Is Estonia truly the land of zipping, ubiquitous wireless Internet connections, pay-by-phone parking, online banking, e-voting, young and savvy entrepreneurs, not to mention Skype? If you only read The Economist, you would think it so (and be very grateful to Mart Laar’s angelic first government, who set everything in motion decades ago). And it is all of these things. But it is not only all of these things. I have seen life in the countryside that would make even the most open-minded undergraduate hold his nose.
Meh. The countryside. Land of “dry” toilets (or, as I call them, in-house outhouses), land of do-it-yourself fire hazard electric wiring jobs, land of unemployed, alcoholic uncles. When we celebrated a relative’s 50th birthday last year, he took us on a tour of the graveyard to visit some old high school friends whose birth years were in the ’60s and death years were in the ’90s and ’00s. I remember the September light on the stones, the moss on the trees, the wind in my hair. “But how did they all die?” I asked as a particularly cool breeze picked up. “Alcohol,” came the deep-voiced and eerie response.
So, next time you read The Economist, remember that e-voting and pay-by-phone parking are wonderful, wondrous things. But so are professionally installed wiring, modern plumbing, and sober, employed relatives.