I don't talk about Estonia as much as I should.
In many ways it was the most formative event of my life, and yet it get's about as much airtime from my conversation as the story about me shooting dirt out of my bb gun into my neighbors face. If you've known me long, you know the story, but you don't have it memorized.
Such was not the case the first time I returned. "Estonians do it differently. Estonians say it this way. Estonians don't care if you wear the same clothes several days in a row." (The latter being something I cherished and have often carried with me.) "America is so horrible. The Estonians do it this way. The Estonians say 'Kus on sinu maia?' instead of 'where is your house?'"
After years of slowly realizing that most people don't give a rat's ass about how they do it in Estonia, the subject has slowly faded from my lips.
But I still love the place and still, after six years, sometimes lay in bed crying because I am not there.
Flowers are cheap in Estonia. There is a flower stand everywhere you go and it is not uncommon to buy some to take to friends when you visit them.
Estonians celbrate Jaanipaev, St. John's day, which is the day when the sun never goes down.
The sun rarely goes down in Estonia. It's fun to walk in downtown Tartu in broad daylight, at 2:00 a.m.
If I ever go back to Estonia, I'll be expected to be pretty much the same kind of Christian as I was before. I can handle that. I love those people enough to be a little fake. They'll love me anyway.
One of my favorite places in the world is a village in southern Estonia, Torva. There's a cafe' there that's carved out of a cave. It's the most isolated place in the world I've ever been, and I feel that much more special for having life-giving conversations in that place.
The national pastime in Estonia is sauna. Buck naked sauna. I've been in a sauna no larger than the size of my car, temperature pushing 160 degrees f. buck naked, with ten other guys. Yes, it was weird. But cool in a very primal way.
"Jumal on hea" means "God is so good" in Estonian.
Estonians don't believe in smalltalk. They are guarded, which makes them seem stuck-up at times. They're not. They're sizing you up, seeing if you will be a faithful friend.
Kehra was the town I lived in that I hated the most in Estonia. It was uncomfortable. The people were weird.
The church in Kehra still prays for me on a monthly basis. I love them.
And I'm done, for now.
This is my friend Hannes from Kehra
This is the old Salem Baptist Church building in Tartu. This is where I slowly began to realize, in a very real way, that there is more than East Texas.
On July 4, 1996, I walked over the supports of this bridge. I was scared.
Downtown Tartu, one of my favorite places anywhere
This is Kehra Kogudus-- Kehra Church. It used to be the Communist Farm Building.