Kati, a friend from Estonia came to London for a few days, and spent two nights at our place.
We went to school together. In Estonia, at least back when I went to school, you stayed at the same school through years 1 to 9. Some schools continue with years 10 to 12 as well. So children spend a lot of time together with the same classmates.
There was a class reunion this August. It was 10 years since they all graduated from high school together, and 13 years since I last saw them. They’d obviously all been in touch occasionally, but for me that weekend was an interesting experience. I hadn’t been in touch with any my classmates since I moved to Sweden (after 9th grade), apart from my best friend at school, and a few people who I bumped into when I visited Tartu occasionally.
Most of them were still more or less as I remembered them. It seems that even at the age of 15, you are more or less what you’re going to be, you’re close to the finished product. Extrapolate the trends and it gives you a good idea of where they’ll end up as adults. The ones who were uninteresting back in school were still uninteresting today; the people who stood out in some way at the age of 15 are the same ones who have some colour and depth today. The whiny ones are still whiny; the fat one got fatter.
That reunion reawoke old acquaintances, and I’ve already met two of them again, when they happened to come to London for one reason or another – one of them this weekend.
I haven’t lived in Estonia for 13 years, and I don’t think I’d particularly like to move back there. When people ask, I say that I’m Estonian mostly out of habit; I don’t identify myself with Estonian people. Nevertheless, I’m discovering now that at some deep level I still feel more kinship with Estonians than with other people. I’ve always felt like an outsider, no matter where I’ve been or with which crowd. But there is a faint sense of belonging when I am in the company of my Estonian friends. Even if I haven’t seen them for 10 years, I am instinctively more open in conversations with them than with colleagues whom I’ve seen daily for the last 6 months. When I go to Estonia, I feel that I have a right to be there, whereas after four and a half years I still have a lingering feeling of being a visitor in London.
Maybe I have some roots, after all.
And the roots go through the stomach. When Kati asked if there was anything I’d like her to bring from Estonia, the only thing I wanted was food: kohupiim, which is sort of a cottage cheese / cream cheese hybrid. That’s the only Estonian food for which I have found nothing even remotely similar in either Sweden or England, so I’m always happy to get some. Kati knew better than that and also brought some Estonian bread, and happened to have some apples with her as well. Estonian apples are the only real apples; Estonian bread is the only real bread.