Archive for the ‘Jurmala’ Category

Slightly Absent

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

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.

August Gone, September Here

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Until today, summer had seemingly decided to punk out in Latvia. The temperatures had dropped just enough for it to feel significantly colder than it actually is and all I could do was hope that Indian Summer doesn’t pass without me noticing it. Again. Luckily, today is a stunning 23′C and I am happy to traipse around the city in sandals and a skirt.

The last week or two in a nutshell has been: first ever couch surfer, fall vacation planning, repatriation research/planning, a work-organised hike along the north-western coast of Latvia and hanging out with my relatives at their “summer home”.

The CouchSurfer was certainly an experience. He was our first ever CouchSurfer — a deaf, gay ecologist from Washington state, who loved to dance. Love it SO much, in fact, that while on our way to the central market with a friend of mine, he had to stop and participate for half an hour in some dance marathon going on in a fake beach set-up (sand, palm trees, beach chairs, etc.) in front of National Opera House. The things this country will come up with… Anyway, the weekend was spent fairly low-key, enjoying time outside, going to a dance club to let the CouchSurfer burn off some energy. When we were leaving the dance club/bar a local tried talking to the CouchSurfer and asked if he understood Latvian, to which a marginally intoxicated friend of ours replied loudly (in Latvian) “No, he doesn’t understand — HE’S BLIND.” So I was left to explain to the local guy (who was then waving his hand in front of the CouchSurfer’s face) that the CouchSurfer was in fact deaf, not blind. Quite possibly one of the funniest moments of the evening.

Learning some sign language was helpful. I for some reason know and remember the entire alphabet, so spelling words out was a good plan-B if the CouchSurfer didn’t understand from lip reading. The rest of us learned the signs for good, night, dance, breakdance, fall, alcohol, no, and the European sign language for “yes”. It would be interesting to learn ESL. We also learned how to sign “story of my life”, which we have, as I indicated earlier, applied extensively. The Couch Surfer could hear — or distinguish — certain sounds. I had to ask him about it finally because at the market this woman walked by in high heels and he goes “I could hear that from all the way back there!” So I asked him about sound pitch frequencies, since I figured if higher or lower sounds were easier to distinguish I could just talk to him in a scary man voice or in a high-pitched squeal. Turns out normal human voice ranges he can distinguish fairly well, but it becomes harder in larger groups of people. He can also distinguish birdsong. As for dancing, it’s all about feeling the beat instead of hearing it, but that the rest of us had figured out without having to ask him.

Another thing that was surprising was how helpful people in stores were to him once they figured out he didn’t speak Latvian and had some hearing impairment. Surprise may be an understatement, considering Latvia is known as a country in which, should you have the slightest deformation, you are usually determined as needing to be shut up and locked away in some dark corner where no one knows about you.

Taking the CouchSurfer to the market was… an entirely different ball of yarn. After the first Russian woman yelled at him for picking up and shaking a clump of spinach and I had explained to him that you just don’t touch stuff here, he apologised and explained he was used to farmers’ markets in Washington and grocery stores, where you’re allowed to inspect the produce. Alright, that’s cool. But then when buying bananas he got too impatient and started picking his own off the bunches and then I got yelled at by the Latvian woman for his behaviour. Again, not allowed to touch stuff. Luckily he refrained from doing that again during the rest of the trip there, but when he finally bought some spinach and decided after the woman had put them in the bag that it was too much, he turns to me and asks me to have her take half of it out. Me, I stood petrified but finally with much apologising and submissive head bowing was able to convince the woman to (grudgingly) remove a fraction of the spinach. This was another learning experience for me.

The entire weekend was exhausting — I’m not used to showing people around who don’t speak the language and who haven’t really studied a map of the area prior to going out into the immediate world. I’m glad the first couch surfing experience was one that ended safely and without any damage to property and that we met a truly fascinating and kind person in the process. But the end of the year is becoming a difficult time to host couch surfers, and the sudden influx of single men over the age of 35 and from eastern countries who are requesting a place to stay is kind of shady, so I think the three of us involved have decided to take the couch off the board for a while and stick to just meeting up with passers-through if they want some less-malicious locals to talk to.

Another new update is that I got my fall vacation request approved, so will be able to join Ilze and Davids on a week-long stay in Rome (the theme for this trip is “Pizza, Pope, Paparazzi!” and our buttons sport a sketch of the Popemobile. With the Pope inside.). Technically, this will be two countries in one trip, provided we get to Vatican City.

My second week off I haven’t figured out yet what I’d do. I’m still kind of coming to terms with the idea of not working for two straight weeks, which may be a sign of premature work-aholicness. However, I’ve got several ideas, two of which involve locking myself into a quiet space and hashing out my issues regarding graduate school or regarding putting some time into some freelance literary translation to see how I like it. The third and most appealing idea involves going around Latvia with my camera latched to my face to check out interesting graffiti in some other major “graffiti cities” besides Riga. I’ve already started researching this possibility and am starting to think that renting a car, though slightly more expensive than taking public transportation, would allow me to maximise my time and stop in more cities around the country.

I’ve also pre-started the process of repatriation. I have some documents, my mother is collecting some more, the department here has told me to c’mon down and take care of it. While my mother and her side of the family and my dad have been surprisingly supportive of this, I have a really strong sense that my dad’s parents — especially my grandfather — think this is more of a ridiculous desire to do something different. It’s as if I would have told him I wanted a giraffe for Christmas or something. And judging by the reactions I got when I told them I was thinking about repatriation, a giraffe would be a much more likely result than any kind of document I might need. My friends keep telling me to just call the respective registry offices to get the documents I’d need from my father’s side of the family, but I’m the type of person who wants her grandparent’s permission to go get the documents. It’s too bad if they don’t support this, but I’m not going to completely go against what they want.

Two Saturdays ago I participated in a work “outing” in which we drove to Kolkasrags and walked the 23km to some camp-site named Plaucaki. We hung out at Kolkasrags for a bit, took some group pictures and then headed out. On our way to the wood trail we passed another group and, since I was at the back of our group, the first person in the other line pointed to the beach and asked me (in Latvian) “Is Kolkasrags over there?” and I went “No, it just washed away.” because I thought he was joking. His blank stare told me he probably wasn’t so I said that it was that way, yes.

After the first 4km it was kind of impossible to keep shoes on without getting them wet and after that, what’s the point of putting them back on? Dumb. But I wasn’t the only person limping by the time we got to the camp-site. It was a really great walk, got a lot of picture taking done, talked to some co-workers I hadn’t really talked to before, but mostly enjoyed some semi-solitary mind clearing. There were lots of random things along the beach, like shampoo bottles, rubber gloves, a full ketchup bottle, and bones. Everyone else was laughing and saying things like “Hahaha it’s like a dinosaur graveyard!” but I was more concerned and thinking “that looks like a human vertebrae and THAT looks like a human tibia…”

Instead of staying at the camp-site for the night with some of the others I was instead dropped at my relatives’ place by a group heading back to Riga. I was really limping and my relative was immediately concerned, even though I told her it was fine. These relatives are really into Reiki and they’re very into testing it out on people. And by people I mean me.

I’m generally the type of person to ride out physical pain in slow-moving agony because the last thing I logically figure people want is someone manhandling their injuries saying things like “Does it hurt when I do this? How about this?” However, because my relatives are into this Reiki thing and are quite adamant about doing what they want at times, I was forcefully explained that I would be administered a foot massage with some kind of magical cream they picked up on a recent trip to the Himalayas. Best thing EVER. Of course the next morning after breakfast with the relatives I was all LET’S GO WALK BY THE SEA!, ending in more foot-death, at which time I expressed to my relative my apparent inability to learn from my actions, to which she agreed, saying she hadn’t planned on a beach walk, but I had been so gung-ho about it, to which I said if I’m about to do something stupid STOP ME. This didn’t stop as I once more wanted to go walk around at night and then again the next morning.

As such, Tuesday morning was the first time I was really excited that I have a mainly stationary job. The less I moved the better I felt.

Today is… the Wednesday of the week after it all, and I have recovered completely and am always counting the hours until I can go home and keep reading the last Harry Potter book. I’ve been re-bitten by the book bug and am anxious to read everything I’ve accumulated in the last 6 months. Which is a frightening amount of books. But I’m making excellent progress!

Also, happy September!

Less Days to America

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Hoo-ee! It is whacked weather week in Riga. Saturday we had sun and relatively warm weather perfect for sitting on the beach and watching people face-plant from their blow-up water floaties into the sand. Hey, call me mean, but had you been sitting on your inflatable banana in the water like you’re supposed to, maybe you wouldn’t be nursing plastic burn and spitting rock dust.

Of course, after the wonderful weather we had Saturday, Sunday through Tuesday was straight up dumb. Monday Riga sat under a swirl of blue and black clouds, while I sat at work with a building pressure headache. It’s now Wednesday and it never did rain. However, I did get a nap in yesterday before going to a farewell get-together at Captain Enrico’s Watch for yet another friend going back home to North America, so I feel better. In case you were concerned.

6 a.m. tomorrow will mark exactly one week before I am able to eat delicious Chinese food and roll around tipped-over shelves of Barnes & Noble merchandise. And by that I mean hug my parents, cuddle the pets and spend time with family. I’ve been meaning to make a list of the things I need to take with me (mostly presents – obviously. I’m a gifting maniac), as well as a list of things I absolutely need to bring BACK with me. One of the top things on the list is my violin.

Interestingly enough, I recently realised that not having my violin around has made my sense of “musical hearing” pretty average. Before it was genius, like the hearing of every other person who has spent their lives from 4th grade to senior year of college in orchestras or bands. In high school we would sit in the orchestra rehearsal room during breaks and play with the tuners:

“A! Do A!”
“Ayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy! Hahaha okay okay, now you! Do G, do G!”
“Geeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Hahaha!”
“Ooh ooh, watch this! Beeeeeeeeee!”

Etc., etc. We would call out notes, have one person sing it and watch as the indicator light glowed a happy green because we were always spot on. I tried playing with the tuner on the Apple programme Garage Band a few days ago and was dismayed to see that my As and Gs were all over the place. I’m exaggerating, yes, but fact is, my musical whatevers has gone from highly skilled to plain average. This worries me. So the violin must must must be brought back with me.

Since KLM stopped flying to Riga, I get to take a bit of a backwards trip to Warsaw before continuing to the States. On the plus side, I’ll fly in at an earlier time than had I booked through my beloved Germany. This Saturday a group of us is planning on going to the ropes course in Sigulda. I’m excited to climb on things and not be yelled at for not acting my age!

Sun, Japan and Enrique

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

These past few days have been nice and spring-like in Riga. Temperatures in the 20s (Celsius), lots of sun and blue skies. Friday and Saturday evening were cause for celebration, as Friday a friend of ours from London flew in for the weekend and Saturday was another friend’s, Davids, birthday. Sunday a group of us took the leftovers from Davids birthday celebration for a beach-front picnic and spent the entire day in Jurmala. The train on the way to Jurmala was fine, but on the way back, OH MY GOD. It was like being in a cattle car. You don’t know balance desperation until you’re in a train on a nice day in Latvia, clutching onto a stranger for dear life so that when the train doors slide open you don’t fall back onto your head – and at the wrong stop, no less.

 

I leave for my week vacation in Japan in a little over 48 hours. Back in February it seemed like it would never come, but, lo!, here it is! I’m really, really excited to see my friend Anna again (her parents, as well – they’re in Japan right now and will be there for the week I’m there, too). It’s been over a year at least since we’ve last seen each other, so she’s going to get mauled by yours truly. Don’t worry, I’ve warned her.

 

I’m also really excited to eat my full of rice and fish and rice and rice and more rice. And noodles. And any Japanese food, actually. I’ll apparently be just missing the cherry blossoms, but the time I will be in Japan is supposed to be a huge week of festivals (Golden Week), so I’m hoping to get some sweet pictures of kimonos, fireworks, etc. etc. I’m also contemplating packing little to nothing for the flight there, since I’ll probably end up buying 20lbs worth of chopsticks and spices. And syrupy-cute Japanese trinkets to dole out to friends. Blindfold me, stick a credit card in my hand and set me loose in a grocery store, please. Seriously.

 

I guess some people might expect culture shock when going to Japan, but I expect to have a fantastic time. Japanese classes in college certainly help, but at this point I’m ready for any type of different that is more pleasant than what the Egypt trip was. I also remember the Japanese word for “library” and hope it will get me very far. My game plan is to attempt to re-learn what I knew/know of the Japanese language on the way to Nihon. I have 11 hours. I should be a genius by the time the wheels touch down at the Narita airport.

 

Some people at work seemed concerned that I’ll be gone for a week. I keep telling them it’s just a week and that it could be worse – I could have taken the two weeks of vacation IN A ROW. Gaaaaah!! That sentence alone is a script for an R-rated horror film.

 

In a bout of pre-trip activity, Ilze, Davids and I went to the Enrique Iglesias/Henry Church/Indrikis Baznica concert in Riga last night. It turned out to be a decent time, even though some random warm-up act girl from who knows where bored us before Mr. Iglesias graced the stage and once he did show up, he only performed for 1.5 hours. But to his credit, he learned how to say “Sveiki, Riga!” (Hello, Riga!) and “Paldies!” (thank you!). One of the highlights was being able to finally identify the problem with the education system in this country. First Enrique pulls the “only guy jumping up and down to the song” on stage:

 

Enrique: What’s your name?

Man: Normunds!

Enrique: How old are you?

Man:……………

Enrique:…………..

Man: Not….old!

Enrique: Well I’m over 30. S***, 30, that’s old, huh?

Man: No! *points wildly to himself*

Enrique: You’re 30?

Man: No!

Enrique: 29?

Man:…..One *pointing downward* one…one year down!

Enrique:…28?

Man: No!…No, yes, YES!!

 

Then Enrique proceeded to learn Normunds was at the concert with his wife, the wife gets pulled on stage and they sit with Enrique for a bit while he sings. Then Enrique offers them something to drink, then suggests a shot. Of Grey Goose vodka. Both Normunds and wife wave their hands “No” in embarrassed gratitude. DUDE. If you’re on stage with Enrique Iglesias and he offers you a drink, YOU TAKE THE SHOT. Finally the wife agreed to a shot. Jeez.

 

The other winner was the 13 year old girl who got brought up on stage and had multiple panic and freak-out attacks while Enrique serenaded her “as his little sister”. Her efforts at telling him how old she was involved very spastic displays of first 10 fingers, then three. Bravo. We teach you English in Latvia, but not the numbers or counting part. MAYBE THIS IS WHY WE’RE IN THE MIDST OF AN ECONOMIC CRISIS.

 

Chew on THAT one for a while J

 

Anyway, as per usual now, no planned e-mail or Internets interaction planned during my time in Japan. And of COURSE I haven’t started packing. That’s just me.

April Showers… Or Not.

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

I realised this morning that, despite the drawn-out communication with our landlady for last month’s rent invoice, it completely skipped my mind to give her the water meter readings for March. Maybe this is why she gave me a half-disinterested look a few days ago when I said “good morning” to her. And we had been doing so well.

Spring seems to finally be here in Riga. I have to point and laugh in the general direction of Minnesota, as I heard they got a bit of snow Sunday. Streaming radio over the Internet lets me do that. Laugh at the uncontrollable weather misfortunes of others, that is. Sunday in Latvia it was around 60°F, brilliant, blinding sun and fresh air. A group of us decided to start our spring – summer treks to Majori a bit early. We took the train to Bulduri, picked up Ilze, then walked along the beach to Majori and to Sue’s Asia, which, in my opinion, has the hands-down BEST pan-Asian cuisine. The owner is from the UK (as far as I know) and of Indian decent, and serves mouth watering Indian, Thai and Chinese dishes. Unfortunately, the prices have gone up dramatically, between LVL 2 – 3. The new, high prices almost killed the joy of eating Sue’s Asia food again, but we grit our teeth and went with it. In truth, it’s mostly the Chinese cuisine that has become pricier. The Indian cuisine is still priced the same, I believe, and worst case scenario, at least the Basmati rice and naan bread are still under LVL 2 a serving.

The good part about going to gorge on this food is that you can walk back to Bulduri, save some chump change for the two extra train stops and work off whatever “bad” stuff you may have eaten. This is what makes Majori a good thing in the summer. Laze around the beach by Bulduri, and then walk to Majori for lunch or iced coffee. The exercise alone justifies anything you may find along Jomas iela, the main “strip” or “board walk” of the Majori/Dzintari area.

Of course, by the time we had all gotten back home, feet were achy and a bit blistered. Then we looked up our route on www.mapmyrun.com, only to discover that, HOLY CRAP, we had walked almost seven miles. SEVEN MILES. I told my grandmother this later that evening, adding that we had entirely “accidentally,” “Well that wasn’t very smart,” was her reply. This distance would also explain why my father was surprised when I relayed how Ilze and I had walked form Bulduri to Dzintari (where there is this amazing gated wooded area with the coolest playground ever) and then to Majori, which is somewhere around 3.5 miles. Putting that number to the walk makes it seem more daunting. More serious. But it’s not something you really think about. And yes, my hips did feel half broken the next day. That time we tried to go running along the beach resulted in a feeling of completely broken hips. Not recommended.

On the topic of running and hurting the next day, I’ve been working on getting back into running mode. A recent “addition” to our network of friends is one Rose Moon (RoseMoon! to us, just one word, exclamation mark included and mandatory), a Fulbrighter from Kansas who is teaching English at one of the high schools in Riga. The reason I introduce RoseMoon! is because we are running buddies and this fact is relevant to what I’ve been up to the past week. Which includes a lot of walking and/or running around in the fresh, almost-spring air. RoseMoon! just got back this past week from a vacation/visit in the states, where she and her fiancé tooled around Washington D.C. for around two weeks. The Friday of the week RoseMoon! had gotten back to Latvia we went running to and around Kipsala, which is the islandy bit of land between the city centre and Pardaugava – the “other” side – which I think ends up being a 4 – 5 mile round trip. We hadn’t been running in around 3 weeks, but we ran hard this time and I hurt less the next morning. We stick to the “interval principle”, which is supposedly better for you anyway. Plus we’re both out of running form. There’s a 5 k coming up some time in May and a few of us are entertaining the thought of signing up for that. I almost wish this post was 8 days ago so I could call an April Fools, just in case.

Nothing else has really changed around here, other than the fact I think it’s time to pack away the winter coats. My Japan trip comes in about three weeks, and I’ve done nothing to brush up on my year and a half of Japanese lessons. Anna, the friend I’m going to visit, said I could do so on the plane ride there. I loathe that she brought that up, but it’s true, I have 14 hours of transit and could probably relearn the language in lieu of going crazy for sitting so long. Maybe I’ll follow around the flight attendants and ask them question upon question. Mostly the phrasing “What do you call that in Japanese?” I’m sure they’ll love me. Yatta!

Doh yeah, and there hasn’t been any rain here this April. Yet.

23 and in the Back of a Police Van

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

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?
Me: Yes.
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.