Photos: the last two weeks in Europe

As we approached our last week in Estonia (by that time The Man and The Kid had already flown back to England) we did... hanging out, mostly, I think.

Walking little fluffy dogs.



One of the dogs even went into labour earlier than expected (picture walking down a hallway in the apartment and suddenly calling out, "The puppy's out! The puppy's out!") so The Girlie got to see first-hand a dog being born.

Cool stuff, she thinks :)




We visited several indoors playgrounds. At Toila Spa.


At √úlemiste Keskus.


We said bye at the airport.


Then in England, we did more travel. We waited at airports, and bus stations, and train stations.


We made friends on trains.


We got uncles to wear cute pink backpacks ;)


We walked quiet roads to old fortifications up the hill.




I watched a typically English scene unfold when my father-in-law (a Manchester United fan) and my brother-in-law (a Chelsea fan) sat down in front of the television to watch Manchester United play against Chelsea.

Oh dear gods. My father-in-law had prepped the house by hanging up various Manchester United gear (scarves, flags, t-shirts) so when it came to the match itself, my brother-in-law (wearing a Chelsea shirt) had to sit underneath a Manchester United sign.

At one point during the match someone called from the kitchen that if my brother-in-law expects to be fed dinner tonight, Chelsea better lose.

And guess what? It didn't :). Chelsea won.


Kids loved having their cousins around.






They watched grandad's train track be worked in the garage.



At the end, the extended family even came together for a party in the back yard.


And then, it was time to go home.

More airport playgrounds.




More time zones and movies and crisps (on the plane, the kids get to eat pretty much... anything).


And then, home.


We landed at about 5:30 am on a Friday morning and I cried when first lights of New Zealand from down below appeared in the windows. It was a mixture of elated tiredness of having returned home - recognising it very clearly as HOME - and the certain knowledge that come spring, I will be applying for New Zealand citizenship.

It is a decision I made in Estonia. I had been thinking about it for a while, but in Estonia I finally decided that, yes, it makes sense. It is partially a financial reasoning: with New Zealand not having an Estonian embassy renewing my Estonian passport is an expensive exercise of either travelling to Australia twice in 2 months, or North Island of New Zealand (which either way is a pain). But also, after 9 years of living here... I am ready.

But now it's 6 am, the day is starting, the kids are up, so I will go, too.

Have a nice day, guys.

"Reisikaja" podcast now available on Soundcloud

On my last day in Estonia I sat down with Agaate Antson (travel editor at Postimees) in their Tallinn studio and we talked about Alaska, Svalbard and New Zealand.

As usual, the recording is an excellent example of the fact that I do not stick to the topic when asked about something and tend to, basically, go off on random tangents all over the place :D. But if you'd like, the podcast is available to listen at:

* Postimees' website reisile.postimees.ee/4494449/reisikaja-uus-meremaa-ongi-nii-imeline-nagu-raagitakse (there are also a bunch of photos there in a gallery), or


***

Whilst I was in Estonia a new batch of my book was printed (with an addition of one new chapter at the end) so here I am in the office of the publishing house showing it off - and, as is also usual, showing excellent style having just come from the swimming pool, wearing a size-too-large t-shirt and trying to put up the least awkward smile for the purposes of the photo.

Photo from www.facebook.com/petroneprint/photos/a.394211393136.161194.293882358136/10155683177298137

But, hey, my kids slept until 6 am today so it's all good, because life is starting to make sense again. So I'm not worried :)

Tired

The upside of The Girlie waking up at 4 am is that I can be out walking The Dog by 5 am.

It's frosty, so the cold has dropped moisture out of the air and the stars are out. Not that many people are out yet, or cars.

Downside is, by 7 am The Girlie is livid with grouchy-ness and as our morning continues, it does not get better.

By 10 am will I have spent two hours working out lintel sizes and loaded dimensions of a variety of structural members, and by 12 pm I will have spent two more hours doing the exact same thing, but for multi-storey buildings.

By 2 pm I feel like I could either 1) lay down and sleep, or 2) cry. I am typing this short blog post and The Girlie is telling me about a ballet class she wants to attend where she can "dance a unicorn dance" (what's up with EVERYTHING having to do with unicorns at the moment!?) and in her excitement I can tell that by 5 pm she is going to be livid with grouchy-ness yet again.

But there's not much I can do about that at the moment.

Travelling with kids is brutal, and so is trying to resume life afterwards. I'm at a point where The Girlie says, "Mommy, can I put stickers on your clothes?" and I reply, "Yeah, sure, whatever."

So don't mind me walking into Measurement/Estimation class with stickers down my back that I am not aware of.

But, seriously, at this point I have bigger things going on in my life than stickers down my back.

Going home

At the dinner table yesterday I said, I am grateful for the hospitality shown to us: the meals, the trips, the company, the time. But after a month of travel, I am ready to go home.

The plane leaves today.

Why travelling is important

This trip is reminding me why travelling is so important: it's to meet people with a different point of view, for to have cooperation I need to understand how other people think and feel - and so does everyone else, I think.

Looking at the prospect of travelling with children though, the word that comes to mind first is daunting because, at a point where one is 3 and the other one is 7, it is. It is!

But the good thing is, they're growing. In fact, they're growing very fast. Soon enough it'll be reasonable enough taking them along to long trips, and I am looking forward to that: to taking my children to places people don't agree with them, and for them to learn what that's like because in the 8 years of living in New Zealand I think I had managed to forget a lot of that.

And this trip is reminding me of that.

It's reminding me that travelling is to meet people with a different point of view.



PS. It's so hot here that it's been 5 days since I've worn a jumper or a long sleeve t-shirt. Basically, short sleeves and shorts all day, every day.

Welcome to Estonia in May, huh.

Photos! Second week in Estonia

When we arrived in Estonia, we weren't greeted with the (what is now an unseasonable) sweltering heat quite yet. At first, it was May like Mays go - think jackets, hats, layers against the wind and trees not quite in bloom yet.

It was... familiar.

We spent time in parks.



On the beach.





Then, very quickly, the weather turned - but not for the worse.

For better.

It's been solidly 20-25 for a whole week and to say that I've been making use of the various "cold wet weather gear" that we brought over from New Zealand would be a lie because I've, basically, been living barefeet, in t-shirts and shorts, and so have my children.


At first it was the weird juxtaposition of warm weather but still bare trees...


...and then the trees went, BOOM! Green.


...and now we're at a point where it's actually hard to sleep at night because it's... hot. I mean, seriously: hot.

The Man learned a little more about the quirky little Soviet-era towns near the Russian border where I grew up and used to call home (complete with the local taste for home decor).



We visited a science center (Ahhaa), a zoo (Tallinn), a toy museum (Miiamilla) which were all absolutely brilliant - especially the toy museum with its playroom which my children, tired from the travelling, found solace and joy in.






There was also family. Lots of family. And friends.

I'm mindful of uploading their photos here though, because for the most part I haven't asked any of their permissions, so I'll just stick to our own.


Then, on Friday when The Man and The Kid returned to England and only the girls remained - me and my daughter - it quietened down a lot. I think we all started to catch up on sleep, and just... lounging because that first week of whole-family-in-Estonia had been demanding, and challenging, so we just took our time and pottered around.

Showed my daughter the "big sparkly house" of a local Russian Orthodox nunnery which, unsurprisingly, she found sufficiently sparkly - as you do.



I also had a little personal moment of success when it somehow turned out that the book I've been wondering about for years - a copy of Winterdance by Gary Paulsen which I got signed by Randy Cummins who I often worked alongside in Alaska in 2006 - was... at my brother's house.

I was, like, "You've got it!? I'd been wondering for years who I'd left it with!" and, with a quick rummage through his bookshelf, it was once again in my backpack.

For the past couple of days I've once again been reading it and feeling lucky that I've somehow managed to keep most of my bladder intact because, just like I say in the back of my own book now, it is the funniest book about dog sledding, ever.


Less than two weeks to go.

Tired.