Today I took the last of the Estonians to the airport for his flight home. It has been an interesting summer watching them struggle and cope with their situation. I think it has been more of a struggle than any of them thought. I was talking to Arni about why he wasn’t doing any work. He said that last year in Idaho he had a similar experience where he had a hard time staying motivated and wound up not doing anything most of the summer. It really bothered him that the job had gotten the better of him and he wanted to do it again to prove that he could be successful at it. He stayed confident and tried to keep himself motivated through the training, but on the first day of selling after he dropped the other two guys off he said he was just shaking from anxiety. Though he sold some books and enjoyed selling in the Avondale area, he started getting a more hostile reception in other neighborhoods around here. He quickly lost his motivation. At the same time he had invested a lot of money in the plane flight, the van, and rent. There’s no way he broke even. He said that even though he couldn’t make himself work he focused on keeping the other two guys motivated and enforcing the schedule. He said they never got going late and were always up at the same time. He had talked at one point about coming back again as a team leader because he likes managing people more than selling. I told him it was definitely easier to work with people than do work on your own, because people will always ask questions and need stuff so you stay pretty busy. But before he left he said he won’t do the book selling again. Part of growing up is learning that you have limitations and Arni has had to accept that he has some.
Martti continued working at Kroger up until a couple of days before he left today (the last day of his visa). I think he really enjoyed working there and having co-workers. And they apparently liked him because they said if he stayed they would like to have him become a cashier which pays several dollars more per hour (however they also posted a large sign at the time clock saying “NO OVERTIME” after he worked too much, see Part 5). He bought a copy of The Little Prince for the Ethiopian cashier he worked with bagging groceries. On Friday after his last day I could tell he would miss going to work. In fact he said that he had had mixed feelings about the whole ordeal since the very beginning: when he was leaving he wasn’t sure it was a good idea and that he would miss home, but he was also looking forward to leaving Estonia and seeing a different place. Estonia, he said, was very small and he knew there was a lot more out there. So today when he left he was still conflicted: he would miss America and the friends he made here and had misgivings about going back to school in the town even smaller than Tallinn where he lives. But of course he was looking forward to getting back home too.
I got an e-mail from Madis a week or so after he left saying he had made it back. He and the other salespeople had put in very long days and I guess they rented a car and drove up to New York. He said this was a very difficult drive after several days with only a couple of hours of sleep. I told him I was glad he made it back and wasn’t still waiting for bus repairs in West Virginia.
Martti decided he would like to buy an iPod while he was here because they are much more expensive in Estonia. He looked around for a good deal, but Apple products are rarely discounted. On Amazon he found a couple of “new and used” ones that were cheaper than list price. One of them had a screen you couldn’t read. The other was offered by a guy with one sale and one customer comment posted the day before saying he never got the item he was buying. We looked around for discounts (sometimes Target would have a 10% off store coupon that you could apply to the price of iPod). He wound up finding a 3rd Generation iPod like mine (only 15 GB instead of 20) for $240 including shipping through Amazon itself. I looked around for some other brands of MP3 players, but really that was about as good as he was going to do. He was very excited about it and I helped him get it set up when it arrived a few days later.
Towards the end of the Summer I was really ready for them to be gone. One day I tried to work from home and review bridges, but this was nearly impossible since Arni was also home all day and usually on the computer which I needed from time to time. One Saturday Arni was on the computer literally all day. He had some software where he could control his computer back home from here. With its high speed connection he could download songs and then play them from that computer, over the internet, to here. He also did some work on his web page and one that he was working on for his mother. He also downloaded Sim City 2000 from his computer at home and spent days playing that with Martti at his side watching and listening to why he was doing this or that. I didn’t mind them using my computer but after a while I found myself really wanting to say “Why don’t you boys go play outside?!!” How am I supposed to write blog entries about them if they are always on the computer? The good thing is that Susan used to say I was online too much and now she sees it could be worse.
Yesterday on Martti’s last full day he had some things he wanted to do before he left. First he wanted to go to AAA and get an international driving permit. He said their office was in Augusta. “How far is that?” he asked. I said a couple of hours and I wouldn’t be driving him there. He said “Is Tucker closer? They have an office there too.” So we drove up to Northlake, then went to Target to look for DVD’s. He had watched some of mine and wanted to buy some of those for himself to have his mom watch. Titles he picked out were Big, The Graduate, Citizen Kane, and Pleasantville. We found The Graduate for $10 so he got that one. He also wanted some kind of case for his iPod because I told him how easy it was to scratch them. So we went to Best Buy. They only had two kinds, but one of them didn’t protect the screen so he paid a little more for the other one. We also looked for more DVD’s. He found a $20 Tom Hanks 3-pack that had Big as well as Bachelor Party (which he said is one of his favorite movies) and Cast Away. Citizen Kane was $28. He said “I’ll just download that one.”
Another stop he wanted to make was to a Vietnamese guy he had met while he was selling books. When he first knocked on the guy’s door he got a chilly reception. The man said “I’m a teacher, I don’t need any books.” But as Martti continued to work that area the guy stopped and talked to him. He advised Martti to get an hourly job. He also told him that if Martti came to see him on his last day he would give him $50. So Martti really wanted to stop by his house. I drove him over there and Martti said “I hope he’s home.” He rang the doorbell and went inside. A few minutes later he came back out and he had gotten the money. He said the guy was really bitter about everything but I guess he wanted to help Martti out. It sounded like something out of his favorite book, The Little Prince.
Last weekend I went to Tybee with Dad, Jeb, and Grant for the hurricane. When we got back on Tuesday, Arni had finished up his book deliveries and gone to Nashville the night before. So I never really got to say goodbye, but Arni had thanked me for putting up with him all summer before. While Madis had made sure he broke down all the boxes from the books and we took them to be recycled, Arni just left his boxes in the garage. Typical Arni. He sent an e-mail and apologized for the mess.
The saga continues: Just when I thought they were all gone and I was finishing up the previous paragraph, Martti calls me and says that due to mechanical problems his connecting flight from Greensboro to New York was cancelled and he is coming back. Now he will leave on the sixth.