Archive for the ‘Bits-n-pieces’ Category

Yet Another Transition

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Because I’m tired of filtering out spam comments, because it’s more compatible with other websites and because the user interface is friendlier, I’m going to start moving this blog to the following address:

http://straumanis.blogspot.com/

So if you’re family reading this, change your bookmarks so you can keep following updates and mistakes. If you’re a spammer reading this, change your bookmarks so you can spam a different site.

I’m returning to the Blogger.com system. As much as I appreciate my cousin’s work in setting up a family server run blog for me, I have to admit that navigating and keeping things in order is much easier with the Blogger system. This is especially true considering the Blogger system also connects with the Gmail server, which will make linking to my Picassa albums much, much easier. I hope Steve will forgive me!

Laters.

Something Something.

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

The past month has gone by pretty quickly. Lately I’ve been feeling like my life is a rubber band. It gets stretched out then let loose, over and over. Everything is perpetual.

Tomorrow I jet off to Brussels with Ilze and Davids for the weekend. We’re going to visit our friend Monika, as well as to revel in the 50-degree weather. It’s still below 20 here.

We’ve also had a good stream of snowy days, which pleases me immensely. Ilze and I finally made it out to Cesis a few weekends ago for our first ever snowboarding lesson. It went relatively well considering we knew nothing going into it. I fell a few times, but nothing I couldn’t bounce back from. Once quite literally. Lately I’ve been worried that we won’t have any snow left to let us go try boarding a second time, but if it keeps up like this, I might get a chance come April.

Last weekend I went with a childhood friend and her boyfriend (who are visiting Latvia from the States) to Sigulda, where we hoped to ride down the bob/luge/skeleton track in what is essentially several mattresses tied together on tiny wheels. But there was some kind of competition going on, so we were turned away and went bowling instead. Bowling also turned out to be fun.

Today I’m also off to get my third Latvian visa stamped into my passport. Except this time it’s all about repatriation, baby! That’s right, family members who may be reading this, I am an official repatriate to the Republic of Latvia. What this means is that I get a 5-year residential permit with little to no strings attached, didn’t have to pay to submit my documents, and am generally smiled upon more than when I was just a temporary resident.

I now don’t need a work visa to hang around or work in Latvia. I can just be here, if I so choose (to do nothing). This does not make me a citizen, it does not mean I have given up US citizenship, this does not mean I can vote in Latvia. It doesn’t sound all that great, but really, it’s quite exciting.

In other news, I was in the newspaper Diena a week or so ago, and I also indirectly found out my GRE scores. The article was good, the scores were kind of painful. As expected.

Palatine in “Schmap”

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

If you go to www.schmap.com and check out their Rome map and pictures — specifically the section about Palatine — you’ll find one of my shots from my 2009 Rome trip. The photo is one of many the Schmap people chose from Flickr.com members. Woot. My picture is now one of hundreds of others for the Rome guide:

http://www.schmap.com/rome/toppicks_attractions/#r=none&mapview=Map&tab=Places&p=9457&topleft=41.89177,12.48413&bottomright=41.88723,12.48715&i=9457_71.jpg

Look around by clicking the right or left arrow of the Palatine pictures on the right side of the screen. Eventually you may find mine :)

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!

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…

This is a New Year

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Riga has been nicely frosted over the past two days. I’m excited to take my new tripod out for its first outdoor spin today after work. I’ve been waiting all day to get back outside and get some shots of the parks while they look this nice and fairytale-like.

I’ve also had the iTunes free download of the week, “This is a New Year” by Ian Axel, featuring Chad Vaccarino, on loop for the past 48 hours. It’s a great, simple, upbeat and hope-filled song that I can’t seem to get enough of. 2010 has had a bit of a stressful start for me, and a rocky and crap-filled start for others; this track seems to be herald something everyone could use a little bit of right about now.

Anyway, because there are only (based on Google.com search results) about 4 or 5 websites that list the entire lyrics to the song, I thought I’d jump on that bandwagon to up the hit count. Lo and behold, “This is a New Year”:

Another year you made a promise
Another chance to turn it all around
And do not save this for tomorrow
Embrace the past and you can live for now
And I will give the world to you

Speak louder than the words before you
And give them meaning no one else has found
The role we play is so important
We are the voices of the underground
And I will give the world to you

Say everything you’ve always wanted
Be not afraid of who you really are
‘Cause in the end we have each other
And that’s at least one thing worth living for
And I would give the world to you

A million suns that shine upon me
A million eyes you are the brightest blue
Let’s tear the walls down that divide us
And build a statue strong enough for two

I pass it back to you
And I will wait for you
‘Cause I would give the world
And I would give the world
And I would give the world to you

This is a new year
A new beginning
You made a promise
You are the brightest
We are the voices
This is a new year
We are the voices
This is a new year

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?

Happy Holidays

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

The staff party at work last night went well. We predicted our futures, or “poured our fortunes”, by melting lead or tin (your choice — as I described to some visiting staff from Estonia, one is less toxic, but the other is more traditional). This made me feel strange, as I usually am very adamant that the lead/tin pouring take place only on New Year’s eve. But hey, if my luck runs south, I’ll know why.

Though a day early, I’d like to wish everyone a fantastic holiday season and all the best in the New Year!