Monday, 14 November 2016

Home! I think!

A winter wonderland
Where is home? Good question. I am now back in Latvia, so that's a start. We are even now back in our apartment, but is this home? It would be fair to say there is a degree of despondency about the transition. Part of that is because it marks the beginning of the winter season and all the issues we have with that, such as the long nights, dealing with a frozen car in the morning, remembering to leave the windscreen wipers up, the hand brake off and the car in gear, so the brakes do not freeze, the increase in fuel costs and so on.

Agnese in soft focus
The despondency I also think has something to do with becoming more deeply rooted in the land through staying out there for such a long time. It is harder for Ian than it is for me. I do not have so much to do out there now, but Ian does. He is out there every day, seeing to the animals, making sure the jobs that need doing get done - weather permitting of course and in winter cutting down trees in the forest - again weather permitting - for next seasons fuel. Unfortunately there are still a few trees on the floor that were going to be chopped up for firewood and are now under snow.

Yes we still have icicles
Yes the snow is still with us and set to stay with us for a few more days at least, before it maybe all melts and turns to mush later on in the week. I managed to go for my first slide of the season, whilst still up in Tartu, Estonia. I hate ice and not particularly good in icy conditions. I always marvel at those who sail past me as I make my way in slippery conditions at a snail's pace.

The view from my attic window in Tartu
Fortunately at the moment, it isn't particularly icy and there is plenty of crunchy snow to walk on, however, not everywhere of course. I saw a patch of what looked like thick, slick ice and decided to walk to the side of it where the snow was. Unfortunately it also happened to be snow over ice and down I went. I was carrying my suitcase with me at the time and that went down on the ground first and slowed my descent so it meant I didn't hurt myself at all. I just embarrassed myself trying to get up off the slick ice and the young chap who obviously observed all of this, only rushed to my aid when he saw that I was leaving my hat behind.

Growing up 
Despite that, it has been a good week when I got to talk to different people. I met up with a lady I met in Vilnius a couple of weeks ago. We had a great time talking about Estonia generally and more specifically the problems of changing from one system of mental health care to a more inclusive system in the community. Not that I am a great expert on the matter, but I could appreciate some of the difficulties that can entail due to my research on communities and through some discussion in the past with my daughter about issues of those cared for in the community and in a hospitals in other locations.

Eating rather too much too soon. Rather a problem this year
and we will need to cull some sheep. They have been rather
demanding - more so than usual
I also spent quite a while chatting with a chap who has been at the forefront of village development in the early years of transition. It was interesting to hear how it developed over time and some of the influences on those transitions. It was also interesting to hear how even during Soviet times, not everything was done according to the strict expectations of the Soviet authorities and perhaps some things were done a little differently. It made me smile to hear there were such undercurrents going on. I knew of some examples but not in an agricultural management institute. He also brought some apples as a gift for me, which were an old Estonian variety and were definitely different and tasty.

We took the rather ragged plastic off this greenhouse to save
the poles. They are already in bad shape and it doesn't seem
as robust as our first cheap greenhouse.
That's not all. One day I was chatting with a lady who came to our land earlier on in the year with her husband and young daughter. The little girl was the one who had the misfortune to discover nettles for the first time and called them Stingrays - such an apt description. The lady has an idea for a series of children's books on environmental issues, to help children understand some of the problems. She had met with varying degrees of skepticism and some support but was encouraged that I loved the illustrations she had already done and I liked what I was hearing.

Photographing Mr. P. is challenging any time of the year and
even harder now due to his colouring. He is also loosing
his baby teeth - hence he looks like he has a mouthful of
rather crooked teeth
I had some reservations about the actual language used, I felt it was a bit too complicated for young readers, but felt it had a lot of potential. I could hear the story, so to speak, it just needed some different words, which is easier for me with English being my first and to some extent only language (well at least sometimes and if I put my mind to it). I have also worked with children for a while and read many, many stories to them. In fact that was something I could do quite well and even today the ability to read text with enthusiasm helps me enormously when presenting.

Just chilling
I was treated to a lovely Indian meal of curried chicken, sweet rice and a fresh fruit salad. This was then followed by pictures and videos of India and Indian life, so that I could understand the lady's background and where she was coming from when writing the stories. It was a fascinating and very enjoyable afternoon, and topped off with lots of hugs from her daughter and those kinds of conversations you can only really have with bright, bubbly almost five year olds.

Turbjørn determined not to look at the camera
Not content with chatting to Estonians, Indians and my Australian friend who I stay with, I also spent an evening chatting with another friend who is from America. I didn't communicate very clearly to my Australian friend how long I would be staying up in Tartu, I think I must have written the email in my head rather than actually sending it and so there was a problem over one night when they were expecting someone else to stay in the room I normally sleep in. My American friend, however, said if I ever needed to stay somewhere else then she was willing to put up with me, or rather put me up. So another chance to chat away and put the world to right. I stayed in her apartment, even though she was going to a conference the next night and it was a chance to absorb the peace and quiet of her place. It is quite close to the city centre and yet it was quite peaceful and not really noisy at all. I needed that.
Tellus' old fashioned hair do makes me laugh, but don't tell

Post it note workshop
On the Friday of last week I did a short presentation to my doctoral candidate colleagues and my supervisors. I deliberately kept it short, as to be honest I'm a bit bored with presenting and I wanted to try an experiment with them. I wanted to see what characteristics they felt rural village leaders had or should have to be helpful in the participatory development process; in other words, what do leaders need to be able to draw in other inhabitants in an active way. It was quite entertaining to lead them in the process of doing a mini-workshop on the topic. I laughed at my supervisors remarks at the end, which were basically along the lines of thank you Joanna for  once again taking us on another thought provoking journey and perhaps not quite what we would expect in a doctoral seminar. I think I'm getting a reputation for pictures of my alpacas and not conforming to the normal pattern. As long as I get my doctorate at the end, I'm not too worried.
At this time of the year, the alpacas seem to prefer snow to 
cold water. It is easier this year for Ian with the well now
though and means he doesn't have to traipse down three flights 
of stairs with heavy containers of water

On our way home, shock, horror, I made Ian stop the car to
take this photo.
And finally? I actually chatted to my husband. I know a bit of a novelty. We arranged to meet up near to the Alpaca farm in Estonia where we get the feed from. I took a bus from Tartu to near Pärnu, also in Estonia but on the coast and he drove up from home. I was a bit puzzled though in the week as he told me he was expecting a visit from a nice lady who had emailed him and so he would have to cancel it. I thought he was talking about another visitor and it was only in the car that he explained it was a joke and the "nice lady" was me, since he thought I was travelling home by bus and had forgotten we were possibly going to collect feed. He's called me many things in our over 32 years of marriage but a "nice lady" was not one of them and so I didn't twig. We often have jokey emails while I'm away but I missed this one.

But of course I couldn't make him stop more than once and
we ended up putting the animals away in the dark as it was.
So after a very short visit to the alpaca farm for coffee and cakes and a visit to see their newest alpacas who had arrived since our last visit at shearing time in May, we set off back to Latvia and home, where we have spent the last couple of days trying to locate various things. We have stayed in the caravan for so long that all the familiar routines and places have been forgotten. I still haven't found my dressing gown and there are boxes and crates full of fruit and vegetables or clothes all over the place.

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