Archive for the ‘Riga life’ 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.

Universal Medications

Friday, February 26th, 2010

This week has been fairly gruelling health-wise. It’s amazing how something small like an accidental bite to the inner lip can result in a canker sore so painful I have to literally go home after work and sleep. It’s hard to eat, drink, talk, laugh. Sometimes it’s just painful to sit and do nothing. Seems like the “injury” is located at a kind of nerve centre, so the pain shoots up through my jaw and into my ears. GREAT times.

This is just a short entry to showcase the absolute absurdity or universal greatness (depending on how you look at it) that is Medicine in Latvia.

I’ve received recommendations from almost everyone as to what I should do/administer/not do regarding this canker sore. I am not allowed to drink juice, eat fruits, or spicy, hard or abrasive foods. Basically, anything with real flavour is off limits. If you know me, you know how miserable this has made me the past five days.

After realising that obsessively applying a numbing agent meant for teething children (the alcohol in the ingredients may actually be doing more harm than good), I have turned to other remedies. Baking soda, salt water, black tea bags, hydrogen peroxide. Ouch, blech, ouch and nothing.

After my numerous “consultations”, I have decided that doing nothing that will make the canker sore hurt will be the best course of action. I understand that it may take the sore a full two weeks to heal, but COME ON. I can’t do this that much longer.

Now I’m down to using something called “Faringo Spray”, which is basically a mixture of seabuckthorn and calendula oils. Faringo Spray is first and foremost intended to be used as a throat spray for sore or infected throats, but per instruction leaflet extends to uses related to general infections of the mouth and (here comes the absurd/great part) is even listed as being good for outer injuries such as cuts, burns and rashes.

I understand that natural oils have many purposes, but I can’t get over the fact that the spectrum of things this medicine is supposed to heal is SO WIDE. And random. Burns? Seriously.

This morning I stopped off at the pharmacy before work and picked up something called “Kanistad N”, which is usually recommended for people with dental prosthetics to heal mouth sores and irritations. According to my relatives AND the lady at the pharmacy, this stuff is supposed to be ace. I read something online about a kind of paste or liquid meant to heal mouth sores that turns your teeth blue — so I’m glad I wasn’t recommended this stuff.

Another thing recommended (and heeded) was to take Ibuprofen. Since my “big stash” is at work, I picked up a smaller pack for a whopping LVL 0.25 (that’s USD 0.50). I was about to buy more, but this Latvian Ibuprofen has an expiry date in March. MARCH. This medicine will be good for the next MONTH, at best. Which leads me to wonder — what the crap is in this stuff that renders it useless in such a short amount of time?

My grandmother recommended that I simply chew or suck on Tums tablets (many websites recommend swishing Malox around your mouth for a few minutes) to neutralise the pH level in my mouth. I ate my last calcium-fortified Tums tablet over four months ago, but had a pack of Gas-X chewable tablets my mother had sent me. I will say this once: GAS-X IS NOT THE SAME AS TUMS. Oh, God, is it ever not the same. That was a burning, unholy mistake I will never, ever make again.

Other simple at-home remedies include drinking chamomile tea. Which I’m not a huge fan of doing, but let me tell you, was I EVER chilled out last night. Whoa, man. Whoa.

Next time I will write about the whole repatriation business. So until then I’m going to keep trying to nurse my poor mouth back to health with these Latvian wonder-meds.

No Motivation

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

I’m feeling entirely unmotivated right now. Maybe it’s certain factors that aren’t really working to my advantage that are making it more difficult to BECOME motivated. For example, I was fully prepared to book an instructor to go start learning how to snowboard tomorrow. But the place I was looking at is not easy to get to with public transportation and doesn’t have a bus stop anywhere near it, although buses do drive by it. So now I don’t know what to do. I guess wait, maybe rent a car and go? But even that would end up being too expensive.

This just feels like a week that will take a while to get through.

Saturday I took my god-daughter to see “The Princess and the Frog”. It was the first time I had been to an animated movie that had complete and “professional” Latvian language dubbing. For the most part it was tolerable, except that most of the male-sung songs sounded more like schlager music than Disney music. But it was a good experience. I might borrow my cousin’s kids again this weekend to go see “The Fantastic Mr. Fox”. Of course it will be great to spend more time with immediate family, but let’s be serious, I don’t want to be that lone, creepy adult sitting in on a kids’ film.

My back and neck seem to have be almost entirely recovered. This is fantastic news to me, considering it only took three 30-minute sessions to undo 3 weeks of pain.

It’s snowing again today in Riga. This means more days spent traversing the different barriers put up on sidewalks so roof cleaners can push the pounds and pounds of snow off the buildings and onto the street. This is something I didn’t see or just plain missed last winter. It’s kind of neat to see people up on the roofs shovelling snow, and people standing on the opposite side of the street with their heads tipped back to watch them do so. It’s the winter equivalent of gathering to watch someone repair their car or motorcycle.

Ugh. I even lack the motivation to make connections throughout this post. Next one will be an enlightening update about repatriation vs. residential permits!

About Latvian Dentists and Other Doctors

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Today I went in for two consultations.

The first one was a form of physical therapy cum massage, during which I basically got a massage. The woman I went to see was recommended to me by a co-worker who has known the woman for some time. Though the better part of the consultation (pretty great that the consultations are so hands-on some of the time) was mostly trying to work out the ridiculous stiffness in my right shoulder and shoulder blade, a tiny part at the beginning was spent with my head being suspended with the help of a strap, then turned this way and that. This ended up being to make sure the problem wasn’t in my spine. The best part of all of it? Massages like this are (rightly) considered a medical procedure, in my case is most likely a result of my working conditions and is covered by my insurance. Which I paid for, I know, but still.

The goal is to get me in for another 9 sessions to knock this thing out of my park, so to speak.

The second consultation was with a dentist, to determine if the apparent upward-crescent shaped wear in the bottom of my right front tooth (hah, seems as if the entire right side of my body is having troubles) was actually a wear, or a chip, and if it could be fixed. It’s pretty widely known that Latvian dentists have good reputations for being skilled, efficient, and inexpensive. Many practices advertise to tourists who are looking for “medical vacation” options. Anyway, I went to the consultation and was told by the dentist that I had a few options for fixing what he determined was a chip in the enamel of my tooth. One was to fill it in with the same stuff used for filling cavities, but which would probably fall out within a week to a month later. Another option was to get ceramic caps, I guess they would be, which would be the most drastic option. Then he remembered he could always kind of “buff down” the corner of the chipped tooth to make it look even. When he said “buff”, I heard “file”. I said it seemed to make more sense than a filling.

So I’m sitting in the patient’s chair, thinking about how I’m going to have to decide on what to do, then make another appointment, when the back of my chair is moving down and the dentist takes the buffer/filer and I have just enough time to realise what is about to happen and open my mouth. Water droplets fly everywhere to the whir of the buffer. I’m handed a mirror, and then I lose it. I laugh so hard form the bottom of my stomach up that the dentist and his assistant just look at me for a few moments before nervously laughing with and asking what is going on. But I’m laughing too hard to accurately explain that something like that would NEVER happen in America; there would be questions, new appointments made, lots of murmuring and thinking… I manage to say something about how everything looks good and it’s great, but it’s just so damn funny to come in for a consultation and next thing you know your teeth are being filed down.

The dentist stopped me there and said it wasn’t “filing”, but “buffing”. So I kept laughing, this time with him and the assistant laughing with me. Then the dentist says “Well, there’s nothing really for me to do here”, then tells me I can go see the hygienist if I want, so my trip here isn’t wasted. And I did. I waited 30 minutes, but I had thought to bring a book and wasn’t bothered. All in all… a very good day for medical visits. I have yet to be disappointed by dentists in Latvia, though I’ve only seen three specialists to date.

I also think I did well enough on the written and analogies part of the GRE to make up for how shameful the math section will turn out :D

Busy in February

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

For the shortest month, February is going to take a really long time.

I’m scheduled to take the GRE exam this coming Saturday, will be performing for about an hour the Friday after that with some of the members from a folk group “Saviesi” at a European youth association meeting. Or something. We’ll be playing some “danchi”, or dances, which are something between “rotaljas” (games) and folk dances. It’s a bit hard to explain it. The easiest thing is to just see what “danchi” are and then put the word to the action.

At some point I also really really REALLY want to make it out to Sigulda to start learning how to snowboard. My learner-in-crime was sick this past weekend, so that fell through. This weekend is filled with tests and farewell parties for a few close friends and the weekend after at least two of my friends, if not three or four, will be heading for their “ski break” to Egypt. They’re planning on Sharm el-Sheik and just basking in the sun. I can’t say I’m entirely bummed out about this; I don’t think I’d  be ready for Egypt again so soon.

If absolutely everyone leaves Latvia during that time, I’m just going to go learn how to snowboard myself. The weather has been excellent for this the past two days — we’ve gotten many much snow (6″+ or ~20cm+) in the past day, and a bit more overnight yesterday. It’s enough to make me literally stop in my tracks and wonder if I shouldn’t fake sick and just go roll in the snow in another city.

I have other things on my mind that will keep me busy during the month as well. One is putting together goodies for birthdays :) Others are things I don’t quite yet want to write about because I’d rather not get people prematurely excited.

On another note, a few of us might go check out the last Dinamo Riga (hockey) game of the month. Against Moscow. Wooooot.

The Little Boy is Drinking Water

Monday, January 25th, 2010

January is almost done! Wow. I thought I wrote something a week ago, or at least had a draft going, but it turns out that was all in my head. Like one of those dreams you have right after your alarm goes off where you think “Well, time to get dressed” and physically feel like you’re getting out of bed and are putting clothes on and are just about to go out the bedroom door when… the alarm goes off again and you realise you’re still in bed, in your pajamas and with your shirt magically turned around completely backwards.

I’m a restless sleeper.

Anyway, January has been an interesting month in Riga. My dad was here visiting and taking care of research until mid-month. While he was here we spent time with relatives, did a bit of visiting away from Riga, watched some fish be fed, saw a few plays/shows and generally hung out and exchanged knowledge of memes and viral videos.

The two plays we saw were both put on by the Jaunais Rigas Teatris (New Riga Theatre), respectively “Klusuma skanas” (The Sound of Silence) and “Vectevs” (Grandfather). Both were fantastic, as is to be expected. If you’re ever in Riga and are looking for a good theatre performance, check in with JRT first. If you’re lucky enough to land some tickets (buy them online in advance if possible; they sell out fast), almost every show comes highly recommended. As an added bonus for those tourists who DON’T speak or understand Latvian, JRT has two plays that I know of where knowledge of the national language is not necessary. “Gara dzive” (A Long Life) and “Klusuma skanas” are both directed by Alvis Hermanis (a genius of a man, if I may say so.) and are entirely dialogue-less plays. Emphasis is placed on actions, and it is truly amazing to see that words really aren’t that needed all the time. “Gara dzive” is a look at older Latvians and the daily lives they lead, most likely as retirees. “Klusuma skanas” was a later production but counts as the “prequel” to “Gara dzive” and takes the audience through the hippie movement in Latvia. Also fascinating. There are very well timed moments of laughter, seriousness, heartache, etc. And again, both highly, HIGHLY recommended.

Now I’m back to work, have taken two sick days, have continued with my Rosetta Stone Japanese lessons and have been to two of my three trial lessons in Russian language offered through the company I work for. I’m not sure if I’ll keep up with the Russian lessons, as knowing the language isn’t required for my position and doesn’t change my position, and because I’m not able to understand the simple commands the teacher gives the others (some of my co-workers) in the class. They’ve grown up in Latvia and if they haven’t spoken Russian now and then since they were little, they’ve at least heard it on a subconscious level. I, on the other hand, just stare blankly at the teacher when she says something as simple as “Kaija, will you please read the next sentence?” I recognise my name, the word please and the formal “you”. Instead I think I’ll just keep up with one-on-one lessons with one of my Russian co-workers who has been kind enough and excited enough to give me lessons on an as-possible basis.

The Rosetta Stone is an interesting product… I’ve learned some sentences (like “The little boy(s)/girls(s)/woman(en)/man(en) is/are drinking water”) that I would never really use on a daily basis, but the point is that I can say them. I am aware that the point is to introduce simple vocabulary and sentence structure, and I kind of like it! Using that structure, I can input any variety of animate objects and subjects receiving action to get an entirely new sentence. Such as: “Neko wa mizu wo nondeimasu!” or “The cat is drinking water!” Which is a sentence that I clearly WOULD use on a daily basis. Now all I need to learn is “The cat is peeing on your bag” or “The cat is pretending to rip your face off in the middle of the night”. One step at a time, this language acquisition business.

Yesterday, after an almost solid 48 hours of sleeping and sitting in one place to pre-combat this coughing cold sinus thing, a group of friends and I went to the Riga zoo. At night. Oh yes, at night. They’re having some kind of deal until the end of the month: from 4-6 p.m., tickets are only LVL 1 and the zoo is open until 8 p.m. Camels in the dark! Outside was horrifically cold, but the indoor exhibits were a welcome change and it was feeding time for most of the animals, so we got to see them standing in one place instead of hiding from people. Some of the animals seemed to be affected by the cold, but when there’s a bin of apples and carrots in front of you, seriously, who cares!?

It’s supposed to get warmer by the end of next week and snow, as well. This will be a nice change considering the entire country has been hovering near -20 to -30ºC all week/end. It will be around -5ºC by this coming Friday, which means I get to officially drag people out to Sigulda to do some snowboarding. Sorry, that makes me sound too cool. To LEARN how to do some snowboarding. Yes, much better. I’m sure I’ll have some kind of story for that…

Athletic Clubs and E-tickets

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Epic fail for me this morning.

Last night I went with a friend as a guest to the gym she goes to. Quite the Eastern European experience. Other than a few guys working out, I think I was the only woman in the place wearing running shorts. There was one woman with a kind of onesie tennis skirt thing and leggings that looked like the Spandex delivery guys wear in the winter as they bike across the city. I can’t imagine working out indoors with long pants, unless the place is highly air-conditioned.

The gym was decent as far as gyms go. I was glad to see they even have the unmarked bottles of “disinfectant”, which could be a combination of any number of abrasive and clear cleaning liquids, used to wipe down the machines after use.

Anyway, after a good 30 minute run and lots of post stretching at the gym, I went home and slept wonderfully. So wonderfully, in fact, that I got to work 1.5 hours late. My alarm went off at 08.00, I hit snooze twice, and all of a sudden it was 09.30. I checked two other clocks, including my father’s mobile phone, before I was convinced I was not hallucinating.

I called in to tell one project manager about my fail, and to have him send a project due at 10.00 to my home computer, and he laughed. Then proceeded to tell the rest of the office of my fail. At least everyone else got to start their Friday in-office with a chuckle.

The real reason behind this post, however, is that I just discovered it IS possible to pre-order bus tickets on the Internets! Bezrindas.lv, literally “No lines”, is a dandy little website that lets you order tickets and have them sent to your e-mail in .pdf format, OR (I’m getting giddy) sent to your mobile phone! How green is that?

New Year

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Happy New Year to everyone! New Year’s Eve in Riga was pretty fantastic. I was lucky enough to be able to combine friends and family; people came over to the apartment, where we visited, snacked, melted and poured lead to “predict our 2010 fortunes” and drank some pre-2010 champagne. At 23.30 we pulled on our coats and shoes and rushed to the square in front of the Freedom Monument, making it there literally 10 seconds before the New Year. 2010 arrived with fireworks, more champagne, part poppers and lots of picture-taking. Again, I felt really blessed to have been able to spend the evening with some great, close friends and family, my father included. We managed to eventually call through to the States, wish my grandparents all the best, and my mom all the best in the New Year (through my mother I got to speak to my aunt, too, since I caught my mother at church right before she was to go give the first reading). After taking pictures of people dressed as nuns, chickens and rabbits, we all headed to the Dome Square for some mulled wine and, and, AND! sledding down the small hill to the lower yard in front of the Dome Cathedral. I hadn’t been sledding in YEARS and even though I was wearing a skirt I was more than thrilled to get the chance to do so again. The sled was a kind of lacquered plywood about 7′ long. Very… minimalistic, but it got the job done. My father and I finally made it back home around 03.00, at which time we deemed it far enough into the New Year to open a sort of “New Year’s present” from one of our relatives. We knew the present was books and we’re book people, so waiting much longer to look at what they were wouldn’t have happened anyway.

One of the books is this absolutely fantastic “The Big Guide to Riga Architecture“. It describes a great deal of buildings around the city, both in the centre and out of it, showing a modern picture, a small copy of the original blueprint and a short write-up of what the building is/was meant to be. Many of these buildings are buildings I’ve passed on a daily or weekly basis and have had no idea what their deal was. It’s a bunch of mini history lessons in a very non-boring format. I plan on stocking up on copies and gifting them to people.

This week is the first full week of the New Year. It was nice having two back-to-back three-day work weeks, and I’m surprised that I don’t feel like it should be Friday today.

Last night my father and I went to see “Klusuma skanjas” (The Sounds of Silence) at the Muzeum of Art and Theatre. The funny thing about that was that we thought the play was going to be at the New Riga Theatre in the city centre, but at 10 minutes to show time figured out that the venue was NOT the New Riga Theatre and that the actual venue was across the river in some previously unknown location. But since the play is based off of movement and expression alone (that’s right, ZERO) dialogue, it is not only a brilliant play to see (and take non-Latvian speaking people to), but it is also less of a big deal if you miss the first 20 minutes of it. I’m a fan of the director, Alvis Hermanis, and have seen his original “no-dialogue” play “Gara dziive” (A Long Life). I recommend both.

And now for the reason this post seemed important: we had dinner at the Theatre Bar Restaurant (through the courtyard behind the actual New Riga Theatre; there’s a regular Theatre Bar across the street), which has a very unique menu and has a very kitschy yet not annoying interior. The food is also good. If you end up in the area of the New Riga Theatre (on Lacplesu Street), pop in for a quick bite or drink. The prices are decent, and their cauliflower-eggplant cream soup with pumpkin seeds is absolutely mouth-watering.

Sock it to the Post

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Let me tell you a bit about the Latvian postal/UPS/postal customs system.

I ordered Rosetta Stone goods from the States (yes, I decided to take the Rosetta leap, if you will. Hate on me after I have my post rant) back at the end of November. Somewhere in the beginning of December I got a hurriedly mumbled phone call from someone at Customs saying I had to come pick up a package. I assumed this was the package from my mother she had told me to watch for and so started planning a transportation option to go pick up said mommy-pack.

But then I got curious as to how far the Rosetta shipment had gotten and logged into the UPS tracking website to discover that it was in fact the Rosetta Stone box that had been sitting at Customs the past several days. Joy of joys! Only problem is that the UPS/Customs office is only open until 18.00 on week days. This, coupled with the inconvenient yet cheap public transportation option that takes me 10 minutes to walk to and takes 15-20 minutes to arrive at the required stop, promised to be an interesting task to manage seeing as I work 9.00 – 17.00.

I’ll say now, the simple fact that I, too, work a 40h/week job seems to surprise most of the people I’ve had to deal with on a bureaucratic level. Ack! I’m not just some American-Latvian come to mooch your money for doing absolutely nothing all day! I actually pull my own weight (and often then some) in the local work force, just like so many other hard working townies! I know, it’s INSANE!

I digress.

Then I get a phone call from a weasely sounding man at UPS, who basically informs me that the package has been at their office for some time and that they want to know if someone is ever going to come and pick it up. I then inform him that I’ve been trying to make it out to their office the past week, but I don’t usually get out of the office earlier than 17.00. Enter surprised sound from the weasely man. I continue by saying I intend to do my best to make it to their office the next day. He then tells me I’ll have to pay an additional (!!!!) percentage for customs fees. I say this is excellent. My sarcasm goes over his head as he asks me, “So, is someone going to come within the next days or not?” KICK. IN. THE. HEAD. He also adds that the hours are from 8.30-17.30, meaning that I lose a 30 minute window of arriving to get things done.

I roll into the UPS office the next day, no one looks at the passport I’ve brought with me, I get a piece of paper from a guy at the UPS desk and am told to go talk to the customs declarant. The customs declarant is an incredibly bored looking woman with ink smudges all over her manicured but calloused hands. She takes my “receipt” and tells me if my package contains an educational material, I’ll have to pay a 10% customs duty, and if it’s something else, I pay 21%. Then she looks me in the eye and asks me, “So what are we going to do about it?”

I am confused and tell her so. “Of course it’s an educational material – it’s a language acquisition programme.” She then tells me that yes, the invoice does say “Educational Material”, but this doesn’t mean that they know what is in the box. I am also told that a woman received a similar package from the same company a few weeks back, and she was brought to customs inspection. This is at least what I initially heard. At this time I’m starting to get concerned. It’s just a box of learning CDs, right?? I didn’t do anything wrong, I don’t want to be interrogated!” But then I understand that it is the contents of the box they inspect, not you. So my options are: let Customs open my shipment and poke around to make sure it is what it says it is, then pay them 10% of the total of the product, or walk away with it then, but pay 21% of the total. I say I’ll take the first option — hey, what’s another 10% and more days of waiting for an item I thought I would be receiving at my local post department branch office, right?

So I sign the invoice and the customs declarant takes my phone number and tells me that the box will be brought to inspection the following day (Wednesday), I would be contacted by Thursday, at which point they would tell me how much I would have to pay in addition, e-mail me a copy of the final invoice, and I’d be able to come pick the package up by Friday. Frustrated, I ask about the office hours and she informs me that her station is open until 18.00, but that the main UPS counters I passed when coming in (and where, presumably, I’d have to pay) are open until 20.00. Great. I part empty-handed, not very amused, but glad that things are at least moving forward.

Fast forward to Friday. I’ve heard nothing from UPS, Customs, or the weasely man. I don’t know who to call. I have no papers. I find the UPS Latvia e-mail address and write them a frustrated and slightly angry letter. Where. Is. My. Stuff.

Fast forward to Monday. I get an e-mail from UPS Latvia saying that my package has been taken to the Customs inspection department near Riga International Airport and that I need to show up in order for them to open up the box and look at it. I also need to take some document with me that proves the contents of the box. Big, ol’ WTF. So I call the number at the end of the e-mail, get a somewhat sympathetic woman on the other line, who tells me the exact same thing the e-mail told me. Which is okay.

But then I tell her I’m just really confused why I have to go all the way out to the airport, when the customs declarant at UPS told me I would be called once everything was taken care of to come pay for and pick up my package. The woman on the phone (ba-bah-daaah, bureaucracy!) told me she had nothing to do with what the customs declarant told me, but I would still have to come to them to get the package. Also, I’d have to show up by 16.00 in order to draw up the declaration papers (which, oh, I get to pay for, too) in a timely manner and get the package. I tell her about my 40h/week job and I am not surprised that she sounds surprised. I am then told that my other option is to give UPS Express the authority to fill out the sheets for me, which I’d have to pay extra for, and then they’d deliver the package to my place of work. I ask if this is something the post office would take care of. Of course, it isn’t. I didn’t ask, but I would bet money that I would have to physically go to the UPS office, fill out countless documents to give them said authorisation to go take care of my stuff for me. The woman asks me if I want her to give me the number for UPS. I think for a second, then tell her very bluntly that no, I do not want to call them. I want my package. It’s been in the country for almost a month, I’ve had all this unexpected stress and ridiculousness to deal with and I still don’t have my property. She kind of sympathises, but not too much. She then reiterates that, if I trust UPS Express to handle things, I could still try that option. I bite my tongue to keep from telling her just how much I actually DO trust UPS Express in comparison to the standard postal system.

Then I figured out I could try to take care of all of this next Monday. The woman agrees this would work. I ask her if I can pay by debit card. She says no. I then ask her how much money am I supposed to know to bring with. She gives me a ballpark number. BALLPARK. Jesus Christ on crutches on ice.

During this week I also got a “Repeat Reminder!!!” notice from the regular mail saying I had a package waiting for me some time. Funny, because it was the FIRST NOTICE I HAD GOTTEN. But they delegated UPS Express to bring it to me (who signed on those papers, I wonder?), so it worked out in the end. Then yesterday I got a letter from my friend Andi and her husband Brent, something that I’m guessing is a “Thank you for being at our wedding!” (I was on Skype conference, different story) photo of the two of them. I say guess, because the envelope was put back together with sports tape due to what the stamp basically calls “being opened upon receipt”. The envelope looks like a Rotweiler slept face-down on it. The paper of the envelope is worn and liquid-stained and has completely adhered itself to the face of the photo. The front of the envelope with the addresses is mysteriously unscathed, but the back… The postal system here is kicking my butt.

So I am going to go to the building next to the airport next Monday and hope that I have enough time after filling in the declaration forms to tell them exactly how I feel about their absolute crap lack of inter-departmental and office communication. I AM FUMING. You just can’t tell because all the snowfall we’ve had lately is masking it.

Choir, Indian Food, Weather

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Last night I participated in my second choir-related event. We performed at the 9 Lessons church service at the Anglican Church last night, followed by a delicious Indian cuisine dinner at the British Chamber of Commerce Christmas Party. I had the chance to see and speak to people I haven’t seen in some time, which was great, however short the conversations may have been. You learn the most important facts right away — how they’re doing, if they’re happy and if they look as happy as they say they do.

People fascinate me.

After dinner I headed home and started some more translation related projects. I just found out that one larger work I’d like to do some work on has NOT, in fact, been entirely translated into English. In terms of this specific piece, I was quite surprised, but I suppose some things just slip under the translation radar, so to speak. I think all that’s left is to figure out what I have to do to “officially start”. Either way, I’m excited at the prospect and look forward to working with the piece.

In other news, choir has been going well. It’s allowed me to meet some new people and spend time in a different environment.

The weather in Latvia has been plain stupid the past few weeks. I keep waiting for it to snow (hell, we’ve all been waiting and are tired of hearing about all the white goodness the States have been getting); I don’t know how many more pressure headaches I can take in one week. At least it’s Friday.

Tomorrow the friends and I are having an early Christmas themed dinner and gift exchange, since a good portion of the group will be gone during the actual dates. I have yet to buy a gift for my person, but I know what I’ll be buying.

No real Riga-related news for now. The economy still apparently sucks, and I’m still not really seeing it.