As with other Estonian communities in Canada, the Alberta Estonian Heritage Society (AEHS) had to cancel some events because of the Coronavirus pandemic, including Jaanipäev. However, the AEHS did manage to organize three events before the virus shut down the country, and established an ongoing fourth program online.
AEHS vice-president Evelin Fodor and family hosted the Vabariigi Aastapäev / Independence Day celebration at their home on Saturday February 22. Ample food and beverages were provided by guests Pot-Luck style, resulting, as usual, in wonderfully tasty and varied buffet, including chocolate directly from Estonia. The AEHS board was happy to introduce recent Alberta arrivals whom they hope to see at future events along with all members, in this long term unprecedented, unpredictable Coronavirus misadventure crippling our entire planet.
HITMEN MULTI-CULTURAL EVENING GAME
The Hitmen, the major Calgary junior ice hockey team, celebrates multi-culturalism by featuring local ethnic groups at one game annually. This March, just before the pandemic’s shut-down, Colleen Renne-Grivell and Toomas Pääsuke walked onto the Hitmen arena ice carrying a large Estonian flag to applause by fellow countrymen grouped together in the stands. A proud moment for the two, and for Evelin Fodor who had the same honour last year.
Eda McClung and Dave Ain Kiil, editors of the much acclaimed twice yearly magazine AjaKaja, retired at the end of Estonia’s centennial year in 2018. The AEHS has tried but has not been able to find new editors to carry on the excellent standard they set. Thus, this year, the AEHS published a new newsletter, Tark, having local and current flavour, edited by president Kelly Schuler. Future issues will continue to feature AEHS and other Estonia related news on an irregular basis. Excerpts from the first issue are included here.
ESTONIAN LANGUAGE PROGRAM
Nine students in Alberta just finished their third Estonian language course earlier this month. The first course began via Zoom in January well before the coronavirus disrupted normal life. Plans were to have one in-person class per month among the 12 weekly online classes. Two were held in rented Calgary facilities with 16 students driving distances up to 300km to participate. Everyone especially liked the Independence Day themed gathering where all were able to socialize after the lesson, joined by several board members and families of the Alberta Estonian Heritage Society under whose auspices the weekly classes have been taking place. Instructor Marii-Heleen Mõtsmees brought kama and freshly baked ‘must leib’ to help introduce the students to Estonian foods while relaxing and getting to know each other. The students are mostly descendants of Estonians who arrived in Alberta as homesteading pioneers just over 100 years ago.
Thanks to support from the Estonian Foundation of Canada, the students have been able to benefit from instruction by language professional, Dr. Liina-Ly Roos of the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, Wisconsin for Courses 2 and 3, which consisted of 8-week sessions each. Unfortunately, Dr Roos’ new position at University this fall prevents her from continuing as lead instructor with the next Alberta course, but she promises to return as an occasional guest teacher. Course4 will proceed with studies based on the textbook E Nagu Eesti, team-taught by Helgi Leesment of Victoria, BC (also program director), Dr. Rein Pääsuke of Spruce Grove (near Edmonton), AB and Marii-Heleen Mõtsmees of Calgary, thus spanning distances of over a thousand km, via Zoom. Lessons include brief online quizzes producing immediate results, visual material and short breakout sessions into small groups at different points during the 1.5 hour class, where each instructor coaches 2 to 4 students. There has been a steady participation by nine students for the past two sessions, with survey results showing that all these nine are looking forward to the fourth session/course.
The program started as an experiment in January with much experience gained since then about online learning and teaching, much of it thanks to Dr. Roos. The Alberta Estonian Heritage Society subsidized the cost of the textbook for students in the first course and provides other ongoing support and encouragement for the program as has done the Estonian Foundation of Canada. The group is proud that AEHS President Kelly Schuler and her teenage son and daughter are among the enthusiastic students. The current nine students indicated their thanks for support by sending a two-minute “Thank you” video clip to the Foundation in Toronto.
Currently the Alberta Estonian Heritage Society board has under consideration a few other projects which can be experienced via the internet, one of which may involve other Baltic area nation organizations. Also, the AEHS website is undergoing major reworking, directed by Kelly Schuler.
PHOTOS - Wing Man Cheung (2020)
Eesti Elu Nr. 8 - 26. veebruar 2021 DIGILEHT
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