Archive for January, 2010

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?

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.