Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tales from Narva, or Two Tales of One City

Even though I have been whining about it for several months now I have realized that some of you may not have realized my change of location. If you never noticed me leaving Tallinn to go to Houghton then you’re WAY behind, but if you didn’t notice me returning to Tallinn only to move to Narva a month later than I guess I can forgive you, seeing as how I’ve only been negative and whiny about it up until this point and so haven’t thought it worth blogging about because it would just make the whole, if I may be so bold as to use the term, “blogosphere” so much more depressing by being filled with me fussing. Aren’t you glad that I’m kind and have waited until I had some nice stories to tell? So today I would like to tell you two tales. Not one tale of two cities, but two tales of one city. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but France is not involved, nor are there any revolutions in these tales. I’m sorry if I confused you, or if in fixing your confusion with my literary jokes I have instead simply confused you more or confused those not familiar with what I’m talking about. So anyway, on to my two tales.

The Tale of the Bridge and the Bombs

On a dark and stormy night, which just so happened to be last night, I went over to my friend Anneli’s house to play Age of Empires 2. Between my home and Anneli’s there is a foot bridge which crosses over a bunch of train tracks. It’s a big bridge, and I rather like it. Every time I walk on it I feel cooler just for being walking on a bridge. It’s a strange life I lead, but that’s just the way I feel. Anyway, because the rain was beginning to soak through my hoody and get my hair wet I bolted over the bridge, tightly clutching my towel covered laptop bag. The towel actually worked extraordinarily well in protecting my laptop bag, and when I arrived at Anneli’s I was please to see how dry my laptop bag was, despite the rain.

Six hours and eighteen minutes of mad back-and-forth combat, gloating, bragging, taunting, and shoving down snacks later Anneli and I decided to just end in a tie. It was an amazing game. Anneli’s strength is a nearly impenetrable defense, and she had designed her city to be very close in defensive design to that of Byzantium, whereas mine is an insane all out offense, and I had attacked like the golden horde. You can see how this could go on a while if neither of us truly got the upper hand. So after a little more chatting with Anneli I headed out to hear a terrifying noise.

Don’t mention 1941. I don’t like it. 1939 to 1943 were just especially bad years for Estonia, not to mention up until 1991. The Soviet Union, being the big jerk it was, occupied us for fifty years, starting right here in Narva. I live five minutes from the Russian border. If I get bored I can go make faces at Ivangorod, the Russian castle, or at random Russian men fishing in the river. Russia is literally a stone’s throw away. This city is 97% Russian, which is the cause of most of my whining. I don’t speak Russian. Also, I have become very patriotic. Not of America, of course. American “patriots” tend to irritate me. I feel very patriotic about Estonia, so I feel a little sore when it comes to Russia, Russians, the Russian language, Schweppes Ruscshian drink, all of it, but especially the idea of Russia invading. Remember Georgia? Remember T’bilisi? What T’bilisi? Exactly. So now that I live on the Russian border the last thing I want to hear are explosions…

As far as I can tell the only redeeming quality of the Russian city across the border is the Ivangorod castle, but last night even that high quality was negated. Some genius decided to set off fireworks right over the border. They looked nice, but as I stepped out of Anneli’s apartment building the echoing blasts of the fireworks sounded terribly like tank shells exploding, and the fizzling out of the fireworks sounded quite like machine gun and small arms fire. As I walked down the empty street the effect was disturbing. It felt as if the city had been evacuated and I got left behind, and now I could hear the sounds of the resistance trying to defend the border. All I could think was, “was this what it sounded like when they invaded the last two or three times?”

So that’s just some of what my life in Narva is like. That tale wasn’t as fun as I’m sure you might have liked, and the punch line was terribly unfunny, but I think sometimes in life the punch line just isn’t funny. Anyway, enough of that depressing anti-Russian crap that’s going to get me kidnapped and silenced. My next tale is considerably more entertaining, so I hope you’re happy.

The Tale of the Birds and the Book

One of the very nice things about where we live in Narva is the fact that we live 5 minutes from a nice playground. Though in Tallinn we lived 5 minutes from two nice playgrounds and 10 minutes from a very big and very nice and new playground it’s still quite wonderful to have a playground so close. Because Peter is an energetic young five year old the best remedy for his insane amounts of energy seems to be going to the playground, so I take him a lot. I also enjoy the opportunity to sit out in the fresh air and read, listen to music, or just sit and think. Lately I’ve been reading John Leax’s book, “Grace Is Where I Live” which is quite good, despite the fact that it makes me feel like a suck up to read a book written by the newly retired head of the Houghton Writing department.

So the other day I was sitting on the bench, enjoying the beautiful weather and the sound of kid’s playing while I read some inspirational things about being a Christian writer. Despite the fact that the book had completely engrossed me the birds seemed considerably less thrilled with it. I was sitting under a tree, and apparently I was directly under the favorite perching place of some pigeons. The pigeons, being quite intent on making me aware of their presence, defecated straight onto my book, only very narrowly missing my face. It took me a moment to understand what had gone whizzing past my face and why my book was suddenly disgusting, but once I did realize I kind of freaked out.

I realized pretty quickly that if I closed the book I would ruin it, but if I were to try to go home to clean it up I could not open the locks and doors without closing the book. This seeming dilemma turned out to be easily solved. While carefully cradling the open book in one hand I called home with the other, asking my sister to bring me tissues. Once my sister arrived with the tissues I commenced cleaning off my book, as well as gesturing angrily at the birds and making derogatory comments about them and their whole species.

This apparently touched a nerve in the pigeons, or maybe in the old Babushka, who I personally believe was Baba Yaga, because very quickly the birds decided to assault me again. It was a very well planned out maneuver, I’ll give them that. To my left, as I stared up into the tree making my insulting opinions known to the birds who had first attacked me, was an old woman with a bag of bread. On my right was a flock of pigeons, poised and ready to defend their honor.

As I was getting to a really good part in my tirade, the part where I comment on the quality of the eggs they hatched from, rather like we humans insult each other’s mothers, the Babushka A.K.A. Baba Yaga in disguise released a handful of bread crumbs. Within seconds the flock of birds on my right was all around me, flying straight past me to get to the bread crumbs. Being the manly man I am my response to this was to cover my head with my now clean book while spinning in a circle and shrilly screaming “Oh my God, Oh my God!” This of course drew some dirty looks from the Babushka and the parents at the playground, because when you see a man screaming in English at a flock of birds you know he’s either insane or American or both.

So anyway, I hope you enjoyed my tales. Life in Narva is very different, but overall it’s okay. But I just need to say one last thing. I don’t think the Estonian birds in Tallinn would have attacked me like that! It’s these darn Russian birds, they’re out to get me…

1 comment:

Matt said...

These stories receive my seal of approval.