Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Hello everybody !

The 7th of August, we departed for Saarnaki island, in the west. To get there, we drove to Rohuküla, where we took the ferry to a port on Hiuumaa. From there we drove to a small port where we were led to Saarnaki. We settled the tents (some of us slept inside houses) and started to cook dinner. The next day (Thursday), we started cutting down junipers and bushes, burning them later on in the day. We did the same on Friday and Saturday morning. The evening, we took walks. Once along the beach, another into the forest, reaching a huge fallen tree, frequently visited by believers of the Old Faith. On Saturday afternoon, we took a long walk around the island, reaching some small isles a few meter across the sea. Kayak enthusiasts came in during the afternoon, some were friends with Triin, our group leader (yes the very same we met in Rammu ! Thanks for keeping up, my dear reader), they joined our group for our last dinner (they had their own food), and we went into a well-earned sauna afterwards. We cleaned up on Sunday morning, and then our boat to us back to Hiuumaa (there was so much wind we had to go to another beach on the other side of the island). We then took the ferry back to the mainland, and drove back home.
On an unrelated note, I would like to honor my glasses, who saw me through so much since early 2014 and passed away on the island. May you rest in peace
Tere !

The second of August, after a good week of rest, I went with Kadri and Kaia (and other volunteers, one of them a local journalist) to Karula, sleeping in the very house I slept in one month prior. We went there to complete what had been done there: pulling out the Himalayan bastardos. Indeed, they are too many of them for us to get rid of them all in a few days. We were, however, delighted to see that after a couple of years a hard work, their numbers have dwindled and reduced the amount of work we had to do (The work is not over yet). This allowed us to relax earlier than expected Saturday (we went on a very lovely hike). It was already unexpected that we'd been to lake Pühajärv on our way to Karula, relazing and swimming, as well as playing on an Estonian big swing. It was also a surprise that a biking marathon was organised on Saturday at the house. Finally, another beautiful surprise: we visited on sunday a beekeeper, who explained us a lot of things about bees and beekeeping. Did you know that the first estonian beekeepers carved holes in trees to shelter beehives ? I didn't, and we also learned about the history of Southern Estonia (which involves Russians, Swedes and Germans of course).
We tried their honey, as well as a very, very (very !) strong alcohol based on honey and then went back home on Sunday.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Dag iedereen !

On Tuesday afternoon, the 23th of July, a group of Belgian volunteers came in Tartu. Through the organisation Bouworde, they had the opportunity to come here in Estonia for 2 weeks of environmental work (and some tourism as well). We all gathered and went on our merry way to Haanja National Park, in the south of the country (close to the border with Latvia). Joined there by our sawminister and another volunteer (others would join in while they left before the end), we settled in a cozy little house with sauna and lovely yard. We relaxed, playing cards and a game Kadri (our group leader for the first day) made us: she played us some animal cries, and we had to guess from a list which was which. It was (not) very easy. The other evening we would play other games, in particular The Werewolf (which delighted me, one of my favourite board games).
We then, on wednesday, started to work. Ponds were traditionally used by farmers, which allowed for several species to thrive in them. However, most of them got abandoned and invasive species grew around and in them, threating the (some of them endangered) species living there.
Our sawminister cut down the trees and tall plants, we formed a chain to move them to a pile, while some of us cut down smaller trees with machetes and pliers. We also (the second and third day) went straight into the ponds to pull all these bastards out. One of us may or may not have fallen into the water,completely filling his their fisherman's suit with water. After a hard day of work, the owners of the pond we worked on offered us l'apéro as well as the warmth of both their company and their sauna. They also offered us some veggies straight from their garden, as well as a soap coming from the soviet times. And they had a cat !
The second day (thursday), we went to a town called Rouge and visited the place, enjoying the very beautiful view a bird tower offered us, we had ice cream and  I took a nap. Why ? I suffered from a throat pain since the beginning of the week, and it got worse everyday, making every night shorter. Our sawminister was kind enough to bring me to the hospital on friday, and the doctors told me I had a bacterial infection (probably streptococcus). Their antibiotics were way more efficient than ibuprofen, though I'm saddened the lack of sleep and pain tarnished the stay for me.
On Saturday, we went to Voru, enjoyed a local festival (I bought a very lovely hat), enjoyed a nice swim in the lake and bought some food and drinks for our final evening together, where we sang (i mostly listened, I must confess) together around a campfire, after a refreshing sauna.
On Sunday, I drove the Belgians and one other volunteer to Tartu.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Hello everybody !

The 18th of July, we took off for the west of the country, direction Hobulaid (Horse Isle in english). As its name indicates, wild horses used to live on the island, but everything changed when a forest grew there. Our tasks was to restore meadows on Hobulaid.
Once we were all arrived to the port, we went by boat to the island (it took us 2 trips, as always). We were welcomed to a very lovely cottage, very close to the sea, as well as a windmill. As per usual, the first evening was free for us to relax, we all went on a walk by the beach, and when the sun set, an entomologist caught some insects and talked to us about insects (he has been an entomologist for about 50 years).
The next day, after a good breakfast (we were helped with the cooking by the owners of the cottage), we made our way to the working area, about 15-20 minutes away by walk. We cut down some trees (our sawministers did, anyway) as well as bushes to clear a part of the forest. We had our lunches and dinners back at the cottages, and I myself enjoyed a few naps in the hammock (which made me miss another walk on the beach). At night, we went into the sauna, swimming in the sea and singing with a guitar. While they mostly sang in Estonian (one thing I came to realise here is that they really love to sing), we sang Frère Jacques in canon, it was a beautiful and special moment for me.
We went back home on Sunday (the 21st).
PS: I realised afterwards that I forgot my headband on the island. Not the first or last time I would forget something here in Estonia. Sob, my blue towel ! I miss you so much....

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Gutentag !

Previously, on Antoine in Estona....

During my first week here, I helped Indrek, who's in charge with Kadri of the organisation of the talguds, to get scythes (vikat in Estonian) from a old barn next to the Palupõhja nature school 50 km away from Tartu. A couple of days after that, I took part in a training event near the Estonian National Museum in Tartu. Some people came there and we learned some techniques to cut hay and grass with a scythe. It was hard and fun

Now, on Antoine in Estonia....

Right after coming back from my talgud on Rammu (see previous episode), Triin and I immediately went to Palupõhja. After putting our clothes into the washing machine (of course I forgot to check the dates and thus thought I'd have one day in between), I went for a walk while people came in. The purpose of the event at the nature was to introduce people to scythes, how to use them as well as talk about why it is important to take care of our environment. The first evening though, people just came in and met the others. While most were Estonians (among them several were experienced group leaders), some of us weren't. A group of German girls on holiday with their Estonian friends were here for example.
On Saturday and Sunday, three times a day, it was possible for us to reach a meadow and cut grass with scythes. Talks were organised, as well as walks around the place. Some of us went into canoes over the Emajogi, enjoying a beautiful sunset. Sauna was available on Friday and Saturday evening. While the talgud ended on Sunday, due to its peculiar nature, people left on their own when they wanted to. After a whole week of socialising, I felt the need to isolate myself so got a ride home on Arko's boat. We had a beautiful ride back to Tartu, and I even got to hold the tiller !

At noon, many of us (and some who weren't there) gathered near the National Museum in Tartu for a scythe contest organised by the ELF. People were divided into two categories, females and males, and competed first on the distance trial. We had to cut as much hay as possible in a minute. The longer the distance, the best your odds to be qualified for the finale. Those who were disqualified (as I did) for missing too much hay had the possiblity to try again after everyone else had finished. After obtaining more advices (my mistake was to keep my scythe too high above the ground, it should be almost on the ground), I was able to cut hay much better than previously (still not good enough to reach the finale).

The finale consisted in cutting all the hay in designated areas, as fast as possible, with the best technique possible. Judges were carefully watching, and after deliberation gave away the results. Despite a short and intense rain shower, the afternoon was a delight to everybody.

Hello everybody ! The 7th of August, we departed for Saarnaki island, in the west. To get there, we drove to Rohuküla, where we took the f...