The Mormon missionaries of Riga have traded their little matching backpacks for little matching man-purses, or satchels. I guess it’s really summer now.
We’ve had a nice, fairly consistent stream of gorgeous weather here in Latvia. Minus this past Saturday, the last few weeks have been great for being outside and doing anything unrelated to sitting at home on a comfy couch and surfing www.youtube.com for the latest dumb viral video.
Last week we celebrated Jani. This means that Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were free days for most people. I still came to work Monday (to trade not having to come in the following Saturday), enjoyed a calm day of finishing up some projects, and then went home to pack for the midsummer madness. Ilze, Julija and Imanta and I ended up driving (rental, nice and cheap) to Liepupe, which is east and up the coast from Riga. We celebrated with a family well known for their immersion into all things Latvian folklore and had a great time. I’m used to celebrating Jani the ethnographic way, as I usually end up in Wisconsin at the “Dievseta”, but this family in Liepupe does things according to the middle ages. This meant that the “rituals” of the evening were mostly revolving around the bonfire or fire in general, and their folk dress differed from the “modern” stuff we wear and see at folky events today.
We bought tents from this great, cheapish store called Jysk for LVL 5 a-piece. You think that we would have woken up in the hayfield, blown away by light breezes, our skin ravaged by fire ants, but the truth is that the tent is basically the same thing as the tent I have at home, which I’m sure cost at least 20x what the Jysk tent cost. I’m referring to breathability. My tent at home in the States has mesh on four sides, while the LVL 5 tent has one door with a screen and a little opening in the roof. And you know what? Come high-morning around 7 a.m. when the sun was beating down through to our poor, tired heads, the LVL 5 tent was just as stifling as its expensive cousin back in the States would have been. Weird, huh?
When we arrived at the country property in Liepupe, the four of us came in singing and bearing gifts of smalkmaizites (little sandwiches typically made by Latvian church ladies), my home-made Jani cheese (which was ACE) and Ilzes brownies-from-a-box, lovingly decorated with M&Ms to spell “Ligo”, the traditional word you shout and sing for what seems like most of the duration of Jani celebrations. After we had been introduced to and met the host and hostess (their son and his wife had invited us), we finished braiding our flower wreaths and then watched the hostess make Jani cheese in a huge cauldron, something that was cool to see, yet made me feel like a total suburbanite for having made mine in two waves (the pot was too small) and on top of a four-plate oven. Then everyone who had folk dress finished getting dressed, we tailgated for a bit by our rental and then commenced the Jani process.
The next morning after breakfast we caravaned to the seaside, where we walked around for a few hours, picked up a mega-load of pebbles and smoothed-down glass shards (I am officially addicted and wanting to go back to this location ASAP to find more and expand my collection) and went to a site in the woods where we were explained how there used to be a local ship yard at the very location. The only thing left are rocks outlining the place where the former walls of the yard stood, and rocks in a shape outlining how big the hull of a ship would have been.
The rest of Wednesday we spent in Jurmala hanging out in Ilze’s yard, finishing whatever goods we hadn’t managed to eat Tuesday during the day and Wednesday morning. Then it was back to the city. Riga was a wasteland, no one in sight. It was nice to be out in the country again, get some fresh, country dirt in my teeth and some fresh air into my lungs. I even caught a toad! And by caught I mean picked up without much objection from the toad.
I’m aching to go camping out by Liepupe (LVL 2/per night for a tent-lot!) again, of course with my ulterior motive of finding more pebbles and glass. Next thing I’ll be dressing like a creepy beachcomber just to keep people from approaching me and starting conversations — and that’s just when I’m in downtown Riga!