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To Estonia and Back Again

Five of us from Wallace Hall Academy, Scotland, travelled to Estonia, Tartu (‘city of good thoughts’) at the end of September. After a brief flight we arrived on the Sunday, spending a couple of hours with our host families before coming together and socialising with the whole group. We had the chance to enjoy a sauna, a very common Estonian tradition, and we enjoyed getting to know everyone as a group.

On Monday we started school at 9.30am and the Estonians took us on a tour of their school, which included a sauna, Petanque courts and a school museum. After that we took part in a ‘warm up’ run by a member of the school’s Pupil Council. We were then put into groups for our project work about food waste, and the groups consisted of one Scot, one Belgian, and two Estonians. Our task was to create a digital story which we would then present later in the week.

A delicious, healthy lunch was next on the agenda which was followed by a presentation about Estonia. We heard about their lack of hills (their highest peak is 318m), their small population of 1.3 million and learned some Estonian phrases. At about four o clock we started to prepare and set up the food court which showcased traditional food from Belgium, Scotland and Estonia. The Scottish food was gone quite quickly!

On the second day, joined by the Estonian pupils, we had a presentation about Belgium in the school’s Auditorium. We then went to an organic farm where we tried some tea that was made on the farm and sampled some Pirozhki (delicious baked or fried yeast-leavened boat-shaped buns). At the farm they grew many different herbs and dried them organically using eco-friendly methods. They also used dog hair to make wool which they knitted into socks and gloves. We then also had a 45-minute walk around Meenikunno bog, where we saw a big lake and picked wild cranberries.

On Wednesday we took a tour of Tartu and played a city game where we had to find different monuments from some clues and take pictures with them. We explored the botanical gardens and the Tartu food market. We also did our presentation about Scotland, and we got a lot of interesting questions from the other Estonian and Belgian pupils. We visited the Estonian University of Life Sciences, and received a lecture from Elen Peetsmann about organic food. Then all the Belgians, Estonians and Scots went to a meal together at a place called Apratta.

The fourth day started with a lecture about Fairtrade by Jaanus Vaija. The Estonia’s had made a Kahoot about all three of the participating countries, no one from Scotland won, but Mrs Black came second. After lunch we got taken to an Estonian food bank, where we volunteered, sorted food into various categories, before serving clients their food boxes. Then the Scots and the Estonians went to a big shopping centre, called Lounakesku that housed an ice rink. We spent about half an hour looking through the various shops, including Apollo, Candle shops, Braingame’s, Husqwarna, Kavlev, and Apotheka. We enjoyed an hour on the ice and then finished off the night by a visit to McDonalds.

Friday was our last day at the school. We played Petanque in the courts in the basement. Then everyone shared their digital stories. After lunch we visited AHHAA - an Estonian science centre where we explored the hall of mirrors, cycled on a tightrope and gagged at jars full of human organs.

Our final day consisted of typical tourism. We wandered around the natural history museum and even ventured into an upside-down house. Some of us even explored the beautiful countryside and, although temperatures rarely ventured above 1 degree Celsius, the views were of warm autumn colours. In the evening everybody congregated at one of the apartments and the Estonians hosted a farewell party. We played cards, danced and the Scots bewildered the Estonians by showing them how to make chip butties.

We all agreed that the experience has been really valuable. Everybody thoroughly enjoyed attempting to learn the Estonian language and generally getting to know about Estonian culture. We look forward to returning the favour later this term and showing them what Scotland has to offer.

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