Monday, August 22, 2016

The other presidential election

Estonia is voting for their president soon! Parliament votes in a week, and if they cannot choose then it goes to a round of presidential electors which is made up of local governments.  I am writing a mini series this week that is profiling each significant contender on ERR, the English version of the national news website.  Great reading for those wishing to take a breather from the Trump madness.  I first approached them about running an op-ed and it turned into a week's worth of profiles!  Keep checking back every day for another profile! At the end you can read about who I think will be the best.

The introduction is here and the first candidate profile on Mailis Reps is here.  The Next candidate profile Eiki NEstor here. The heavy weight Siim Kallas' profile is here. Alar Jõks' profile is here. My favorite is Marina Kaljurand, her profile is here. The last candidate is Mart Helme, his profile is here. A concluding interview is here. The series garnered more attention that I expected.  A summary of the interview was translated on the Estonian version of the news site and Politico gave a link to some of the profiles in a newsletter that highlighted stories from across Europe.

Tomorrow is the election! Most likely the president will not be elected in parliament, so it will go to another round in September with an electoral body that includes leaders of local government. Good luck Estonia in picking the best candidate!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Army training battles in our street

We have had some interesting army training here in Keila, for a week or so now. Here are some interesting photos of our encounters with the soldiers. It is kind of creepy because the trucks are huge, they have guns and there is actually a lot of gun shots. But on the other hand it is pretty cool too.

From our kitchen window:

 This on is also from our window:

Some soldier walking down the street, also backwards: 

On our walk with the kids we saw them again, they were getting into the truck (they were mostly on our street, that is why we just bumped into them): 

This is the coolest part. There is an old school house, all empty, next to our main playground. They had a training in there, trying to get in through the window. A lot of shooting (with fake bullets, of course).

So every day when we leave our house they are walking around. They are also very polite and smile and say hello. 
I think it is very interesting to be so close to all this. They sure are taking it all very seriously and that is awesome. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Girls camp with lots of sheep

Imagine girls camp where you sleep in big army tents and sleeping bags on a very bumpy ground on a hill on a sheep pasture. Imagine waking up every morning at 6 when a hundred sheep come by the tents to baa in the creepiest, strangest way (they sound like people sometimes). Imagine chasing sheep on a huge pasture back to the barns. Imagine lots of rain and cold winds and you get the Baltic girls camp 2016.

Some photos from the camp:
Here are brother ans sister Allred who were camp cooks. We did not have very many girls so it was pretty OK to cook for everyone. They did a marvelous job even though they could not read what the food packages said on them. :D 

On our hike to a nearby town. It was a gratitude walk with stops where the girls had to think of 100 things they are thankful for.

A couple of girls went swimming although it was freezing cold. Think 62 degrees F, cold wind, rain every day. It has been like that a lot this year. It has been raining all day today too. And it rains every single day. Kind of sad. On the bright side it is very green.

We drove to Lake Peipus or Peipsi järv which looks like a sea and divides Estonia from Russia.

Here is a photo from the same lake I liked: 

The sheep pasture and awesome trees there. The girls are going to a service project - clearing up a hillside forest of bushes and old trunks. 

 Lithuanian girls are carrying up trunks. They were very hard-working. 

Some of the girls carrying up some smaller trees that our host brother Menind cut down: 

Here are our tents on the sheep pasture, two army tents that local army logistics guys set up for us. They also brought sleeping bags. I had to sleep in two bags because if was so freezing cold at night, it went down to about 46 F one night. The army stuff had great quality so we did not get wet although it rained every night.

Some photos I took driving to the camp. My gps took me to some odd roads and I found some cool places like this old chapel in the middle of nowhere:

And this alley of trees next to an old worn down manor:

 And this singe awesome apple tree on a field of clover:

Here is a photo of everyone together making crafts like friend books where everyone can write in.

And to celebrate the Olympic Games we had Olympic stations for camp certifications. Here they made energy balls with peanut butter, nuts and granola.

Everyone liked the camp and it was a success. I loved it despite the rain and cold temperatures.
Next year we will have just and Estonian camp and it will be super awesome.

Monday, August 8, 2016

So I took a bus to Poland last week...

This summer I participated in a conference in Poznan Poland.  Originally it was going to be in Istanbul.   After the second bombing they moved it to Poland, at the time it seemed that they were just wimping out, but as time went on things really spun out of control in Turkey, including the attempted military coup and a ban on travels for academics, not exactly the type of environment for a large conference of academics.  I'm a bit of a tight wad so I decided to take the bus.  A penny saved is a penny earned.  The trip took much longer than the google map prediction, about 22 hours or so.  I had an hour layover in Vilnius as I switched buses.  The more direct route would have taken me through Kaunas but the main stop was Vilnius. There were also stops in Pärnu, Riga, and Warsaw so it took a bit longer than a car.  As you can see Poznan is on the other side of Poland, so it was quite the trip.

 Fortunatly for me I went with the Lux express which is the nicest bus I have ever been on.  In addition to comfortable seats and free wifi they have a personal entertainment monitor with tons of movies.  Having just been to the US with two small children this trip was heavenly. 

 Most of the time no one sat next to me which was nice.  I finally got to see the movie Battleship which was one of my Dad's favorites!  It got horrible reviews so I was still skeptical despite my Dad's recommendation, but I liked it! Almost made me want to go play the board game again.

The city of Poznan is fantastically beautiful.  I was surprised at how nice and beautiful the city is.  I looked up online that they also have an awesome water park and an I-max.  I didn't make it to either of those but if we ever find our family in Western Poland we will definitely stop by Poznan again. 

 Every time I saw a cute little kid I thought of mine at home. Fortunately Maris is a trooper and did great tending the kids alone.  Maris gets to return the favor this week when she goes to girls camp.

They have an incredibly beautiful town square. 

 This is the Poznan castle, built in the early 1900's, now it is a cultural center.

 I don't have a selfi stick, so this is as good as it gets. Shout out to my mom for the nice shirt and tie! It was a nice father's day present.

 This is one of the university buildings. 
 The IPSA World Congress is the name of the conference, it was held at a large convention center which was awesome.

 They had a beach area for people to come to, kids were playing and they had a splash pad, super cool.

 This is the coolest garbage can I ever saw!

In short it was a great conference, I was excited to get home.  My bottom hurt a bit from sitting so much and I was happy to sleep in a bed but now I can check one item off my bucket list because come on, who doesn't have a 23 hour bus trip to Poland on their list??