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There is often talk of a “global Estonia” since Estonians live all over the world possibly a couple of hundred thousand Estonians live now outside of Estonia.  Estonian Culture Minister Rein Lang said at the National Congress in SF that we live in a “global village”, he emphasized that this is a “networking world” where it is possible to keep in constant contact with the whole world only with a click of a finger.  True, but does this also help with personal friendships, does it take the place of conversation? 

To be in contact is important and a good thing but on the other hand, to achieve this technologically is also cold and impersonal.  Constant texting, e-mailing, etc. could and would actually cause isolation and detachment from the people you’re with. And it is said also to be addictive. How nice it is to hear a friend’s voice, look him in the eye and actually talk with him!  I’m always shocked when in a restaurant I see a family or a group of friends and each one is on his/her phone, i-pad, or whatever !  How sad!  Where has just ordinary conversation gone?  In addition, it is impolite and eventually we lose the art of conversation altogether! But it is so today!  
This brings me to my main topic – the importance of ESTO festivals.  Besides enjoying Estonian culture and carrying on Estonian traditions, it is also wonderful to get together with friends one hasn’t seen for several years or to make new ones.  Usually there is little time between events, not enough time to really catch up on each others’ lives , but it is even great to say hello on the elevator or on the way somewhere.  How good to see old acquaintances! This brings us together as Estonians – that is one of the purposes of ESTOs .  Our ties as Estonians are renewed and the importance and the love of Estonian traditions is also strengthened by experiencing them together.
My son and his family took part in ESTO festivities this year. They have visited Estonia and the children go to the Estonian Childrens’ Camp, but they live in an American community, with no ties to Estonians locally.  After SF, they all have a firm commitment to go to the song festival next summer.  Estonian music and Estonian folk dances are contagious!  And that is what ESTO provides.  These events that families and friends enjoy together, develop stronger ties with each other and as Estonians or, as in my family, people with Estonian roots.  And that is one of the purposes of ESTOs among other things.  If we live in a global village, then we should have close ties with one another. Even though we are technologically in contact, we need also the personal contact where we can look each other in the face and say hello!
The West Coast Estonian Days have always attracted many young people – but I felt that even in greater numbers in SF.  And the festival organizers were also young people – that ensures that ESTOs are here to stay.  LEP-ESTO showed that these gatherings have a great importance, especially for young people who live in different cultures.  It is important to meet people with Estonian roots like themselves, to see that there are many just like them!  One can’t do that by just visiting  Estonia.  If we belong to a global village, then we need to get together to really belong to this village!  Let’s keep ESTOs alive!
Ülle Ederma

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