Friday, May 09, 2008

The best promotion for Estonia

In Almaty me and other AIESECers have organized nice tradition - since about 6-7 months ago we are meeting virtually every Sunday evening at my place and having "Cinema Club". We are watching art-house and just good non-mainstream movies.

Last Sunday, when Jaan was still there, we were watching Estonian movie "Klass" ("Class") from Ilmar Raag. The movie is about school violence. It is dynamic, aggressive and scary movie. Definitely the best Estonian movie I have seen since we got independence back in 1991. Actually, it was one of the best movies I have seen during these past 6-7 months of having "Cinema Club" every Sunday.

None of my Kazakhstani friends left untouched by this movie. It was shocking, it was hard, but it was excellent!

Later on, out of curiosity, I spoke to some other people, read some materials in Internet and discovered that it actually became quite popular among many people in several countries, including Russia, which Estonia does not have good relations with. I've heard and read opinions like "I don't know anything about Estonia except that they removed this monument, but after this movie I got interested in this small country".

"Klass" is not shiny out-of-tourist-magazine-welcome-to-Estonia-movie. It is not meant to be PR for Estonia. But it definitely is. And it has brought more fame for our small country than much of what has been done with intention to do so.

Conclusion: Estonia's biggest asset is talented people like Eri Klas, Neeme Järvi and Ilmar Raag. And we need to continue to create environment, where such people can create and be recognized. I know Ilmar Raag personally from the times when he gave lectures at my alma mater in Tartu. After this movie I started to respect him even more. Thanks to people like him it is a good feeling to represent Estonia abroad.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Non-controversial beauty of nature in Kazakhstan

I have been for 10 months in Kazakhstan!

It is a controversial country for me - it has many positive as well as negative sides. Its cities are controversial for me - I have not seen any which would pretend to be anyhow charming (although for example Almaty has its positive sides as well).

As all Europeans who come to Kazakhstan say - things made by man here are not that interesting...

Model of Kazakhstan's society is controversial as well - many things are hard to get used to for European.

And behaviour of people and their relations towards each other, towards state and towards environment is controversial as well.

However, one thing cannot be controversial for anyone - Kazakhstan is very beautiful country in terms of its nature. Its vast territory (9th largest country in the world) contains such a great variety of natural beauty!

Luckily, me and my friend Jaan had chance to prove it once again for ourselves - both of us took a vacation (Jaan came here from Estonia, I love you, Air Baltic!) and went for a week to Southern Kazakhstan. We spent 6 wonderful days in Sairam, Lenger, Kaskasu, Aksu-Zhabagly, having visited two National parks.

We had chance to experience network of CBT (community-based tourism) when rural communities of people organize network and facilities t provide tourism services - accommodation, food, excursions, guides. Its value lies in the fact that one has chance to spend time with people living there. One feels more like a guest, rather than a client. It was great opportunity to experience hospitality and traditions of Kazakh and Russian-Kazakh families we stayed with.

Photo album with photos of amazing nature from this trip can be found here: