I haven’t written in what seems like a long, long time again. I seem to have lost my drive for writing, partially because I’ve been pushing all my energy into photography-related things. I’m learning new tricks with Photoshop and am even playing around more with colours and contrast. The results are good so far. Easter was spent with a group of friends at our friend Ilze’s house out in Jurmala. We had a feast of home-made Latvian style pancakes filled with ground beef, bananas and Nutella, and cheese. Soy cheese for me, of course. The fantastic soy cheese I picked up on that weekend trip to Brussels We also walked to the beach, took many photos, and then decorated eggs the good old Latvian way. Lots and lots of onion skins. The eggs also turned out lovely, and were then bashed to near smithereens during our friendly egg-wars. The weather has been better in Riga, too. The week after Brussels (which was a weekend trip of running around seeing everything we could possibly see and eating everything we could possibly eat — including escargot — which was DELICIOUS) we still had snow in Latvia, and the weather got rainy and damp and disgusting. Then it miraculously all passed and one day the snow was gone! Today was about 45ºF, which allowed me to go for my first run of the Spring season and spend most of my time outside for the rest of the afternoon. In the evening I was to meet relatives to go to a play at The Stage Theatre, but there was a huge miscommunication and two of the main actors were in some other Latvian city putting on some other play, so… everyone was apologised to and invited to come back the next weekend or to get a refund. So next weekend it is! Instead we backtracked a bit to Gallery kim? to catch the last three Baltic Student Film Festival shorts and then have a delicious dinner at Meta Cafe. The Spikeri area of Riga used to be kind of shady, but in the past year has improved by leaps and bounds and is quickly becoming a hipster/indie hot spot for galleries, concerts and good eats. Whereas before I would have told people to think twice before heading out there, I’d recommend it now. Even with all the drunks and slightly creepy people still around. But they exist in groups and generally stay to themselves.
Archive for the ‘Pictures’ Category
For those of you who thought I was joking about having a cat, I wasn’t. Why would I take such a fantastic picture of a cat if the animal wasn’t mine?
The cat went missing somewhere between Friday late evening and Saturday morning: I went to the Sigur Rós concert Friday and stayed at a friend’s in Riga. When I got home Saturday the cat was nowhere to be seen and there was no conclusive evidence to explain what had happened to him.
Today, on the way home, I found my cat in the carpark across the street from the train station, but on the same side of the street as our apartment. The cat recognized me and seemed thoroughly freaked out, but I was able to get him to follow me to almost our apartment entryway, where he promptly freaked out again when I picked him up and tried to get him in the door one-handed.
To cut to the end of the story, I got my cat back into the apartment, but not without a heaping helping of this. Though I had a decent amount of cat spit and hair on my clothes and in my hand wounds (not shown), I can safely say that the cat has a good amount of my blood on its fur. I now also have more scars to worry about and will have to wear long sleeves for the next month. At least it’s almost fall.
And, of course, as barbaric as the cat acted on the street, as soon as he was back in the apartment he was rubbing against my and my flatmate’s boyfriend’s legs (he helped keep the stray cats at bay while i coaxed my monster out from under a car. Apparently I looked a lot like an auto mechanic with my body half under a Mercedes) in an attitude that said “Gosh, was that ever intense! What’s for dinner?”
Dinner was wet Kit-e-cat food from a pouch.
Now he’s sprawled out on the couch next to me purring away like nothing has ever changed.
Hurrah hurrah, I didn’t have to go wild-goose-chasing. Flatmate’s boyfriend asked, “Don’t you want to give him a bath? You can bathe cats, right? I sure wouldn’t let him sleep next to me like that…” I pointed to the blood seeping from the scratches and said “You think he’s dirty? You wash him.” The cat isn’t that dirty, anyway. I sprayed him with the water bottle for a good 5 minutes which will have him licking his fur dry all night. Problem solved.
Because Sunday was my birthday and since Monday (and the job) comes after Sunday, my friend Ilze graciously offered the use of her house in Jurmala for a pre-birthday dinner/party. There were only four of us there total (other people were out of town or otherwise already engaged), but after a simple dinner we still had several hours to kill before we could officially open the champagne. We played some boggle, made up plenty of words, and, around 11 P.M., decided to head down to the beach, taking the champagne with us.
At the beach we walked around then dutifully attacked one of the most messed-up playgrounds I have ever seen. After a good 20 minutes of spinning around in awkward metal frames and trying to make a huge, tilted plastic ring go around in circles by heave-ho-ing movements (it worked once before, but seemed to fail this time), we sat down to chat and wait for the wonderful 00:00.
A good-sized group of people our age were also hanging around the area; some of them ended up at the playground on the swings. Two of them bummed cigarettes from Davids; a bit later one of them sat down on the benches behind us and eventually joined us in conversation. He was quite drunk and tried to mostly communicate with us in Russian and sometimes English, though he also spoke Latvian. But when someone is drunk to the point where he asks you twice in 30 seconds where you’re from and then forgets that he’s told you his name, consequently thinking it’s some kind of magic you know it already, I’m not surprised. Everything was fine and dandy until we decided it was getting a bit awkward and we wanted to head back home. The guy had invited all of us to come with him and hang out with his friends and drink, but we passed, saying it was late, maybe we’d meet with them tomorrow, etc. Then he got angry as we were quickly walking away and started to follow after us, shouting at us in Russian first in general and then using some choice words. Everyone else from his group had already moved on down the beach in the opposite direction, except one of his friends who seemed to be there just to make sure the guy didn’t do anything too stupid. Apparently and unfortunately, repeatedly grabbing onto women and aggressively shouting and following a group of people doesn’t fall under the category of ”stupid”. I personally kept thinking ”Okay, after this bout he’s going to stop, after the next 10 ft he’s going to give up”, but no. The two of them followed us all the way from the beach, up the cobblestone/cement path leading to the beach, past a very large group of people (who did nothing, by the way, to try and help us), all the way down one of the main roads until we approached a hotel, at which time they gave up, but not without Mr. Drunk and Belligerent shouting some final words in our direction. I think we were more shocked than anything; we didn’t run, we didn’t fight them. But it was definitely rough not knowing exactly what they were saying to each other. The non-belligerent friend kept trying to tell one of our group that if he just gave Mr. D and B 70 santims for a beer, he’d stop following us. We were basically chased at a snail’s pace.
As soon as we got up the stairs of the hotel and into the lobby, the Davids looked down at his watch and let out a half-strained “Happy birthday!” Kristine and Ilze joined in, I was congratulated, and we were thrilled that we weren’t bleeding on the street or dead, happy birthday.
After a quick consultation with the man at Reception I was handed the hotel phone and put through to the Jurmala Municipal Police, who, apparently, would pick us up and escort us back home. I had asked if there was hotel security that could do that or if we could be called a cab (even though none of us had our wallets with us), but it turns out that the Municipal Police are required provide escort in such situations. Or maybe any situation, I’m not sure. So I explained to the woman on the other end what had happened and that we just lived a few blocks away, but didn’t know what to expect and weren’t comfortable walking back through the streets. She said we’d be picked up soon.
About 15 minutes later, a tall and rather attractive policeman walked into the hotel. My opinion was backed up by the sudden silence from Ilze and Kristine. (Note: After we had gotten home the three of us seriously contemplated running back into the night and causing trouble just so we’d be picked up again.)
Me: *walks toward policeman* You’re the one then, yeah?
Policeman: Then you’re the one who called?
Pm: Alright, let’s roll.
*The group follows the policeman outside*
Pm: So, what happened, exactly?
Me: *tells the short version of the story*
Pm: *referring to Davids* Couldn’t he have done anything?
*to Davids* What, haven’t you ever learned to box?
Me: *laughs like it’s the funniest thing anyone has ever said*
Davids: Huh? What?
Me: *careful not to say that Ilze, Kristine and myself could have done just as well physically defending ourselves and that I have a bottle of Riga champagne in my bag that would be worth at least two blows* Well you never know what the other person is capable of – and it would be two against one.
Pm: Yeah – I was just joking.
Me: *super quick to agree* I know I know.
The four of us got into the back of the police van and I doubt that we appeared to be as frazzled about the whole thing as we really were (we spent the remainder of the night back at Ilze’s discussing the what-ifs): Ilze started to giggle semi-without reason, Davids started to joke-dance to the rock music the policeman turned on, and Kristine leaned forward between the driver and other policeman, elbows on the backs of their seats like we were on a road trip.
In hindsight, despite the situation, we made it through the best way we could AND we got to ride in the back of a police van. On my birthday morning I felt a bit bad about having to be driven back to Ilze’s house, but in all honesty, it was the middle of the weekend and the policemen seemed bored out of their minds. Despite that, they were not at all rude and had senses of humour. So if you’ve heard bad things about Latvian policemen, know that the statement isn’t bulletproof.
After sleeping in Sunday and having a late breakfast of grilled-cheese and tomatoes, courtesy of Davids, we headed out and spent the remainder of the day at the Riga Zoo. After dinner we went out to Krastmala (Riverbank) to watch eight fireworks teams compete for the chance to organize the New Year’s Eve fireworks show. I took over 550 photos that day – if I ever catch up on my sleep this week and have a night where I don’t take any work home, I’ll post them and all of those other promised photos at the http://kaija.jatnieks.com/photos page. I SWEAR.
I have now acquired a new recipe into my knowledge bank: Kiploku grauzdini or garlic toast bites.
I found the recipe here, bought bread and garlic salt, and went to it while my internet was reseting itself.
To that note, the name of my wireless account has had to be changed from “All Your Base Are Belong To Us” to something else.
The first batch of toast bites was a bit on the burnt side, but after adding the garlic salt and fresh garlic, it really doesn’t matter. Grauzdini are a popular beer-snack in Latvia and it’s easy to understand why. Garlicky goodness in finger food form; even though it has kind of a rural ring to it, the snack is more graceful than an entire loaf of garlic bread. My flatmate asked me last year if I knew how to make them, as this guy she was seeing was a huge fan of the toast bites and hers always turned out too soggy or too dry. But the process of making them is super easy… I wish I had tried it out earlier. No worries! Now that I know how to make them, I’m sure to be a big, big hit at all of those countless parties I go to several times in one night even on the weekends, but maybe only at the ones that are BYOS (bring your own snack). Kidding. You and I both wish my night life was that exciting, don’t we. The most exciting my night life ever ends up being involves missing the last train after sprinting across downtown to get to the station and then immediately afterwards getting caught in a rainstorm without an umbrella. And that’s me without the umbrella, not the rainstorm.
Oooh yes and I’m back in Riga now and very glad to be so. Other than the depressing non-bed qualities of my couch-bed, I’m loving every second about being back. Yesterday a friend and I rode a train with the rest of the entire population of the city (no, really, it probably honestly was…) out to Jurmala and lazed around the beach for a few hours before walking down to Majori (which we almost were unable to find because neither of us payed attention to where we were going and missed the big mansion landmark, oddly enough during a conversation joking about how bad our skills of observation were – or are) for coffee. Then I was planning on coming back home to work on some projects due Monday, but instead half made my dinner and passed out for 4 hours. All of that sun, fresh air and walking definitely got to me. But it was a sound sleep and I woke up happy. And hungry.
So, to recap, I’ve mastered another great recipe thing. My next goal is currant pastries. They had them at Double Coffee, but there was no way I was going to pay 2.20 LVL for a pastry that costs about 0.50 USD in Germany (it was also listed in the menu as “Johannisbeer” pastry, which is correct, but why use the German word for currant in an English translation of a Latvian menu? I swear…) The only solution – learn to make them myself! Luckily for me, it’s season and currants can be bought at the grocery store fresh instead of frozen. Until then-
P.S. due to mass amounts of spam regarding all kinds of interesting topics, I’ve set this blog to require people to register and sign-in in order to comment. If that doesn’t help I’ll switch it again.
P.P.S. pictures now available here. It’s taking some time to load everything up, but at least I know how to get to the site now
Storm clouds and a tree. Reminds me of paintings done by either Caspar Friedrich Schinkel or Caspar Friedrich David.
Sigulda castle ruins. Nice picture, huh?
Turaidas pils . (there are three castles/palaces in Sigulda)A nice view of the castle’s tower from the Sigulda castle ruins.
Relative walking. She played paparazzi for a while, and then we snapped some pictures of her when she wasn’t expecting it. I have a good picture of her in hyper-story telling mode, but I’ll be kind and not post it
Gravesite of Maija, the “Turaidas Roze.” You can read about her (in Latvian) here.
Turaida garden/park. There are many stone sculptures throughout the park, donated by some Latvian artist, just because he could, I guess.
A circle of trees. No clue when they were planted, but there are 11 mature trees and one sappling in a circle, with 12 trees total. Supposedly used for some kind of pagan rituals, or else…just as a symbolic thing.
Normal trees. In case the pagan trees were a bit too much for you.
Turaida castle tower, as seen from the park.
Turaida castle tower, a closer shot of what it looks like from afar. Teh-heh.
Signpost and more fun clouds.
“Ragana”=”witch” in Latvian. Great name for a city, huh?
The restaurant we didn’t eat at. They were expecting a banquet or something.
Old-latvian road rage. She’s actually beckoning people to the restaurant with her index finger, but this horse-drawn carriage statue looks more like she’s flipping the bird to passers by.
Double rainbow. It was the second time we saw a rainbow/rainbows that day, and this one happened to be a double one. My mom once told me they’re called “sun dogs.” This end was extremely vivid.
Even though this new office is technically better situated (a brighter, less touristy area with coffee shops and cafes just down the street), I’m getting up at almost 7 A.M. in order to be at the bus stop by 8:30 to make the 8:32 bus that usually gets to the city center a bit before 9:30, which is when I’m supposed to be at work. HAH! I’m surprised I haven’t fallen asleep on the way into the center yet. So 9:30 to around 5:15-5:30 at work, a lunch break somewhere around there, and then it’s time to leave. However, it’s basically useless to try and get home during this time, as it will take the bus around an hour just to hit two stops before getting out of the city center. So I generally try to walk around the city for a while (one does need to get some fresh air now and then) and pass some time until 6:30 0r 7, when the buses are still packed, but the traffic is a bit lighter. So I might be gone from 8:15 to 7:30 each day.
Like I said, I’m an adult and it kind of sucks.
Then what do I do when I get home? With the short amount of time I have before 11 P.M. (once again I’m keeping a semi-strict weekday bedtime policy), there’s dinner to deal with if it hasn’t been dealt with already, any chores, cleaning up, a shower if that wasn’t done in the morning, and then maybe an hour, hour and a half tops, of time to do whatever. Lather, rinse, repeat. GAH! I’m still a bit thrown off by not having homework to do; now there are big-world things to deal with: temp. residence documents, groceries, a review for LatviansOnline (sorry, dad, I’m working on it, I swear), studying for the German test in November, and twice a week giving English “lessons” to the 8-year-old daughter of an English Learning Center I have a job offer from. *cry* I get it, I get it, my parents had it hard, your parents had it hard, and we were all bratty kids watching TV and wanting dinner to be ready and not understanding what they went through.
But at least they got/get paid for what they’re doing.
On to happier things!
This past weekend I took a day trip with relatives to Sigulda, where I had a mission to buy my grandfather a “traditional wooden cane. From Sigulda. And don’t pay more than Ls10 for it.” The cane was bought, sights were seen, and a certain amount of fun was had. I wasn’t feeling up to par on Saturday, so on some level I was in a bad or offish mood all day. I didn’t mentally feel that way, but one of my relatives picked up on the fact that something wasn’t right. Anyway, even though every day during past week has had an 80+% humidity level, it didn’t start raining until later in the day, when we had already stopped for dinner. We got to see some fantastic rainbows–even saw a full one. All in all it was a good day and nice to once again get out of the city. Sigulda is fantastic, and, as I understand it, a popular place to go to during the fall because of the beautiful colors that can be seen there. It was clear to see why. Sigulda is definitely the type of city I could live in. There are a lot of trees, parks, paths to walk along…it’s less crowded than Riga. Plus the fresh air is nice. I like cities, but I like the suburbs better. VIVA SUBURBIA!
Since I have tomorrow off I can spend some time posting pictures. The first FB link is full to the brim (be sure to check that for updated photos), so a second album has been made. At this rate, there might even be a third. The new FB album link is here. I’ll post pictures on here as well under a different post heading.
The room that I’m not living in.It’s the room that separates me from the rest of the house. It’s big and smells like whatever’s being cooked in the kitchen.
A corner of my room. It’s porch-like, and rather cold. I like it
The door in the back of the room that no one uses. It’s fully functional but stays locked, and is a good place from which to stand and taunt the dogs.
The oldest housemate. Rico is a Costa-rican born parrot (It’s estimated that he’s well over 70 years old), brought over by someone’s ship-captain (or something) husband. He lives in a corner of the kitchen, makes odd noises, and slurrs his name when he wants some of whatever you’re eating. On Sunday he wanted my yogurt. Greedy, greedy parrot…
Twin dogs. It’s like a funhouse mirror, only better! There are two dogs around the house; one belongs to the family I’m staying with, the other belongs to the upstairs neighbors. The only way I can really tell which is which is by what dog mauls me first. Doro!
Mikey.Hyperactive first son of the white cat. He jumps and purrs a lot.
Street traffic. This is light traffic. The street is usually backed up for blocks, bumper to bumper, from 8-11:30 A.M. I’m lucky if I make it to the center within 30 minutes.
A really small toilet. Ls0,10 will get you into one of these broom closet-sized toilets in the central train station. There’s no seat. And there’s no toilet paper, unless you remember to take a comple of squares from the lady at the front, who watches you like a hawk on steroids.