getting creative

I never considered myself as being a particularly creative person.  My sister is the artist in the family doing everything from making gorgeous handbags to painting and photography, able to make the most dull object look like a masterpiece through the lens of her camera.  I on the other hand have always been the plain, scientific one, focusing all my attention at school on biology, chemistry and physics.  I have, however, had a minor revolution in my life in the last few years of living in Estonia…

When I grew up in the UK, crochet, knitting and gardening were definitely relegated to the retired and elderly.  It may be that I have aged a little but I am definitely not in that department yet!  I am however, surrounded by incredibly down to earth and gifted people to whom knitting and gardening are life skills needed for getting through harsh winters.  Their skills are passed on to their children and grandchildren as a matter of course and are still taught in school.  I know plenty of young mums who crochet and knit with such skill that I have often been asked if their items are machine made as they are so consistent.

I never thought I would be party to this kind of activity but then two things happened,

1) I miraculously produced a daughter who is incredibly creative and loves working with her hands! When I first realised her skill I have to admit to being dismayed that I was simply not,  ‘that kind of mum’ and wouldn’t be able to help or inspire her.  She has been so desperate to learn…. so I have had to learn too!  We have both been learning to crochet side by side and have been experimenting with knitting looms and sewing machines. It has been quite fun learning how to recycle old t- shirts and jeans to make all sorts of useful accessories. The possibilities are endless! She was so delighted when for her ninth birthday she received her very own pink polka dot sewing machine and made her very own cath Kidston hand bag! (See the photo below)

2) secondly, during the sad time of my mum’s passing away I discovered that working with my hands and with yarn was incredibly therapeutic.  It uses a different part of your brain to that used for critical thought and it definitely worked for me, bringing a moment of soothing and calm during a stressful and sad time. Funnily enough my mum was an incredibley gifted and creative person, able to sew beautifully, knit, crochet, create beautiful flower arrangements as well as create a beautiful garden from nothing. It seems my daughter has inherited her skill.

Whether anyone is from a particularly creative family or not, I believe there is something inherently creative in every one of us. You might not think so, but maybe you haven’t found, ‘your thing’ and need to try something new, whether it be baking, gardening, painting, woodwork or writing a book…there are so many forms of creativity.

My sister and daughter have inherited their skills from various creative lines in our family tree but ultimately you can trace these things back to the very one who created us — in who’s image every one of us is made. As I am writing this, my son is absorbed together with his dad, in a nature programme displaying the most wonderful images of the natural world. The variety and imagination used in creating these is beyond our comprehension….From the majestic eagle soaring in the skies to the whales of the deepest parts of the ocean feeding on tiny krill. Man’s creativity and imagination can be impressive — but God’s is awesome! I look at a star lit sky and think how twinkly and tiny they are, only to find that they are hundreds and thousands of times bigger than our planet with incredible individual beauty….and then I look through the lens of a microscope to discover a world of beauty that I wouldn’t know existed with my naked eye….speechless.

We are creative because He is. It is the genetic blue print of our Father written into our being.

I am going to leave you with a beautiful video clip from the BBC. Oddly enough the man who narrates it, who’s voice we all know and love, has failed to see the signature of The Creator on every masterpiece, but I still think it is pretty neat
what a wonderful world…enjoy 🙂

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The storks

The storks herald the beginning of spring in Estonia as they reappear after their long journey back from sunnier climes. There was some doubt whether they would return at all this year as the snow took so long to leave. Some say they got within reach of Estonia only to turn around and fly back 150km! Some thought they may send others in their stead…
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The first few who did arrive looked distinctly depressed and bedraggled having left the heat of Africa for the slush and cold winds of northern Europe. Things have fast improved however and they are now gliding gracefully over the fields to their nests atop roofs and telegraph poles throughout the country. It definitely gives me the feeling that I live in eastern Europe. They make a beautiful sight as they brood and watch over their young. They make no sound, only the clattering of beaks when one parent arrives to relieve the other of their nesting duty.

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We all know that it is the stork who delivers the baby now, don’t we!? It is an Estonian custom that after a marriage ceremony, the newly wed couple finds a nearby storks nest where the groom ties a white ribbon to the telegraph pole as a special request….

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And what do you know…our friends, Piia and Jaan, who tied the knot last year have had their wish granted and this morning are holding their first born baby in their arms; wonderful!…so maybe it’s true after all! 😉

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Doing life in estonian…

With fourteen different cases and an utterly unrecognisable vocabulary, Estonian should test even the most capable linguist! If you’ve studied other European languages in the past, you may find it refreshing to learn one where you effectively have to start entirely from scratch….” So says the encouraging sales plug for an estonian language course…and we get to ‘do life’ in this language! I could think of some easier ways to live!

But what other option do we have? You can’t expect to live in a country, bypass the language aspect, and still expect to be integrated into the society; you have to make some kind of attempt!
So we took the plunge when we moved here ten years ago and started the agonising task of learning estonian, one of the hardest european languages to learn being solely related to Finnish, Hungarian and absolutely nothing else! It has been a huge learning curve and very humbling experience, when you find yourself unable to express your most basic needs…for several years.

If you are not a linguist and wondering what 14 different cases means, let me put it this way, that there are 14 different ways of saying every noun and adjective in the singular…that doubles if you include the plural form. So here is an example; the word for ‘hand’ is ‘käsi’ which can also be käe, kätte, käele, käesse, käega, käeta, käena, käes, käeni, käest, käelt, käel, käeks….and that’s only for one hand, there are another 14 variations for two hands; now that’s a lot of hands!

Then there are the nine vowels, a,e,i,o,u,ä,ü,ö,õ which can be used in all sorts of wonderful combintions. For instance ‘öö’ is the word for ‘night’. If you lengthen or shorten the pronunciation of them you can completely change the meaning of the word. How about this for an interesting combination, ‘Kuuuurijate töööö jäääärel ‘ which translated means ‘a moon researchers work-night next to the ice edge’…addmitedly not a very useful sentence to learn but just sayin’…

In english you can’t play around much with word order; it’s subject-verb-object.
Take the sentence “often stars were seen in the sky”…. You could say this in estonian 24 different ways and still be understood,

Tihti taevas tähti nähti
Tihti taevas nähti tähti
Tihti nähti taevas tähti
Tihti tähti taevas nähti
Nähti tihti taevas tähti etc etc….

There have been times when we have felt totally defeated by the language, have insulted various people without meaning to and embarrased ourselves thoroughly. But you can’t beat the enthusiasm of the estonians when they hear you speak their language, even if it is grammatically incorrect and heavily accented. You score some major points for trying.

So ten years on we find oursleves able to do things that we never thought would be possible , like having a non-english speaking couple round for an evening and not needing a translator present or standing up in church on a Sunday and being able to speak for half an hour with only the odd interjection from the congregation when help is needed. It gives a more interactive feel you know!
So progress has been made and there is certainly more to come. Our latest undertaking is teaching english to estonians. It is nice having the tables turned and suddenly we discover how complicated our own language is to learn ( and teach) when,

The market garden was designed to produce produce.
The city tip was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
In the boat, a row erupted amongst the oarsmen about how to row.
The nurse wound the crepe bandage around the wound.
Dessie decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
Chloe was too close to the door to close it.

What more can I say!!

If you want to hear some estonian, here is a little poem about the smart bug…
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=uzh3-OU1Odw&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Duzh3-OU1Odw

And here is a song…it is a beautiful language to sing in
http://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=plpp&v=8rxqK_7cYEg

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An Estonian Childhood

One of the most common questions I get asked by folks back in the UK is, “what’s it like bringing your kids up in Estonia?”. My answer is always a very positive one as I think there is a lot going for this country. We have three children, two boys and one girl aged, 10, 8 and 6. Our first born was ten months old when we moved here and the other two were born in the Viljandi hospital shown below,

20130414-081304.jpg It’s a rather austere, soviet looking building but actually a very happy and peaceful place to enter this world. Having been born here, our kids have never really known anything other than life in Estonia except for extended trips to the UK during the rather long three month school summer holidays. Belonging to two countries definitely adds a bit of extra flavour to their lives!
Neither my husband or myself are native estonian speakers, so we’ve had to, ‘learn on the job’ as it were, while our children have been thrown in at the deep end by entering the estonian kindergarten system at three years old and learning the language while playing along side their friends. There is no question about it, children take to language learning much more easily than adults. They are like little sponges who just absorb all the information; while us adults struggle to get our heads round grammar rules, they just use it! Not fair!
So two of our children have graduated from kindergarten and taken the huge leap of 40 meters across the road to the local school. Both buildings can be seen in this picture, the kindergarten being the large building at the back left and the school on the right where they stay until they are sixteen years old

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Not a very large existence to grow up in but a secure one. We live in a town where everybody, knows everybody and you still find unattended babies sleeping outside shops in their prams!

I like the estonian education system. Starting pre-school at 6 and real school at 7 makes much more sense to me, allowing younger kids to learn through play and just be ‘young’! The school day is short, allowing time for other activities like craft and music school which is really big in Estonia. And guess what, even with this low key approach, Estonia does really well in the international statistics for education! So a good system all round I say! And where else would our kids learn to cross country ski from seven years old…

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Having said that, five months of snow is way too much for anyone and the kids get fed up being cooped up for so long during the coldest months and long for spring and warmer weather. There are only so many snow men that one can be bothered to build…I rather liked this one, though not our own!

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But summer does come in the end and the long days and three month summer holiday lend themselves to happy family camping holidays in unspoilt nature, bike rides along quiet roads and time to swim in the lakes…..bliss!

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Isolation

In Estonia you can feel like you live in a remote and desolate outpost.

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The scenery is at times breathtaking…

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Yet in Estonia, wireless internet, e-banking and e-everything are considered as ordinary as breathing. You can never truly get away from it all…

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The flag

The Estonians love their flag which is flown proudly on the many official flag days during the year, be it independence day, midsummer, mothers day, estonian language day or simply ‘just because’….! Who can blame them when during the long, hard years of Soviet rule the Estonian flag was forbidden. Many Estonians kept their flags hidden under floorboards or in attics for many years until the unforgettable occasion during the ‘singing revolution’ when one bold soul rode by the crowds at the festival ground on his motorbike carrying the flag for everyone to see. This was the cue that everyone was waiting for and suddenly thousands of estonian flags appeared throughout the crowd flown for the first time in 50 years…what a moment that must have been for those who had waited so long!

I can’t say I have ever been so patriotic, be it because of my mixed blood, or simply because our generation hasn’t had to fight for it’s freedom in quite the same way. There was one occasion when my husband did fly the english flag from our apartment window which aroused a lot of interest amongst the locals who assumed it must be an important day on the English national calendar, only to be told that it was in fact England’s turn to play in the European cup!

Estonians love nature and even their flag is taken from the colours of the surrounding countryside. During the winter months the crisp blue sky, black trees and swathes of bright white, untouched snow that enfolds the country, all contribute to the colours of the Estonian tricolor. Beautiful.

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I love this little token to the flag on a snow pole…

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