Archive for September, 2007

Photo Gallery 1: for those who can’t get to FB

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

Aerial shot of somewhere over Latvia.

Another aerial shot of somewhere in Latvia

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 kitten that was born two days after I got there.

Puce and her kitten.

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…

My first place of residence.

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.

Rainy car park.

Where I work right now.

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.

Working Weekends

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

This past weekend I was given a somewhat urgent assignment. The other intern and I had to watch a series of interviews (as if I hadn’t gotten my fill of that yet) and write up transcripts for them AND translate the transcripts into Latvian–we were asked to finish it over the weekend if possible, and take some days off later in the week. The fun part was that the people in the interviews would switch around from Latvian to English to German. As soon as I picked up the DVDs from the city center I started working. I did about three hours, then went to “Baltu dienas”, a three-hour Baltic folklore concert. I hung around for an hour and a half before heading back home to work some more (for about six or seven hours). The concert was good–one group from Lithuania, Gadula, was particularly good. I plan on finding a CD of theirs if they have one. One scene from the “Baltu dienas” concert, and a clip of Gadula, if it’ll work:

Sunday I had plans to go spend some time with other family members, maybe a few hours, before hunkering down the rest of the day to finish work. I was more or less kidnapped, and seven hours later returned home, arms laden with fresh raspberries, pears, apples, REAL spring water, and smoked fish.

I paid sorely on Monday (10-6:30 of work, but I finished it all! Success!), but it was good to get out. We drove to Jurmala (literally “sea side”), which is along the coast, north of Riga. It was like driving through the suburbs, which was a much needed thing for my brain. Lots of trees, private homes, sidewalks… We walked through the woods a bit and along the beach; we even went for a “modest swim” (=roll up yer pants and wade out into the shallow part). For dinner we went to a restaurant bar that’s supposedly quite famous. The food was good, and, even though fried, not really greasy. I had more than enough left over for lunch+dinner the next day. We found a few mushrooms (it’s that time of year here), but I was no help, since I have no idea which ones are edible and which aren’t. I did learn, however, that the Musmede (“fly hunter”) IS poisonous. It’s also very pretty :) So instead of mushroom picking, I stuck to blueberries. I carried them around for a while, then once I got tired of feeling self-important I ate them.

On the way back we stopped at a natural spring and filled 14 5L bottles…holy cow that took a while. There was a line when we got there, and a line formed after us, too. It’s a totally normal thing to do and completely free. Apparently the drinking water isn’t very good in some parts of Riga (I say this because our relatives in Imanta never drink their tap water, but the family I’m staying with does), so people stock up like there’s no tomorrow. I got to take one of the bottles back with me.

As usual, whatever I bring home food-wise, someone else will get to it before me. Because I was home working all day Monday, I managed to eat the leftovers from the beach restaurant myself, but left the smoked fish (which, by the way, was one of the best smells at the road-side market we stopped at. I LOVE smoked fish…) for later. In the evening I went into the city for a bit to walk around and get some exercise (and buy some celebratory goodies) after sitting all day. By the time I got back had recouperated from the amount of food I had eaten at lunch and was ready for smoked fish–alas! It was no longer in the yellow bag it had been in. Someone had eaten some of the fish from one of the ends. I was heartbroken. My tasty smoked fish bought on my special daytrip! Nooooo!

So, in a semi-defensive move, I ate the rest of it. It wasn’t a small amount, either; at the very least, it was more smoked fish than I would usually care to eat in one sitting. It was really good–I just wish it could have lasted longer. But I HAD to do it…I had to…

Today I went in to work, left work for a few minutes to register for the TestDaF (that’s right, I’m gonna do it!), returned to work, and tried to help the other intern with her videos. There were a lot of technical issues (a.k.a. the interviewer doesn’t seem to have completely known what they were doing), so some ten minutes of potentially good material were wasted because nothing could be heard.

Tomorrow I’m taking the day off to…wander, I guess. I haven’t decided yet.

P.s.: Ah, last Monday I was able to attend my cousin’s daughter’s (also my Goddaughter) name day (if you don’t know what this is…you’re missing out. Name days are huge in Latvia. And Russia. And sometimes Poland. And probably in other eastern europian countries) party and hang out with family. It was a good time, and there were rice crispy treats–now they sell rice crispies here, too! CIVILISATION!! Kidding–but it’s funny that something as trivial as rice crispies isn’t normal here.

No Fighting, No Mushrooms

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

I never made it to the culture festival yesterday :(   The weather here was once again crazy-go-nuts with rain/sun/rain/wind.  That’s not why I didn’t make it, though (and I’m sorry to say there’s no fascinating story to this).  I had fully intended to head out to the island after stopping in the city center to ask the Tele2 people why I can’t get text messages from the U.S.  Also, one of the only two or three trolleys that goes to the island leaves from the stop across the street from the University of Latvia main building.  The only thing is that the 20th trolley doesn’t run very often, so after finally figuring out where the stop was and waiting in the rain (but *safely* and dryly under a tree) for more than half an hour, I decided I didn’t want to do that anymore.  So I went home after waiting around in the city center for (once again) several hours.

On the plus side, I found a relatively cheap paperback book on Dali at the Janis Roze book store, which just so happens to have an Emils Gustavs chocolate bar next to it.  Heh.  So I took my book and had a nice small cup of soup-thick hot chocolate.

Later last night I walked several blocks to where some more relatives live (Amanda + kids) and visited with them for a few hours.  They had thought about going to the “warrior fights”, but they decided that with the fishy weather, it wasn’t all that important.

Today I was supposed to go mushroom picking (it’s a huge, HUGE thing here), but even though the weather is good now, we don’t know how it will be in an hour.  So no picking this time around–maybe another time.  I was hoping I’d have some cool pictures of us wandering around the woods searching fervently for edible fungi.  Today I think I’ll sit inside and work on transcribing the video for the museum, since I didn’t do it on Friday…

First Week Complete

Saturday, September 15th, 2007

Who survived her first week (alone) and in (the adult, working world of) Riga?  I did!, I did!

For now my days consist of *eventually* getting to work (more on that later), sitting in a basement that smells like moldy chemicals (don’t ask how I’d know what that smells like) and translating random texts given to me.  There’s another girl from the U.S. at the museum, doing the same thing.  My first job was to look over the Latvian and English versions of a movie transcript to make sure that what she translated into English=what the guy actually said in Latvian.  Then I got to edit that, watch the movie myself, and hand it in as a finished item.  Exciting!!  It takes a while sometimes, but it’s always a great feeling when a certain task is finished and you know the product is good :-)

Then we worked on translating the Museum of Occupational History’s Education Program’s website (http://www.omip.lv) – this, needless to say, went much faster than the movie.  Shorter texts, first off, and you’re not reading in to what is written (like with the interviews in the museum’s movies) – what’s there is there.  For now, though, I’ve been given the third movie the museum is going to put out.  I get to watch, pause, rewind, watch, rewind, pause, rewind, watch this movie (it’s at least 4 hours of uncut interview material) until I’ve got a word-for-word transcript of what this man is saying.  It’s interesting, though, because the people the museum interviews (those who lived through the occupation or deportation to Siberia) are interesting to watch.  Some of them have a great sense of humor, which I find amazing, considering what they must have seen and lived through.

Yesterday, however, I didn’t go in to work *GASP*.  I had planned on working from home, or from a cafe in the city center, because I don’t want to spend every day with that weird smell in the basement.  At noon I had a meeting with the next place I’ll be working at.  I came in very late…My relatives have all been telling me, “Don’t worry, you can’t get lost or anything, Riga’s not that big of a place.”, so I looked at the map and saw where I had to go and thought, “It looks far, but, nah, it’s really not that far.”  Ooooh, but it was that far.  Very far.  So I made it there, and after 45 minutes (I thought it would take longer) the meeting was finished and I was free to go.  So I went.

On the way to a cafe I ran into some Minnesotans (the Stolceri) and was overly happy to see familiar faces from home.  At the cafe I asked for an internet card (like a phone calling card, but for WiFi), but, alas, the internet there hadn’t been working for a week.  So I sat like a lost child for a bit, ate some lunch and then left.  No work done :-(   I was going to meet with relatives at 6 o’clock, but it was only a little past 1 in the afternoon…FIVE HOURS.  I almost went crazy.

So I went to one indoor shopping center and walked through all of the floors and stores veeerrryyy slooooowlllyyy.  Four hours left!  I walked (slowly) to some other stores.  Three and a half hours left.  Slowly on to the meeting place (department store + grocery store, next to the train station+indoor shopping center), where I walked through whichever floors I could (I had to skip the Men’s department…it might look like I was shopping for a boyfriend instead of clothes or dishes) – SLOWLY.  I managed to kill about 10 extra minutes by waiting in line at a register just to ask if a certain pillow case came in 80 x 80 (it didn’t).

Then I dragged myself through the train station and shopping center (also slowly – hence ‘dragged’).  Then I headed back to the place I was supposed to meet my relatives….still 30 minutes left.  I feel like I never want to go shopping again.  Seriously – five hours of forcing myself to walk through stores?!?!  What kind of nutcase am I?  It was terrible, absolutely terrible.

Now, I would have gone home during this time, but for one defining factor: traffic.  During certain times (=pretty much always) there is heavy traffic where I live now.  It’s a huge road that heads in the direction of another large city in Latvia, so there are trucks and cars, plus the public transportation vehicles.  Normally, it should take the trolley only 15 minutes to get to the city center.  However, during rush-traffic, I wait for no less than 30 minutes for the trolley to get there, and anywhere up to 30-40 minutes to get to the city center.  It’s extremely frustrating, so as you might guess, trying to get home and then back…could take around two hours–which, although it would aid my goal in killing time, would make me want to kick things.  For some reason five hours of waiting somewhere where I can freely move around is less terrible than sitting in a stationary trolley for a similar amount of time.

I have figured out, however, that if I walk 3 or 4 blocks up the street, I can catch a tram to the city center.  The tram doesn’t come as frequently as the trolley (should), but it also doesn’t follow the same traffic laws (in a way).  So if anything, I can be moving.

This post is already a novel – today I’m planning on going to a cultural festival to see some music groups perform, and some people dressed as warriors fight.  Let’s just hope it doesn’t rain again today!

p.s. I’m alive, well, and tired.

Official Days 1, 2, & 3

Monday, September 10th, 2007

(WRITTEN SEPTEMBER 8, 2007)
So this is hard. I’m one hour into my first night on my own in my first “living arrangement”, and I already feel sad. Hopefully it will help that the family I’m staying with is a) very nice, b) have been very assuring so far, and c) have pets. This way the only things I’ll really have to miss are my parents (I’m sure they’re glad to know this). The year in Germany seemed like an easier thing to live through, because it was still University and I had a life schedule similar to several thousand other students. Here I’m mostly on my own, in a place I know fairly well, in the real adult world, and it scares me. Don’t get me wrong—I have no doubt that I’ll make it through the next three months. It’s just that it’s something completely different from what I’m used to. It’ll be interesting to see how I get through it. I’m meeting with someone at the first internship site Monday morning; I had hoped to have started work by then (*gasp*I actually WANT to start?!), but I guess I’ll have to hold out until Tuesday.

This entire weekend the city center has been full of people from Ireland, due to the Latvia-Northern Ireland soccer match that was played tonight (Latvia won, 1:0 *EDIT: they didn’t even score the goal themselves.  Ireland scored it on accident). That meant lots of loud, half-drunk men dressed in soccer jerseys and generally green clothing/wigs/funny hats. Although my dad wrote me to say that because NI lost, the city center is a bit quieter tonight. Maybe they’ll make up for it by drinking their sorrows away!

If all goes well tomorrow morning I’ll find my camera charger and will start taking better photos of my surroundings. For now my cell phone has to do all of the work.

(WRITTEN TODAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2007)
Although I could have “started” my first day on the “job” (hurrah for “ “ marks!) today, I opted to come in tomorrow to officially start. Today was spent meeting my contact person at 11 a.m., then taking the self tour+audio tour through the museum, which took me a little over 2.5 hours. I think I was the slowest-moving person on the entire floor. Maybe they all thought I was Estonian (apparently there are many jokes claiming that Estonians are slow [moving]). Most of the people behind the scenes at the museum aren’t much older than I am; most of them seem friendly, except the historian division, made up of three very quiet and not-so-social people (I was told not to really go to them if I have any questions, because they’re “kind of weird.”).

There are all kinds of depressing things going on in the museum displays. When I went there for the first time back in 1998, the only things I really remember are the model-barracks, the made-for-Siberian-weather face masks, and the violin someone had made out of attainable materials. This time I was struck by different things: a huge map with pins marking the grave stones and memorials for those who died during the years of occupation, along with pictures of many of the gravestones (the one that struck me was a simple dark grey stone with the man’s name, d.o.b. and d.o.d., and a single line that read, “Bija nakts”/ “It was night”), a mention of a Soviet children’s story in which a “childhood hero” was a little boy who turned in his own parents, and a story (and illustrations) of one woman’s experience, who with her daughter, because her neighbors (who were on a list to be deported for some reason or another) weren’t home, was taken in their place.

So I decided to call it quits for today, as it was all a bit too much for me. Tomorrow I’ll return to start translation work (they have enough guides), as well as some translation/dubbing for a third video the museum is planning on giving out. Excitement! The environment is supposedly pretty relaxed; people work at their own pace, etc. So it should be a good time.

On a happier note, I absolutely adore my first living arrangement. The family is nice, has a good sense of humor, do everything independently, and expect me to more or less do things as I see fit/on my own. They have pets, a good neighborhood, and *free* vegetables and grapes from family and friends. FRESH PRODUCE FOR KAIJA!!! This is probably one of the best things about it; I can partake in the consumage of fresh produce and not have to worry about price or quality.

There are two dogs (twins, one belongs to the people living in the upper floor of the house), two-no-THREE cats (one kitten was born, literally, yesterday), and a parrot. Along with the little girl, her parents, and the mother’s aunt, it’s a full house, but room for everyone. I’m tucked at one end of the house in the 4-season porch (or however you call them), so if I cry at night no one will hear me, ha ha ha. I’ll post pictures of most mentioned items in the coming days.

In a nutshell, I’m doing well, finding my way around well (heck, I found my way to Coffee Nation [coffee shop #1!!] with only one wrong turn [which led me, anyway, to a street I recognized, etc. etc.], so I’m not THAT disoriented as usual—perhaps it’s survival instinct), seeing interesting people (the Irish haven’t left yet, even though the soccer game was Saturday night and they lost horribly to Latvia [alright, so only by one point…]), and getting a bit further in my new-experience-life. On the way home I plan on stopping at a BB&B-like store to find some baskety things for clothing storage. Those I’ll leave mysteriously behind for the relatives like some kind of wicker fairy. It’ll be fun, just you wait.