European Expedition - A Ceramics Tete a Tete

Correspondent for Choir Tour - Reporting from Turku, Finland.

Tartu to Narva - Narva to Tallinn - Tallinn to Turku, Finland
Alas, I am pictureless for another blog, but I know you won't mind (which is actually not true anymore, since I added a friend's picture). I have so many crazy stories I don't know where to start (not to mention the fact that I'm typing on a Finnish keyboard that has extra letters and symbols like - ä ö å and €. Plus, the @ and - and ' aren't in their normal places so I keep having to delete things like "donät"  and go fishing for keys like " or ; or :  - my brain hurts).

If you and I are good friends then you know I've kept a wicked sweet journal since my first day of college, including all the Northwestern international tours I've been a part of like Symphonic Band Tour Spring 2008 to Australia, ICS internship Fall 2008, and now the College Choir Tour Spring 2010 to the Baltics (aka Latvia, Estonia, and Finland).  Furthermore, now that I've graduated  from Northwestern (minus two summer classes), its fitting that I'm on the last two pages of the journal I started my first day of college.  As this tour ends, so will my journal.

Most of my hardcore journaling happens during travels, especially since I began writing here, but I've added a few entries during the mundane days of school and homework.  Its such a strange reflection of my life, and I hope to share it with my children someday. But as I look back to pages written past, I noticed that I typically only  record something when it was particularly exciting or agitating.  My kids are going to think I'm real weird - that's all I'm sayin'.

Anways - that was a long rabbit trail - we've spend most of our time on tour exploring the cities we've been thrust into or travelling to the next destination.  I write in my tangible journal mostly during the latter. As a obvious extrovert, I urge you, never underestimate the power, the neccessity of reflection - its especially crucial when you're surrounded by 80 other singers high on caffeine and the travel buzz.

Can I just say that this tour has taught me 1. How vulnerable and non-superwoman-ish my temper is (you thought I was the sweet church girl, guess again, I get irritated super fast - which sucks by the way because I hate being grumpy) and 2. That love is 90% choice and 10% feeling and 3. God's faithfulness and mercy and love and patience is way more than anything you can dream up, so get ready 'cause he'll blow your mind. 

Now I will share one of my journal entries with you - sorry its not as cool as the real thing which includes pictures, flowers, and coins from the actual day.  It may be a little out of context for you, but here goes...

May 25th, 2010 - Tuesday, Tallinn, Estonia

How can I articulate the beauty, the majesty of this day - but the flowers on my nightstand remind me of the sweet and gentle nature of the friend who gave them to me.  To me, they are a fragrant memorial, a tribute of beauty to this day.  Lily of the Valley and Forget-me-Nots, lavender and light periwinkle blossoms hugged by a ring of spring green tulip leaves - I love this lily smell.  We spent almost the entire day on the stone cobbled streets of the Old Town in Tallinn - but right now all I can see is the clear blackness of the night spotted with gold electric lights from the buildings outside my eleventh floor hotel room - the moving cars on the streets down below remind me of the passing time, and if I don't capture my memories now, they'll be lost forever in my sleep.

Photo Left: Riga, Latvia
Photo courtesy Julie Johnson - Baltic Tour

The day began with a bus and walking tour of the city - Grigor, our young guide in a red checkered shirt, pretty much identical to a picnic basket, led us to the Estonian Singing Revolution Festival grounds (for all you history nerds out there, google the Singing Revolution - a bloodless coup in the 1980s) and the whole of College Choir gathered upon the concrete concerts steps under the massive pavillion and sang "Jesus, I adore thee" in a whole new way. After, my friend and I made plans to have our lunch in hidden garden cafe, in the end just the two of us, and then we'd head to a distant beach for exploring.  Of course we never made it there, but we had many adventures along the way.

As we strolled, mostly lost, we stopped inside a wood furnished Estonian handy-crafts shop and purchased some knits and pottery for our friends in the States.  An older Estonian  shope lady and I navigated the paper rolls of her malfunctioning register with half-English exaltations at our final success, when we figured the darn thing out - she was hilarious.   Later, my friend and I met the Notches in an antique shop run by what I guessed were Russians - they had swords, WWII nazi pins, british pilot cps, and old communish pins - my companion got an old silver knife for his brother and a scarf for his mother.  We passed a tan skinned man in the street who entreatied us to eat at his cafe, he was dressed in a clean pressed linen suit and shiney shoes, we would have joined him but we ate our meal at the garden cafe - by then we were quite lost on our way to the bus station.

My friend has the kindest heart and I loved our day together - so easy and free - he always gives something to the poor on the streets or sits with them and says, "money and flowers, they are meant to be shared, it wouldn't be charity if we only gave to people we thought deserved it".  Then, following our ears to the sounds of a string trio garden ensemble, their music wafting over the talking birds, we followed our feet down  into another side street cafe and shopping nook. 
Photo Above: Estonian Countryside
Photo courtesy Julie Johnson - Baltic Tour

We walked past their music, past a man with a lage film camera (apparently the mayor of Tallinn had just been there) and into an adorable eclectic ceramics workshop and gallery, down a stair in the basement of a house built in the 13th century. We met Rita and Eliisa, young sculptors from the nation's school of art. We clicked immediately and told her all about our lives while they told us all about their shop and artwork - pots, jewlery, cups, bowls, stones, figurines, and plaques - inlfluenced from all over the world.  I asked about Estonia, and my friend, being a potter himself, asked more specifically about their work.

Eventually dancing came up, seeing as both my friend and I love to swing dance in the States, and as it turned out Eliisa loved to Salsa.  So, underneath the tinkling cups and blows, we  youtubed Glen Miller and my friend taught Eliisa to swing in the back workshop of the new-age ceramics gallery in the hidden corner of a cafe nook in Tallinn, Estonia.  She was a natural as my friend dipped and twirled her in the tiny space - I don't think anyone could have written it better.  Rita loved the music, so we kep at it for a little while.  We spent almost an hour with them, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

End of excerpt

As it turns out we returned the next day with chocolate truffles and thank you notes.  Again, we sipped tea - this time they gave us clay to play with - my scultped earings looked absolutely pitiful next to my friends molded candle holder, but I'm not discouraged ;) .  Our conversation moved from weather to guessing our ages, to post-graduation plans and eventually to the philosophy and the Bible, which seems to happen to me a lot. I shared my heart, my love for Jesus, and tried (probably failed) to explain why I thought the principles and good ideas found in the Bible and other religious teachings are meaningless with the story of God and Jesus.  Honestly, I was just honored that they patiently listened to me and shared their thoughts. Time passed too quickly and we left with a quick hug and goodbye.  My friend negotiated a taxi and we made it back in time for an abbreviated group supper.

This post has been so long and I must climb out of my writing cave and go socialize.

Farewell 'till Helsinki!