north!

For a long time now, I have written here in this place. You’ve seen me come and go and develop and devolve. Now, at last, I know where I need to go. North! It’s my newer blog and I will be writing there.

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peppermint tea

In a recent business-related discussion, I happened upon an interesting question. It had to do with food production, and to brand something made in Estonia for the regional market with an N or a B. That’s right: Nordic or Baltic. Just thinking about it was absorbing, because all of those prejudices floated right up to the top. Let’s take something harmless like peppermint tea. I love peppermint tea. Now, would you rather drink Nordic Peppermint Tea, or Baltic Peppermint Tea? Hmm. Nordic brings to mind cleanliness. It smacks of Ikea and so there is a flavor of overproduction in the term, as in these tea leaves were handpicked and produced in line with 700 pages worth of government regulations. Still, they are Nordic, which means they come with a Sami folk pattern on the box and are of high quality. Baltic Peppermint Tea didn’t sound as savory to my ears, though, nor to the ears of my Estonian colleagues. And nobody could say why. Or maybe we all really knew why we didn’t want to drink Baltic Peppermint Tea, and lacked the courage to admit it.

54-46

Estonia has a new minister of culture, and her name is Urve Tiidus. That’s right, her name. The former mayor of Kuressaare is a woman. Estonia’s cabinet now has its second female minister. While this is certainly cause for celebration, let’s not forget that women are the majority in Estonia. There are 689,000 women. There are 598,000 men. That’s a 54 percent to 46 percent split. Which, I guess, would mean that there should be seven female ministers and six male ministers, if you do the math, in an ideal world, in an ideal world…

why no western ukraine

In third grade, I was very proud, because I was one of the few students who could pronounce “Czechoslovakia.” Other kids would prod me — “Say it! Say it!” “Say what?” “You know what, just say it!” “Oh, {an eyebrow raised}, do you mean, CZECHOSLOVAKIA?” “See! I told you that he could say it! Pay up, boys!”

It was a talent that perhaps could have earned me a future slot as a diplomat in Prague {“The Secretary of State informed me that you are capable of saying it…”}, but, alas, there was that pesky Velvet Divorce. It happened {snap!} like that. Czechoslovakia dissected, cut into more easily pronounced halves. Nobody blinked, nobody twiddled nervous thumbs, the anxiety level was nonexistent, it was all calm and fine, at least from the vantage point of a New York junior high school student. Now that I read more about it, I can see that many people even opposed it! Still, it was bloodless, soft as velvet, and who doesn’t like velvet?

What I don’t understand, is why there is opposition to a Ukrainian “Velvet Divorce”? It’s apparent that Western Ukraine, those parts of current Ukraine that were once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is/are not happy with Kiev. They aren’t happy with Donetsk. Western Ukraine! Doesn’t it sound grand? {“Don’t worry, mother, she’s from Western Ukraine.”} And yet, when somebody brings up a partitioning of Western Ukraine from the rest of it, all you hear is no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. To which, I must respond, Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?…

                                                                         …{Why?}

ukraine/brain

Very pleased to hear of the demonstrations in Kiev. One thing that always impressed me about former Communist/Eastern/New Europe {as opposed to glazed over, apathetic ABBA- and Boney M-listening Western/Old} is the belief in “people power” — that change from the bottom up is still possible. Count me among those Western Europeans {or Westerners in general} who remain convinced that there is no such thing, and that our systems will remain mired in lethargy for eternity. We {or some of those among us} were not surprised by what has happened in Ukraine over the past month at all. But what is surprising is the tenacity of these EU-friendly parts of Ukraine, these demonstrators who simply do not give up. I do not know what their great ambition is — the common currency, Schengen? — but they are banging at the gates, crying to be let out of post-Soviet limbo land. They want a future. Don’t we all?