This past weekend i was involved in a incredible event called Laulupidu. It is the big singing festival that occurs every 5 years and to put it simply it was breathtaking. I had no idea that it was going to be so enormous. There were over 100,000 people in the audience and on the stage at peak there were over 20,000 choir singers. Getting to be on the stage singing with everyone was overwhelming for me being as it is my last week in Estonia. At the end of the festival i cried because this past year has been incredible and i was reminded of all the great times ive had. I am so happy to have been able to participate in this event. This is probably going to be my last post while in Estonia so i’d like to thank everyone who has helped me along my exchange and i couldnt have had a better year. I’d like to thank Rotary for sponsoring me and my family for supporting me.
This past week i went on a trip to Poland with my host family. The destination was Warsaw, the capital of Poland. It took 15 hours to drive there so when we arrived the first day it was already quite late, we spent the evening at a restaurant and the night at my dad’s brother’s apartment. The next day for the duration of the morning and a bit of the afternoon we visited the zoo. The rest of the afternoon we spent shopping then went back to the apartment for a relaxing evening. The next day my host parents wanted to do some more shopping but me and my host sister didn’t really feel like it so we went on an adventure and found our way to the old town. That was a fun morning getting to see lots of beautiful houses and buildings. It was also cool getting to see some of the landmarks of Warsaw. We headed back to the apartment for 3:00 because for the rest of the afternoon we would be driving to a hotel near Auschwitz, our next destination. Auschwitz is not a happy tourist destination. Walking though the camp where over 1.5 million people were murdered was very gut wrenching. The size of the camp left me speechless, it was much larger than i thought it would be. Seeing the infamous front gates where trains of prisoners arrived was something i never thought i’d see. Learning about the camp in school was nothing compared to actually seeing it, actually seeing the ruins of the gas chambers where prisoners were killed made my stomach drop and on several occasions i almost felt like throwing up. Although Auschwitz is a horrible place i still think it was worth visiting, it is a part of history. We toured the camp for roughly 3 hours then drove to our next stop. The final sightseeing attraction of our trip to Poland was going down a salt mine. We went on a 3 hour tour of thismine where we learned about the history and makers of the mine. This particular mine was a very large tourist attraction where roughly 1 million people visit a year. The tour was pretty cool, we got to see huge caverns and some underground lakes. After the tour we were all incredibly exhausted, 3 hours of walking though this mine pretty much killed us. We all climbed back into the van and drove back to Warsaw where we stayed the night. The next day was sadly leaving day, and once again got into the van for another 15 hour drive. The trip was awesome and i can’t thank my host family enough for taking me with them. Once again, it will be another memory that i will remember for a long time.
Right After the trip to Denmark i moved in with my 3rd and final family. To put it simply they are awesome. I have a younger brother who is 8, and an older sister who is 18. My host sister and i get along really well, i feel like she has been my sister for a while and i know that i can talk to her about anything. My little brother is a ton of fun to hang around, its lots of fun to play football with him and teach him new tricks. My host parents are really nice and right away made me feel like i was part if their family. I love living with them. The past couple months i’ve done a bunch of stuff with them, like going to the island Saaremaa. They have a summer cottage there and i love going. It is a very relaxing break from everyday life back in Tartu. In Saaremaa we usually spend 3 days it takes 1 day to get there and settled in and 1 to get back. The other day is usually spent either doing yard work like cutting the grass, which takes like 5 hours, or touring the island. They also have a sauna there which feels so amazing after a hard day of work. Last weekend was my first time using the viht in the sauna. The viht we used was a bunch of birch branches put together in a bundle. You use it by soaking it in hot water then hitting yourself or someone else with it. It relaxes the muscles and is also good for your skin, you can find pictures below. I love going to the summer cottage. Time is passing so quickly though, i cant believe i only have like 1.5 months left. I think that i have been really really lucky because of the families i got to live with this year, they all are and have been incredible to live with.
So, three weeks ago i got to go on an awesome adventure to the heart Denmark, Copenhagen. The trip lasted 6 days, 4 of which were spent travelling by bus and ship. We left on March 5th at about 9 in the morning and headed south to Latvia. We arrived in Riga around 1:00 but our ship didn’t leave for a couple more hours so we stopped at a buffet style restaurant and ate and had fun. Once we were on the ship we were not getting off until 10:00 the next morning. There was a lot of time to kill so we watched movies and played games, also that evening there was karaoke which was a lot of fun, everyone was singing and dancing. When we arrived we were in Stockholm, Sweden, and had to get on a bus for about another 8 hours. We crossed into Denmark by a short ferry ride, then made our way to Copenhagen. We arrived quite late and immediately met up with our host families that would house us for the duration of our stay. My family was very kind, and they gave us a very warm welcome. That evening we talked and ate a lot, and then when we finally got tired went to bed. The next morning we took the subway to the school where our choir met up and stated practicing for the concert we would have that evening. Once we finished our private practice, the Danish choir joined us and we practiced the songs that we would be singing together. We had to sing one song that was in Danish, it honestly felt like when i first tried to learn Estonian, it was incredibly difficult to pronounce and sing the words. After the practices and rehearsals we got a quick walking tour of the section of Copenhagen that we were in, and we also got to meet the mayor of that section. After that we went home and had dinner with our host families, and prepared for our evening concert. The concert went really well. There were three choirs performing, two Danish and us, and everyone did really well. The parents of the Danish choirs were blown away when we sang, i must admit its a pretty good feeling. That evening we went out with some of the friends we had made, and had a lot of fun. The next day was our second performance and we preformed for the school in which we were staying. That concert went quite well too. After that we got a bus tour of Copenhagen, that was pretty cool, we got to see some of the old walls that surround the city. After that we went to a science center and had lots of fun playing with their cool toys and experiments. That evening the school that was hosting us threw a party for us, and we had lots of fun. Sadly our stay in Copenhagen only lasted two days, but the trip was super cool. I was very exited about this trip and the opportunity to see another country that i had never been to. I am exited for the upcoming trips, like to St. Petersburg, and i hope they will be as much fun as this one.
So, basically since school has started i have been a part of the music program in my school. Their Program is a little bit different than mine back home though, there are no instruments. Its choir. Singing is a big deal in Estonia, its how they got their independence, and it’s part of their culture. Last night i also got an opportunity to experience another part of their culture during a concert. I got to wear the traditional clothes. It was quite cool and was really fun to sing in. Here is a clip of the final song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgYpavHZ1wM. Choir has brought many new experiences for me and next week i will get to go to Denmark with them. Its gonna be a great trip and i cant wait to see what’s coming
On the 7th of February our school held its annual ball which this year was Great Gatsby themed. It was awesome. I have never really danced in my life, but i took the lesson every Friday leading up to this and did alright. I had a date for it and she was my classmate who is in some of the pictures. So the night basically began with people showing up around 7:30ish and then the doors were opened to the main hall and the beginning dance was done, after that dancing continued for a few hours then the king and queen of the ball were announced. I was not the king, but both the king and queen were good friends of mine. After they were announced an awesome 5 tier cake was brought out. The ball ended around 11:00 and after me, and a bunch of friends went to town to hang out. The ball was a completely new experience for me and it was incredible. It will most defiantly be a memory that i wont forget for a long time.
So, my host dad wants me to try a cross-country skiing marathon sometime this year. Today was my first day training. It was also my first day ever trying the sport. It started off quite embarrassing, see i thought i was gonna be able to pick it up no problem but it didn’t quite go like that. As soon as i stood up on the skis for the first time I fell right back down on my butt… The second try i made it about half a meter then i was right back on my butt again. This is where i start to feel embarrassed because everyone is giving me wired looks. But i tried again and again and again, and after a little bit i was still very uncomfortable. At this point my host dad takes me off to a small loop where like 5-year-old kids are doing way better than me. With a little training though, and some practice i was well on my way to success. Trying something new like cross-country skiing was a lot of fun, although my but hurts now, and i really hope that i will be good enough to do the marathon with my host dad when that time comes.