The plan. I’ve been planning surprising my mom on her 50th birthday for quite some time. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do – basically show up at her place on her birthday with flowers, presents and wish her a happy birthday. I’ve been away from Estonia since Dec 2011 – that’s about 2.5 years – I hope she still remembers who I am.
I’m writing this in the Riga airport in Latvia while waiting for a bus to Tartu, Estonia. It’s strange to be back in a place where the majority of people don’t speak English – it’s either Russian or Latvian. I’ve been living in English speaking countries and need to adjust to my new (or should I say old?) surroundings.
The flight from Stansted (London) to Riga Airport sucked balls. It was freezing at the airport and there was nowhere to sit to wait for your flight except on the cold floor. All benches were full of people either sleeping or dozing off. The floor it is, I decided decidedly in a decisive manner.
You might have figured out that I had an early flight. Congratulations Sherlock! The lesson I learned from all this is that I should never show up at the airport before the bag drop counters for my flight open up.
I feel a bit like Santa at the moment. I’ve got a bag full of presents for my family. I hope they like ‘em.
I did a good job keeping my plans a secret. Only my sister and a few VIP friends know I’m nearby. My baby sister will “hide” me at her castle for a few days (my mum’s birthday is in 3 days). In the meantime I’ll try to spend some quality time with my niece Vanessa who was born when I was on the other side of the planet. I’ve got high expectations: I plan to teach her to do a cartwheel, double salto, a few headstands while juggling 7 balls with her left hand and doing my taxes with her right hand on a “dumb” phone.
The bus trip. I. Hate. Latvia. Alright, I don’t hate the whole country, I hate its buses and roads and its airport. First of all I had to wait 5 hours for my bus and then had to prepare myself for another 5 hour bus journey. I believe it took me about 2.5 hours to fly from London to Riga (1691 km in a straight line) and now this 244 km trip will take twice as long. Welcome to Eastern Europe.
On the bright side the bus had a free Wifi connection and an outlet for my laptop. There were also tablets on the back of each seat. I took advantage of that and watched two movies. GrownUps 2 was hilarious – it was so funny my laughter was disturbing the peace of my fellow travellers. ‘twas a jolly good ride, me mates!
The second half of my bus journey was slow and just as entertaining as watching grownup men running around on a field chasing each other and trying to kick a ball.
I spent the next few days at my sister’s place in Tartu. I enjoyed my first day there a lot. The highlight was my long lunch with Erik and Liina. It was easy to talk to them because they’ve travelled the world a bit as well. I look forward to seeing them again.
Big 50. All the kids got together and drove off to see my mum. I had several ideas about what would happen once my mum saw me. What followed was not a huge American style expression of joy at all. What happened was a lot like a train leaving Liverpool station at 6:32 AM with an average speed of 60 km/h moving towards another train from Manchester leaving its station at 6:44 towards Liverpool at an average speed of 55 miles/h. That’s how dramatic our reunion was! That’s as good as it gets in Estonia.
I quickly discovered how out of place I was. To be fair I re-discovered it. Basically everybody was talking and I wasn’t. I felt how different I was from everybody else. After my mums birthday I already wanted to leave. I remembered some of the reasons why I left back then.
ESTrip. Me and me mates went to Hiiumaa and it was awesome!!! Me, Pete, Olav and Siim rented a cabin in the dark and scary forest of Hiiumaa. Naturally we engaged in social drinking and banter and did a bit of “sightseeing”.
There’s not much to see in Hiiumaa except a few lighthouses and a military museum (I wasn’t a fan of either “attractions”). If I had to pick a favourite it would be the Eiffel Tower. See the video below.
Basically it’s the prototype of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. First it was built in Hiiumaa and then the evil Russian communist pigs stole the blueprints and lost them after a party in Paris. A French janitor/hobby-artist found the blueprints in an empty vodka bottle (back in the day the Russians’ most secure means of communication was by message in a bottle). That janitor’s name was Eiffel, he built the tower for his exhibition and the rest is history.
I spent my last two uneventful days at my brother’s place. I believe I was a lot of trouble for him because he had to take me to a vegetarian/vegan restaurant and it wasn’t easy to find one (I was happy with the 3rd place we went to). In the future I’ll opt for a cafe and order a black coffee – I did’t enjoy being a “problem”.
A glimpse of Australia. Just a few hours before catching my plane back to the UK I decided to see if I had any friends in Tallinn to arrange a catch up meeting. I was very lucky to see Marget again (I met her in Australia). I noticed that she didn’t have the same vibe (or lack of any vibe whatsoever) as other Estonians did. She was energetic, cheerful and radiant – completely out of place. She reminded me of so many things I miss about Australia. It was great to reminiscence.
This trip to Estonia made me realize how lucky I really am. I’ve seen, lived and experienced so much which wasn’t possible in my tiny home country. Going back felt a lot like falling asleep for 2.5 years and then waking up – nothing had changed about the country. I think I’ve changed or maybe I just see the world through a different lense.