It's amazing how shared suffering unites people. The group of strangers who started their first steps toward doctor's degree last Monday morning are not strangers to each other any longer. It's been fascinating to see how putting up with long days in a classroom (from 9.30am to 9pm last Wednesday - probably the longest school day in my life), reading, sitting in the library, asking 'what am I doing here?' question over and over again brings people together. Obviously, we're all grown up people and we've come here on our own free choice so we don't cry on each others shoulders but I've noticed in the conversations during the last few days how we rely on each other and try to tell ourselves that all of us will be alright in the end. It doesn't matter some are 60 years old and some already have a DMin degree in their pocket. We're all uncertain whether we can fit such a massive project into our already busy lives or not. And that's why the support of classmates is so beautiful, priceless actually.

But it's not only sweat and tears, of course. There have been plenty of joyful moments, too. For example, on Thursday evening we were all invited to our principal's house for a dinner and it was so good to connect with people over home-cooked food (we're starting to get a bit tired of the constant consummation of the Dutch bread and cheese) outside the school. Or just today over the supper I had the most exciting conversation with C. from Alabama who wants to write on narrative preaching as we realised we both loved Fred Craddock to bits (he said if he's ever to get a stained glass window in his church he will have a big Jesus and a tiny F. C. on it, lol!). Just like a shared sorrow, shared love can also unite people in a beautiful way.

And M. was so kind to take me on a tour in Amsterdam today. It had been a long while since I last saw her and much has happened in our lives since that time so I think we both enjoyed reconnecting, sharing our lives and having a good Sabbath walk around this beautiful city. Hopefully it won't be the last time for us to get together. God willing.

But as soon as the Sabbath ends, the work starts again. We've been given a whole pile of 'light' weekend reading. N. Murphy and deconstruction of postmodernity. Sigh.

With M. Sweet reunion.
Meeting Mr Spurgeon in the library.
Postcard picture.


So the Battle has begun.

I've been to Amsterdam for two days now and I'm getting used to my academic routine - sitting in the classroom from morning til evening with my newly found colleagues. We're having Critical Thinking and Research Methodologies intensive this week. The introduction was absolutely terrifying yesterday morning when the academic dean tried to scare us all to death (and succeeded). "Are you absolutely sure you're ready for this?" he asked. Gulp. Well... yes. No. I don't know. Why am I here???

So I'm swinging between pangs of pure delight for having academics around me again and sudden panic attacks when thinking of the long, painful and tearful journey ahead of me. I'm not quite sure why I'm doing this to myself. Not sure at all.

There are ten of us, two MA students who're taking the same course for some reason, and eight scared-looking baby doctoral students. In the classroom I'm sitting between an American guy who looks like Zinedine Zidane and who teaches theology and Arabic in Beirut (it's difficult to find a cooler combination if you asked me) and a high-ranking Baptist church leader from Philippines who flies around the world and trains pastors (and who likes to talk about it all the time. Never mind.). So there are people from all over the place - Africa, America, Europe, Asia. The principal of the Study Centre is a hilarious Scotsman who looks like Jeremy Clarkson. I'm the youngest (obviously). Out of ten students, it's eight men and two women. So nothing unexpected there.

I haven't seen much of Amsterdam yet but I'm hoping to explore the city some more on Saturday. But as much as I've seen during my morning and evening commute, it's everything one would expect - canals and bicycles everywhere. People are very nice (except when they're biking and you happen to get in their way). I've decided I'm not going to see Anne Frank's house this time around, I'd much rather went there off season when there aren't tourists around. But I am hoping to get together with M. and hang out with her for a while. I haven't seen her since she left Newbold.

I'm tired. So I'm off to watch The Great British Bake Off to give my poor brain a little break. Greetings from Dutch-land!


I think I've been cured of my melancholy. Well, for now, that is.

A day off contributed to it a lot. I called a friend on Wednesday morning to ask for advice about open air markets here in Tallinn as I had never been to one. She said she needed to visit one anyway and offered to take me with her. So we went to a big market which was a scary and wonderful place - it smelt awkwardly and there were the strangest people and so many things you would never find in a grocery store. And it sure wasn't a place which would meet the EU's health and safety standards. Most certainly not. Anyway, I returned from our adventure with a bag full of fresh veggies and fruits. Wonderful. And then I went on to make some jam - it was probably the first time I had ever made any jam myself. It was apricot jam and I put it into cute little jars so that I could give them to my friends as Christmas presents. A day well spent, I'd say.

When I was done with jamming, I didn't have anything better to do than to go downstairs and bug my colleagues (it's a dangerous thing to live in the same house with your office - you might end up in there even on your day off). I. hasn't been to the office for ages so I'm hanging out with my Russian brothers now. R. (the Russian pastor) and A. (well, technically he works for the Estonian church but he's a Russian by nationality) were cleaning Russian church's office and I just sat there, commenting on everything and anything that appeared from their bottomless closet which hadn't been cleaned for at least ten years. I must have been very annoying. And then at one point one of them dragged a ragged box out of the closet and there was a wondrous old typing machine in there. I was thrilled! Then I sat rather quietly for a good half an hour and annoyed them only with typing noises. Now I have a plan - I totally need to write some old school letters on this beast of a machine. I know U. would appreciate one. If anyone else would like to receive a typed letter, let me know! The machine is safely in my office now.

What a beauty!
Giving it a try.
And then three of us ended the day eating my apricot jam. I was cured. Because I thought - I've lost so bloody much but I've still got awesome people right here. And awesome typing machines. Yes.


I went to a camp meeting last weekend to help out. The conference has asked all the pastors to attend at least one summer camp in order to help and support the organisers so I chose this one - a weekend for girls aged 8-11. A peculiar age it is, to say the least... I was dead tired after three days.

When I arrived I realised the main reason I wanted to go there wasn't so much the camp itself but rather the place (embarrassing, I know). The camp meeting took place in Rakvere, a town where I spent most of my teenage years so it was a lot like a home-coming. What I didn't anticipate but what happened was that I drowned in the sea of melancholy as soon as I got there. So every time the girls were busy with something and my assistance wasn't required, I sneaked out and walked down the memory lane. I wandered in the park I used to walk my dog all the time. I walked down the streets where we took our evening strolls with mom. I sat in the cemetery where my grandparents are resting. I sat on the stairs of my old home. I missed seeing my grandpa sitting in the pew he always used to sit in the church. I missed the time when the world was still a safe place. And I couldn't decide whether I should be happy for having had these times and these people (and one dog) in my life or whether I should be devastated because of having lost it all. I still can't decide. And maybe it doesn't matter. Because my heart aches either way.

When I sat in the cemetery talking to, uhmmm, my grandparents tomb stones, I thought about what William Faulkner said in his Absalom, Absalom! which I had just finished. It fit perfectly with my melancholy.

You make so little impression, you see. You get born and you try this and you don't know why only you keep on trying it and you are born at the same time with a lot of people, all mixed up with them, like trying to, having to, move your arms and legs with strings only the same strings are hitched to all the other arms and legs and the others all trying and they don't know why either except that the strings are all in one another's way like five or six people all trying to make a rug on the same loom only each one wants to weave his own pattern into the rug; and it can't matter, you know that, or the Ones that set up the loom would have arranged things a little better, and yet it must matter because you keep on trying and then all of a sudden it's all over and all you have left is a block of stone with scratches on it provided there was someone to remember to have the marble scratched and set up or had time to, and it rains on it and then sun shines on it and after a while they don't even remember the name and what the scratches were trying to tell, and it doesn't matter.

Life and death. And it doesn't matter.

I'm listening to songs which go well with such an emotional state. I'm not sure it's helping but I've clicked on this song more than just once these days - James Bay's Hold Back The River.