to his mom about having him in some pictures and when I told him I needed to talk to his mom after church this last Sunday about a time, he came up, grabbed my hand, and enthusiastically dragged me to his mom, reminding me that I needed to talk to her. Enthusiastic  would be the perfect word to describe this kid actually. That or clown.

Siim and his mom Aneli
3. When I was telling his mom the stories about my Vanaisa before photographing, he stopped me and goes "don't say Vanaisa. Say Grandfather, please." I tried to tell him that we always called him Vanaisa, but it was still unacceptable to him. Siim didn't like that I was speaking English and throwing in an Estonian word so casually.

4. In another conversation with his mom, I was telling her how the more I've watched kids the more I think how much fun it would be to have a little clan of all boys (she has 3 boys and no girls). Only catching part of this, he turned to me and goes "Only one boy! I'm your favorite boy!". I don't think he's wrong either. This kid really makes me happy. I even recorded some of his antics so you might understand a little better why.

Really, the people here are wonderful! I'm glad I have had the chance to get to know them and make friends. (It will definitely give me an excuse to come back!)

If you've read this entire thing, kudos! If no one has... it's cool... it will make for a good journal-type entry. And no worries... I'll go back to one image tomorrow!


Primary Colors

If you don't believe me on this one I will refer you to my photography professor. He'll gladly argue the point. 


Rocks of Ages

Sometimes, when I'm looking at these interesting artifacts preserved in Old Town, I'm looking over my shoulder expecting Indiana Jones to show up and take me on an amazing adventure!

Then I take pictures instead and enjoy the adventure I'm already on. :)


Because sometimes you need to get your Cindy Sherman on...

I'm finding it harder and harder to keep shooting film consistently (which is really what's going to make up the images of the project) and adding an image here everyday. I'll keep it going... three more weeks of making it happen!

Today I thought it would be fun to put up another "playing" image. Last fall I did an assignment where we were supposed to mimic a fine art photographer. I chose Cindy. Going to the bay I pass by this tree that consistently reminds me of this Cindy Sherman image:

So I took advantage of having someone with me and in a skirt.

I wish there hadn't been a large tree just behind this one... it would have made for a nice landscape in the background! C'est la vie!


Blue-Black-White Landscape

An interesting fact about the Estonian Flag: it is believed to have been based off a landscape painting. I loved this idea. I decided when I first learned this that I would love to try to replicate this landscape with photography. It's not 100% perfect. For one, the painting is Estonia during the winter, making the "white" part of the flag a little easier to accomplish. I took advantage of already being in the water waist high and having the forest backlit (this was an aspect directly from the painting) and tried to work my exposure to get the water looking white and keep the sky blue (I had to use some post-production to push this). Not perfect--still too much green-- but it was fun to attempt!


The Black Pearl... or something like it

While most people mark their journeys in terms of countries they've been to, I often find myself more exhilarated at the idea of stepping into another ocean or sea. Last summer when I went to Florida, I made a point to drive to the coast because I had not seen the Atlantic Ocean before then. During my study abroad, many of us had the chance to swim in the Mediterranean Sea. Being from California originally, we would make yearly trips to the Pacific, which I have also been to from the Alaska and Hawaii areas. I love beaches. I love water and the many possibilities it provides visually.

One of my favorite places to photograph (you may have noticed) is over by the bay of Tallinn. Still, I hadn't gone into the water. For one, it's cold. (I don't do cold.) Two, that area has some beautiful spots but it's not exactly a beach. So I held off and enjoyed the view.

Friday, a group of people went to the beach and I decided to join in. As I packed my things, I decided not to worry about a swim suit (who wants to swim in that freezing cold water???) And since this wasn't really a photo trip, I made the choice to leave my 75-300 lens at home to save space and weight.

Little did I know that there would be this totally awesome, rusted-out shipwreck maybe 200 yards off shore. My Photo I teacher's words rang in my ears "luck favors the prepared". Well... prepared I wasn't.

I enjoyed the weather with everyone and held off as long as I could before wading into the water, denim capri pants and all, using what I had to get this:

I may or may not have giggled when I got this looking how I envisioned from the start (although I probably did). It was cold and I had to deal with wet clothes on the bus ride home, but it was totally worth it. And I must say, there is something to be said for not having a ton of options. Having only the one lens pushed me into getting a better angle than I would have with my telephoto lens from the shore. That said, I'm wearing a swimsuit next time. Just in case.



I went back near where the Liiva Cemetery is and there are tons of these flowers growing on the edges of the forest.


Single Row House

Does anyone remember that part in the new "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" where his dad tells him when he gets back he won't be there... and there's that empty space in the houses? This reminded me of a more rundown version of their little flat, standing alone in the middle of nowhere. Only this one is also near a lot of other rundown houses.


One Month Down

Really? When did that happen? How did a month go by? I feel like I just got here, and my time in Estonia is half over!

I suppose I'll just have to make great use of my last month here. :)

One of the greatest things I've done lately is to go to the Liiva Cemetery, where my great grandparents are buried. There's another cemetery I need to get to, but this is the one I have looked forward to, as Vanaisa shared his stories about them--particularly his mother.

Something else I realized is that Old Town is like the halls of Hogwarts Castle--the streets change. I know this because I have yet to go the same way twice either to or from a place. Every time I see a shop I want to check out on my way home from shooting (usually around midnight, when the shops are closed), I have to stumble upon it again.

What a great place! Really!