Finding Kindness in Unlikely Places

Sitting on a rock by the river talking to a good friend, I couldn’t stop myself from crying. Tears streamed down my face uncontrollably, and I sat there, trying to put a smile back on my face. I had my first breakdown studying abroad; it wasn’t the people or workload that got to me. Instead, something that reminded me of an issue back home that had me on the edge. The thoughts brought tears to my eyes, but thankfully, they didn’t last long.

A man walked past with his beautiful dog, whom appeared to be part German-Shepard. He took one look at me and decided to stop. He spoke in Estonian, so it was difficult to understand him at first, but then he attempted to speak in broken Russian and English. He didn’t say much, but he didn’t need to. He knew that I was upset. He removed his dog’s leash and offered that I pet his dog. So I sat there, petting his friendly dog for a decent amount of time, which instantly put a smile back on my face.

It amazed me that this man, whom I had never met before, chose to stop and try to cheer me up after he saw that I was upset. It’s not something people do every day, but in this case, it was very moving for me. Never underestimate the kindness of others.

-Haley

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This weekend

This weekend we went on an excursion to a mining museum and Russian Orthodox convent. Plus, we stopped at a couple beaches, one on the Gulf of Finland and the other on the 4th largest lake in Europe.

The mining museum was pretty cool. We got to go down into an old mine and see how it operated. This included riding in a mine car and seeing all the old mining equipment in operation. It was very interesting and a well welcomed respite from the brutal heat outside.

We then stopped at a couple beaches where we relaxed for a couple hours. They were beautiful!

Lastly, we went to Russian Orthodox convent. I wish I could have taken pictures, but it was not allowed. The church was beautiful, with lots of gold ornaments and other Orthodox symbols. The fascinating thing was that it survived both World War 2, the battle front was only a few kilometers from the church, and the Soviet occupation. Quite a sight to behold!

-Greg Milhiser

Camping in the Wild’s of Estonia

So on this fine and dandy free weekend James, Helene, Haley, and I decided that a bit o’ camping was in order. So we borrowed a tent from Anton, bought ourselves some tickets, and hopped on the bus to Haapsalu, deemed the Venice of Estonia! Upon arriving at our destination, we were greeted by a fresh sea breeze and the sounds of seagulls cawing. After a quick little walk we arrived at our campsite where a nice, old Finnish man, who happened to own the place, came out for a chat. He was a pretty cool guy and gave us the low down on what was going on in the city. As it turned out there was an America Car Show planned which while at first seemed cool ended up being очень no bueno because they shut down the castle on Saturday for it. Once our little talk wrapped up we set up camp and settled in for the night. Suffice to say none of us really expected it to get as cold as it did! I swear it was down right frigid when the sun sank below the horizon! Thankfully it doesn’t stay dark here for too long and the sun soon rose, allowing us to warm up and get ready for the day. We settled on just exploring the city for a bit, but that only lasted a few hours  so we thought it’d be a good idea to meander over the next city about 10km away via a nature path. This path was one of the straightest, flatest feats of human engineering I’ve ever laid eyes upon. Over the course of the 10 km we encountered a grand total of 3 bends, each of which we greeted with great excitement. Anyways this neighboring “city” was nothing more than a port with maybe three buildings on it, so as opposed to turning back around we decided to say #YOLO and take a ferry to one of the local islands. This island was more or less devoid of human life and quite frankly we are probably lucky we didn’t run into a tribe of local cannibals during our 90 min stay. After returning on the ferry we made the trek back to the campsite and settled in for another cold night on the ground. Over all the trip was a blast and nobody died so it was a huge success in my book!   Josh Shepard

WASTELAND: Narva’s Youth Against All Odds

Allow me to set the scene. It is a cool, sunny Wednesday evening. Myself and several other students are occupying ourselves with soccer and football on the dormitory lawn when a man stumbles towards us. He is not drunk, but something beyond drunk. He walks a zigzagged path, in which each step is as uncertain as the last. He looks as though he hasn’t showered or changed his clothing in days. Perhaps he is thirty or forty years old; one cannot attribute a number to a man who so clearly abuses his body on a regular basis. But as this shameful spectacle trudges toward me I think not of his hygiene or habits; I think only of his son who follows in tow. How can this drunkard possibly be the role model that this child needs? How can he possibly help him with his homework, or play sports with him or teach him how to be a man?

Although I highlight this man, he is only one of many. Walking through the streets of Narva one cannot avoid the sight of a few comparable characters, many of which likely have children at home. Impressionable children who look to those around them for cues on right and wrong, on how to conduct themselves and which path to take in life, but who everyday see the same sad example. Many children are indeed fortunate enough have a responsible guardian at home, but they are nonetheless within reach of this wasteland’s grip. As they play at the park or ride their bikes through the streets they see alcoholics and drug addicts at every turn. This is not speculation, but fact. Every morning on my route to class I see the same group of degenerates in the park. They stay there all day drinking and doping until they lose consciousness., and then they wake up and repeat.

I don’t know the origins of this epidemic, but drug addiction and alcoholism are in full force here in Narva. It’s crippling this city, cutting the youth off at their knees. Just the other day I met a few kids from down the street. Kids, mind you, who are not intrinsically different than any other. The overwhelming difference, however, is their circumstances. They only know this desolation that I speak of. The older kids that they look up to are more than likely headed down the wrong path, and these naïve kids are bound, or more accurately doomed, to follow. What is to be done? I surely don’t know, but I hope that something is in the works. I pray that the sweet innocent children of today do not become the sad, stumbling degenerates of tomorrow. I pray thatthey make it out of this wasteland…

-Jacob Foehr

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“Stay-At-Home” Saturday in Narva

This weekend we had no official excursions. We had no wake up call. We simply had a relaxing, free weekend. But just because it we had no group excursions or places to be does not necessarily mean that the weekend was without adventure.

Saturday was very relaxing with a group of us getting breakfast, hanging out in the hotel, and then going to a hookah lounge. On top of all that we even had time to go get some nice pizza and take a solid nap. Later, I along with a group of friends went and checked out the Narva Bike Festival, which is an annual gathering of bikers and bike enthusiasts from around Eastern Europe. It was so interesting seeing how the concept surrounding “bike culture” translated here in Eastern Europe. They dress the same. Listen to the same music. And share a natural disdain for the system. After Narva Bike, we all began to mosey on over to the local night club here, which, thankfully, is across the street from a McDonalds (nothing like a little taste of home!)

A couple hours later and after a significant blow was given to our wallets, we set off for home. But even that was an adventure, as I was flagged down by a biker couple as they were helping a man up off the ground. The man’s name was Ludwig, and I had just seen him in the nightclub so full of energy and vigor; but now he was lying on the ground bleeding from his head, incoherent and unresponsive. Thankfully, some of my new friends from the club came outside and helped me by calling the paramedics. After seeing Ludwig get loaded into the ambulance, I could now go home and put a period at the end of the day’s crazy story.

 

Greg Markiw

Versace glock in my glove box

WARNING: You won’t understand every reference in this blog. That’s okay, I will try to help explain.

New Discovery: Estonians are genuinely kind people. Referring to a few including the sweetest lady who lead Nastia and I to the correct train.  After our stop at Tapa she surprised us by making us take a selfie with her so she could brag about her “new American friends.” We’re diplomats. Side note: all conversations were in Russian. Next would be Kaarel. Our tour guide from Tartu for those who don’t remember. Thank you for giving us your flat for the weekend and letting us escape from Narva. Enjoy Paris and the IPAs we left as a gift.

Rediscovery: Rammstein

New Discovery: To become president I must either bribe my way to the top or maybe topple a government. Congratulations Chandler, your liberalism won that day.

Rediscovery: Free tap water. Thank you Tartu.

New Discovery: Estonian love for American music.

Including: Careless Whisper, Stand By Me, American angsty music I listened to in High-school. (S/O Kellar bar, Tartu)

Rediscovery: Jon’s love of Chief Keef. These women do love Sosa.

New Discovery: Fancy crepes in Tartu

Rediscovery: Making friends is fun. Shoutout to the Narnia rudebois, our Friday traditsias, and to the gunpowder cellar for hosting our first meeting of minds.

New Discovery: Euros tend to be spent like monopoly money on weekends. S/O to Tartu. Including kellar bar, gunpowder cellar, Yakuza sushi bar, weird Hipster bar, and Kaarels favorite hangout spot.

Rediscovery: My mom’s concerned phone calls about my bank account and my skills in table tennis. Undefeated at the weird Hipster bar. It felt like I was in the Olympics representing the US.

And now exam prep time. Reality is back. Boo reality boooo.

By: Jon Edwards

P.S. The entire time I was typing this my phone was reflecting sunlight in some kids eyes. Shouldn’t have laughed when I didn’t know what the train ticket lady was saying. Eat brick kid.

Struggle

Today a severely intoxicated man attempted to join our soccer game. He was quite persistent. Narva comes with many surprises, challenges, and successes. Whether it be Chuck’s struggles at McDonald’s, Greg recklessly endangering his life crossing a bridge, or facing Beata’s wrath when essays are handed in. Nonetheless we struggle on. We find rays of hope in our successes. We took to the streets asking questions about politics. People were unbelievably happy that we are here. Walking home I met a wonderful man named Genadi who is confided to a wheel chair. He happy talked about how I was the first American he has ever met. We struggle on. As we head to different destinations for the weekend, we know that struggles lie ahead. We are used to this. This is life in Narva.

 

James Kennedy