Return of the Estonian

It has been six years since I first met the three Estonian college students that stayed with me and sold books door-to-door all Summer. I never heard much from Arni, but I heard from Martti a couple of times, and Madis wrote a year or two later to say that he and his wife had just had a baby.

This week I got an e-mail from Madis saying he was in Tampa for a conference and had a layover in Atlanta with an open ticket for the trip back to Europe. He now works for Estonian Air, the national airline of Estonia as an aircraft engineer (they contract their maintenance out, but he oversees some of that). That is great because I knew he was studying aircraft technology in school, so this is his chosen field. But they are pretty small: Wikipedia says they have seven jets. As an airline they are a big customer so he had a great time in Tampa with conference sponsors throwing all kinds of parties every night.


I picked him up at the airport after work and we drove back to my house so that I could let the dogs out. It was still kind of early so we took the dogs for a walk and then walked up to the Irish pub. As we were finishing our meals, Trivia Night started up, so I figured I might as well get an entry form while we were finishing our second beer. It was divided into 4 quarters with 4 questions each and then a bonus round. I got all of the questions right the first quarter, but missed a couple in the second. Still, at halftime Team Estonia was in second place with a bunch of other teams very close behind. However, the questions got harder about more obscure subjects and I missed most of the remaining questions (we didn’t stay all the way to the end, it was so bad). Turns out, having a guy from Estonia on your team for trivia doesn’t help very much. So it was me against teams of 3-8 people.

Unfortunately the next day I had to be at work to finish up a bridge I had promised to have ready, so I couldn’t hang out and show Madis any sights. He decided to spend the day shopping before catching a flight back home. He didn’t want to stay too much longer because he wanted to get back on Saturday and spend Sunday with his wife and (now) 3 girls.

It was great getting to see him and I’m glad he stopped by. He said that even if people didn’t make much money selling books, he has recommended the experience to people. Walking around with the dogs he said he felt like he should be knocking on doors and telling them about books. I’m sure it was surreal returning to a place so far away from home that is still pretty familiar.

He said some in his group made so much money they came back for a couple of more summers. He also said that after working so intensely that a lot of them went back and just let loose, spending their money and partying for long hours to the detriment of their studies in school (they all missed the first week of school because that was when the books had to be delivered; so they had to hit the ground running). It took him a few weeks just to get his sleep schedule back to normal. That whole experience would make a great magazine article or even a book. He said there were a lot of articles written about it back in Estonia.

Previous The Estonian Series

3 thoughts on “Return of the Estonian

  1. Madis emailed last week and said he would be coming through again, so I said he should plan on stopping through Atlanta. I picked him up Sunday at the new international terminal of the airport, so that was a new experience. After helping me move my new elliptical trainer, we got pizza at a local place (he had a little language messup, thinking “garlic” was the word for basil, so he ordered a pepperoni and garlic slice, which was a little stronger than he expected). I don’t know if Katie remembered him or not, but she seemed glad to see him. I told him he should stay up as late as he could and then he would sleep longer and get adjusted to the time difference faster. He still went to bed around 9 and said his internal clock woke him up around 2 AM and he couldn’t get back to sleep, so really that plan just deprived him of sleep. He said the sound of the train horn going off nearby really brought him back to the summer he worked here, plus he was in the same spot on the floor of his room (on an air mattress this time, at least). We got breakfast at Waffle House and, since I had the day off today, we went to Fernbank museum. Maybe not the best choice since it involves a lot of reading stuff in English, even though his English is very good. He brought me a really nice photo book about Estonia (in English!) and said I should come out to visit him next time. He had pictures of his oldest daughter (of three) and her first day of school this year (and some of the other girls too), and showed me on Google Streetview a street near his house with his wife pushing their stroller.

  2. We did talk about that. They are getting rid of their Boeings which are larger and harder to fill and going more towards smaller regional jets. Wikipedia’s article seems remarkably up-to-date on the number of jets they have.

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