Last night, the Ambassador and his wife kindly hosted a reception for me so I could meet my new contacts.
I suppose I should have known I would be expected to make remarks, but I admit that I was surprised when I was asked yesterday morning if I had prepared a few words "eesti keeles."
I use my Estonian every day. Really. With my staff, in restaurants, with the guards, in the grocery store. Seriously, every day.
But not usually in front of about 50 people I have never met.
So I went back to my office and thought about what I wanted to say. Then about whether I could say it in Estonian. I wrote it up, had it checked for errors in grammar, and spend the afternoon trying to memorize it.
Because I both love and hate speaking in public (yeah, I know, how is that even possible?), and I know that I do a better job when I am not reading from a script. I am a much better speaker if I just speak from what I know.
So in case you are interested, here is what I said, eesti keeles:
Tere õhtust! Ma tahaks tänada teid täna õhtul tulemast.
Minu nimi on Michelle Schohn ja ma olen uus pressi ja kultuuri attaché Ameerika saatkonnas. Ma olen parit Lõuna Carolinast. Ma olen pool-Indiaanlane ja pool-Sakslane, ja sada protsenti Ameeriklane. Enne diplomaaditööd, ma olin arheoloog ja ma tegin oma doktoritöö Põhja Carolina Ülikoolis (ja ma loodan ükspaev lõpetada!). Ma olen siin kolm aastat oma abikaasa ja meie nelja "lapsega"...meie koer, kaks kassi, ja papagoi.
See on selleparast ma olen Indiaanlane, et mul on hea meel olla eestis. See on selleparast et ma olen Indiaanlane et ma saan aru kui tähtis teile eesti keel on. Minu inimestel oli keelatud rääkida meie keeles, ja praegu, meie keel on surnud. Teie keel on elus, sest et teie hoidsite seda, ja see on teie kingitus teie lastele ja nende lastele.
Veel kord, suur tänu tulemast. Mul on teiega siin eestis põnev töötada.
And here is what that means, at least I hope so!
Good evening. I would like to thank you for coming tonight.
My name is Michelle Schohn and I am the new Press and Cultural Attache at the American Embassy. I am originally from South Carolina. I am half American Indian, half German, and 100% American. Before my diplomatic work, I was an archaeologist and I did my doctoral work at the University of North Carolina (and I hope one day to finish it!). I will be in Estonia for three years with my spouse and our four "children": our dog, two cats and parrot.
It is because I am an Indian that I am happy to be in Estonia. It is because I am an Indian that I understand how important the Estonian language is to you. My people were forbidden from speaking our language, and now our language is dead. Your language is alive because you took care of it, and this is a gift to your children and their children.
Again, thank you for coming. I am excited about working with you here in Estonia.
And yes, I was able to do it without reading it. I hope I made my Estonian teachers proud!