I have to start even before that. In my first week as a free bird (I finished working for MVO Nederland on March 7), I had a meeting in Wijk aan Zee. The months before, several people emailed me to tell me that I really had to get in touch with Bert Kisjes, the founding father of the Cultural Village of Europe. The what? Well,“Cultural Village is an international cooperation of twelve small European communities. They discovered Europe and are on the search for their identity in an urban world. Since 1999 villagers are travelling through Europe and visit each other. They discover the value of the forgotten local level.” (source: www.cultural-village.com)
And since, so these people told me, Extraordinary Bert also had done projects with elderly people in these cultural villages, they urged me to go and talk to him: maybe we could somehow help each other.
So I went to Wijk aan Zee, had a few cups of coffee with Bert, listened to his stories and promised to share mine when I would have some to share in the future. He also told me that if I needed some contacts in any of the countries I was planning to visit, I had to email him. And when I was in Finland, looking at Estonia on the other side of the Baltic sea, I decided to give it a go and email Bert: maybe he would be able to get me in touch with someone in Killingi-Nõmme, the Estonian Cultural village.
Within 12 hours, I did not only have a reaction from Bert, but also from 2 of the local school teachers.[…] we are more than glad about your trip to Estonia and especially to Kilingi-Nõmme! Of course we´ll help you during your stay here. You must know that both of us are super-organizers and we like plans :D So, we have a very busy schedule for you for those two days! :) First, we have a apartment for you where you can stay and sleep. […]
This was Kätlin (about my age, German teacher) writing. And when I arrived in Kilingi-Nõmme on Sunday evening, both she and Mari (about my moms age, school Principal) were waiting for me in front of the apartment with two boxes of home made rhubarb cake and two big smiles. This was the beginning of some special days, I knew immediately. The next two days, these ladies who were very busy organising the last week at school, full with ceremonies, exams, final lessons and end-of-year meetings…
- arranged a meeting with the headmaster and for me to join two English classes where I shared my story and tried to encourage the 16 y’olds to ask questions (not easy, a thousand standing ovations for all teachers in the world!)
- took me on a visit to the elderly home, where the manager gave us a big tour and we had a small talk to Kätlins grandma
- organised a meeting with a very interesting older couple, who had been separated by Siberian times more than 50 years ago
- showed me some local history when visiting a beautiful manor house
- took me and my car to the mechanics, not once but three times, to repair the lock that had been demolished in Tallinn (by someone really poor or drunk or simply sad grrr)
- let me cook for them in Mari’s kitchen
- gave me a beautiful walking tour around town
- showed me how to look for luck in the lilacs
- challenged me in a disc-golf (uhuh!) game in the Kilingi Forest
- treated me to some Estonian folk and ballroom dancing
- even let me enjoy a free morning (I still wonder: How? When?)
But most of all, they found a place in my heart. I’m not one for the cheesy lines, but really, it was a very special stay in a beautiful town with two extra-extraordinary women. I hope they will be able to visit the Netherlands when I have returned, so I can return just a little bit of their hospitality. I’ve learned a lot about Estonia, about it’s history, it’s people, the elderly care and closely related topics as education and economy. Sometimes, 2 days pass by in a vacuum of nothing importantness, and sometimes, 2 days are a simply box of good memories filled with great people. So, thank you again, Bert, Kätlin and Mari. I owe you!
(I will add some pictures when I have a proper wifi connection, until then: some colorful lines ; ))