1 night = 14 mosquito bites

I thought only the tropics could do this to you. Apparently so can Northern Europe.

Setomaa was crazy cool. Sorry for not posting, I didn’t have wifi this whole weekend.

More to come.

1 night = 14 mosquito bites

Sometimes you just have to power walk it.

So here’s the scoop. Every Laulupidu begins with a parade/processional/pilgrimage from Vabaduse väljak to Tallinna Lauluväljak. This is roughly 4 km. This was arguably my favorite part of the trip. Everyone wears their traditional garb and walks with their ensemble. They’re typically waving an Estonian flag or some object that to them, represents part of their identity as singers in this Estonian song festival. For overseas communities, this often means carrying a flag of their nationality in addition to the Estonian flag. Get it? Got it? Good.

7:45 – I wake up. My alarm was set for 8. I’m too excited. I start packing.
8:35 – Worry I’m not layered properly. It was so cold during rehearsals.
9:05 – Whip up a hearty breakfast—I wasn’t sure when I would be eating next.
9:30 – The parade officially starts right outside my hostel. I still have half a boiled egg left
9:30-9:36 – I inhale the rest of my breakfast, wash my plate, unabashedly wipe my mouth with my sleeve and clamber out the door.
9:36 – Realize the front of the parade is already several blocks down. They must’ve started early.
9:37 – Commit to power walking my way across Tallinn to get to Lauluväljak before they do.
10:15 – Succeed and stake out a prime picture spot. Take hundreds of pictures.

To be continued in the next post. Also check these pictures out! The face blurring might be overkill, but I really don’t want to get in trouble. I’ve made it this far. There’s a lot of gray area right now and I don’t want to cross the line…

I know you can’t see their faces, but I’ve tried to keep the smiles. There is so much joy in these photos. It would be a shame to erase that too.

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Sometimes you just have to power walk it.

Today was the first time I missed wearing a regatta suit.

Unfinished blog post. It should have been published on 7.1.17. Back to the post… 

Regatta suits are these hideous devices that keep smol ferocious friends insulated, buoyant, and visible. They also have many secret pockets.

Let me explain. Yesterday and today I sat at the song festival grounds and just watched rehearsal all day long without moving in a very not warm nor dry Estonian summer. I tried to think of the last time I was that cold and miserable and all I could think of were early spring practices where I would nudge large hunks of ice out of the way in order to dodge a Titanic situation.

This weekend is the festival weekend! Like the weekend I’ve been waiting for for the last year (and arguably since I was a young child, but you know, whatever. nbd.) No, NOT NO BIG DEAL. YES BIG DEAL.

Have you ever heard the sound of 25,000 voices in sonorous harmony? Neither have I. I didn’t stay for that part of the rehearsal. But I heard 14,000 today so that was pretty awesome!

I conducted my first interview today, meaning I have received information, but haven’t had the time to digest it yet. There was a substantial language barrier, so my ridiculously cool thesis advisor stepped in and saved the day.

It was so interesting to see the way the festival was put together. It reminded me of the choral festivals I attended as a child… there were many. I also sympathized a lot with the conductors. Many of them had just finished their MAs. Then they were thrown onto the podium in front of thousands of singers. No one learns how to handle an ensemble of thousands. It was amazing though. You need some serious pedagogical chops and confidence to do that.

Tomorrow is the real deal. I’m psyched.


Today was the first time I missed wearing a regatta suit.


Like. I’m really sorry. I haven’t posted since my first week here and I have just over a week left. I will try my very best to post at least once a day from here till the end of my trip. This is more of a promise to myself; you definitely don’t care about the regularity of my posts… except for maybe my mom. Hi Mom! A few weeks ago I did most of my writing in the wee hours of the morning when I couldn’t sleep. I eventually acclimated to the wicked early sunrise.

So let’s start where we left off. I will finish my half written blog posts in addition to composing new ones. Here’s a quick recap, details to come.

  • Laulupidu has come and gone. I’m still processing.
  • I took a short trip to Saaremaa.
  • I finally stopped hostel hopping and moved into a studio apartment.
  • I started my language course! This is no surprise, but Estonian is difficult.
  • I visited Narva, Toila, and Lahemaa.
  • My groove has just begun, and I am not ready to leave.



“Estonia is the most non-religious country in the world” – my tour guide

I don’t even know how one would measure that. I think faith (like most things) is hard to measure, even if it’s not the faith itself being measured, but rather the number of people who believe in something greater than themselves.

I attended a service today at 10 am at Jaani Kirik in Freedom Square. Don’t ask me my method for choosing which church, I picked one at random and ran with it.


This picture pretty much sums up my experience. Luckily I’m pretty accustomed to attending church services where I don’t know what’s going on. My mom is a practicing Christian and attends a church that primarily speaks Mandarin. When I attend on occasion with my mom, I can chunk together broken fragments of my forever decaying Mandarin while the translator keeps me up to speed, filling me in on the 85% that flew over my head at a lofty altitude of 33,000 feet.

Things obviously are different in Estonia. No language classes taken 13 years ago, no translator, no one that looks like me.

I chose a spot in the back, behind all the grandmas in their Sunday best. I, like most people, don’t like to disrupt a community I am not part of. This means standing, sitting, praying, and singing when everyone else does, even if you don’t really know what your intent is supposed to be while performing these actions. If I sat the whole service, I feared I would offend some church goers. Is my lack of participation disruptive? Or is it an active form of resistance? I don’t know! If I partook in the ritual, would it be disingenuous because I’m not religious? Which is worse? Also, does the fact that I didn’t understand a single word of anything change the answers to these questions? So much to think about!

My saving grace during this experience ended up being my music literacy. The hymns were all I was able to latch onto, and I got to sight read in Estonian that I didn’t understand. That part was pretty fun. I actually enjoyed myself considering I was just processing gibberish for 2 hours.

So what do you guys do when you’re not religious and you’re about to start a meal with people who say grace? Or if you’re attending a religious service to support someone you care about despite not practicing that religion? Or when someone gives you a gift for a religious holiday you don’t celebrate?

“Estonia is the most non-religious country in the world” – my tour guide

I woke up at 5:15 am. The sun, the snores, the subtle cry from my liver… 

This portion was written at 5 pm 6/23/17, before I went to prison, and before I decided what to do for Jaanipäev.

So I finally made friends my age who will be here for at least the next 24 hours! One is finishing up her MA in Holland, and the other dude is studying IT in Ukraine. They’re really funny people and I like our dynamic so far.

This portion was written at 8 am 6/24/17 after festivities in prison. Growing up in America, you always hear jokes and rumors about drinking in Eastern Europe. I am an American college student, and let me tell you, frat bois ain’t got shit on Eastern Europe.

I haven’t been able to sleep past 5:30 am since I arrived in Tallinn and I don’t know why. The sun rises at 4 am and I sleep right next to the window. Everyone in my room also snores. Sleeping in this environment takes some talent. I hoped getting a little buzzed (there’s no such thing as “a little buzzed” when you drink with someone from Ukraine) before bed would help me sleep longer. It did not help. For those of you who know my sleeping talents, your jaw is probably on the floor. The last thing I did before bed was convince a very drunk Finnish guy to let go of his fifth of Jameson he had been nursing alone all night.

I met a very young man yesterday snooping around for some cigarettes. It was evident that his Russian was more effortless than his Estonian though he’s an Estonian citizen. He tried to tell us he was 16. He was likely 11-13ish. He did not speak any English to us, Mr. Ukranian friend served as our translator. I was tempted to get to know him more, but I had some wine on board, and he was looking for goods that we didn’t have. I didn’t want to keep him from his friends just for the sake of my curiosity. I wondered if he’d be singing next weekend.

Some more concrete stuff:

  • I took a touristy walking tour because why not?
  • Explaining my project to Estonian people is a different ball game. I often don’t know where to begin. The things that make this a difficult feat are:
    • cultural sensitivities
    • language barriers
    • And lastly, the fact that my nationality and country of birth misalign with my very evident East Asian ethnicity. I meet people and they ask where I’m from. I say San Francisco (shut up, MKF, I know I know I’m from the suburbs, but Estonians don’t know or give a poop about where Walnut Creek is.) Often times they’re still processing basic introductory stuff: a Chinese American girl cares about Estonian singing culture. My project becomes less significant, and I’m okay with that. I don’t feel ashamed, embarrassed, or angry about my situation, it’s just going to be part of my experience. It’s the nature of fieldwork.
I woke up at 5:15 am. The sun, the snores, the subtle cry from my liver… 

i got my first “你好” today.

I replied, “I’m American, but… Hey!” Because I need friends.

So most of you who went abroad went with a program, yeah? So like someone orchestrated a group of confused college travelers and let you all be confused together! I feel like that experience is slightly different than mine. The reminder that I’m “alone alone” is gently pawing the back of my head, but I’m not lonely—at least not yet. Most people in the hostel are traveling with people, and some are here in large groups.

The rest of my room showed up today. They’re a party of 8 and they’re in Tallinn for another family member’s graduation. Last night they spent the night camping on the coast, thus they weren’t in the room, and I had the luxury sharing the room with just with my Australian friend (however brief that friendship was).

I spent a lot of my day meandering the Old Town and its outskirts. It still hasn’t fully hit me that I’m in Tallinn… Weeks ago I would imagine my life here and now that I’m living it, I don’t think I’ve really processed it. It’s just surreal right now. Also check this view out.


Look, you can see the Song Festival grounds in the background! This view already took my breath away, but when I realized I was staring at the grounds from a distance, time just kind of stopped. It’s a sight I’ve seen so many times online, but the first time you see it in person it’s just unreal, especially when you’re not expecting to see it! I was so used to perceiving it as if it were fictional—a figment of my imagination. Now my brain has materialized it and man does it feel crazy. This must be how little children feel when they visit Disneyland for the first time and see all their fave Disney characters. Yes, you caught me, I just made an analogy comparing Kim in Tallinn to a child at Disneyland.


Tomorrow I think I’m going on a walking tour and maybe I’ll check out the nightlife. Since Jaanipäev is this weekend, it might be dead in the town; most people evacuate the city and take to the wilderness or the sea.

We’ll sea *wink wink* where I end up for the weekend!

Maybe I should write a post about intersectionality since the title of this post includes a greeting in a language I have lost proficiency in, but due to my face and stature, I look like I should speak that language. Stay tuned.


My parents saying goodbye to me at the airport (just kidding).


i got my first “你好” today.