Life in Estonia, part 1: quarantine

 


Four months. That’s how long I waited between submitting my application for the PhD studies until hearing back from the university. In the meantime, I have been living in my parent’s guest room, worked as a self-employed veterinarian in a colleague’s small animal practice, I have hiked a lot and run a half-marathon. I also successfully applied for a “Plan B job”.

And suddenly, everything happens very quickly. The university gives me the preliminary acceptance, I agree that I still want the position, the paper work goes through. “So when do you want me to start?” I ask my supervisor, trying to figure out how I want to move – by car, by plane, taking all of my stuff with me or not... “Well, when will you be here?”

So this is how it goes, all right. The infection rate in Germany has risen again, Lithuania is still closed for foreigners, so I can’t get to Estonia by car. I will also have to do a quarantine once I arrive. So I pack up my stuff – ten banana boxes, my suitcase and my old, trusted backpack. Surprisingly quickly, I find an ideal apartment. I book my plane ticket and have my belongings shipped. My mother organizes a surprise farewell party (that doesn’t really apply the Covid-19 safety rules…), then I adjust my mask and off I go. Exactly two weeks after the official confirmation that I have the job, I land in Tallinn. Everything is different from my last visit: I have to fill out documents, show my ID, and take a Corona test. The university has arranged contactless transportation for me, and late in the evening I move into my flat in the picturesque part of Tartu that is called Karlova. I order pizza that has to be dropped off in front of my door, become Facebook friends with my landlady, so that I will be able to communicate with her about rent and utilities, and then I wait again. If my test is negative, I have to stay here for one week, take a second test. If that is negative as well, I can start working.


So now I have seven days to unpack my suitcase, watch the dogs walking by in my street, and become a master in ordering take-out. Supermarkets deliver some stuff, my favorite vegan restaurant brings me delicious food, and a good old friend also brings me potatoes and a few other useful things. I have a kitchen, complete with fridge and oven, and I have a bed. I have only one tiny pot, one spoon, one fork, and one tea mug.

It is an unusual beginning. On my first night in Tartu, I always go to the same bar and meet the same people. Not this time. I thought there would be enough to do during quarantine, but already after 22 hours, I start feeling lonely. And bored. No furniture, no internet, no utensils to cook with. So I get very familiar with the neighbors who have dogs, as I look out the window all day, I practice a lot of yoga, do workouts, read. Finally, I write a note no my neighbors asking for their Wi-Fi password. Only a few hours late, the neighbor from apartment number 6 knocks at my door. His network is named after the Estonian central party. So when my own internet is finally here, I name it “Rohelised” – the green party.

One week after the first test I have only sky above me for the first time: I am allowed to walk to the test center. It is now four years since I first walked these streets… Oh, the fresh air, not just through a window! Once again, I am reminded that Estonia ranks third in best European urban air quality.

The next morning, I get a text with the result: negative. I can go to work. My new life begins…


 

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