Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Porridge and Juniper Syrup

Traveling is often a game of same and different spotting.  We travel to see something new and different and then look for the familiar in the exotic.  Estonia was new to me in many ways--first Baltic country, first post -Soviet republic, first country visited in a working capacity in my new hybridized life as blue-passport resident in a red passport country.

It made me appreciate how much these past seven years I have been playing same and different at home. My American accent attracted a fair bit of attention In Estonia, which surprised me at first because I had got out of the habit of being different over here.  Folks here have stopped noticing and so I could more often slip into the comfort of sameness.

My hybrid life perhaps added an extra layer of same-different for me among the 6 of us in Estonia together.

I'm reflecting on Estonia this morning not only for the report I have to write to the organisation that sponsored the trip but also in the way of sorting things in my own mind.  I took the bottle of juniper syrup out of the cupboard where I had tucked it safely away and poured a bit of it on my morning porridge.  The flavour of juniper brought back good memories of a place and people that entered more completely into my consciousness in such a short exposure than others I have visited for much longer.  Long after the essay is filed and the articles written and even after the precious juniper syrup is gone, I'll carry some of that exotic into my new familiar.

"Latitude is destiny" Maarika, our guide, said.  One of the things I was curious to see was another country only slightly further north than we are up here on the edge of Scotland.  I had a post card map of Scotland that I pulled out of my pocket from time to time to point out where we all live.  My travelling companions from the south live in a different Scotland than we do. In many ways we in Caithness have more in common with Estonia than the central belt of Scotland.

As we struggle into another reluctant spring here in Caithness, I take consolation from the fact that we do not have ice roads across the firth nor temperatures of several degrees below zero throughout winter.  It gave a whole new appreciation of the carefully stacked wood piles we saw and admired for their precise geometry in Saarema.

This trip was organised and funded by:
Arch Network is a Scottish Non Government Organisation promoting learning and development in natural and cultural heritage between Scotland and other European countries..
Culture and Heritage Interpretation and Sustainable Tourism Program (CHIST


At 8:59 PM, Blogger The Curmudgeon said...

Yes, even at the tip top of Scotland I suppose you still have some of the benefit of the North Atlantic Current -- a benefit denied those in the Baltics and further inland. Spring may come late, but Winter never fully unpacks.

It's interesting how readily non-English speakers can distinguish between various English accents, isn't it? Henry Higgins would have a very good explanation, perhaps; come to think of it, maybe Zoltan Karpathy had the better explanation of this phenomenon -- a non-native speaker must truly study a language, while those of us raised in a particular culture merely use the language we are given.

A nosy question: Do I understand from this that you've found a way to be paid to travel? If so, how marvelous! Estonia might not have been my first choice if I were footing the bill... but there is so much to see in the world that I'd be more than willing to take destinations 'out of order.'

At 8:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice blog


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