BootsnAll Travel Network

simply welcoming

by Rach
Tallinn, Estonia

We’re in a community house.
Breakfast is shared with a red-hat-wearing dreadlock-bearded Santa Claus’s helper. This Finnish man actually went to school with Santa Claus. We certainly didn’t have any inkling we’d be meeting *him* when when we set out over six months ago! He’s an interesting bloke. We discover that although he can walk, he has a broken spine and that he has a genetic degenerative disease as well. But he is thankful that he can call himself “completely disabled” and concentrate on the things that matter in life. He possesses powers such as being able to harness the wind, being able to detect God’s presence (the hairs stand up on his arm – and I cynically thought he was cold <wink>), being able to become invisible (useful when he is sleeping out in the forest), and he receives messages to pass on to world leaders. What’s more, parliamentarians (at least in the Baltic) listen to him – today he has an audience with one, and a meeting with people involved in the Clean Up Estonia campaign. He is passionate about making the world a better place, disposing of rubbish in particular and encouraging people to live in harmony. He is working on a vision to have countries everywhere clean up their rubbish; he’s contacting heads of state, environmental ministers and all forms of media to promote his utopian dream.
Although he feels he was failed by school, which he left at fourteen years of age, he is a very educated man and talks knowledgeably over the course of the morning about insect pheromones, Estonian historical literature, etymology, nutrients in food, monastic practices, political systems, human evolution, community.

A few hours later the conversation is still swirling through Jgirl14’s mind.
”So what did you think of this morning’s conversation?” she asks as we prepare food together in the tiny kitchen. We hold Santa’s Helper’s worldview up against our own.

He sees a little bit of God in everyone, everyone is god. Disagree.
He says everyone is made in the image of God. Agree.
He believes Utopia is possible here. Disagree.
He wants to work towards a society that considers others before self. Agree.

The nuances of meaning are close, but distinctive. We discuss.

But he’s not the only one at breakfast. A young man involved in setting up food co-operatives with local preferably organic produce joins the conversation – people’s relationships with food sources becomes the topic and many of my own mantras are repeated with a foreign accent.

A couple of girls sit on donated armchairs, deep in their own discussion. Another flies in and out of the kitchen. They’ve been living in this rented house for almost a year, and with donated and scavenged materials, in a labour of love and passion they are turning it into a welcoming community home. A large wooden house, during the Soviet era it had been turned into a multi-family dwelling, which was left to go to rack and ruin with a series of alcoholic inhabitants. Now it’s on the way to being a community resource with nine people living here permanently and many many more turning up for meals and choir practice and bike repairs and companionship and and and.
Before they started there was no shower – now there is also a washing machine, a toilet and a tap in the kitchen. Before we came there was an attic space. The day of our arrival, they laid six sheets of chipboard, opened the windows and collected mattresses – and voila, this one-tap-house was ready to more than double its occupancy. When we walked in two pots of curry were simmering on the stove – it was Bollywood night and we were, of course, invited to the party. Someone apologised for the state of the kitchen – they were still cleaning up from the previous night’s party! This was looking like a fun place to stay, and that was before we had even met Santa’s Helper.

It did turn out to be a great home. By Western standards it is incomplete – it’s a breezy (especially the attic with its big gaps in the unlined walls) unfinished wooden house, with not one wall totally painted, with uneven floors, with a kitchen opening so low you have to duck to get through unscathed, with holes in the walls and cobwebs hanging from the ceilings. But it is also a place of music (it seems there is always someone playing some of the instruments lying around, or a choir exercising their vocal chords), it is a place of art (and not mass-produced prints – the people who live here create and display), it is a place of conversation, of cooking together (even Anzac biscuits a few days late), of books (including No Logo, national geographics and Diana Leafe Christian’s “Creating a Life Together” providing practical tools for growing ecovillages and intentional communities, which I have skimmed with interest), it is a place of laughter, it is intergenerational, it is a place of industry (there’s a bike repair service downstairs and it’s the base for a pedicab business too), it’s a place of sustainability (you should see the compost pile) and of generous hospitality. Again we have been welcomed.

                                                                                                           our attic wall

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2 responses to “simply welcoming”

  1. nova says:

    rach i can easily picture you settling down with your knitting for a spot of rigorous discussion!

  2. Rita says:

    Thanks for this post. My daughters are staying at the house and this has given me a new perspective to their environment. I plan to get there one day soon, because it sounds like an amazing place to watch the world.

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