Nearly one year ago, Benedict Karl Pasaporte, heard about the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Estonian independence taking place at Nathan Phillips Square, and being the inquisitive person he is, sought information at Tartu College. And so began his in-depth journey of learning about Estonia.
After graduating in 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in European Studies (with a minor in history) from Ateneo de Manila University, he spent one year working towards his Master’s of history at Ateneo de Manila before moving from the Philippines to Toronto. In Toronto, he began to study Museum and Cultural Management at Centennial College. For this program, he considered looking at museums for his placement, specifically ones involving diaspora communities. As Europe is the primary region that interests him, he decided that the Väliseesti Muuseum, VEMU at Tartu College would be a great place to volunteer.
In his interview with Vincent Teetsov for Eesti Elu /Estonian Life, Karl said:
“My main interest is history. Currently I am reading a book by professor Andres Kasekamp about the history of the Baltic states. I want to learn more about the history of these countries, especially prior to the Tsarist Russian occupation, since that period is so hard to keep track of, because of the shifting borders. I love geography as well. Beyond this, I like reading books, listening to music, film, and playing video games.
I have a two part plan for my future here in Canada. My main plan is to study for a Master’s in history, preferably at the University of Toronto. This has been my main goal since I first arrived in Canada. With this in mind, I am working to improve my application.
Following this, I would like to work in the museum field, preferably in collections and archive management. That is the reason for taking the museum studies program that I am in right now, and also why it’s ideal to be doing the work at VEMU that I am doing right now!
Whenever I talked about Estonia to people I would say that it’s the country where Skype was created, or where Arvo Pärt is from, depending on how much they knew. I would also mention facts, such as how Estonians have a sport called kiiking that involves standing on a swing and maintaining the momentum while you go around. Or that Estonia (and the other Baltic states) re-gained their independence from the Soviet Union through singing and dancing. Or how Estonia is like the Japan of Europe in terms of technological advancement and application of technology into everyday life.
I think that I had good basic knowledge of Estonia and the other Baltic countries prior to working here. I knew the basic framework of the history, as well as facts and key issues concerning Estonian society. I could recognize the language. I was aware of how it relates to other European countries, since I studied European Studies as my undergraduate major back in the Philippines. I knew that Estonia has a rich tradition of folk singing and folk dancing. In fact, I’m exposed to a bit of Estonian media, mostly movies and TV shows. I am a Eurovision fan, and I recognize how much effort Estonia brings into its entries every year. Being a fan of Eurovision working at VEMU is like being a K-pop (Korean pop) fan working for the Korean consulate, while having knowledge of the country beyond K-pop.
I learned a lot about Estonian expatriates in my work. As I was looking through objects from past ESTO festivals, I learned about how Estonians abroad wanted to express and preserve their culture and heritage free of oppression outside of the Soviet Union, and how the festivals abroad were part of a larger struggle to regain independence from the USSR.”
Karl stayed with VEMU for almost five months working diligently with the archival collection of ESTO festivals and assisting at VEMU events. We thank him for his well done work and his great company at lunch time!