Back on the Blog from a Familiar Hood

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I published my last post three months ago, when I was in Barcelona. Since then, I visited Pamplona and San Sebastián, spent a few days in Bilbao with my mother, walked 636.6 km from Bilbao to Santiago de Compostela, had a long weekend in Porto, visited some friends in Sweden, came back to Finland, and finally, I ended up getting a job in Tallinn.

Ühesõnaga, I have been living in Tallinn for about a month now. It’s been wonderful being back, although I’ve also found it hard readjusting to city life and an office job after a year of teaching in Chuuk and 4 months of backpacking and vacationing mostly in rural areas.

That being said, this readjustment process has provided me with inspiration for writing. My head is bubbling – I have so many thoughts I want to express and share.

When I lived in Tallinn during 2012-2015, I was actively updating my blog Annina in Tallinna. I’m not sure if I’d like to have a similar blog again, but as I said, I have plenty of other ideas in mind for now. Let’s see how these ideas will shape this blog! Hope there’ll be some people tagging along to follow the upcoming blog transformation. 😉

Carretera de les Aigües


The last time I was in Barcelona three years ago, and I fell in love. The shopping, the pub crawls, the beaches, the sangria… I vowed to come back one day.

Here I am, loving it again. This time around the best of Barcelona has been in a hiking trail named Carretera de les Aigües. I think you’ll experience less than half of the good this city has to offer if you don’t leave the hustle and bustle of Rambla to breathe in some desert air of the mountains overlooking the city and sea, having wild berries for lunch and drinking spring water, getting lost among cacti and dust, hearing nothing but the steady buzz of grasshoppers and getting cheerful “holas” from local mountain bikers.

Latvian National Museum of Art

If you are in Riga and like museums and art, don’t miss the Latvian National Museum of Art.

The museum is a quick review of Latvian art history and as culture and history go hand in hand, you’ll get a nice refresher of Latvian history after reading all the mandatory guide books before your trip.

The basic collection is divided into four rooms, each focusing on an era of Latvian art. Here are my favorite pieces from each room.


Johans Valters, 1904: “Lonely Walker”

Professional art in Latvia developed later compared to Western Europe, and the art scene was first dominated by the Baltic Germans.

This painting caught my attention as I thought how I’d soon be the lonely walker of the painting, in the Spanish forests, on my way to Santiago de Compostela.

Jānis Tīdemanis, 1930: “Girl in a Folk Costume”

During the National Awakening, Latvian artists and Latvian themes in art were praised more than ever before.

I love how the Baltic people wear their national costumes with pride, gather thousands of people together to sing their national sons and how they value their traditions… It seems to be the case in all ages, from small children to pensioners. The three small Baltic countries are truly unique. This painting reminded me reminded me of that.


Edgars Iltners, 1982: “My Latvia”

Artists were greatly restricted in their work during the Soviet occupation in Latvia. However, they came up with creative ways to express themselves through symbols and other hidden motifs.

Then there were those who plainly rebelled and got in trouble for it. The heros. I fell in love with this painting with its unicorns and rainbows. Hope and small miracles in desperate times.


Edgars Vērpe, 1989: “Refugee”

My friend in Riga told me that it is a crazy place to live at this time… There aren’t any age-old, well-established ways to spend your freetime and people are open to any ideas and willing to try and create new forms of entertainment. He said there’s something new and exciting always happening and coming up in Riga, and you can definitely notice this even as just a visitor. In the museum, I got the impression that pretty much the same goes for Latvian contemporary art.

I stood in front of this painting for a long time, wondering what the artist wanted to say about refugees. Exceptionally long, leaping legs, naked, no face to be seen, the color of coal and fire… I couldn’t quite make it out, but I’m grateful that I stumbled upon this painting and was able to get lost in my thoughts for a while with it. That’s exactly why I like visiting art museums anyway.

After checking out the exhibitions, I climbed to the roof top terrace of the museum that provides visitors with a stunning view of Riga. I had a great afternoon well worth the 6€. Can’t wait to see what the city has to offer on my next visit.

Getting Ready for Blisters

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I first acknowledged El Camino de Santiago when somebody I knew walked the Portuguese Way in 2014. He pointed out that Paulo Coelho (one of my favourite authors) writes about the Camino in just about all of his books. Last year one of my best friends walked the way to Santiago around the same time as one of my favorite Finnish bloggers. The Camino has been haunting my mind every now and again after hearing stories from four people I look up to very much. Now, I decided it is my turn to conquer the north of Spain.

The internet bursts of all sorts of blog posts, YouTube videos, articles, packing lists and such of the Camino. After reading and watching hundreds of them, I still do not feel fully prepared. The information found from different sources is often contradicting, yet all of them have one idea in common. That the Camino is a personal journey, everyone makes their own mistakes, and each experience of the Camino is unique.

I love walking. I love being by myself, especially when there’s a lot to think about. I love meeting new people from all around the world, especially if they are in a similar place in their life as I. I have a backpack of 7 kg and I’m heading off to Tallinn early tomorrow morning. I will be flying to Barcelona from Riga on the weekend, and don’t know when I’ll return. Let’s hope I stay healthy during this hike of hundreds of kilometers.

Blind to Vision

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Two of my best Estonian friends sent me 365 rolled-up quotes along with candy and tiny booze bottles to Chuuk. I used to open a rolled-up quote every morning in Chuuk, but as the package arrived well into my year, I am still left with about 60. Sadly the tiny booze bottles weren’t as lasting.

Today’s quote was by Helen Keller:

The only worse thing than being blind is having sight but no vision.

Perhaps to shame myself right now, I admit that I didn’t recognize the name Helen Keller. Since my life here in Finland is similar to my life in Chuuk in the sense that I literally have nothing but time, and differs in the sense that I have high-speed internet available at all times, I looked the name up.

Helen Keller, born in Alabama in 1880. The first sight and hearing impaired person in America to have completed a Bachelor’s Degree. Impressive. Completing my Bachelor’s was tough enough even if I’m completely healthy, fit as a fiddle. How do some people do that?

Navigated to YouTube, and despite extremely poor quality, I decided to watch this video. Now, if you have nothing better to do in the next hour, this would be the only low-resolution video I’d recommend you to watch. It’s about Helen Keller’s childhood. She was born to a prestigious family, who, collectively and despite the mother’s unconditional love for her daughter, didn’t quite understand Helen, which lead to her getting her way in every issue she had with her parents and, on top of that, being rewarded for bad behavior in the form of a piece of candy.

How did she transform from a young, misunderstood sugar-addict to one of the biggest miracles of her time? The answer is Anne Sullivan.

Anne Sullivan taught Helen Keller a way to communicate, she gave her language. In the 18-1900s, this was not usual. According to the video, Helen’s family did not believe she could learn anything, and were ready to wave Ms. Sullivan goodbye as soon as Helen’s behavior had only experienced minor improvements. But Anne Sullivan saw Helen’s potential when nobody else did. She had to fight back an influential family to make them realize their daughter’s needs and convince them that tiny signs of learning were huge steps in Helen’s learning. With the focus always on Helen’s needs, Anne Sullivan became Helen’s savior and life-long teacher. She lead Helen to be the first sight and hearing impaired degree-holder in America, and like any great teacher, she’s taken almost no credit for this achievement.

I have been suffering of what they call an identity crisis since Chuuk. My ‘crisis’ has made me take up hobbies such as journaling, meditation, long walks by myself, soul-searching, coloring, and what not. It’s been all about me, me, me, and how to make my life better. This morning with Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan got me thinking. What if instead of being entirely focused on bettering myself I’d take that time and energy to think how I could better other people, or something else in this world… Instead of thinking what the corporate world has to offer to me, I’d think what I have to offer to the world… Anne Sullivan’s goals were admirably selfless and entirely focused on another person, however hard she needed to struggle and put her own needs aside… Not many people in the Western World are willing to do the same. Like I said, I’ve been entirely focused on myself lately, as if a year in a community and family based society of the extreme sort helped nothing to counterattack my Western egotism. However… Is it possible that we all have a little Anne Sullivan somewhere deep inside of us? What if we all let that little Anne Sullivan flourish in our bodies and take over the main focus points in our minds? What kind of a place would the world then be?

Homecoming

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I last posted a month ago, when I was still in Chuuk. Since then, I have traveled half across the globe and reached my home country Finland.

We had a very enjoyable road trip around the US: listening to street music and wandering among the colorful wooden houses of New Orleans, petting dogs and laughing at a cat food related incident at Austin’s Zilker park, cruising in a brand new Mustang across the entire state of Texas, devouring green chilli enchiladas in New Mexico, cruising in the Mustang some more, having a strawberry pique-nique on the edge of the Grand Canyon, roaming around The Strip in Las Vegas with yard drinks and fooling around in an adult playground, singing Spice Girls, ABBA, and Back Street Boys in karaoke, meeting one of my dearest friends from Estonia in her new home – Washington DC – and making use of the free museums there, and finally reaching the Big Apple where I met up with most of my house mates from Chuuk.

My return home was delayed by a couple of days and instead of flying from JFK to Helsinki-Vantaa, I took a plane straight to Copenhagen to celebrate my brother’s graduation from Lund University. It was great to see family after a long time, and I got a whole dose of Nordic foods that have been much missed.

Upon my return, lots of thoughts have been racing through my head. Those will have to wait for another post though – right now I am not sure how I’d express them, black on white. Now, I am just telling myself that it’s good to be in place for a while before the next chapter.

Losing and Finding

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I lived in the house I grew up in Finland for 18 years with just a couple of years in between spent in the US. I had a very happy and safe childhood of going to school, ice skating, hanging out with friends, giving some hard times to my ever-loving and understanding parents as a teenager, and learning about independency through my first jobs.

After that I had a year of not knowing what to do: I had a summer job in France, I worked in a school for 6 months and volunteered in Angola for a little less than a month. I traveled all over Europe and didn’t know of anything better I could have done with the money I was earning. I went to free therapy to talk about how the uncertainty of the future stressed me out. I often got upset with my boyfriend and felt like there weren’t many people to relate to.

In 2012 I moved to Estonia and little did I know that the following three years there would be the best of my life. My mind was at peace and despite the inevitable difficulties of life I went to bed already excited for the next day almost every night. I lived in a gorgeous apartment and managed to build an amazing network of fellow students, co-workers and all sorts of younger and older people of Tallinn. I felt much like I did in my childhood: happy and safe.

Now I am about to leave Micronesia to go to the Philippines for an indefinite period of time. I feel much like I did during my gap year. Uncertain and slightly alone. Stressed and to some degree unsupported.

I want to travel but it seems that consistency and routine makes me content – i.e. living in one place, like I did in my childhood and in Estonia. It’s not until now that I have learned the true price of life on the road. It’s giving up the feeling of safety that comes from what we know and more importantly, our support that has had years’ time to build. It’s starting over repeatedly, getting new friends time and time again. It’s finding the balance of being strong enough to support yourself and being wise enough to trust strangers when you need to rely on the help of others. It’s saying goodbyes to the ones who became the most important people in your life and facing the big and small, cruel and wonderful, but always humbling world completely on your own. And I’ve overestimated my ability to do so.

Someone I look up to and have had the honour to spend a lot of time with once said that he disagrees when people say that one finds oneself through traveling. He said he believes that you lose yourself, but find the world. My interpretation of that is that one becomes less self-absorbed, more trusting of the unknown, and aware of the wonders of the world, through being constantly thrown into new situations that may be uncomfortable, confusing, even dangerous.

In all honesty, I am not feeling well at the moment. This year in Micronesia has been in many ways overwhelming and I have by no means been the carefree world explorer who is satisfied in life in such an admirable way. Even if that is how I haven’t been this year, I believe, or at least truly hope, that it doesn’t mean that I won’t ever be that way. After all, isn’t the way to learn always through trial and error? This year I’ve met enough incredible humans, perpetual travelers, to see that it is possible, but that it comes with a big price.

So, World, I haven’t lost myself to you just yet, but that is my full intention. First I need to go home to calm down and collect my thoughts, more than ever. I truly can’t wait to see and live the known again, but I know that sooner or later I’ll yet again itch for the unknown.