I didn’t have any contacts in the country, just the name of the gym and an email I had sent them asking if it was OK for me to come train with them. Estonia isn’t a large country, so I wasn’t too worried about getting around.
I took the bus out of Latvia, having Ieva and Olga send me off and wishing me well. I rode the equivalent of a “Mega Bus” here in the US, over there it’s called “Lux”. The trip ran me somewhere around $20-30 USD, which was a lot cheaper than a plane would be, and far smarter. Olga had packed me a lunch for my ride up, which I thought was pretty awesome. My Latvian hosts went above and beyond in making me feel welcome.
The ride itself was pretty insignificant. There was “Wifi” but I couldn’t get much for downloads, so I decided I would do a bit of reading, went eventually evolved in me deciding to play a game or three of Starcraft 2. There were a group of younger mothers and their children sitting in front of me for the majority of the ride up. I had no idea what they were saying, but I got the impression they were single mothers heading out for a weekend trip to somewhere.
When I arrived in Estonia I wasn’t sure how I was going to get from the bus station to my hostel. Thankfully there was wifi in the bus station, so I mapped out a few options. I was in luck, there was a bus that would take me all the way to my destination.
The hostel I stayed in was called the “Academic Hostel”, and I wasn’t sure why until I arrived. It was academic in that it was on a University campus. Reading through some of their European literature I came to the confusion the hostel was a place for prospective students or friends and family of current students to stay at while visiting. The dorms kind of reminded me of some of the military housing for bachelors at my old base in the United States. There were two beds to a room, and two rooms shared a toilet, shower, and a kitchen.
After I checked in I went down to the front desk to inquire about any nearby stores. I was told there was one about 3-4 minutes away. It turned out to be the students mini store, kind of like a “mini mart” back home, but minus the gasoline sales. They has just about anything a traveler would need. Fresh fruit, water, drinks, decent easily prepared food, eggs, and of course beer. I loaded up on some bread, eggs, snacks, fruit, and yes…beer. With not much around me within walking distance for food options, I decided I would make some small snacks over the couple of days I would be there.
I went out into Tallin that evening to look around and take some photos. It was small, yet interesting. The language was close related to Finnish, and distant to Hungarian, so I really could not decipher much of anything around me. Thankfully a lot of people in the country spoke English, so getting around was pretty easy. My taxi driver who brought me into the town center was a very nice guy, and was curious about my trip to the country. He offered a couple of ideas on where to eat, one of which was called the “Beer House”. That sounded right up my alley, so I headed that direction after I had taken some pictures and done some sight seeing.
I walked into the Beer House and was greeted to a rather large area, complete with some interesting Estonian band playing American country music (not my favorite). I waited around at the bar for about 30 minutes, without even so much of a hello from a bartender or server. I had enough at that point and decided I would take my chances with another restaurant somewhere else. I ended up deciding on a place called Clayhill’s Gastropub. They had food and beer, and that’s all I required.
I ended up grabbing a seat at the bar, and was served almost immediately. I decided on some sausages with potatoes, and of course a nice large ale to go with it. The restaurant was kind of a hip place for all kinds of people. They had a bluesy duo playing music and singing in the middle of the pub. The food was excellent, and I ended up having a few more beers than I expected due to the good environment and knowing that my trip was coming to an end very soon.
I woke up the next morning and felt extremely hot. I chalked it up to leaving the blinds in my room open and the sun coming up at like 4am (seriously). I got some water and started to make some breakfast for myself. I ate some of the Estonian bread that I purchased and made up some fried eggs. I hopped in the shower, and then headed off to the academy via taxi.
On the way to the academy I started to feel worse. This wasn’t a hangover from the few beers the night before. It was either me coming down with the flu or worse, it was food poisoning. My stomach was churning, I was sweating, I didn’t feel good.
I made it to the academy a few minutes late and they had already started warmups. I tried to change out as quickly as I could, but I felt so lethargic. The sweats and the stomach churning hadn’t yet left me either. I was only going to get one day of training in and mustered up everything I had and headed out to the mats.
When I made it out to the training area, there were around 30 people doing warmups. I just kind of followed along. The instruction was in Estonian, so I had no idea what was going on. At the end of the warmups, a younger blue belt with a few stripes approached me and said something, I apologized and told him I didn’t understand. In near perfect English he asked if I would mind being his partner for pass/sweep/submit rolling that we were doing. I told him I didn’t mind at all. I also let him know I wasn’t feeling the best. He jokingly replied that I must have had a good night last evening and was suffering from a hangover. That was a bit annoying, considering it was taking everything I had to stay put and attempt to train.
We ended up playing around for about 10 minutes or so, which was mostly him passing my guard at will and otherwise keeping me in check when I was trying to pass his guard. My head was pounding, I couldn’t think clearly, let alone move how I needed to move. I was weak, slow, and stupid. At the end of our little session I apologized again for being in the condition I was in.
Next up another blue belt, with four stripes, came up and asked if I would like to train. We would be doing the same pass/sweep/submit routine. I again gave him the full disclosure that I wasn’t feeling well and apologized. I again got the “lol you must be hungover” spiel, and was told not to worry because he was hungover also. I had to laugh, being hungover must be a thing in Estonia. I told him I was well aware what a hangover felt like and that I was in fact not hungover.
It was essentially the same situation for me again, no being able to accomplish anything and pretty much hanging on for dear life while trying not to get passed or submitted. At the end of our round my training partner asked what I thought he could improve on. I was a bit taken aback, a four stripe blue belt on the verge of getting his purple belt asking me for advice? I applaud his lack of ego, but it was a situation I was a bit stunned by. I tried to articulate what I thought was good and bad. There was more good than bad, butI followed it up with the fact that I wasn’t feeling well or thinking clearly so it was difficult for me to give him an honest assessment. He thanked me for my time and wished me well. I in turn got up and hit the restroom.
The room was starting to spin, my stomach was messed up but I didn’t feel like I was going to puke. I did feel like another part of my was going to erupt, and promptly took care of that situation. I quickly changed out and headed down to the reception area where an old Estonian couple sat behind a desk. I just said taxi and gave them the phone number for the taxi company, they smiled and called the cab for me. I thanked them and hobbled outside.
While waiting for the cab all I could think of is what in the hell had made me sick. Was it the sausages from last night? Maybe it was the eggs this morning? Who knows, I felt like I had to burp and went to do so only to have the minimal contents of my stomach end up on the pavement in front of me. A bit about me, I don’t puke. Well, that’s not true, I just did. But, I only puke if I’m seriously sick. The last time I puked was a few years ago when I ended up catching a case of the H1N1 “swine flu” strain in 2009. I knew something was wrong, and I figured the best course of action was to head back to the hostel and sleep it off.
I got back to the hostel and trudged my way up to the second floor slowly, back to my room. I turned on the television to give me some background noise and promptly went to sleep. I slept from around 1pm that afternoon until 5am the next morning, when I needed to get up to catch my flight to Finland, and then onto Sweden. Waking up the next morning I felt better, but I was still weak. I slept on most of the travel and otherwise sat around in a daze the rest of the time. When I finally arrived at the hostel in Sweden I slept some more until that evening.