Travel Diary — Days 10 & 11 — 5th and 6th July 2016

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5th July 2016 —

I woke early this morning — sometime after 4. Because this is Estonia, full-on daylight streamed in through the large windows. I was freezing cold, so I crept across the room to grab another blanket, then snuggled back into bed. I’d had weird dreams, so I didn’t fall back to sleep.

I got up at 7, and went for a walk through the forest, to the beach. It was chilly outside, but I still took off my shoes and rolled up my jeans, and padded across the sand, into the water. The sea here isn’t blue like it is at Stroomi beach. As a whole, it’s a dark grey colour, like thick storm clouds, but close up, it’s almost amber.
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There are times when I feel that writing can limit the beauty of the object it describes. I can tell you the colour of the water, and perhaps describe how the cold wind felt against my face, but I will never have the words to describe the beauty, the tranquility, the immense peace.

6th July 2016 —

I spent a good chunk of yesterday asleep. After I came back from the beach, I lay in bed for a while, and somehow ended up sleeping for several hours. When I ventured outside again, sometime later, Anton’s mother (I really need to learn her name) offered to show me the best part of the beach to watch the sunset from. Little Melinda ran along behind us on her tiny legs, grinning at me, and chattering away in Estonian.

Afterwards, I went for a walk in the forest. I left the “road”, and followed a path deeper into the woods. Pine trees towered over me, swaying in the strong wind, and the green moss was springy beneath my feet. I thought of the line from Angela Carter’s ‘The Erl-King’ “The woods enclose…swallow you up”, and I suddenly understood why so many fairytales are set in forests. Places like these have a consuming nature hidden in their green depths. But I felt safe, even when I ventured off the path, and I knew that there was no big, bad wolf coming to eat me.
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At 9 o’clock, I went to the beach to watch the sunset. It was freezing cold, and the wind pushed the rushes near-flat against the ground. I sat, cross-legged on a large, stone boulder, sitting steadfast against the wind, watching the setting sun peek out from behind the clouds, and glisten upon the waves. It was beautiful — immensely so — but I felt desperately lonely as I sat, shivering on that rock.
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I wanted someone to share it with. Not someone to talk to — certainly not! — but someone to sit in silence and watch with. I pulled my cardigan around me like a cocoon, and watched determinedly. After nearly an hour, the sun came out from behind the clouds, and glowed a fiery orange. I crowed with joy, and, for a few moments, my solitude didn’t cause my heart to ache.

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I woke in the middle of the night, in horrible discomfort from the five million mosquito bites which decorate my skin. I wanted to cry. I lathered myself in coconut oil, hoping its magical powers would make me itch less. After that interruption to my slumber, I slept till ten o’clock.

I didn’t really want to get up at all, but I saw that the sun was shining for the first time in four days, so I decided to go go the beach.

Sun or no sun, the water was freezing, but I walked in until the waves crashed up to my waist. I noticed my shadow in the amber water, a landscape of browny red, in the shape of a girl with her hair swept away by the sea breeze.

Seeing that image, reflected before me, I thought — as I had thought yesterday in the forest — about the idea of archetypes, fairytales, timeless grand narratives, and I asked myself where I could fit into such a concept.

I sat on a rock in the sea, and pictured myself as a siren, singing sailors to their deaths. The idea was laughable — perhaps that’s why I entertained such a notion. The thing about being a writer, is that you don’t just think of characters, or see them. You have to let them take over, let yourself be them, even if for only a moment.

It was when I stood up, and saw my reflection again, that I truly saw myself, saw the archetype I was, the role I wanted to have. And that was the hero, ready to set out on her quest. Although I’ve already set out on mine, and it’s nearly over. (Or maybe it’s only just begun).

I watched the red woman in the amber sea, and pictured the image of a person waiting for a ship to come in — how, historically, that image would be a woman, waiting for a man to return home. And I knew that such an image would never be what I saw in the reflection before me.

I was the hero — that traditionally male role — like those from Greek myths, and that metaphorical ship was the vessel of my quest. I will always be the hero — to play any other role has never been an option.

It sounds arrogant to say I’ve always been destined for greatness, but what if I said I’d MADE it my destiny to be great — that I always will do? I can’t settle for ordinariness, for mediocrity. It’s right up there with smalltalk on the list of things I despise.

I sit in a chair on the stone patio now, with the sun and breeze touching my shoulders with equal fervour.

I watched Anton blowing bubbles for Melinda to chase, her little hands poking them with glee. I watched the pair, and laughed to myself, enjoying their sweetness. Anton greeted me when he saw me, and Melinda ran to me with the bottle of bubble liquid, blowing bubbles into the air around me.

Although she and I do not share a language, we can communicate in smiles and giggles, and she’s such a sweet little thing.

They’re both back inside their cottage now — I can see them through the window — and I must content myself with watching the bees and butterflies dancing amongst the purple lavender flowers in the garden.

I feel infinitely lonelier here than I did in Tallinn — if such a thing is possible. Perhaps it is having this family living in such close proximity, people that I see every day, communicate with every day. I see the company they have in each other, and my solitude becomes magnified. This is a place for families, I can see that. And I think to myself how much nicer it would be if my family were here.

But what would I learn? (The question I always ask myself during moments of doubt). Every moment I spend alone, every sunset I see in solitude…those experiences shape me, show me who I am when I’m on my own. I’m surely a different person now to the girl who left Penrith train station nine days ago. I must be…

I do wonder what it will be like to return home after all this time, to interact with family/friends/coworkers. How will my relationship with them have changed? It’s one thing for me to sit here, half a continent away from my everyday life, and say that I’ve changed, that I’m a different person to who I was… But I can’t honestly say that it’s true until I’ve seen how such changes translate into my ordinary life.

Then, because I’m a philosopher at heart, I ask myself what IS my ordinary life? Estonia feels ordinary to me now. Tallinn became routine, Eru is becoming routine. England is a distant memory.

My home life has been dominated by school for the past three years, and now that that’s over, it’s not “ordinary” that I return to anyway. And, on the day I return home, it will be two months till I leave for university, and then THAT will become my ordinary.

Ordinary is not a place, it is a series of days, interactions, acquaintances, that become routine. Ordinary is a construct based on the expression of our lives. Can we really leave ordinary, or return to ordinary, or even take ordinary with us? Or is ordinary something that we make up as we go along?

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I sat outside for a while, and entertained myself by reading “Pride and Prejudice”. It’s been so long since I’ve read a book that wasn’t for school, and I forgot just how much I adore reading. There were many times when I found myself smiling, or laughing out loud, at this book that was written over 200 years ago, and it made me marvel at the power of literature.

If my books continue to touch people, to elicit emotions from them in 200 years from now, then I will be a very happy dead person.

Anton and Melinda came outside again, to get water from then hose. Anton asked if I would like to play boardgames with him later (no, mum, that’s not an innuendo!), and I said that that would be nice (yay, no more solitude!)

Melinda grinned at me as she filled buckets with water, and talked at me in Estonian. I obviously couldn’t understand a word she said, so I just smiled back at her. Then she started to imitate the way I scrunch my nose up when I smile at cute things, which just made me do it even more.

There’s something this place reminds me of (other than ‘Little House on the Prairie’), and I can’t figure out what it is. But as I sat outside, reading a Jane Austen novel, and smiling at that cute little girl, I realised that I’m happy here. I couldn’t live like this for more than a few days — I’m far too tribe wired (media audience theory reference) for that — but for now, I’m happy. It’s nice to get away from the world for a while, nice to not have to force myself to reply to messages when I don’t want to talk to people (which, honestly, is a lot of the time). It’s nice to just be Eliza, rather than Eliza In Relation To Everybody Else.

And, at the same time, I miss modern technology. I miss being able to Google things whenever I feel like it. I miss showers, and toilets, and a proper kitchen. I miss all the things I’m used to. I miss them, but now I know that I don’t need then to survive (I just kinda really want them…)

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I made myself a simple dinner of rye bread, asparagus, and vegan hotdogs, because I was too lazy to make anything else. I never seem to have the energy to eat at the moment — feeding myself feels like a chore. There’s too much food, and I have little will to eat it. I need to use up practically everything tomorrow, as it’s my last full day here. I suppose, if it comes to it, I can take some stuff to eat on the journey back to Tallinn.

I miss the food from home — whether that be my mum’s cooking, or hashbrowns from the hot food counter in Sainsbury’s. I miss what I’m used to. I realised yesterday that perhaps the reason I’ve gone off food lately is that practically everything I’ve been eating recently has come from a packet, and I’ve had hardly any fruits or vegetables. Let alone anything with proper herbs and spices!

The days go by quicker here than they do in Tallinn — perhaps because I spend them doing absolutely nothing. And somehow, I find myself writing more, even though there’s so much less to write about. I write to keep the loneliness away, I write to communicate with the reader, who is so distanced from me here. I write because I think. I write because it’s the only thing I know how to do.

I remember last night, when I sat watching the sunset, and all I could think of was how I would describe it, what imagery I would create.

Writing is an impulse, it’s a disease, an affliction of the mind that you can’t escape. No matter where you are, or what you’re doing, you see the world through the lens of the spectator, because you know your role is to describe it. You don’t sit and watch the sunset, completely in that moment. Oh no, you ask yourself how you would write about it, how your characters would respond to it.

And when I write these blogs, does that mean I am a character too? That I can’t experience things as Eliza The Person, but only as Eliza The Narrator-Protagonist?

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Well Anton’s offer of boardgames proved empty. Perhaps he knocked on the door while I was sleeping, or perhaps he simply forgot, I don’t know. But I have to say, I’m disappointed. I would have enjoyed the company…

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What do you know? I was wrong. Anton and Melinda came by, and we played boardgames together. It was somewhat amusing, because Anton had to act as translator, as Melinda and I don’t speak the same language. Although playing boardgames with a three-year-old can be a somewhat…testing experience, I had fun. Anton and I seemed to get on well, though every time we started talking, Melinda would interrupt with “Isa!” (which I presume means “dad” in Estonian) and when that didn’t get his attention, she would frustratedly demand “Aaaaaanton!”. She’s such a bossy little thing, but very adorable.

It was nice to not feel so alone.

It is interesting… We’re trained from a young age — by school, or suchlike — to only bond with our peers, to connect with people based on mutual age, and little else. And that system has never worked for me. But tonight, with Anton, who must be about thirty, and Melinda, who is three, I had fun. Because we could laugh together, we could share our human experience. And, sometimes, that is enough.

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