Saturday, March 30, 2013

Love the place you live: Harjumaa county museum

We have been living in Keila for a while, but we just last Saturday went to see the Harjumaa museum!   We loved this place. It turned out to be awesome.  One of my students from Germany went to us and told us about it.  I think that shows that we need to get out more! We don't like to do too much in the winter time because it is so freezing.
 This was an old manor house that is now the Harjumaa county museum.

 There is also the ruins of a fortress from the 1300's (I think).  There isn't much left, but still cool to think how Old Keila is. So far we have loved Keila, it is a beautiful little city.  It should be even better in the summer time.

Friday, March 22, 2013

3 years! (good years, of course)

How awesome it is to be married!
It seems more that 3 years, though - good years!

For our anniversary we went to the TV-tower. They built it in the 70´s but it was officially opened in 1980.   


A fast elevator takes you to the 21st  floor. (I don´t like elevators really. I have this feeling that they might break any second now.) There are little holes with glass on top where you can see the ground beneath. Creepy.


The view is nice. As you can see it is still January here. If it does not melt soon I might go crazy. Matthew loves it here although he comes home often shaking and frozen. Hopefully this is all gone by... the end of April. 



The tower is 314 meters high.


Next to the TV-tower is the botanical garden. I love it because they have a tropical house. How moist and warm it was! Super! 


What an awesome view - a cactus and lots of snow.


We ate at an American restaurant. Meat is expensive there but from Mo-Fri they have a discount at lunch time - even 50 % off. Oh how happy we were. We both ordered meat that cost about 20 euros (the most expensive things on the menu), mine was filet mignon, Matthew ordered a whole rack of pork ribs. He was surprised that the ribs had way more meat on them than in America. His had different sides too, like an oven-baked potato, beans and coleslaw. When I asked if he liked coleslaw he said he does not. After eating it a bit he said he likes it a lot because they have used Estonian sour cream in it and it is not as sour as in America. So I said that most things are better when Estonian and American are mixed - just like our marriage. Matthew was not able to eat the entire rack. He clearly overestimated his abilities. He said he would have been able to eat it when he was younger but he is an old man now. In May he has a big birthday coming.



Thank you Matthew for an awesome day! I love you!


FHE pizza party

For Family Home Evening this week I decided to try different pizzas. I had made Estonian pizzas before: thick crust, a ton of toppings (like pineapple and other strange things) and a huge amount of cheese on top. Make it 3 types of cheese. It is hard to eat Estonian pizza because all the stuff on top just barely stays on. 

This time I decided to make Italian pizzas after eating some that my friend´s Italian boyfriend made. They had thin crust, sauce and cheese on the sauce and then toppings. No cheese on top. I thought it was awesome. And he put all these strange things on top like grilled eggplant and bell pepper and other vegetables. I kind of liked all the pizzas. One thing I did not like was the sauce - he just put tomato sauce on the crust, no spices or salt or anything. I thought it was too sour. So I made my own sauce with plenty of garlic, onion, oregano, basil and pieces of tomato. 

I tried pesto pizza and it was my favorite. Basil, oregano, mozzarella  and Parmesan cheese on top. 


Another good one was with grilled eggplant.


Garlic pizza! That is something Matthew does not eat. He hates garlic. I love it. :)


Cheese pizza. No meat. Matthew´s favorite. 

   
And finally pepperoni pizza, also Matthew´s favorite. 


We did not eat it all at once.:) There is still some in the fridge. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Brussels!

About a week ago I went to visit the European parliament with 9 students.  It was an awesome trip.  I think my favorite part was spending more time with the students, normally I see them in class and that is it.  They are all really nice and have bright futures in front of them.  I have the best job in the world.  The EU has a PR program that involves bringing EU citizens to visit the parliament, so the EU paid for the trip.  This was a great opportunity for the students, I don't think any of them had been to Brussels before.  I hadn't been to the European parliament for about 7 years since my internship ended.


Most of the other people on the trip were journalists, they were all very nice.  They were from all over Estonia. 


I kind of feel bad that I didn't get a group picture of all of our students, here are 5 of the 9.  In the background you can almost see the Estonian flag, too bad the wind wasn't blowing.  It is the one in the middle, you can kind of see a white stripe.

 
Triina-Liis is used to work at a travel agency and helped me with tickets to the US.  When I found out she wanted to study IR I told her she should come to Tallinn University and she did!  The best thing is that she said recently that she made the right choice and that there are lots of opportunities here (like a trip to the European parliament I suppose!)


The European parliament is huge, this is a model of it all.  The first wall was under construction still when I was an intern here.  

 

The trip was sponsored by Tunne Kelam, so we got to go see his office and listen to him speak.  He is one of my favorite people all time!  He is a classic example of a statesman, not a politician.  When I was an intern in his office I was really impressed by his calm manner, he would never get mad at people, even if there was a reason to. He does a great job representing Estonia.


 This is me in the gift shop by the post cards

 They had an amazing simulation game at the 'parliamentarium'. It was really neat.  Everyone was a member of the parliament and had their own smart phone to guide them through the simulation.  I was a member from Belgium from the green party.  It was all very high tech and really cool. 

 

We got to see the city a little bit, and of course that means seeing the famous statue of the little boy peeing.  (insert bathroom joke here)

 
 This was a really nice palace, I can't remember which one though. 

We went to the Estonian representation to the EU, it was also cool.  The Estonian ambassador to the EU talked and it was really interesting.  There was a lot of talk about the Euro crisis.  


 
 Some more of the students in front of the Estonian and EU flags

 

 We went to a flea market that was pretty interesting.  In Tallinn a market is pretty organized with booths, but here people just put their stuff down on blankets and that was it.  There were some cool things here but for the most part it was just super crappy junk. 

The flea market was in a Congo part of town (at least I think) this Congo store was close by.  It had some pretty cool stuff.  

 
 Kaja and Kadri did a great job organizing the trip for us!  Kadri was my old boss when I did the internship, she is great. 


Of course one of the highlights of the trip was the food.  The most famous dish in Brussels is muscles and french fries!  I never tried it when I did an internship, but it was on the menu so I thought why not!  It was slimy, yet satisfying

 
 We went to the chocolate and cocoa museum, it was small but awesome.  This guy gave us a demonstration on how they make chocolate.  Too bad his eyes were closed.  I don't think he will ever find this blog, so it is ok.  That is a 5 kg brick of chocolate in his hand.

 This is in the chocolate museum

 This Greek restaurant had the most amazing Hawaiian pitta sandwich.  It had donor kebab style meat with this fantastic cheese sauce and pineapple.  Man I really loved that sandwich.  Definitely  one of the best things that has ever happened to my mouth. 


And of course the chocolate stores are beautiful, always a must.  Brussels is an awesome place and it was an awesome trip.  Hopefully I'll get to go again soon!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Estonia chose it's song for Eurovision tonight!  It was a great concert, lots of great songs.  Elina Born had a nice song.  


Teele is one of our favorites, she got last! We loved the song, I'm not sure how she came in last.  She even had awesome drummer girls.


The Kõrsikud are pretty awesome, they have this really nice Estonian sound to them.


Birgit Õigemeel won!  We were both surprised, Maris didn't like the song, I thought it was nice.


One of my favorites was Liis Lemaslu.  I'm normally not a huge Liis Lemaslu fan, but this song was fantastic.  She didn't even make it into the finals which was crazy.



Grete came in 2nd!



Saturday, March 2, 2013

Live long and prosper




President Obama recently said that he couldn't do a Jedi mind-meld on Congress.  Despite the fact that it is a Vulcan mind-meld and not a Jedi mind-meld I thought the comment was pretty good.  Somehow knowing that a Star Trek fan is in the white house gives me the hope that Obama was supposed to give back in 2008.  Why did he wait so long to bring out the Trekkie in him?  Maybe he has the same vision for humanity as Gene Roddenberry.


 The more I thought about it, Obama has actually been more logical than I expected.  How do I explain my new found fond feelings for Obama?  One is surely a better performance record than I imagined, the other is that I might be transitioning to a liberal leaning libertarian from a conservative leaning libertarian.  But here is what I am thinking about Obama's recent agenda:

Gun control: I totally agree.  No one is talking about taking away the right to own a gun, Obama is just proposing background checks before people buy a gun, and a limit to what type of guns people buy.  People don't need AK-47s.  What will they be asking for next RPGs? shoulder launched anti-aircraft missile launchers?

Immigration reform: Here I also totally agree.  We have 11 million illegal immigrants in our country, we should just make them legal AND try to do a better job with the legal process so people wouldn't want to come in illegally in the future (guest worker program perhaps).  Being an immigrant in Estonia gives me a chance to see things from the other side of the picture.  And the biggest kicker is that we are all immigrants in America (except the  Native Americans).  Mitt Romney's self-deportation policy was a bit harsh.  I'm sure many Native Americans at times have wished that we would all self-deport ourselves too.  The good thing is that almost everyone agrees on comprehensive immigration reform and it will happen within the next year or two.   This also gives us an opportunity to bring in more educated people from around the world.

Free trade: One of my biggest concerns about Obama in 2008 was his policy towards free trade.  He was way too slow in approving free trade deals with South Korea, Panama, and Columbia.  Recently, he has proposed a free trade deal with the European Union.  This would be great news.  It will be hard to do because the Europeans don't like our genetically altered hormone treated beef (they like expensive, skinny, natural cows).  While Obama's record on free trade is not to my liking, there is hope for the future.

Foreign policy:  This is why I'm glad Mitt Romney is not president.  Obama has been very pragmatic about not getting too involved in conflict (learning from Bush's Iraq mistake, and his own Afghanistan surge mistake).  I have concerns about his secret drone assassination program, but it is certainly better than occupying countries with ground troops. If we look at France in Mali we can see that others can take a turn trying to save the world too.

Debt: This is my biggest problem with Obama.  I think the debt is too big.  The current budget deficit is twice what it should be (6% vs. 3%) and there are major long term structural problems that will start to be a problem after 2020.  I think I am OK with the concept of stimulus, but I think we have to be careful with stimulus.  Deficit spending has to create a greater return in the future, otherwise it isn't worth it.  A good example would be renovating government buildings to make them more energy efficient.  This would actually save us money in the long term, more than the interest that would be paid.  Unfortunately, Obama has been a little too liberal with the deficit spending.  Also, we should get others to provide the stimulus, rather than printing the money ourselves.  The US has done almost nothing to increase tourism, foreign direct investment, and in bringing back US company profits into the US again. 

The thing is, I have no confidence in the Republicans about the debt and economy either.  They refuse to raise taxes (except the last minor deal which was a drop in the bucket).  They also are hesitant to cut defense spending.  This tells me that they really don't give a hoot about the deficit, no matter what they say.  If they were real conservatives they would be raising taxes (especially consumption taxes), and they would be cutting defense spending along with everything else.  Right now the Republican Party is in total disarray, they have no vision for the country, no macro-economic policy and Obama is just picking them apart.  He doesn't even need a mind meld.  Hopefully 2016 will provide a good pragmatic leader (Jon Huntsman, Rand Paul, Chris Christie) who supports individual liberty, fiscal frugality, and foreign policy restraint.  (Rand Paul isn't pragmatic, but he might have an OK vision for America, he is a big question mark for me right now).  Unfortunately, the GOP likes to champion the same failed policies of George W. Bush.  So until the Republicans can convince me that they can lead the country I say to President Obama, live long, and prosper.



Friday, March 1, 2013

In like a lion, out like a lion


 (I got the picture from here: http://www.worldalldetails.com/Pictureview/1888-Tallinn_Estonia_Winter_view_of_the_city.html)
The last few days were really nice, I thought for a second spring was going to come early!  Today is the first day of March and it was very much winter again.  The weather forcast predicts that the whole month will be winter.  As they say about March in Estonia, in like a lion, out like a lion.