Monday, July 10, 2017

4th of July party!

We had a little 4th of July party here in Keila in a new American restaurant that was opened just a couple of weeks ago. The waitresses did not even realize it was 4th of July when we told them we came to celebrate... in an American restaurant. It is almost like an American asking Estonians how they celebrate 4th of July (has happened to me in real life). So every countryman for their own independence day. If we mess up with others´ then no need to fire up.

The restaurant look nice and shiny. They have beautiful red and white old school couches and chairs, lots of Coke signs in every size. 

Bar stools are great.

More of the awesome chairs.

Playpen for the kids with Peppa Pig on TV. They loved it even though it was pretty tight. 

Donuts. Perfect. Very American.

They have great semi-circle seats, too. Really cool.

Coca-Cola vending machine.

My dish:

Sweet potato fries! They were really good. 

Matthew got a milk shake (already gone here in the photo) and a hamburger. 

This is how it looks outside:

Overall it was a great little outing for us and we liked the food a lot.

Tallinn pride parade 2017

Last week was the Baltic pride week in Tallinn and the Tallinn pride parade on Saturday.  They rotate the pride weeks through the Baltics, so it is in Tallinn once every three years but the parade part hasn't happened for 10 years.  In the mid 2000's there was quite a bit of opposition to the parades, a little bit more in Latvia but still in Estonia too with the parade goers being pelted by eggs and some violence.  It's great to see the change in society over the last 10 years, there were thousands of people gathered for the parade and everything went peacefully.  It was a great environment with a lot of positive energy.  There was a free open air concert after the parade.

This was the first pride parade that I have marched in and I'm very glad I participated.  In a lot of ways this was a Saul/Paul transformation for me.  At one of the parades in the 2000's I was visiting Estonia and randomly saw part of the pride parade in Old Town.  I remember seeing parade goers and protesters (nothing violent or out of the norm) and sympathizing with the protesters.  To clarify, I sympathized with the people holding signs, at the time I had no knowledge of egg throwing and never did condone that type of behavior.

At the time I had not spent enough time critically thinking about the impact of gay marriage on society.  My thinking was influenced by my religion which had taken a hard stand against gay marriage.  In the 2006 mid term elections, the GOP decided to ratchet up the culture was by calling for a constitutional amendment.  It was an attempt to boost turnout among evangelical Christians and never had any hope of passing.  My Church specifically asked all its members to write to their senators to support such a constitutional amendment.  Looking back I am disappointed that my Church allowed itself to be a pawn in the game of petty politics and deeply regret allowing myself to be influenced as a result.  I can't go back and change the past but I can act in the present by speaking out on behalf of minorities and the vulnerable in society who might benefit from an ally.  

I thought about organizing a Mormons building bridges group but had to work in the morning so I wasn't sure if I'd make it at all and didn't want to commit to being an organizational leader.  Also it would have ended up as a very small group.  Lucky for me on the way to the parade I ran into the Tallinn University student union group so they let me tag along.  Most of the students in the group were current or former students of political science and were some of my all time favorites!

Ann sold books in the United States and has the same name as my Mom! She just graduated this year, congratulations!


 I ran into my good friend and colleague Terry at the concert after the parade.  He is from Canada and noted that there was less nudity than the parade's in Canada.  There wasn't any nudity and overall it was a great family environment in old town.  Rather different from the stereotypical German pride parade's from the 1990's (haven't been to any, but that's based the stereotype I have of 1990's German pride parades).

I took quite a few selfies because a lot of ways this was about me doing something I needed to do for myself. 

 I was Marleen's supervisor for her Bachelor's thesis a few years ago and now she just graduated with a master's in Political Science, congratulations!

Ada had awesome purple lipstick and as soon as I saw it I thought, "that's blog material right there!"  If anyone needs new lip stick consider purple!  Ada just graduated from IR and got accepted to a PhD program on the other side of the planet and I'm super happy for her, congratulations!

All in all it was a great experience.  Marching in a parade is a very small and simple thing, but when many do it together (koos koos üheskoos!) then our societies can become safe and tolerant places for everyone. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Vanaema / Grandma Vana

Eelmisel nädalal lahkus mu vanaema - Vana.
Last week me grandmother passed away. We always called her Vana, meaning old in Estonian.

See postitus on tema auks ja meelespidamiseks. Uuemad fotod on teinud Giia, kes on olnud suurim tugi vanaema elus paljude aastate jooksul. Vanematest fotodest mõned on teinud ilmselt mu isa.
This post is in her honor and remembrance. The newest photos are by Giia who has been the biggest help in my grandmothers´ life past years. Some of the older photos are possibly taken by my dad.

Vanaema /Grandmother Vana:

Here my grandma is down on the right holding my sister Ele. I am held by Giia up in the middle. Also in the photo are from the left: my cousin Raile, on the right upper corner is my aunt Eli, who passed away 10 years ago. Down in the left is my mom, then Tarmo, then aunt Ester, holding my sister Kadi.

In this photo my grandma is on the left, up in the middle is my aunt Eli and on the right is my mom. I am in the front next to my cousin Raile. In the middle is my cousin Giia holding my sister Ele and my mom is holding my sister Kadi.

Here is a photo taken in Taagepera where I remember spending a lot of time as a small kid. In the photo are: my grandma on the left, aunt Ester on the right, aunt Eli down on the right and cousins Giia and Raile on the left.  

This is the same house (as in the last photo) all renovated now by the new owners who are actually the old owners. The owners´ family owned it before the II WW and then lost it (because times were cruel) and my relatives were given the place. So the people fixing it up are the kids of those people who lost the place back in the day.  I remember much of the place. I took the following photos on the day of the funeral.

In the back of the house they have fixed up the sun porch.

They have renovated the old barn/ garner/ granary. I remember cows there. We even had a horse. 

Here is an old oak tree that the kids used to climb on. It is where you could see who is coming on the road. There are old oak trees all around the place. Old, sturdy and big. These trees give an idea of how old the farm house really is.

Mul on vedanud, et mul on palju mälestusi oma vanaemast ja teistest pereliikmetest, kes on palju mind mõjutanud.
I am lucky to have many memories of my grandmother and of other family members who have influenced me a lot.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Tallinn Zoo time and billy goat gruff

Last week we went to the zoo. Great weather. Animals are always great. Because it was Monday none of the ice cream shops were open. What a disaster. The entire time the kids just complained about ice cream so it basically turned into a fast run-through the zoo to get some ice cream. People of the zoo, please have ice cream shops open every day in the summer. Why? Money.

The lion.

The monkey.

Means of transportation.

The elephants.

We always have something to feed the birds. Geese in the photo. This time we fed them home-made zucchini bread. That is what the Crandalls do. 

Petting zoo. They love billy goats. Now they love the story about billy goat gruff or something  where goats go over the bridge that is guarded by a troll. They build a lego bridge and go over it and ask the troll no to eat them. Eventually the troll is beaten and all the goats can eat green grass on the other side of the bridge. 

The camels. 

We will probably go again soon. And get ice cream before it and go on a day when the ice cream shops are open.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Hong Kong

I recently went to Hong Kong for the International Studies Association's (ISA) 2017 International conference.  I didn't know what to expect, I didn't do much prep for the trip but it was fantastic.

 The first exciting part of the trip was the Helsinki airport!  They have a Moomin shop.  Moomin's are super awesome white hippo creatures.  The kids love the cartoons that are available on youtube.

 I got the kids some figurines, they were a bit pricey but how could I pass on Moomins?

 I flew from Tallinn to Helsinki and then from Helsinki to Hong Kong.  The Helsinki-Hong Kong flight was 9.5 hours one way and then 10.5 the other.  We flew over Russia and Mongolia, very good connection.

For some of you 10 hours on a plane sounds like a long time but no, it was heaven.  10 hours on a plane is long only if you have two toddlers with you.  With no toddlers I just watched movies, read, and did work.  On the way back I even slept a little!  I loved the new Beauty and the Beast movie.  I also loved the founder.  It is an incredible movie about the beginning of McDonalds.  Much much better than it sounds.

 I went to the conference with Ada and Tajzan who are both graduate students at Tallinn University.  We flew together from Helsinki to Hong Kong. It was super fun to travel with them.  They stayed a few days longer and went to Disneyland and a big Budda temple. 

 In the Hong Kong airport they had a temperature check.  They pressed a test thing on the forehead of random people and also had this check point.  Probably a result from SARS and the Asian bird flue scares of the 2000's.

 This is a picture of the Hong Kong airport when I was flying out. 

 In the airport going home I saw a Disney store!  It was hard to not get anything. I definitely want to take the kids to Hong Kong Disneyland at some point in the future. 

 Lynne had told me that they had 7-Eleven stores in Thailand, and they have them in Hong Kong too!

I was surprised to see Moomins in Hong Kong too! 
 The taxis looked like this.

 There are some very green lush mountains in Hong Kong, the main part of the city is just a concrete jungle.  What surprised me the most was the small footprint that the buildings had.  In New York or other big cities the size of the buildings is huge, but in Hong Kong it would be a small tiny building but it would still be 25 or 30 stories high.

This is the view from my hotel window, I was on the 27th floor!

 This is a classic example of a small and tall apartment building.

Hong Kong has a real estate crisis right now.  Too much demand and not enough supply.  Recently a parking spot sold for $664,000!  That is US dollars!  The trend is towards micro apartments (like the one I had in Brussels).  Here is a great article that discusses micro apartments in Hong Kong. 

The people were quite a bit smaller in the US.  This is a sign from a normal sized elevator.  In the US it would probably be 8-12 people. 

 They had double decker trams!  This one was advertising a Katy Perry concert.

 This is the Man Mo temple, not too far from where the hotel was.

 Lots of candles inside.

Ada presented on her MA thesis about colonization and decolonization in Small Island Developing States (SIDS).  Tajzan presented on the limits of Chinese soft power in the Middle East.  She is from Finland but of Kurdish heritage and wore a Kurdish dress for her presentation!

 They had a Chinese dragon dance to open up the conference.

 This is the main building of the university.

 Those are the university buildings where the conference was at, it was a huge university. 

 My favorite part of the conference was to listen to some big named IR academics.  Steve Chan has a few big books out on US-China relations and Acharya has written a lot on post-Western IR.  Overall there were some really smart people at the conference.

 Yes that really was what my paper was about. 

 A statue sculptor thing at the university. 

 One of the highlights was this incredible out door market.  They had a ton of stuff for pretty cheap.

 They had these foot massage signs everywhere!  They must be popular. 

 I took this one just for all you blog followers!

 I loved the food, they had fruits that I had never seen before and things were just different. 

The only new fruit I tried was dragon fruit, it was good.  

Sometimes I'd find things from America that I can't find in Estonia which is exciting.  Dryers ice cream.

I had a good bowl of noodles with Rice Crispy Treats for lunch one day. 


I found this Snickers milk shake.  It kind of gross.  Do they have these in the US?  They don't have them in Estonia. 

 This was the MVP of the trip.  A little miracle called a "bun".  It is fluffy like wonderbread but also more dense and a little moist.  They fill it with different things, this one was filled with pork.  Just incredible.  I stuffed myself silly with these things on the last night.

 This stand had a good motto- Eat is life.

They have waffles like Brussels, but also had a thing called egglets which are just like waffles, but little connected balls and the balls had filling inside.

They had a lot of red bean flavored food there.  I had never heard of it but I did try the Red Bean ice cream.  It tasted just like it sounds, pretty beany.

 They had an ice cream truck there.

 They had a very interesting combination of smoothies.  I had dragon fruit-Strawberry.

 I saw a fish store that had some pretty crazy things, tons of exotic frogs and a million turtles.  Like millions, tons of turtles. 

That was Hong Kong! Incredible place.  It was the rainy season, but I only got caught a few times in heavy rain.  There was a crazy lightning and thunder storm.  It was also very humid, like walking into a sauna every time I went outside.

There were quite a few things that I didn't get to do.  Hopefully I'll get to go back with the kids, Disneyland will be first on the list!