Monday, July 25, 2011

One nation under CCTV

Ahh, London. The city famous for its... rain?

And then there is the Buckingham palace, Picadilly circus and Trafalgar square - all of which I saw in passing the first day, when Aleksei and Kati met me at Victoria and took me to dinner in Soho and then to the river to catch a ferry to Greenwich, where they lived.

The apartment they lived in was very beautiful. A bit too hipster for my taste... and a bit too sterile, with a debilitating "everything has a right place" feeling. Thankfully, that faded after a few "How do you know a hippie is squatting your apartment?" jokes, when (I guess) they realized how much it was bothering me. By the end of my stay, it felt pretty nice and cozy.

From 2011 London

First evening was spent drinking Gin and playing the Settlers of Catan. Since Aleksei had work next day, we went to sleep pretty early. I was shown to my couch, which was a bit too short and soft for me but neither stopped me from getting a good nights sleep.

A word or two about my hosts would also be appropriate, I suppose. Aleksei I know from university, where he was about a year behind me, but also specialized in math and later cryptography. He is working as a security analyst in a large company where their division is mainly concerned about penetration testing of all kinds. Kati, his girlfriend, is a philosophy major going on to study linguistics for her masters degree. Both are extremely bright and good at what they do.

Next day, after our morning coffee, Kati took me out to the museums. First up was the British Museum - which really is HUGE, having everything from stone age to ancient egypt to medieval muslim world all the way to enlightenment clocks. Besides the longer break at medieval europe (where I put my re-enactor knowledge to good use), we mostly just walked through most of the halls, not really concentrating on anything in particular. The usual problem with places where there is way too much to see.
From 2011 London

We then visited a few more exhibitions - about Dirt, and then Hygene, followed by quite an interesting show about Science Fiction that the central library was hosting. Exhibit was small enough so that we could read through all of the descriptions, and most of them were well worth the read - I wrote down quite a few book names for my future reading.
The day ended sitting outside an English pub in Greenwich, watching the sun set over London, and then making a quick trip to the supermarket - Pims (a form of punch they wanted to introduce to me) being the main reason to go.
From 2011 London

The next day was spent first walking from Greenwich to the Tower, then on to the Monument.
or, well,

We then went on to St. Pauls, visiting a few street markets on the way. We ended the day in used books stores near Covent Garden, where we also had gelatos and where we returned later in the evening to see standup.

On Saturday, the three of us went to Cambridge, to visit two friends of mine who were doing their PhD-s there. I got to try Punting, and the others got to have a laugh watching me balance on the back of the boat and later collapse on the lawn when we got out.

From 2011 London

We then went back to their place, on Perse Way,

From 2011 London

and I got to play Duke Nukem Forever, and a game of even more mindless violence (the fact such a game exists shows just how big of a failure DNF is). The evening ended with a barbecue on their back porch, after which we got a taxi back to the station to catch the last train back to London.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Deep down inside I think you know - You are free!

For most of my life, I have had a nagging feeling at the back of my head that I am constantly doing something wrong. I was doubting myself at every step, always thinking if others would do it better than me.

And it turns out that it was right, kindof.

So what was it? Simple: Doubting myself! Or rather, my right to be myself.

Recent past has helped purge that doubt, one small step at a time.

Which, just to clarify, does not mean that I think I am infallible, but rather that I am entitled to my mistakes - as, after all, that is what being human means.

Daoism has made a comeback in my life, but I now interpret the teachings in a somewhat new key. Dalai Lamas "The Art of Happiness" also helped clarify a few points as did Richard Fromms "The Art of Loving" - which both preach the same message: you first need to learn to love yourself before you can love others. Most importantly, however, both stress that it is a skill - i.e. something that you not only can but must learn.

Quoting Eminem (because I just love obsucre and out of context pop music references):

But how the fuck you supposed to grow up when you weren't raised?

And indeed, looking back on my life, I haven't really had people in my life to teach me how to be fully human until just fairly recently. Most people around me have also had the same problem I was facing - so no wonder I inherited it from them, as I had no other examples to learn from. Which is not to say I blame anyone - rather, I feel a bit sad, for both them and myself in the past.

In any case, I am thankful for having had the opportunity to learn what I have, even if it has come as late as it has, for I fear most people never get the opportunity.

Not that I am at the end of my journey... for there is no such thing.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

In my rear view mirror, My life is getting clearer

Hey hey! I finally found my way, say goodbye to yesterday
Hit the gas, there ain't no brakes on this lost highway

- Bon Jovi, "Lost Highway"

Just to get it out of the way early: Im not a big Bon Jovi fan. But I do enjoy their music every once and a while.

But not enough to drive to Bucharest only to see their concert. Thankfully, that was never the plan.

I will keep it short and personal here. For my estonian friends interested in a longer account of what went on, I recommend you read our travel blog that the 6 of us co-authored. There are also a lot of pictures there, so I recommend anyone interested in those also go check it out.

When the bus arrived at my doorstep on the 6-th of July, it was 5 in the evening already. We had a stop in Valga, where we went to a Korean restaurant that had Seljanka as it's daily special, then proceeded to Latvia, where we camped out on the beach for the first night.

The next three days were spent driving - first to Warsaw, then Budapest and finally to Brasov (just north of Bucharest). Wich was fine by me, as I had quite a few books with me, and Arti had bought his guitar along, which allowed me to practice my chords too, if I wanted. Mostly on old Terminaator songs, which, incidentally, was also what mostly came out of the CD player. Nostalgic, as I realized I still remembered the lyrics to most of the songs - and since I was at the very back most of the time, I could sing along to the songs without disturbing anyone.

Nights were spent socializing alongside drinks. Except for the first night (camped out) and the last few nights (spent either on the beach or driving), we mostly stayed at hostels, but were up til 3-4.

The concert was actually quite fun. We arrived about an hour and a half early, which allowed all of us to get pretty decent places. I was separated from the rest, as I had a ticket to a different zone since I had only bought it on arrival to Bucharest. Nevertheless, I was close enough to see the band, and the screens showed everything important anyhow. Band played for nearly two and a half hours, which is quite an impressive feat in a 30 degree heat (which stayed even after the sunset). And there really were a lot of people - estimates of around 50 000 were thrown around by the band, I think.

However, this was only where the fun began. The next day, we drove to Bulgaria, to the coast of the Black sea, and then stayed there for a day. Had a jellyfish sting me just to feel how it was - after everyone else had been stung by accident already. They were pretty weak there - but there was a plant in the forest that cut our legs up pretty nicely when we went for a hike.

Oh yes - and two people from the group got really bad sunburns - despite using sunscreen.

We then started back, and devoted one day to seeing Romania - both its natural beauty and its castles. Since the cars GPS didn't have Romanian maps but my phone did, I took the role of navigator and gave the drivers a challenge in the form of winding Romanian mountain roads. Both of them thoroughly enjoyed it though. As for the rest of us - Romania really is beautiful, and you do only see it once you drive through a few remote villages (preferably blasting Rammstein through the speakers). We did.

The next day was spent in Slovakian Tartar mountain range - Hiking. Since it was just a day-long hike, we figured one backpack would do, and since Arti had burnt his back on the beach, I was the one who carried the bag (containing our food and water supplies) most of the trip. The trail was mostly walkable, but there were a few stretches that required using hands as well. The track was by no means easy (and I had blisters from my hiking boots for two more weeks), but one of the girls managed to do it in her slippers (which quite a few other hikers also noticed and photographed). At least there were ample opportunities to refill our water bottles from the cold springs, so we did not have to ration the supplies - and in the end I realized one 2l water bottle was left completely untouched during the whole trip.

Getting down from the mountain also proved quite interesting. There was a ski-lift, but it cost 6 eur per person, and we forgot to bring our wallets - so we needed Aivar (who had stayed down to sleep, since he drove all night) to come up and bring us the money. Oh yes, and we also forgot to pack sunscreen to our hike, so the people who were burnt before now got only worse...

The next two days and nights were spent in the car again - which gave me quite a bit of time to reflect on my life, the trip and the reading I had done.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I needed time to think to get the memories from my mind

My month of vacation has been indescribably cool. I have done a lot of different and crazy things, most of which I thoroughly enjoyed.

So what did I do:

On 3 of July I wrote the following as my Facebook status:
"I have three weeks of vacation starting from next week. If anyone has any cool ideas for which they would like my company, please let me know. The weirder the better."

I got three replies which led to:

A car trip to a Bon Jovi concert in Bucharest (6-15 july)
An evening discussing artificial intelligence (16 july)
Half a week in London visiting a friend from the Uni (20-24 july)

In between I spent a day showing tourists around Tallinn with the Angel (18 july)

However, that did not conclude my vacation for:

I went to a hitchhiking competition with a friend (25-28 july) and
I dabbled in performance art at Viljandi Folk festival (29 july)

However, I have had practically no time to write about everything that has happened, and I will attempt to do so now, one event at a time.

Since this blog partially serves as a reminder for myself, I will backdate the following few posts to the time when the events actually took place.