Halfway there, still kind of living on a prayer.

Almost four weeks into this program we all have already done so much. One never thought so much history could be appreciated at graveyards and grave sites, though it does make sense… I suppose. Also, I never thought about Estonia before we actually arrived; I researched a bit but never really looked at Estonian history or Narva’s history in particular. (How stupid is that, not researching the place you’ll live in for two months!?) I’ve come to really appreciate Narva and all the controversy and dichotomy it holds within. The continual Soviet influence that’s carried on throughout the years, the monuments for example, the Russian language competing with the Estonian one in the school system and on the streets. What does Estonia want to do with Narva? How does Narva feel about Estonia?
Please everyone tell me they noticed the different vibe in Tartu. Maybe it’s very, quite, almost completely true that Narva could use a face lift to our privileged eyes. Because we are privileged. But I would come back in ten years to see what had happened to this city. Right now I’ll just take the reality of Narva, all its history, and use the lack of distracting beauty to see a bit better.
I had a conversation (if you could call it that as a block of language barrier hit my brain) today with an older lady on a bench. I noticed she looked at us and gave a little smile as we loud Americans blew past. I’m glad I didn’t hurry to nowhere today, because sometimes that’s what people do. As I sat down and she granted me a smile, she took my arm and I learned about her daughter (and possibly a son, sorry she talked at normal speed and I’m still on squinting one’s eyes because one cannot keep up). Gregg can attest to the language difficulties. Her children live in Russia, but she’s lived in Narva for over 40 years. We can look around and see children, families, new families, and I wonder if they will build Estonia, or because they’re here they’ll be left for Russia. I do not know if Estonia knows what they want with Narva, how to approach the people here, how to make it successful. Maybe even those who feel that they are Estonian and trace roots back for generations feel a bit out casted by those not from the area. I really don’t know, but it’s all interesting to think about none the less. What kind of person would you have to be to live in Narva, or does everyone just want to leave for Tallin, Tartu, or Russia?

Virginia Melton


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