20 October 2009


I have - we are all really blessed with - many families.

At Tapa Gümnaasium, I had a family of teachers - the usual crowd that got together for one another's birthdays or to eat fresh mushrooms from the forest - as well as a family of students - a group of affable kids who didn't think anything about speaking in English and liked to laugh or travel or play cards.

In Tapa, I belonged to a family of librarians - a talented bunch that acquainted me with Estonia's less publicized cultural and historical sites in exchange for wine-infused accounts of my own excursions around the country and across its borders. I even had my own surrogate family with an Estonian mother, little brother, and niece and nephew to celebrate Christmas, New Year's Eve, and Jaanipäev with.

Now that I am back in the USA and chilling back in my hometown for the first time in almost 10 years, back in the house I grew up in, I'm with my "real" family, escorting my inquisitive three-year-old niece to the public library on the city bus, shopping at Walmart, Kohl's, and Bergner's with my gabby seven-year-old niece, watching one straight-laced nephew play soccer and a warm-hearted one play football, walking with my cheerful aunt to "make strides" in the fight against breast cancer, talking to my tale-laden uncle who's called or stopped by for the heck of it, and drinking coffee and reading the paper earlier every morning with my sometimes abrupt but nonetheless indefatigable parents.

06 October 2009

How My American Students Described It

"In Estonia, the traditions for graduation differ from those in the United States. For example, the students in Estonia do not wear caps and gowns for their graduation ceremony. In addition, the students carry flowers and wear dresses and suits for their graduation in Estonia." (Danielle)

"Graduation can have mixed emotions. For example, in the front row a senior has a frowned look upon her face. Next example, in the middle row, another senior has flowers in his mouth and he is smiling. Another example, the back row is laughing like they are having a good time. In conclusion, graduations can make you laugh, smile, or frown."

"The pink dress is really ugly, and there's some fire orange hair, and the guys seem to be having a great time, they all look anxious, nervous, but strangley exicted. It's a happy day, but a day that some fear, as you go from childhood to adulthood, scary stuff I've been there, I've done that." (Thomas)

"Graduation day in Estonia is a happy day when all seniors have flowers. In front of the men were all women holding different colors of flowers. In the back of the women are men all dressed in tuxes, and some have flowers. Beyond the group of seniors of 09 is large area of trees. Above the group of graduates, looks like a cloudy sky. In conclusion, graduation day is one day that the graduates will never forget due to happiness brought from the flowers."

"In the middle of the tables are several half empty bottles of wine, large dishes of food, and empty plates from the feast that was just enjoyed. In front of the empty plates is a long line of women chatting away after filling themselves." (Danielle)

"Happy teachers pig out and get drunk after putting up with bratty students. In a tent, I see plus size women eating. On the table, I see empty plates and half empty red wine bottles. On the other side, there are a big bowl of salad and a long loaf of white bread. In conclusion, teachers should have fun after teaching."

"There are four bottles of wine. They are drinking out of coffee mugs. All of the plates are empty. All the women and men are sitting on one side. All of the wine is in front of the man. Teachers have a good time outside. In conculsion, all of the teachers were happy, drunk, and full. (Sikiesha)

"This class is very out of control and wild. For example, the students are up and out of their seats and some are standing in their chairs. In addition to being out of their seats, some students are showing inappropriate hand gestures. The most important example is the fact that the students are hurting each other by choking other students, trying to push students out of their seats, and pinching an ear of another student." (Danielle)

"One kid is flipping the camera off, another one is strangling another, it seems to be a very rowdy classroom, sexual harrasment, I swear I thought I saw someone picking their nose in there, and if I had to discuss this with principal, I would tell him/her that they're the same as every other class." (Thomas)

"Sixth graders can be bad. In the back of the room I see a kid standing on a chair. In the middle I see a boy holding up two middle fingers; in the front on the left I see two boys choking each other. On the right in the front I see a other boy standing on a chair. In the back there is a lot of kids putting bunny ears on other kids, and there are also kids holding there hands up. In conclusion sixth graders in Estonia can be very crazy in school."

"Kevin Hagen doesn’t have the kids under control. For example, kids are giving fingers to teacher. Also, one kid is strangling another kid. Moreover, one kid is standing on a desk, and a girl behind him is trying to push him off the desk."