Otja and Friends live in the Pine Forest, Pine Forest. Yes, there isn’t just one Pine Forest – there are two. First of all, there's the forest called Pine Forest. This is a large green area, which (as you may have already guessed) got its name from all the pine trees (pinus) that grow there. Then there's Pine Forest, the town. It lies in the middle of the forest, right next to Lake Glu Glu. Now, this kind of naming may seem a bit confusing to some humans. And indeed, it can sometimes be confusing for the animals in the Pine Forest as well. But, most of the time, they have no problem differentiating between the two. Pine Forest can mean either the town or the greater tree-covered area surrounding it. Simple enough.
Pine Forest, the town, has all the things you’d expect from a charming small settlement: residential houses, shops, restaurants, streets, parks, children’s playgrounds, a kindergarten and a school, bicycle lanes, bus stops, a town hall and a coffee shop where they serve very tasty drinks - coffee, tea and cocoa. It has many other things besides that, for example the Pine Forest Sports Club. Otja lives just around the corner from it, in a big wooden house at 8 Beaver Street. But more on that some other time.
Otja is a botanist by profession. On sunny days he enjoys taking walks around the forest and looking for cones.
He lives in a big wooden house on Beaver Street number 8 and he is into the Scandinavian way of living. This is something he picked up during a trip to Sweden in his student years. He moved to the Pine Forest ten years ago, when he was twenty-five. This was a career move. His large family stayed back in the mountains. He gives his parents a call via Skype once every month and his three sisters pay him a visit every August.
Otja has four friends and they get along quite well. Lorem the bear, computer scientist, Nanna the lynx, history teacher, Dolor the fox, hula hoop wielding gymnast (and also Miss Spruce Forest `16), and Ipsum the dormouse, multimedia artist from France. They usually visit him in the evenings after work.
Otja's house is located in a quiet spot near the lake. It has two storeys and a terrace. The inside looks like something out of a Swedish furniture catalogue. Not the current one though, but the one from 1995. Indeed, Otja likes vintage things and he even has an old video game console to match the furniture. He still feels like 1995 was five years ago, and the occasional realization that more than 20 years have passed since fills him with a peculiar mix of astonishment and melancholy. He then starts thinking about how the perception of time is a weird thing, how kids today don’t even know what MS-DOS is, and how powerful nostalgia can be.
Otja is a fan of classic science fiction and his bookshelf is full of books by I. Asimov, R. A. Heinlein, A. C. Clarke and others. Behind the house there is a large garden and a greenhouse, where Otja performs botanical experiments with cacti, which is kind of his thing. By now it should be clear to all readers that Otja is a huge nerd. He has written several scholarly articles about his cactus experiments, many of which have been published in fancy botanical journals. Otja would someday like to write the complete book of cacti and succulents, but he hasn’t quite gotten around to it yet.