Kikee D. Bhutia: Reviving the Sikkimese (Denjongpo) culture

Before I joined the University of Tartu in autumn 2016, I worked at the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology as a Research Assistant. Among many other projects, I was engaged in documentary film making and in translating, transcribing and interpreting proverbs and sayings. I am from Sikkim (Beyul Demojong which means The Hidden Land of Fruitful Valley) which was a former Himalayan Buddhist Kingdom (for 333 years) but is now the 22nd state of the Indian Union since 1975. I hold a Master Degree in English Language and Literature from the North-Eastern Hill University in Shillong, Meghalaya, India.

Kikee D. Bhutia. Photo from a personal archive.

I came to know about Tartu from my friend Margaret Lyngdoh, as she previously also studied in Shillong, from where I got my master’s degree. Margaret defended her PhD in 2016 at the University of Tartu in the Department of Estonian and Comparative Folklore. She suggested me to write a research proposal and approach the professor of the department Ülo Valk after knowing my serious interest in pursuing my studies. I had never heard about Estonia before but after coming here I realised it was a privilege to have got this opportunity! In the cold yet warm environment, surrounded by the people who are equally passionate about their culture and equally interested to know about yours.

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Eesti Blues Through the Eyes of a Photographer

Estonians cherish their beautiful summer, long sunny days and short fairy-tale nights. In return, most of us are inversely aching about the rest of the year – the dim, wet and somber days of fog and darkness. Then again, the bad weather is as beautiful as those sunny summer days if you only care to look. Here’s a set of pictures of memorable urbanscapes and buildings that I’ve encountered on such dim times.

Rotermann, Tallinn. This is where I work from on my Tallinn days. Young Estonians bring their foreign friends here and take massive amounts of pics of these surroundings if they want to show off the progressive, modern side of Estonia.

Rotermann, Tallinn. Repurposed old industrial quarters in a harmonious ensemble with new office and apartment buildings. The fog lets it feel bigger and more powerful than it already is.

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Could Creaky Voice Decrease the Pay Gap in Estonia?

The social power structure is reflected in the way people communicate. Attitudes related to these structures can therefore be noted in the way we behave in conversations. These structures are influenced by numerous factors, such as the age difference between conversational partners or the nature of their relationship. For example, the social positions of conversational partners towards each other could be described by pointing out who speaks more, who directs the topic of the conversation, or who interrupts others more.

Kim Kardashian, who is known for her creaky voice, taking a selfie with Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign. Photo credit: Instagram/@kimkardashian

Study of conversational dominance patterns has shown that women are interrupted much more than men. For example, in the first US presidential election debate last year, Donald Trump interrupted Hillary Clinton 51 times, while Clinton interrupted Trump 17 times. Although those kinds of interferences aren’t necessarily aggressive or even arrogant, men often interrupt women just to ensure dominant positions for themselves.

Terms such as “manterruption” (a man’s unnecessary interference when a woman is speaking), “mansplaining” (when a man cuts a woman’s speech short so he can explain something – even when she happens to be an expert on the subject), as well as “bropropriating” (when a man takes credit for a woman’s idea) have started to spread in social media to point out the social inequality between men and women. Continue reading

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Jayaruwan Gunathilake: From the Tropics to Northern Europe

Estonia was nowhere near my horizon when I first left my home country, Sri Lanka, to study abroad back in 2011. That was nearly four years after finishing high school. Serious lack of higher education opportunities in Sri Lanka essentially led me to leave the country. However, in retrospect, it is probably one of the best decisions I ever made. It was not a trivial decision but a necessary one. If it were only for one semester abroad, it would have been a no-brainer. But leaving one’s home country for an extended period of time is rather different. Back then I was not sure of what to expect – new country, new language, culture shock. It was not all doubts, though – there was definitely enough excitement as well. Thus, I moved to Pennsylvania, USA, in 2011 for my bachelor’s degree.

Jayaruwan Gunathilake from Sri Lanka. Photo credit: Argo Ingver

Four years in the United States may seem like a long time, but it went by incredibly fast. After completing my bachelor’s degree in chemistry, I faced the regular dilemma: graduate school or employment? At first I thought of going to graduate school in the United States; however, there were problems with taking the GRE test on time (standardized test that is an admissions requirement for most graduate schools in the United States). The day I was supposed to take the GRE was rescheduled due to unforeseen weather circumstances, so I could not meet the deadline. Meanwhile, I was also looking for employment without much luck. It proved to be rather difficult, especially as a foreigner with visa restrictions in the United States. In December 2015, I moved back to Sri Lanka.

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Top 10 Most Read Stories from 2016

As we are entering the new year, let’s take a look back and see what was popular on our blog in 2016. The following stories had the highest number of readers throughout the year and cover a wide range of topics both in research and university life. If you haven’t already read them, now is your chance!

Here comes the list:

1. 10 Estonian Tongue Twisters for Language Addicts

If you take up the challenge of learning these Estonian phrases, then you are a language addict. These are not easy even for Estonians to pronounce.

If this is your first or an early-stage encounter with Estonian language, then a two-step initiation with 10 Tongue Twisters To Get You Started on Estonian and 10 Estonian Tongue Twisters for Language Hackers is strongly recommended.

kuuuurija töööö ööülikoolis

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The Reason For Strokes in Children Is Still Unknown; Rehabilitation Is Getting Better

Strokes – surely those are an illness affecting the elderly, aren’t they? OK, they affect middle-aged, overworked men too.  But did you know that in Estonia, three to four newborns leave the hospital with a diagnosis of stroke each year?

Later on, perinatal stroke is diagnosed in another six to seven small children. Perinatal means that the stroke happened during pregnancy, at the time of birth, or right after birth.

Taking into account that nearly 14 000 children are born in Estonia every year, perinatal stroke can be considered to be relatively rare. Rael Laugesaar, Junior Research Fellow at the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Tartu, says that both perinatal stroke and stroke in small children are more frequent than people think. “Unfortunately, neither the doctors nor people in general have sufficient awareness of strokes in children”.

Rael Laugessaar, a research assistant at the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Tartu. Photo credit: Andres Tennus

Her doctoral thesis, defended six years ago, shed light on the fact that in relation to the population of Estonia, perinatal stroke occurs more often here than in any other country in the world. Perinatal, prenatal, or newborn strokes are those that occur from the 20th week of pregnancy until the point when the baby is 28 days old.

As clinical symptoms are often missing or low-key, the diagnosis of a stroke can be delayed. The first symptoms of a stroke that may be spotted in children are often related with development of motor skills (movements a baby makes with his arms, legs, feet, or his entire body) – or, more precisely, a delay in these.

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This Christmas Comes with DIY Presents!

Making something with one’s own hands has become more and more popular each year. With Christmas almost here, a group of DIY-girls is challenging everyone to be the true creators of the presents and join the “This Christmas Comes with DIY Presents!” campaign.

The campaign started two years ago when four girls – Eliise Ott, Helena Maripuu, Liina Kuzemtšenko and Kai Reinfeldt – all communication students at the University of Tartu at the time, initiated it as a part of their studies. They all share a certain interest in handicraft. For Liina, it’s baking; Eliise repairs her home; Helena has sold jewellery she makes herself; and Kai loves to knit.

The initiators of the “This Christmas Comes with DIY Presents” campaign – Liina Kuzemtšenko, Kai Reinfeldt, Eliise Ott, and Helena Maripuu.

For many people, buying Christmas presents has become a frustrating task, so they just grab things from the shelves of a supermarket – an act that causes no joy to the maker of the gift, and the same can be said of the receiver. These girls believe that a self-created present, on the other hand, is a wonderful opportunity to send a signal to close ones about how much they mean to us. They see that you have made an effort, put your time and skills into the making of an unique object, and that’s what makes a self-produced gift much more special in comparison to something bought from a store. No gadget that you can find in the shop can have this kind of meaning. In addition to all this, the habit of buying mass products as so-called “last minute gifts” can be broken this way, and this is a good thing ecologically.

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